Posted by: tonyalatorre | April 22, 2014

Post Easter Glow

Before I begin…if you haven’t watched the Easter Story video our children made in my last post go watch that first! It’s wonderful to hear them and see them in action! Now…

 

I haven’t faced a blank page in a while. I love it when I find time to write. My life is at a critical transition mirroring the feeling of a blankness. I find that yummy which probably means I’d rather write than eat.

I had the rare experience last weekend of corralling all five chidren into our home for two nights and one day. Wrap all my happy holidays into one and give me that and I’ll be good. We protect and covet the times whenever we can find opportunity to sit at the table as seven. Here are a few things we learned.

 

minnie

minnie

Kira has made it plain to us she wants a new school. The Montessori experience wasn’t what we hoped it would be for her, so we’re looking at a Christian school in the fall. It’s good she knows how to express herself. On that thought, Craig and I often sit slacked jaw on a Saturday morning while we try to come to life with coffee as she chatters to herself endlessly for hours. I am not exaggerating. I think she’s already used more words at age four than Kevin has used at age sixteen.

 

Jack and Biggie

Jack and Biggie

Jack has taken his last exam today and he’s finished with school for the summer! Homeschool rocks. He and his horse Biggie are best buddies. I love mornings at the barn with Jack enjoying our horses.

Jordan has a ten hour drive from college to get home which he is willing to do for his family fix. He loves OBU and is excited to spend six weeks this summer as an intern with Kirabo Seeds to explore his major in international missions.

 

jordan

jordan

Donny graduates from Baylor University in less than one month and he recently brought home a special girl, Kelli. We are all crazy about her. It’s fun to see him so happy. He will join Jordan in Uganda for six weeks as well! Then he’s on to grad school at A&M for HR in the fall. (when I look in the mirror I wonder if I look like a mom with a son in graduate school…I hope not….not that I’m vain or anything…but really? already? )

 

the graduate

the graduate

Kevin’s UIL play is going to regionals next week and so he resumes the hellacious rehearsal schedule while I bite my nails wondering if he is over extended, yet he spreads his wings and feels the sense of flying with his passion for theater. I can’t wait to see his play again. (he has the lead in a dramatically sad play, Side Man.) We promised him a trip to NYC this summer since he misses out on all the Uganda adventures because public school won’t allow a cultural experience during shool days. (that’s why Jack home schools!) He wants to see Phantom of the Opera and Wicked and visit some city universities.

 

this is my new favorite picture.  I don't have a current photo of kevin because he makes irritable faces for the camera.

this is my new favorite picture.
I don’t have a current photo of kevin because he makes irritable faces for the camera.

Soon I’ll prepare to go to Uganda again. I get the itch like crazy after three months pass since walking the auburn earth under banana, papaya, and mango trees filled with tropical birds. It’s the sound of the children playing and laughing that serves as a boomerang across the world. It hooks my neck with a great force and brings me home with one kid in each hand. I’d walk there in my sleep if too much time passed. About now I begin to dream that I’m asleep in my own bed there about to wake to a day serving our childrnen. It’s nice to have my own apartment to go to because it really feels like home.

 

missing the kiddos

missing the kiddos

Craig and Kevin are honestly too busy to notice we are gone. Since Kevin has late night rehearsals I know Craig will indulge in his long work hours. At least I know he loves his work. Our five animals will protest my absence, and I just might feel it in my bones all the way from Africa.(two horses, two kittens and one super dog)  It’s not easy living in two places so far away. Some people get to this point in life and zip off to their second home in a nicer climate with only a three or four hour flight. Not us. We have to prepare to spend the night on an airplane live in the same clothes for twenty-four hours and arrive at bedtime when we feel like the day is starting, not smelling so good I might add.

 

By now I’m rather used to it. Kira at age four is a fabulous traveller. I’d rather go on an airplane with her for 24 hours than go to the toy store with her for fifteen minutes. I even suspect the flight attendants are beginning to know us by name. There aren’t too many red headed mamas with a confident preteen boy and a saucy Ugandan daughter. We tend to draw attention. Shrug.

 

I can’t even count how many times I have been to Uganda. I guess that’s when you really call it going home. Now, as I close my eyes I see us walking through the gates after a good (?) night sleep to find the children in the midst of their morning chores. Samson barks, the chickens squawk and scatter. Julie will be stirring a huge pot in the kitchen wearing one of my aprons, Phiona will be at her desk with accounts, and Robert will be inspecting the van for perfection. Kiah will wave from the teacher’s board where some students follow her lessons. Kenny will have the bible open and a computer by his side. The little kitty “Pretty” will wrap herself around my ankle and promise to be sweet while I miss my own kitties. Nothing is as wonderful as the race for a hug I get from the kids. It nearly knocks me down.

