Yesterday was our one year Anniversary for the children in our home at Kirabo Seeds Uganda. I feel a little knot in my throat when I think of how much we have done to settle these children into our home. It feels like a miracle to me as I have watched these children grow from strangers, or neighbors into a loving family.
Last year this time they were so naughty with one another. They were always arguing and using bad language, which they could say directly to me but I wouldn’t know because they didn’t know any English then. Now they have developed a good respect for one another with their words, and their English is getting so good they use it without thinking about it. Mostly I am thankful that we can communicate now.
The team took all of the children to a nearby beach on Lake Victoria yesterday. It is the second largest fresh water lake in the world (after Lake Superior in Michigan). The children love to play on the beach, probably more than the pool because there is sand! I just think to myself how blessed they are to have the opportunities to explore their natural world. It cost less than one dollar admission to visit the beach! It is great that we have resources to be able to transport them to explore and enjoy simple days at the beach.
Auntie Julie made a big anniversary cake. She and I laughed because she spends so much time making a cake and she hopes there will be some for the next day, but it is all gone so fast. I know. The traditions in Uganda, with cake, are to have as many people hold the knife as possible and pose for a photo. When this occurred to me on one of my first trips, I was a little confused as to what they were doing and what they wanted me to do. I just started cutting it up and they were horrified. We had brought a cake to Kira’s baby’s home when she was about to leave for America so they could say good-bye to her. It was such a formal occasion where everyone spoke. I think she fussed through the whole thing. I was an emotional wreck.
On my last evening in Uganda during devotions we shared as a family a little bit about what the children were most thankful for since coming to Kirabo Seeds. Here were some of the things they said when Phiona called on them, “shoes”, “food to eat”, “never thought I would get to go to school again”, “my own bed to sleep in”, “nice clothes to wear”, “toys”, “Jack comes to visit us”.
In one year their lives have taken a direct turn in the opposite direction of where it was formerly heading. They were all on their way to a hard life of poverty and crime, suffering and hardship. Only God knows why our van stopped in front of the jjajja’s homes that it did. We were looking for grandmothers who had too many children around during a day when they should be in school. I believe God hand selected each one of these children for us to raise because he has a special plan for them. They are accountable to God for the gift of opportunity they’ve been given.
For these sixteen children it is wonderful that they have been given what we can offer. But I am painfully aware of how many children nearby are suffering. When a Ugandan learns I have a children’s home they hold my sleeve, look deep in my eyes and say, I know a few orphans can you take them? This means they are struggling to care for more than their own, and would love my help and some relief. Our home is closed. The way we are parenting so deeply into the whole child we are unable to take on more responsibility. And our little house is full. There’s no room for another bed. No room in the van. No seats at our table. One more child would shift everything we have established and increase our costs significantly. But when they ask they are thinking, well the children can sleep on the floor, or there can be three kids in every bed. But that’s now how we do it.
In America it seems like giving a child a room to share with siblings is a terrible hardship, a sign the parents can’t afford a big enough house. (my boys have always shared rooms because of my ideology not our ability to afford extra rooms) But in Uganda to have your own bed is a high privilege. To have school shoes, play shoes, and church shoes is a very big deal to a child. The people who are desperate for me to take orphans off their hands, and the feed bill, get a little angry when we say we are full. If in their poverty they can make room for the children who sometimes sleep under a bed, why won’t we if we have so much money to spoil the children we have?
That’s a big problem. Somehow we’ve got to come up with a way that the people in the village who are supporting all these children can get some way to earn what it takes for them to do it without hardship. My question for them would be, “what do you do to earn a living?” My next question for myself would be, “what can I do to create jobs for these people so they can provide for the family members put in their care.”
When we opened our home we set a firm limit on children who have lost both parents and the ones caring for them are old and unable to do it. We aimed for the neediest and most vulnerable children in Uganda. This is because we know how many other children are needy and we can’t take on the two and a half million orphans in this small country. But I am hoping we can provide some dignity for these people and give them jobs to do to earn a fair wage that will help them provide for what God has given them to do.
We have also learned the hard way that there are some people who don’t want to work they just want the whites to come in and pay for their livelihood. We believe that is toxic charity. So if we are ever in a position ( I hope so…but it would require a serious donation to start up a program there) to provide jobs to the people in the villages where our children come from, I hope they are eager to help themselves, and not angry they didn’t get a free ticket. But God gave us the experience with the former orphanage we tried to help in order to teach us to be clear and careful with this situation. So, I invite you to pray along with us that we are able to help more children by providing work for the adults who care for them.
My personal hope is that we can sell the land we already have. The neighbors are hostile and it is a negative environment for us. We can buy a big piece of land near the people in the village where the children come from, and begin farming on it. Eddie will move there, and bring his family from the village to live with him. And we can have opportunity on that land to create some sort of business where people can earn and live more comfortably. We can build a community center for worship and fellowship that could also become a local market place during the week.
As it is the sixteen children in our home are now among the most privileged in Uganda. They don’t really need much as they are cozy in our home now. But the needs we can meet are out in the village where they come from and I hope the mission teams who come to visit will see that’s the real work that needs to be done. I burn in my heart with serious need to help these people, but help may not look the way they want it to be. I have been asked many times to pay for their kids to go to school. If I can offer a job so they can pay for it, I hope they aren’t angry that it isn’t coming to them for free. We (the foreigner) have taught them we come on mission trips looking to give it away for free, so why should they expect to work? I pray and hope they will be eager to receive an opportunity.