One Final Emergency: MAF in Uganda
In March 2020, MAF was able to answer one last emergency before lockdown in Uganda grounded all of our operations for many weeks.
David and Rose-Mary Salmon have been living in North Uganda for many years working with ex-child soldiers near Gulu. In March, Rose-Mary fell seriously ill and remaining remotely would have been extremely risky for her health. MAF was able to fly them out to Entebbe on our last flight back in March when restrictions were put in place.
David and Rose-Mary wrote this letter of thanks to God for all they have seen of His faithfulness to them over the years.
“You are good and what You do is good.” Psalm 119 v 68
I want to write you this letter to thank you for being good. Throughout my life You have shown yourself to be good – long before I was ever capable of recognising goodness. You showed yourself good to me by drawing me to You. You drew me out of hypocrisy and greed; out of a comfortable ‘Christian’ life that was inwardly focused on myself. You freed me from the subtle chains of that ‘self’ and opened up the possibility of knowing Your goodness in me.
Then, on a rocky cliff in Cornwall, you graciously spoke to my wife, Rose-Mary, and asked her if she would give herself for the suffering of ex-child soldiers. Dear Father, I thank you that, by then, your grace had freed us to the extent that we were able to leave our life in the UK behind and head to Northern Uganda, where, almost unnoticed by the eyes of the world, one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of our times had slowly rolled itself out over twenty long years of brutal civil war. We had little money. We did not have the backing of a large relief agency. Whether it was faith or naivety, I do not know, but by then we did know You to be good and that was enough. And through all the turbulent early years, You showed Yourself to be good; good when the land we bought for the project was stolen from us; good when Rose-Mary’s very life was under threat; good each time we were stung by fraud; good when the sufferings of the returnees that we work amongst threatened to overwhelm us. Your goodness was always there, reflected in the patient generosity of friends and supporters in the UK; in the open hearts of the local leaders in Northern Uganda who have always given guidance and help in times of crisis. And as the project grew, and more and more ex-child soldiers came to join us at our Model Farm, You showed Yourself good as we began to see Your gracious hand; shown in the healing of memories, the joy of learning new skills, the restoring of dignity and hope.
You were also good when last year, after 10 years of running the project, Rose-Mary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Your goodness was shown in her resilience and courage, in the care and service of the dedicated Ugandan team that work with us on the project; in the love shown to us by the ex-child soldiers themselves.
Then, in March 2020, just as we prepared to return to the UK for a few months of planning and fund raising, Rose-Mary suddenly became ill and was rushed to hospital with a serious dose of malaria. Worse than this, her underlying Parkinson’s condition unexpectedly caused a complete, body-shutdown where she was unable even to sit up on her own. After five days, we left the hospital and returned to the farm, free from the malaria but with Rose-Mary still dangerously weak. There, Your goodness shone through the care and concern of our team, as they cooked for us, fetched water from the borehole and helped manage the project around us – despite the early effects of the national coronavirus lock-down. But life in rural Africa is far from easy and Rose-Mary was getting weaker by the day. Things were looking bad. Flights were being cancelled, taxis banned and the likelihood of us even getting down to Entebbe seemed to be slipping away.
Here you showed Your goodness again.
I had never flown with MAF, but I knew of their work. I knew they flew to Entebbe every Friday because visitors to our project had joined this flight last year. So, I made a call. The call was taken and within an hour, another team member, Greg Vine, called me back and a flight was arranged to get Rose-Mary safely down to Entebbe. Your goodness at work. Next we heard that all international flights were cancelled by the President but that MAF still had clearance to fly; Your goodness at work. However, the day before we were due to fly, the clearance for the flight was revoked and the plane was grounded. I was still caring for Rose-Mary around the clock, and trying, when I could, to throw a few things into a suitcase in case we managed to leave. The following morning, a text came through; it was MAF: ‘We have permission to fly. Get to Gulu airstrip as soon as you can’. Father, Your wonderful goodness!
Just as we arrived at the airstrip, the small MAF plane was descending like an angel from the clouds. We were met by the pilot, Dave, who exuded a comforting combination of pastoral care and professional competence. They had even organised for a bed to be fitted into the plane: your goodness, Lord, in every detail. As we took off – the only plane in the skies over Uganda – Dave warned us that the flight was due to be very turbulent and Rose-Mary turned pale. Even in this detail, we saw your goodness towards us. Within minutes the skies cleared and the flight was unexpectedly smooth all the way to a deserted Entebbe Airport. We were met by Hassan, the MAF team member who had worked tirelessly all morning, driving from office to office across Kampala, to obtain the permission to fly…and all this just for us! You truly are a good, good Father!
So here we are, in a clean and peaceful Guest House in Entebbe, awaiting a suitable flight back to the UK, as the coronavirus lockdown brings life to a standstill around us. It is an unexpected opportunity to rest and recover strength. Here again we rejoice in the sure signs of Your goodness. The timing of everything has been so perfect that I must surely finally begin to understand the futility of worry. And here I have time to ponder just what it means to know You; to discover at the core of the universe not some dark cosmic force, nor the cold hand of fate, but an eternal and achingly beautiful goodness.
In a world where nations, kingdoms, and financial systems can be brought to their knees by a simple virus, how much more will they one day be brought to their knees by the simple good news of a man who is altogether good. A servant King who spends Himself on behalf of the poor; who speaks up for the widow and the orphan; who pours Himself out for the weak, the weary and the wounded. The only ruler who has overcome the world and so is free to love it unconditionally. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.’
The Salmon’s wanted to pass on this message to MAF and all of our supporters, ‘Bless you for all you are doing for those who are struggling at this time. It is very hard for many people. We are glad that our farm in the north has been allowed to stay open so that we can continue supporting people there too.’
Thankfully, because the Salmons were brought to Entebbe in time the British High Commission arranged a repatriation flight directly to Heathrow and Rose-Mary was strong enough to manage the flight. God made a way for her and her husband to safely return to the UK.