Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Out of Africa

Well that is a fairly predictable title for this post as we are now out of Africa and back in the UK after having been there for four weeks.

We had two and a half weeks in Uganda and ten days on Kenya. This was Linda's debut to Africa so each experience was new and surprizing.  Africa is challenging at every level. It is a riot of colour, rich in earthy tones and hues of green. After rain it is awash with mud and when the sun comes out, within hours it is chokingly dusty. We got stuck in the mud at times and walked to a church in a slum in Nairobi and got so covered in mud that on arrival we had our feet washed which took us to a whole new level of being humbled by people's kindness. The dust filled our lungs and added to the cocktail of bronchitis and in Linda's case a growing association with asthma.

Africa is challenging in that everything takes extra effort. Getting into bed at night inside mosquito nets requires a lot more thought and planning. As soon as I got into the net I realised I needed this, that or the other. Then the power was on, then off, then on again, the internet was down half the time, slower than dial up and so on. However everyone had cell phones, everyone, everywhere. We stood in one church in a muddy village, muddy walls, muddy floors, muddy children. On the wall a single muddy notice read, "Turn off your cell phone during  the services."

Ugandans have faced an horrific past within my life time. No one was untouched by the Idi Amin or Obote years, hundreds of thousands died, every family was affected. In recent years thousands of children had been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in the north and turned into child soldiers. One fourteen year old boy we had contact with was taken when he was aged 8. Each of the 80 scars on his arms represented a person he had killed, the first two being his parents. I have immense admiration for the many NGO's working with these deeply traumatised children who daily emerge from the bush seeking their former homes.

Teaching a week on the Love of God the Father was deeply moving. The people on the School all said that this was the only hope for Africa. It was a priviledge to be able to connect with these people.

Africa is a place of great contradictions. We met some of the kindest, open hearted people and at the same time visited a children's rehab centre which was worse than a dickensian work house. The plight of the abandoned children aged between 3 and 17 was appalling. I must confess I struggled all day chocking back my tears as I saw children, the same age as my grandchildren, malnurished, barely clothed, covered in scabies, abandoned by their parents or relatives. One lad had been blinded by acid by his grandmother in order to make him a more effective beggar.

The Ugandans and Kenyans on the Fatherheart Schools were outstanding people whose love for God and for their countries was exemplary. They are working so hard to bring change and hope to the lives of their countrymen. Time and time again they said, "The love of the Father is the only hope for Africa." I looked into their eyes and I could see hope, I could see passion and resolve and utter dependance on God for his help. There is hope for Africa and soon something will come out of Africa through these people that will bring hope to the whole world.

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