2012 OCMC Mission Team Member to Uganda, Jiena Deeb takes the blood pressure of a woman at one of the six clinics the team held that provided medical treatment to more than 3,000 people.
"Mzungu, mzungu," the children cried out, full of love and fervor as our bus drove by their humble little huts. Their voices echoed in our hearts like an oasis in the middle of the desert of our daily labors. The days were long, and not without many obstacles from the evil one. However, the bumpy roads, cold showers, lack of electricity, and many other struggles were overcome by our eagerness to help the people in Uganda.
What did I do on this mission trip? First, let me tell you what my goals were before I made my journey to the country of Uganda. I hoped to be strengthened in my faith, to gain a greater love for God through my service to His people, and to gain a clearer perspective and appreciation for life. My actual experiences far exceeded those expectations. This wasn’t a result of anything I did, but by the Grace of God and the tremendous love of the people of Uganda. These people live without many comforts, but are so full of love. Many of them do not have shoes or shirts, but what they lack is made up for with genuine smiles and heartfelt hugs. They are full of an inner joy that far surpasses what material things could ever provide.
I was blessed to be a part of a mission team that was comprised of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and medical students. Each day our work was cut out for us. We traveled to distant regions, some hours away, and served over 3,000 people. My main responsibility was to triage the families and at times to assist the doctors directly with seeing patients, cleaning and dressing wounds, and getting all the appropriate vital signs. I saw many people that touched my life in ways beyond my ability to describe with mere ink or words. The major diagnoses that families were suffering from were malaria, ringworm, wounds, fungal infections and some STDs. Due to lack of mosquito netting, hundreds of children die of malaria in Uganda, and life expectancy is only 43 years.
There are a couple of heartwarming stories that I want to share with you. One was a young infant who suffered third degree burns and was poorly treated with home remedies. The wound was so extensive that our team didn't have the capabilities to properly treat it, so we dressed the wound as best we could and gave the mother a financial gift to take her child to the local hospital. I also saw a baby, born prematurely at seven months, who did not have the luxury of a full-term hospital treatment. I held the delicate newborn in my arms and couldn't hold back my tears, as I prayed for him with all my heart. This precious child was so tiny, but his eyes sparkled with a determination to live.
One of our last cases was heart-wrenching. A Muslim woman brought her toddler to me, and begged for our team to do something, anything, for him. There was an aching silence because I knew we had no medicine or treatment for her son, as he was deaf and mute. So, I wrote the triage notes and forwarded her concerns to the doctors. This story affected our whole team; we all wanted to find a way to help this family. As we drove back to our hotel, we noticed there was a school for the deaf right across the street. Our team leader made an appointment and met with the school officials. He inquired about the required fees and costs involved in getting an education for the deaf boy. He presented this information to our team, and we unanimously decided to sponsor the child to go to school for the next several years. And wait, this story is even more miraculous! Before we made our offer to his mother about the schooling, she voiced her desire to convert to Orthodox Christianity to one of the local priests. Before leaving Uganda, we gave funds to the priest and asked him to kindly offer our sponsorship to the mother for the boy to get an education. God blessed him with a chance at a new life and a new beginning.
Both over-exhausted and over-joyed, I returned from the trip with more than just a new perspective of life. I learned that life is not about all the things I think I need. The only real need in life is to discover new ways to serve and love God and my neighbors; to sail the ship of my life in the right path, always growing closer to Him, regardless of the storms.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you again, for all your love and support. And above all, your prayers, without which, I could never have journeyed this mission to Uganda.