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How I Beat The Covid-19 Lockdown in Uganda and Why

The Covid-19 virus arrived in Africa in slow motion, as it has on each continent it touches. It may leave Africa as slowly as it came. If we don’t enforce rigid laws and reset our value systems as individuals and as nations, it will more likely be an unimaginable wreck.

I had only been in Uganda 2weeks of a much longer stay when I began to feel it was time to get out. I discussed this with a few friends and asked for prayers from supporters. I needed to hear the Lord. This was before the announcement came ordering all schools and places of worship to shutdown. 

Schools have been my litmus test for social safety for years because no parent will release their child to attend school if it isn’t safe to go. You can often gauge how much turmoil there is in a place by looking at how many children are in school. 

To the glory of God, I arrived home from Uganda on Monday. My trip back has gone down as one of the most unforgettable adventures I have had since relocating to Uganda.

This is my story.

It was Saturday, 21st March 2020 by 8pm. I had just returned from watching the National Prayer Meeting called by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, at a friend’s church office. As I reflected on my plans for Sunday, I received a WhatsApp message from a dear brother and friend, Uche Obiofuma. It changed everything.

From the message, I learned that the international airways in Nigeria would be shut by midnight on Monday the 23rd of March 2020.  If I was to make it back into Lagos before the borders closed, I must leave that night for Kampala. I was at the time, in Arua, 10hrs drive from the airport in Entebbe.

The first thing I needed to do was to change my flight booking. I got on it immediately but I couldn’t pay online. I called upon a higher power, Sola, my wife. She’s gifted in this area and was not going to have me stranded in Uganda indefinitely. She assured me she’ll take care of it and I departed Arua for Kampala at 10pm.

A thousand thoughts kept me awake on that ride. From the unknown to the known yet uncertain, I engaged my imagination and had a good prayer time too. I got assurances from the Lord as the journey progressed, despite the annoying information from the bus conductor before we left the garage that, “…we could have a breakdown…, this is just a machine and it can disappoint… but don’t worry… blah blah blah…”

I arrived Kampala on Sunday morning, having traveled in a very worn-out 55-seater bus that leaked rainwater from Arua to Kampala. I was so concerned about leaving Uganda on time that getting very wet and cold on that bus didn’t dent my energy. I needed to get home! 

While on the ride to Kampala, I didn’t know that Uganda had recorded its first case of Covid-19 and the President had promptly announced the closure of the land and airway borders. The confusion as to when this directive was to take effect unnerved me.

After several calls, I gathered that all flights in or out will end at 12midnight that day, Sunday. All roads and water-way borders would be shut at 12noon the same day.

I headed for the airport immediately and met a crazy crowd of people all gunning for the same thing; a seat on any aircraft leaving before 12midnight. I began to wait for my flight change to be confirmed from Lagos. Other passengers were offering more money to get a flight booking and flight change. A lady and her six children were duped $10,000 by a fake agent. Another gentleman booked a flight to London that will take him from Entebbe to Addis Ababa, to a country in the Middle East, to Amsterdam then to London. The tension was increasingly worrisome as my confirmation delayed.

Eventually, I got the message that payment was confirmed!  Thank God my wife was able to get through! I checked into my flight immediately to end the chance of any last-minute complications. This was the last flight out of Uganda and I must be on it!

Witnessing Jesus to my co-traveler has been my style over the years. Onboard the flight, I was surprised to observe that the social distancing rule was in effect. Just before we taxied out, a passenger in a seat row in front of me began to throw up! I made several attempts to call the attention of the flight attendants, but they ignored my bell or didn’t see me waving frantically. I sprang to my feet and dashed forward to get their attention as the aircraft began to taxi. Sickness was on the plane and the fear of what it could mean, in combination with the frantic confusion of our hurried exit of the country created a tense environment. 

Passengers looked in the direction of every sneeze and cough. The vomit was a level 10 alarm!  A calm apprehension rested on the faces of those that knew someone onboard was ill; mine too. But what were we going to do? Jump off the plane? Everyone acted as though oblivious of the issue.

I was wearing one of three facemasks I bought on my way to the airport. I quickly pulled out the remaining two and wore them, too. Somehow, having three masks seemed safer.  Not long afterward though, someone’s fart invaded my airspace. It made me question the work of the facemasks, but I still didn’t remove them.

When we arrived in Nairobi, I promptly alerted the medical personnel at the reception gate that this passenger was ill onboard. I hope they did the right thing. I was off to my next flight.

Onboard the flight heading to Lagos, it was a full flight. Sadly, the social distancing rule wasn’t adhered to. Forgive me, but I wasn’t surprised.

We are largely a complicated people in Nigeria. Only a death threat by force ensures our compliance with simple rules. You feel it and see it as soon as you touchdown in the country. The chaos, hush, and push to get ahead kicks in, only to arrive at the baggage claim area and wait for another hour for one’s luggage to drop.

I’m very glad to be home, though emotionally exhausted. I am taking all the necessary precautions to shield my family from whatever I could have contacted on my journey. It is a hard reality that makes my reentry brutal.

Nevertheless, we shall pull through with songs of victory, day after day. If there’s a place to be now, with the world charged with so much pain and uncertainty, it is one’s home, wherever that is. Sadly, for some people, home is just a word, not a place.

I have a dear friend in the hospital now. His daughter wrote this in her update today on his welfare: 

So today,…we’re sitting at home alone, praying for comfort and encouragement, and choosing to hope in the midst of the cold and the rain and the unknown that we serve the God who sees us, and knows us, and loves us, the God who came down to dwell among us, and the God who has promised to be faithful to the end.

As you keep your heart free from the bad and fake news flooding social media and TV, please take time to pray for family, friends, and strangers that need divine assistance for the next step in their journey this season.

I pray that you and yours will emerge from this unprecedented challenge, better people; reset or reformatted in your heads or hearts, ready to engage fresh priorities that will help humanity, fulfill your purposes and see Jesus glorified.

May we all be able to hear the Lord clearly despite the confusion and pain around us. Our love for others will be on trial with this crisis. May we not miss a chance to show this troubled world why Jesus is all we need.

Thanks for your prayers and support. We remain undaunted until the whole world hears! Matthew 24:14