This seems to be the trip that we will remember for diabetes. Two of our associates are now diagnosed with diabetes. This is serious enough in the US, but in Uganda it is a serious matter indeed. One doesn’t really know how sick he is until he discovers he can’t be cured by a short trip to the doctor and a regimen of miracle drugs. No such relief comes with the diagnosis of diabetes.

Bob preached this morning in the church where the three day conference will be held end of this week.

Mr. A (name changed to protect his identity) is our close friend and partner in ministry here. He was in the hospital when we arrived. We had heard this news before we arrived and were expecting him to be on the mend by the time we were ready for our usual ministry together. However, it was not to be so. We visited him in the hospital during our first week, traveling out into the bush far from town to find a small private hospital ministering to the locals. He lay there in the bed in a ward with ten other patients, unable to walk by himself, and only able to sit up to with difficulty to greet us. His worried wife hovered nearby.

We visited a bit, trying to determine the nature of his illness, and were told that he has diabetes (type 2, we assume, since insulin is not involved). We prayed for him and left to make the journey back to town with heavy hearts for his suffering. They are working, of course, on his diet to get his sugar levels to come down into a functional range. But we knew, as we drove away, that this will require an entire lifestyle change for him and his family, and we wondered how he would weather it.

We knew a pastor in another country where we worked in missions who was diagnosed with diabetes, and the memory does not give us much comfort. He was unable to deal with the lifestyle changes required to manage his sugar problems, and perhaps because of lack of education, he failed to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition. He refused to change. He died about a year after his diagnosis, apparently of a heart attack. We know by now that heart issues often accompany diabetes,  and the treatment for both go hand in hand. The sadness of watching his family suffer the loss of their husband and father, and their ensuing struggle to restructure their whole life to find financial stability in the wake of his loss hung over us gloomily as we drove away from the hospital in Uganda.

Our friend here is an ebullient little man who has planted many churches across his section of Uganda, which is how I met him. We were traveling together and struck up a conversation, and he asked us to include his group of churches in our ministry. We have worked with him ever since. He is full of energy and always sits with Gail during the meetings, watching over her, and making sure she is comfortable. He is forever urging us to eat more when the food is served and is insistent that we pause to eat in the morning when the tea and gnuts (a nut exactly like the peanut only smaller) are served for breakfast. “Bob?” he will say, and as I turn to him, he is invariably holding up my tea-cup or pointing at the bowl of nuts, “Tea is ready.” If I am busy, and don’t immediately sit for tea, I will always hear shortly, “Bob?…”

We missed him much this time during the training. It just wasn’t the same without his extremely dry sense of humor, always delivered with a total deadpan face, held perfectly 1…2…3…, then followed by a tiny knowing smile. One doesn’t know how important someone is to them until they are absent.

We are very concerned that he will be able to adjust and that he will take the warnings from the doctor seriously about his diet. Mr. A is a small, thin man. His sugar issues have nothing to do with his weight, as is the case with so many. His diet is rice, beans, greens, a little chicken or goat or beef, and some fruit when they can get it. He lives far out in the bush with no access to sugary drinks or foods that Americans are accustomed to. Even visualizing how he should change this natural and organic diet to adjust his sugar levels is a mystery to me. I’ve got some serious reading to do.

We visited him at his home about two weeks later. We took him a glucose meter so that he would not be required to make the arduous trip to the hospital every week to have his sugar level tested. I’m not sure how he was making the journey because even when we saw him, he was still lying on his pallet in his house, was just barely walking with the support of a stick, and could not ride the back of a boda boda (motorcycle), which is the primary form of taxi here. Yet somehow he had returned just that day from the distant hospital. The diet seems to be working little by little, but his blood sugar has still not fully returned to normal.

Our other associate has been diagnosed for a longer time, but, because we are not so close, we did not know. This trip though, when we found him, his legs were swollen, painful, and propped up. His wife told us he had diabetes. While he lives in a city and has much more access to medical treatment than Mr. A, his situation is still serious.

We pray for them, and are looking for ways to help that will work in this environment where ready medical interventions are not always accessible or affordable. But we are on a learning curve. So far, all I’ve discovered is that cinnamon helps lower both blood pressure and blood sugar. Who knew? [NOTE: Only sprinkle on foods and drinks, and do NOT take in large doses – do some research on how to use cinnamon properly. Improper use can be dangerous.] When we get home to the US, it will be time to do some serious research. In the meantime, we pray they both will do what they must to adjust their lifestyles. Mr. A, for certain, must face that his situation is not going to go away with some drugs, as those in his village are used to doing. He must face the reality of this disease. His learning curve will be much bigger than ours and much harder.

[If anyone has advice about controlling diabetes, please message us on Facebook™ or comment below this post, or send us an email – email not listed here to prevent spam.]

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