(Written Nov. 7, 2011 while at Hopeland YWAM base, Jinja, Uganda)

A calm day of traffic on the road to Kampala from Jinja, the cars were actually more than three inches away from each other!

My first day in Uganda I heard about death.  The newspapers all carried huge headlines telling of the death of four men, two Ugandan pastors and two American pastors.  They had died in a bad car accident on the road I was just about to drive out on.  This accident had greatly affected the country as the men were mentors to many others all over the country.

In the ten days I have been in Africa, I have seen and heard about death more than any time in my life.  Death is a reality here.  Death is daily here.  Children from a young age are aware of death.

Last week one of my first experiences with death came from the village.  A woman here on the base works with the village women and she had been down to the village that day to see a woman.  She discovered while she was there that a man had died the night before. This man was living with his mother along with his five children.  The mother had left but not until putting a “spell” on the father.  They said she had bewitched him before leaving.  These beliefs are active and common in villages.  The father got sick and died and the grandmother had all the kids.  The house they lived in was about ten feet by eight feet (the entire house!).  When the woman from the mission base got there the body was there and nobody would come take it for burial because the family needed 100,000 shillings (approx. $50 US) to take the body back to the village they came from.  They finally found a distant relative that lived more locally and that relative agreed to bury the man in his village.  They needed 50,000 shillings to do that.  Word went out on the mission base for contributions so they could at least get someone to come and get the body out of the house.  They came up with enough to satisfy the people so they finally came and got the body.  For the entire day, the body lay in the house with the five kids there.  It was raining so they were all inside.  Unbelievable.  Funerals are a huge expense and most people end up in debt when a family member dies.  Funerals are often one of the largest expenses a family can have, they cost much more than a wedding.

In just this past week, I have met people living here on the mission base who have had family members die in the past month.  Sadly, it is a regular occurrence.  Being a common event doesn’t make death easier for those in Uganda any more than it is for those of us in the United States.  The grief is real.  The emotions are intense and the hopelessness that often follows is much too common.

I have watched families and marveled at how many children they have.  I asked once about how they managed and learned that they are mostly orphans that people take in and raise as their own, no different from their biological children.  There are so many orphans that have experienced the death of their parents at such a young age.  They have never known life without death being present.

Yesterday the women in the Women of Hope program were late arriving because there had been another death in the village and they were attending to that family.  That is the second death in one week in a tiny village.

We celebrated Gene and Frank’s birthdays last night.  Frank is in his late 30s.  He commented as we were having a piece of cake that he had better get busy and finish what God has given him to do because he is middle-aged.  Middle-aged!  He told us the average life span of a man in Uganda is 47.  47!  After our cake and listening to the children sing for their father for his birthday, their gift to him, we joined with them in family prayers before the children headed to bed.  Their nine-year-old daughter prayed a prayer I doubt I would ever hear a nine-year-old girl in the US pray.  She prayed first thanks that God had preserved her life and brought her to the age she was.  I marveled at that.  Nine years!  She was thanking God she had nine long years of life.  She thanked him for keeping her healthy and bringing her brother back to health (he was in the hospital with a severe case of malaria just last week).  She thanked him for keeping her from dying and her family from dying.  She asked protection and that God keep death away from their family.  She asked for protection for each of us from death.


Death is part of life here in a way I’ve never experienced.

Not to leave you with a negative.  In coming posts I will talk about Life.  The joyous life I saw in many living in Uganda.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

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