By Alice Keyes
Her hands glided over sore and swollen limbs for hours at a time. Perhaps it was the massage that brought patients’ relief, but I suspected a large part too was physical contact. The gentle lilt of her voice. Her presence.
She continued to work with Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU) patients for hours until, as the line grew sparse, she eased herself off her stiff wooden perch, stretched out her hands, and walked to pick up her case file from the dilapidated cardboard box.
She was a patient too.
It was the second time I had come with HAU’s team to this particular outreach site, located in the fringe of the capital city, Kampala. It struck me that in her actions I could see HAU’s mission exemplified. The organization is dedicated to helping alleviate pain in the sick and dying both physically and psychologically. It is a challenge HAU’s team of doctors, nurses, and social worker daily vow to tackle and one which I too faced during my four-month stint.
I requested to be placed at HAU for my senior social work practicum because I wanted to work with HIV/AIDS patients. I wanted to know and understand the ramifications of the disease which claimed the lives of millions. And, most of all, I wanted to walk in the shoes of an international social worker.
I would come back from long days at HAU exhausted and, at points, shell shocked from what I stood witness to (stage four cancer is never pretty). But as I began to focus less on people’s living situations and the shock factor of tumors, I began to see evidence of faith, joy, hope, and…
I began to see God.
I began to see God evidenced in people’s lives despite their brokenness. I listened to patients’ unrelenting faith, to nurses’ prayers for peace, and to doctors’ infusing hope in God’s name into even the most seemingly hopeless situations. I began to catch glimpses of how even suffering can be a part of our journey toward God.
In suffering faith evidences itself and God’s love overwhelms the power of fear, bringing about
peace and comfort. “God can and intends to let good spring from everything” despite evil. “For
this, God needs human beings who know how to turn all things to the good.”* I did not learn how to turn all things to the good (nor will I ever fully), but thankfully I am not the only one commissioned to complete this task—it is given to the body of Christ.
Throughout the four months it began to register with me how incredible it is that despite poverty, disease, mistrust, the presence of evil, and any other atrocity, God shows up. One of the greatest parts about it wasn’t a onetime thing—He’s there all the time.
He was with the mother who slept on the Cancer Institute’s floor with her little two-year-old girl and will be/was with her when her child’s brief life ends/ed. He was with each of the patients’ I interacted with.
And, dear reader, He is with you. He is with me now as I work in Honduras. He is with us despite our
brokenness. Despite of all we may do or not do,
God is with us.