Saturday May 31st involved a drive to Jinga, Uganda. Jinga is known as the starting point of the Nile River as it begins its flow from Lake Victoria there. Our first stop was to the Amani Baby Cottage. Mark and Lisa Tatlock have adopted two kids out of there. It was both joyful and sad the hour we spent there. Needless to say the kids loved the attention our staff team and the college student team brought! One little guy, a one-year old (as of June 4) named Matthew particularly caught my attention. I was sitting and watching them eat snack and then picked him up after he was changed. After carrying him around a few minutes I went to put him down so he could crawl outside with the rest of his age group. Matthew however wanted nothing to do with it and grabbed onto me with all of his might. After a while it was time to go and when I gave him back to the orphanage "Mama" he again tried to hold on as long as he could and started crying when she finally took him. I later learned that Matthew is HIV positive as are many of the orphans in Africa. Even many of the orphans who are not HIV positive, are orphans because their parents died from HIV/AIDS. While medication for HIV is to the point that many of these children will be able to live relatively normal lives, its especially heartbreaking to see how that disease has affected so many people in Uganda and throughout Africa. What a joy it was though to see a Christian based orphanage that cares for more than just the orphans physical needs and for us to be able to bring them some joy, if only for an hour or so. As we got back onto the bus, it was gut-wrenching to see many of the kids run to the fence and wave goodbye to us.
After leaving Amani, we went to Nile Baptist Church and met Pastor Alfred Adundo. Interesting story about Alfred. When Mark Tatlock (who is a senior Vice President at TMC) was in Jinja for the adoption of his kids, he was looking for a church to worship in on a Sunday. Not knowing a thing about Nile Baptist, he walked in and heard Pastor Alfred preaching the Word. Afterward, while talking with Alfred, he saw Alfred had a MacArthur Study Bible and learned Alfred had won it an African Pastor's Conference. This led Alfred to ask Mark if he knew John MacArthur and if he was still alive! Mark of course responded that MacArthur was alive and well, and not only did he know him, he worked for him! On this visit, Mark was able to bring him a letter from MacArthur as well as a box of books from him.
Nile Baptist is a church on the receiving end of Compassion International money that sponsors individual children in Africa. If you ever worry about that money getting to the kids, no need to here. The church has meticulous records where each cent is directed. Alfred and his church have a tremendous ministry to the orphans and needy families in Jinja. Beyond the Compassion ministry though, they also started their own outreach in the slums east of Jinja, called the Macedonian Child Outreach Program. Many of the kids in these slums are refugees of the civil war in northern Uganda and their fathers are either out of the picture or unemployed. Their mothers frequently find work illegally making alcohol from the residue of sugar cane, earning the equivalent of $0.03 a day. The church has confronted this problem by starting an educational program in which the children are taught the gospel. We got to visit this slum and the kids in the program performed their songs they were learning in which they memorized significant amounts of Scripture and clearly understood the meaning of the gospel. It was an enjoyable experience to spend a couple of hours with the kids there who apart from Christ have no hope.
The slums are just one part of Nile Baptist's outreach ministry. After leaving the slums, we went to one of the main Ugandan prisons where one of Alfred's associates has begun a prison ministry. We had the opportunity to go into both the women prisoner's chapel and the main courtyard of the men's prison where Ugandan prisoners led worship and then Mark preached from Acts 16. Afterward, many of the prisoners came up to us and thanked us for coming. I have to admit, being a police officer, it was little awkward being in the middle of a prison yard and speaking freely with the prisoners. While Mark was preaching, it was exciting to see so many of the prisoners had their Bibles out and were taking notes on whatever little bit of paper they had. It was something many church going people stateside need to see.
The day in Jinja concluded with a trip to the source of the Nile. At the water's edge you can walk out on these two foot wide planks that extend out to jetties placed in the river every 15' or so. It's a little hairy because the current is pretty strong, and while swimmable, its not the most healthy water you would want to fall into. It was a beautiful sight though to be standing in the middle of one of the wonders of God's creation as the sun was emerging from behind clouds. I hope I can show many of you my pictures of this sight.
Our ride back to Mukono was tempered by the traffic accident scene we witnessed. A taxi bus, similar to the one we were in, had collided with a boda boda (a moped) and 14 had died in the collision. Police were on scene but it was more a recovery effort than a rescue effort. The scene provided a forceful reminder of the great need for salvation, both in Africa and America.