 

This whole ministry could knock me down but as long as I see that love and enthusiasm in our children I’ll come back for more, especially knowing it’s God who keeps me upright for this work. I can lean heavy on HIM. The real going home means I get to hug Boniface and not miss him so much any more. I’ll lean on that direction.

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | April 19, 2014

Happy Easter from Kirabo Seeds

It is our holy celebration of Easter this weekend. The children in our Kirabo Seeds home have been making a special gift for everyone to enjoy for this celebration. Christopher Thompson has been volunteering with us since January. His degree is in cinematography from Baylor so he created this gift for all of us. I tell you, I cried after I watched it. I hope it moves you and points you to Jesus who died on the cross and rose to life. I won’t tell the whole story, because the children are going to tell it for you…

Click on this link and it should take you to the video.

Or, open youtube in your browser and search Kirabo Seeds Easter Story 2014

Can you believe the change in Rhonah? Wait til you see her speak on the video…brought drippy tears to my face.

Can you believe the change in Rhonah? Wait til you see her speak on the video…brought drippy tears to my face.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | April 2, 2014

How I found Orphan Care as my “cause”

Over a decade ago I felt myself searching deep within my heart for the cause greater than myself, greater than my family, greater than what’s mine or within my reach. I believed God had something for me to do for Him so I could pour all the gifts and talents he gave me into the cause. Oh, but I felt lost in the murky sea of a million causes.

 

Ryan one of our little ones can you guess his age by his teeth?

Ryan one of our little ones can you guess his age by his teeth?

My big motivator has always been gratitude. I never feel deserving of anything. Recently, at my feline vet’s office, while the lady doc enjoyed our new kittens, she pronounced them perfect in every way and said three times “you deserve these kittens”. (she helped me with the recent death of my kitten Fritz) Each time she said it, I flinched deeper and deeper until I had to look away. If I feel anything it is that I don’t deserve anything.

 

Twenty-four years ago, at my wedding, I was overcome realizing I didn’t deserve Craig. The gratitude for him in my life caused me to find religion! It wasn’t long after this discovery that I walked into the arms of Jesus. Why? I was so thankful to have Craig as my best friend and partner for as long as I live. I didn’t deserve him. I don’t deserve Jesus.

 

Paul and Peter on the drum

Paul and Peter on the drum

So back to that time when I was burdened with the search for my cause, it was because I was so thankful for what God put into me and my life that I needed to share it, use it, flex it and stretch it for Him. So at the bottom of my search I realized my heart broke the most for children who don’t have parents or families to guide them to a healthy Christ centered adulthood. I cry on impulse when I think of a child alone in this world. Nothing could be worse than that from my perspective, and voila, there, I had found my cause.

 

To explore what this meant for our family we jumped into the unknown and spent a spring break, the six of us, serving “Orphanage Outreach” in the Dominican Republic. We lived on the compound with 35 orphaned kids and just hung out with them for a week. It was an eye opening experience. It was our first time in third world conditions. We learned the ABCs of orphan care. We were cured of our fatalist viewpoint that all orphans are sick, dying, depressed or desperate. We left there with a lot to ponder.

 

Marvin carrying a mat because he is a BIG BOY

Marvin carrying a mat because he is a BIG BOY

The work there didn’t transfer to adoption until almost four years later. It wasn’t my idea either. It was God. First I had a jolting response to an opportunity to go to Uganda to serve an anti-abortion clinic. While I was there we played with orphans at Watoto. I honestly felt God nudge me, no audible voice, just the feeling of “why not adopt one from here?” Of course my husband had been praying for me to want to adopt for four years! That’s one persistent prayer request. I said, “Sure! Why not?”

 

Adoption wasn’t all God had in mind. He led us straight into this adventure of opening an orphanage in Uganda. And now I know that I know that I know what an orphan really is. Furthermore, the circumstances where an orphan becomes an orphan doesn’t define who the person is or will be.

 

I’ll admit a silly presumption I made. When we were expecting Kira to join our family and before we knew her I figured she’d be a meek child who would be so thankful to have a family. I assumed she’d be a very easy child because of her gratitude. Ha! There’s nothing meek about her. In fact she dashed my presumptions by rejecting me for the first five months. Truthfully she made it known every day she didn’t want me for a mother. I cringe remembering how she would reach with both arms to strangers in the grocery store to lift her out of the cart and take her away. Ouch. I had always thought I was such a good mother. HUMBLING 101.

this is our kira now

this is our kira now

 

She showed me that God puts the fire for life in every child and they don’t need us, they need HIM. We get to participate but all they really need is HIM. That’s the main message we give our children in our Kirabo Seeds home. “We are your family, we are committed to caring for you, you have jjajjas and Aunties or Uncles, but it is the family of God who really LOVES of you.” And our eighteen children are living proof of it as people from all over the world join us in sponsoring these children so they can have good nutrition, education, medicine, home, care takers, love, discipline and opportunity to reach their God given potential.

