This morning we had the fabulous pleasure of revisiting one of the orphanages our awesome July team helped to provide and build beds for.
We didn't tell anyone there we were coming out---we just wanted to surprise them.
It's a wee bit of a drive through "jams" out of Kampala and then the long jungle dirt road going to the orphanage is in tip-top mix up your internal organs shape. As we finally rounded the little corner that would take us to the orphanage gate we just laughed and were filled with delight.
For whatever reason about 15 of the kids were standing at the gate. Not just standing there, but faces pressed against the fence, hands clutching the bars---kind of like they were trying to watch a baseball game while on the other side of the fence.
When they saw us there was immediate screaming and shouting and jumping up and down. We totally didn't expect that and I scrambled for my camera to try to record that for the team (don't get too excited, team...I have no idea how it worked for me).
As we drove down the dirt drive the kids ran along side. The driver had to slow down as the kids began to reach out for our hands. All of a sudden I heard a boy shout, "STUART!!" I thought I'd cry.
As our van slowed to a crawl our driver just stopped and said, "I think you should get out here." We were far from the buildings but the kids were hyper, happy road blocks.
There were lots of hugs and holding of hands. April became a huge celebrity because of her giant camera and willingness to snap endless pictures of them.
One reason we went out was to see how our first Ugandan double decker prototypes were holding up. We were so glad to see they were in great shape, though I've come to the conclusion that mosquito nets are as delicate as they are precious. I think we will have to consider a way to replace nets which get holes poked or get ripped.
While I was in the first boy's dorm several older boys came in. I asked one of them, David, how he liked his bed. He instantly broke into the biggest smile and showed me how he got up into his top bunk. He said he slept very good on his bed. I asked him what he liked the most. David said, "I like being able to have a bed for sleeping and I most like my blanket." And then he ran his hand across the soft blanket neatly covering his bed. I'm not sure I've ever had a 16 year old boy tell me a blanket made him so happy. I almost cried.
As he was climbing down I saw a Bible we'd given the children on a small table next to the bottom bunk. I opened it up and saw all kinds of writing and marking on its pages. I was glad to see whoever slept on the bottom was using their Bible. I asked David if he had his. He reached over to the foot of his bed and patted something under his blanket. It was his Bible. He said he reads it all the time and keeps it under his blanket to "keep it well". I thought I'd cry.
Another boy, Henry, wanted to show me his bed. Henry is also 16. I made a big deal about how clean and neat their beds were and asked what he like most about his bed. He said, "I like having a mosquito net so the mosquitos don't attack me and I don't get malaria anymore." I choked up.
I moved from bed to bed, dorm to dorm talking with any kid who wanted to show me their bed or tell me something about it. They were so proud to do both. Almost every single child I talked to said they most like their nets because the mosquitos didn't "swarm" or "attack" or "bite" or "hurt" them. Tears.
A girl I sat and talked with, Gorret, said she liked her Bible so much. She said she was reading Micah and that her Bible was teaching her how to be a good person and to have good behavior and to do the things God wanted her to. Tears.
There are many stories I could share with you...and I will. For now I want to share a letter with you that was given to me by an older boy as we were leaving. We were actually giving a few of them a rie back to town, but before I knew that he came up to me and handed me a yellow piece of paper folded over a couple times. He said, "This note is for Sweet Sleep in appreciation of what you have done." Tears.
I read the letter and, oh, great joy. Here it is:
Dear our friends Sweet Sleep. How are you there at your place and your family (kids and your relatives).
The reason why I have written this letter to appreciate you as Sweet Sleep for the beds and blankets (other things).
And another thing I would like thank you because we were in good relationship with you and us.
We were happy because you have visit us today and you have shown us a big love.
Thank you very much
May God bless you.
This letter makes me very happy. And, it should make all of you happy, too. Without you these children would still be sleeping on the filthy foam scraps you've seen pictured in our newsletters and on our website.
Tonight, as I was walking around taking care of a few things, I also was reflecting back over the day and our time at their orphanage, Greater Life. In doing so, a happy smile came to my face. "Greater Life" isn't just the name of the orphanage these children are growing up in; it's also something that we've all worked together to give them----greater life.
See you in the next blog.
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