The apartment is full of slumbering family and friends. The rains in Africa are gently falling, a steady hum of nature. Instinctively I feel the urge to pull up a blanket, light a candle and switch from coffee to hot chocolate. There’s no better environment for me to open my heart and mind to write but a good downpour early in the morning in a quiet house. (No wonder so many writers come from the English Isles.)
I can lean back here, fan out the stories of yesterday and choose among many highlights. It was no ordinary day. The intervals of my journeys to Uganda are filled with hard work by our team. When it’s time for me to arrive again I always come to smooth out edges, fluff here, pat there. It is my job to infuse a fresh dose of energy and perspective to this ministry. After losing Boniface in February this year, we find ourselves now in great need of renewal. A few weeks ago I contacted Phiona and said, “let’s have a big party to celebrate our second anniversary of Kirabo Seeds!” We rented a tent, a church loaned us chairs, and we hired caterers. The last thing I wanted was work for Auntie Julie on our day of celebration. We ordered a cake! Here desert is rarely if ever served. A soda is more of a treat than most can hope to receive. There were cases and cases of that passed around. We invited all of the jjajjas and Aunties to join our party. We invited friends of the ministry and I was able to meet the lifegroup members of the team from their church.
We asked the jjajjas to meet at one point on the road where Robert would pick them up in the van at ten o’clock. After he received the cake he passed the point and not one jjajja was there. He was disappointed. He came home and waited for a call that they had assembled. The result is a party that started two hours late. The good news is we knew eleven meant one. The hard bit was when the food arrived two and a half hours late, our stomachs aren’t so forgiving. Oh, but the food was delicious. It was the kind of feast that certainly surpasses the offerings of Christmas. I am always struck in wonder when I see plates piled so high it makes me think of Mt. Fuji balanced between the hands of very little people. When food is served in Uganda never expect leftovers. I heard Musa spread the whispers that there was chicken still left to serve. Our big boys made a dash for seconds without anyone noticing. I don’t usually miss a detail. I have that birdlike eye for nuance.
At Christmas time last year our sponsors and friends of the ministry were so generous and thoughtful we were able to buy a sound system with speakers and microphones. We set up on our porch and played wonderful praise and worship music through the whole party. We were so very advanced to use wireless microphones! Thank you everyone for this gift to our ministry because it is not meant to be used only for parties, it is a valuable tool for the outreaches we will do in the villages where our children share what God has done for them and the good news of Jesus. The moment we first ignited our new sound the electricity expired. Of course, this is natural because we are in Africa. Without a hiccup the men were in the van off to buy petrol for our brand new generator donated by Jjajja LaTorre! Once it was powered up, the electricity returned. And I smile because with all these modern disturbances not one person expressed frustration. Flowing with one bit of setback to another is a way of life here. It creates an environment for developing flexibility and creativity without interrupting the laughter, smiles or good humor. America should sit down and take serious notes.
Greeting the jjajjas is something I now can do with a hug over each shoulder. In the two years since we began they have gone from fear and reverence of me to a family hug. I count this in my blessing book. I can also say they don’t greet me with joy because I give them everything they need and want. They are happy to see me because of the futures that are possible for the children they love. They know God is working through me and they purely thank me for being willing to serve in the way God asked me to do.
I recall times with another group where they set me high on the pedestal and forgot to worship Jesus but instead praised my name. It made me convert to the turtle I can be and withdraw inside my shell. I eventually disappeared from their lives. I made so many mistakes with that first experience so I could be wise and not repeat them with our jjajjas. The partnering we have with jjajjas as we strive to love these children into maturity for the purposes that God has for their lives is solid. Some of these women have buried more of their own children than I have bore. In their lonely old age without income or support many children are left in their care from both the living and the deceased. They don’t ask me for things. They certainly don’t demand help for themselves. They truly rejoice that we love them, involve them in the lives of the children, and continue to partner with them in raising them. When the microphone was passed around at the end of the party and everyone had an opportunity to share their hearts and the gratitude to God for this ministry as they appreciate their children thriving was a perfect blessing to me.
My love language is giving gifts. My life gift from myself and everything I have in me is this ministry. I don’t want one thing in return. I can’t help but want to give the jjajjas a token of my love. We prepared a bag full of life’s necessities: sugar, tea, cooking oil and salt. I had cups and Frisbees made with our logo to give as well. When Musa saw the Frisbee he said, “ah, they will use that as a plate.” As they should. But some child somewhere somehow will discover it is a toy. That makes me smile.
Erica has friends in Arizona who make fleece blankets as a ministry. They sent her here with twenty of them! I understand how they would think our poor orphaned children need blankets, but the truth is our kids are no longer poor. We no longer give them anything but gifts to give to those who are truly needy. While the jjajjas sat the children presented them their bags of gifts. Then they reappeared with the colorful blankets. The ladies cheered and danced for their gift of warmth. Apparently this is the cold season because the temperatures have dropped about ten degrees where a breeze is actually refreshing. I’m sweating but I know cold. They have never felt it before. I love to remind them that God orchestrated their gift. He asked a couple to spend their extra time making blankets to give away, and somehow they made the journey to Uganda into the hands of women who need the warmth.
Nothing on this earth renders me into a floating joy like seeing the hand of God in action. I often don’t want to ask God for anything because his surprises are so wonderful.
After our meal the children played a few rounds of musical chairs to entertain the adults. Kira cried, “I don’t like this game!” I don’t blame her, these kids play with fierce competition and cheating is fun. It came down to one chair with Angela and Jack. Neither of them was willing to lose. It was hysterical to see them turn this into a dance of the battle of wills. When the music stopped it was clear Jack’s seat would make it to the chair so without a thought and quick as a jaguar Angela snatched the chair from under his behind sending him somersaulting to the ground. We laughed and charged them to repeat the dance. Again Jack was able to scramble to the chair but it tipped and fell on its own so he sat himself in it anyway legs up in the air and a triumphant smile on his face.
The children wanted to share our devotion time with the jjajjas so Angela and Victoria led songs and lessons from the bible about gratitude. Testimonies were shared as the microphone was passed around. It turned into a time of giving thanks from anyone willing to share. An impromptu thanksgiving is a blessing I will treasure. Sometimes when I am here I am so moved by the general presence of God and willingness to express faith that I forget about home. That’s the feeling I have when I know I live in two worlds. My roots are so deep in this red soil I can’t imagine a force great enough to extract me.
The roosters have crowed, the birds are singing now that the rain has reached the earth and the sun is appearing. Kira and Jack still have their faces pressed against their pillows. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to allow you a keyhole glimpse into our celebration day. I have saved a few stories to share over the next few days so I hope you will come back for more.