Do So Everyday

This morning we visited an HIV/AIDS hospital. 

That is not a sentence that I, in my sheltered little life, ever expected to write.  Then again, most of my expectations about everything have been blown out of the water these last few days.

We visited Mildmay HIV and AIDS hospital, one of only two hospitals in the entire world devoted entirely to treating HIV and AIDS (the other one is in the UK).  Compassion partners with them to obtain treatment for Compassion children.  We were greeted by the staff with overwhelming hospitality (upon first meeting you, Ugandans always say “You’re welcome”—this is one of the most endearing things I will remember about them), and they gave us a thorough presentation about the history and funding of their facility.

I’m counting on some of my fellow team members to blog these statistics—they’re interesting and important, but I generally try to steer clear of anything resembling math.  Anyway, the statistics aren’t what I’ll remember about today. 

For privacy reasons, Mildmay doesn’t allow photographs to be taken on-site, so I once again am going to try to find the words to tell you about this place.  It was nothing short of remarkable.

All throughout this city, the poverty is rampant and in your face on every inch of the roads.  When I have a faster internet connection, I’ll be able to show you what I mean.  But amazingly, we entered the gates of Mildmay to a different world.  It’s built into the side of a hill overlooking the rolling hills of Kampala.  The grounds are lush and meticulous, and the buildings are spotlessly clean.  The facility is actually dozens of smaller red-brick buildings connected by winding covered pathways.  Like most Ugandan buildings, they are all open air, but fans blow a gentle breeze through the windows and corridors.  The rooms are freshly painted, the grass is inches thick.  A deliciously sweet smell—presumably from the lush landscaping—hangs in the air.

It’s a place of gentleness and dignity, and you can almost forget, for a second, how sick the patients are.

We wound through the waiting area—it was a sea of people.  Some of the faces looked hopeful, some of them look frightened, many looked terribly empty.  The staff hosted us for a proper British tea (this is a former British colony, and there is still a strong British influence in the culture), and then they took us to the “Noah’s Ark”, a center for HIV-positive children who haven’t yet developed full-blown AIDS.  The children laughed and played, while a cartoon hummed happily behind us.  I knelt down to speak with a little nine-year-old boy named Bosco.  An interpreter helped me tell him that I have a nine-year-old son back in America, and Bosco laughed, giving me a big hug.  I gave him a sticker. 

We headed to a clinic for the HIV-positive children who are beginning to develop some signs of infection.  A breeze blew through, and the room smelled clean.  A little boy lay groggily on a cot, while his mother sat next to him.  I walked over to him and stroked his arm; it was burning up with fever.  The mother looked tired.

We continued to wind through the facility, visiting the dentist office and library and other departments, finally coming to the top of the hill to Jajja’s Home.  This is the pediatric facility for children that have developed full-blown AIDS.  Sophie and I shot each other a look, trying to brace ourselves.

Several of the children were outside under a tent for a special presentation by a well-known local gospel singer.  The singer was HIV-positive himself, and our interpreter told us how he was singing about how God had carried him through his illness.  The kids danced and sang and jumped and waved their arms—evidently this was quite a special event. 

We walked into the sick ward.  We weren’t able to approach any of these children—we carry germs that are a risk to them.  But we were able to wave and smile—I saw one little boy, about 6 or 7, struggle to raise his arm in a return wave.  Before we left, I passed a mother sitting at the side of her baby’s bed.  He was probably no more than two years old, and he was motionless, an IV strapped to his arm.  The look on the mother’s face will stay with me forever.  It looks just like you’d expect the face of a mother to look when she’s watching her child waste away in front of her.  I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder.  “God bless you,” I whispered to her, and she smiled back at me.  In those brief seconds, I think I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed in my whole life.

Our tour ended in the cheerfully decorated classrooms.  Every inch of the walls were covered with bright posters and chalkboards and bookshelves.  In a quiet room off to the side were rows of neatly-made mattresses, where the littler ones could nap in the afternoon.

