The rains fall each night in the wee hours of the morning drenching the earth and brightening the colors of the landscape. When we closed up the apartment in the morning to walk around the block to the children’s home the colors took away my breath. The sky has to be a deeper blue against the clouds on this continent. The green is more vibrant and the color of the earth is the deepest darkest red. At the end of the day my skin is dark tan until I stand in the shower and watch it rinse away. The morning view gave me cause to stop, stunned at the beauty and immediately I felt like it was going to be the best day. How could it not with a cool breeze, hues from heaven, and time with the family here in Uganda?
The gratitude I have for the ability to walk to the children’s home is overflowing. It is so close that I can be back and forth as much as I choose. Jack can stay and hang around with the children while I take Kira early to bed. Last night they had a chicken slaughter with flashlights while I bathed Kira. Jack was simply ecstatic. It is the same way I feel when I can work quietly. I can fully relax in my down time. When we stayed in guest houses it was always important to put on a bright face, show up on time for breakfast and exude friendliness. While that is fun, it can also be exhausting for an introvert. I need so much time alone to be able to give all I have to everyone else. It finally feels like this is home for me when I am here. Jack and Kira feel it too. From my belly I thank God for allowing us this great privilege to serve him with Kirabo Seeds children’s home, and to have a place here to call home and work happily.
We spent the morning unpacking books and organizing the activities for the week. Jack and Kira were immediately immersed in play with the children. Kira had a hold of Lawrence and “made” him dance with her round and round while she sang a happy song no one could understand but her. Lawrence would look at us a bit like an amused trapped animal. The good news is she’s joining in the play and engaging with the children this trip rather than having meltdowns every half hour. This trip she knew what she was getting into, and she’s ready for it all! She was almost friendly with people we met out and about. Vendors in the market remember her and even commented that she’s making progress. This gives me hope. (she is known for a frown, grunt and push when someone greets her. She may as well spit in their face with those manners.)
Robert gathered the children in the meeting room to discuss some of their behaviors lately that haven’t pleased him. He’s only dealing with normal issues that come with raising children. The soccer ball was taken away because it hit the lamp post and broke it. The goats weren’t carefully watched and escaped when someone left the gate open. Robert rubs his forehead and apologizes to me, “they are quick to spoil every single thing given to them.” I know. They are children and their job is to learn the hard way how to become self controlled adults. I sat with them and we had an impromptu lesson about self-control. We shared that there are always consequences to our choices. If they lie and steal some day they could be fired from their job, put in jail, or worse burned on the spot by mob justice! The days of time out, missed meals and spanks will be over. If they make good choices and practice doing what is right good things will come to them. So we made an example for them to feel the lesson hit home. We asked all the adults for a recommendation of one child who shows consistent good behavior and they chose Ronald, so he could join us for our day out of shopping. We asked the children to vote and choose another child they thought was always using good behavior, and they chose Angela. The two of them dressed up nicely and spent the day with us shopping, watching a movie in the van, having soda and cake, and seeing the action in Kampala. It was fun. We told the other children starting right now they can earn the privilege to come with us. So each day we will bring children along with our errands and make it a special treat. Robert and Phiona often bring a child or two along with them to have special alone time and this is such a valuable way for the children to feel special, loved, and known intimately. They CRAVE this from us. I can feel the great love that is growing between our children and the team who care for them every single day. As for me, in the year they have lived in this home they are getting used to my returns. They are becoming more comfortable with me as a person. I feel like they will let me into their hearts. It takes time. I’m going to give it to them.
The faces on the children who were left behind were long and sorry. But they knew they can make changes and do better. Today we will remind them God forgives us and wipes our slates clean and that’s what we will do for them. We won’t hold it against Desire for being caught stealing in school. We are now looking for him to control his impulses. He gets a fresh chance starting today. Ryan is forgiven for hitting, others for lying, and some for verbal abuse towards one another. We are trying to model for them what God does for us. Every day of my life I sit before God and understand I don’t deserve his grace and mercy, but he loves me enough to shower me with it. The children remind me how I look to God with my own misbahavior. Raising sixteen children is a high task requiring all our smarts to make bits of progress…and it’s happening!
