©2008-2017 St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund
Uganda Reflection
by Father John Cox
February 2010

Legislation, the old saw goes, is like sausage-making.   You don’t really want to see how it’s done.  This comparison with
politics is a malicious slur against sausage.  I contend that if you have tasted sausage you will not be put off by the gory
details.  I would say the same about mission work.  Most of us don’t really want to know the gritty details of face-to-face, third-
world ministry because it means standing waist deep, often helpless, in the suffering, loneliness, and human fallenness of
those we hope to serve.  As with sausage however, if you really love the work, the people, you will tuck in anyway.  For two
weeks of this last Christmas holiday, beginning on the first day of the new year, I visited two people who do just that.  I walked
the streets and fields of the poor people who live in and around Kampala, Uganda’s capital, with
Peter and Sharon Georges, the founders of St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund.  I did not go to
Uganda to build houses or give medicine to the sick; I went to see, and try to understand, what it
means to minister to people in Uganda, day to day.  I say “people” rather than “children” because
while the work of the Fund is dedicated to helping orphaned and unwanted children earn an
education, Peter and Sharon do so much more than just minister to children by paying school fees
and buying school supplies.  I learned this my very first day on the ground.

When I rose, limb heavy and disoriented, Peter said he and I would be going out for a walk around the immediate
neighborhood as an introduction to Uganda.  So after coffee and toast, out we went for my first African adventure.  We began
walking and Peter began talking, tossing me chunks of local lore, cultural history, an overview of the political landscape, and
even an explanation for the mysterious absence of rubbish bins.  We walked and as I listened I took in the abundance of my
environment—the brightly colored birds, the lush flora, the relative quiet in the air—and juxtaposed this pleasant natural
abundance in my mind with the tragic and all too common story of tyranny, civil war, and poverty Peter was telling me.  But he
wasn't giving me the story of Uganda and her people in a narrative vacuum.   As we walked we would stop to talk with a local
person who happened onto our excursion, usually someone Peter knew, and when we continued on our way Peter would tell
me their story:

"Now Agatha has two children of her own—not the two you met back there—those two were sent from the village, from the
family of a relative who died.  This happens all the time.  Someone dies and the family sends the children to live with a relative
in the city because they imagine that people in the city are rich.  Very often these children are treated like household slaves."

Peter and Sharon told me dozens of these stories over the course of days, drawn from the seemingly inexhaustible supply of
their own personal experiences, as we walked through the one or two-room, mud-brick hut neighborhoods of Kampala’s maze-
like suburbs, fought through the dense and utterly chaotic commerce of downtown Kampala to buy school supplies, or sat in
the office listening to teenagers, mothers and children, new applicants (though the program is
technically full) tell their stories
of suffering and need.  Thus, for me the fabric of Uganda’s history and the force of its immediate human reality were knit, by
Peter and Sharon, from the faces of the people they know and love on a daily basis.  I must confess that before the trip was
at an end I began to know and love them too.

                                         This is because they are lovable people.  Almost without exception the people I met during my
                                         peripatetic introduction to Uganda were welcoming and hospitable, and everywhere I went I was
                                         most welcome, even an honored guest.  I was often cheered, in the absence of my family, by
                                         bright-eyed young ones, curious and often eager to hold my hand or give a hug; who whooped
                                         with excitement at our appearance and cried when we went away.  Just as often I was broken by
                                         their suffering: HIV, abuse, orphanhood, and abandonment are among the problems most
                                         Ugandan children are asked to overcome.  I was inspired by industrious priests who work with
                                         vision and tirelessness despite a dearth of resources and minimal remuneration in money or
                                         thanks.  I met liars, thieves and rogues, sometimes all-in-one, who were just as kind as everyone
                                         else.  I enjoyed the hospitality of the nuns at the only Orthodox monastery in Uganda.  In the
evenings on my way to the
boda-boda station, I passed groups of men who medicate their hard-luck despair with cards
and the local grog (I didn't try it).

I also met many hard working people like Robert, who is honest and undaunted in the face of abject
poverty and an uncertain future; Frank and Agnes, who are indispensable to the work of the Fund;
and our taxi driver, Peter, who works from dawn to long past dark, 365 days a year to take care of
his family and put his children through school.  Each of these encounters was a meaningful as well
as a valuable insight into the daily lives of Ugandans, and each one was framed against the
backdrop of a squalid patrimony.  Seeing the breadth and depth of the needs of these people as
well as the thousands around them whom I never met, I was occasionally overcome by the
awareness of sheer scale.  The needs are so great for so many, the roots of the problems so hard
to get at, and the laborers so few, yet Peter and Sharon never seemed overcome.  I’m sure they
have their black moments just as I did, but everywhere we went on our daily adventures Peter and
Sharon were asking about work, counseling students about their academic performance and life
choices, checking up on families; taking the vital signs, so-to-speak, of the people we met.

                                          I did a lot and learned a lot about Uganda and its people in the course of my visit to Kampala.  In
                                         addition to hoofing it across Kampala’s suburbs and riding
boda-bodas and taxi minibuses, I ate
                                         local food, watched a native dance competition, attended Theophany services with the bishop,
                                         visited an amazing village parish (the most beautiful Orthodox church in all Uganda, complete with
                                         a monastery, primary and secondary schools, and a clinic), and toured the palace of the last
                                         ruling Kabaka (king) of Buganda, the largest grass-thatched house in the world.
                                         But it is the people who endure in my mind: their plight certainly, but more than that,
                                         their gentleness, hospitality, and warmth.  I am grateful to the Georgeses for encouraging me to
                                         visit them in Uganda and welcoming me as a member of the family while I was there.  They
introduced me to their people and taught  me to love and understand Ugandans in ways I never could have on my own.  I am
profoundly grateful to be a continuing part of the ministry of the St Nicholas Uganda Children’s Fund, and the loving, personal
ministry of Peter and Sharon Georges.  It was worth every penny spent and every long hour at 40,000 feet to meet them and
see their work up close.  I encourage you too, dear reader, to discover their work and tuck in.
Robert's home
Neighborhood friends
John and Shamiq
Sharon and Peter