As we have travelled around Uganda since the week after Thanksgiving I have carried four things with me besides Kira on my hip: my camera, my blackberry, a fat wad of Ugandan shillings, and my journal. At the end of every day when Emily and the boys are watching NCIS on the tiny portable video player I go to my room and finish recording all the sights and sounds of the day. I write down the facts and the details in bullet form. I also sort all of the day’s photographs into files on a portable hard drive so I can keep all my events in order. I have taken nearly a hundred gigs of photos. My journal is brown around the edges from dirt that is on everything and it is nearly full. It is the most tangible item that forces me to believe we are nearly finished with our adventures here. The boys have kept a daily journal as part of their home school work. I have suggested that we all read through our journals to have a grasp on all that we have learned, accomplished, and endured. I have asked the boys to make a short description of what we have done here so when people ask them, “How was Uganda?” (a hundred times a day) they can answer with something meaningful and intelligent rather than, “Awesome.”
I am asking them to process what they have experienced, just as I sit here every morning at five o’clock before the house stirs, while the dogs bark and the muslim mosque chants its sad call to prayer. My ambitions in Uganda are beginning to fade into a list of things to do from America until I can return again in June, hopefully with a team to help at Kyengera Orphanage. My mind is retrieving all the senses of home and I feel myself drawn there, not reluctantly, but with mixed emotion because I will greatly miss the work, the friends, the learning, and the simplicity of living in Uganda. Most of all I will miss the swarms of community out in view everywhere I go. I have always been an avid people watcher, and so to be here it’s like living tv every moment I leave the gate and step into the streets or ride in the car. People here like to be together. It reminds me of when Veronica was in Houston visiting us and I was taking her book shopping. She too watched everything like a living television out the window and then finally asked me, “Tonya, where are all the people? No one is walking.” I had to sigh, because in America we put ourselves in the bubble of our vehicles and avoid one another if possible. And we make appointments to get together that sometimes are set months out into the calendar because we keep ourselves so busy.
On Monday we dropped Emily off at Robert and Rose’s church where they are having the free health clinic with a medical team from America. When we drove up we were aghast at the sight of hundreds of people lined up waiting to be registered. They took Emily and immediately set her to work registering until they hit the four hundred limit, and sadly had to turn people away who had travelled a far distance to get help. Next they put her to work matching eye glasses to poor eye sight. She said, “It is amazing what God can do with someone who has no idea what she is doing.” When we picked her up at three in the afternoon she didn’t want to leave. Her eyes were ablaze and there was energy pricking from every movement she made. She had found her passion for sure. She suspected it would be a confirmation working with the health needs of the people, but after serving for a day she knew she could never tire of this service. She has faithfully prayed and asked God to show her how to use her talents and gifts to serve the people here, and so she has found the answer. I was deeply satisfied knowing this trip for her was not only to assist our family but to also distinguish God’s call on her life. For me to watch her blossom these six weeks into a missionary has been most rewarding.
While Emily was in her element at the church I went to Rose’s school with my three children. Kevin and Jack sat at one of the little tables in bitty chairs and did their school work independently. Kira got passed around until she finally fell asleep in David’s arms. He was so proud of her willingness to fall asleep for him. When the boys finished their school work they ran and played with Rose’s children on the playground, and then sat on the steps and ate the warm meal cooked in the school’s kitchen. It was a good time for them. They can now say they went to school in Uganda.
Rose and I worked on putting together the profiles of the nine children needing sponsors to be able to start the school year in February. First let me say with serious appreciation that over the weekend my blackberry chimed nine times with people from this blog who are eager to take care of the needs of these nine children. It was like getting a Christmas present every time I received an offer to sponsor. Everyone in the house cheered as they came in. All of our friends would check in and ask, do you have another one yet? It was so exciting to see the needs get answered so willingingly and quickly. Thank you to all who have opened your hearts to help these children. Rose has called you saints and wants you to know there are treasures waiting for you in heaven for the sacrifice you are making. She thanks you humbly and sincerely for loving these children who have not hope for a future without your help.
I know it’s a big responsibility to sponsor the education of a child and it may be out of the reach for many who would really like to know how to help the children here. Don’t despair, our family is adopting an entire orphanage now that our adoption of Kira is finished, and there will be simple ways to help that will go very far. For example, I am bringing home many crafts that the women in the village of Kyengera have made. We are going to sell them so we can buy new mattresses for all the children in the orphanage, and blankets too. (a mattress here costs twenty dollars) I also hope each child has their own towel, tooth brush and shoes. It would even be excellent if they could wear something other than rags. When we get ourselves organized I hope you will be excited to participate in stocking these orphans with the basics of life. Adams and Alitia have promised that they are going to bring the women from the village to the orphanage and have them teach the children how to make the bead necklaces so that when we bring home crafts next time they will be made by the hands of the children themselves. Marvelous.
So I was able to meet four of the families and visit their homes. The moms were called by Rose to come to the school for a talk about their child not knowing they were receiving a sponsorship. We talked to them about their family, their struggles, and the reasons why it is impossible to pay for school. One woman sat in Rose’s office and sobbed her heart out because her husband walked out on her, she is a foreigner from Rwanda and she has no hope of educating her children. Rose was wonderful listening to her and counseling her sorrows. We walked to some of the homes so we could see how they live. Honestly, it broke my heart to hear their stories and see their living conditions. One of the homes is no bigger than a closet. When she rolls out the small mattress and sleeps with her two children tucked around her there is no room for anything else in the place. They do laundry work in exchange for food or sell coal. All of them have been abandoned by dead beat dads, or the fathers are dead without any notice to the family. In all cases none of the extended families have heard from the fathers. It is devastating to see the filth and hopelessness of their situation. At one visit there was a little three year old running around the street without any clothes on his bottom. He defecated twice outside the home of one of the mothers. She put a piece of cardboard over the mess and invited us into her home. I felt nauseous considering the lack of sanitation. It can feel overwhelming to be here and experience so much need and hurting everywhere I turn. I am only relieved knowing it is not me taking care of it; it is God working through me. And He can accomplish so much. I am simply willing to be used, and I don’t see any retirement from this job, ever. There wasn’t all despair in our visit though, because when we told the mothers we had a sponsor for their child to go to school their faces shined with joy and they shared a big smile they’d been hiding because of the embarrassment of having no teeth. It was deeply satisfying knowing that my blog was used as a tool to connect these children to a hope for their future with education. Thank You all for loving and caring.