The journey to reach our family in Uganda is long. Four planes in over 28 hours. Some people collapse with the stress of being in the airline’s clutch and grouse about all the rules. Maybe I was one of those people. But it is what I have to do to see the family, so I embrace it and take advantage of the alone time. I can actually sleep through the night in an airline seat. I get really good rest for eight straight hours. I caught up on some movies I’ve missed, and read a good book about leadership based on the life of Moses. I was reminded that where there is no vision the people don’t follow. Vision for a better future conveyed with genuine passion is the great motivator. That’s what I planned to do: cast the vision and motivate the team.
Phiona and Robert met me at the airport after ten in the evening. The hugs were tight and our chatter to catch up was electric. They are not just people who work for us, they are my friends, and I think of them as my family. I love them so much and I come to help them be better at their jobs of working with the children.
Let me introduce them briefly because they are integral players in our story. Phiona and I met two years ago when our family stayed at a guest house for our adoption. She worked there doing accounts and she accepted many invitations to dine with our family during those six weeks. We also met Julie, who lives at the Kirabo Seeds home with the children who was the house keeper at the guesthouse for our adoption. George, who does some film and photography projects for us was our driver at our adoption! Now they all help us with the children in our home. Robert is a family friend of Phiona’s and I met him this past summer as he came to help interpret for us when we brought the big team. He has a degree in social work, a gentle thoughtful nature, and a big heart for the ministry we are doing. He now drives for us full time, but he isn’t a driver. He is the father figure the children need. He is thinking about their social development full time. He is committed to their over all well being. There are more people on our team but I will introduce them later.
Our ministry has had setbacks and problems over the past two years. However it hasn’t damaged us, it has challenged us to become stronger and more committed. It’s true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Through the two years of struggle to help orphaned children, we are finally in our sweet spot. We no longer work with deceiving greedy adults who use children to get money. We have assembled our own talented, intelligent, God fearing team who are committed to care for the totally orphaned children in their country. And we have welcomed children into our family who were chosen by the grace of God to participate in Kirabo Seeds. I feel like each one was handpicked to be in our family. We carefully investigated to be sure each child doesn’t have a mom or dad who should be looking after them. All of our children have been orphaned by both parents by AIDS and they were in the care of old grandmothers or Aunties with many children of their own and no ability to provide for the child.
The children never knew each other before coming to our home, but they have become a family. They do all the bickering of good siblings, then do sweet things for each other, and fiercely defend one another against bullies. Sometimes when I watch them interact at home doing chores, playing, taking a meal I am choked with tears to imagine what God has done for these children by using me. It is almost as if I am receiving my rewards here on earth. I get to see the fruit of my labors when I see their smiles and hear their giggles. Still I find myself doubled over thanking God for allowing me the opportunity to do this work. It is such a privilege to serve these children and help develop the skills of the adults who work with them daily. What we are doing in this home is beautiful and good. We are clever enough to protect ourselves against the schemes of the enemy who would like to take what belongs to the children. We have had a long education in how they operate and we can smell them like a dead rat long before they come near us. I myself am able to even think like a Ugandan and predict the next moves. No one has to explain to me anymore how the underbelly culture of Ugandans operates to serve themselves without anyone knowing. I get it. I know the game. I’m able to predetermine and thwart their plans. And I do it to protect what belongs to the children.
I’m quite sure that the most wicked thing one can do on earth is master mind a plan to extort money that was meant to help children who have no one on earth able to help them. If you buy thousands of bricks for 65 shillings each and tell me you have found bricks for us to buy that are 200 shillings each and that’s the best going rate, how am I to know you aren’t pocketing 135 shillings per brick? Especially if you are my friend? Now I know trust no one especially when they give you a price for something. Send someone around looking at prices for something without telling them you are checking up on someone else. Verify before money leaves the bank. We have to protect what belongs to the children. We can. We will.
I feel like a mama bear protecting her cubs. I am far fiercer in protecting them than I ever thought I could be. Who knew I had such growl? I am reminded over and over again I might be a small person, but God in me is enormous. It’s possible to be bigger than a bear, and fiercer than an angry, hungry lion when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable children on this planet. God surprises me all the time.
Sometimes I feel like I am a bank on a dark alley without security guards. People think the bank is full of money, endless flowing bills that wrap around the earth. But really it is a small hard earned pile that has specific purpose. There was a time when people found the back door to this bank and were lining up their trucks to fill it up so they could enjoy selfish pleasures. Meanwhile I wave and say hello, thanks for helping us and keep busy at the front making plans to be useful and helpful. Attention: the back door is shut and secure. And the trees with dark shadows all around us are filled with guards watching and reporting. Go away! I’d say go to hell but I still pray the enemy is broken before God and reconciled. I don’t wish hell on even our worst enemies.
That’s all I will say about the opposition. They are the past. They are not our story. I have no anger. I am just shrewd in my thinking now. It is important to announce our impenetrability. And what this shows is we are at the beginning of something remarkable. Ugandans are raising Ugandans to have opportunity to be independent and thrive in their culture. I might have gone to partner with an organization rather than go alone and learn it all the hard way, but I haven’t seen this done before. I have a vision and I have a passion and dedication to see it through. I think what we are doing is unique. We are providing for the whole child, not just the physical needs. We don’t want to be a huge thrift store, we want to be a specialized boutique. We really don’t want to raise them up American style. We want them to be functional in Uganda in every way without becoming spoiled by luxuries.
I don’t think learning there is enough food to eat every day is a luxury. Children should be secure in knowing there will be food when they are hungry. They should have a healthy diet and be well nourished. Children should be able to learn as much as they want to know. Their hungry minds should be satisfied. Most importantly a child should be taught about developing their character in a way that pleases God. I love how Robert calls it “training them in what is good for the inner man”. In all these ways I want these children to be rich! But they should also know how to dig for their food, use a pit latrine without grimace, wash their clothes by hand, carry water from the well on their head, walk for transportation, make up games without toys, and raise animals for food.
What I was able to remind the team during one of our meetings is we are rewriting their legacies. The work we do now for this small clutch of children will have an impact for generations that come after them. We have some opportunity to break some cultural practices that aren’t biblical while encouraging the cultural elements that are good and beneficial. My job is to help the team understand with bible study which cultural practices have to go and which can stay. The first one is how to manage personal finances with a biblical model. I brought a bible study from Crown ministries for them to share and discuss together. I’m on that project for sure, and I believe we have a good working relationship with the team so they are more willing to hear from God and learn His ways, than to cling to what their ancestors have practiced. We shall see.
If this ten days with them is an indication of our future, we are happily moving along the path less traveled, and it’s making all the difference. Tomorrow I have the great privilege of sharing with you how our family of fourteen children became fifteen while I was with them. It was one of my life’s highlights for sure to see a young child in their home join ours and begin to flourish immediately. His name is Ryan and I will introduce him tomorrow.