Tuesday, January 31, 2012

He can make beauty out of something ugly

Day 12 in Uganda

This morning when the kids took their first break from school, I sat on the porch and talked with them. I saw my sponsored child, Gideon, getting water. I took a picture of him. I saw Mastula headed for some porridge, so I took her picture also. I learned a lot more of the children’s names today. They all lined up at the borehole for water. Thank God for clean drinking water. These children can at least get clean water while they are at school.

During lunch, I saw the kids start to line up for lunch. I went around to the kitchen and asked if I could help. There are over 250 students here and lunch time is hectic. I started handing bowls out to the cook to scoop posho and beans. The bowls ran out quick. So I went over to the dishwashing station and got some clean ones. They also ran out quickly. Then I helped the little girl washing them rinse them with water. And by the end I was washing them. I had never seen kids fight over rinsing dishes. I had to make them all take turns. I must have washed the same bowls 15 times because they don’t have enough for everyone. The kids had to stand in line until others bring their’s to be washed. The bowls were so worn out. I can tell they were well used. This was one of the reason sponsorship had to go up. Because last year a budget for dishes were never taken into consideration. Neither were pots and pans. There was a lot that Christie and George didn’t take into consideration when it came to their budget for the school. It was the first time they have ever done sponsorships. They wanted to aim low on the pricing for sponsorships, but when they went through a year and seen what they didn’t add in the budge, they found themselves paying for things out of their own pockets. Plus everything here had gone up in price. I had so much fun washing dishes with these little blessings. God has blessed me beyond words. I never thought it would be a blessing to wash dishes. I was washing them as fast as they came. I kissed the heads of the children as they passed and told them Jesus loves them and so did I.

Later I sat on the porch when the kids got out of school. A lot of them came to sit on the porch with me. I started taking pictures. By the time I was finished I was surrounded by about fifty kids. They love to see themselves on camera. Moses came home today for a little while and he had some g-nuts that needed shelling. I had to tell him to tell the children to let me up. I literally couldn’t move. We all sat out on the grass and shelled g-nuts. It amazes me how all the children almost broke their necks to help out. Joviah sat out with us and taught me some Luganda. She told me how to ask for a hug and then she asked me for one. My heart melted. She held on to me so tight and said she loved me. I didn't want to let her go and neither did she. I could have floated off the ground. Then Mbode asked for a hug. Oh my goodness. These kids are my heart and I am going to be so sad to live them.  After we shelled all the nuts, Moses and I took a walk.

When Matt and I had our wedding ceremony here, they had a dance contest between the kids. Charles won the contest and we gave him 10,000 shillings. I was broken when Christie posted how badly he wanted a sponsorship package before we came here. So I was so happy when he won that contest. Today he remembered who I was. He remembered that I had came to his home and he asked if I would come back. So Moses and I walked him and his little brother home. 

We stopped by the house of the new teacher that Christie and I brought to meet George. I saw a pink chicken and I am not even kidding. These place never ceases to amaze me. There were some crazy drunk men that were yelling at us. They wanted Moses to take their picture. A truck was came down the narrow dirt road so we ran and got into someone’s yard before we were plowed over or covered in red dust. They had a black and white calf, so I got closer to take a picture. I have always loved black and white cows. I see some baby piglets. I got closer so I could get a good shot. They were so little and cute. I just wanted to hold one of them. Moses showed me how to call them and they came running, but every time I barely moved they ran back. Finally they got so close I touched one of their noses. 

I looked up and their were graves in the back yard. It made me sad. I know people die, but more often here than I can get use to. Moses says let's go before you cry. I collected myself and told him it was alright. The lady that lived in the house remembered me from the wedding ceremony. I sat with her and Moses took a picture of the two of us. She was so happy. We walked back down the road toward the house. I saw a women and a man carrying bricks. The lady had about 5 of them on her head. The man was carrying some on a bike. Then I saw a tiny boy chopping fire wood. We walked down to Mastula’s. I love that family. Jajja(grandmother) Mastula was still sitting on the ground making baskets. She had only made one since we saw her last. Heart breaking. I gave the kids some love and tell them I love them. I hugged Mastula and kissed her little head, then we headed home. I saw another beautiful sun set, but they never get old. A kid was pulling another kid around in a jerry can that had busted out on one side. Their own little make shift wagon. There was a tree covered in thorns with the most beautiful flowers. God’s way of saying He can make beauty out of something ugly. Reminded me of my life. Closer to home we saw a fallen birds nest. I thought of how much work had been put into it and now it had fallen. Reminded me of the lives of some others. As we get on the compound, I see the start of the P5 building. It is only going to be a floor and roof until they can get the funds to finish building. I got in the house so I could take a bath. My feet were filthy. After, Moses showed me how to cook another African meal. We sat outside by the charcoal cooker and ate the g-nuts we shelled early. This is the life. Simple. Our meal was finished and it was delicious. 


