|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.
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.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Posted by Sarah Roar at 5:13 AM