Management under the mango tree
by Marsha Campbell
Conferences and offices are over rated I’ve decided. Power meetings can really be energized in a circle under a mango tree (above). My team and I were privileged and honored to sit in on a very pivotal Father’s House management committee meeting recently in Gulu, Uganda.
Moses, the Chairman of the Committee, shared an overview of the challenging realities of St. Phillip’s parish community.
We have survived over 20 years of debilitating war. The only choices of the war were to join the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) or the UDPF (United Democratic Patriotic Front) — both Hellish survival by fighting and horrific violence. Those who remain have no education, no family. Many have grown up in IDP camps. We have retaken our land, but don’t remember how to work it. The children are now grown with children. Job rates are low and 25% in our parish are HIV positive.
“We must reawaken our hearts desire to care for these children who are orphaned and abandoned!“ Our first two homes are almost finished and we need to create our policy and methodology for child selection.
Those who participated were grappling with the upcoming child selection policy for the soon to open homes for orphaned and abandoned children in their community. GO Project is committed to the vision of identifying children at the “end of the line” who are most vulnerable and in need of life care.
The question of HIV was put on the “table.” Honest discussion centered around whether HIV positive children should be accepted. The dilemma of what that could mean was stark and sobering. These children would surely require extra care and cost. The Mamas who would live with them would need additional training; the children would need a modified diet with extra nutrition. The additional cost of medical monitoring, medicines & ARV’s (anti-retroviral prescriptions) would be ongoing. Transport to hospital would be necessary in case of infections – would we need a bus or vehicle? How could this affect the other children in terms of possible exposure and infection? One member suggested: as we are just getting started, perhaps we should only take children who are healthy. How would we know—unless we require an AIDS screening?
These children, hoping to have a new home, would then be subjected to a potential double rejection, of possibly learning they have HIV and then being dismissed to struggle on their own with their “new” condition only to be shunned by the community…
What would it look like if we re-framed this question? What could we do to prepare to care for these children? Could we train the Mamas? Could we work to plant some crops that have a higher nutritional value—could we learn from AIDS Child, an NGO nearby that has been caring successfully for these children for some time? Could we get ARVs and training at the clinic just down the road?
Another reminded us of the GO Project and Father’s House vision of serving the children at “the end of the line.” “Surely, these children are indeed at the end of the line. Shall we not pray and ask the Father to send us His children as He sees fit?”
Thoughtful, yearning, straining quiet…hearts wrenching.
The Vicar of Gulu broke the silence with this powerful question:
“How do we escape the Good Samaritan?”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’: and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denari and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
And so, in answer to a harrowing question, a circle of champions for “their neighbors”— the children at the end of the line, committed to follow Jesus’ admonition, to “GO and do likewise” for The Father’s House.
There in the shadow of hundred year old St. Philips Cathedral (right), under the swaying branches of the mango tree … we sat upon holy ground.