Monday, August 13, 2012

Uganda 2012...a needle in a haystack!

Its our final day in Uganda and we headed out with one single purpose, to find a 9 year old boy named Daniel.  One of our team members, Nicole, is his sponsor and she was so praying that she would get to meet him.  The ministry headquarters is very near us, but could not provide help in finding him, so all she had was a prayer and in faith bought rice and beans and we all pulled together a backpack with a toy, stickers, dresses and shirts for the family.  We gathered around the van this morning asking God to guide us to him.  Like a needle in a haystack, really. She had his sponsor card showing his neighborhood name, but seriously there is no rhyme or reason to these American urbanites, so we depended on Annette who had offered to escort us and help in our journey, as Chris our van driver took us to the general area.  We were told "good luck finding him".  Luck?  We don't need luck, we asked God to show us and we were not to be discouraged.  At one point we stopped  to show the picture she had of the boy to a teenager standing on the side of the road.  "Do you know him?"  "YES!"  "Do you know where he lives?"  "Yes!" WHAT????  Will you show us "Yes!"  He was so excited to help, he jumped in our van and showed us the way.  We drove as far as we could and walked the rest of the way to a brick and mud home tucked a bit away.
We got there and she asked for Daniel.  He came out, but was thoroughly confused by 8 white people showing up at his remote home.  Through Annette, he was told that she was his sponsor for school.  He was hesitant and unsure until she showed him the card with his picture.  Finally he understood and it was a party from there on.

 His mother was retrieved from her work in the "garden" and we were all invited into her home. 7 of her 9 children were there along with all of us and each child was so excited to receive something from the backpack. The girls got pillow case dresses, the boys received shirts.

 The notes were read to them and each pocket held a piece of candy.  There was such joy, such celebration and to think that more than anything she could give, to come so far to find him and bless him in the name of Jesus, was AMAZING!   As only God can do, we were so so thankful that the Lord led us right to him.  Do you know how many children were in that small area alone?   Did you see the pictures from VBS?  Did you read that nearly 800 children gathered near in that one small village?  It was a miracle, that God would show us such favor is just humbling and so so wonderful.  Nicole will never forget this day, Daniel will never forget this visit and we will never be able to forget how much the creator loves us!

We left the area, drove back to Jinja and made a purchase for the village of Kakira.  Then sat a while, shopped a small bit, enjoyed a Coke Zero and a chocolate bar and then decided to end the day with a hoot and a hollar!  Sending Chris, our driver, back to the hotel with our purses and supplies, we hopped on the back of a Boda Boda, 2 of us on each one, scrambled for the $1.00 each that it cost and rode off into the sunset!  What a thrill! FYI...every time we do something a little risky, they blame me.  Don't you believe it for a minute...those girls were all about the Boda Boda! Crocodiles and the camping in the wild?  Maybe not so much!


Uganda, we leave you at 9am tomorrow morning, just 16 hours from now.  You have been gracious to us, your people so welcoming and appreciative.  We pray the God who sees us all and brought us to serve with you here will keep you until we meet again.  If it is in eternity, we'll be the ones standing in on your worship singing "Higher Higher Higher"  

Revelation 7: "After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.And they were shouting with a great roar,
“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
    and from the Lamb!”
 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God.  They sang!
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
    and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength belong to our God"
    forever and ever! Amen.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Uganda 2012 Day 12...Goodbyes

