Somehow after being lost in travel for two days I managed to sleep and wake up at seven and get myself arranged for a nine o’clock meeting with the team for our court case. Reuniting with friends here is at least as good as reuniting with family members, so this emotional truth makes me believe that coming here is like coming home. I am home.
All the sights in on the street are a comfort here, when at one time it was shocking and I’d hang my head out the window watching the theater on the street of hundreds of people within view living their life in a boisterous way. What do I see?…the motorcycle taxis, the merchants that visit our car window, women carrying platters of bananas on their heads, sugar cane venders stripping long green canes into sweet chunks of sugar to chew and suck, and my favorite of all the bra man who strings bras along his arms and holds them out like a scarecrow to sell them to the women willing to try them out on the street over their blouses. The smell of the outdoor markets is familiar, chicken coops and all. I guess this must be the dry season because the dust on the branches and leaves is so thick the green has nearly disappeared.
During the meetings for our court case, I learned is I must allow the strength of God to reign in me to stand strong against the pushing of the cross examination. I can do that. After lunch we made a surprise visit to the orphanage. The children there greeted me with so much love I was nearly tackled to the ground. I had to hold onto the car to keep upright. Whoa! There is so much love in this place. And they place so much hope in what I try to do for them. I must remind them many times that it is Jesus who is their savior, not Mama Tonya. I feel wobbly when they put me on a pedastal.
After greeting me they went inside the church and had an impromptu celebration. The boys banged on the drums and the rest of the children threw up their hands in the air and danced. It was a sight I’d never seen them do before. I thought for sure I was witnessing an African tribal ceremony. The whole experience of their openness, joy, and gratitude was the epitome of the word awesome.
After settling down on their benches and in chairs we caught up a little bit. Those who do not have parents here were sent back to their villages for school break. They have all just returned now because I learned for the first time that school begins on Monday. This is the big question on everyone’s minds, including me, will they be able to go to school?
I told them I did not know it was this Monday when their school began. God must have brought me to them just in time. I asked them to raise their hand if they wanted to go to school. The response looked like what a bunch of American kids would do if we asked them if they want to go live at Disney world. It killed me. I said, I have not directly communicated with the sponsors yet but I think and believe that all of them want to see you continue school. So with this faith that God has put me here to help you get an education I will pay the upfront costs of this first term, and trust that your sponsors will reimburse me. And if some sponsors don’t want to continue, I believe God will provide new ones. It was a roar of a response.
I asked them to take me for a walk to the well to fetch water. It is something I always want to do with them So they gave me my own jerrican and we all walked in the perfectly beautiful African afternoon to the water source.
After our walk I passed out potato chips to everyone, filling every set of cupped hands with the treat and returning the smile while the children asked me questions.” Mama Tonya why did you measure our feet but we still do not have good shoes?” “Mama Tonya why did we go so long without hearing from you?” “Mama Tonya how will we get to our school that is soo sooo sooooo far away?” (Abigail and Anna Grace have donated the money to purchase two bicycles, and I have brought this money with me. I think we need two more. Otherwise it is an extremely expensive alternative for boarding school) “Mama Tonya our uniforms do not fit….we need sports shoes as well as school shoes…. how will we register on Monday?…
So much need. There’s no way to disappoint these beautiful faces. They will get what they need this time. Good shoes. Everyone gets a uniform. All fees paid so not one child gets chased home because fees were not paid. Notebooks and pencils to take notes because there are no books in the classroom and if they don’t write it down they fail the exam. Phiona needs to return to the orphanage and do bible study and help with homework, as soon as it is safe for her.
Then James stood and spoke to me. He said I have been told many lies about him. We are all confused about each other. But he wants me to know he is a man of truth and he thanks God for me and accepts me as a Mama and Craig as a “Tata” even if we never ever give them another shilling because he knows the Love of God is in me, and he is thankful their children will all get an education. To hear him speak confuses me because others say conflicting things and I always remain confused. I beg God to help me understand this man.
Then Rebecca bent to her knees and began to talk to me and pray at the same time. Suddenly she was full of wisdom, like Elizabeth from the bible talking to Mary who was newly pregnant. She began to recount to me bible stories of heroes who were in the same shoes that I am wearing here in Uganda with this case. She told me to trust that God is strengthening me and he is a God who does not fail. She said they have nothing to give me but prayer, and they pray for me all the time. She said I am like Daniel going into the lion’s den and that the lion’s mouths will be shut because I am an honest woman with a heart for God. That’s when I started to weep. (again now) I needed that so much. The kids had never seen me cry before, and they were deeply moved. We all know we are all suffering together because of the lies and theft of one greedy man. Their tummies might hurt, and my heart hurts, but it is all the same.
I love these children and I will not walk away from them. As I spent time with them walking to the well a part of me was thinking, “how is it that I, a girl from the Midwest, the only white person within sight, could be walking in this beautiful African vista among these people that I know so well and love so much? I even forget what an exotic experience it is if I don’t consciously step outside myself and have a look. It makes me wonder about the plans God has for every individual child here. If He planned for me to come this far to work for him, what are the plans he has to fulfill the potential of these beautiful children? I hope I am around to see it all come to fruition.
The wedding across the street blasted music until one in the morning, and that’s when I collapsed into my modest single bed and tried to sleep under the mosquito net. I fell into slumber with the bible feeding my mind. I returned to the strong word of Exodus 22:22-4. “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”
Thank God I’m not standing in those shoes.
(I have tried in vain to upload photos but it is too small and creating errors. Sorry.)