Breaking barriers

Day 11 in Uganda
This morning was the first day of school. The school bell rang throughout the compound. I could hear the laugher of the children.  Children lined up behind the borehole. The kids that had been staying with relatives during the holiday have now returned. I saw many faces outside the window. Parents brought their dues to the school to be weighed. They brought firewood and corn. George sat outside holding meetings for the first part of the day. I noticed a mother holding her baby boy and he had on a Auburn jersey. Matt’s favorite team is Auburn, so I grabbed my camera to get a picture. 

Mansul stared in the window. I love this kid. He has such beautiful eyes. Christie told me that his family kept him in hiding after he became deaf after a long battle with malaria.  When she came to live here and they started profiling children to find them sponsors, a little boy showed up to enroll but they quickly discovered that he was deaf.  So once they found a school for the deaf to send him to, word spread and 2 other parents came forth with their children.  Disabilities here are viewed as curses by some, so children are kept in hiding.  I looked at him and said, “I am so glad he can get out now.” 

Christie had noticed a little girl had hit another girl at the borehole. She was enraged. It is one thing for people to live in poverty, but to be picked on by peers can be eliminated. She told Kakumba to tell the little girl there will be no hitting on the compound. The little girl fled. We had another chicken that kept coming in the house. I kept running it out and as soon as I sat back down, it was in the house again. Finally I tossed a dirty diaper at it, but it didn’t work either. Christie wanted to get an action shot, so I got something else to throw, but it didn’t come back in. Momma Nabakalu brought us our tea and Wilson followed with some pineapple. Later he asked if I wanted any mango. This is what I had been waiting for - fresh mango. I told Christie that I can leave with ease now with a bit of sarcasm and she asked “Why?” I told her because now I had mango. So she told Wilson to never give me mango again. It wasn’t long before the kids filled the living room. School was out early today. Christie had them all do flash cards. Joviah sat in the living room and told us she wanted us to go see her cow. She wanted us to come and watch Elijah milk it and she demonstrated how he does it. We laughed so hard. She is a sweet girl. 
George needed to go into Kampala for some supplies for the school. So he and Viola loaded up for daddy and daughter time. He told Christie and I to prepare us something to eat because we were out of charcoal and for us to teach Betty. So Betty and I prepared an African meal. We had a tomato and carrot sauce with rice. My rice didn’t turn out so well, but we ate it anyway. 

Momma Maria always asks Christie for clothes but she never has clothes for women.  She does now, thanks to the clearance racks at Walmart.  So we found some halter top dresses for her in the totes. Christie cut the spaghetti straps off and we made her a skirt out of it. Jjajja Gerald and Nalongo (mother/grandmother to many and also serves the ministry as the school cook) came up so we got them some skirts too. 

Wilson was being silly so I snapped a quick picture of him. We had a few kids come up and we got them all new outfits. You wouldn’t believe the sizes these kids wear. At age 10 and 12 they are wearing a size 5/6. Some need bigger shirts than they do pants because they have worms and their bellies are swollen. Even though there is a borehole, some still get water from a dirty pond where water collects. The water is polluted with parasites. Because there is only one borehole, some have to walk for miles with heavy jerry cans, so they choose to walk a shorter distance for dirty water. Maria was one of the first to get her some new clothes. When she walked out, her mother was so proud. Momma Maria is a very special woman. She suffers many health problems and when Christie first came here she couldn’t even walk. Now she is thriving. Fred was the next to get new clothes. He is one of the kids that lives behind Christie and George in the home they built for Maria and her Mom.  He is the grandson Nalongo, who was moved in to care for Maria and her Mom.  Francisca and Joshua, who are also grandchildren, were given clothes as well.  

Maria hasn’t ever had much to do with me. So I started playing with her. After she got used to me, I picked her up and started kissing her cheeks. She went crazy with smiles. Then when I sat her down she held her arms out for me to pick her up. I picked her up and put my forehead to hers. She smiled so sweetly. She laid her head on my shoulder. I felt loved. I finally broke that barrier. I later went outside and she was playing with me. She has no idea she was that one that started my heart stirring for this place. She opened my heart to a new life. A life that I will never regret.

