It was the best Valentine’s celebration, and our kids in the orphanage did all the celebrating for us! We had the extreme pleasure of knowing it was the best valentine’s day of their life, and so it became true for us. The important festivities were happening on another continent, in a small village on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. The orphans there, in our care, indeed will never forget this day.
Weeks earlier I planned a little something for the children at the orphanage so they could know they are indeed loved. As I wrote a couple days ago, they received their new clothes I sent. But Adams and Elitia saved the Hershey kisses and M&Ms for this holiday, a treat they have not enjoyed before. I wrote them a letter sharing my heart with them, reminding them that not only do I love them, but people who read the stories and see the photos of them are also loving them with prayer, donations, and sponsorships. God is opening hearts around the world so these children will know they are not alone, but loved. I want to share with you the report I received from Elitia describing their Valentine’s celebration:
We hope you had a lovely Valentines Day. We did something a little different here….shall I share? Adams and I started our day at around 5:30am so we could be awake, dressed and on the road to pick up our 200 chicks from one of the large towns just near the orphanage. We arrived with plenty of time and when we got there the chicks were waiting for us in their boxes of 100, chirping, cute yellow and fluffy. Although it was the children’s’ first day at school, we had organized with the school for the children to come late so that we could give them their chicks and surprise them with their valentines gift from Tonya!
We had a great morning! The children were once again like bees around a honey pot – wide eyed and wide smiled – as we lifted off the lid to the chick. Ooooooooohs rang out from everywhere, some children giggling at the fluffy things that had just arrived. We handed out a few of the (trembling) chicks to the children and the laughter continued. It seemed many of the children had not seen or held a chick before, and they loved every second of it! One of the little boys accidently ended up with chicken droppings on his head as an older boy passed the chick over him to give it back to me. He was completely unaware, but as you can imagine, it was a sea of rolling giggles for some of the others tall enough to see what had happened! We cleaned him up and took the kids into their courtyard area to take photos of their new clothes. When we had arrived, they were all dressed up and beaming in their new wears. Boy did they look smart!
Next we took the children out under the tree to read them the letter Tonya had given us. The children sat eager to listen as I read and Adams translated the letter for us. “Amens” could be heard around the compound as the adults listened in and agreed with the visions and heart Tonya had expressed in her letter. The children clapped spontaneously as they heard things they connected with. It was a wonderful moment. After reading the letter we handed out their chocolate gifts which were devoured with joy. Then, Adams and I had arranged for school shoes, notebooks and pencils to arrive. These were distributed, their porridge was eaten and they headed off to their first day of school.
When we were in Uganda, our son Jordan began the project of setting up a chicken coop so they could have eggs to eat and sell. It was his idea and he made the first donation. He paid for half the cost of buying the chicks, and Emily’s parents (Craig’s brother) paid to have the chicken house renovated and prepared for their arrival. We filled in all the other cracks of expenses, and there seems to always be wider and wider cracks…but God is faithful to provide. The arrival of the chicks is a great event we’ve been anticipating since early January, so we celebrate with them. We all call Jordan “Papa to the chicks”. It was the first time our teenage son let go of a big chunk of his own cash for the good of someone else. It was a great moment in his spiritual maturity. In four to five months these chicks will be laying hens and there will be eggs to gather for the children to finally add more protein to their diet. The plan is that they will sell the extra eggs to cover the costs of maintaining the hens. Eventually we want to get a rooster and have free range chickens wandering around so they can feast on meat as well as eggs.
I want to share what is happening with their education situation. They have not been going to school at all, and when Adams and Elitia had them tested at the school we have identified for them to attend, they all failed! Many of them could not even write their own name. We went into panic mode. Our intentions are to raise sponsors for them to go to school, and it costs $275 for a whole year of school. We have 34 children to find sponsors for so they can get educated. There have been three people who spontaneously, after reading the stories about them, have chosen to sponsor three of these orphans. So they began school last week at the private school, with enormous hearts of gratitude for their sponsors.
For the rest of the children, we felt they couldn’t wait, so Elitia sold many of her personal things to buy shoes, notebooks and pencils so they could begin attending the government school, until they each get sponsors. The government school is anything but what I would call school. There are no books, no supplies, and one teacher per a hundred children, usually. No meals offered, and no guarantee that anyone learns a thing. It sounds like crowd control to me. But something is better than nothing considering they need to learn to write their name. So that is why all of them went off to school after the big arrival of their two hundred little chickies.
My ambition is to find every one of my sweet children there a sponsor for their education. I won’t rest until all of them are attending the good school and learning in a way that will give them hope for a future where they can be anything they dream of becoming. Without an education they are absolutely limited to a life of suffering, physical labor, extreme poverty, and sadly, prostitution. So here I sit in my comfy home in America and all I can think is, I refuse to let them grow up uneducated. But I can’t do it all myself. I need help.
So over the next several months we have ideas in place to begin raising funds. Jack’s going to begin baking again! I brought home many crafts from the women in the village of Kyengera to sell, and we are going to most importantly pray that God will open hearts so these children can have a sponsor for their education. We’ve been invited to speak at a local church, and Craig’s parents are hosting a big golfing fundraiser in Florida. We have faith that God is in it, and it will be done, but I can’t just sit on my faith, I must step out on it.
They have no parents, and they live in a place where those with the big hearts to take care of their daily lives cannot provide more than spiritual guidance, encouraging words, hugs and boundaries. I am often overcome with the knowledge that if our Kira hadn’t been found and taken to her baby home, she would also be an orphan dependent on others to help her. Just the thought gives me shivers. All of these children deserve the same love that Kira has found. These children need us to do more than a little for them. Their hope is in God, and God has put me to work. So here I go, pulling up my sleeves, getting down on my knees, and preparing to get dirty.