February 5, 2004
Greetings My Friend,
One of the goals we have here at the village is to train the children’s palate’s to enjoy a variety of foods. In their culture, there are several staple foods, but beyond that many never have the opportunity to explore. In the dining hall, the lunch meal consists of national food that the mamas and children really enjoy. When posho (like very stiff grits) is served, the mamas smile and say it will make a good nap for the cottages.
Trying to plan menus that are filling, healthy and enjoyable has presented us with somewhat of a challenge. Carolyn was very excited recently because she had figured out a way to make macaroni and cheese to be served at our evening meal. The cooks did a great job of preparing it and we expected everyone to really enjoy this new treat–after all, who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?
Well, we heard nothing about the new dish from the mamas or from the children. A few days later I was hauling some of the aunties who work during the day helping the mamas back to their village. On the ride, I asked, “How did you and the children enjoy the macaroni and cheese?” There was not an immediate response so I turned to Auntie Janet and asked her again. You need to know that Ugandans are always eager to be polite and to please, so Janet turned to me with a big smile and a lift in her voice, “Oh JjaJa, I think we have enjoyed it very much, only one has vomited!” I thought I would never stop laughing at that and I almost ran the Prado up the side of a bank before I regained control. Now, when Yoweri finds out that we are having macaroni he whines, “JjaJa, not the maca-ronees!”
Well, I dropped Janet off at her place and proceeded to take another helper to her home. As we traveled she said, “JjaJa, I am wondering if you would give me the advice (pronounced add-vice)?” That was her way of saying, I want to speak to you privately for counsel. I told her that I was willing to help if I could. She is a precious friend and I have come to love her dearly. She shared with me that her husband who had abandoned the family about six months ago, had returned the night before. She said he was very apologetic and asked for forgiveness for wanting to flee from the crushing that poverty had made to his sense of manhood. He despaired when daily faced with his inability to raise school fees for his children or to feed them adequately. He felt trapped and unable to break out of the hopeless circumstance. The pressure to provide when it was impossible to find a job took its toll and he ran. During all the months he was gone, Pastor Fred and his wife Susan stepped in and provided for this family.
Now it seems, he is ready to return home and she is more than willing to receive him. Her dilemma was that he wanted to resume physical intimacy with her. She remembered talks that Pastor’s wife had given about the way HIV is spread, so she had refused him and explained to him that she was not going to allow that until he had had a blood test to determine his status. She asked me if it was true that the virus could be passed between husband and wife that way. I told her that Susan had given her true advice and that she had done the right thing. Her husband proclaimed his fidelity and said there had been no women in the six months, but this dear woman bravely resisted. Jane, she was thinking rightly but the truth is she has no resources to carry out this plan. Like everyone here, she struggles financially–there is never enough money to cover just the bare bones basics of life. Her sons and daughters have not been able to attend secondary school this semester because she has no money for school fees. When I dropped her off earlier this week, there was no food in the home. I stupidly asked why she didn’t get fresh vegetables since they are so plentiful and cheap. She responded, “JjaJa, what difference does it make what the price is if I have no money at all?” She added, “JjaJa, a meal of eggplant and tomatoes does not fill a hungry stomach through the night and day.” The custom here is to drink a cup of chai in the morning and wait until very late in the evening to eat one meal that will hold you through the night and next day.
Since it has been my job to take people to Ebenezer Lab, I knew that a reliable blood test costs more than this little family could ever raise or justify. How could she come up with 9,000 shillings (at least 3 days wages) for blood testing when she has children who are not getting enough to eat? It is through difficult choices like this that AIDS has claimed Africa. Anyway, I told her that I would transport she and her husband to the lab and pay for the testing and praised her for her wisdom and for standing up in a gentle but firm way. It takes one day to get the results, so I trust God will protect her until this is settled. Friend, you are on my mind and in my heart–may He help renew your heart today as you prepare for prayer tomorrow.