Sunday morning we all discovered that it was epidemic among us to be wide awake at three in the morning. Too bad for us though because it was a long day ahead of moving around and high energy activity. I’m quite sure that’s where the strength of the Lord supplies us because we did just fine.
We went to the church where the Kirabo Seeds Children attend. It is pastored by a Korean missionary who has lived in Uganda for many years, and I have visited there one time before. What I remember most is there being a peace of God in the atmosphere that plants my feet deeply and allows my soul to heave out a sigh of relief. I am happy our new land is in the neighborhood of this church. I asked Phiona to begin worshipping with the children there. This Thursday Craig and Mark will be leading a men’s leadership conference at this church. I will have opportunity to visit more with the pastor at that time. I hope we can arrange to sit and have a private meeting to get to know one another’s ministry goals and combine our hearts in the love of Christ as we both are burdened to love the people of Uganda. I’m prayerful that this church is a great answer to prayer for the ministry of Kirabo Seeds. One thing I am devoted to do for these children is put them under the spiritual guidance of a wise God fearing pastor.
They do not have a father nearby! (Craig is a really good one! )Mamas are easy to find here in Uganda. But where are the fathers? We will begin with a good pastor whose ambition is to spread the love of Jesus and share the gospel, and not to live in a mansion in Munyonyo. (the most expensive neighborhood in Kampala…guess who built a house there?) The spiritual leader of the children in our home is a critical role, and Craig and I will seek God on our knees, fast and pray for the right man to help us raise these children.
After church the pastor found me and then we exchanged contact information and agreed to talk on Thursday. He asked me one question: “How did you come to know Phiona?” I smiled. I knew what he was thinking. I explained the appointment God made for us when she worked for the guest house where we stayed for Kira’s adoption and then I concluded, “ She’s really an amazing young woman.” He said with a gasp, “oh yes, she is very talented with the children, and with music, and she has good leadership skills.” I enjoyed one of those moments in life where it’s appropriate to toss my hands up to the sky and thank God for blessing my life with a relationship like the one she and I enjoy. Not only do we work easily together in our roles, but we anticipate one another’s thoughts, and we can let loose and have a lot of fun together too. Most importantly from the first seed dropped at Kirabo Seeds she understood our vision for helping the children of her nation. I treasure this young woman.
So, I got to hear Phiona lead worship singing for the first time ever. My chin dropped to the floor. If I ever thought she had an ounce of confidence, I learned today she has a pound of it. Thankfully I scrambled to find my video camera and captured most of her singing. Craig leaned over to me and said, when we bring her to America we need her to share that talent with churches. Indeed. And we both sat there stunned in amazement. Really. I can’t wait for you all to hear her sing one day.
When it was time for the sermon for the adults in church the children all came forward for a song lead by Phiona, Misha and Hannah. That indicated to me this is a place that has room and space to appreciate children rather than shuffle them to a quiet place and require them to be still and silent. Jesus said, “let the children come to me.” After their song they went outside to a wonderful covered arena where there were cement bleachers built looking down over a dirt stage, and all of this was settled among a view of rural Uganda behind with rolling hills, banana trees, lush vegetation and dark orange earth. The colors of Africa always cause me to sigh beginning with the dark chocolate of their skin all the way to the rich blue in the sky. And if you think I have exceptional photography skills here it is only because the light that God sheds on this country is more extraordinary than any other light I’ve experienced through my lens any where in the world. It’s like an unlimited ice cream sundae bar for my photographer’s appetite. Delicious. *a fat camera card is much better than fat thighs.
Our visiting team prepared to teach the children using skits of how the walls of Jericho fell down, and again the story of David and Goliath. They also taught them two songs, and then the children of the church taught our team one of their songs. I edged the perimeter of the scene with my camera keeping an eye on a wandering Kira who believes everything she sees has been put there for her to command. Quite often she would enter center stage and begin to point her finger, scrunch her brows and preach. Other times she threw a fit to ride a swing unsuited to her young self. Mostly she was drawn to the goat tied to a tree on the hill above the children. She climbed up there walked right up to that goat, put her hand on his back and offered him a flower to eat. The goat trembled in her presence not quite sure what to think of this bossy little diva in a pink dress. Neither am I at most times. She is intense.
Oh there was some love shared between our team and the children of this church. It was an undeniable precious moment for me to enjoy a little fruit of my hours of labor behind my computer screen to see the interactions between two cultures brought together and held together by the word of God. We share one heart and it doesn’t matter what continent we were born on when we center our lives on the teaching and example of Jesus. To experience the body of Christ on this continent was my number one attraction on my first trip to Uganda. I remember the gasping feeling of realizing, “whoa the body of Christ is huge! It is so not an American experience.” What I have to believe I love most is church under a tree with nothing but some bongos, voices, open worn bibles flipping pages and the most joyful faces on this earth. Yes even now the emotion surges in me and I feel my eyes load with tears.
