I am not sure how I’m going to convince the world how much mission work we accomplished on Thursday, because I still don’t believe it, and if it weren’t for the power of God to work through simple people like us it would have been impossible. I might mention, there isn’t a pastor on our team, yet the depth of devotion, bible knowledge, praise attitude, prayerful considerations, and surrender to self I have experienced in these individuals to create a whole has been a “God Moment” for me. I’m going to overview what we accomplished on Thursday between 10:am and 5:pm, and you let me know if your jaw has dropped as far as mine is wagging on the floor. There are important individual posts in each event of the day, and I’m going to pick this day up after the team leaves and elaborate extensively. Otherwise I’d commit to writing a book this morning, and since I’m also mama as well as team leader, I’ve got to have myself ready to go on time as well. Yet, the developments and discoveries of the day were profound and not a detail should be missed.
The adults had a quiet morning at the guest house with the children away working the morning chores with the orphanage. Harriet prepared homemade cinnamon rolls which she urged us to share with the team members who took porridge for breakfast sipped from a cup. When we arrived, we found our children to be bedraggled and dirty and their eyes were blazing with the excitement that only comes when God has pushed us out of ourselves and shown us His improved vision for our lives. I knew the sleepover was a success when the children didn’t come running to the bus when we arrived. A few faithful stragglers came to help carry bags, but the bunch of them was already dancing in the church.
The first order of business was to set up the immunization clinic. Adams had arrived early in the morning to take Cindy to the Ministry of Health to receive the free immunizations for our team of children. Free is relative considering the bureaucratic maze Adams and Elitia had to persevere through to get permission to receive them. I’ll elaborate on this incredible service and highlight of the trip for me in a separate post.
Craig and Dr. Don were also whisked away from the team in the morning. Dr. Don followed up on his previous day’s visit at Wentz clinic to work alongside the doctor there who has always done his own anesthesia. Craig was sent to Ggaba Church where Pastor Peter had arranged for him to be the guest speaker to his leadership team, thirty men. It’s a bit humorous that somehow he was advertised as a top speaker in America on the subject, and after the conference, they approached him to find the books he’s written on the subject. My humble man just scratched his head and accused me, which all I could say was that I mentioned his business specialty was leadership and team building. They correctly assumed all the rest. Anyway, it was a successful event and I am sure they learned from the way Craig used scriptural examples for leadership applied to leading people, teams and organizations. And for the record, I wish he would write a book about it. Although God wrote the bible, and we don’t really need to add to it, we just need to read it with greater desperation to absorb it and be changed by it.
Upon arrival at the orphanage I found my dirty children dressed in the day before clothing mingled amongst the clean Ugandan children who bathed as usual that morning. They were walking goats with a rope, or maybe the goats were walking them. They said they were hiking up the mountain to get fresh pasture for the goats. I said, “I’m in.” The team set up the immunization clinic while I joined the kids on the hike. I was eager to hear the stories about their sleepover adventure, and by the look of them it was an adventure.
I might remind us that the evening before, as we were saying our good-byes our youth group announced to the children they were spending the night, and the kids SCREAMED with delight. It was the happiest sound of my life. So the children were allowed the special privilege of joining our kids on the church floor for a big sleep over with Emily supervising the girl side, and Andres supervising the boy side. When I caught eye contact with “Auntie Em” and Andres, they admitted they didn’t get a wink of sleep because it was so uncomfortable to be on the hard uneven ground. I’m sure that is a night they will never forget in their lives.
At four in the morning the unified group arose in the dark and went out into the fields with machetes to cut grass as tall as they are to feed the cows. Abigail said with a scowl, “those cows eat a lot of grass”. After they gathered grass and fed the milk makers, they went to the water source to fetch water in yellow jerricans. They walked down the hill for about fifteen minutes, and collected water with a homemade funnel from a natural spring that has been built to pour through a spout for the community. Then our children, each of them, hauled water up that steep hill. This is the only way everyone will have the water for cooking, drinking, washing hands, bathing and doing laundry. No one will ever again have to tell these kids to appreciate clean water that runs from the tap in any temperature that they please.
The boiling of the water to purify it for drinking requires an expensive and difficult to find fuel. Charcoal is the most efficient fuel, but too expensive these days, so we have firewood delivered. I saw it delivered on the back of a motorbike in a small bundle. Our kids should be relieved that finding firewood wasn’t on the list of chores. I’d freak a little at that since there are black and green mamba snakes in the country and we all know how much snakes like to hide under firewood.
We would really like to raise funds to purchase an industrial water filter so they can save the fuel for boiling water, and insure that every pathogen is filtered out of the water. Cindy said that water has to be boiled four eight minutes to kill giardia, and there is no guarantee that is happening. It’s about seven hundred dollars to purchase one and it will help ensure better health for our children, which is the ultimate goal of this mission trip.
The next chore in store was cleaning duties. They take a basin of water and flick it on the dirt floor of the church so it will soak in, and then they take a homemade reed broom and whisk away all the top debris. They do this three times a day. The children have to organize their beds and clothing, and begin to get the laundry going. Andres told me that he and Emily cleaned the latrines. She looked at him and said, “what? You held the door open so I could see to clean the latrine!” He laughed sheepishly, and so it seems Andres has his limit afterall.
