Greetings from Kuluva! It is still the wet season here but the rain is decreasing and some of the dry days are very hot, around 32°C, quite a contrast to the UK. People here are taking advantage of the continued wet weather to plant another crop of beans.
In my last letter I shared Davina’s story. She was suffering from a severe breakdown of her caesarean section wound which involved her bowel. I saw Davina and her son Gifti today (see photo, right) and both are doing well. The wound has healed and Davina has gained weight, looks much better and is now able to breast feed Gifti, a fantastic answer to prayer.
Registration as a midwifery tutor
My registration as a midwifery tutor eventually came through on 20 October. It has been quite a battle and I was doubting whether it would actually happen. Thank you so much for all your prayers as they certainly made the difference – God’s plans were not thwarted. Even on the day I received the news, there were still objections at the council but one member present was able to explain my qualifications and so the senior people overruled their previous decisions.
The news of my registration was a relief not just to me but to everyone at Kuluva. Waiting was unsettling as my future was uncertain, but the school board chair at a recent meeting stated: “You are now one of us.” It was a spiritually challenging time as I wrestled with the thought “did I hear God right and was it right to be here in Uganda?” In the week prior to the council decision I was reading about Hagar and her experience with God when she ran away from Sarah (Genesis 16). Her encounter revealed that God saw her, was with her in her plight and that she was to call her son Ishmael, which means the God who hears. The following week, at the Church Mission Society conference in Uganda, during the Bible study the speaker talked about the same passage, Hagar’s encounter with the God who sees. I think God wanted me to know that he sees, he hears and that his plans will not be thwarted. It has also reminded me of the need for prayer support, as I know many prayers were offered on my behalf. Thank you so much for standing with me. As I said in my last letter, I would not be here without God and your support.
Practical support - Gladys
I am encouraged by the continued support of friends. One example of this was when I requested financial help for Gladys Kiden who has given me permission to share her story. Gladys is a 21-year-old nursing student here at Kuluva. She is from South Sudan but has been a refugee in Uganda since the age of six. Her home is a refugee camp in Adjumani, an area north of Arua near the border. When she left South Sudan she came with her two sisters, one older and one younger. She has not seen her parents since she left South Sudan and does not know if they are alive. Her elder sister who cared for her returned to South Sudan in 2013 to find employment. However, since July Gladys has lost contact with her because of the recent violence.
Due to her refugee status, all Gladys’s education had been paid for by a UN-based charity but the sponsorship abruptly stopped in September following the new influx of refugees. She was left with two semesters to pay with no income or family to support her.
However, amazingly a link church and friends came to her aid resulting in her now being able to complete her nursing course. She has just passed her promotional exams and completes in May 2017 with the final national exams. It was wonderful to see the transformation in her demeanour which saw her (as she put it) “hope restored”. Thank you!
The problems in South Sudan are causing severe disruption to people’s lives and many South Sudanese have crossed the border in order to escape violence and indiscriminate killings. Hospitals have been closed and staff evacuated which is very disheartening for a new country. Arua is a border town and is consequently responding to the influx of displaced people. However, Kuluva has benefitted from missionaries working there who have been evacuated, as well as having a nurse and a midwife who teach students on the maternity ward. They divide their time between Kuluva and a refugee camp hosting South Sudanese people.
Being content in all circumstances: What this looks like for a subsistence farmer
I was asked to share my experiences here in Uganda with a house group in the UK who were having a mission-focussed evening. The group were studying “being content in all circumstances”, which prompted me to reflect on this principle. As I pondered, my future at the time was deeply uncertain as my registration for midwifery tutoring had been declined and I was offered instead registration as a midwife. Kuluva needed a midwifery tutor to keep to the national requirements to provide midwifery training, and so as you can imagine this was disrupting my peace and I was not content in all circumstances! However, spending some time with Josephine, one of the school secretaries, provided me with an example of contentment. She feels blessed that she has a job with a regular salary of 240,000 Uganda shillings per month, approximately £58. She is the sole breadwinner for her family as her husband is disabled. A substantial amount of her wages is used for school fees for her five children and medical expenses for her husband and she often has to sell her crops to top up her income for everyday living. I visit her regularly in her compound which consists of four thatched mud huts, surrounded by a small portion of land for growing her crops. As we sat chatting under the shade of a mango tree, she shared with me and said: “I’m content with my salary, even though poor, as I’m still able to buy soap.” Josephine’s statement about her life echoes the words in 1 Timothy 6:8: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
I have also seen how people cope with the uncertainty of employment. For subsistence farmers, having additional employment is a luxury that adds a certain quality to their life. Josephine herself was unemployed for a time but occupied herself with planting and selling crops. Like Paul, she is able to say “I have learnt the secret of contentment whatever the circumstances because of Christ.” When jobs come to an end, local people say we still have our land and although disappointed, they accept their circumstances and echo the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed… but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair.” It is amazing to see how people respond to their challenging circumstances. I definitely cannot say that I am always content and sometimes discontentment motivates me to change, but sharing in both Josephine’s life and those around me has given me a better appreciation of the principles of inner contentment and an acceptance of joy.
As I write this letter, the school is in the midst of exams, both internal and national. Today the students are doing their final national practical exams and I was able to take their photograph (see below) and pray with them before the exams started. It is remarkable how a single act of taking a photograph was seen as an encouragement, releasing tension and causing laughter. As you can see from the photograph, they all have to attend in uniform. They are examined by external examiners for transparency and fairness and upon completion of their course, they will be looking for jobs. However, although there is a shortage of nurses and midwives, especially in rural areas, sadly there is not always finances available to employ staff.
Next week, other cohorts of students sit their internal exams. As well as contributing to these exams I have just started to teach a new group of midwifery students. This is a great encouragement to me and I hope to the students! It is a wonderful opportunity to share midwifery knowledge with enthusiastic learners.
I hope that this letter gives you a snap shot of life here in Kuluva. Thank you for sharing in this journey with me and the people of Kuluva.
I hope you have a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.