"We got even more than what we were expecting."
These were the words of Hannington Serugga, director and founder of Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) when I asked him about the 10 day training session just completed by Greg Matthews, Phil Pierson and Mike Rocha from Seattle.
Thank you to those of you who prayed with us during these 10 days. Things went very smoothly, even though not always according to how they had been planned. We had expected that we would be training 5 doctors to receive trauma victims that SEVO people rescue, but instead, God opened doors with the police.
The police station in Luweero donated several wrecked vehicles for us to use as models for treating entrapped victims, for removing them from the vehicle and one that the guys were even able to tear apart in a demo of how to extricate victims from a severely smashed vehicle. Out in the hot tropical sun, we had "victims," complete with fake blood dripping on them, screaming inside this rusty, dirty old car that the SEVO people had pulled out of the field with ropes into the clearing in front of the police station. We even had police men in their uniforms sweating as they used hacksaws to cut the car apart and "rescue" the victims.
Earlier, a larger SEVO rally had taken place out in Kikunyu, where the 2 acres of land was donated to SEVO. Dramas were done, reenacting rescues that have been done, and much teaching was done. The Jesus and Passion of the Christ films were shown. Greg, Phil and Mike spent the night in the village, sleeping (but not much) on the ground. Mostly there was music, food, and fun as the night wore on, as people enjoyed their time together.
The second week of the more focused training with about 25 leaders, who will go out and train others, began with a bit of confusion. SEVO, being a volunteer organization without a regular source of funding, had decided that each person would need to contribute a certain amount of money to cover expenses incurred as part of their training. It was found that while most had paid, there were 6 who'd paid nothing and about that many who'd only paid half of the money. So we cancelled class for the afternoon so the SEVO members themselves could work out the problem.
When confronted with having to leave the training if the fee was not paid, the people who'd paid only half were suddenly able to come up with the other half. The ones who had not paid at all were not able to attend classes but instead received the teachings second hand, through other SEVO members teaching them. They were also used as the "accident victims" throughout.
So even though some of our best SEVO trainers had abdicated on paying their own way, SEVO came up with a discipline that satisfied everyone, dealing with the character problems as well as the financial ones. All were happy, and everything went smoothly from there on.
On Monday 11/14 as many as possible of the SEVO people got together to plan for the future, using this newest advanced training given by Greg, Phil and Mike. They divided up, assigned the various trainers to different teaching areas in the communities. Plans are being made not only to teach the police the first 2 levels of First Aid and Basic Responders courses, but to train people such as taxi drivers (who provide the bulk of the transportation in Uganda, using vans like a bus system), and motorcycle drivers (who also provide much public transportation).
Plans are being made to develop a training program for marine rescue for Lake Victoria, and we had meetings with the head of the marine police, as well as with the developer of the National Lake Rescue. The District Police Commander from a village halfway to Kampala from Luweero appeared when we were at the Luweero police station, to request SEVO training for his branch of the police. The 50 miles of highway between Luweero and Kampala has about 180 accidents each year with about a 25% fatality rate, so whatever SEVO training can do to rescue victims and render emergency care can only serve to lower this terrible death rate.
The Jesus and Passion films were shown nearly every night, in Kikunyu and then in Luweero, with great responses. The Town Council tried to shut us down one night, but we'd already gotten permission from the proper authorities. We had Muslims and Christians alike, working to see that things went smoothly in the showing of the movies and other things as well. Pastor David Kasule reports that his church was packed out with new people on Sunday as a result of what God did with these movies.
We are all thanking and praising God for what He's doing through the SEVO program. Only He could bring together so many people of various religious backgrounds and cause them to be focused on the same goal, that of saving lives and helping their fellow man. We've had many people across Uganda tell us how they've prayed for just this sort of thing, because they have seen so much needless death of their people, with no one to help in any way. We trust that God will continue to develop and lead this ministry, saving lives, saving souls, and will provide for all its needs.
As we left the airport, Greg and Phil on their way back to Seattle (Mike had flown out 3 days earlier), Pastor David and I had to make a detour around the Makerere University district on the north end of Kampala, which normally we would have driven through. There were riots going on, students objecting violently to raised tuitions. Even from our detour across a valley, teargas was wafting, making our noses feel peppery.
The rumbles continued on over the weekend, and erupted again in downtown Kampala on Monday when a certain presidential candidate was arrested for treason. With Presidential elections scheduled to take place in March 2006, political instability was beginning to shake Uganda as early as July, but the rumbles now exploded, turning Kampala city into a war zone when this man was arrested. Riots in the streets, joined by University students, caused looting, property destruction, cars were burned, until finally teargas and well-trained riot police subdued the mobs. The unrest has continued throughout the week, in diminishing degrees as police have continued to deal with rioters. Many other towns in Uganda have had to work hard to suppress violence in them as well, and roadblocks were set up on all the highways to prevent more dissidents from flooding into Kampala.
We have missionaries in Kampala, and of course Kampala Foursquare church is there. They were not harmed in any way by the riots, and of course all of us had to stay out of the downtown sector. I cancelled a planned trip to Kampala earlier in the week and when you receive this newsletter, it will be because it has become safe enough to go to town that I could use the internet café downtown. I do not have internet services in my home, but do have telephone and access to transportation, so I was kept well informed by phone, as well as by radio.
Please pray for Uganda as we head into this election season. Elections in Africa are often very rough, and democracy is new to Uganda. We want to see a peaceful election in March, and most of all, the Constitution respected and adhered to. Most people here have seen enough war to make them very opposed to it for any reason, but there are radicals, and especially younger citizens who remember little or none of the civil war who are willing to disrupt and fight for changes in perhaps a violent and misguided manner. So pray for peace and safety for us and all of Uganda's citizens!