Because I have absolutely no way to wrap a post like this one, I’m going to leave you with the one photo I couldn’t help but snap.  This is the prayer painted on the walls over the children’s little sleeping mattresses.  This one photo says more than this entire post could:

Prayersmall

62 thoughts on “Do So Everyday

  1. Sheila says:

    I’m sure this is hard to see what you are seeing and to be so far away from your family. Just remember that you are being the hands and feet of Jesus right now to these people! You are in our thoughts and prayers!

  2. pam says:

    “This one photo says more than this entire post could:”
    You’re exactly right. So profound and so simple all at the same time.
    Thank you, Shannon, for continuing to “brace yourself” and follow in the footsteps of our Savior. He is leading you down a path from which you will never recover, and I am so glad to witness it so I might never be the same either.
    Praying today for all of you.

  3. Jen says:

    Shannon,
    Thank you for being willing to share all that you are seeing. Today, my 3 girls and I adopted a young girl from Uganda as part of our homeschool mission project for the year. My father died of AIDS 15 years ago, so this particualr post was stirring to me. My girls are very excited to receive their packet and are looking forward to praying for this blessed little girl. Just wanted to let you know that your trip has impacted out family and there is already fruit…much fruit, I’m sure! Praise the Lord for the ways in which He chooses to use us all!
    Jen

  4. Shalee says:

    I’ve cried more this week for these sweet creations of God. Hope is what we are called to give, no matter the color of our skin, the health of our bodies or the background of our religion/nonreligion. We can be the hope that they need.
    Bless you and your entire team, Shannon. Give them all a hug from me and tell them that I personally thank them for their efforts.

  5. megan says:

    I read every day in tears – a mixture of hope and sadness. Our Compassion boy Henry is in Uganda – this brings him so much closer to home than ever before.

  6. carrie says:

    Wow, that prayer almost makes me feel guilty. Definitely humbled. And a great reminder that the earthly posessions don’t matter a lick in life.

  7. noelle says:

    I’m so glad I checked on you today. I have missed the last several weeks but after reading just a few of your paragraphs in a couple posts over the last week (could only get through a little so I didn’t cry at my desk at work)… it is now confirmed in my heart and mind – I could NOT go there. I would not be emotionally strong enough to do what you’re doing. There are days I struggle with my kids I work with right here in the states because of the poverty which is nothing compared to what you’re experiencing right now. What God is doing for these people through you will follow on for years – but just as importantly – what God is doing to YOU through this experience…. Stay strong and love them greatly.

  8. ukrainiac says:

    Shannon, you will never be the same person again. God is working in you so that He can also work through you — you are impacting sooo many people. By your example. By your obedience. By your words. Thank you for sharing what you are seeing, both physically and spiritually!
    (And say a prayer for the children of Ukraine — this country is currently poised to be the next Africa as far as AIDS goes. It is my incredible privilege to love on the HIV+ orphans here…)

  9. The Smirking Cat! says:

    I spent yesterday with dying patients, and I agree with your comment about never praying harder. I prayed for them to find peace and serenity, here and later. No, you will likely never be the same. Immersing yourself in human experiences and spirits changes you.

  10. angela says:

    I know you (and the others) are making a difference, because you have touched these families lives with your visit. I know many here in the states will be touched as well through the power of your words and pictures of the time you spent in Uganda. I am praying for yall, and for those precious beautiful children…

  11. Stephanie says:

    I think you are being very productive in expressing yourself through words and painting pictures for us in our heads. It’s only things that I have heard about, but never really thought about. Thank you for seeing it and helping us “see” the facts that there are hurting people that need our prayers! And it’s not just our imagination. IT.IS.REAL.

  12. Vickie@PursuingSimplicity says:

    Shannon,
    This week has profoundly impacted my life. I have cried each day at work and laid in bed at night thinking about all the sites, sounds, and smells you and the rest of the bloggers have encountered. I admire your courage and am thankful for your open transparency to us concerning your fears. This mother’s heart is aching for all those precious ones you have seen in Africa. Thank you for painting the pictures for us…photos are not necessary for me…your words have impacted me more than I can adequately express. Continuing to pray for you and all of your families here back home.
    Praising Him in ALL things,
    Vickie

  13. Stacy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing everyone. Each day I look forward to reading your post and sheding tears and sending prayers for these little ones. My mother’s heart breaks.

