Friday, June 25, 2010
Have you been reading the blogs this summer and thought - "I've really gotta go on one of those trips sometime!"? It happened to me 6 years ago as I heard the stories of folks returning from a trip to Moldova with my church. Soon I was signed up and took off - and I didn't even know where Moldova was until we landed! This is a picture from one of my first trips to Moldova. It didn't take long before I was hooked and I've been to Moldova at least once, if not twice or three times a year since that trip.
In just a few short months, Sweet Sleep will be headed back to Moldova to provide healthy, comfortable new Sweet Sleep beds to sweet orphaned and abandoned children -- and you can be a part of it! Here's the info on the trip:
Dates: October 16-24, 2010
Cost: Approx. $2600
Info Meeting: 6:00 pm, Sunday, July 11 at Brentwood Baptist Church in Room 2140A
If you can't make the meeting or live outside of the Nashville area, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot on the team and to request an application.
I really hope you'll pray and ask God if this is the time He'd have you step out and meet the needs of these often forgotten orphaned children in Moldova. You can see videos of the children we work with in Moldova at www.sweetsleep.org - just click on Featured Video and look for our "Hope for the Nations" video.
Hope to see you on the 11th!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
One family gave us the privilege of seeing their home (a mud hut) and allowing us to help them set up their beds. The children joyfully laid down and began flipping through their Bibles. The woman was so grateful and kept hugging us. We continued on that day by traveling to another sub-county. Here some of the women and children had been waiting since 8 am and it was now 4 pm. Their testimony of coming all this way shows just how much they love and care for their children, even though many time the children are not related to them. The sense of family and caring for each other is so great here.
Today was our 3rd day in Gulu and Jen had a few meetings with partner organizations to meet with. One in particular was World Vision. They work with children that were abducted by the LRA at very young ages. The lives they were forced to leave are horrifying and seem unspeakable at times it seems. We met several boys or I guess I should say young men...who had been abducted and many of whom had been shot during the warfare...years later...they are just now having surgery to try and repair the physical wounds to their bodies, but how do you begin to heal their emotional wounds? Partnering with this organization and providing a bed for these children are just part of what wonderful things Jen and Sweet Sleep are able to do.
Sitting at dinner tonight with Jen and Gary, we begin to discuss the past few days and the impact it has had on all of us. You want everyone to know about these children and their life experiences because it can become real. Jen was sharing how it seems to be more difficult to raise the money to give these children Bibles with their bedding. I guess some don't view it as a necessity in life. A story told today by a woman at World Vision helps bring this into perspective...she spoke of a child who was fearful of the night time. So many of these children have experienced true terror in their past in that the LRA might could have abducted or harmed them...they fear night and sleep. The child was holding a Bible as he laid down to sleep when the woman asked him if he could read his Bible? The child replied "No I cannot read it...but when I lay down next to it...I know it keeps me safe." Every child should have the chance for the feeling of safety and God's love...the chance for true innocence...it is so hard as an American to realize that many children were robbed of this chance so early in life. Bibles are a key component of Sweet Sleep...a child with a new bed and a new Bible can begin to know God's protection and love! Thank you Sweet Sleep for all you do and the opportunity you've given me :)
Monday, June 21, 2010
Ivan is a six year old boy I met today under a tree in Amuru, an area about an hour and a half into the bush outside of Gulu. I met him because a man came up to Gary right after we arrived with an urgent message, but he had no idea what he was saying.
After our ARC field director, Jennifer, translated we learned he was telling us there was a boy who was burnt and needed help. He took us to Ivan.
As I was walking up to the scene I noticed there was a crowd of 25 or so men, woman and children all standing around with worried expressions and their gazes upon a lifeless looking little boy laying across a woman's lap who was fanning a piece of fabric over him to keep the flies off.
Our Board member Gary, who is the director of emergency services at Vanderbilt, took a quick assessment of him and began asking questions:
-"When did this happen?": "yesterday"
-"How did this happen?": "His mother was not around and he was playing near a pot of water over a fire and it came down on him."
