As I sit here on my sofa among my books and listen to sounds of life beginning a new day in my home I am feeling the pulse of life in Uganda as if it were outside my front door. Motor bikes are zigging and zagging between cars carrying multiple passengers, women are methodically walking steady with big baskets of fruit for sale on their heads, babies bobbing on their backs while both hands carry full sacks. It smells of exhaust and trash. There are buskers at the car windows. There are samosas, chipote, and skewered chicken cooked on the street for sale. Raw butchered goat hangs in a stall in the open air. A small slice is for sale if you can shoo away the flies all over it. Women stir fry pans of fish sizzling in oil after being purchased from a wooden box on the back of a bicycle with a bell calling out “fish for sale”. Wooden wheelbarrows are everywhere over flowing with pineapple, mango, papaya, avocado and sugar cane. Venders will slice it for you there on the street if you are hungry. Small children trained to beg dressed in filthy rags relentlessly knock on the windows of cars that carry foreigners. Their mothers are across the street keeping an eye on them though they say “we are orphans”. They’ve been threatened to beg or get a beating. Beautiful women with their heads held high wearing their colorful dresses accentuating unbelievable curves turn everyone’s heads, including mine.
I admit I often search faces and look for the woman who has Kira’s eyes, the shape of her profile, and the fluffiness of her lips. She’s not there but I continue to seek women who look like her and I wonder how tall will Kira walk on these streets of Kampala some day? We are raising her with the intention of knowing her homeland and being involved in our ministry with the children…children who were in similar circumstances as she was. Kira is such a strong little girl already that it makes me wonder how she will engage with her personal story when the time comes. Kira reminds me of our Angela in our home because they both are bossy little mamas.
As we drove through the neighborhood of Kyengera on our way to visit Angela’s jjajja she exclaimed, “this is where I used to go sell the food my jjajja prepared and she told us you go sell that and come back with money or there will be a beating for you”. She had an animated face as she explained her memory to me. Try not to be horrified with the word “beating”, it means a spank, a common consequence for disobedience. So that is how she spent her days before she came to live with us, she hit the streets and sold what she could so they would have a meal before bed. The worst thing ever is to try and fall asleep feeling terrible hunger pains. I am sure that thought was on her mind as she looked for customers to buy her food every single day.
When we approached Angela’s home there were older girls hanging around watching us, curious and excited because a mzungu was coming for a visit. That probably had never happened before. They whispered among each other with shy smiles and they watched me, memorized me. Angela spoke to Phiona using English and the older girls exclaimed, “ah! She’s speaking mzungu!” That’s equivalent to someone arriving at a party wearing a new Louis vuitton bag on her arm.
Naturally Angela wanted to wear her school uniform to visit her jjajja. She knelt before her with honor and gave her the gift. She was respectful and shy but not overly emotional towards her. She sat on the mat at her feet while we talked inside their small room. Jjajja enjoyed opening her gifts and especially appreciated receiving reading glasses so she could see the photos of her and Angela.
We explained that Angela is a most helpful girl with all the littler children, always eager to keep them behaving correctly, bathed, and accountable for keeping their things tidy. She’s a good helper to Auntie Julie in the kitchen and loves to practice her English. She’s an excellent student receiving top marks in school. She was happy to show her jjajja she has been a good girl in our home.
Jjajja sent us with warm wishes and an armful of sugar cane, thanking us, and promising to pray for our ministry. The older girls lingered sucking on the sweets we brought and I can only imagine the jealousy they felt watching Angela go back to her new home. Everyone wants a lift up out of the cage of poverty and given an opportunity to do more than survive hand to mouth. It would crumble me to a heap knowing we can’t help everyone if we weren’t sure of our calling for this ministry. Children who have lost both parents are the most vulnerable children and that’s our focus. Those with parents are accountable to their parents, who are accountable to God for how they parent. We don’t interfere there. My heart has peace knowing God has given us exactly the children he meant for us to have and I don’t feel guilt for not being able to help everyone. But… still… it is hard. My heart feels pain every time someone asks for help and each time we say our program is full. (it is full for now anyway, until we can get ourselves on our feet and raise the finances to move into a home big enough to grow, and find people we can trust to help us …) Finding the children who need help, that’s the easiest part of doing this work. Sadly. The hardest part is raising the funds, and finding trustworthy people to join our team.
We’d like to grow our ministry in a way that we can do more to help others by way of providing jobs some day. We’d love to have bible study meetings once in a while and provide food for the hunger in their bodies as their souls feast on food from God’s word. I would love to show the Jesus movie to people in the villages and cook up a big pot of goat stew for them. But for now we are new, fresh and trying to grow into the responsibilities we’ve taken on to provide holistic care to fifteen children. We hope to raise them to be excellent citizens of Uganda, trained with skills to get work, equipped to be good parents and spouses and especially to know the teachings in the bible. Who knows maybe these children will grow up and turn around and help us in the very same ministry that raised them? Wouldn’t that be ideal? God has the big plan spread out before us and our responsibility is to keep our focus on Him and He will reveal what we need to know as we need to know it.