Sunday afternoon Brian, Pastor Terry and several other Ugandan Pastors we work with traveled over three hours to grieve with a Pastor/Church Planter named Timothy. His wife Grace gave birth to a beautiful baby boy just 2 weeks ago. However, Grace had serious complications and remained in a coma after the baby was born.
We spent multiple nights praying for Grace and Timothy. We have had many conversations about death as we have been here, brought about by things like visiting a malnourished children’s home, meeting many orphans, and praying for Grace and our cook, Susan, who has lost 2 family members since we have been here.
Grace’s death was difficult for us to swallow as Americans. It was a senseless death. If she had only had adequate healthcare this could easily have been prevented. She simply bled to death.
Of all pregnancies anywhere, 15 percent will have a potentially fatal complication. In the developing world, having a baby will be the riskiest thing a woman will do. Yet in most cases, mothers there deliver without any skilled attendant. Often, only their mother-in-law is present. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, a woman has a lifetime risk of 1 in 39 of dying from pregnancy related complications.
Globally, an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths occurred in 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounted for 85 percent of the global burden (245,000 maternal deaths) in 2010. In Uganda alone, there were 4,700 maternal deaths that year.*
Death is so raw and real here! Everyone we encounter knows death intimately. Daily, people die from lack of medicine, lack of knowledge, AIDS, auto accidents, inferior care etc.
This is just one of the many needs that flash before us each day. There are so many needs that sometimes it is overwhelming. But God is good! The reality of death has shaped this culture for the positive and negative.
In a negative sense, people are often living in survival mode. Some don’t have hope for tomorrow, much less their future. So live for today. This is played out in many ways such as stealing, violence, and hopelessness.
On the other hand, it also has some positive effects. The Ugandan people are all about their family and community. They are very relational. They truly come together to provide for each other in times of trouble. For example, there were about 1,000 people at the burial for Grace. They gave over 1,000,000 shillings ($400, which is more than many people make in a year here) to the family to help Timothy care for their 6 children.
Most encouraging, however, is their openness to spiritual things. In the absence of material distractions and in light of the reality of death, the Ugandans are hungry for hope which the truth of Scripture amply supplies. They are open to hear about Jesus in a way that many people in first world countries don’t understand.
Is it a difficult life? YES! In no way do we want to diminish the struggles that these precious people face each day. On the other hand, I envy them. I envy their freedom in worship, their thankfulness for each thing they receive, their eagerness to give thanks in difficult circumstances and their yearning for God.
Pastor Timothy summed it up, when he saw Grace’s time was coming to an end on this earth. He told Pastor Terry that he was simply trusting God’s will and rejoicing that she would no longer be in pain. Lord, help us to set our mind on things above. Give us your perspective on this World and the things in it. Give us your eyes.