Margaret Teaching at Kabanyi

Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

History of Mission Ministry

Map of Uganda

Becky and I moved to central Uganda, East Africa, knowing we would be living in a village setting, with no electricity, running water, telephone or car. We began our new life in Kyevunze (che-VOON-zee) village, 3 km north of Luweero town, which is about 50 miles north of the capitol city of Kampala. I left behind 3 married children and 6 grandchildren.

After 3 months, both Becky and I were so in love with Uganda and the wonderful people there, that neither of us wanted to move to Kenya. But I said nothing, knowing that if it was God's will we remain in Uganda, God would confirm it through our leadership. In June, two FMI men visited us, along with Greg Fisher. During that meeting, it was decided we would remain in Uganda.

Because of my 8 years of Community Health nursing experience in Everett, and my 3 weeks working with a mobile medical clinic in Kenya, I knew that if I was to do any lasting kind of medical work in Uganda, clinic work wouldn't be satisfactory. In the clinic setting, illnesses and conditions are treated, but I saw no patient teaching being done. People were happy just to get pills or injections and go on their way. Nothing changed. They would get malaria treatment, but not learn anything about the cause or prevention of this major killer. I knew I would need to move out into the communities and do some grassroots education if health conditions were to improve.

Teaching at Kabanyi.
Teaching inside grass church at Kabanyi.
Interpreter on the right.
Teaching at Kyampisi.
Teaching my class at Kyampisi.

Upon my arrival in Uganda, I first worked in a clinic for about 4 months, getting acquainted with African diseases, medications, and treatment methods, and learning the culture and lifestyle. Then I began to go to the various community leaders and authorities. Eventually we moved into the villages themselves, with plans for training villagers to be Community Health Workers. With instruction, the people themselves chose the ones to be trained, some volunteering themselves, and I had them survey their own villages for the primary health concerns as the people saw them. Then I developed my curriculum around those needs, so we could impact the primary problems at the very beginning. The stories that follow will give you an idea of our medical and spiritual workplace.

After we had studied malaria in one village, one of my students was out in a neighboring village, and found the people very unsettled. A 3 year old boy was sick, near death, and his drunken father was saying he was bewitched and there was nothing anyone could do for him. The student managed to get close to the sick child, put his hand under the blanket, and found the boy burning up with fever, and chilling. We had taught the students the 3 cardinal signs of malaria, 1) chills, 2) fever, and 3) sweating, so he knew the boy had severe malaria. Having no money himself, he went to a nearby tiny dispensary and borrowed some chloroquine and some passion fruit juice. He began to treat the boy with the medicine and rehydration, in spite of the father's and villagers' insistance that the boy was hopeless due to his bewitched state. By the second day of treatment, the boy was remarkably improved, and by the third day, he was well. The village was amazed and wondered where this student had gotten his knowledge. He then had opportunity to do teaching about malaria prevention. Then he addressed the boy's father's drinking problem. He told him, "You are drinking too much! Your wife left you because you were drinking, and now your son nearly died because of your drinking." The man avowed he was indeed spending too much money on alcohol, and he would quit his drinking.

Margaret with baby Margaret.
Margaret Nelson
with baby Margaret.

God has had a way of putting me in the right places at the right times. In another village, a student came to me at our 11:00 tea break and asked if I could come and look in on his wife. He said she was having difficulty birthing their first child. I found this lady lying on a mat on the dirt floor in a tiny, dark mud and thatch hut. She was exhausted and dehydrated, totally unable to push her ready-to-be-born baby out. I had the family get her tea with sugar in it, and worked with her, but soon saw she needed hospitalization. The husband panicked because of his fear of hospital costs, and began preparing a sack of coffee to sell on the way. I got the extended family together and said a prayer for the mother and baby before we left. I did not know if they were Christians or not, but I pray with all of my patients, be they unbelievers, Christians, or Muslims. I drove the couple 20 miles over a rough dirt road to the nearest hospital. The doctor feared, as I did, that we might have a dead baby inside this little woman. But upon listening to her belly, he found heart tones of the baby. They started an IV on her, which strengthened her so she was able to push again, but the baby still didn't want to move. Finally, it was determined that the umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around the baby's neck 3 times. It was clamped and cut inside the mother, then she was able to quickly push the baby out. The purple baby girl laid on the bed as if dead, not moving at all, but finally stirred, and squeaked out a weak cry, which quickly became a wail. She quickly pinked up and we all rejoiced at this new life that had joined us. Mom and baby were discharged home the next day. A week later I went by to visit them. A difficult labor and delivery make a woman prone to post-birth infection which can be lethal, and I wanted to check on them. Both mom and baby were doing fine. I learned baby had been named Margaret, in my honor. The family all came out, and to my surprise, they had profuse thanks for me -- not for taking her to the hospital, not for saving their lives, but for praying for them! As a result of this experience, this young couple soon accepted Christ and have become known as strong Christians in their village. Baby Margaret is now nearly 2 years old and is a bright and healthy girl.

For nearly 7 yrs now I have been working in various villages and settings. For 2 Ĺ years I trained village people to be health workers. Since then, Iíve taught an annual Community Health class in a Kampala Bible College, and assorted health related classes in churches and schools. My work has become focused in 3 local villages near Luweero, Kabanyi, Mamuli, and Nakazzi, where I teach Life Ministries Bible Institute in weekly classes. I work with the pastors and their efforts to assist orphans to get education, in a project called New Life Kids Club. The NLKC evolved into New Life Academy, a primary school which offers orphans a free education.

Becky was 15 years old when we moved to Uganda. We had home schooled since she was in 6th grade, so it was no problem to bring her schooling along with us and continue in the same manner. Sometimes she traveled into the villages with me, but mostly she preferred not to. She found the long hours of medical teaching to be rather boring. She quickly adapted to African life, and our life without electricity or running water. One day she was at the village well, which was near the highway. A man driving on the highway saw her, stopped his car and backed up, disbelieving his eyes at seeing this young white girl pumping water at a village well! He had to ask her what she was doing there, and why? So she explained to him that we were here as missionaries, explained to him about Jesus, and led the man to Christ right there at the village well!

It was difficult for Becky as many her friends had to leave the village to attend boarding schools. Many of them came home pregnant. As she found herself getting more and more isolated, we eventually decided it would be better for her to live in Kampala with another missionary. She became more active in the Foursquare church, in the youth group, and began leading worship with the choir. She took math tutoring from one of the Ugandan brothers. After about 6 months, she then went out to a dairy ranch where some Baptist friends had a mission, and she worked with a team from Alabama for a month. Then she moved back to live with me in our village for 2 more months until she returned to the USA to go to school, in October 2001.

The Internet is now available in Kampala, vastly improving my communication with the outside world. Four years after my arrival, I began building my own small brick house on a forested plot, and gardening African crops, bananas, pineapple, coffee, peanuts, living with the agricultural tribes in my area, primarily the Baganda.

There is limited access to medical care in Uganda, especially in the rural areas, resulting in Uganda having one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Heavily impacted by malaria, AIDS, malnutrition, and pregnancy-related deaths, there was much to be taught in the villages, and meanwhile, I have learned much about African culture and lifestyle, language, and the impact of 20 years of brutal civil war.

For several years the majority of my work and ministry was in 3 areas, teaching in a small village church, New Life Centre Church, serving with the school and orphan project through that church, New Life Academy, and advising with the emergency first aid and rescue project, Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO). I am no longer devoting time to SEVO, and it is operating independently. Due to circumstances beyond our control, in 2009 we had to close New Life Academy. Please click on side bar for information on the history of these ministries.

(Return to top)