Today is Sunday and we headed into Kakira for the last time. Our arms bursting with all of the extra clothing, VBS supplies, shoes and a small gift for each of the 21 men and ladies that helped us with VBS this week.  I stayed up late and then again this morning writing notes to the most special to my heart.  Wrapping things in brown paper and black plastic bags so that others could not tell what was being carried.  I have learned since being here that Janet who has taken in 3 additional children, was the target of some jealousy from inside and outside the church.  If anyone discovers that someone is receiving money from the US, they are suspect and others become very jealous.  I went to Janet's home, it is the bare minimum just like everyone else, but when Olivia and Jesca came to live there and went to school, people knew that money was coming from somewhere.  When Janet goes to the village market on Sunday her prices are higher.  She told me that there just came a time when she had to realize that she must live to please God, and not be concerned with the talk or opinions of man.  This grieves me.  After seeing where they live, 5 people sleeping in a 8 X 8 room, happily, I felt like I wasn't helping enough.  But sending a bit more seems like it would cause a problem for her as well.  I'll be praying for wisdom in this.  
Dann and the Pastor's son Robert led one song during worship this morning.  
There was other music and dancing and the children's choir and a great message. At the end, a cake was brought up made by the Kakira ladies.  They started this business a couple of years ago to earn money for their woman's ministry.  Dann and I were asked to come up and cut the cake, together, like cutting a wedding cake.  We found out later that when a visitor cuts a cake like that, it means you must return to the village...ok then!  
Cutting the cake began the most difficult part of this trip so far.  The beginning of the goodbyes.  Janet. Jesca and Loid, OLIVIA.  I had prepared myself as best I could.  But opening your heart wide just does a thing that cannot be made easier.  I love her so.  And it is clear that she has not held back a thing either.  The longing for 2 years, was not undone in a weeks time.  I believe it is just something I will have to live with, a part of my heart broken and left in Uganda.  God is so good to create in us love that is so deep, so real.  I wouldn't change a thing.  Well water proof mascara would have been a good change this morning.  Hearts have been touched on this trip and not just mine.  Its amazing to take something so unexplainable and watch someone else experience it.  No words are quite right, its just a heart thing.  At least now Dann and I can give each other a knowing look when her name is spoken or we go through the pictures.  
The Pastor of their church had arranged a lunch for us in the village with a few of the leaders of their church.  Never before has a team come to minister to the children of the village and been able to pull it off.  He just kept saying, 700 children under the same roof heard the gospel and with God's nurturing the seeds that have been planted, the impact in Kakira will be huge!  Ah yes, just like our God.  

Tomorrow we are heading out on an adventure of our own making.  There is a boy, named Daniel, who is sponsored by one of our team members.  She has little information about him except his school name, which narrows down his village and a picture of him.  We are taking a woman we have met with us and will scour the area talking to other people, other children, passing out candy and dresses and shirts and doing everything we can to locate him.  She will surprise him with gifts of things we have brought along and some rice and beans for his family.  Please pray we find this little guy named Daniel.  It will be such a treat for everyone and such a surprise for his family.   Can you imagine, they have no idea she is even in the country and she will show up at their home with gifts!  I know, don't you wish you had come just to witness it!  Front row seat we have, yes maam.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Uganda 2012 Day 10 & 11

Day 10 began at 3:30am, packed and checking out of the hotel we headed to Entebbe to drop off Dot and Ashley as they began their trip back home ahead of the rest of the team.  Pastor Scott decided with the first phase of our work completed, we'd head North where the wild things are and spend the night at a national park.  
Our team has varying degrees of comfort and response to things like wart hogs and crocodiles.  To be honest, when the crocodile suddenly leaves his rock to swim at and bump into your boat, it is a little unsettling, in a crazy adventurous exciting kind of way.  Some screamed, others snapped photos, the boat driver laughed at all of us.  We cruised down to see the falls and on the way back saw a bunch of crocs surrounding a dead hippo in the water, as they were moving in, so was our boat and darned if one of those huge reptiles didn't leave the hippo to assault us under water!  Geez, like we were really going to try to share their dinner...a selfish and aggressive breed they are.  
After 10 hours of driving and 2 hours on the river, we disembarked just in time for a pouring rain storm, another one of my favorite things in the world.  We ate dinner on a thatched roofed room, and went to bed in a tent.  Hippos are knows to be the most deadly animal in the jungle, lions are seen in the camp on occasion and I was trying so hard to hide my enthusiasm in respect to the nervous ones, but I was like a kid going on the DisneyLand jungle cruise only everything was real! 
I had been fighting a migraine all day from all the bobbling of my head on the drive.  Infrastructure and road paving are not Uganda's strong suits.  But after writing a letter to one young girl in the village of Kakira who lost her dad a year ago, I fell sound asleep.  
Up at 6am this morning, with our breakfast in tow, we headed for the game drive area and were so privileged to see giraffe's, elephants, monkeys and more hippos.  Then headed back to Jinja on a ride that felt eternal. 
 Wart Hog!
Way more fun than the Hotel!

He made a hippo that weighs a TON!

God's fingerprints are everywhere

Merchison Falls

One minute he was smiling away at us...

The next he rammed the boat!

Water Buffalo

Hip hip hip hippopotomus!

