Ahhh…I finally feel adjusted and quite myself. I’m able to rise at my preferred time and collect my thoughts and tip toe over the past day’s events and make a cohesive meaningful picture of the surprises and experiences that one day in Uganda can offer. I am in a euphoric state, quite honestly. To finally return after working day after day towards this mission for so many months I am gushing with relief. The welcome and atmosphere of fellowship has not been a disappointment but more of a complete rejuvenation for my love of the people and lifestyle here in Uganda. If it were possible for a smile to begin from the toes, then that’s what’s happening in me.
A day here wouldn’t be properly initiated without an outdoor bath for Kira in a round plastic tub. We heated some water though because she’s only half African now, she can’t do with cold water like all the rest of Uganda who take fresh air baths. When I set her in the tub she smiled as if some part of her had just been completed. I’ve never seen her respond with such pure glee. I was so happy I was holding my camera when the feeling of joy overcame her. It makes me ache to have her be able to talk to me. We will have such colorful conversations delving into the depths of feelings in ways I couldn’t possibly mine with my boys…though Donny gets pretty close…and Jack, well, he’s fairly clear in the feeling expression department as well…but it will never touch the bottom where a girl can go.
With a fresh and clean baby dressed and ready for her day our driver arrived to whisk us away to Robert and Rose’s school: Miracle Destiny. I visited there in December, and helped them find many of you who are now sponsoring children there. Rose is nearly seven months pregnant with a girl! It was my pleasure to tote all of Kira’s outgrown clothing and pass it down to this future princess. Reuniting with my friend gave me a deep and profound happiness. Craig believes that Pastor Robert is one of his favorite people in the world and I’m going to give you an example of why this might be possible.
If you recall the story of Jack listening to a Pastor sit at my kitchen table and explaining how many children cannot afford to go to school and the effect this had on Jack to the point where he was inspired to do a fundraiser, well this pastor was Robert. (to catch you up…Jack now sponsors four children to go to school in Uganda by selling pumpkin bread that he bakes himself)
First let me share that in Uganda a Pastor is a citizen of high standing, highly respected and worthy of much service. With a large congregation they may very well be financially well off, especially if they have contacts in the US who support their ministry. That’s an entirely separate subject. But I say this to point out that culturally Pastor Robert is worthy of sitting at the head of the table in a royal court like situation and having everyone hold their breath waiting for his request. But he doesn’t do that. This is a man with a great mind, a desperate hunger for educating himself with God’s word and will, a gentleness and unassuming manner as close to Jesus I’ve experienced, and a vision and heart for educating children with the fear of God and wisdom of the Word that drives him every morning he awakes. I could say more. I hope you see a glimpse of how much I respect him and his ministry. The spirit in me senses always that Robert- the man, is never trying to make his life work out by the ways of the world, but instead, Robert- the man of God, is always waiting for the Spirit to lead him, and that is how his ministry has grown. That is why in my eyes he is so successful. That is why I am inspired every time I am with his family.
Robert and Rose invited us to have lunch with them in their school office. The women in the kitchen were preparing our plates of matooke, sweet potato, rice, pasta and beef with gravy covered with another plate and delivering them to the office. While we waited for all of the meals to arrive Pastor Robert brought out a medium plastic bowl basin, a spray bottle with soapy water, and a tray with a clean towel. He knelt before each one of us, sprayed our hands with the soapy water, poured clean water over our hands into the bowl from a small yellow jerrican, and then offered the tray with the clean towel. He went from person to person silently.
When he first began to offer us this method of washing before eating, everything in me paused. It wasn’t a cerebral reaction, it was a heart response. I began to take photos of this beautiful service, as the head pastor to my family knelt before each of us to wash our hands. All I could think of was when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. It was an unexpected spiritual tremor. There was a clear sense that he had not sat at his desk and thought, now how can I be like Jesus to these people, Oh I know, I’ll wash their hands for them. No, his service comes from a heart of service dedicated to Christ which flows out through action into the people he meets. The teaching of the bible has entered him deeply and changed him, by making him an example of servant leadership. This sort of servant leadership is exactly what Uganda needs more of, and the world for that matter. I know for myself I was touched in my tender soul and so grateful that my children experienced this occasion. I will never forget it.
He gave us a tour of all their children in their school classrooms. This is a very nice school by Uganda standards. All of the teaching aids are handmade and the children sat silently with their notebooks working on their English. The tables and chairs filled the classroom completely so there was perhaps twelve inches of space for us to pass through from room to room. The light was natural day light coming through windows. The smiles on the children were indeed rich and wide to see the visiting mzungus. They were shy when I asked them if they had any questions for us so I asked them questions. It is wonderful to see a child in America is the same as a child in Uganda, built with the same potential and energy to do good in their future. They just need the opportunity. I have talked at great length about how difficult it is for children’s parents to afford school fees here so there are many children who cannot attend, and their potential disintegrates with every day of boredom as they are locked out of the school walls.