 

that's a great big smile from our precious sensitive Victoria

that’s a great big smile from our precious sensitive Victoria

And I thought having a mother was the most important thing. Kira showed me I was soooo wrong. Being a child of God is the most important thing. In that way we are all orphans until we unite with him. It isn’t just our parents who raise us up. God puts all sorts of people in our lives to shape us into his original design for our lives so we too can discover our greater purpose on this earth.

 

When I look back and remember what it felt like to search for the cause I could spend myself on, I’m still so on fire for orphan care. I’m so thankful the doors flung open and I burst onto the scene. Because all I really hoped for was to make a difference somehow, somewhere. And let me tell ya, it feels really good, like a huge sigh, or as my horse would put it a big raspberry blow out from his nostrils with a head hung low and relaxed.

 

musa

musa

I could end there but I am compelled to share, our home is open and we have room for more people interested in sponsoring a child. This way anyone anywhere can make a big difference in a child’s life. I never figured I’d be the one opening the door to a home and able to invite and welcome others like me who searched for their cause to come in and fulfill it. I really didn’t figure it would be in AFRICA. I can’t say anything on this side of heaven feels as good as knowing we’re making a difference for God in the lives of children….children whose hope was answered when we said, Yes Lord. See…one big thing I learned is that orphaned children aren’t hopeless. In fact I think they can teach us all a few things about hope. I know the children in our home have become my teachers about life and God.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | March 27, 2014

How I talk myself into having a GOOD DAY.

I’m listening to the ping of rain bounce off my roof, dogs in the distance are woofing to be let in where it’s dry. Kevin descended from his man cave wearing a red Kirabo Seeds t-shirt. He wears it once in a while to school demonstrating he is proud of what our family is doing. I relish his confidence. The house is quiet except for the kittens scampering from room to room. I’ve just finished reading a chapter in Isaiah and I’m feeling the pleasant company of the Lord. Two verses caused me to reach for my journal and write them down, they were both about the PEACE that God graciously pours into our frazzled, distracted, splattered lives. I understand Peace isn’t something I go buy, find, or get my hands on. Peace is something God gives when I surrender my problems to him and trust him. Isaiah 26:12 “ Lord you establish peace for us, all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”

 

dickson on laundry day…new photos from Christopher Thompson

dickson on laundry day…new photos from Christopher Thompson

I’m good to go into my day with that on my mind. The rain is going to ruin my jumping lesson with my horse. But I’ll go visit him just to hug his neck, because I love him more than I love riding. Every day I thank God for creating horses and my husband for giving me one!

 

this is sledding in Uganda…on a tree bark!

this is sledding in Uganda…on a tree bark!

There are “people” in Uganda who were once in the disguise to help us help orphaned children, but it turns out they were after our resources. They opened a court case against us to close down Kirabo Seeds so they can get their shares in the form of land. The company we opened exists only to stand guard over our Community Based Organization (like a nonprofit) where we serve orphaned children and widows in the community. I had to sit at my desk and read through every email ever exchanged between us, every legal document that I toted home from Uganda and select our defense. All the ugly feelings blazed through my heart. It was not a good day. It certainly stirred up the muddy bottom of our usually clear placid pond.

 

who needs a gymnastics teacher? when you have natural talent and an audience?

who needs a gymnastics teacher? when you have natural talent and an audience?

The other verse I put down from Isaiah 26 was verse 3:
“you will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” So maybe I lost it yesterday while reliving all those painful experiences and toiling through legal jargon used against our good work for the children, but I have a choice today to lean heavy on God by keeping my mind steadfast on his promises and trust him with this case. If I do that I know I’m going to have peace flow through me that would otherwise be beyond reach. This is what people mean when they say, “let go let God”. It’s just so much easier to say it than do it.

sledding

This heavy leaning on God, this perfect trust in his plan is the ONLY way we’ve been able to open, establish, and run an orphanage in Uganda. Especially considering the intense opposition we have faced along the way. We know for sure, “all that we have accomplished YOU have done for us.” Thank you God! Gratitude is always the first step towards pushing out the ugly and taking a view of the good. I am so thankful for all He does.

 

And this my friends is how I talk myself into having a good day.

a home made swing

a home made swing

Posted by: tonyalatorre | March 18, 2014

Good News for Fred.

