A BIG MYSTERY. A BIGGER GOD.
What could cause a ministry with nearly two decades of history of ministry around the United States and the world to transition away from all those things and become singularly focused on Northern Uganda? Here’s the story…
For 28 years, the LRA and Joseph Kony terrorized the Acholi people of Northern Uganda. At the height of the conflict 1.7 million people were living in “Internally Displaced People” (IDP) camps. Conditions were deplorable with hundreds of people living on a single acre of land.
After the conflict died down, the world hoped that they Acholi people would go back to some semblance of normalcy. They spread out and built new huts, but something was wrong with their children. It often started with a slight bobbing of the head almost as if they were nodding off to sleep. Their growth became stunted. With each passing seizure, the child would lose some brain function. Often the smell of food would trigger these seizures and the children would fall into open cooking fires and be burned beyond recognition. Although 7,000-10,000 children ages 5 to 15 were affected, the cries of these parents fell on deaf ears.
That’s where Mud Project One comes in. We’ve teamed up with our partners at Hope for HumaNS. They do the medical. We do the ministry. God has called us to leave the comfort of our ministries in the United States and go. We are His hands and His feet to this isolated people group in Northern Uganda. We’re going with the message that “God has not forgotten you. He has heard your cries over the past three decades and you are not abandoned. Help is on the way.“
We hope that you’ll join us in praying, giving, and going. We believe that God desires to take ordinary people and use them in extraordinary ways. Will you be a part of Mud Project One?
So what about all the Refuel Camps, Momentum Camps, Revolution Retreats and mission trips to the rest of the world? That’s probably the best part! They’re still happening! God knew what he was doing and brought people alongside us to learn the craft and develop the heart for these ministries. They’re all going on as scheduled. If there is any one single thread that has run through all the ministries we’ve done over the years it’s this: It’s never been about Mud. It’s never been about building an empire. It’s 100% about being available to go where He says go and do what He wants us to do. That always has and always will be Mud Project One.
About Nodding Syndrome
Nodding Syndrome is a mysterious disease affecting the brain and nervous system of children in Uganda, Sudan, and Tanzania. The disease is characterized by a nodding of the head, produced by seizures, and leads to cognitive impairment.
There is no known cause or cure, but with simple treatments the health of these children can drastically improve.
Uganda is by and large a Christian nation, but it is also a forgotten nation. The children and families dealing with this horrendous disease feel abandoned by the world as a whole. Very little research was being done. These people had no voice. In 2012, Mud Ministry felt the calling to go to Uganda and let our brothers and sisters know that God has not forgotten about them. He has heard their cries and is listening. Our mission is to bring the hope and love of Christ to these families and to be their voice to the world.
Nodding Syndrome was first described 40 years ago, but was so rare it did not merit significant medical attention until 2010, when outbreaks occurred in South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, affecting thousands of children.
Nodding Syndrome is a mysterious illness that affects the brains and nervous system of children, primarily between the ages of 5-15. Children display a sleepy appearance and appear to “nod off” and lose contact with the world around them. They are not sleeping, but in fact experiencing seizures. During times of seizures, they cannot control body movement and are prone to wander off—sometimes falling into fires or drowning in bodies of water, causing disfigurement or even death.
Each seizure (and there can be many each day) causes diminishment in mental capacity. Over the course of time, many children develop severe growth retardation; a child who is 12 or 13 chronologically will appear to be 6 or 8 years old. Children lose control of their bodies and can no longer perform basic acts of hygiene, feeding or dressing, eventually regressing to an almost infantile stage.
Along with extreme physical limitation, children become cognitively impaired, experience behavioral issues, and, as a result, can no longer attend school or are thrown out of school. Local schools do not have the resources or expertise to care for and instruct children with severe special needs.
Strangely, these seizures appear to be triggered by food, leading to severe malnutrition, as parents are not able to feed their children. There also appears to be a linkage to cold, as temperature seems to trigger attacks.
While some children are able to study in a special needs classroom and eat nutritious meals, many require full time care, with the result that parents must cease work or are unable to tend crops and feed their families. Because there are no safe places of care, parents frequently tie their children to trees or posts for their own safety to keep them from wandering into dangerous places.
A tour through villages in this region will reveal the shocking effects of these accidents: children who are horribly burned, disfigured or suffering with broken limbs.
Eventually Nodding Disease kills many of its victims. Death appears often to be a result of such accidents: drowning, falling into a cook fire, or starvation, as seizures in the late stages of the disease make it virtually impossible for the child to eat.
No one is known to have recovered from the disease.
Scientists from around the world have been unable to determine the cause. This condition has been studied by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, but there are no answers—only questions regarding its cause and treatment. The World Health Organization estimates over 7,000 children have already been affected by Nodding Syndrome in Uganda, South Sudan, and Tanzania—and the number is increasing as well as the geographical area affected.
Theories have linked the disease to Onchocerca volvulus (the organism that causes River Blindness), environmental toxins, vitamin B6 deficiency, vaccine reaction, a fungi found in bush meat, and a host of other theories…but nothing has yet been conclusively proven.
The investigation of Nodding Syndrome is still in its infancy, but already Nodding Syndrome has affected more individuals than all of the recorded cases of Ebola. Now that there is recognition of the disease, and some international support for research into its causes, hopefully better treatment and prevention efforts will follow.
As thousands of children become afflicted with this disease, we know that care is desperately needed—and effective. Our first comprehensive Care Center provides a safe place for children so that parents can return to work and support their families. A healthy diet rich in B vitamins has brought weight gain and reduction in seizures, and special schooling has enabled these children to learn. The presence of our Center and medical personnel has reduced local fears and allowed these children and their families to be re-accepted by their communities and villages.
What makes Uganda Unique?
A People Displaced and Brutalized:
The story began 25 years ago when the Acholi tribe of northern Uganda was forced to relocate 2.5 million people into Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps, escaping the brutality of the Lord’s Resistance Army led by the infamous Joseph Kony. Thousands of children were abducted from their homes and forced to become child soldiers and sex slaves for Kony’s army. Children were psychologically manipulated to murder their own families and become heartless killers. Hundreds of thousands were killed by mass brutality, as well as by the squalid conditions in the IDP camps, where 1,500 people per week died due to malnutrition, lack of clean water, and disease. For more than two decades, they waited for the war to end. Meanwhile, their villages, crops, and livestock were destroyed.
A return to a home that isn’t really “home” anymore:
In 2008, the Acholi people were told to go home. The camps were torn down, literally forcing them out into the bush to start over on their land,. The people couldn’t imagine how they would start over when everything they knew had been destroyed – villages, land, cattle.
NS Appears in Uganda:
The Acholis returned to their homeland with unimaginable memories. They also brought back something even more insidious: a disease that began attacking thousands of children in their tribe known as Nodding Syndrome.