Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

July 9, 2009

Am I Visible?

People always ask me how life in Africa compares with life in America. I have to say theres little comparison. Basically everything is different, from driving on the opposite side of the roads to the patterns of stars in the night sky. Being a nurse, I am always interested to compare differences in the ways of practicing medicine as well, and have gone into emergency rooms several times to observe the care of patients weve taken to the hospital.

Recently I went to see my doctor with 3 concerns I had with my skin. I was referred to a dermatologist across town. Appointments are never needed, you just go and wait in line (not much different from having an appointment and waiting 2 hours past time to see the doctor!), so medical referrals are usually an all-day affair. Another thing is that doctors never do even the most minor surgical procedure in their offices. Offices are often in crowded little storefront rooms, and equipment is costly. So when I saw the dermatologist, he referred me on to a surgeon at a hospital for excisions and biopsies.

When I found the small hospital I noticed there was a nice outpatient department next door. I figured correctly that this is where Id find the surgeon. I was in luck, he was just coming out of surgery, and I got in to see him within about 20 minutes of my arrival. He examined me and said only one of my skin problems needed to be biopsied, and of course he also did not do such things in his office. We walked over to the hospital proper where surprisingly, I was taken into the operating theatre as its called here, where I had to strip down and put on a hospital gown. All this to have a small growth removed from my upper arm.

As I laid down on the operating table with a doctor, 2 nurses, and bright lights shining on me, even as I was chatting with them, I was thinking 2 things to myself: 1) Here I am, in an operating room in Africa, and not a soul knows where I am, and 2) Wow! I guess this is practice for when I will have my knee replacement surgery! My arm was numbed up and an inch of my skin was removed, which the doctor and I then examined before he sent it off for the biopsy. Later I got the negative results.

When the surgeon discovered I was a nurse, he said hed wondered, because when hed been about to ask me certain questions, Id given him the answers before he could ask. Ive found this same thing true with meeting fellow believers in Christ. There are things we say and do, not even consciously, that alert other believers to our kinship.

Usually Ugandans pay no attention to the pictures or writing on T- shirts. They dont make statements to others as they do to Americans. So it can be kind of funny when you see a church usher wearing a Jim Beam T-shirt, or some off-color slogan. This same day I was running around for my medical referrals, I happened to be wearing a red Calvary Chapel T-shirt. I was surprised by several people acknowledging it, one a fellow Calvary Chapel member, who was also wearing one. When I was finished with the hospital, I walked in to a canteen to find a friend who was waiting for me. One of the waiters in the canteen brightened up when I walked in and said, Heres a muzungu, let her pay for it! I didnt hear the forerunner to that statement but since a common attitude is that a muzungu (white) is always rich, I was a bit annoyed, and I diverted his statement. Later my friend told me that as I left, another waitress had commented (due to my T-shirt) that I was a born again, and that he also needed to know Jesus and get his act together.

So my T-shirt gave opportunity for someone else to witness to an unsaved person.

At another point in my busy day, Id walked 2 blocks down to Kampala Rd, the main street through downtown Kampala to meet someone. It was a busy intersection, traffic cops managing the congestion, and as I stood on the corner waiting for my friend, I thought to myself, Im sure glad I wore this red shirt today, so Ill be easy to spot. The fact that I was the only white person on the street never entered my mind. Im never hard to spot in Uganda!

As true believers in Jesus, we should never be hard to spot, no matter where we are.

Margaret Nelson