I sat at my computer two hours ago to write an update about Fred, and instead I wrote an essay about life on earth versus the party in eternity. HA. I have no control over what comes out of my head. I’m thankful for the insights from contemplating losing Boniface, and I will eventually post that essay as a blog,  but I first need to share some really good news. The family of Kirabo Seeds can use some good news. We all need to see the hand of God alter a hopeless situation and make it shine with his halo.

 

When I was in Uganda I witnessed the excruciating therapy Fred had to endure to get his legs straightened for walking. I doubted the process from day one. I hesitated to be a bossy mzungu and step in and challenge “the professionals”.  But watching one of ours suffer was bitter like acid reflux.

 

at the hospital

at the hospital

Only a few days after I returned home to America the team found putrid sores on Fred as a result of his braces rubbing. They rushed him to the hospital where they admitted him. We realized how ill equipped our family is when it comes to helping Fred become independent, healthy and educated. We were feeling a little lost and overwhelmed with his care. When a person is admitted to a hospital in Uganda there are no nurses for patients, only nurses for doctors, so we had to find a full time helper for Fred. One of Daniel’s jjajjas daughters was able to help us with him. She lived there from January until last week caring for his every need. He had to have surgery to remove skin and apply it to his wounds so they would heal. Finally they healed a week or so ago.  She had to help him with every life detail. We are so thankful to Christina and her sacrifice.

Fred getting into wheelchair

The problem though is his legs shrunk up and the therapists and doctors worked hard to convince us his condition is too far gone for him to hope to have straight functional legs. They don’t believe he will walk. And this was not a shock for me. I am more interested in him becoming completely independent and educated no matter whether he is in a wheel chair, on crutches or walking. We need him to engage and help himself! But no one in our home was able to teach him how to do this, everyone was too eager to serve him which only perpetuated his helpless condition. We had a big shrug and major prayer request for God. Help us find help for Fred. PLEASE.

Fred pushing himself

Right after we buried Boniface our team went visiting all the handicapped schools in Kampala. Most of them were “fake” and frightening. One of them was exemplary and opened our hope for Fred like never before. The woman in charge told our staff they didn’t have any room for him. They were full. We didn’t give up. He had to go there. Robert and Christopher returned to the school begging for consideration. The woman who said no suggested they fill out the paper work and we shall see. We got on the task and got all the doctors to fill it out and returned it right away. The woman in charge of the school was impressed. She granted an interview for Fred with no promises.

 

the new school

the new school

They were  surprised by Fred’s voracious appetite to learn. Three years ago when we met Fred he was 15 and willing to go a mile on crutches to first grade so he could have the first opportunity in his life to learn to read.

 

Now he is 18 and with the help of tutoring in our home, and the books available to him, they decided he can enter third grade. The same woman who said there was no room told us, “he can begin on Monday.” He’s been there two weeks now.

new school

new school

 

This is a school where they have occupational therapy, psychotherapy, education, and they are given life skills where they can make a living. All the while they are learning and living with students who are handicapped just like everyone else. The first day Fred made friends! To say he loved it doesn’t do justice to what he felt.

 

He is now enrolled, happily attending school and all of us are standing with our jaws gaping wide looking up at God and giving thanks for the door that blasted open for Fred.

 

We will visit him once a week not only to assure him of his family with us but because we are so excited to learn what he is experiencing in his new school. I personally cannot wait to be an old blue haired granny and tell the story of what God did for Fred. I’m sure it will be an inspirational story worthy of any bestsellers list.

 

Meanwhile…I have yet to receive the report of what this amazing new school will cost Kirabo Seeds.  I don’t need to know in order to believe it is where he needs to be. God has always provided and will continue to provide for the needs of these children.  My faith is secure in the way HE provides for the fatherless.

a bright future for him and we are his forever family

a bright future for him and we are his forever family

Posted by: tonyalatorre | March 16, 2014

Recovery and Celebration and Life goes on

The children have had some time to recover and reflect on the loss of their brother Boniface. As Bonny lay in his hospital bed suffering Robert asked him, “son, when you are well what do you want to go do? And he answered, “Uncle I want to go to the beach!” Well it seemed only right to arrange to send the whole family to the beach in his honor. Of course they ate cake and drank soda! After a burial and long days of school it was a great relief for all to be able to have some fun and celebrate life.

beach time at lake victoria …all these photos were made by Christopher Thompson.

beach time at lake victoria …all these photos were made by Christopher Thompson.