The team fed the chickens and helped take care of the cows and when we arrived they were taking the goats for their feeding. As we walked along the road and our mzungu children were being walked by strong hungry goats, the local people burst into laughter and stood to stare in amazement at the novelty of this entertainment.
As I walked back down the hill early after enjoying a little mountain top experience with the children so I could join the immunization team, I thought about what our American children did for our kids here in Uganda. By taking on their way of life and showing them how hard American children are willing to work they validated the equality between them. The Ugandan children learned in a way that words cannot say that we truly believe we are made the same by a great and gracious God and our love is as dear as a blood brother or sister.
All of the adults admired our children for their choice, and it was a challenge to us to examine ourselves and see if we are stepping outside of our own comforts in ways that are significant to us in personal ways. I may not need to sleep on the floor in the church to learn that lesson, but there might be other sacrifices I ought to make so dignity can be established for these Ugandan children. Sometimes for adults it’s even better if we do it in secret because we can be so tempted by the opportunity to advertise our goodness and seize the opportunity to self promote. I know I am going to be deeply prayerful about how I can continue to journey this lesson with my patient God who guides me through my spiritual sanctification. This is partly why we established Kirabo Seeds, so we can connect people with the hearts to help orphaned children and directly help them and change their lives. We have the connections, and the help at the facility who remains financially accountable for every dollar given and spent so these blessings can be given. It’s my primary responsibility with running the non-profit, to connect those who want to help with those who need it, and they really need it.
Here’s the reward for me: to see the brightness in these children’s faces, the smiles that wrap around their heads, the energy in well fueled bodies, and the ability for their minds to be cranked and inspired and challenged so they can have the opportunity to dream about a future outside of poverty. That is all I hope for, and it is all I’ve seen this week so you can imagine how high I’ve been soaring. For all the people suffering depression, boredom and frustration with American life, I think a week here is good therapy.
After the immunizations were completed it was time for lunch but the medical team hopped on the bus and we went to examine another orphanage. I’m definitely going to talk about that in subsequent blogs. But I’ll say we are sharing a house with Melissa who has been here to adopt Mercy for ten months, and she’s in the early stages of helping an orphanage that is in worse condition than what ours was in six months ago. We went to give them medical care, and they needed it so badly. I left there emotional and angry all over again at the injustices of children here in Uganda. And I’m enraged and broken at the same time because there are hundreds if not thousands of orphanages with a hundred or so kids who are not eating and spreading disease and failing day by day. There are over TWO MILLION orphans in this country. Oh it makes my heart hurt soooo badly. I will write more another time.
While we were away for the afternoon, our kids taught the Ugandan kids to play some board games, card games, and Jack brought a shoebox of legos where the children happily learned about building! I know future trips will grow their collection. Craig said when he returned from his conference, the place was a hush and little groups were quietly playing games, building or doing crafts.
At some point in the day Emily and Andres finally taught them about germs and how they are spread and why soap is so important. I brought paper bags so they could make puppets to decorate and then Emily dipped her puppet in paint as someone else dipped theirs in another color of paint. The two puppets then exchanged hugs and sat next to each other and the kids could see how germs get spread. This was new information for them! I’m so glad they understand now and my prayer is that they will begin to think and care for their own health with this new information.
After we returned home somber and exhausted from servicing 70 children at the other orphanage it was time to take the team home, albeit a bit early. We could see the edge of exhaustion in everyone’s eyes so we left before dinner was served. The kids were sad though because there was one more main event in the day that hadn’t been completed: our American kids slaughtered ten chickens! They even lined up the heads and took a picture, though I’ll spare you that image. We have it all on video, and I was there for every slaughter with my camera. They were brave and adventurous. I will say though, that is was too much for Anna Grace to bring herself to do. I was with her, even though I offered her one last chance, “it might be the last time you’ll ever be able to slaughter a chicken in Africa.” She was ok with that truth. Me too. I was thankful she babysat Kira for me while I went to be pharmacist at the other orphanage, I wouldn’t have been able to keep an eye on little miss trouble and she would have spent the whole time on my back.
On the bus ride home Cindy asked everyone to share their highlight of the day and it was fun to hear so many stories. We say many praise songs. And I held Emily in my arms as she sobbed and sobbed because she had to say good-bye to them all. They are on their way to the airport as I write.
The cooks sent a box of fried chicken from the slaughter home with us and everyone enjoyed it’s freshness. And we brought in some pizza to fill us up. We laughed and played for a while before collapsing into bed so we could be prepared for our final day as a team at the orphanage. We learned from Dr. Don and Emily’s good-bye ordeal that we need to allow for two hours of saying goodbye, maybe more. It is the Ugandan way. And I do believe there isn’t a team member that hasn’t fallen completely in love with the Ugandans as I did on my first mission trip here with Omar Garcia in 2009. I wonder what God has in store for all of these individuals and their love for these people. All I know is God can accomplish great miracles and wonders through simple average people.