“God could not have blessed me any greater on this day, the 20th anniversary of my ordination, than to be with people who are making a difference in this corner of the world. To be in a new church with a hand-carved Crucifix, Mary and baby, and tabernacle, and to allow me to kneel and rededicate myself as unworthy as I am, to God and Christ’s ministry wherever He sends me.”
Those were the emotions Dave felt when he set foot in the San Paolo Church and School on Dec. 2, 2010,and met Father Hilliard, the Roman Catholic Priest who built the church and school in the Karamoja
District of Uganda among the Tepes people. The Tepes Tribe is the smallest in the district and the one historically ‘beaten up and discounted for many years.”
“I did not expect the deep emotions I felt when I walked in the church. Tears and the feeling that I was so undeserving of the privilege to be in that place overwhelmed me. God is present there and I thank God for the honor of serving Him and His people,” Dave said.
The actual facilities and everything in them are hand-made in a rural area surrounded by hills. With no electricity or running water, the 200 children the school serves cooked their own meals in beat up pans over open fire pits.
Fr. Hilliard is “a true man of God. Christ is definitely in him,” Dave said. “He allowed me to lay hands on him and pray for protection of the children, the school and the church.” He dreams of starting a pre-school to give the children a stronger foundation on which to build their education.
“Being with and seeing the children (at San Paolo’s) in Moroto solidified my experience that children are children, around the world whether European, Asian, Eskimo, Latin American or African. It is a wonderful sight to see and experience,” Dave said.
Knowing Fr. Hilliard opened doors as well for the team. When they stopped at the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Force (UPDF) camp to let them know they were in the area, the captain they spoke with was reserved and cautious until they mentioned Fr. Hilliard. “Then his tone and conversation changed immediately. He was more open and relaxed,” Dave said.
The UPDF mission to bring security and stability to the region impressed Dave. The Karamoja District in the northeast corner bordering Kenya and the Sudan, is the site of frequent battles when the tribes cross the borders between Kenya and Uganda and steal cattle. “Cows represent life and wealth in the area. With cows, a man can get a wife,” Dave said. It is the UPDF’s job to disarm the tribes to reduce violence.
Being in this place with Fr. Hilliard, Dave said he felt like the Prophet Isaiah on Holy ground. ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.’ [i] I was unworthy to be in such a sacred place. This feeling hit me the minute I entered the threshold. It was not a feeling I expected in a simple church without anything special, in a very poor area by U.S. standards.
“But this was exactly the experience I needed to spiritually and emotionally prepare for this mission in Eastern Africa,” Dave said.
[i] Isaiah 6:5 New Revised Standard Version