Link Letter from Simon Challand in Uganda

Dr Simon Challand with two colleagues at KaseseSouth Rwenzori Diocese
PO Box 142, Kasese


The Boy’s Back In Town!

It is always good to feel welcome and I felt I was welcomed all the way back from Kampala. As I crossed the Queen Elizabeth Game Park into Kasese a herd of over 25 elephants came to the roadside to greet me. In Kasese Town the roads are at last being surfaced with tarmac and surely the timing of this was no coincidence! I bought some bread and the lady in the bakery looked at me, realised, and greeted me with a smile. On the main street I met Jessica of the Mother’s Union and went forward to shake her hand but she brushed it aside and gave me a big hug, frightfully un-Ugandan. Up in Kilembe, Robert was beaming and the dogs leapt around, even the cat seemed vaguely warm in a feline sort of way. The word went out amongst the local families that Simon was back and the lads who use my living room as a place to hang out hurried to greet. A particularly smart young man in a oversized DJ and bow tie appeared; he was the son of the Chairman of the Local Committee 5 (the “Big Man” in Kasese) and he was inviting me to his 12th birthday party. Down at the Diocese it was smiles, handshakes and hugs all round and the usual exchange of greetings. “How are you? How is home? How is your mother? You have grown fat, she must have been feeding you well!”

It is good to travel but even better to arrive.

Providential Protection?

Driving in Africa is not always a safe pursuit. Road accidents are a common result of bad driving and poor roads. Highway robbery still occurs and just before leaving Kampala I heard of two CMS mission partners who had been held up and relieved of everything they were carrying, and of a Ugandan doctor who was shot because he was reluctant to part with his money. Even a simple breakdown can be a problem since there is no AA and no road side phones: if you leave your vehicle unattended while you go off to find help you may well return to find it has been looted. The last stretch of my 250 mile journey has its own hazards because it crosses the QE National Park which is inhabited only by wild animals, wild rebels and wild bandits. For these reasons I felt a little apprehensive about travelling from Kampala to Kasese, in a elderly pick-up which I had never used before, stuffed with valuables like my computer and CDs, alone and in the knowledge that the key I had been given did not seem to fit the lock to the spare wheel.(“No problem” I thought, “I’ll just wrench it off”). I said a brief prayer asking that what ever may happen I would be able to “hold on to things loosely” and set off. The seven hour journey including stops for provisions and to renew old friendships was remarkably uneventful and I muttered a word of thanks as I drove into my compound in the foothills of the mountains.

I was therefore a little surprised to wake the next morning and discover I had a flat tyre! I was somewhat less surprised to discover that even with the help of Robert, a hacksaw, a hammer and chisel I could not get the lock off the spare tyre. Thank goodness for the miraculous properties of WD40! Maybe God really does want me in Kasese.

The Good…

It is generally assumed that when the mission partner goes home on leave the work may slump, halt or even slip backwards. Certainly when I left both my boss and the staff were begging me to hurry back for fear that disaster would strike in my absence. (Each side anticipating that it would be the fault of the other). One member of staff even wrote to my mother asking that she keep me for only two months in the UK! It was, therefore, a great relief to return to find a basically positive state of affairs. These include:

  • New staff posted by the Government including James, who I have been trying to get to St Paul’s for the last 18 months. He is currently doing a Diploma in Health Administration and will take over the job as In Charge.
  • We still have a mutually beneficial partnership with KCCL and the National Water & Sewerage Co. providing health care to their workers and families and keeping St Paul’s financially afloat.
  • A new Health Unit Management Committee has been elected again after struggling for many months. It has been given proper training and the chairman and the treasurer are both men of ability and commitment.
  • Eriphazi is a busy as ever with the AIDS and Health Education programme.
  • Two “Outreaches” for immunisation and antenatal care have been opened in the surrounds of Kasese town.
  • We have sold all of our first batch of insecticide treated mosquito nets.
  • A large wire fence has been put up to keep the goats out and the patients in. Patients absconding without paying their fees is a problem for all health facilities like St Paul’s.
  • The District Medical Office has found the operating table and light for the operating theatre that I have been trying to acquire for the last two years.
  • Kasese is a much more peaceful place then when I first arrived, although the rebels are still very active in neighbouring districts.
  • The Neem trees are still growing although not quite as fast as I had hoped.

It is interesting to find that things which I have been struggling with for a long time miraculously happen in my absence: maybe I should go away more often!

The Bad…

  • One staff has been dismissed for having an affair. I do not know all the details but this is a common situation and often it is the man in a position of power abusing his authority over a junior female member of staff or even a school girl. It is very hard in this culture for women to say “no”. NB it was the woman who was dismissed!
  • The acting District Medical Officer is in prison for embezzlement.
  • My boss has helped himself to St Paul’s Health Centre money.
  • It is still disappointing to find that trained health staff who are also mothers cannot tell that a child is seriously malnourished just by looking at him.

…and the Ugly

  • Cockroaches in the kitchen and mobile phones everywhere.

A Tale of Two Men

Once upon a time there was a Big Man in the church. You could tell he was a big man because he had a smart office and a fat belly. Nearby there was a Little Man in the church, you could tell he was a little man because his house had no electricity and he rode a bicycle. One day the Big Man decided to start a little business but he had no money so he looked around for some. “Ah ha” he said “I see one of my departments has some money in the bank (an unusual thing in the church) so he wrote himself a cheque for the money. “I will pay it back later” he thought. Meanwhile the Little Man, who worked under the Big Man, serving the poor, was struggling to do his job because of a “cash flow problem”. The Big Man was too busy with his new business to sort this out. “Oh well” thought the Little Man “I cannot let the people down especially when they are poor and sick already so he used his own money to make sure the work kept going. Which of these two men do you think has already entered the Kingdom of God?

“When I served the poor they called me a saint.
When I asked why they were poor they called me a troublemaker”

Games People Play

A woman was caught in adultery… well she was not actually caught in the act but there were some dodgy circumstances, a door unlocked, a mattress moved, the electricity out and lots of rumours. Since she worked in the church she was dismissed. So where was the man? Adultery for one, now that is a new game!

It is sad to reflect that the same games involving Money Sex & Power that were played out in the New Testament are still going on in the Church today. “When will we ever learn…”

Manna from Heaven

When it rains in this part of the world it really rains and one of the things that comes with it is “Flying Ants”. Looking like small caterpillars with wings they are in fact termites and as part of their life cycle they swarm around outside lights in the rain only to lose their wings and fall to the ground. Those in the know about a “Balanced Diet” (in Lukonjo it translates as “Many foods on one plate”) realise that termites are full of protein and can easily be caught by putting a bowl of water under the light so they fall into it when the wings drop off. Fried up in garlic butter they make a tasty snack!

For Prayer:

Courage to change that which can be changed
Patience to accept that which can not be changed
And wisdom to know the difference

Simon Challand
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 30th December 2000