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The Resurrection of Mr. Frederick

Wamala, Uganda, July 19, 2010

Today the neighbors on all sides of Frederick don’t even recognize him.  All of our team walked right by him at church and didn’t even know it was him.  The man standing tall and straight had a huge smile showing all of his intact teeth.  His face was “alive” with personality, purpose and intention. 

When we first saw Mr. Frederick in May of 2008, our team of Marilyn Baxter, Erica Goss, and Mike and Marie, visited a retched shack of reeds, plastic cloth roof and muddy floor.  He sat in the mud, shifting himself around with his two fingerless hands.  The two feet and two hands without digits, resembled small pads.  His eyes were vapid and when you looked into them, it seemed he had no soul.  He appeared helpless and hopeless.  Leprosy had ravaged his body as a youth.  Now he lived with the tragedy of missing body parts and the additional social stigma of being a leper.  To the average observer, it would appear he was a person of no value or productive skills.  The modern age of pharmaceuticals long ago brought sulpha and penicillin drugs to treat Hansens disease, arresting the age old dreaded scourge of leprosy.

Although Frederick had been treated when younger, that day when we first visited him in May 2008, his disease arrested, he still had open and running sores.  Marilyn, our nurse in residence, was quick to warn us not to touch him.  Those were not the words Mike and Marie want to hear.  Being touched is exactly the problem for these, “the least” of our brethren.  They needed to be touched, MIGHTILY, with Jesus’ love.  Being rational people, we were careful.  We understood Marilyn’s warning, so we carefully approached him and greeted him in Jesus’ name.  Physically walking to get to him was almost impossible for a whole bodied person, impossible for a disabled person.  But somehow, Mike, with the help of our friends, managed to go over the ridge, down through the underbrush to where we could touch Mr. Frederick. 

Three weeks prior to this introduction to Frederick, we had a meeting with our local pastors, Paul, Joseph and David, regarding strategy for evangelism to the poor and disabled in the local community of Wamala.  Going out to remote villages with the gospel was a huge priority with our limited funds.  But what about the people, the “lost” ones right in the two square miles around the Wamala church?  Before this large and imposing structure was built, the people deridingly turned our humble papyrus reed hut church, “Papyrus Born Again Church” and we were known as “Papyrus Born Agains.”

Pastors Joseph, Paul and David wrote down the names of people living in the village who were “shut-ins”.  There was Constantine and his family of nine children, Thomas, terribly handicapped but able to hop on one leg, and Mr. Frederick, leprous, unable to walk and very needy. 

The people who attend the Wamala church are full of energy, vision and compassion.  When Chlotilde, about my age, heard of Frederick’s situation, she immediately formed a small group of people to care for him.  Grace, the tall strong man who built the John T. Miller School, was never too big to bend down, lift Frederick in his arms and transport him to Jinja, a good one and a half hour drive from home.  For many years we had observed Grace in his role as a servant, always attending to our group of orphans that we brought out of Myalirro Village.  Our biggest surprise was the day Grace and Miriam had their fifth child, a boy, and named him Meaney.  Mike and I watched as Grace lovingly and carefully and gently, as a giant could do, remove hundreds of jiggers from the feet of our orphans from Myalirro Village.

Repeated trips to the hospital in Jinja helped Frederick to heal, not only in his body, but in his soul.  He had long ago resigned himself to being a dead man—just surviving.  Grace, Chlotilde and others from the little church, came together to build a proper little house for Frederick.  Tearing down the reeds and plastic was soon replaced with a cement floor, brick walls and steel sheet roofing.  All of that for a measly $400 American dollars.  So when Frederick returned from his stay in Jinja Hospital, there was his new little rain proof, tightly sealed home waiting for him.  The fresh new clothes we brought him replaced the rags he had worn in past decades.

Now 68, Frederick sat on a chair by the church door.  As Mike exited the church in his wheel chair after the morning service, he noticed a man with crutches and said he would like to meet this man.  Our friends said, “Did you see Brother Frederick?”  Sitting there in clean clothes, was a man we had never seen before.  He stood up, leaning on his crutches, smiled a huge grin and said, “Good morning.  Thank you for helping me with my house and illness.”  It was really him!  Because he had no digits, his hands set down snuggly in the pockets attached to the crutches.  He had WALKED to church, a good three miles one way.

Just like Rhoda opening the door to see the released prisoner Peter, we couldn’t believe our eyes.   Our hearts were leaping with joy and gratitude to God for his healing mercies.  As we left the church, we took lots of pictures and then piled in the van, full of our team members, following him down the main road to where it branched off.  Several days later when we visited Frederick at his new home, he was very animated as he conversed with his neighbors.  He proudly showed us his vast gardens on each side of his house.  Small mounds of sweet potatoes and cassava were growing vigorously.  They were monuments to the last year’s energies and Christian love shown by caring friends.  Mr. Frederick had been restored to a dignified level of living.  His demeanor and the organization of his humble house demonstrated to observers that he knew he was a valued person.

Mukama Yebezibwe.

“Disabled People have GREAT value,” Michael Meaney.