This article was originally published in the July 2019 edition of ITMI Monthly.
I got ready to crawl in bed in our small simple African guest house, at about 11:30pm after a long day of meetings, including a visit to a Congolese refugee slum where one of Kawede’s former students planted a church.
I was a little tired from an evening-long meeting with a South Sudanese potential partner and his Ugandan ministry “father.”
I pulled the lightweight covers back before I went through my normal Kampala evening routine.
First, dressing in long sleeve and long pants nightwear in attempt to give the potentially malaria-carrying mosquitos, or mozzy, a challenge in their quest for exposed flesh. Then flipping the room fan on, and spreading a mosquito net over each corner of the bed.
Surprise, surprise, when I pulled the covers back there were ants. Everywhere. From foot to head. Beneath my pillow was what looked like the maternity ward of the St. Ant Hospital of Uganda.
This was a first for me, seeing baby ants that had just been born, guarded by a full staff of adult ant crusaders. My first thought was to find a couch to crash on until the morning rooster’s crow or amplified Muslim chants interrupted our slumber. No couch. I’d have to go to battle.
I’m glad no one was around to watch me attempt to clear the ants. It involved swatting, pinching and swiping with both hands, so that anyone watching would have thought I was doing my best Karate Kid impression.
Finally, they all quit moving. Shortly after, I was fast asleep.
Before I drifted off, the events of the day flashed through my mind’s eye. We accompanied ITMI’s Muhindo Kawede as he visited the church planted in the Congolese refugee area of Kampala called Nsambya Kirombe, by one of his former students.
A scene from the Nsambya Kirombe slum area in Uganda.
The church is very basic. The pastor, very warm and hospitable. The young people hanging around the church were eager to be accepted and valued by the foreign visitors.
Kent and I gladly engaged each of them. We took a moment to playfully chase the small children that can’t get enough of someone “high up” caring enough to engage and value them.
What struck me in this particular slum - where at least 30% of the residents are refugees from Kawede’s homeland - was that the people live in such filthy conditions, it’s hard to describe.
People live in such filthy conditions it's hard to describe.
There were huge piles of garbage overflowing into an open trench, about 10-12 feet deep, that flows constantly with sewage.
On a wall about 6 feet away from the muddy trench, Kawede and the pastor showed us a wet line about 4-5 feet up from the broken, muddy ground.
The Pastor explained that when the rains come and the trench fills up with runoff from the surrounding communities and hills, or when debris clogs the trench, the sewage overflows up to that chest-high water line.
Sewage trench in this slum, notice the dark water stain on the brick wall in the top corner.
What makes this so sad is that on the other side of this trench, there is no wall. There’s nothing to stop the flooding sewage from taking out thousands of slum homes and all that can’t be carried away as the waters encroach.
These people have no government assistance. No insurance. After running from their broken country and finding a place where they could feel somewhat safe, they lose everything again.
The longer I walked this community, the more somber I became, even in spite of the joy shown by the barefoot and threadbare children.
As we walked the slum, an interesting thing happened.
We were in an area where Kawede had not had previous ministry outreaches. With each new level of human waste we encountered, Kawede became more and more emboldened to tell the people - strangers - that this mess was not the government’s responsibility.
It was their responsibility to do something about.
You could see that he has compassion for his people. He had compassion for their circumstances, but more so for their spiritual condition, which was in part a reason for this mess having been created, continued and ignored.
Kawede was almost getting too vocal for my comfort.
Yet, not one of the many people that Kawede addressed got angry or confrontational. In fact, they did the opposite. They knew he was right in his assessment of their physical living conditions and the associated spiritual condition that went before the physical.
As Jesus walked the earth years ago, He displayed the compassion that God the Father has for all of us, who do desperately need His intervention to keep us out of the slums of life.
Kawede’s compassion was on full display as his heart ached for the people that suffer daily in this environment. May we be obedient, even as the little black ants are, in doing what God has designed and instructed us to do, at all costs. May we be willing to unite together.
To work tirelessly and faithfully to help the Kawedes of the world reach into the slums around them and touch for eternity the souls living in situations colored with darkness, sewage and trash.
In His Service,
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.