Today we are celebrating Tabitha’s 10th birthday!! How is it possible that my baby is now two digits old?! She is a true joy. Tabitha loves art, cartwheels, Minecraft and dragons. She is in the 4th grade and excels in math and science. Camille and Tabitha are still the best of friends and I have never been more thankful for that than I am in this season.
Today is the 56th day that we have been in total lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a lot of ways, our experience has echoed the experience of those around the world. Schools shut down on March 18th. In addition to the girls school, our newly opened center also had to close it’s doors. We grieved that loss. We had already enrolled more than 30 kids to the preschool. We had hired staff and done so many home visits to get to know the needs of the families in our program. With 24 hours of warning, we quickly prepared food gifts for each family, but know that it will only go a short way. So many of the families that come to our center are hand to mouth laborers, meaning they work that day to buy food for that night.
However, unlike most of the countries around the world, Uganda was ready with an AGGRESSIVE lockdown plan. You see, Uganda has fought the Ebola virus at it’s borders for decades. The government was not floundering around saying one thing and then another. They rolled out the lockdown like a well oiled machine. Enter the militant state. In less than a week from the first confirmed case Uganda had locked it’s borders, closed down all businesses except for those that sold food, outlawed public transport and then the use of private vehicles. A 7 PM curfew was instituted and all ‘non-essential walking’ outside of your home was prohibited. The police and military were deployed and checkpoints were set up all over the country. Lethal force was sanctioned to ensure complete submission.
The lockdown was initiated on March 18 and today, on May 13, we are still under the stringent regulations. The girls and I have only left the house 4 times in the last 52 days, to walk to the local vegetable stand. Matt has made weekly trips to the grocery store, walking 5 miles round trip, carrying all of our weeks groceries in a backpack and bags. The stories of violence abound. Just last week a motorcycle driver was carrying a passenger, a women in labor, to the hospital, when they were both shot by the police for violating the lockdown restrictions. Crime has risen to an alarming rate as people are growing hungry and desperate. The US embassy has warned to only leave your house for the most necessary reasons. We are not scared, just cautious.
Arguable the worst sanction to come from the president is that no one is allowed to distribute ANY food to ANY person during the crisis. He said that if you distribute food, poor people will congregate, and then get the virus and die. So if you distribute food you will be charged with murder. In theory the government set up a task force to distribute food to those in need, however there are so many that are going without. Without a doubt, more people are dying from hunger and not being able to get to the hospital, than from the virus.
After reading all this, you might be wondering how our family is faring. Simply put, we are fine. We are safe and not hungry. We have power, internet and each other. The day when the borders officially closed and there was no way out of the country I had a bit of a mental breakdown. I guess I never realized how much I relied on my blue passport and bank account until they no longer mattered.
The girls were so very sad to have their first year of public school interrupted. I assume that schools will be shut down at least until September, but even that is not a sure thing. We have been finding our limits for playing games, being on screens and sitting in the living room. We have been trying to get outside every day, doing workouts and walking up and down our driveway. Matt has been experimenting with new recipes and perfecting old ones. We are not in want for any necessity. We have plenty of toilet paper and we do not need hand sanitizer since we are literally stuck in our house. We were disappointed to have to miss celebrating Passover with our new church community. With the mandate to not give food out being so strict (murder charge!) we are just sitting at home with our hands tied.
The biggest grief still lays ahead, as we have to cancel our summer trip to the States. I can barely even write about it without tears. At this point we cannot even get OUT of Uganda, much less get back in. I have been feeling more homesick than normal, even before the pandemic struck. Knowing that our return will be delayed more than a year (we will not be able to come back until Summer 2021) is almost too much to handle. We are worried about funding our new project. We had savings to support our budget through the summer, without a significant influx of support, we do not know how we will continue the work. The girls have grown so much and they need the trips back to feel connected. I would like to tie it up with a nice missionary-faith bow, but right now I just feel sad and angry and homesick.
When I am feeling particularly frustrated, I practice gratefulness. There is a steep hill that is the drive into our home. The girls and I have been walking it on a regular basis, and each time we walk down, we say one thing we are grateful for. Family, safety, beauty of creation, our dogs, the internet, our sweet house, a delicious meal, a fun movie night, a good nights sleep…..there are so many things. Love you family and friends! We would love to hear from you. How are you holding up in this crazy time??