Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Uganda 2010- Monday Day 14- Meeting Ruth

Somewhere a monkey is having a good laugh. I lost my glasses while driving through a National Park on the way back to Entebbe, so picture me sitting in front of my laptop with the font set to 20 and the page zoom a 200%. I am squinting so hard, the Captain may think his wife has actually returned from an Asian country.

Monday May 3, 2010

Arriving in Mbarara Sunday evening, I kept my promise to my family and stayed in my room for the evening, ordering room service and listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir on my computer. The next day was the day I was going to meet Ruth. I had no idea what the day ahead had in store, but apparently my body did, because I sleep really well. Fred, my driver, loaded our things into the van and directed me to go to the office to pay the bill. 82,500 shillings, about $40.00 dollars and that would be for my room service, the driver’s meal and two hotel rooms for the night.
We got in the van and headed to purchase a pair of shoes for Ruth. The only shoe store Fred new about, has shoes, but he said the quality was not good. So he called the Compassion director from Ruth’s project and she was on her way anyway to meet us and told us to wait. We sat in the parking lot of gas station and about an hour later she arrived. She took me to buy the shoes, and then we went next door to purchase supplies for the project itself; paper, crayons, highlighters a football (soccer), net ball (basketball) and a pump to keep them up and rolling. Then we headed out. But oh my word…about an hour on a paved road and then another 2 hours on dirt roads, full of potholes and when I say potholes, I mean everywhere and 6-18” deep, and deep ruts. The driver is constantly jerking the van back and forth from one side of the road to the other,the deep ruts and potholes, providing the bouncing. Let me just say that I have become very aware of every muscle that keeps us upright and bobble head dolls.... they are my people.
3 hours later we arrived.
This post could be a novel, describing everything I saw and felt, but I am going to try to hit the highlights for now.
The project center sat on the top of a hill overlooking a valley that was lush and green. Cows and goats meandered on the road and I got a kick out of the ones that reminded me of myself. Most would vocalize exactly how they felt about their inconvenience, but a few just turned to the bus, squared up and gestured stubbornness with their head and long horns. Alas, the van won each time, but “if looks could kill”…
The project itself was quiet, but Ruth and 4 staff members were there. It was all I could do to get out of the van. Ruth is beautiful and at about 5’10” tall, the stature of this young lady could have been regal, except that she was so humble, and quiet. She couldn’t stop smiling, but as women here are taught, she held her emotions in perfect check.
She is sweet, quiet but smiling ear to ear between trying to hide her enthusiasm. She does speak English, but when you hear that in Uganda, it can mean everything from understanding just a couple of nouns or names, to being able to translate. I was just blubbering, so we were on an even plane with our verbal communication. We hugged first, then pulled back to look at each other then hugged again, and over and over. It was just a moment that can’t be adequately described. For a woman with many words, I am so lacking in any that can describe my heart in those first moments. And if I can just say that Fred, my driver, was like the closest thing to paparazzi Uganda will find. It seemed he was as moved as any of us. More about Fred later.
As is the custom, I was taken in right away to a brick building, concrete floor, crude fixtures and furniture, but all the different foods that they could serve to a special visitor. I was first offered milk, which means hot milk, from the cow in one thermos and a second thermos filled with hot water. Then the question, how much water do you want with the milk, you tell us. Huh? Then I realized, that rather than drink the straight rich milk, they dilute it according to my liking. Then offered me a tea bag or some sort of chocolate granules, which ever I would prefer. Ruth had chocolate, I chose tea. Then cracker type cookies they call biscuits. Then even though there were 5 women at the table, the Pastor, who wore the dress of an American priest, began greeting me and questioning me about different things. Very quickly I realized that the quietness of the Ugandan female voice, is quite a contrast to my enthusiasm and flowery explainations. I mentioned that fact to him and he said, “Yes, why is it that American women are like that? I believe it is the freedom of the women in your country.” Ah, jeez, here we go, I believe that too, but the thought has never felt more obnoxious than this particular moment. I felt as if Ruth's father was sitting before me. He asked about American marriage and how it goes with young people that would like to marry. I explained that for the most part, we allow them to choose each other. That the most respectful of young men will talk to their family and then to the father of the bride to ask for permission. But they can choose and marry without permission. He asked about the bride price in America...ya...not so much. He told me that Uganda was moving towards marrying out of love and choosing, rather than the family's financial desperation. He talked about how many cows Ruth would be worth and said infront of her, that if she finishes her education, she would be worth more for her family, that her beauty was worth something, her strength and her education.
This compassion project runs this way. Children are located through churches, and when I say churches, I mean huts that are maybe the size of a bedroom or large hotel room, here and there along the road. This particular area seems really remote by my standards, except that I know there are places that have no roads at all. Once they are selected, they are registered, the parent is interviewed and the family situation is evaluated to make sure the child will be available enough to stay in school. The sponsorship money we send to Ruth, $38.00 a month, provides a boarding school for her where she attends for 3 months, then has a month off to go home and see her family. She does not live at home, and she does not get schooling at the project. All the children come on Saturday to the site, for games, singing, teaching etc... In other words, this is not a replacement for the parents, but their 2 on site staff members and 2 volunteers work tirelessly checking with the boarding schools, encouraging the child in their faith, and making sure the parent or family
has help and support when a situation arises. If there is a need for medical help, Compassion will help and has additional funds for these types of things. The director was telling me about young woman that has been flown to India for two heart surgeries and goes to Kampala once a month to the doctor for a check up and medication. She will continue to be taken care of until she is 22, assuming she stays qualified for the program. After that, there will be no support for her medical needs unless God connects her to the financial support for the $150.00 per month expense related to the 7 hour travel, doctor visit and medications.
Anyway, back to Ruth. Once the Pastor excused us from the meal and offered a blessing on our visit, he instructed the staff to give me a tour, with Ruth leading the way. I was told that I was the first visitor ever to this particular project and so they were as excited as I was. I can tell you that the project was little more than what looks like a deserted, very old farm and with the mud and cow dung buildings, broken brick church...they are so happy with it and so grateful. After the tour, it was time to get in the van and travel to Ruth's home. Two women staff members, Ruth, Fred the driver and me.
We drove and we drove and we drove, another hour at least, deeper into the hills. Averaging about 15 miles per hour because of the roads and it dawned on me that Ruth being home on school break, had travelled from her home to the project to be there by 8:30 in the morning. I asked how she got from home from the project to wait for me? She walked...yes she walked. It took her about 3 hours, which means she left her home alone at 5:30 in the morning, and walked for 3 hours to meet me. Who am I do be honored so much. That a 16 year old child would do such a thing for a woman who has no ability to understand the length and depth of such gratitude . I don't know when the last time was that you spent $38.00, but I stopped at a road side stand yesterday to buy souveneirs and spent twice that on trinkets.
Ok, back to Ruth... We arrived to her home, which because of the lush green landscape appeared to be tiny, but welcoming. Somehow I thought Ruth's family was her mother, and two girls and one boy. But on the drive they told me that Ruth's mother had 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. Ruth is #9 and her 13 year old sister Edith, the last. Once the van stopped, people started pouring out of the house to see this American woman, they would treat like a celebrity. You know I was looking for her 62 year old mother, Kellen, 'cause this mother's heart needed to lock eyes, arms and heart with the one that has done the hard part and made the sacrifices to raise a child we share such commitment to.
Oh my word, you can picture it I hope, because finally, finally I happened upon a Ugandan woman that cries with happiness. We grabbed hold of each other and neither one wanted to let go. Hug, cry, pull back and look into each other's faces, hug some more, cry some more. How will I ever find relief from the fullness of such affection.
We were escorted into the living room, that was the size of my master bathroom at home. The 10 or so women and girls, (Ruth's brother lives on the property, so there were cousins ranging from 5 -10) sat tightly on the couches chairs and I was presented with the honoring gesture of a meal, set on the "coffee table". Soda pop in bottles and water in bottles, biscuits, bananas and Ruth pulled out a photo album of pictures of herself at school, with friends, family members etc...I bet there were 100 or so, the first 5 or 6 were pictures I had sent of our family with the letters.
Then each of the younger girls got up to sing a song for me,

