It took all day to travel there on Tuesday, and that evening, my guide Lydia and myself met with three of the pastors from the church we were visiting. These three men were amazing! They receive very little salary (if any at all - the funds often don't make it through) and are still in the process of planning/developing programs for HIV/AIDS. About a third of Kabale is HIV positive, and the HIV rate is continuing to rise. Three main contributing factors: 1. They are situated on the trucking line, which creates a place for women who have been widowed or have no other source of income to work as commercial sex workers with the truck drivers and 2. the prominent presence of witch doctors. 3. People live so far outside of town, they can't make the trip in to get treatment/medicines. People will go to the witch doctors and often, their 'healing' will include being cut with a razor blade that is never cleaned, or the witch doctor saying to a woman that the only way she can be healed is if she will have sex with him. One of the things the church is doing to combat this, is to put out a weekly radio program that speaks out against witch doctors. They reach over 15 million people, and what I found was really amazing, was the fact that people listen and believe what they say, even if they are not Christians. They shared that people in Uganda will listen to the church and do what they say, even if they don't believe in Christ, so in turn, the church holds so much power for change. Amazing! (Below is a picture of me and the five pastors who work at the church)
During the dinner, one of the pastors told me he and his wife are HIV positive, and actually let me interview them the following day. Their story is truly amazing and I feel so honored he would allow me to write about it. He has only disclosed his status to the staff at the church and a few of the congregation members, but was excited at the idea that others could be encouraged by his story.
On Wednesday, we had a full day, starting by meeting with the church leadership in the morning and hearing about their programs. After that, went to the nearby village of Katuna and visited a small church there. About 100 people crammed into this tiny, thatched building to visit with me and give their testimonies of how they have been helped through mainly counseling programs.
I think the biggest surprise of the day was when after lunch, one of the pastors asked if I wanted to go have a coke in Rwanda. Thinking he was kidding, I said sure, and the next thing I knew, we were walking across the border and buying a coke - though I had lemon fanta since the pastors were determined I would have something that was actually from Rwanda, and the cokes were from Uganda. You'd think it would be harder to get into Rwanda, but not so much!
After that, we came back to the church in Kabale, and met with a group of about a hundred people that are either infected with HIV or caring for those who are infected. Again, just an amazing time of testimony sharing and fellowshipping together. (I'm getting ready for a meeting and don't have a lot of time to write, but will share more details later)
Over all, Kabale was amazing and I feel so blessed to have spent time with the people there. At the start of my day on Wednesday, one of the church leaders asked me very sincerely, "What do we do when people come for help and we have done everything we can but have nothing to give them?" It really was one of the worst moments of my life. This woman was asking me so genuinely for advice on what to do, and I didn't have a tangible answer. I told her that all I knew how to do now is pray. Pray that people will hear their story and want to help them. So this week, if you're praying, remember to pray for the church and the people in Kabale who are trying their best to fight HIV/AIDS with very little. Be encouraged to know though, that even with little, God is doing amazing things not only in Kabale but in all of Africa, and I thank all of you for sending me here to have the chance to witness it.