Duncan & Rosalind Watt have just returned from Uganda after what will surely be the most memorable visit they have made. Historically there have been the emotional traumas of working in the IDP camps, or the ever present danger from the LRA guerrillas. Never, in all of our visits have we faced a Pandemic!
Our Lord clearly placed us in Gulu at a time when He thought we were needed. When we arrived, Coronavirus wasn’t widely referred to correctly as the Covid-19 version. It was in China and a few other isolated cases had been reported in other countries, but nothing in Africa. No worries then – we set off at the beginning of March. Our first wake-up call was the luxury of having a near empty A380-800 giant aeroplane to fly to Dubai in. We counted around 80 people in economy when normally there would be about 300! 4 seats each to sleep on…wow, this was better than flying business class! After our second flight to Entebbe, we were greeted at the airport by an army of masked medics who took temperatures and literally sprayed us from top to toe. Each person was interviewed before being allowed to clear immigration. Strangely, this was very reassuring and sadly was the only airport on the entire journey that have any visible health checks. Well done Uganda!
After rushing to the Forex and making a deposit in TEAMS Bank in Entebbe (before they closed for the day) we stayed overnight stay in our usual B&B. “Our” car, a 20 something year old Toyota Land Cruiser, was delivered to where we were staying and everything seemed to be working like clockwork. Traveling through Kampala for meetings and supplies, we arrived in Gulu 4 days after leaving our home in Devon.
In church on the first Sunday morning, it was becoming clear that this virus was starting to spread globally and staff and the congregation were asking questions and obviously becoming anxious.
We searched the net for information and sought professional guidance from our Kiwi Doctor friend who works in Lachor hospital and regularly attends to our staff if they become ill. As a result we were able to set in place guidelines for safety and social distancing well before such things were being contemplated in the region. We managed to buy hand sanitiser (before the world ran out!) and fortuitously had brought with us a huge supply of paracetamol – donated by our supporters in England. We divided our stock between Gulu Referral Hospital – which TEAMS supports, and our staff (who received advice on when and how many to take). Despite the growing concerns we did our best to stick to our original agenda – teaching, managing, visiting the Prison and our very rural farm at CooPee (to support and encourage the tiny community there as much as to check on the state of the land) but throughout our time on site, we were facing more and more alarm from staff. Should they return to the rural village communities to be “safe” but if they did, what would happen if one person became ill? Questions, questions. At times like these we need to turn to turn to our Heavenly Father for support and protection, particularly in spiritual terms. Our daily devotions on site (which most of our 30 students also attend) took on a different format. People spaced out in a much bigger circle than usual and there was no Ugandan handshake and embrace after sharing the Peace. Rosalind gave frequent talks about how to protect oneself from the virus and a vigorous hand washing regime implemented. The picture above shows our borehole compound when we arrived. Traditionally a meeting place for social contact and village gossip. By the time we left on the 16th March, the borehole compound was closed and a hosepipe attached to the tap was led out through the fence to the road. Our staff simply turned the tap on an off for customers to fill their Jerrycans from the security of the compound. Villagers were only served if they stood 3 metres apart in the queue! We will report in more detail on each aspect of our work during our brief 10 day stay in Gulu soon. Please look out for more bulletins from us. STAY SAFE AND KEEP PRAYING!