Tonight they all sat in the living room. I finished my book Scared by Tom Davis so I started reading The Journey by Billy Graham. I sat with my book while Christie had the kids reading the flash cards. This place is filled with love. Night is the only time that all the family is together. The day is filled with chores, but the nights are fun. The children watch TV (permitting the power is on), read, or just laugh and have fun. Christie had them make up sentences with the flash cards and here were some they came up with: 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lasting friendships

Day 10 in Uganda
This morning we planned on getting up early to go to the pool. George had to call his brother so that we would have another van. There was a total of 33 that went in 2 vans. You can only imagine. On the way Mayi sat in my lap. There were 5 girls in the front and 8 girls in the back. George, Christie and Josiah were in the very front. 

The roads here are very bumpy and very few are covered in pavement. I am so amazed by the tiny cars that travel these roads. It was about an hour trip one way with 45 minutes of that being dirt road.  As we traveled the bumpy roads, the children we passed yelled “Hey Mzungu” (white person) and George yelled back “Hey Mudugavu” (black person). No one ever yells that back at them so they really had fun with it.  When we arrived at our destination, it just appeared out of no where and it was beautiful. There were little huts with carvings on the outside of them. The grounds were well manicured. Lush trees cover the landscape. Statues of animals as tall as large buildings. These kids were in for a treat. We made our way down a little path to the pool area. Everyone waited eagerly to get into the pool. The staff was busy preparing lunch for us all. The children were given the cue and they all jumped in. They were splashing and jumping. I have never seen kids so excited. George told us lunch would be ready in 10 minutes, so Christie and I sat on the side of the pool and put our legs in.  I think this was the coolest I have been since I have been here. We just sat by the pool and admired the children and how happy they were. These children here don’t get to just play, unless they’re at school.  They don’t get to just relax. They are aways carrying water, walking to and from school, gathering firewood, washing clothes, etc. 

We all went up for lunch. Our table looked like one out of those medieval movies. It was long and covered in a red table cloth. 31 people sat at this table. We had mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, rice, chicken, slaw (no mayo), and pineapple. The children had a rare treat of soda. I have never seen so many clean plates and those plates were loaded. People do not waste food here. If you become full someone else eats the leftovers. After we enjoyed our meal it was back to swimming. 

Christie and I finally got to jump in. The water was the coldest I have ever felt. I swam from one end of the pool to the other. Then I tried to teach some of the kids how to swim. Half of the kids have never talked to me, but they were all over me today. I showed them how to doggy paddle. Nora and Betty were my best friends. Godfrey even spoke to me and called me mom. Every time I turned around they were calling my name. I loved it. I held them while they tried to float on their backs. I taught them how to do the washing machine. When I showed one all of them wanted to learn. I showed them my back and front flips. They were amazed. I showed them how to stand on your hands underwater. Mansul, one of the deaf kids from Malaria, came over and wanted me to show him how to do the washing machine. I tried explaining and Christie said, “You know he can’t hear you right?” and I said “Well that is even better.” I was so glad I got to spend this day with these kids. 

I decided to take a break and laid on the concrete to warm up. All of the kids surrounded me. They taught me some Luganda and I told them the names of my children. They taught me how to sing one of their songs they sing in choir. I now have the best of friends and I love them all dearly. I am gonna be so disappointed to leave. My heart hurts just to think about it. Yes, I miss my family back home, but I have family here too. And what makes it so bad is that I haven’t known them that long. I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with them as I want to and that is what makes it hurt so bad. By the time they start to get used to me being here, I am gone again. Sigh...

After swimming for about 6 hours we were all worn out. We all loaded back up in the vans and headed home. Christie and I, with our stark white selves, got slap burnt up. This time Ritah sat in my lap. We stopped for some supplies in town. Amina jumped out and purchased some bread. Someone else got a banana. The girls passed small pieces around without even asking. My heart melted. They think of one another. They care for one another. They shared and only had a small bite for themselves. I don’t know about you but my kids wouldn’t share until I told them to. When George got back in the van, he noticed the back tire was low. There aren’t convenience stores on every corner here. So we had to rush home as fast as we could. Most of the girls had fallen asleep and Ritah’s little head was just a bobbing. I looked around at her face and she was asleep sitting straight up. I grabbed her little head and pulled her back. I wrapped my arms around her and leaned my head onto hers to keep it from jouseling around. She was sleeping so well she was drooling. 

We finally made it home. We were so tired. We will sleep well tonight. It was tea time and I went to get it ready. The kids were staring hard at the TV. They were watching some corny karate movie. As I was in the kitchen I could hear all the drama going on in the movie and then it stopped. I looked into the living room and the movie was paused. I asked why and George said they were practicing their moves. These people are hilarious. 