-"How old is he?": "Six"
-"How long has he been asleep?": nobody really knew
We knew he needed to be taken to a hospital right away. They said "clinic" and Gary said, "No, clinic, it has to be a hospital."
We determined the woman fanning him was his mother and that the reason he wasn't being treated, or at least one of many, was that transportation wasn't available. I asked the mother, Frances, if she would agree to take him to the hospital if we were to provide transportation. I explained that he needed to have some surgery to help him and the doctors would know what to do. She didn't really answer, so I added that we would pay for his expenses and she nodded her head. I went to work on logistics for transportation and determined that our first mattress truck was almost on site. As soon as it arrived and was unloaded a man near the tree scooped up little unconscious Ivan and he, his mother and little brother got into the truck for the long arduous journey to the hospital.
Under another tree, not very far away, sat 60 children and their caregivers waiting for their Sweet Sleep beds. We had learned they had arrived at 7 am to anxiously wait for their new beds. It was 12:45.
As I walked across the field I asked God for something that seemed kind of silly at the time, a signal so I could update the prayer need to Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly, I had a signal in the bush.
As I typed and walked and prayed I was also trying to make the mental transition from sweet lil Ivan to the excited children a few yards from me who needed to hear the story of hope and love our beds bring. Ivan was never far from my thought and I prayed for him all day.
On the way home tonight we stopped at the hospital to check on him. Gary told me just before I prayed for God to give me a cell signal, that he was probably going to die...and that made me angry. Not at Gary, just at the idea of a child dying. When we arrived I asked Gary and Jennifer to go in and check which building he was in. Honestly, I was afraid to get out and to go inside and be faced with something I didn't want to hear. I decided I just wanted to sit where I was and pray.
They were gone a long time and when I finally saw them coming toward us I was trying to read Gary's body language. His hat was off and he was rubbing his head. I tried to find a way to prepare myself, but I wasn't working. I just sat and watched Gary as he walked up to our open van door, "He's in the OR right now. He has 2nd and 3rd degree burns. There's a lot of work to do."
The first 48 hours after a burn are the most critical. A burn victim has to have large volumes of IV fluid and all of the burn tissue has to be removed. The most serious complication is infection.
Just a little while ago Jennifer called. Lil Ivan made it out of the OR. Clearly he still needs all of our prayers. Will you please pray with me?
There are other aspects of this story. His mother is pregnant. His little brother is about 2 and was admitted while they were there tonight. He tested positive for malaria. The hospitals don't provide food to anyone. Jennifer gave his mother a little money tonight for a meal. The hospital will only keep him for 5 days. The burns were very bad to his left hand. Gary had been concerned he would lose his hand. As of yet he has not. His left eye and face is very badly burnt.
Today I learned a lot. About burns. About how God uses people who are obedient. About faith. About hope. About the power of social networking for prayers.
Please do pray for Ivan, his brother, mother and doctors. Feel free to send this post around to anyone who can pray with us.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Goodbye forever, bug infested mattresses!
Unloading the new mattresses
What a beautiful view......times two!
A barren dorm
Move in day!
Gary and Mike filling the room!
All ready for safe sleeping!
A very satisfied customer...
