Some of our children in our home in Uganda know adult things that simply shock us when we listen to the role play with their toys. Like the daddy’s get thrown out because they are drunks and have too many concubines. And the mama’s decide when to have their honey’s come for a visit while the children have to go play outside. A child will not answer an adult who asks a question “what was life like in your home?” But they will show you what it was like by the way they play. Our Kira puts all her babies to bed, puts them on the potty, and sometimes gives them a spank on their butts telling them “don’t be so naughty”. They get lots of hugs and kisses, cuddles and soft blankets to hold. She drives them in the car and feeds them with a bib at the table. That sums up her little routines.
Some of the children in our home are completely innocent when it comes to adult themed dramas. Some of them are just so grounded and normal and comfortable with themselves. Others have deeply hurt feelings, rejections, and wounds of the heart that only God can heal. We hope to love them through whatever feels jagged inside until they realize that Jesus is the one and only who can heal all that hurts.
Our cutie pie Boniface is one of those children who is clueless about all things beyond his years. He always has a big smile on his face, he is willing to help, share, and get along. He is a happy kid and easy for everyone in the family. I wasn’t surprised at all when we visited his Jjajja that she has lavished the boy with a great love all his life.
We drove up to this little green house in the village and two barefoot old women came running to the van with their arms open wide. They didn’t just greet their beloved Boniface, they lifted, hugged, and twirled with all the children. Their smiles were so deep and true revealing a great joy in their hearts. I adored them instantly. They hardly paid a moment’s attention to me which was a happy surprise for me! They were so thrilled to reunite with Boniface they did not make a big deal about having a mzungu come to visit. This was a relief for me. Last year when we worked with the children at the other church, they acted like I was queen of something coming for a visit. I couldn’t stand the way I was always put on a pedestal there. I am so careful not to let that happen again with our new family. The fact that they hardly noticed me at all made me so happy. I wanted to see them interact with the children, not feel embarrassed by my presence.
Immediately they spread a mat on the ground for Boniface and then the two sisters knelt to the ground before the boy. Phiona explained to me that he is their hope for their future. He is the man of the house and they honor him even though he is still a child.
Jjajja has great energy and vitality for an old woman. The next thing I see is she’s got a machete in her hand and she’s run off down a narrow path behind the house into the bush. She returns with four long pieces of freshly cut sugar cane to give us as a gift. She hacks it into pieces we can carry. And then a jackfruit appears. Next thing she does is take a stick tall as a tree with a V at the tip and she’s off into the bush again. She returns with some cocoa fruit. Phiona points out to me a jerican of freshly picked coffee beans leaning beside the house. Behind me I can see something is simmering in a pot over a fire and that will likely be their meal for the day.
They lavish us with gifts that they can find in nature. I was sorely wishing it were avocado season as I spied big avocado trees hovering over their house. I love their generous happy hearts. They want to know if we are keeping the appointments for Boniface’s HIV medicines. Phiona assures them we are vigilant with his medicines and appointments at the clinic. He is so healthy now but when he first came to live with us, he was chronically sick from something or another. I believe that good nutrition has really improved his immune system’s ability to fight back. He’s as vibrant as any of the other children.
I thought I was having dejavu about this little green house. I wasn’t there myself but I’ve seen it somehow. Then Phiona explained that Dr. Cindy visited this house two years ago on the day I was very sick. This is the house where a man was in his last days dying of AIDS/HIV and there were many little children running around with the measles. One of those little children was Boniface! And the man who died was his uncle. God’s plan always amazes me. Who knew that day that one of those children would join our Kirabo Seeds family? Only God.
As I photographed the jjajja sisters I shared with them to see their images on the back of my camera. They loved it! And then one of them said to the other, “I look younger than you.” They reminded me of Craig’s mom and her sister, Aunt Mary Lou. When the two of them are together you can feel the happy energy fill the room.
They asked us to follow them down the path into the bush. I was eager to see what it was like out there, but equally afraid of snakes either crossing my path or falling from a branch onto my head. I took a deep breath, tried to quiet the voice in my head nagging me, “you are in the middle of Africa going deep into the unknown bush, who knows what dangers are waiting for you there”. My curiosity won, I enjoyed the experience so much. I watched the children play happily in their natural environment and I felt a pang of jealousy. This life is so simple and beautiful.
The jjajjas used the long stick to knock down cocoa fruit from way up high in the branches, and the children squealed to catch it. I squealed because it nearly bonked me on my head. They showed us all the varieties of food available out there for them to eat. They are strong and sturdy women, not bony and weak so the bush must be feeding them well. I know at Christmas we will want to bring them chickens to eat. And I also believe regular visits with the bounty from our garden will be happily received as long as the beloved children deliver the gifts from nature.
When we climbed into the van and waved goodbye I couldn’t take my eyes off the sight that diminished as we separated, of two waving old women in front of a little green house in the middle of the bush out in a village in Uganda. I loved them. They inspired me to enjoy the simple gifts that every day has to offer. I realized what an honor it is for us to be given their cherished child to raise and what a responsibility we have to keep their family connections alive and satisfying. I feel connected to them and know when I visit Uganda I will need to visit all the jjajjas and bring with me the message from God’s word and share prayer. I can’t wait to be able to do this with them! For those who can’t read we will tell the stories, for those who can read we will bring lugandan bibles and reading glasses. We will feast on the love inside God’s word.
These visits to the jjajjas have served to reshape our purpose at Kirabo Seeds. Yes we take care of orphans, but they have left behind widows who live in a community that desperately needs to be reached with the good news of Jesus. Now that’s exciting! And why will they listen to us? Because we have demonstrated how much we care about their children. Even as I write this tears are dripping down my face because I feel so honored and thankful to be in a position to arrange for this type of help. I have prayed and asked God so many times to help me understand how we can answer the verse that our organization is built on… and he has shown me. We are workers for HIM.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. He sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5