There is a village on the outskirts of Wobulenzi, across the town’s only paved road: a place known for its poverty and darkness, even to those living in devastation in other parts of the city.
Along the road, a child cries, naked, except for a thin leather strap used to measure his weight. His exposed thighs are covered in the brown mud he is sitting in, outside of an open doorway, close enough to the road to share close quarters with a trash heap, full of rotten banana peels and old bottles. Other children run wild, dressed in an array of old cast off clothes – pink, faux fur jackets paired with old gym shorts, dresses a Baptist preacher’s daughter might have worn for Easter, years ago, paired with plastic flip flops. One girl sports mismatched high heels – one black, one a faded shade of ivory, turned dusty grey.
Families crowd into small, tarped shelters. Ashes spread between them, the signs of old trash heaps, or food, cooked and devoured long ago. Alcoholism and drug abuse runs rampant and the signs of its damage can be seen in the children running loose in the streets. Here, prostitution, witchcraft and polygamy are commonplace.
This is Nakadingidi, a grouping of low, cinderblock buildings and sheds that Wobulenzi Pentecostal Church has targeted for ministry. Together with the help of Align Ministry, the members of the church seek to provide help and hope to those who live in captivity to the darkness present here.
Tendo was recently brought from a situation where she was living in the midst of prostitution, hunger and drug abuse. A young girl of 17, Tendo giggles around Mzungu (whites), embarrassed because she cannot speak English. She is beautiful, with clear skin and short hair pulled back in a colored band. She loves to work with the pre-school children at Donela Wobulenzi, a school Align helped to begin in 2009.
Morris, a young man working in ministry at WPC, met Tendo through a ministry group he led in Nakadingidi. After hearing her repeatedly complain about her constant hunger, other members of the church returned to Nakadingidi to bring her basic necessities and food. Tendo’s brother, a man with a deep alcohol and marijuana addiction that drove him to spend all of the family’s resources on his habit, sold of all of the food the church brought. While struggling with her brother during the day, Tendo watched a friend’s daughter at night while she “went out into the field,” code for prostituting herself out. After watching Tendo struggle, a couple in the church invited to her to live with them, so that she would be able to have consistent food and shelter, for the first time in her life.
In a small, cinderblock building down a narrow, muddy alley way in Nakadingidi, Mastulla has been battling AIDS while singlehandedly taking care of her large family of children and grandchildren. When she came into contact with members of WPC, Mastulla was given help for the first time through the church’s Life With Hope ministry, a program helping the only the neediest families in the area, and targeting women struggling with AIDS. Through the ministry, Mastulla has been given some very basic necessities, such as food and medication.
“We have to use a lot of discretion with the Life with Hope ministry,” Millie said, walking along the road from Nakadingidi after leading a Tuesday night ministry group. She explained that the ministry is to help families get to a place where they can provide for themselves, rather than becoming dependent on the church.
“If you just give to them everything, then you are crippling them, because they get used to a higher standard of living and wouldn’t know what to do if you took it back from them,” she continued.
While the church’s ministry in Nakadingidi seeks to provide food, clothing and medication to Wobulenzi’s most needy, the ministry’s focus is on providing hope. Sitting in a circle of women outside their rudimentary housing, Millie explained to them that anything they have comes from Jesus.
“Jesus provides for me,” Millie said to them, recounting the story of a man who once asked her to lend him a million shillings. “I told him I have never seen a million shillings in my life. But, Jesus gives so much to me that I look like a million shillings.