Muzungu! Munzungu! This is the first word every white person who comes to Uganda learns. You can ask what it means and there are lots of different responses, but basically it now means, white person. We hear it shouted everywhere we go. Town, village, through the fence, walking, riding, from children and adults. It makes no matter. It is not meant as an insult, usually they just want you to wave or shake their hand. It is so common that even Muzungus call each other Muzungu. Jackson and Lilly are not just regular Muzungus, they are little children. That is extra special. In the villages, most of the Ugandan children have never laid eyes upon a small Muzungu (if they have seen a white person at all). When we enter the villages the children come from all over just to stare at them. And I mean win-the-stare-contest stare. The first few times this happened Jackson and Lilly did not know what to do (nor did we). It was hard for them to understand why people thought they looked so different. At one village the crowding and staring became so uncomfortable I put Jackson and Lilly in the van with the driver. This did not help as you can see from the photo. Jackson has since learned that he does not have to say a word. He starts acting like an old man with a stick for a cane and patting them on the back and they start laughing like crazy. He leads them around like the pied piper. They follow behind and he turns around really fast and makes a face and they continue laughing and laughing. This can go on for hours! It is truly amazing (but not surprising) how God has worked this out with him. Our favorite time to hear “Muzungu!” is right behind our house. The house backs up to the compound fence. Every day we hear the same high-pitched voice of the little boy who comes to chip rocks with his family, “Muzungu!” Jackson and Lilly share their bread with him. He and his friends are very grateful.
Speaking of rock chipping, this is now Jackson’s favorite past time. He LOVES to chip rocks with Kenneth (the man in the picture below) and his family. He asks to work there every day. He has decided this might be what he sells at the market one day. Every night from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. the older students have preps at the school. The younger children stay behind. So, we have taken to having visitors show up at our door after dinner. It is mostly girls, so Lilly loves that. Sometimes we play games, watch a movie or hang out. It gets crazy with all of them in here at once, but they love it as much we do.
This Friday is the next level of the music competition! It will be a long day for all of us, but most especially for the students performing. Whether they win or not makes no difference to me, I already know that they are the best singers I have ever heard.
Today, we went on a tour of the CURE CHU (Children’s Hospital). It is a fantastic facility! It is a private not-for-profit hospital that primarily provides treatment to children suffering from neurological disabilities. It is state-of-the-art. It is the only hospital in sub-Saharan Africa committed to addressing neurosurgical needs of children. They are the training center for CURE Hydrocephalus program. Most of the children there have Hydrocephalus (“Water on the brain”), but some also have Spina Bifida or a spine/brain issue. The staff is wonderful and were very welcoming, but being there was really difficult. There were children from other countries like Sudan and Kenya. One of the nurses in the ward explained why there were so many cases of Hydrocephalus. It is usually caused by bacteria getting into the brain after the baby is born. For instance, in some villages the babies are born at home and there is a practice of applying cow dung to the babies’ umbilical cord (belly button) because it is believed to help it to dry and fall off faster. This causes severe infection which goes to the brain. (90% of the mothers of children with Hydrochephalus are rejected by their families on account of this.)
The most difficult part was not seeing the children with swollen heads with shunts put in them or even seeing a baby with two heads (both of which had Hydrochephalus), but rather it was a mother that I saw. When we arrived I noticed a woman sitting with luggage on the grass while a muzungu was trying to hold and comfort the woman’s baby. Later on we saw the muzungu trying to feed the baby some distance away. I spoke with the muzungu for a moment. She is from Arizona and just a volunteer visitor. The man giving us the tour told us that the mother of the baby had lost her mind and wouldn’t eat, sleep, or talk to anyone. She just sat in the grass and stared out into space. They were trying to get in touch with her family to come and see about her. She had given up on this baby and checked out. She wouldn’t even feed it. Nobody there could speak her language, but she wasn’t talking anyway. My heart was breaking for her and I felt a burden to go over and pray with her. I was scared though. I asked Mama Mary (one of Lulwanda’s house mothers who was escorting us) to go with me and she said yes. Mary tried to talk to her in Lugandan but the woman just sat there staring into space. One of the staff walked up and tried to talk with her, no response. I knelt down beside her and put my arm around her and started praying for her out loud. She couldn’t understand one thing I said, but God could. When I finished praying she started talking. I do not know if she was praying also or if she was talking to me or to herself, but God knows that too.
Specific Prayer Requests:
-Our last week here to be productive and fruitful
-Our relationships with the children and staff to continue to grow
-Continued good health
-Jackson and Lilly to grow more and more comfortable with the cultural differences between them and the children here
-Unity among staff here at Lulwanda