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Laying foundation

Day 9 in Uganda
This morning the community started clearing and digging for the foundation. I walked down to get some pictures and videos. The sun was beaming hot. I worked my way around to get pictures of everything that was going on. Momma Nabakalu came to get me for tea. As I walked back my stomach felt sour. The heat had already gotten to me. I came back inside and had some bread and tea. A lady came up to speak with us. She had a 3 month old baby boy with her. We gave her a diaper and and showed her how to use it. We put him a new outfit on and I held him for a while. When he started to cry, Christie noticed he had blisters in his mouth. We asked George about them and he said that were normal for black babies. I finished my book Billy last night, so today I started another book by Tom Davis called Scared. Later we decided to do bookkeeping. The internet was down so we decided to take a nap until it came back on.

When we woke, we had company. Their names were Paul, Michael and Rodger. They are from different parts of Uganda.They had lunch with us and we chatted for a while. Christie told them about how the borehole was funded. She told them about the clinic and how it became so important to the people here. After lunch we all went up to see the choir perform. They were awesome as aways. When the choir finished the visitors were blown away with how well they performed. Paul said they were ready to tour the world. He gave them all some money so they could have a soda. Sodas are big treats around here. Some kids have never even had one. Children here enjoy just the small things we all take for granted. We took some pictures with our visitors and they were on their way back home. George and Christie decided they were gonna give the choir a big treat. They all are going to the pool tomorrow. They literally jumped for joy. They were so excited. 

Christie told them all to load up and we would take them home. We drove Ali (my sponsored child & one of George’s and Christie’s sons) to his biological mom’s home so he could visit with her. As we drove we saw the most beautiful sunset. Some kids were playing soccer. In some places the roads were almost impossible to drive down, but the van made it with no problem. We went through a small town. When we arrived at Ali’s mom’s home, she was not there. They told us she was in town. So we all loaded back up and headed for the town. We turned down a very small road and sure enough she was there. We all unloaded to go visit with her and one of the girls making straw mats wanted us to take her picture.  Tom went to get our cameras and as soon as Christie took a picture of the girl and showed it to her, everyone wanted their pictures taken.  They were all so excited to see themselves in the viewfinders on our cameras. It was getting dark so we took Momma Ali home and headed back home. The children sang all the way home. As we rode the bumpy dirt roads, the children sang in harmony. It was beautiful. I sure am gonna miss this place when I go back home. My heart will always be here. 


Friday, January 27, 2012

Mastula loves Matt

Day 8 in Uganda
This morning Mbode was feeling much better. Christie and I let her and her sister Nabakalu pick out new outfits from the clothes that were bought from the clearance racks/donated. As soon as they were “looking smart” (dressed nicely), Momma Nabukalu made them take the outfits off because she said they were for Church.  We were sitting here in my room and I heard a loud commotion in girls’ room. I looked over and saw something was moving behind a tote. I kept staring and it looked like a tiny foot came up. Christie was terrified because of her close encounter with a rat last night. She kept asking, “What? What?” I got closer and it was a hen that had gotten into the house. We laughed so hard and I took a couple of shots before she got out the front door. Momma Nabakalu made us fresh mashed potatoes for lunch. 

While Christie was working on my blog pictures and videos, I went up to the church where the ladies were plaiting the girls hair. I got Grace to ask them if they would braid my hair when they got time. So one of the ladies agreed to do my hair. I came back down to the house until she was ready for me. I told Christie what I was doing. She decided to come with me. It was not long before they came after me. Christie and I headed back to the church. The lady that agreed to do my hair wanted me to sit in the chair, but all the other girls that were getting their hair done sat on the floor. So I told her to sit in the chair and I would sit in the floor. People here are so generous. They will give up the last thing they have to give to you. I could tell the lady was struggling with my hair. She tried first to do the small braids. Then she tried a french braid. 

While she was braiding it, Christie told me that she spoke Swahili and French as well as Luganda.  Then she told me that she gave her life to Christ 3 weeks ago.  She was sharing her testimony at church and said that her son cried and cried and she didn’t know what to do.  She felt he must be possessed so she took him to the witch doctor (very common here for non-believers) and it didn’t help.  She then came to church and was so moved by the message that she gave her life to Christ.  She said that right after doing so, she saw demons leaving her son and that he hasn’t cried since.  What a testimony!  She got it complete and was not satisfied with the results. Another lady came over and tried. They said I had too much hair. She braided my hair with three braids going down the back of my head. I was happy just to get my bangs out of my face. While she worked on my hair, we watched the choir practice a routine I haven’t seen yet - playing wooden instruments. 

