‘God used so many people to support us’ – Bishop Obetia (recovered from Covid)
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2021/02/god-used-so-many-people-to-support-us-bishop-obetia-recovered-from-covid/
By Jimmy Siyasa
After recovering from Covid-19, retired Bishop Joel Obetia of the Madi and West Nile diocese in northwestern Uganda has stopped taking certain things in life for granted.
“Many times, we forget to thank God for the free oxygen,” he said. “A disease like Covid-19 clogs your lungs and you are asked to pay millions of shillings for oxygen to support your breathing.”
Bishop Obetia, together with his wife, the Rev. Canon Joy Obetia, was in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mulago Hospital in Kampala for around two weeks. Their health deteriorated from contraction of Covid-19.
On the evening of Monday, January 11, 2021, the twosome arrived back at their home on the Uganda Christian University, Mukono Campus. Their return from hospitalization replaced long-held anxiety with bursts of irrepressible joy among their family members.
Besides running a busy pastoral life, Obetia, 64, an academic, also doubles as a lecturer at Bishop Tucker School of Theology and Divinity at the main campus in Mukono. His wife, Joy, 62, is the Assistant Chaplain at St. Kakumba Chapel, located in Kyambogo, a suburb of Kampala. At St. Kakumba, she heads the weddings, welfare, women and prayer/ intercession ministries.
The two had been in ICU since December 27, 2020. Still frail and fragile by the time of this interview, they were under close medical monitoring. They can only resume their clerical and other activities when doctors say so.
“Their return is an answered prayer,” exclaimed Gloria Obetia, the couple’s oldest daughter and a health care worker 500 miles from Kampala, at Kuluva Hospital, Arua. “Such a relief! At first, we felt that they were going to die because they were badly off. But God has worked a miracle.”
She delivered healthy foods daily to her parents ever since they got admitted. Gloria and other family members last saw the couple, looking lifeless, three days after the 2020 Christmas holiday. They were being whisked away to Mulago National Referral Hospital, dangling between the hands of the emergency team and death.
“It has been God since day one,” said a jolly, 22-year-old Miriam Litany Pakrwoth, another one of the couple’s daughters. “They could’ve lost their lives in the process of being transferred from Mukono to Mulago because their oxygen intake was so low.”
The Obetias’ initial arrival at the Mulago hospital was marred with tension, suspense and anxiety. One of the voices of fear and doubt that contributed to this unease was reportedly a nurse in whose hands the patients had been cast.
Mercy Dokini, 16, the couple’s youngest daughter, recalled the nurse saying, “5 to 8 people in your parents’ condition die every day. You better pray and fast for them.”
Triggered by the nurse’s pessimism, Mercy and her older siblings took to persistent prayer and fasting. Not only family but also friends and the faithful to whom the Obetias minister were constantly on bended knees and gave generously. Not on any single day were prayers and goodwill in short supply.
“I want to thank God for the faith he has allowed us to plant in our children,” said a contemplative Joy Obetia. “They have been praying and fasting for us ever since.”
She recalls pocketing about $100 as contingency cash, on their way to the hospital. But it stayed untouched throughout their admission. Their God through friends “supplied all their needs according to his riches in Glory.”
“God used so many people to support us,” said Bishop Obetia. “People were calling in from the USA, UK and all around the world. The support was overwhelming. UCU had close contacts who kept a close watch of us, to keep the community updated.”
Obetia and his wife believe that their influential place in the church somehow opened doors to the “overwhelming support and respect” they received while at the hospital. Another plus is that their admission caused a dramatic turn in not only meal scheduling, but also quality of the meals.
“Breakfast would be served late, at about noon and then lunch would come like at 3:00 p.m.,” said Joy Obetia. “I sympathize with those only depending on hospital meals.”
However, the tardiness in the hospital’s welfare department stopped at the intervention of State Minister for Northern Uganda in the Uganda cabinet, Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, a sister to Joy Obetia. This was to the advantage of the majority of more economically challenged, less high-profile patients who often endure helplessly within the healthcare system.
When asked where and how they may have contracted coronavirus, the two pointed to some of the congregations unto whom they had last-ministered before their health deteriorated on December 27, 2020.
“I personally officiated so many weddings – two of them on November 29, 2020,” Bishop Obetia recalled. “And on December 12, 2020, my family attended a wedding of my niece at St. Johns Church, Kamwokya. Thereafter, I travelled from Kampala to Arua, where I officiated another wedding on December 19, 2020. Then, I began to show Covid-19 signs like an intense cough.”
Obetia confessed that by the time he travelled to Arua, his wife, Joy, was already severely sick. Hence, on return to their home on the UCU campus, they tasked themselves to test for the virus, only to realize that that the potential “angel of death” had visited their household. On February 5, 2021, they are grateful that it didn’t remain.
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