I received an email from Kenny yesterday that is a collective project from the children to help me understand how they are feeling after losing their brother. I loved it and heaved a great sigh of relief after reading it. They are feeling it and experiencing their grief while making sense of God’s hand on our lives. I decided I wanted to share the letter with everyone here so you too and hear from the mouths of babes how they are walking with God through their loss.

they took a boat ride at the beach

they took a boat ride at the beach

Dear Daddy Craig and Mama Tonya,

We could not write individually so we are emailing as a family to you about how much we felt for losing our brother Boniface.  We are a family here at the Kirabo Seeds home and whoever falls sick it feels that all of us fall sick. That’s why whenever one of us is sick we hold hands together with our aunties and uncles and cry to God to come in and heal.

When we lost our sweet brother we felt like it was more than a shock. We could not believe it because it was such a little time of illness so he wasn’t able to say bye to us.  We had to pray to God when he was taken to hospital but our surprise his first day at the hospital he did not make it. 

It was really a sad time for us to see Boniface being put in the wooden trapezoid shape like box being rolled over and over, that’s when we could not stop shedding tears for we knew now it was the reality that our brother was going for good physically. At first maybe we tried to be mad trying to fake in our hearts that maybe he could be a sleep but it was more worse when we saw him being put down in the ground, we felt much fear and could not believe that our brother was leaving us.

The kids thank so much all the sponsors who have prayed for them to be strengthened in God for what happened and they know that God will always comfort them.  The kids thanked the uncles and aunties who have always taught them words of faith, hope and joy and most of all heart strengthening devotion lessons.

But Mama, most of the young kids did not know what was happening. Marvin said Boniface was sleeping. Lawrence still asks when Boniface will come home, where did he go? Lydia and Ryan repeat what others say but don’t understand it. But the older kids are hurting, especially Ronnie. The day after the burial the children went back home in their routine. We give them words of hope, strength and joy so they are really showing normal behavior now.

This letter is on behalf of all the kids: Fred, Musa, Dickson, Peter, Daniel, Paul, Denis, Ronald, Angela, Christine, Lydia, Victoria, Ryan, desire, Lawrence, Marvin and seer Rhonah …though she knows nothing. (but her smiles are healing!)

by the way…i think chicken pox has finally left the building...

by the way…i think chicken pox has finally left the building…

There were individual responses from each child, but I’ll save those personal perspectives to send to their sponsors.

Again I thank you all for encouraging us and loving us during our time of great sadness.boys

Posted by: tonyalatorre | March 7, 2014

46 and GRATEFUL

I awoke to a kitten scarf draped across my neck and under my arm motoring the tune” happy birthday to you”  but the words were  “stay in bed and pet me”. So I did. Indy and Jones are lovely bringing all the kitten life back to our house. It is grand entertainment to watch them wrestle, pounce, stalk, and groom each other. They have full run of the house now. Only Jones arches his back suspiciously at Lucy but he’s even getting tired of thinking something will happen with this giant dog because nothing ever does. If Jones is smart he’ll find a warm belly to snuggle with our Lucy.

 

This is Indy. He is so affectionate and outgoing.

This is Indy. He is so affectionate and outgoing.

I begin this next year of my life with gratitude for the way God is involved in every detail of my life and that I can lean so heavy on his strength. I don’t need to be more of anything I just need to trust him, obey the urges he puts in my heart and be thankful. Oh if I start a gratitude list you’ll fall asleep before I take a breath so I’ll make a little summary. Forty-six is fantastic and free. I love knowing who I am, the experience I have gathered and the ability to continue to grow and learn with great passion. I especially treasure knowing I am using my life inside the will of God. I can feel I am on the path he has designed for me and I am so safe there even as there are prowling aggressive predators everywhere, I have no fear when I am walking with Jesus. So I might be more than half way through this life on earth, but my spirit is young and happily skipping forward with high energy and positive expectations.

 

This is Jones. He is seriously gorgeous.

This is Jones. He is seriously gorgeous.

I’ll give you three things I’m super energized about for my birthday.

 

  1. Our special patient in Uganda with the chicken pox and HIV cocktail seems to be a strong fighter. There is no longer fever or aches and it might be the worst is over. Praise God. There were a lot of sleepless nights for many people over that child.
  2. Donny learned yesterday that he has been accepted to the Human Resources Masters program at A&M. It’s one of the top HR schools and there is a 99% job placement from that program. My mama heart is swollen with relief, thankfulness, and joy. I actually squealed when I heard. More than anything I don’t want college graduates coming home to sit on our sofa and wonder what to do with their life. One down, four to go. As usual our first born sets a good example for the rest of our ducklings to follow. Way to go Donny.
  3. Craig is on a business trip in Orlando and he invited Kira and I to go join him. The princess and I will travel together today having a tea party on an air plane then share the same man we love for a weekend. She even gets to visit the magic kingdom…but she doesn’t know it yet!!! She doesn’t know what Disney is but she knows the favorite colors of all the princesses in all the movies. She always asks us to take her to a castle. This will be her day!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged Phiona, Robert, Kiah and Julie with scripture and words of love. They have said it is what is carrying them through this sad transition of carrying on after burying a child, and managing so many new cases of the irritating disease.  They are all exhausted with the misery but uplifted by your words. Thank you! It’s never too late to share scripture or best wishes to them. It means so much. You can comment here or send me an email if your heart would like to be medicine to theirs. tonya@kiraboseeds.com

 

Kira had her princess pony parade party last friday. And she is now taking riding lessons. big girl.