Did I mention we are in AFRICA?                                                                                              Tossing candy out the window to children walking along the road made the day.  We got back to the hotel about 7:30, settled back into our rooms, repacked suitcases and bags for all the things we'll be taking into the village to leave with them.  Excess VBS supplies, clothing and very simple gifts for each of the 21 people who made the week work by assisting us in every way.  We'll be out the door at 9:30 am for one of the most difficult days I've had in a very long time.  Worship and a sermon and set the clock to good bye to Olivia, in motion.  Each minute we spend there is going to feel like a heart breaking beat, knowing that this time with her, though very scattered as we worked the same ministry, but not side by side, is soon over.  Please pray for me as I love them so much.  Janet and those girls.  If it was easier for them, it would be easier for me, but this is the way of it.  Giving your heart away to a child and then dealing with the separation won't kill us, I learned that when each of my own went away to college, but living through the pain of it is only a breath above death, there is just no describing it.   A beautiful young girl who so badly wants me to be her mom.  To stay or to take her with me, neither of which is a option.  Hearts knit tightly together isn't enough this time.  We both need face to face and arms around each other, we just do. 
So you wouldn't be wasting a prayer on us tomorrow, as we attempt the impossible.  Thank you sit in church tomorrow...praise Him for all he is and all he has done...He is worthy.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Uganda Day 9...

Uganda Day 9...more is better

Today we headed to Kakira for our final day of VBS and the women’s conference.  Thank goodness we’ll be back there for church Sunday because I feel like my heart is about to break and I can’t face it yet.  I realized today that Olivia is unprepared for our leaving.  She had asked to stay with us at the hotel one night and as much as I wanted to have all three girls here for a slumber party, I didn’t feel right about them seeing our accommodations.  Pastor Scott also hinted that the more attached she is to us, the more difficult it will be for her when we leave.  She has waited 2 long years to see us again.  She has added my name to her own at her school, calling herself Abbo Olivia Jode.  Tears ran down her face today as she hugged me when presented with her certificate for completing the women’s conference.  Mine were at flood level for sure. 

VBS went really well today.  By the 4th day the children know what is coming next and are ready to move with little instruction.  No matter how much preparation we do for crafts each evening, there is always a shortage.  Planning for 550, was 10% over the highest estimate, and when 600, 700 and today nearly 800 show up, the thought of anyone being left out is not an option so there was some organized scrambling for sure.  Dann, Kristen, Olivia and Sharon lead the group again in a really fun version of Jesus Loves Me and Fingerprints.  The chorus of Fingerprints talks about a hippopotamus, which we thought was something they would know all about.  Tonight we heard that all week they have been saying beep beep beep la la la la la la, instead of Hip Hip Hip Hippopotamus, what a kick!
After the kids are divided up by ages, they sit and wait, 10, 20, 30, 40 minutes to get a plate full of rice and beans.  All the while the Ugandan helpers, are entertaining them with skits and songs.  They love it, sit quietly and pay attention.  Today Dann played Jesus and Kristen played one of the disciples in a skit while they were waiting to be served.  I couldn’t see a thing, as I was in the back with my back to them bent over a 1/2 barrel of rice, but I could hear the roars of the children every time “Jesus” had the correct answer.  Loved it.  We finished on time today, headed 1/4 mile to the church and walked in to begin serving Dann and the women, their lunch of...well Rice and beans, with a little cole slaw. 
Then we began our last afternoon of the conference, Nicole and I both taught on fulfilling our purpose in God’s plan.  As several offered a song to show their appreciation of all God has done, we wrapped up the conference, shed a few tears, hugged all 80+ women, handed out certificates and ended with a dance party and lots of pictures.  Janet explained that having a certificate of completion for even this type of learning, helps them to get a job.  I had no idea. 
Dot and Nicole had a great conversation with Janet, sharing their hearts with her, as she shared that her prayer for several years matches up exactly.  We are all amazed, that 3 women thousands of miles apart can be knit together. It was bitter sweet today, more sweet than bitter since we go back Sunday, but Lord have mercy on my emotions that day, our last in Kakira. 
Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 4am to get Dot and Ashley to the airport for their 9am flight, then we head farther North and East for a day and a half of exploring.  My energy is amazing, I don’t know how long it will take to recover once we get home, but I’m grateful for it now.  I wish I could better explain all that is happening.  But just know that each blog post is taking about 2 hours to write, upload pictures and’re worth it and so is the telling of all that is unfolding here. We'll be away from the internet for a couple of days and its 11pm and I'm going to skip the pictures for now.  I just don't have another hour in me tonight.   I still can’t believe 782 children were under our care today, amazing.

Mr. O'teeley the owner of the place we are staying took us to dinner at his restaurant overlooking the Nile.  Quite a treat, lots of laughs...lots!