  14. ~Amy says:

    Crying as I read this…
    I can’t find the words write now I want to say you so for now I’ll just say-
    Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone to share with us things that are happening in other parts of the world.
    God Bless You,
    ~Amy

  15. Jessica says:

    I went and adopted a little girl from Ethiopia today. Her name is Sentayehu.
    Thanks for blogging about this!

  16. Alaina says:

    This post brought me to tears. For several years, God has placed a burden on my heart for children and people who are HIV+ or who have AIDS, especially in Africa. Thank for writing about this. It’s easy in our lives of comparitive ease and luxury, to forget that so many people are suffering all over the world. Thank you for your transperancy in blogging about your experiences.

  17. Lisa says:

    Shannon,
    I know what you’re doing is so hard. It’s so, so difficult to watch others suffer as you watch helplessly. But know that just your being there and writing about it will have eternal consequences. God will see to it that the seeds you sow are brought up.
    I pray He shows you and sweet Sophie one day all the great things that come out of this trip.

  18. Jenn says:

    Shannon –
    I literally have tears in my eyes right now. It is almost impossible to imagine the feeling of those moms who must watch their children.
    Thank you for sharing everything over the last few days. You may have physically stepped out of your comfort zone but I think you are allowing so many of us to take the journey with you.

  19. Barb @ A Chelsea Morning says:

    I give up. I’ve finally accepted that when I come over here to read your newest post from Uganda, I need to bring the Kleenex with me. Every single thing you’ve shared with us has brought tears to my eyes, Shannon.
    This time it was this. “I gave him a sticker.” Silly, I know, when you realize the scope of what you’ve told us here, but that one sentence did it to me this time. To think something as simple as a sticker….
    And if that little sentence hadn’t done it, then for sure the photo you posted – the prayer – would have. God bless you for the simple and gentle way you are making all of us more aware of how blessed we truly are and how much these beautiful and suffering people need our compassion and our help.

  20. Erin says:

    I read your blog daily while I am at work. I have cried so much this week at work everyone must think I am nuts. I have to say I understand your fears of traveling. We are such spoiled people and I think I would be the same as you even in the midst of it all. But I must say more than anything that I have learned this week what caompassion really means. There is so much we can be doing that we all fail to do.
    My prayers are with you all this week! Also thank you for going so that we can all have this education of life in Uganda and what we can do to help! I know you had your reservations about the trip and I am sure God will bless you for what you are doing. I think maybe you have realized He already has!

  21. Alisa says:

    Thank you Shannon for bringing Africa to us. Sitting here at my kitchen table-life is nothing compared to the life of these children. You are doing exactly what you were called to do-minister to the children and us through your blog. Blessings!!

  22. Rachel Olsen says:

    Hey Shannon. My first time commenting here. Wanted you to know I’ve prayed for you today. Isn’t Compassion the most amazingly effective organization?! And doing such important work.
    I went to Ecuador with them and the P31 team in August and was so taken with every member of the ministry and every person we met being served by the ministry. I blogged about it at RachelOlsen.blogspot.com in August 2007 just incase anyone is interested in reading about our trip.
    I hope others will see the vast need through your posts and pray about sponoring a child. Together we truly can release children from poverty one child at a time!

  23. asjlsmama says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Your posts have been very touching and enlightening. It is so easy to forget how good we have it and how many blessings surround us at any given minute. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  24. Kelly S. says:

    I can’t get Africa off of my mind.
    We signed up to sponsor a little girl (9) from Uganda yesterday…thrilled to be a part of such a God annointed thing.
    Thanks for letting us see things, through your eyes…we HAVE to do all we can.
    Kelly S.

  25. Dana says:

    I just don’t know what to say…I’m in awe of all that you are describing. Giving my son an extra hug tonight.
    God bless you all there.

  26. Kim says:

    This is how we felt about Kasana Children’s Center. An oasis. Clean, green and tidy. So vastly different from the city.
    A place of hope in the midst of hopelessness.
    It’s blessing my socks off to go back vicariously through you and the other bloggers.