Kira had her princess pony parade party last friday. And she is now taking riding lessons. big girl.

My birthday wish is that all the words will go to our team in Uganda. Me? I’m always happy, it doesn’t have to be my birthday.

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | March 3, 2014

More Chicken Pox

I remember when we had four small rascally boys underfoot and Donny brought home the chicken pox. I was house bound for two weeks with each case. One month of isolation was the worst part for me. I never feared my child would die from the pox. Back then we would invite all our friends over so their kids could get the chicken pox and get it over with while they were young. It isn’t something anyone wants to get as an adult. I know. I was sixteen when I got a severe case of it. The moms would get on the phone that was wired to the kitchen wall and call everyone to announce there was chicken pox available. Oh goodness, I am recalling the “phone chains” we participated in when news needed to be spread. In a group one person had ten people to call and share important news so it would get out quickly. Oh my how things change in twenty years.dishes

Getting the chicken pox was the only guarantee for immunity, but by the time Jack came around it was mandatory to inoculate against it. The vaccination must work because Jack and Kira were in Uganda when the first case of chicken pox appeared in our family there and neither of them have it.

This is Kiah. She tutors and teaches the children. She keeps them constructively busy doing crafts, puzzles, games, reading, and learning.

This is Kiah. She tutors and teaches the children. She keeps them constructively busy doing crafts, puzzles, games, reading, and learning.

I learned that Boniface had such a low CD4 count that he wasn’t yet able to take the ARV drugs for HIV. These stronger drugs help them fight illnesses with more immunity. His CD4 was rising steadily since we began taking him to the better HIV hospital but they were still waiting for his count to rise before he could tolerate the stronger drugs. The other little person in our home who has HIV has a very high CD4 and has been taking ARVs for a long time.

My big Donny and the kids

My big Donny and the kids

Four more children have the chicken pox this week, including the one with the special case of HIV. The disease is no fun. There’s a lot of itching, no play, no fun, and for them they wear white calamine lotion on dark skin. But for our staff, oh my, they are burdened. This new batch of the sickness that took our Bonny has arrived too quickly. Anxiety is tilted up, stress is crackling, and hearts are still sore. While not sleeping through the middle of the  night I communicated with Robert, Phiona and Christopher as they rushed our special patient to the hospital as any good parent would do. They don’t want to take any chances.

Auntie Julie

Auntie Julie

This is the fourth cycle of chicken pox to come around our home since I was there in January. Our team is emotionally deflated, but spiritually high powered. At the hospital they assured them they are doing all that can be done for this child. The CD4 count is as high as it has ever been so it looks like the little body can put up a good fight. Of course I’ll keep you up to date on this condition. Meanwhile please pray for the strength of the family as they feel fear and handle four children suffering with the pox. Pray for the child to overcome the concerning cocktail of chicken pox and HIV. This case may go on far longer than normal. Pray that pneumonia doesn’t come in and complicate things further. And especially pray for our team working with the children. They love these kids as their own, and they are full blown parents with every smile and tear that goes along with raising a family. Please share scriptures of encouragement in the comments and bless them with your compassion. Or you can email me specifically and I’ll forward your encouragement to them directly. I know they need to feel the power of God working through his people to love the fatherless as they do with their hands on and hearts glued. All of you who care about our children are the extended family of Kirabo Seeds. I believe God brought you to these children for his purposes of loving, equipping and providing. Thank you for honoring the call.

Robert and Phiona are best friends. Don't go spreading rumors they are a couple. I admire their dedication and hard work for these children.

Robert and Phiona are best friends. Don’t go spreading rumors they are a couple. I admire their dedication and hard work for these children.

We know for sure God is good all the time even when what is happening to us feels bad. The belief in that and the ability to lean hard on it is what grows our faith. He has the plan and we are all just a small part in it. Serving God by helping these children is our passion and when it feels good we have fun, when it feels horrible we still rejoice that God has a purpose for everything he does. No one on our team is questioning their faith, it is being strengthened day by day through our trials. But hearts are sore and they need the salve of scripture, compassion, love and encouragement. Please reach out and make a difference in the lives of our family at Kirabo Seeds.