Uganda 2012 Day 8

Uganda Day 8

Its 10:48 and we are finally back in our room for the night.  Pictures uploaded from the day and
Another huge VBS...728 today. I don’t know how we pulled it off, but God is providing strength and peace, excitement and joy and stories and music and enough food for all that came.
Anyone else thinking "where's waldo?"
  I so wish every one that contributed to the team could see the faces of each child as they sit on the floor of a church building, knees touching and hungry enough that as they eat with their tiny brown fingers, every single grain of rice is picked off their plates, any juice from the beans poured into their mouths.  It just seems right to fill their ears with music, their hearts with a bible story and send them home with their tummies full.  We are spent before its over.  Have just enough time to jump in the van to travel to the other church about 1/2 mile away.  We get out, go straight to hand washing and then walk to the front of the meeting room to sit around a table full of plates and pots of rice, beans, and cooked cabbage.  As the women’s leader, it is my responsibility to serve each one on the team.  Dann hates that he cannot help me, but has to sit and be served first.  I love that about him.  When he suggested we keep this up back home, I told him that what happens in Uganda, stays in Uganda!  We have had a ball serving together, him leading at VBS, me teaching at the women’s conference and the two of us teasing each other in between.  After we eat, the conference begins with the praise and worship portion, so demonstrative and sincere.  Sometimes there is power for the microphones, sometimes the rain on the tin roof is so loud, everyone scoots in close and it feels like bible study in the home.  It is a bit more casual this year than in 2010, but has purpose and I can only pray is making some impact in the hearts of Kakira.  Of course Olivia is there each day to help both with the women in the afternoon and helps with leading the music and parachute time with the littlest ones.  She is as sweet as I remember and if I thought coming to the US would not wreck her contentment when she got home, I’d love to have that child come visit for oh 100 years or so! 

We left the village today, dropped off about 8 along the way at several stops, stopped by the hotel for a quick break and to pick up some things and off we went to Raining Hope’s Home for children.  I think there are about 25 or so living there.  They offered us their great appreciation and sang a couple of songs as a group.  Why is it just so touching to see them respond to visitors this way and offer the only thing they have, something of themselves.  We got to tour the house, visit for a little while and hand over about 12 of each of the dresses and shirts.  The children don’t know about them yet, I suppose they will be handed out at a later time.  Some of you gave puzzles and some tic tac toe pads of paper. This was a new game to them and was fun to teach.  Thank you. 
We left and Dot asked the Pastor who oversees the home, for a “spread sheet’s” worth of information just in case we might ever want to know if having a home in Uganda for orphans would fit in anybody’s budget.  Always thinking, that girl, always wondering what more can be done for someone else.  She sees with her heart, and its so obvious her vision is tinted with Jesus.  If we could only see just as he does, respond with gifts that are truly sacrificial, and watch the Lord take what we’ve offered and rescue the hungry and hurting, well that will be a great day. “you are not your own, you are bought with a price”, if only we would respond as slaves doing the master’s work at every turn. 
We got back to the hotel about 8:30 I guess, ate dinner and 9 of us met in Maggy’s room to prepare crafts for the kids tomorrow.  She has done such a great job choosing things that she could pack and carry here, that were affordable and somehow turn supplies for 550 into whatever the number is for the day...yesterday, 450 or so, today 728!  The room was packed!  But completely under control every minute.  Some of the women from the church were responsible for deciding who got to come in and who did not.  They did a great job, but this was still difficult to see...outside the fence
, this little guy could see and smell the food, hear the voices of the children and still not get inside for either.  Breaks my heart and I know yours, but the building just could not hold another body.  We heard today that the children began arriving and waiting for us at 8am.  We get there at 10 to start.  This may be the biggest thing they’ve experienced in a long time.  126 kids came forward to accept Jesus as their savior today. I’m praying it is a seed the gets firmly planted and that they experience great blessing in their village and in their generation.  Tomorrow we finish up the last day of VBS, how will we walk away and lock the gate on that many is beyond me.  But this is what happens on short term mission trips when you give your whole heart right from the beginning.  We have been asked to return next year and do an entire day with them.  I have no idea how that will work out, but trust God to guide and direct it if he thinks it’s a good idea.  Everyone is asleep but me I’ll wrap it up for tonight and try to get it uploaded in the morning.  Thanks again for sending us.  You have made a wonderful investment in the lives of grateful people.  Amen.