We have arrived safely into the warm hugs of our family in Texas. We could feel the tremendous prayers lifted up for our travel mercies. Would you believe it was the perfect arrangement of flights for us? We had enough time between flights to make our stops, get a good walking stretch for our legs, find our gate and wait only five minutes before boarding. Delta allows families to board before first class! I might only fly with them until Kira is grown. Kira never had one argument with me; she was a good little lady all the way through our travels. If one ever tried to get her ready for preschool they wouldn’t believe she could fly across the world without one meltdown.
We work so hard in Uganda that the ability to just sit for nine hours and watch movies, read or sleep is a welcome opportunity to indulge in doing nothing. All of us are able to sleep through the night, some more comfortably than others, which means Kira sprawls out and we adjust. Considering how often we make this trip each year, knowing we can manage it like a day at the mall (or amusement park according to kira) reduces the stress exponentially. It is actually highly enjoyable to do with these two kiddoes of mine.
I have so many stories to share from our trip that I’m happy to spread them over the next few weeks. Saying goodbye on Saturday was not the sorry scene of times past. They all have realized now that when school is released for their term, I return, and they like it more if I bring Jack. This good bye was surely a “see you later”. That’s the best sort of departure. Something permanent was established as each of the children were able to see my apartment, see my things stay there, and know we’ll be back to occupy it. They will help us take care of guests desiring to use the place in my absence and the idea of adventure that brings is exciting.
The children have a well oiled routine each day that keeps them active, entertained, educated and happy. I’m so proud of our team for putting together their excellent routines and keeping the children accountable for responsibilities. They must clean up their rooms and “lay” their beds. Some wet the bed so those beds must be changed. All the laundry must be taken outside to the courtyard where they will help hand wash and hang all of it on lines to dry. They fetch water at the well down the hill, clean the entire house, wash dishes, help prepare food, take the goats out for grazing, feed and exercise Samson, and if there is time left, do more laundry. There is always more laundry. There is a chore chart that rotates jobs for everyone. The team is careful to pair children who either work well together for certain tasks, or to get them to learn to work well together. Angela and Musa are combined to help develop respect toward one another, and as soon as Robert said they will eat off the same plate if they argue, all arguing ceased. All through the chores their behavior is monitored and registered on a chart which determines who is rewarded with special favors, outings and treats. It’s quite amazing to see the happy teamwork.
At the LaTorre house it is a similar scene after dinner. Everyone jumps into action in the care and condition of the house and animals. When we all work together we all have a lot of fun, and this is how it has become for our children in Uganda. They have fun doing their chores.
There’s a few hours before lunch for them to play! What a lively scene it is to enter as there are those twirling hoolahoops, or “dancing circles” as they call them. Boys are kicking a ball and tearing up the compound with competitive play. The puppy is chasing someone. Kids are sprawled on the porch with a high-energy card game of uno. Someone starts assembling a puzzle on the floor and many, including the littlest ones join in for the search. The reading room has someone with a nose in a book. Julie is always cooking and keeping an eye and ear on the behavior and action of the children. She never raises her voice (seriously! Never!) and she calls a child for help, and where ever that child is he or she can hear her, and they run to her, “yes Aunt?” They are willing to do anything she asks them to do. The children are so loyal to Auntie Julie, they protect her like a mother. She doesn’t have children of her own so these beautiful sixteen are very much her children. Especially Marvin since he is so little and eager for physical affection. I have never seen him clinging with insecurity to anyone. He’s a most confident and secure little man with an entertaining sense of humor. He gives a double eyebrow raise with a cheeky grin when he can catch someone’s eye.
Lunch is a big meal in the house. It is served around two, not because they watch the clock, but because that is how long it takes to prepare after breakfast is served. Julie always cooks my favorite vegetables for me. I loved steamed pumpkin, sliced avocado, broccoli with onions, savory beans with rice and her potatoes in sauce. Mmm… I need to teach her how to preserve vegetables from the garden with her new freezer so I’ll send her emails. No one talks when they eat, and I’m told this is because we are in the room. They pile their dinner plates impossibly high and go back for seconds. This meal will carry them until eight o’clock when they have some version of a leftover so there isn’t a morsel left uneaten in Auntie Julie’s kitchen. They are most happy to go to bed with a full stomach. It is a disgrace in their culture if there isn’t food to eat before going to bed. A major complaint is a growly tummy while sleep approaches, as most people in a developing country are blessed to have one meal a day to eat. So dinner is a celebration of gratitude at this home.
Sometime around five o’clock they are all sent for bathing. There’s an outdoor bathhouse where they line up dressed in their towels and they take turns privately splashing and soaping from a basin of cold water. They run with glee through the yard, dripping wet, to put on their night clothes in their rooms. After baths it is devotion time. They bring out the plastic chairs to the grassy area under the shade of sugar cane and banana trees as the sun is making it’s colorful way down in the sky, and they sit in a circle with their journals and bibles in their laps. Auntie Kiah runs devotions when she is there, and then Robert and Phiona take turns giving them devotions, in English translating for the little ones. I provide them with good devotion books to use. They love the question and answer time afterwards. They compete to have the best answer. Sometimes it is a personal subject and they begin to share things they have suffered in their past and how they feel about it now. More and more they are beginning to work on new personal challenges, characteristics of becoming more and more like Jesus. This tells me they are beginning to move forward and live in the now and see their future. I am so encouraged by this. They are assigned prayer topics relating to the lesson, and then if I am there I close them in prayer.
On our last night for devotions, we took a little inventory of the first year in our home at Kirabo Seeds. It was a tender recollection, and a good topic for my next blog. At the very end of devotion Kiah has instilled a new custom. She was so tired of them bickering and picking at each other she requires a loving time where each person hugs everyone. They love this! They jump up out of their chairs and hug everyone. I get these tight grippy hugs with wide smiling faces. That is all I need.
They close up the courtyard, lock up the house, and settle in for a movie when there is no school. I brought the Bible series that was just released on video and they have been watching it the whole time we were there. It was a great hit for all. I never actually put them to bed, I am usually gone by then, but I can imagine the chatter that happens as they fall asleep. I am picturing scenes from little house on the prairie, and I’m sure I’m not romanticizing. Their lives are quite similar.
Do you see now why it is such a joy to be in this home? These are children who once had no bed to sleep in, hardly enough food to eat, two sets of clothes to wash and for some, no one to hug them. God did this for these children. He sent me, I said yes, and He made it all happen through countless supporters, sponsors, and especially the devotion of Julie, Robert, Phiona, Kiah, and Judith. To experience one day in this home, knowing what their lives were like before, could be a blessing to ALL. It’s a living museum of God’s Grace and Love.