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | February 25, 2014

Furr Therapy

Today is Kira’s birthday but I’m the only one home today so we aren’t celebrating until Friday. This is a heavily anticipated day for her and we want her at four to learn a birthday is one day not many celebrations.  So we aren’t going to tell  her it is her birthday until Friday. And there’s no guilt with that decision either. We parent on the premise that the child fits into the family, not that the family revolves around the child. On Friday we will party all day long.

mama and fritz, my very sick kitty 7 months old…notice we are both red head and blue eyes

mama and fritz, my very sick kitty 7 months old…notice we are both red head and blue eyes

 

As I grieved last week I know I mentioned I handle my pain with “furr therapy”. Well, last week was somewhat of tragedy in my heart that required desperate lengths. I also found out on Tuesday that my favorite little kitten Fritz has an incurable disease (not contagious)  and he is dying. He is so sick and it is terrible for me to lose the kitty that purrs into my soul. I always wanted a kitty that looked into my eyes and knew my thoughts. I hoped for a kitty who would be most comfortable in all his world asleep in my lap or next to me on my pillow. This is Fritz. He is like a puppy cat and he’s slipping out of my life one purr at a time.

 

She has carried this kitten in purses, the basket of her bicycle, and upside down while he always purrs happily for her and never squirms to be free.

She has carried this kitten in purses, the basket of her bicycle, and upside down while he always purrs happily for her and never squirms to be free.

Desperate times, desperate measures. I needed life in our house and pronto. I found two more ragdoll boy kittens ready to go home  (I think the last two in America) and they flew on Friday from Washington DC to San Antonio. Craig’s only question for me was, “did they fly first class?” Yes. With fancy feast on porcelain and water in a crystal goblet. He knew I was a woman on the edge and his sweet soft spot for me gave me plenty of margin to act impulsively. A million thank yous.

 

This is INDY (short for Indiana)

This is INDY (short for Indiana)

We introduced them to our new home on Friday and yes two balls of playful furr is good for the grieving heart. They are a little more fearful than our other kittens were with Kira and this disappointed her.  Sunday morning Kira looked at me with a despondent face and said, “the kittens don’t like me because I am black.”

 

My world stopped.

Who told her that there was something wrong with being black?

Let me unleash my mama bear on that one.

She rubbed her arms and said see, I’m black, and she said it in a way that she believed it was a fault.

Her innocence is over.

It has begun.

Happy Birthday. Sigh.

Maybe we’ll sign up for karate lessons along with pony riding lessons.

All I could say is, “they will like you more because you are dark chocolate and they will lick you and hope you taste sweet as you look, give them time to find your sweetness.”

A glimmer of sparkle flecked her eye. She likes a good game of pretend.

 

and this is JONES. Indy and Jones, great boy names eh?

and this is JONES.
Indy and Jones, great boy names eh?

As I write in my office they are knocking frames off my shelves, batting the cords on the window blinds, extracting files from neat piles, mewing for help when they get too high, and poking their cute little heads from impossibly small spaces. And I am smiling. In my story grief is best stroked alongside the silky coat of an affectionate animal whether that be dog, horse, cat but hopefully all of the above.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | February 24, 2014

How are the Children?

My tears had dried up for two days and then I attended worship at church where they sang songs with verses like, “God whatever comes my way I will trust you.” So I was the lady in church with uncontrollable tears, red face, convulsing back, a husbands comforting touch and everyone’s eyes on her wondering what went wrong. Sometimes I can cut it off and make it stop. Not this time. I figured the death of a child is going to cause waterworks for a long time, better just let it out.

In my mind it all makes good sense and I’m at peace. It’s just there’s this room in my heart where the tears are held captive and sometimes without any warning the door is flung open. There’s nothing I can do then. Sorry to all those who have to witness me express a legitimate sadness. Emotion is an interesting condition. It can roll without our minds ever touching it. Crazy stuff. The aftermath of a good cry has a healing effect, and because of that I’m not going to try and hold it back.

Phiona and I have journey far for the purpose of orphan care. There is only one like her, so thankful God brought her to our ministry.

Phiona and I have journey far for the purpose of orphan care. There is only one like her, so thankful God brought her to our ministry.

The children in our home were all at school when Boniface went home to Jesus. It wasn’t until late afternoon they were informed they lost their brother. The news arrived nearly simultaneously with loading them into the van to go to Jjajja Boniface’s house where his body awaited burial.

 

 Long ago we took the kids to an amusement park and musa was terrified of the ride. But he certainly isn't afraid of life's most important matters.

