Hope in the Slums

Melanie, the author, at the Amahoro Community School in Matugga



How do you tell the story of living a lifelong dream?   My dream of embracing people regardless of race, nation, or language became so much more through Amahoro Children’s and Community Team (ACCT).  Let me go back to the start…

At the age of 12 years old I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It was at that time that I seriously felt as though God was calling me be a missionary. I anxiously watched as missionaries told their stories of travels, trials, and tribulations, and thought “what if Jesus chose me to do that?”  In the early 90’s after going through a heartbreaking divorce, I told my mother, “I just want to go to Africa and rock babies!”  Well God listens and God answers prayers, in His own time! In April 2018 I joined the ACCT to go to Uganda, to share with open arms, and ultimately learn about a community.

At the Buwala home, just outside of Jinja Uganda

For my first international intercontinental flight at 66 years old, I prepared as well as possible. I met the team at PDX, and from there we flew to Amsterdam, Kigali Rwanda, then Entebbe, Uganda.  There we were met by some of the most intelligent and spiritual young people I have ever met. Not only were the Americans I was traveling with top notch respected professionals–the Ugandan part of our team measured up to be incredible, intelligent, driven young women and men whose desire was to drive away unnecessary deaths due to poverty in their medical world, and to provide quality care of children who have been left parentless or alone.

I could tell you how fabulous East Africa is: how you should not miss out on seeing an elephant pulling on an acacia branch and the graceful giraffe on the African safari of the sub-Saharan. I could tell you about the early morning boat trip on the Nile River, with breakfast prepared and served like a gourmet picnic “in the bush.”  I could tell you about the unique resorts and lodges with wonderful hosts and performers around the campfire playing the drums, dancing in native dress, and sharing their culture. I instead choose to tell you about the day we went into Kisenyi slums to support the nutrition project with the children and young adults.

As I was in the slums during one of our visits conducting the Nutrition Program, a young boy came to me and asked “why are you so happy?” I told him I was happy because I had the privilege to be here with him helping to provide him with a meal. He said again “but you are so happy?” with a question in his voice.  I told him about Jesus Christ being in my heart and that I was happy I could share Jesus with him. After a short trip down the Roman road and to John 3:16, this young boy prayed after me asking Jesus to come into his heart, to save him from his sins and to forgive him.  This young boy professed to be a “Jesus Believer” to his Ugandan mentors as well. The boy and I agreed that we would see each other again, God willing, before we would meet in heaven.

In Kisenyi slums, the boys get to eat three times a week. It’s a meal of rice and beans in a bowl, no fork or spoon, sometimes with a chapati (tortilla like bread) and soemtimes with juice.  No matter what these children believe as far as their religion, they receive a meal. There is no difference in a person because of their religion.  While in Uganda to help provide a service, I chose to show the love of Christ to all the children, and through this my faith has been revealed.

Stepping into Kisenyi was a sight to behold and a smell that I will never forget. Most Uganda is not like this, as Kisenyi is one of the slums in the capital city of Kampala. In the dwellings in the slums it is dark. Houses are one sometimes two rooms made from a combination of unburnt bricks, mud, poles, and cement blocks. Roofs are corrugated iron sheets or thatched, and floors can be a mixture of stone, cement, tiles, and earth. Understandably, these structures have a short lifespan and are subjected to harsh weather conditions and flooding.  Often these structures are overcrowded. Cracked walls, dirty floors, faded paint, and rusted materials are common features. The settlements in the slums often lack clean water and proper sanitation. This leads to poor hygiene and causes disease to spread quickly. But hope is not lost in the Kisenyi slums.

How heartwarming it was to witness positivity in a place that seemed bleak from the outside! The warmth of the locals, the trust in human interaction, and the depth of the feelings of connection was a wonderful thing to be a part of. Meeting the young Jesus believer was just one of the relationships I took away from Kisenyi.  I was honored to have the opportunity to pray with a young woman with the black eye and an injured hand who had been beaten. And I was honored to meet an old woman who has given 10 years of her life as a midwife in the darkness of the slum in a commitment to her faith.  It was a privilege to pray as I sat in that dark room that was and is used to bring life into this world.

I came away from Uganda with a deep desire to return. My heart will be with the beautiful children and people of Uganda. Their faith has made me stronger. Their faith must be “bigger” than my faith. I can turn on a faucet and receive clean, hot water within just a few seconds. They must have faith that there will be water in the borehole, that they will be able to make it to and from the borehole, that they have charcoal to light a fire and that the water will boil and have no amoebas in it.

I realize now that true faith is about your total trust being in one Sovereign God. That is God our Father, Jesus our Savior and The Holy Spirit, our Guide. God loves all the people that He created, regardless of race, nation, language, there are no barriers for God. Without THAT I have no faith.  And so I come away knowing that without faith I can do nothing, but with faith in Him, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).

Visiting the mango trees in Buwala

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