Samson is a little wild thing. I’m working with everyone to help them understand what his canine needs are. I’m trying to teach them how to communicate effectively with the puppy using positive and negative reinforcements for his behavior. Robert understands and craves this knowledge. He is wonderful with animals and children, a bit shy with people. He’s a treasure in my heart. I thank God every day for his devotion to the children. They give the puppy lots of exercise so he won’t chase the children and scare them with his sharp playful nibbles. Jack has been great about demonstrating how to show compassion and love towards Samson, who pants and kisses in return for the pets. Jack calms puppy in his lap and then invites the more fearful children to come stroke Samson’s fur and receive kisses rather than bites. Jack is developing good leadership skills while he is here. It just blows me down to sometimes think of what a great experience it is for him to be able to join me on these trips. It is the best reason to continue home schooling.
After the serious talk about behaviors the children were quiet and thoughtful. We asked them to spend some time reading books before lunch was served. They all went straight to the shelf for the new books. My dream is to fill endless book shelves for these children. I’m bringing all the books from our children’s library at home one trip at a time. I’d save them for Kira, but strangely I am beginning to understand she will most likely grow up reading from an iPad. It’s weird for me to even accept this idea except that I find myself more and more reading books from mine. Sigh. The world is changing in ways I tried to resist and here I go slipping forward.
Auntie Julie often struggles with typhoid. It comes and goes, and yesterday she had to visit the clinic for medicines. She’s such a dedicated worker, loves what she does, that it takes a grave illness to send her to rest. I could see she was a bit slower and quieter, but she refused to admit to me she didn’t feel fine. She is a woman I hold up high and respect greatly. I always have, and since I met her during our adoption I knew she was going to be a life long friend. I always bring her new kitchen things and she receives them as if they were jewelry. I gave her a new chef’s knife, and she said, “oh, I needed this, I am going to hide it from everyone so it doesn’t get spoiled. Then she locked it in a kitchen drawer and slipped the key into her apron pocket. A look of “so there” was on her face. I brought popsicle makers for the kids and filled them with mango juice. She was so happy to be able to make these treats for the kids, but then her face clouded over and she said, ‘I have a problem”. I laughed because Robert and Phiona already told me so I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “I’m buying you a deep freezer today.” She brightened and said, You knew!!! Before she went to bed that night it was delivered to her. Craig and I love to please Julie because she works endlessly and happily for these children. She loves cooking for them and pleasing them with good food. I don’t restrict her creativity with cooking by giving a strict food budget. I give them all they ask for with food requests. And the children are healthy! We get compliments from everyone about how good our children are looking.
Shopping in the markets is always a good time. I am known, but not as well as Jack. This time I could begin thinking about decorating my home here and not worry about transporting heavy things home to America. What fun! Phiona arranged for our regular vendors to meet me there so I could buy bracelets in bulk at wholesale prices. Jack likes to buy gifts for friends at home. We went straight for his friend, Rose, who has loved him from Jack’s first trip here for our adoption of Kira. I bought many things from her, as usual. Misty Newsome is helping Kirabo Seeds set up an online store, so I will photograph the things I buy in the markets. I hope for good sales to help us support the children.
Phiona and Robert are doing a great job raising these children. Often they run into snags and I get an email, “what should we do?” I help guide them through parenting issues to equip them for the next time something occurs. And there is alway a next time with sixteen children. We found a bicycle at the shop owned by Walmart, it was half price, and Phiona asked, “can we get it for the children?” why not. But then on their own Phiona and Robert said, it needs to be a privilege to ride this bike so they learn to use good behavior. EXACTLY. It wasn’t so long ago that Robert longed to give each child a bike. I shuddered at the thought and had to disappoint him. Now he sees how careless they are with things and that they must learn to take care of the good things they get. They will be told it is Mama Tonya’s bike, and they can use it when they show good behavior. I have a feeling Ronnie will use it often. I myself am going to go shopping on it! It will be nice for me to get some exercise here.
It wasn’t so long ago that I felt unsafe and insecure here. That oppression has lifted. We have moved away from our problems. And we have good ability to prevent these problems from resurfacing. Phiona has a new apartment that is walking distance from the children. It is just marvelous for us to feel free from the problems that have plagued us in our past. We struggled long and hard for two years as we established Kirabo Seeds. We have come face to face with the kind of evil I pray no one I know will ever have to endure. I understand there will always be these clashes of good and evil while we continue to do good work for God. That’s ok with me because I can see how God has protected us, strengthened us, and guided us through the dark to where now I feel the lightness and lifting of the heaviness. What a feeling of praise and worship there is in my heart for God when I can not only see, but really feel in the depths of my heart our new beginning. I will continue to pray and ask God to bring us good people who love him and want to serve HIM selflessly to help us grow this work. If the bad ones show up, I have a good feeling Samson’s instincts will chase them away. Gotta love a good dog.