by Dr. Gregory Bartha
February 7, 2016
On September 22nd of last year, I embarked on my journey to Midland, Texas for a six week break. Two weeks were to be spent in Belize working with a hospice organization there. My anticipation of return gradually increased from my birthday in August. I was looking forward to seeing my friends and spending some time with my cats, and had many business matters to address as well. Though I was enthusiastic about returning, I had settled into a good routine in Uganda and felt a bit sad about leaving my work and friends there. Simon Peter was to join me for the last two weeks to help with raising awareness of the work and fund raising. I was also going to show him more of America by taking him on a brief trip to San Antonio.
On the 16 hour plane trip from Dubai to Dallas, I very much enjoyed David Attenborough’s five part series on Africa. Each segment detailed the climate, land characteristics, and animal life of that particular region. The five regions were the Kalahari, the Sahara, the Congo, the Cape and the Savannah. Uganda would fall under the Savannah category, and this region, along with the Congo, was the most hospitable to wildlife. I also enjoyed the music offerings, particularly those of Sam Cooke. He was a gospel singer before turning to popular music. One of his songs “She Touched the Hem of His Garment,” really moved me. This told in song the story of Jesus healing the woman who had been bleeding for years and had exhausted all the remedies available at that time. By touching His garments, she was made whole. I later thought by coming to Africa, I was also touching the hem of His garment.
My emotions were somewhat conflicted after my arrival home. I was pleased and comforted to return to familiar surroundings and to see my cats again, but I felt a measure of detachment. My home was no longer solely in Midland, but was now passionately in Uganda, and Uganda seemed more like my real home. In any case, I visited with friends and supporters of the work in Uganda. They were most interested in the developments there, and again, they were supportive and very generous. I made several presentations at First Presbyterian which were well received. I was so glad to be in Midland without a cell phone, work commitments and time deadlines; a great change from my earlier life there which was so frantic and rushed.
After my return from Belize, Simon Peter joined me and together, we visited with a number of people telling them about our work. He was not enthusiastic about American food, preferring Mexican dishes instead, as he’s familiar with rice and beans. He did not like the US way of preparing fish, beef or chicken. He commented frequently about the absence of people walking in the streets.
I arranged a short trip to San Antonio. One of my close friends offered to house us and arranged for a Segue tour of the downtown area and a visit to the old Spanish missions. Simon Peter took to the Segue rapidly and became quite adept at operating it. I, on the other hand, lacked confidence and lagged somewhat behind. On the Alamo Plaza, I ran into a flower planter and fell down – no serious injury, just another fall at the Alamo. We fully enjoyed the tour at the old cathedrals. Concepcion and San Juan were the most impressive. The docent at Concepcion told us in some detail about the history of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her dark skin increased the Indians confidence in Christianity and underscored its universality. “All are of one blood” from Acts 17:26.
On the drive back from San Antonio to Midland, Simon Peter was intrigued by the emptiness of the land and suggested that many Ugandans could be relocated there. The wide expense of the land reminded me of the song “Miles and Miles of Texas”, and I imagine that was what Simon Peter was also thinking. He very much liked the old homes and courthouse square in the town of Ozona. When we returned to Midland, we had only one day remaining to get packed and make a few additional contacts. I think we largely accomplished what we had planned in Midland. Our work there was done, and it was time to return to Uganda.
The team welcomed us back in Uganda with a great celebration at the church. I settled back into the clinic routine like I had never left. I visited a nearby orphanage a few days after my return. The poor living conditions of the children and their desperate need for love and care told me that I was back in the right place.