We went back home when it was time for the choir to eat. We cooked Mac & Cheese on the charcoal outside, because the mashed potatoes were gone from our stomachs by that time. We came inside for a while and I read some more of the book Billy. I have almost finished. Christie says it sounds like I am in a relationship with the guy Templeton in the book because I keep saying I am so mad at him. I talk to the book like it is a person. It is so neat to learn about Billy Graham before he became really famous. And about how his faith was almost lost. But you will have to read the book to find out more. I smelled cooking right outside my window. So I peeped out and Wilson and Momma Nabakalu were cooking chapati. I went outside so I could learn how to cook it. Chapati was one of Matt’s and my favorites the last time we visited. 
Around 6pm Christie and I went on a walk. As we walked up the compound we met with George. He said we needed a guide to go with us since we were “going in the jungle”, so he appointed Ivan Jjemba. This kid told us about everything we came in contact with. I loved it. I felt like I was on a tour. He showed us local herbal medicines for cough and fever. We stopped at a corn field and the sun was setting right behind it. Beautiful. He showed us some sweet potatoes that someone had planted and he uncovered one to show us. There was a chicken that was standing with only one leg. I couldn’t believe the thing only had one leg.  I said, “See that is hope, but someone needs to put it out of its misery and eat it.”  Right when I said that, the chicken put its leg down. Guess he didn’t want to get eaten today. 

He took us on a small trail in the jungle. We rounded a corner and I heard something that sounded like the growl of a tiger or big cat. Ivan kept walking and so did I. I didn’t want to act afraid because he was not afraid. When we got a little further he said, “Don’t mind the pig.” Bahahaha!  It was a pig, not a big cat. Ivan took us to where he lives. He lives in a small mud house. There was beautiful flowers in his yard. We got back on the main trail and saw the most beautiful landscape. You could look out into the rolling mountains. The place is so full of green, even though it hasn’t seen rain in a while. I could call this place home. Maybe one day God will allow me to bring my family here to serve, but until then I will pray. The further we walked the sun started to set. I got a beautiful picture and we continued on. 

We saw the kids that came the other day to get water and we gave them clothes. We came upon Mastula and Ali’s father’s home. He is the security guard here on the compound at night. We snuck around the back so we could surprise the kids. As soon as they saw us they came running. The grandmother was making beautiful baskets in the front yard. I told her I wanted to buy one to take back to the States with me. There were several children around her, so Christie asked which ones were her grandchildren. She said, “All of them.” We took a picture of her and all of her grandchildren. 

Then I looked for Mastula but I didn’t see her. I asked where she was and not 2 minutes later she came running. She held onto me with all her might. She wrapped her little arm around my side. I kissed her and told her, “Yesu Akwagala” (Jesus loves you) in Luganda. She ran off into the house. She came running out with her doll that Katie Lawson (her sponsor) gave her. Mastula held onto her doll with so much pride and wrapped her arm back around me. Oh how I love this girl! She is so special to Matt and me. 

Christie took this video for Matt:

My eyes welled up with tears. I wish he was here. We said our goodbyes and headed home. It was getting dark. There were two kids standing on the side of the road. Christie stopped to take and picture and the little one starting crying like she was killing him. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I am sure it was something like this, “Please help me these crazy white people are trying to get me.” We laughed and showed the little guy his picture. 

He still wasn’t satisfied. More kids sat on a hill awaiting us. They were all laughing. I stopped to take their pictures. One whispered to the little one and he said, “Please let me go home with you.” I am not sure what he meant, but I assumed he just wanted to walk with us. It became very dark. The kids here walk at all times of the day. There was one pushing a bicycle tire down the road with a stick. Christie got a cool shot of my silhouette against the really blue, starry sky.  The homes that had power had only one light in the whole house. Others had fires going outside so they could cook. This place is always alive. People are always doing things. 

We finally got home and the power was on. I sat on the porch for a minute and admired the stars. The stars seem brighter here. You can see them all across the night sky. I went inside and took a look at my feet. I said to George, “Look! I am turning Ugandan.” My feet were covered in dirt. He told me to get a bath. Christie and I always laugh at our feet when we get back from our walks. I think my feet will be red forever. And I’m OK with that.  I got a bath and ate my supper. George went in my room and helped the girls with their reading. The house is full again - 16 people!  I wonder what bug will harass us tonight!