Uganda: Caring for Africa’s orphans

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Two MB congregations involved in ministry to Uganda

Uganda, although slightly smaller than Oregon, is home to an estimated 2.7 million orphans, according to UNICEF. Given that God is described in Scripture as the Father of the fatherless and the defender of widows and orphans, he must look upon Uganda with a special ache. AIDS, malaria and violent conflict have nearly wiped out an entire generation of adults; about half the country’s populationis under the age of 15. 

While their road to Uganda differs, two USMB congregations, Discovery Bible Fellowship (DBF), Collinsville, Okla., and New Life Fellowship (NLF), Grant, Neb., find themselves compelled to do what they can to care for these children. DBF’s journey began with a church mission trip while NLF’s involvement started with the pages of a book.

Uganda’s orphans are usually taken in by extended family, leaving already-impoverished families with an extra mouth to feed, literally. It’s not uncommon to find child-led households. Often, the orphans are treated as second-class family members, receiving food and clothing only if there’s enough to go around. Often, there isn’t.

Cami Flege, director of an orphanage in Lira, Uganda, describes the life of an average Ugandan orphan:

“The typical child we reach is 3 to 6 years old. Her parents have died from HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis, were killed in a rebel war or have abandoned her.

“She sleeps on an animal hide or a cane mat at night with no mosquito net. Every day she goes to the fields to dig for food and fetches unclean drinking water from a mud hole. She gathers firewood to build a fire so she can cook what food she was able to find. That is her routine day after day.

“She can’t go to school because she’s busy with survival. Besides, school requires fees for uniforms and books. No school means she won’t learn English and will never be able to communicate outside her own tribe.

“Without a mosquito net, she is highly likely to contract malaria. Drinking contaminated water will cause diarrhea. No one will take her to a clinic for treatment.

“She has no one to protect her from physical or sexual abuse. If she survives to adulthood, she will dig in the field for food because she has no education to do anything else. And she will bear children, because her value as a woman in this culture is in her ability to reproduce.”

The same Bible that describes God as defender of the orphans tells his followers, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). And two USMB congregations are seeking to obey that directive by meeting physical and spiritual needs of orphans in Uganda. Their approaches are different, but members of both DBF and NLF are investing themselves and their resources in Uganda and its children.

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