On Monday, 29 October, we had our last (and largest ever) food distribution of the year. The day dawned bright and sunny and by 8.30am, about 90 women were already assembled and seated on benches in our community center, eagerly awaiting the start of regsitration. Over the next 7 hours, another 95 women and their babies trickled in and joined in the festivities. As in past distributions, all women were registered and weighed, those who brought their babies had them weighed as well, and 16 babies were tested for HIV. Only one of these tested positive, though she was only 6 months old and that test may reflect her mother's antibodies and not a true infection, so she will need to test again in 3 months. The rest of the babies tested were found to be free of HIV. Praise God for that!
After finishing rounds on the pediatric ward with Dr. Jennifer, our short term Physician Assistants - Rachel and Scott W - came to help, praying over those who requested prayer. Later, just before we gave out food, Rachel shared from the Bible, reminding the women of how much they are loved by God, and as we distributed beans, cooking oil and salt, Scott jumped into the fray and helped these women - some of whom are quite frail due to their health - to carry out their 40 pound bags.
During the day, I tried not to think about the fact that this was my last distribution, and the last time I would see almost 200 of our mothers and their babies assembled in one place, to receive food that will help them to supplement their diet. But as we gathered them all to begin giving out the food, I knew it wouldn't be fair to them or to me to fail to tell them that next year when they return, I will not be among them. Several women near the front audibly gasped when I said this, and that brought me to tears. Fortunately, despite my heavy heart, I was able to remind them that though people come and go in their lives, God always remains present with them and he is the one always sustaining them. I was preaching this to myself as well, for these are words I also needed to hear. As my time in Bundibugyo draws to a close in December, I will go from this place to face a future that is largely uncertain, and so I too need to be freshly reminded that God will indeed be my sustainer through the upcoming transition and that he has good plans for me. And so I leave knowing that God has already provided funds to keep this distribution program going for another year, a tangible sign of his never-ending love and care. A generous gift from a couple in my church in New York City makes this possible. Mukama Asiimwe! (Praise be to God).