Another experience caused this feeling of extreme joy where I teeter on crying… We went to the Kirabo Seeds home after church to have lunch that Julie was preparing. After we ate I unloaded some of the books I’ve gathered from America from many friends far and wide. For months I’ve been storing books in boxes in my garage. I’ve spent hours sorting, packing, and distributing them to get them from America into the hands of these children. I have visited countless classrooms in this area and have yet to see a book in the school. My hearts desire is to have a library for the children and it began to be satisfied this afternoon when I opened two tubs of books to load onto the shelf Phiona had built for us. No sooner did I open the box did the children gasp and reach for books to help me stack on the shelf. With a great appetite they pulled books out and opened them, flipping pages, sharing their delight in the pictures, and reading the new words with great confidence. Every where I looked there were children sprawled with open books in their hands and happy eager faces to absorb their contents. Yes, to see this natural desire in them to remove books from the shelf and dive into the worlds books can take them made me cry. So I thank you all who sent a book to the children here. And if the urge overtakes you anytime you are wondering what to do with a childhood favorite? Send it to me! I’ll never stop bringing books to these children. They can live without the toys we make in America. They have friendships and creativity to make all sorts of fun without our ideas of modern entertainment. But they NEED books to open their minds and fill them up with the wonders of God’s creation.
After my teary experience observing the voracious appetite the children have for their new books we loaded up and crossed a few roads to visit with the children at James’ church. The welcome we receive from these children is better than any birthday present I’ve ever had in my life. (right up there with receiving my horse from Craig for mother’s day) These kids know how to say, “I’m happy you are here.” Our team played games in a nearby field as James called the elders of his church to come for a small circle sharing time with Craig and I. Since Craig is here only one week, we wanted to give them opportunity to ask him questions. We discussed many struggles. We all wiped our brows. But we shared. We truly came under the authority of God to work together for the good of the children. As hard as it is sometimes to communicate on deep important issues with a significant cultural barrier, we make breakthroughs. I like to get to a solution taking the route that a crow flies. But here I am learning that we circle and circle, think, pray, and ponder. Circle some more and then begin to see, ah, I understand you. Then, we begin to walk together on a windy hilly road towards the solution. It is the only way to do it here. I am learning. And they give me grace for my American impatience. I do feel the bond of Christ with this church body. I do love them. Craig was so wise in pointing out that Kirabo Seeds has a vision to help orphaned children, and Kiriza Yesu Ofune Obulamu (James’ church) has the vision to preach the gospel. Perhaps we can journey cooperatively. We will see what God intends to do.
Before we said good-bye I asked Pastor James a question, “Please may we bring our new children in our home to combine in play with the children here on Tuesday?” He said, Oh yes please they are most welcome. (ok that was my third cry for the day) Then he did a very “Pastor James” thing: he called the head master of their school at home during dinner time on a Sunday night to ask permission for the children to miss school. Head master wanted to talk to Mama Tonya so I agreed to meet with him Tuesday morning and he agreed to give the children a half day of school. I love it.
So a tired and hungry bunch of people squished into the vans and their big open eyes begged me for pizza. I just wanted to go home. So they sent Phiona in their place. Smart. They know I am weak for her personal requests, so we went to my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood of the guest house, Fuego, where we sat under the canopy of trees and watched the sky turn shades of turquoise and orange before it turned black. All the while ten pizzas were fired in the outdoor pizza oven. And we laughed and shared about our day. Once we arrived to a dark and quite house the kids asked us for our debriefing time before going to bed. We all agreed to shower up and meet in the living room so we could process the learning of the day. Craig bathed Kira and put her to bed then joined us as everyone pondered the question, “What did God show you today?”
I most loved Allie’s response: “I’m learning I can really do without and not be miserable about it.” Allie’s luggage didn’t arrive (neither did Erica’s) and she’s been borrowing clothes. My green African dress was really beautiful on her, I insisted she keep it. I told her that when their luggage didn’t arrive I thought, uhoh, this will be an interesting test. And can I just report this young high school girl hasn’t complained once about having NOTHING. She hasn’t lost her sense of humor. She’s not one bit angry. She’s going on with the joy and perhaps like she said she’s learning it’s ok to go without. Her only sorrow is that suitcase was filled with things to do with the children and she’s really hopeful she can get these fun things to them. I really love her heart, and to see her become this gorgeous butterfly is an honor.
It’s beautiful to see their faces search for understanding as they connect who they are becoming as individuals with what they are experiencing in this place at this time. We share precious bond, an intimate connection, and a great love that pours down on us from God and through us to anyone who has need. There is only one word: Allelujah.