I’ve been “freshly pressed” with the blog I wrote about the children working the land and welcoming kitty into their home and hearts. I feel a little itchy with the pressure to produce some good writing. I think I will just be myself and not try and impress anyone. Welcome to all the new followers! I’m eager to share more of what I experienced while in Uganda with our Kirabo Seeds family.
The children have not returned to their jjajja’s (grandmas) or Aunties since joining our home in May this year. When the children joined the family it was agreed that they would make visits occasionally. The jjajjas don’t really have addresses where they can receive a picture in the mail. There is no postal service out to the villages. Every person who wants mail has to have their own P.O. box in town. There is some electricity in some of the homes, but not one of the jjajjas has a computer for email. Funny enough, they all have cell phones! If they have electricity available they don’t have money to pay for a bill to use it. It takes two hours to drive out to the farthest home for a visit or delivery. Did I mention fuel is eight dollars a gallon there? And Mama Tonya pays for that with hard earned sales and donations.
Let me back up here for a moment and shine a light beam on the changes in the lives of these children. In our home they no longer have worries of survival, their basic needs are being met every day. They enjoy warm beds, a clean home, three balanced meals a day, friends to play with, and school. There are toys, books and movies at our home. These kids are so thankful for the new comforts they enjoy. With all the new pleasures what they fear most is being sent back to live in a place where they struggle and suffer. While in their hearts they miss their jjajjas they don’t want to have to live there again. I understand.
Children are not rational thinkers. They go with their gut feelings and their minds go with their emotion. It takes a long time to prove to the mind that their worst fears won’t come true. Parenting fifteen children ages six to twelve is no easy task for a team of people who don’t have children of their own. That’s where my experience becomes useful. When the children misbehave, and believe me they all have their vice, we need to establish a progression for discipline so the children choose not to indulge in their impulsive naughty inclinations. It is culturally acceptable to spank in Uganda, so they get occasional pops on the butt. When one of the boys needed a more significant wake up call about his behavior that was disruptive at school and with everyone at home we had a big problem to solve.
The immediate reaction of the team was to believe he didn’t appreciate his new life and he needed a reminder so he would be thankful for being in our home, so he was told he had to go back to his grandmas for a few days. When this was shared with me I said “no way”. Going home to jjajja should never be a punishment. It should be a loving reunion, a privilege and an honor. We won’t send the message that being in our home is conditional on good behavior. God loved us even though we can’t manage to be perfect and he’s not sending us back, so the children will learn the same unconditional love in our home. As it turns out some time spent working in the garden, supervised by Eddie, gave the boy plenty of opportunity to think about his choices, and decide to abandon the negative cries for attention and go along with our rules. Personally, when I have troubles of my own, the first thing I want to do is go digging in my garden for a few hours. I pray, I think, I feel, and suddenly I find that the problem has dissolved. I can only believe that the children can also learn to sort out their problems with their hands in the dirt. (As it turns out the boy returned humbled and willing to follow the rules. And reports now are that he has changed! He is also the boy who loves the new kitty more than anyone else. That doesn’t surprise me at all. His greatest need is to be loved.)
We still have the issue of visiting jjajjas without fear of being left behind. I decided to spend the bulk of my time this visit taking each child back to visit jjajja for a short reunion. I have never met them or visited their homes so I was interested in understanding each child’s individual situation more clearly. I brought small gifts with me to share with each jjajja. The most important gift was the original photos we took when the children were signed up to join our family. I had them printed to give them. It is rare for a person in the village to have a photograph so I knew what I was giving them was priceless. The children were excited to share harvests from the garden with their jjajja so they were able to give cabbages and sweet potatoes they helped to grow in our garden.
I’m going to share in the following days the intimate reunions each child had with their jjajjas. Visiting them was one of the personal highlights of my entire life. It was intimate, and I felt honored as I shared in their joy to see the beloved children again. I learned so much about the children, the love they are given, the tight bond of family, and partnership we have with the jjajjas who made a personal sacrifice of the heart so the children they love could have a life they only dreamed possible. Only one of the children had a different story to tell, and I’ll share that too. Of all my experiences in Uganda over the seven trips I’ve made I have to say visiting jjajjas had the most impact on me. I saw for the first time how we were able to fulfill the bible verse that our ministry is built on: “A father to the fatherless a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6 I knew we were on track with helping the fatherless, but I didn’t know how we were helping widows until I met the jjajjas. I am writing these stories now so that you can feel as if you were with me on the journey. Will you come?