Down in the Sewers – Get Some Gloves

This morning in the Gaba region of Kampala, the churches were starting their Kampala City Yange campaign (translated as Kampala – My City)- similar to Love Winnipeg.  The goal was to start to physically clean up the community of Gaba.  Gaba is the fishing and “fish market” area for the city of Kampala; perhaps one of the dirtiest parts of the city.  The desire of the Christians is to change that reputation.  “What if we start to take pride in our community?”  “Perhaps if we keep the area clean, then others will start to think better of themselves also, the general tenor of the community will change, we’ll change this dirty place into a clean place.”   In Winnipeg I’ve participated in many events where we have walked the streets picking up bottles, cans, paper, cigarette butts, etc.  and placed them into garbage bags to take it away.  I was privileged to be able to participate in a Uganda clean your community day.

Just before leaving for the event, I was asked if I had any gloves to wear, regrettably, not thinking that I would be doing any more physical work,  I had sent my work gloves back to Canada with the team.  I was shown a pair of rubber gloves and advised that thicker rubber gloves were better than the thin disposable ones, as the disposables don’t last long.  I determined to stop at a construction shop on the way to Gaba and search for heavy rubber gloves.  After several attempts I found a merchant who had thick rubber gloves, they went up the arm just about to the elbow, but they were thick rubber, only 6,000 shillings – $2.40 US, off to Gaba.

When I got to Gaba I quickly spotted where the Christians were congregated on the street and looked to see what could be done.  Street sewers in Uganda are large gutters along the side of the road, sewage, refuse, and garbage float down these gutters to some lower place where it stagnates, produces a marsh, runs into a lake or a river.  Sometimes the gutters are covered by concrete slabs, boards or metal pieces so that people can safely cross or drive over them.  The men had opened up some of the covered gutters and were scooping out the muck and garbage from the trenches.  Shoveling it onto the side of the street.  The scooped up substances were black foul smelling piles of half rotten vegetable matter, crushed bottles, pieces of plastic bags, string, clumps of human hair, broken parts, literally everything, (use your imagination).  “Here , sift through it with your fingers, pull out the garbage and organic matter and leave the stones and muck on the road to dry.  The sifted stuff pick it up with you hands and put it into this bag.”  Was I glad for the thick long rubber gloves.  Shovel after shovel were scooped up and bag after bag were filled.  The smell was nauseating and I often felt light headed, about to faint, but I kept  thinking, “Fight through it Keith, if you faint and land in this stuff, it will really be bad.”

In Psalm 40:2, it talks about our great God Who lifts us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he sets our feet on a rock and gives us a firm place to stand.  God not only pulls us out of the mucky situations but He also washes and cleans us, gives us new clothing and then makes us to sit with the princes in the heavenly places.  God didn’t do this from a distance, He actually came as a human and walked among the filth and problems of the world.

As I worked I thought, “Here is a group of Christians working in the smell and filth just to clean a part of their city.  Are we just as willing to get down into the filth, get close to the messy lives of people, so that God can work through us to clean up a human soul?”  Lord help us to see the value of other people so that we are not disturbed by the filth of the lives.  May we not be dismayed by the dirt in people’s lives, but may we see Your cleaning power working through us.

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