sweet quiet voices, not rehearsed, but an offering of what they had. I sang back to them
, "jesus loves the little children". I just know I was beaming because I am still stuck in that moment, (except that my eyes are more squinty because of the glasses thing.)
Then a tour of the home and cooking building, Kellen's room, the dining area and the water tank that collects water off the tin roof of the home, then a faucet sticking out of it. They were so excited to show me how it works.
I was shown a small hut with thatched roof where the mild is stored in special goard type containers, and I was caught off guard when I noticed a hen laying in the back, very still. "Is it alive?" I asked them. They got such a kick out of that, because duh! what on earth would they be doing with a stuffed life like chicken? "She is brooding, laying her egg". Chickens and me...we have so much in common...but that's another post.
Back to the house we went and it was time for gifts from me to them. I am going to tell you that when Fred brought in the "Home basket" which is actually a cardboard box, that had been taped up at the grocery store, Kellen was so happy and grateful and I was so humbled and embarrassed at the extravagance it represented. I just don't want to be a rich American woman in this place. I want to be like them, not above them. Ugh, how do I do that and still respond with what I can give?
When we first arrived, I gave Kellen her heart necklace that said "Mom" and one for Ruth that had 2 hearts connected. Kellen said she had never worn a necklace before. I gave Ruth a small photo album with current pictures of our family and a box of beads for jewelry making. I had a mug made that everyone, even the Compassion staff, was so fascinated with. It was Shutterfly and had a collage of pictures of our family and Ruth on it.
I opened my suitcase and just started pulling out clothing.

