Craig went to pick up the eight boys at church while we finished the final preparations of the beds, covered eight pillows with fresh cases, and piled up enough towels for showers. Our boys moved out of their rooms and into the play room or art room so all the Watoto kids could share their bedrooms.
When we heard the van pull into the garage we were waiting at the back door. These eight smiling kids all dressed the same in black converse, jeans, grey t-shirts and black hoodies poured through our door, happy to be there. Immediately they removed their shoes and lined them up in a perfect row. Then they came straight for my open arms to receive a hug. They introduced themselves to me with perfect eye contact and confidence. Their eyes opened wide as they began to take in our home.
The first order of business was to get their things organized. Freddie and Jesse, the leaders but also known as the “uncles” decided how to separate the mischief makers and where to put each boy. With that business finished, they were hungry! Whoops we missed the note that said have dinner ready. We scrambled and threw together some hoagie sandwiches and cut up fruit. I did have apple pie and ice cream ready for them, and they loved it!
Our kitchen table looks out at the pool which did not go unnoticed by any of the boys so when they finished eating they wondered if it was time to go swimming now? OF COURSE! They ran to get their suits, and soon they were splashing, jumping and gliding in the pool. It was the happiest sight ever. Kevin and Jack got in with them, and not soon after so did Craig. The littler boys did not know how to swim in the deep end yet. Two of the older boys were great leapers and swimmers, showing off excellent flips. Craig gave a good lesson to one of the boys who was eager to conquer the swimming skills necessary for the deep end.
The uncles were thrilled with our exercise room, so they recruited Jordan to go do a workout with them. The exercise room has a door to the balcony overlooking the pool so they could also keep an eye on the boys, not that they needed it because all of them were perfectly behaved. And I mean perfect.
After swimming the uncles put the boys to bed and I put the swimming towels in the dryer. I knew the next night would include the same activity because for them swimming was like a trip to disney. We delivered all of them to church at 7:30 am the next morning so they could perform a song and dance in all three services. After church they spent the day setting up the stage.
Craig’s group of sophomore boys who come to our home every Sunday night for bible study arrived at 4:30 for some burgers, and then we took them to church to see the concert. The boys helped sell the souvenirs and then sat together to watch. It was a life changing experience for them to learn the stories of these kids on stage. I hope they never forget it.
After the performance, and after they dismantled the set and stuffed it back into the buses we brought them home. As I guessed these boys were ready for a swim even after the long day they had just spent. It was pure happiness to see the fun they could make in the pool. Jack mentioned it would never have occurred to him that these boys wouldn’t know how to swim. I explained there are no pools in the bush, and where there is water there are also hippos and crocodiles. The only water is the puddles that come with the rainy season. Jack’s worldview instantly became wider. He could really imagine what it would be like to be a young boy growing up in Africa. Soon, he will go there for our adoption and really begin to understand what it means to grow up American.
One of the older boys sat on the sofa outside with Craig and began to talk with him about his story, his memories, his struggles. They sat there for two hours and he just let it all out. His mother had been killed in front of him, and he was then responsible for his younger sister. He has no idea how old he is. He was maybe Kevin’s age when he went through his hell. He escaped and was on the run for a long time. He showed Craig the scars on his hands where the rebels cut him with a machete because he was trying to protect his sister from being killed. He suffered so much. Craig came to bed broken and wrecked. He could not talk about it, he just wanted to try to sleep, holding me all night long. It is the kind of emotional stress that makes you sick to your stomach.
The next morning I cooked ham and eggs for breakfast and served Jack’s special pumpkin bread. I allowed Jack to miss school that day so he could spend every last possible minute with them. We delivered the boys to church so they could climb onto the buses in time to go to their next venue for their concert in Oklahoma. Saying goodbye was tearful for us all, but Jack especially. For us, we were able to say, “we’ll see you in Uganda when you have a break from your tour!!!” How wonderful it will be when we are in Uganda to re-connect with them. They became not just our friends, but our brothers. We will always remember their lively energy in our home and the big happy hugs they gave to me after I fed them. I admit I wanted to mother them all. I suffered a great hurt in my heart letting them go. It helped me to remember Uganda is giving me one sweet orphaned girl to mother all her life, and this helped ease my pain in knowing these boys all go on without their parents.
Tomorrow I will describe the effect this event had on Jack’s young understanding of the world and what can happen to children.