Thursday, March 26, 2009

Father Jerry

Friday night before dinner Father Jerry drove to the compound we were staying in to speak with us. He drove to us from Kampala, where he had been taking weekend classes for a masters degree. He didn't look like a Father. He had on a black button-up with an open collar – although he was a man of the collar. He told us stories.

She lives in his parish. She lost her mother to AIDS. She's the oldest, so now she's in charge of the family, which includes grandmother. Grandmother needs medicine. I already forget if she has AIDS, too, but the label shouldn't matter anyways. Jennifer can't afford to go to school, though her younger siblings are able to, because of Jennifer. Her grandmother's still alive because of Jennifer. Jennifer sells her body to men in the community so that her grandmother can live and her siblings can go to school.

The next one…I have forgotten her name. I'm ashamed.
She would walk to see Father Jerry, she would come to him crying. She was dying. She had AIDS. Father Jerry would sit with her as she cried. He went to the States, and spoke at a church, and the church gave him a suitcase of things to bring back to her, including a doll. They gave him money for this girl, whose name I cannot remember. The night he told us her story, he had only just returned the week before. The day before he spoke with us, she died.

Margaret could have easily been a Jennifer. She could have been the girl whose name I have forgotten. But money came in time for her. She stayed in school, and she is in secondary school right now. We don't know her future, but her present is happy.

His Car
A British organization, I believe it was, gave Father Jerry a car. He's been able to travel much more easily to the several churches in his parish. He's been able to take countless people to the hospital, especially children. Many lives have been saved because of that car. Two lives were lost in that car. Two children, in their mother's arms. They died on the way to the hospital.

Father Jerry asked us that night if God is fair. It's the first time really I've heard a church leader here be willing to ask a difficult question and let the question hang there without giving an answer. Father Jerry remembers the name of the one I have forgotten. He had the opportunity to go to America and get his masters degree. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. But he decided he had to stay here in his community to be Present with them, so that girls like the one whose name I cannot remember would have someone to cry with her, and someone to remember her name.

Sunday we visited one of his parish churches. He preached. He prayed, face next to the goblet, over the communion. And he smiled. And he danced. And he encouraged the people. He was wearing his collar, but we already knew he was a man of the collar.

1 comment:

  1. I tried to post a comment in todays posting but couldn't get the comments to work. It is great news that you are going home soon. Yes it is more difficult to live a simple life when there are so many distractions that we have in our modern western life but it can be done. I, along with many other have lived like this for so long it has become a habit. Like living on a budget I find that at least once a month I have to have an accounting, a check to make sure I am still on track. Will you still be blogging when you go homw? Could you leave a link on this blog if you do please. I would also like to know more about Father Jerry and the work he does. Is it possible for you to leave a contact here, or maybe a web page that I can go to. I would appreciate it. I with some friends have been looking for some work we could help sponser and I liked what you said about him.

    Take care dear and remember that the future isn't really scarey, it's just unknown and there are so many good people out there.

    Keeping you in my prayers, Margaret