After our 2-week mission treating Masai and neighboring communities in Karatu town, just outside of the Norongoro Crater in Tanzania, part of our team returned to the US. MRI then traveled by air to Kampala, Uganda. Together we joined the leadership of New Hope Uganda from their orphanage homes and school in Kobwin, Uganda and continued by bus traveling and working in the Luwero Triangle, Uganda’s Killing Field where villagers fled for their lives as Joseph Kony led the Lord’s Resistance Army to terrorize villages, burning homes and enslaving the children as his child soldiers and army sex slaves, and also enduring raiding by Karimojong. We spent the next 2 weeks providing dental care to orphans and villagers in the rural village of Kobwin, and those living in the long-term refugee camp town of Amuria.
In Uganda, while we lived without power, we did bring generators so were able to have power in the clinic. In Kobwin, New Hope Uganda has an “orphanage”, a group home of thatched living quarters, specific to young boys and young men who had were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army under Joseph Kony and lived as child soldiers until they were rescued or escaped. For these young men the whose child hood was tortured, stolen and abused, the hurt and pain of the horror they have seen and participated in gouges the heart so deeply it is hard to breathe. MRI provided care in Kobwin to the orphans and community providing a large range of surgical and restorative dental services. In Kobwin, the team slept in thatched huts of the boys home orphanage on bunk beds using our own mosquito nets. Local women cooked in large pots on open fire preparing excellent meals. Kobwin has a government health nurse for maternity related issues, but there was no opportunity for care of any disease of the head and neck possible for them The need was great, and the lines and flow of care unending, as were the outpouring of grateful thanks and warm hand shakes, hugs and smiles.
Traveling further west we arrived in Amria in the Teso Region. The poverty and lack of human comfort in Amuria was greater than anywhere MRI had ever been. Amuria is a long standing refugee camp, an outcome of terror and war from the Lord’s Resistance Army, then raiding by Karimojong, a flood in 2007 and by extreme drought since that time. As a result the people have never been able to recover, and are still living in very desperate conditions with poor access to food and clean water. Where water exists to the south, malarial parasite exists, and the prevalence of villagers with malaria was extremely high. Our “reception room” was a large staging circle of triaged patients seated around a hard wood tree. Here the needs for pain relief were truly unending. We invited the local woman who is the dentist/midwife for Amuria to observe in our clinic and work with Dr. Loree. She came equipped with her entire “office” carried in a plastic bag. Within the bag, she had a partially used vial of lidocaine, an old stainless steel syringe with needle, a dental forceps, and a record book with neatly described names and dates of her patients gong back several years. She was the mother of 8, and also had 8 teeth remaining. Dr. Bill made her an upper front partial denture, and we left her with surgical equipment, anesthetic and latex gloves.
In this month of patient care over 2000 dental patients were treated for their two quadrants of greatest pain. We came home happy and tired with amazing memories, new friends and the need to return in our hearts.
Remember the Bible story about the boy with the basket of fish and loaves? The basket that fed thousands…?
It’s always a very long, arduous process of going through customs with our medical equipment and supplies. Arriving in Entebbe was no different. After a long while, we were able to load our supplies into a large diesel truck, and the team loaded onto a bus for a 6 hour trip into the remote northeast corner of Uganda. I always stay with the equipment, so I got into the truck with the driver and another young man, and we followed.Going through Kampala, the clutch went out in the truck. The bus went on ahead while we combed the streets of the city looking for just the right parts. It was a miracle to actually find the needed parts. After we fixed it and got on the road again, it was getting late, and it began to get dark. You don’t know what dark is until you’ve experienced it on the “dark continent.” Traveling in the dark is not a good idea, and actually pretty dangerous. WE GOT LOST!!!
We were a couple miles from the Kenyan border with very little fuel, no money (lost), and no direction. We parked behind a building in a small town and slept with a herd of cattle. The Muslim call to morning prayer blasting through the town woke us, and we took off BY FAITH, asking God to direct us. We soon came to a stop, with 3 large trucks stuck in a wash-out, blocking the road. The driver tried to turn around, but we were soon stuck as well. No fuel, no money, lost, stuck…no way out.
After sitting for an hour, an angel appeared, in the form a little boy, who stepped out of the brush, wearing only shorts, and carrying a wide hoe. He offered to help. I thought, “Sure, the truck is ready to fall over, full of everything we will need to fulfill our mission, and we are going to depend on a little boy?”Well, he began to dig, and dug for over an hour, removing grassy vegetation from the front of the tires. I got behind the wheel and with a little muscle from the drivers, began to rock the truck back and forth, and to my amazement, was able to drive up onto the road!
It was a miracle! But we still had no money, and running out of gas. We drove back to the same village we had just slept in, and drove down the main street. There was a small store, and I had enough money for a coke. So we pulled up, and I could not believe my eyes – an ATM machine!! In this tiny village. I got out of the truck, ran to the ATM machine and stuck in my card. "Welcome William Mays" were the sweetest words I could have imagined. In the same little town we also found diesel.
So, we were on our way again to the first of many villages that were impacted with the love of Christ, as over 1,000 people were drawn to us for dental help, and received the greatest gift of all.
But I will never forget the little boy who offered what he had, his time and a hoe!
Our team served over 1,000 patients, and much was accomplished!