  27. denise walden says:

    I read but my mind does not comprehend.. it is hard to understand how suffering such as this goes on when we are safe at home in our beds……. How God must grieve for those precious people….. It will forever change your life…….. you will not ever walk away…… and I am sure that is a good thing……. I will pray for you tonight…..
    blessings

  28. Crystal says:

    You are doing an excellent job of sharing your experiences with us. Thank you for making a difference – in Uganda and here in North America.
    We are traveling to Brazil and Argentina next week so I’ve been exploring sponsor possibilities there. I feel God’s love and calling in this. Praying for you as the week continues.

  29. Gego says:

    Dearest Daughter-In-Law,
    What an incredible story for the 4 little ones to know!
    Are you feeling better? I am praying that you have all the strength you need to succeed in this journey into another world.
    Oh, my, what a message you will have to convey when you return!
    Many, many thanks to Compassion for making this trip available to you.
    Still no call from the home front, so I know all is well.
    Love ya bunches, Gego

  30. Queen B says:

    Amazing. Our family has been so incredibly touched by your words this week. God is using you (and the others) to be the voices for these sweet children. God is also using your group to show us the needs that we ignore.
    We sponsored a little girl from Uganda this evening. I wish we could sponsor 20! (I can’t wait to hear how many kids were sponsored this week.)
    We are praying for you.

  31. Betsy says:

    Thank you for bringing all these images and descriptions to the “mom-osphere”. You and Boo are reaching people that need to hear about these things, because EVERYBODY knows that if you want to get something done, you gotta’ go to the Moms…
    Blessings to you today.

  32. Jacki says:

    Spending an afternoon with AIDS patients will definitely change your outlook on life. My senior year of high school was spent visiting a nursing home for AIDS patients every weekend…the youth pastor at our church was a patient there. When he was too tired to visit we would sit in the kitchen and talk to whoever was there. I’ll never forget it.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  33. Linda Sue says:

    I am thrilled to see the pictures of you and your sponsored child – oh my goodness – there are no words are there? Bless you,Shannon for being there to hug those kids – wish I could give you a big old hug that would let you know how connected this all is – how Compassion, bloggers, readers, children, Jesus – it is all working gal!

  34. jennielynn says:

    These posts are so hard to read, but I thank you for bringing them to us. I can’t help but weep, yet I feel that it is so necessary for us to know what is happening in Uganda. Thank you, so very much. My prayers are with you, your team and the people you encounter.

  35. mom2fur says:

    What beautiful work they’re doing at that hospital. And what beautiful work you do as a volunteer! Just a little touch, a little “God Bless You” surely makes a difference in a hard life. Your post has me thanking God my own children are happy and healthy. I wish improved health, or at the very least, comfort, to all those you’ve visited.

  36. Pam says:

    Hi Shannon – frequent reader, not so frequent commenter. My heart is breaking this week. Thank you for going and sharing and being willing to follow. My heart needs to break so it can grow. I am getting new eyes and a bigger heart and we just sponsered a sweet boy right around my sons age. I look forward to seeing what God continues to do and I am open. We are blessed beyond measure and it is time to do something about it.

  37. Junebug says:

    I just heard about your trip to Uganda from Rechelle at the Country Doctor’s Wife. I adopted a child from Uganda through World Vision last week. She lives in Kasangombe. She is seven years old. I am so excited to get to help her family.

  38. Lisa says:

    Your life will never be the same. You will have no patience with whining Americans who gripe about their “high” taxes or high cost of whatever. I was in Peace Corps and vividly recall seeing surgical gloves hung out to dry and be reused at Bottom Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi. I won’t tell some of the even nastier things. Africa puts a permanent stamp on your mind. You will never think of someone on welfare, with food, education, medical care, electricity, clean water and the rest provided as “poor.” You will understand the comment made on the tv show “THe West Wing” about “why is an African life worth less than [a white European/American] one?” The answer was so true “I’m not sure, sir, but it is.” Everyone I knew back in 89-92 is dead now. Nearly all from HIV/AIDS and related illnesses.

Comments are closed.