A Near Disaster

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4-6 Sept 2013

I had a feeling last week that I would go to Gulu. When a graduate student named Cara stopped by our birth center for a day to investigate it for her research for her degree in anthropology at UC Riverside, and offered a free ride down south to Gulu-town, I accepted! Off I went with Eugenia.

Juba Road was not in great shape on the way down. From Atiak, the road goes south to Gulu and north to Sudan. Many large trucks, shipping cargo and people, rumble along it every day – but not that day. The rains had turned the road into a muddy mess. Our small car was navigating it all right, but the tires of the heavy trucks were stuck deep in the mud – and so the trucks were starting to back up for several kilometers.

I figured the road would dry out and the truckers would be on their way. But the night I stayed in Gulu, I was awake with an urgent feeling to pray for the birth center. So I began praying. As I prayed, I had the sense that my prayers were pushing up crosses of light all around the boundaries of the birth center compound to protect it. But protect it from what? In the morning, I was glad to hear from our fellow midwives. This was their report:

The truckers had been stuck in the mud for two full days. They were hungry. The got out of their trucks and wandered over the birth center compound property, looking for food. Our midwives here quickly organized to prepare and sell chapatti and tea to them. They made hundreds chapatti for these men. Kate later said to me we were basically dealing with a humanitarian disaster on a small scale.

Our little kitchen was on the verge of being overwhelmed. My sister-midwife Sarah had to tell one demanding and rather grouchy man named Isaac, “Do you know what your name means? It means laughter. You need to cheer up and be patient! This is not a restaurant; it’s a birth center. I just came from catching a baby, and now I am making chapatti for you. It will soon be ready!” His tone and his facial expression changed after she said that.

Happily, an American missionary to Sudan stepped in and organized her people to help continue preparing chapatti while our midwives returned to attending to the mothers and babies in the birth center. The missionary’s name was Faith, and her co-laborer in the Lord was named Joy, a missionary from Kenya. (Sarah later said to me, “They were like angels.”) You could say that Faith and Joy arrived to help!

Our midwives wanted to snap a few pictures of the scene, but when they started to do so, they were met with an angry response from a few of the men, so they stopped. That type of response is quite unusual here where most people are delighted by photography. Faith quietly explained to the midwives that there was a Somali terrorist among the truckers eating at our kitchen and he did not want his picture taken.

T.I.A. You never know what may happen!

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