An old man gripped the weathered tin door of his small one room house. Corn husks were patching its many holes, and it was unable to securely close. As I walked up the path to greet him, I realized he wasn’t wearing any pants. Instead, a long piece of material was draped over himself like a tattered version of a hospital gown. I was accompanied by the local pastor, who had told me of a man who was too sick to come to the clinic we hold once per week in a little village called Buundo. The man welcomes me in English, and then tells me that he is “for sure going to die soon.”
Inside his home, he lowers himself back down onto a mattress with great difficulty. He pulls away the cloth to reveal his upper thigh and abdomen. At first glance it appeared to be a burn. The epidermis was removed, showing pink infected pink dermis that was draining serous fluid. As I began to examine him, he winced with pain. I asked him what had caused this problem. He told me it just happened. He did not recall any sort of injury, rash, or bite beforehand. “My skin is just falling off”, he tells me in his language. His thin frame speaks to his malnourished state, which no doubt is contributing to his poor wound healing.
I have brought dressing supplies and cream for the wound. I prescribe antibiotics, pain killers, and vitamins. My presence is noticed by the neighbors who are curious to see what this mzungu omusawo (white nurse) is doing in this old man’s home, and they gather outside his door. I look around this dark and dank 8×12 room. He has been too ill to go outside for toileting, and the smell confirmed this. Other than a dirty thin mattress, a few cooking utensils, and a jerry can of water, the room is pretty much empty. There wasn’t any food to speak of. I ask who cares for him. They tell me he has a daughter that comes every once in a while to bring food. Neighbors aid him with collecting water. But other than that he is on his own. I ask the women who have gathered if they would be willing to wash his clothing and bedding, and they agree. After instructing him and a particularly caring neighbor woman on what how to care for the wound, I leave him. Realistically, I am not sure that the medicine I was giving him will work. In fact, in my mind I would be surprised if it does. It is one of those moments in which you feel helpless. Especially when you think of how many cases just like this one or worse are existing in the villages. So, I pray. I pray that this man would heal, and I leave.
I retell the story and show the pictures to my fellow missionaries at home. I ask them for their prayers. But my mind wasn’t at peace. Every night before going to bed, I would think of this man. I kept thinking of his room-how empty and dirty it was. I kept thinking of how serious his wound was. I truly wondered whether this man would improve or if this infection would take his life. The Lord wouldn’t leave me alone about it. I ended up making plans to return to check on this man, and I had gathered some clothing and simple supplies for daily living to take to him. I also took more dressing supplies and medication in case the wound was worse or no better.
The next Friday, almost one week later, Jazz (a volunteer staying here helping until December) and I along with our trusty driver, Tom, set out for Buundo, about 45 minutes away. Outside, roads were rough and dirty as always, but inside the car we were having good conversations and listening to good music. One of my favorites was blaring loudly through the speaker:
“We want to see your glory, every knee falls down before, Thee
Every tongue offers you praise, with every hand raised,
Singing glory, to you and unto you only, we’ll sing…
Glory to your name!” ~Selah “Glory”
I didn’t know it then, but I was about to see this glory in a beautiful way.
We reached the church in the village and picked up the pastor of the nearby church to take us to the man’s home which was very near. Upon arriving, the man greeted us standing upright at his door and waving. When we entered his home, he gladly showed us his wound which had improved so greatly, that I could almost not even tell the wound had ever been there. The box of things that we brought full of necessary care items brought so much joy to him, that he was clapping his hands and smiling from ear to ear. Even a new mattress with clean bed linens and personal care items…he was overjoyed.
We hung a mosquito net over his new bed, and taught him how to use everything we had brought. There were protein bars, vitamins, and toothbrush/paste. After we had presented him with all of these things, he said “On Sunday, I am going to go to that church and get saved”. I was confused. The report I had received originally was that the man was already a believer and in the church. So I then asked him, “Ssebo, oli malokole?” (Sir, are you born again?) He told me no. He said he was a Catholic and even then he was not practicing or a part of that church. I asked him if he had heard the gospel. He told me he had. He answered all of the questions I asked him: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? That He is the only way to God and to heaven? Do you believe that only by confessing him as Lord and Savior can you be saved? That you cannot do enough good things to earn a way to heaven? You understand that Jesus is our priest, and He is the only one whom we confess sins and receive forgiveness? “ To all of these things he answered yes. I then told him I had great news for him. That he needn’t wait for Sunday to be saved. That the Bible says TODAY is the day of salvation. He was thrilled. “Can we do it now then?” He asked.
So kneeling in the dirt of that small room, I led this man in a prayer. None of the words were magic and none of the words in and of themselves would save him-this I made sure he understood. These words were just to represent what was going on his heart, and to cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, to declare repentance, and to receive His mercy. He gripped my hands and eagerly repeated the prayer, crying out for forgiveness and declaring his new change of heart. When we said Amen, I looked up to him and he was crying. A burden had been certainly lifted from him, and you could see it all over his face. His countenance was changed. His heart was lighter.
Then he began to testify: “Do you know what I once was? I was a boozer (drunkard) and a gambler. I did so many bad things, I wasn’t sure I could be forgiven. When I lay sick in this bed with my skin coming off and in so much pain, I couldn’t even rest. At night I wouldn’t sleep. It was the Lord coming to me at night and I knew that if I were to die in the night, I would surely be in hell. But I struggled because of all the bad things I had done. I wondered if God could still love me. I am an old man and I have lived an entire life against God. So I asked God to show me if He loved me and would forgive me…and the next day you came. And then I began to get better! And then you came back…and you have brought me all these things that I never would have been able to expect. Surely, I can tell you this: God loves me, He forgave me, and He is the one who healed me!”
I rejoiced with him and prayed for him. I encouraged him to go to the local church, to learn the word of God and be encouraged by other believers. And then I said to him “I am so happy that you heard from the Lord, and that you listened to His Spirit which was convicting you in those nights that you couldn’t sleep. I am happy that the God healed your wounds. But one thing is for certain. We all will one day die. But now you no longer have anything to fear. When you die you will be with Jesus forever. Now, though, you have been given these days for some reason. The Lord has given you these days to serve Him and bring glory and honor to Him for what he is done. I can tell you that your story will help someone else. You know how many men in Uganda are boozers and gamblers? How many of them have deserted their wives and children for alcohol? You can tell them of what the Lord has done in your life. For me, I can tell them, but for you, you have been there and the Lord has rescued you from it.” He nodded in agreement, and assured me that he would. And I can tell you in that moment, the dark little room became a little brighter. The glory of the Lord was shining around us, and His Spirit was thick in that place…
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”