by Larry Malone
One doesn’t have to be very long in Uganda before being very conscious of decay. Moral decadence has brought about much suffering, poverty, death, and feelings of hopelessness in this African country.
Take the large village of Masajja, which lies not far from Entebbe International Airport and the shores of Lake Victoria. This very populous village, with great numbers of children, many fewer adult women, and still fewer adult men, reflects the foul rottenness brought to it by the curse of AIDS.
Masajja was once a center of tribal traditional worship. There the Baganda people worshiped their mostly animistic gods at shrines, large trees, wells, hills, streams, and other objects. The custodianship of these sacred places was held by men who inherited the jobs from their fathers. Sons were trained by the fathers to carry on their worship and witchcraft.
In 1966 the prime minister of Uganda abolished the various kingdoms within the country, and when he did so the custodianship of the shrines was also abolished. Before this, those who were in charge of the shrines received money and free food from the worshipers. These men became jobless and this, coupled with a sagging economy, left the village extremely poor.
Illiteracy in Masajja has been traditionally rampant. Because missionaries were not allowed there, no schools were built in this area. To this day there are no government schools, and when private schools later began to appear, in the 1990s, Masajja remained illiterate because very few were able to afford to attend a private school.
In Uganda today little or no education means no job. Due to political problems and a very depressed economy, jobs are at a premium, and competition for the available jobs is very keen.
When the AIDS scourge hit Uganda in the mid 1990s, these uneducated people attributed the disease to witchcraft instead of immorality. With no jobs, no Christian teaching, and much time on their hands the people of Masajja became easy prey for the raging AIDS epidemic.
Entire families became victims of the plague. Today the words “orphans” and “widows” are household words, not only in Masajja, but across most of Uganda. Joblessness turned many women into prostitutes as they sought money for the necessities of their families, but this only exacerbated their problems.
AIDS inflicted its greatest toll on those between the ages of 18 and 40. This meant that the breadwinners were slaughtered, making life utterly miserable for those left behind.
The only way for those remaining to live was to sell off their land, much of it planted in coffee. When this way out brought them to a dead end, the only thing left for them was to find temporary employment when the new landowners needed extra help. For most of them, the only recourse was to live in slum areas. Their main food became cornmeal and beans, the least expensive food. Some, even with the cheapest kind of food, were only able to provide two daily meals for their children, and often only once a day.
It was into this domain of degradation that AMG’s national director, Reuben Musiime, came to notice the appalling poverty and hunger of children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Steps were taken to open a childcare center where children would be fed, clothed, and taught the Word of God. Now, thanks to compassionate Christians in America, 52 children are being helped at the Bukoto Child Care Center, and they are now able to go to school! Children are now receiving the gift of physical life and eternal life in an AMG childcare center situated in the midst of an extremely decadent society.