In the morning we put on our best clothes and caught our ride to meet the jjajjas. Robert left at seven in the morning to collect jjajjas and their friends. It took him five hours to get them all packed into the van and delivered to our picnic. I can just imagine them running off to the garden to harvest a gift for us at the last minute. The most entertaining event of the day was when they arrived two hours late, and seventeen women dressed in fabulous gomesi’s toting hands of ten children poured out of the van. It was the never-ending exit. A van that was meant to carry fourteen somehow doubled its capacity. The top luggage rack of our van was loaded with sugar cane, jack fruit, squash and melons. These women are so appreciative they always go searching for anything they have to share with the children in our home.
Oh the hugs I received when they arrived gave me the feeling of a long lost family reuniting. The three visits I made this year to Uganda were spent cultivating these relationships and now I am familiar and loved. This was my hope. It requires relationship to do the work of God, and I don’t believe that’s a cultural truth.
We gathered at a small local church with an open roof and reed slat walls covering crumbled brick. It was tidy and organized and though it seemed unfinished, it had electricity and a sound system. They were prepared for us. The sofas were covered with white lace saved for special occasions. There were special decorations hanging made of ribbon strung across the walls and the ribbon had a variety of bits of cloth tied along the ribbon. It looked like something I would find on pinterest if I wanted to throw a party.
While we waited for the jjajjas to arrive we welcomed the curious children who gathered to see the mzungus. Jack fascinated the children because it is rare to see a mzungu child. They kept touching his legs, stroking his arms, feeling the hair on his legs, and poking his toes. He said, “it gets a little creepy”. The night before we dropped off 50 kilos of rice and 25 kilos of beans along with spices and fresh vegetables. Lydia’s jjajja had gathered the ladies since early morning to cook food for our afternoon meal. To our surprise they provided bitter greens, sweet potato and goat meat! That was an extremely generous gesture of welcome. We were so moved by their desire to please us. We sat on wooden benches under the shade of a mango tree and welcomed the curious children with smiles, hugs and silly faces. Our driver made trips from home dropping off our children. They were beautifully dressed, carrying in their backpacks the things they need to lead the children’s activities for the day. They’ve been practicing for a week to share a bible devotion with the village children.
I caught my breath and my heart took a pause when I saw Angela open a book with children gathered around her. She showed them the pictures from the bible in the book and she explained to them what they saw both in Lugandan and she taught them the English words. The little children sat motionless, eyes wide, mouths parted slightly and I could feel them absorbing the newness of this book. There was an uncommon silence considering how many children were present. It has been paramount for me to get books into the hands of our children. I bring at least a hundred on each trip I make, and I collect them in my garage all through the year. I can’t go past a table of books without considering what I should buy for our children in Uganda. I know they spend much of their time in the reading room with their books. So to experience these children seeing books for the first time gave me a rush of emotion.
I knew when I saw the local children gravitate to the stories and pictures that we need to share more often with them. Paul read to a group of boys the book we taught our children every night, “stories Jesus told” and Dickson sat there and translated every word into Lugandan for the children! They were riveted. When I experienced their interest in the books I knew for sure we had to do more of this simple activity. We can have our children travel to areas where they are from, invite the children for a story time on Saturday afternoons. And we can just sit and read to the children and share the pictures. It makes perfect sense. By the end of the day there were more than two hundred children gathered for the activities Phiona and Kiah had planned for our children to share. What a success!
Every time I turned around our girls had a baby in their laps. Oh goodness, little Ugandan babies are simply scrumptious. I recall the feelings we had when we received our baby Kira for the first time. These babies sat happily with our girls who used all their skills as mamas. They had many babies to care for full time before coming to our home. Christine at age six took care of three little babies every day all day while her jjajja went to drink waraji. (a strong local alcohol)The boys climbed trees, chased one another and kicked a soccer ball. It is wonderful to see children are the same no matter where we go in this world. How great our God is to give us the fascination of cultural differences and yet give us common threads to follow wherever we go. I picture children of many colors holding hands and wrapping around this globe. I know that would please our God.
I’ll have to share more of this event in several parts because a thousand words is your limit for my blogs, and I’m within a handful. More tomorrow~