The electricity can go out in the house now and we simply shrug and continue with the business of the day. We are becoming accustomed to the frequent outages and the regularity with its reappearance. I suppose it is good to see evidence that I can be flexible with my cherished comfort, the power that keeps me connected to home.
Emily has spent two days cow shopping at four different farms out in the countryside of Uganda. She came back smelling like cow and when she rushed for the shower to be ready for our teaching engagement the power to the main pump for our area was down. She held her head high and proceeded to go just as she was, without a single word of complaint. I love that about her. Most girls would have a melt down, but Emily kept her focus on the priority, she sat with her bible and reviewed the scripture she wanted to share with the young women.
She had accompanied Adams and Alitia cow shopping so she could teach them how to select the perfect cows for the orphanage. Business here is done by relationship and frequent face to face meetings so this was just the beginning of the search to narrow down the farm and then finally the cows. It was evident there would be no shopping while Alitia, an Australian, and Emily, an American, were present. The price of the cows multiplies when a mzungu is anywhere sniffed to be near. This practice is becoming predictable, but still unacceptable for me. Thankfully Adams is Ugandan so he can proceed at some point to negotiate purchasing two cows for the orphanage and not get molested with the cost. They were also able to see what sort of hen house would need to be built so the chicks can be purchased and nurtured into laying hens that provide both protein for the children of Kyngera Orphanage but also have enough eggs to sell which will cover the cost of feeding as well as bring in some income. The children, and mothers of the village children are more than willing to labor for their food, they are simply in need of the opportunity. We feel so blessed to be used of God to provide the ways for this community to get a help up and use their talents and energy to work together at caring for the whole village. It is this sort of togetherness of the African people that I admire. The hearts for helping and joining seamlessly to move towards giving their time and hands for the common cause is commendable. I fear this special trait of being human is slipping out of our clutch in America. As we become so self-sufficient our walls get taller and thicker to a point where individuals are impenetrable. I hope this trend will be undone by God and our selfishness will be transformed into selflessness.
While Emily gallivanted in the pastures and countryside of Uganda, Donny opened the new year of school for Kevin and Jack. They tentatively allowed him to perform the role of teacher and principal and by the end of the morning they were all in sync. I admit I dangled incentive for good behavior and respect in exchange for a simple reward of walking to the supermarket for a seven-up. It doesn’t take much for Jack to be motivated to give his best. The homeschool program is working well to keep them on track with what they are missing at school so they will not be behind when we re-enroll them. But the most valuable education they are receiving is the experience of living in Africa, understanding the ways of life, making friends with the people, and being willing to let it change who they are inside and out. I have often dreamed as a mother to arrange this type of education for my children but it never would have been practical or justifiable. But for the cause of bringing Kira into the LaTorre family, it has become a fringe benefit. God hears our secret hopes and works them into our lives as part of his perfect and sovereign plan.
Jordan has been home spreading the word about our family’s vision to help the Kyngera Orphanage. I have received several emails from parents of his friends who remark how much he is changed by the experience of coming to Uganda. His enthusiasm for the cause of the orphans here has been contagious and we are already receiving offers of partnership to raise money, organize a mission trip, and combine resources. One mom is a family doctor, and her husband is an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and they have been medical missionaries in Nigeria for a three year stretch in their past. They have offered to be a part of our effort to help the community of Kyngera get healthy and remain healthy. God seems to have opened the floodgates in the direction of this special village that has so captured my family’s heart. Craig had a wonderful conversation with his mom about how much they too want to become involved as a unified family for the efforts and causes of these beautiful children who need love and care from the outstretched hand of God’s people.
There is a special spark of God’s hand in another story. My blog was found by Carla who was preparing to take her first mission trip to Uganda in October with her church’s team. At that point she was also waiting referral on her adoption of a little boy at Tender Hearts Orphanage. (not Kira’s) She was recently reading my story about our heart’s cry for the orphanage in Kyngera and was shocked because her son, Isreal, is from Kyngera. She had been searching the internet for any information about his village and came up empty. She and her husband are praying about how they can combine their efforts with us to help the people of their son’s village to prosper and grow strong. They will be coming here in March for their adoption. She mentioned someone recently donated a large pile of fabric, so she is going to gather her sewing friends and make blankets for the children. Who knows how their connection with Kyngera will spread in her own community in America.
Many more offers of partnership are surfacing and it simply pushes me to my knees to see the compassion God puts in the hearts of His people. For me to watch this unfold because I was willing to go into horrible traffic on Christmas Eve and attend Kygera Orphanage’s special celebration is almost too much for my mind to comprehend. But my heart knows and recognizes the hand of God and it gives me great cause to celebrate the unity of Love God puts in the hearts of people. Each hour has felt like Christmas to me as more people respond with compassion for the children in Kyngera. Adams and Alitia struggled for eighteen months alone to get a meager meal into their stomachs and now to see opportunity flooding into their ministry is great reward for their sacrifice. I feel so privileged to be a player in this story.
At lunch, after Emily returned smelling like cow and beaming like a country girl after spending some time in the fresh air with vast views of rolling hills and banana trees, our doors flew open with our friends who have accepted our open invitation to eat with us whenever they can. It is remarkable to know if we cook extra food, there will be friends to share it with at any time on any day. It’s great fun. I also love to pass out the small packages of M&M’s to our friends who cannot buy them here, but remark they have seen these in the movies. They move the small button of chocolate around in their mouth until the coating melts and receive their milky chocolate goodness and then smiles spread across faces. The simple joy of an M&M, Priceless. Emily is the one who has encouraged the open door dining hall as it is an overflow of her generosity and hospitality. She has what I have always seen in Papa Pete (my step dad). He gets enormous pleasure from serving good food to friends, and just to see those enjoying delicious meals makes him feel he is sharing his love. Emily has a similar drive, and our new friends here appear often and regularly to receive not just the food but the love. It is perhaps one of our greatest joys of being here in Uganda, the sharing of meals with new friends.