Long ago we took the kids to an amusement park and musa was terrified of the ride. But he certainly isn’t afraid of life’s most important matters.

Here in America we, the family,  don’t see the body until it is prepared. There are professionals who do this job because we are squeamish and can’t imagine taking care of the body. I know at least I speak for myself. All of the adults feared one thing: “am I going to be asked to dress his body?” Personally, I wouldn’t stand up and volunteer but I certainly would swallow and say yes if asked.

 

this is a picture of Boniface after being in our home for only six weeks.

this is a picture of Boniface after being in our home for only six weeks.

Phiona told me that Musa insisted on dressing Boniface’s body. Lovingly this twelve year old boy put all the clothes on the body, wiped him up and set him straight as handsome as ever. I can see in my mind’s eye his sweet face sleeping there in his best clothes. Musa couldn’t bear to be separated from Boniface at anytime before his body was laid in the ground. Devoted brother. Dedicated friend to the very end.

 

six weeks after joining our home look at these boys. Musa is the big boy in the front

six weeks after joining our home look at these boys. Musa is the big boy in the front

Ok. Here come my tears again. Sorry if I did this to you too, but I’m just so thankful that Musa came to our home and found the love his poor heart had craved with extreme desperation. He had experienced nothing but outright rejection his entire life before coming to our home. Never did he feel someone loved him before he joined our family. He couldn’t believe we loved him and oh my did the boy test us! It was even suggested in the very beginning that he should be returned to his jjajja because he was causing all sorts of problems for everyone as he tested the truth of our love.

I put my mama foot down firmly and said our love is not conditional on good behavior because God’s love is not conditional for us. He stays and we teach him when he misbehaves there are consequences but never is love denied or lost. After only a few months this child believed we love him and blossomed into the sort of boy who would insist on dressing the body of his brother for his burial. Musa craved love, received pure love from God through KS, and now in turn is lavishly able to pour it out. If that isn’t God’s hand on this boy then have me committed. Honestly, I think everyone I know would receive a blessing to know our loving, service oriented, compassionate Musa.

 

Musa long ago picked these flowers for me.

Musa long ago picked these flowers for me.

Boniface was kept at his jjajja’s home until it was time to go for the burial at his mother’s ancestor’s land. Family, neighbors, friends joined the family and spent the night with the body.  During the years we have talked in depth with our children about their thoughts and fears one thing always comes up that they fear the most: “the night dancers”.  These are the pagan rituals that occur at burials. I imagine it is the physical expression of battling evil spirits and all sorts of twisted customs of witchdoctor beliefs. The night spent with a body was a scary event to a child. But when our children spent the night with Boniface, they stayed with him, wept, but experienced no fear.

 

this is Boniface's jjajja. She is doing ok. We have promised to check in on her regularly.

this is Boniface’s jjajja. She is doing ok. We have promised to check in on her regularly.

This is clear evidence to me that their Christian faith is far stronger than the customs of their ancestor’s burial practices. If there was dancing that evening it was to praise and worship a good God who loves us even when we don’t understand his ways.  Trusting God means we must trust the way he chooses to work in our life. They felt sad but they didn’t lose their faith, they just sought Him for comfort and now await the lessons to be learned.

This is the sister to his jjajja. They are a pair. She's the one who wants to steal my husband. Here she is knocking cocoa out of the tree to give us a gift. I really love these ladies.

This is the sister to his jjajja. They are a pair. She’s the one who wants to steal my husband. Here she is knocking cocoa out of the tree to give us a gift. I really love these ladies.

 

Returning home they slept well and slipped into the routines of having home life. There are chores, cooking, laundry cleaning and recreation. The little ones don’t fully understand what the burial meant in permanent terms, so their laughter and play is a good balm for the hurting hearts. The home is quiet and somber as it would be so fresh after a loss. I’ve asked for careful and deliberate devotion times used to help the children process their feelings and feel their faith and better know God. I extend many thanks to all the people praying for our children as they experience this tragedy. Your prayers are answered, they are doing fine. It means a lot to them to know so many care.

 

Bonny was a boy who knew he was always greatly loved and it showed in his sweetness.

Bonny was a boy who knew he was always greatly loved and it showed in his sweetness.

In Africa death is more common than it is for us Americans, but it doesn’t hurt any less. I have to remember these children are orphaned, they’ve lost their parents. And all I’ve known them to do since first laying my eyes on them is to embrace life and live it. I know they are going to celebrate Boniface is with our Lord. I believe they will realize the urgency of having the security of our salvation in Jesus when they remember Boniface. It will most likely transform our community outreaches with bible studies as they understand why salvation is so important.  I think these orphaned children have more to teach me than I have to teach them.

 

 

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