The afternoon breeze is fluttering through the fronds of tall sugar cane growing wild in front of our porch. Unfortunately the breeze delivers the smell of chicken poop from the back of our home to my nose. I swat flies constantly as it seems they are crazily seeking the source of that smell. We’ve got to move the chickens to our land because they drive the dog crazy, they stink and they attract the flies. Phiona’s desk is under the window behind where they stay. I don’t know how she can concentrate on the accounts with that smell. As much as the big chickens are a nuisance, the mama hen with the five baby chicks that follow her everywhere is interesting to observe. I always smirk when I experience rural living in the city here. I love the contrast. Maybe the laying hen and the rooster should stay so she can continue making chickens for us to eat. Once they are grown and no longer cute they should be moved away where the poop can be collected for fertilizer. Not one thing in this culture is wasted and I have to believe this is God’s design for our living. I hope the diligence against waste is considered excellent stewardship.
I found my spot on the porch to write as the children gathered around the television to see the movie Frozen again. Uncle Christopher is having fits because everyone is making noise while others are trying to hear the movie. He’s got a gift for being gentle and loving but also no problem with being firm and final when necessary. They know his boundaries and he protects them wisely. He’s been a great blessing to the family. Earlier today when we arrived from a shopping trip for food with Auntie Julie we found all the children, and Kiah with Christopher on the porch leaning in to hear him read “the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
Alone, quiet and enjoying the breeze on this porch, I’m thinking about Boniface. I think about him a lot. There are so many children here. The space of our home buzzes with happy children squealing, laughing and chattering. Activity swirls in every corner with creative intuitive children growing bit by bit. This atmosphere could seem too chaotic to miss him, really. But he was sweet, easy going, happy, silly, and his laughter was delightful and generously shared. The little boys shared a room with him and he was the leader there. They could hardly cope without him there. He was one of the few innocent children, untouched by the evils that can secretly and selfishly harm vulnerable children. He had no baggage when he arrived here. I wonder if he inspired innocence for those who knew more. I’m so thankful he was a member of the Kirabo Seeds family for a short time. He arrived as a shiny stone among jagged ones. I know for sure his heart was given to Jesus and he’s with him now and we had a hand in his salvation. I can’t imagine a better conclusion.
Our family buried him just over two months ago. The heart wounds are still fresh. The truth is that no one wants to talk about what happened to him. I made a book full of happy photos of Bonny and no one wants to look at it. Phiona sobbed after seeing it. The kids are not interested in the book so I put it on a shelf in my apartment. Someday maybe they will want to remember him as I shared in this book all of his happy smiles and joyful ways. When people ask me how many children we have I continue to say eighteen. Only now one of them looks down on us from heaven. He’s still with us, he has that wide shy smile, we just can’t see him from here. We know in our hearts he is there. His passing to the other side has reinforced for me how critically important our job is for sharing the gospel. C R I T I C A L L Y.
When the jjajjas arrived for our second anniversary celebration last Saturday they happily entered our gate and greeted the children in our home to see how well they are doing. While hugs were exchanged in greetings with the children, Boniface’s jjajja covered her face hiding tears with her handkerchief. Her frail body leaned on a chair and her back shook with silent sobs. After his death she fell nearly fatally ill. She is recovering now but her weakness is apparent. Being here reminds her more than anything that he’s gone. I gave her a copy of the book I made. She said she will treasure it but she cried more looking through it. She proudly shared it with all the other jjajjas who said they were sorry for her loss and patted her shoulder lovingly. As I watched them I remembered how much I respect the community that Ugandans share. Here, people lean in towards one another, yet in America I am wondering if we are more and more pulling away as isolation becomes our first choice.
Jjajja secretly approached Phiona to ask if she could bring another grandchild from the village to come take Bonny’s place in our ministry. She’s so concerned that she no longer belongs here with our family because there is no child to greet her and receive the great opportunity for a better life. Without education a child grows towards poverty, hard labor and most likely finds himself against the law. Many of our children were already well on their way in this direction when they arrived here at tender ages.
Phiona consulted me privately about bringing a new child to our home. I got the tingles as I remembered how my friends from the horse stables where I ride collected the funds necessary to make room for the next child some day. In their condolence card for me they said, “hope this helps give another child a place in your family”. The money was already provided. Her prayers were answered before she even asked! I love it when God does that. So we agreed she should go to her village and bring the child here.
Bonny was buried in the village where she would go for the child, where she is from. Our family went there and described the people there as the living dead with no hope in their eyes, no joy, no energy. It was one of the darkest experiences they have ever had in their own culture. I could only imagine the child she would bring to our home. Jjajja said there is a five year old boy there that she wants to bring here. I imagined he will have a great need for good care, food and love. We were all excited to welcome a new child.
After a long journey on Monday it was early Tuesday morning when jjajja brought the child to our home. I greeted her and then Phiona told me, “she brought a girl.” I leaned into the door frame where she stood and when her round wide eyes caught sight of me she gasped and backed up in horror. I reached out for her and she scrambled away terrified. Everyone laughed because she’d never seen a white person before. It took quite a long time to convince her to come greet me. Her name was “Junior” but that’s a boy’s name so we all agreed to call her “June.”
We sat with Jjajja to gather some background information about her. She’s five years old, and the first born of five from one of her sons. This jjajja has given birth to seventeen children in her life. Only five remain living. I can’t fathom surviving a life so full of loss. Next we discovered June has two parents. And by the display of school reports they are taking good care of her. They are together and there are five children in their care. I asked, “why did they send her here?” Jjajja said they have given her up in the hopes of a better life for her.
This hit me like a punch in a tender place. Parents gave up their child? But they don’t know us or me or why. How could they?
I began to shrink. I withdrew and sat to think. The child could not stay here with us. I began to explain to Phiona and Robert that this child does not fit within the mission statement of our organization. We are called to help children who have lost their parents. We are not a place to come for a better life. This is not a boarding school. We asked jjajja if she had a grandchild who was orphaned. No. The more I thought about it the more concerned I became. I believe God called us to and allows us to take care of orphans. God put this child in a family out in the village. If we take her we are saying to God, “hey God the family you gave her and the place where you put her isn’t as good for her as what we will give her. We’ll just step in and take over her life.” NO WAY was I going to participate in anything that was outside God’s will for our work. If I know anything it is that I don’t know more than God. Duh.
It was so sad. Jjajja was greatly disappointed. She so desperately wants our organization to continue helping someone in her family. I offered to give her a job with us as a house mother and we’ll take care of her and she can help us raise these children. Phiona and Robert carefully explained to me it would be disrespectful for us to make that offer to someone at her stage in life. Well, there was one more idea. We could give her the fund to take and distribute to her grandchildren as she wishes. It belonged to Boniface, so she could help those in her care with it. She liked that idea so she took little June with her and a pocket full of money. I gave her transport funds to return June to her parents.
We were disappointed because we looked forward to helping another child, but also relieved because we cannot change our mission boundaries just because we are sympathetic to a favored jjajja. If we took a child who was not orphaned we would invite all sorts of ethical problems. People everywhere would complain that we made an exception for her but not for their child. I know somehow some day God will bring another child to our family, but we will wait for the one who doesn’t have parents on this earth to take care of them. Then we will know it is our privilege to welcome the child.
I’ve always known for sure this work is not about me being a savior. I have a savior, Jesus, and I’m never going to put myself anywhere near his job description. I admit when we can help change an orphan’s life it feels like the greatest rush and adrenaline pumping high. But I won’t be a junkie for it. I’ll wait for the right match. I’ll remember always that God is in charge and I work for Him. I won’t change the rules in the middle of the game.