Personally, I can’t stand this if I can have anything to do with it. I know when I feel this way Craig begins to worry because my passion accompanies energy that refuses obstacles. Half of the population of Uganda is under the age of fifteen. The future of this country depends on having the children of today educated for the leadership of tomorrow. It is urgent. So again I THANK all of you who are helping to educate the children in Uganda. And for anyone who is thinking of sponsoring, we are learning that our orphanage has some new members so I’ll be learning more about how to help these children be able to attend school as our mission here progresses.
Whitney’s mom, Tina Nichols was one who responded in December to the need for sponsors at Robert and Rose’s school. I hope you don’t mind I’m going to share an inspiring story that unfolded today. Tina’s heart was so moved for Tracy, the child she sponsors, and her little brother and mother that when she learned they were being evicted from the closet they lived in she was burdened.
Tina was one of the first to respond to the need for sponsors and Tracy was the first child I met as I learned about the needs. Rose walked with me and Mama Tracy to show me where they lived, how they lived. I remember walking behind Mama Tracy and thinking she was so terribly skinny, lethargic and depressed. I ached to see the level of poverty where she lived. It wasn’t worthy of a stray dog. I was conflicted with learning and having my eyes opened, and yet sensing her embarrassment.
Tina’s heart was so moved for Tracy, the child she sponsors, and her little brother and mother that when she learned they were being evicted from the closet they lived in she was burdened. Tina arranged to have an apartment for this small family, furnished and stocked with food. She sent Whitney loaded with a backpack of gifts for Tracy, her brother and her mother. Today we walked to their new apartment from the school, but we “bounced” which was Rose’s word for missing her at home. Mama Tracy was at her new job at a school. So we walked with Tracy and her teacher over to where she works. Mama Tracy shyly joined us and we returned to the school office. I was surprised to see how healthy Mama Tracy looks. There are no more visible bones, and her face has a contentment I’d not seen before.
At the office, they sat quietly and unsure of what was happening while Whitney presented gifts. Things like school supplies, cotton dresses, flip flops and a beanie baby for each child. The excitement, joy and smiles that erupted from two extremely shy people were wonderful. Tracy knelt before Whitney to offer thanks in the traditional Ugandan way with her head bowed, and Whitney was overcome with emotion. Tears flowed, and she was astounded at her own response but whispered, “it makes me so sad that such simple little things could make them so happy.” I know the feeling. It is why I am back. It is why I dedicate my life’s work to improving the lives of these people. They are made in the image of God in the same way I am, and they are entitled to the same dignities, education and love that we have been so blessed with, yet take so much for granted. I can’t help everyone in this country (yet) but I’m willing to do what I can for those God puts in my reach. One life at a time.
Helping in this way not only changes the lives of those helped, but it also changes the lives of the giver in unimaginable and resonant ways. Whitney was struck with it today. My children witnessed the life changing moment. And for me, I am satisfied with a profound sense of purpose in my life to be used by God so people across the world can be connected with love and compassion and completely altered by the love of God. So you see, this is why I say I’m in a state of euphoria. My growing passion is to build more teams for the future to visit this place, so children and adults alike can experience the beauty of God’s touching hearts in every nation. I’m learning how vital it is to include children on mission trips. They can be changed very young and have a lasting change sparked that will help build great hearts of compassion and leadership for service. I am seeing how vital my work will become to offer families this experience, not just adults. Family missions…. Just might be my niche.
Once Whitney had recovered from her emotional experience, I asked her to pray with Mama Tracy. Whitney knelt before her and blessed her like a queen. Could be I witnessed beauty in its purest form.
God is here with us on our journey and this fills me, energizes me and makes me feel like a small child who wakes up rested in the morning willing to follow the exciting plan of fun and adventure that might unfold as the sun arches across the sky. I am filled with wonder and awe of a great God whose fingers connect people from nation to nation. And this was only the first day, the team isn’t here, and I haven’t even been able to greet my children yet! They are in school and their evening program is packed. But I begged and cried and finally managed to get Adams and Elitia to see I couldn’t wait until Monday to see them so I asked if I could surprise them as they exited school today! Yes! That’s what I anticipate this day… can’t wait. I’m going to walk home with them from their school. I might even get to hug their teachers. I hope so.
Sorry for how long this post was, I can’t promise the following stories will be shorter. I’ll try though.