On Sunday night George (our friend who drove us to Safari) appeared at dinner time with his fiancée. Sadly, Emily was out cow shopping, and I had decided to use up drab cupboard contents for dinner so we offered our special guests macaroni and cheese with hotdogs, and peas and beans on the side. I shrugged off the horror of our menu because I knew it was the friendship that brings us together, not just the food. They actually like it. Kira loved it. She sits at the table with dinner and whole heartedly participates in the event by both eating and babbling her own conversational contribution. She is also fine entertainment. I was so touched that George brought his girl to meet our family. I invited him to bring her, but I wasn’t sure if he was going to share that much of his personal life with us. I have grown so maternal with him, caring about his feelings, thoughts, health and future that I understand now it is reciprocated as he desired my approval of his girl. I came to Uganda to adopt a baby, and I’ve also adopted a young man on the verge of marriage, as well as an entire orphanage. I never could have dreamed it possible. George has invited me to come to their wedding in June to photograph for them. Craig has suggested we put together a mission team to come help the orphanage at the same time so I can possibly be present for their wedding. I would like that very much. George told me, “you will be here.” I hope so.
After our impromptu lunch party all of us crossed terrible traffic in town to meet Rose at Miracle Center Kawempe. We had a full afternoon and evening of activity planned with them. The first order of business was to make Emily’s wish come true so she could milk a cow here in Africa. Rose has a friend who has a small farm with chickens and cows and they allowed us to participate in the afternoon milking. Emily taught my three boys how to pull the teats just right to extract milk, and they each took a turn. Jack was the most squeamish but eventually he acquired some success. We left the farm to pick up Harriet at the church so we could go visit her home and meet her youngest child, Israel. She is a single mother of six children. She is friend of Rose’s from bible study and when we asked if she knew someone Jack could sponsor for school it was her youngest son Isreal who is four years old with no hope of an education. Harriet has a good job working long hours as a manager of day workers in a factory. She is able to educate her five oldest children, but has no extra income for the youngest. Jack has promised to raise money each year to keep this child in school. We arrived in her neighborhood and she invited us into her home. It was a small opening covered by a flowing colorful drape of fabric. Inside there was a thin curtain pulled across the center. Behind the curtain was a bed where all seven of them sleep together. We were seated on comfortable furniture that filled the other half of the home with a table in the center. There was hardly space to fit our legs between the seating and the table. There was no electricity or running water, and the jerricans lined the entrance of the home. She would do her cooking and washing outside on a charcoal stand with a pot, and the washing in a tub. The signature laundry was hanging on a line like a family flag that every single home wears with simple pride to show how much they care about appearance and beauty. I will say it is the smallest living quarter I have ever entered, (including my son’s dorm room), but there was something present that money cannot buy. It was an atmosphere of peace, there was the warmth of welcome and a love that was tangible even though we could not share a common language. It may have been dark to the eye, but the heart could distinguish the light of Christ shining brightly. Jack was introduced to Israel and they shook hands because they could not understand each other’s language. But there is hope because this child will now go to school and learn English and one day these boys will be friends. There are not words to express what it meant to me to see the two of them greet one another for the first time as I know how connected their futures will be. What I will remember the most is Harriet’s beautiful smile that never leaves her face despite the hardship in her life. That too is something money cannot buy and it is worth far more than the greatest earthly riches.
Next we were off to visit the land Pastor Robert and Rose have purchased as the future home for their church. It has a wobbly dirt road access not far from where they are currently renting space to worship and teach the bible to the community. She brought me there because our family and friends made a donation for this land and she wanted me to not only see it, but to stand on it and pray for their ministry. I was humbled and honored to speak to God with her on this land and ask for continued blessing so they can find the funds to construct a church and stretch the love and wisdom of God to the people in their reach. I looked out at the beautiful views their future church will enjoy and I believed in the vision of their home there. God has provided and will continue to provide so the future of his followers will get good teaching and care and He can receive worship there.
Finally, we were returning to church to teach the young women who gather for bible study on Mondays. Emily was asked to speak about Purity and I was asked to speak about the Sanctity of Life. Rose interpreted for us, and we learned later from Pastor Robert it was the first time she had ever interpreted! He was so proud of her it just tickled Emily to see how much they love each other. The teaching was Spirit lead, and what I mean by that is we could never fully prepare what we want to say because God begins to fill our hearts with what He needs said and we find ourselves saying things that shock ourselves. “How did I know to say that?” Examples come from memories long forgotten, scriptures come to mind and important lessons are shared. We enjoyed the many questions the girls asked about our topics which gave us opportunity to not only connect but go deeper into our topics. It was a great experience for us all. While we taught my three boys took care of Kira. You should have seen the heads turn as the girls watched Donny take the baby and diaper bag to the back of the church to change a soiled diaper. Boys in this culture wouldn’t dream of doing such a task. Nor are the boys ever caught in the kitchen cooking or washing up so the women here continue to wonder what is happening differently in America so that young men share work such as this. It makes me giggle. Comparing cultures and becoming attached to each other is exhilarating fun.