Friday, 22 April 2011

Uganda April 2011 – Jill Armstrong reflects on her recent experience

No one was more surprised than me to find myself on the flight to Uganda two weeks ago. I had been solidly in the camp who believed that the cost of my ticket was better deployed in a practical way where it was most needed. Unwisely I put this point of view to Pastor Paul on his last visit to the UK! He explained the concept of "money with faces". Money is essential but St James money comes with faces – of love, relationships, skill sharing, encouragement, support…the list goes on. The faces are those able to make the journey who represent the whole church family and the whole of God's family. "Come to Uganda and find out how wrong you are" he challenged. So I did and I was.

My "big picture" reflections are of a country that really is turning the tide on HIV/AIDS, of a people who are welcoming, who are proud of their achievements, who love to talk and sing and dance, who love God and who never once asked us for anything other than prayers and friendship.

Specific memories include visiting Kiswa school in a slum area of Kampala, being showered with gifts, hugs, singing, dancing and their sheer joy of entertaining the "dear visitors". I will remember thinking the girls rescued from working the streets of Kampala by the Rahab ministry were so young, then being told the "little ones" were not there that day. I will remember the look of pride as a lady presented me with her first "good" baby. I thought she was talking about behaviour – she meant HIV negative. I will remember the ladies of Bulago who stood together and declared they were HIV positive but were turning their lives and their community around and asked if they could pray for new Christians at St James. I will remember the privilege of being asked to pray for a whole village. I will remember having one of Martin's sermons told back to us and yes we'd heard it too! I will remember the tiny school with no blackboards or chalk but who had been given a huge toilet block by a large aid agency (and who now have blackboard and chalk). I will remember travelling with great companions whose capacity for humour was endless. I will remember so much more.

"Money with faces" matters hugely to the people we met. Representing Love Africa at St James and sharing God's love with our brother and sisters in Christ in Uganda was a huge privilege.