Everything I had brought on the trip to wear myself and several new blouses that had been sent from friends at home. The shoes that I had been wearing. It was like Christmas, each item I pulled out, they looked at and passed to the one who wanted it or was the best fit. Four brothers that stood on the porch outside, each got a baseball

tshirt and they all put on the clothing right away over whatever they had on. Each item that Kellen showed interest in, was offered to her first. Its too much. Too much, that my cast offs are treasures...that something I purchased at the Thrift store to wear here, brings such celebration. Then I felt let to give Kellen a silver bracelet I was wearing, which caused her to cry again. I told her, the shiney silver was far more beautiful on her skin than mine.
Then I don't know what got into me, but before I left home, I purchased a band from Kohl's to wear as a wedding band so that I could leave my own ring at home.
I took it off, looked into Ruth's eyes, told her that I would pray always for a man that would love Jesus and her, honor her, respect her, care for her, provide for her. I told her to always protect her body, keeping it pure until a man that was worthy of her, would marry her. That she was valuable to God, to her mother and to me. I took the ring off my left hand and had her put it on her right hand until the day when a wonderful man replaced it. Ya, I know, God is such an orchestrator and I was so, so, so blessed.
Who am I, that my God would love me that much.
Fred made us take tons of pictures and I was so grateful for the digital age and the monster memory card my brother gave me with the camera. Fred wore out the batteries on the smaller camera back at the project. Oh Fred, you were such a blessing to me.
Then Kellen asked me to pray over their family. I am not worthy to be the one. But God is, and as broken as my past has been, He is the God of redemption and if he can use a small american woman to bless a family and speak to God on their behalf...I needed to surrender to be his representative and an intercessor for them. Yes I am bawling right now, retelling it. I just don't deserve such joy, immeasurable, overflowing, amazing joy.
I prayed for their protection, for the protection of the girls, for health and strength for the grown boys (who are responsible to this family since the death of Ruth's father in 1999.) That God would make himself known to them every single day and that as we seperated in body, that he would bind our hearts together across the globe. The God of America is the God of Uganda...
Fred directed more pictures and I will be embarrassed that he took so many of them receiving gifts, because it is humbling to know that what I gave was no sacrifice at all.
There came a time to leave and yes I waited as long as I could. Fred said we could stay as long as we wanted to. Ya, well maybe not really as long as I wanted to, but I am so grateful for a family back home to pull my heart back home.
I'm going to post this without pictures for now, then add the photos later, so check back, but I am down to last few hours here and my last $2.50. I have no jewelry left, no clothes except what I will be wearing on the plane and they aren't even clean. So if you could pray for those sitting next to me on the 48 hour journey home, they would be most grateful I am sure.
We are just about done with our mission in Uganda. You have done a good work here servants, by your giving to send us, by your praying to protect and strength us, by loving our Savior enough to keep walking on.
Let's stay in this thing until we our lay down heads for the last time. He is so worth it


JP said...

Awesome. Just awesome.

Kristen Plum said...

Ditto what Jason said. So wish I was there. Ruth is beautiful

Britt@artbybritt said...

Wow. I have no words. Thank you for sharing with us!

Amy Tromans said...

you make me cry.

JUST A MOM said...

Thank you for allowing us to go on this journey with you. Only wish you could bring Ruth and her family back in your suitcase!

thegypsymama said...

Hi there Jodi -

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of "Compassion" with us last month. We're delighted to let you know that you were the randomly selected link to receive our Colors of Compassion Card set!


I'll be shooting you an email about it too!