Friday, June 18, 2010
today was by far the hardest day at the orphanage. We started the day off on our usually routine but instead of leaving at 830, we lest at 9 so we were just a little behind. we set out to the orphanage but planned to make a short stop to get a splint for a little boy who most likely broke his arm. instead of just a short journey, we were wondering around for about an hour until we found a place that had them! by this point I was really anxious because it felt like we would never make it to the orphanage. I was thinking to myself that this would make leaving easier because we would have less time, but this was not true. We arrive at the orphanage around 1115 (like an hour later than usual) and we are all prepared to say our goodbyes and we were all expecting to shed a few tears. once I got off of the bus, my little buddy Jackie immediately grabbed my hand and starting pulling me (she is 5 by the way). she wanted me to see her bed, but the room ended up being locked so we just decided to sit on the steps and talk ( or more like listen because she did not speak much English) but I enjoyed every minute of listening to here because she laughed for most of the time. I then showed her a bracelet I made her and her eyes lit up and she her smile grew even larger. as I was tying it on her wrist, she was talking and smiling. even though I could not understand what she was saying, I could tell that the little bracelet made her very happy. I also had in my hand a picture that Caitlin had drawn for me to give to one of the children. it was nemo and as I gave it to her she looked at me and said “a fish” and it was absolutely precious the way she said it. as we were talking, my mom and sweet esther (who is also 5) walked up. I got one of the older girls to ask her if she wanted a bracelet and she looks at me with her sweet smile and just shook her head yes. after I had tied it on, she was turning her wrist looking at it and admiring it. by this time, it was time to head to the prayer garden to have a worship service. jackie, shamirah (13), marion (3) and I headed to the garden. I was holding marion and jackie and shamirah each had one of my hands. once we sat down we began to sing. my favorite song to sing with them is “Love the Lord Your God” because the get real into the hand motions and love it when we “grrr” when we say strength. when we finished singing, mike got up to read a passage while simon peter translated for him. by the end, I had given away all six of my animal bracelets I was wearing. the kids absolutely loved them. we started our way to the shelter where we had set up a birthday party for the children. we explained to them that in America we sing at our parties and give presents and that is exactly what we were going to do here. we sung happy birthday to them and lined them up to each pick up a good bag we had given them and man were they excited about these bags. each bag contained a beanie baby, hard candy, toothbrush and tooth paste, animal band, pillow and a mirror. each kid grabbed their bag with a big smile and were smiling while they went through them. jackie was eating her sucker (which was blue) and it had turned her tongue blue. I pulled out the mirror to show her and she just held it with her tongue sticking out looking at it for a few minutes. she was mesmerized. the team was then called up to receive a gift that they wanted to give us. they were home made change purse. then someone came up to speak and I went to sit down to listen and I was immediately joined by jackie and ester (my other little buddy). while he was talking, esther and jackie kept talking to me. Jackie was playing with her dog animal band and was showing me how they barked (which was absolutely adorable). Esther was looking at me and singing with me. She never stopped singing/talking and smiling. by the time he had finished, they called us to stand around while the children sang to us. this is when I lost it. I was holding esther (who was patting my back because she saw I was crying) and listening to them. it was a beautiful, emotional experience. When then headed to lunch where we were presented with another gift, homemade mates. Afterwards, we took a picture and it was time to go. I walked with jackie around and looked at her and said “I love you” and she repeated it back to me which was amazing because she didn’t speak much English. I did the same to esther and she repeated it back as well. I then walked away with jackie holding my hand. Shamirah came up to me and said “please remember us” and she was crying. I told her they would never be forgotten. I then gave jackie one last hug, got on the bus and blew everyone kisses and just prayed I could make it without crying (which I did). This experience was truly life changing and these kids will always have a place in my heart.
~entry by Abigail Rodgers
Thursday, June 17, 2010
When we arrived at the orphanage with our plan for the day (recreation, lunch, worship then crafts) we were soon told by one of the teachers that the kids had a special surprise for us! The whole morning before lunch was spent in the prayer garden while they took turns getting up in front of the group to praise God. It was amazing to hear them sing their little hearts out with a tremendous passion for it! Their voices are all beautiful, too, so that's a plus! :) After they showed us their worship and then their play they delightfully presented we got our chance to sing the songs we've been teaching them all week and today was awesome in the fact that over half of them have learned all the words and hand movements! Some of them better than me!
After worship time we had a small bit of down time and I got the opportunity to sit and play with the little ones and it really started to sink in that tomorrow was going to be the last time I might ever see these beautiful faces! It got really emotional for me and all I wanted to do is take them all home but I know that God has a plan for everyone of these children.
At 1:00 we sat down to have lunch which is always a feast and always very good! The food is different but very tasty. Nobody has lost weight on this trip, to say the least!
After Lunch we got to make crafts! We all went to the shelter not a minute too soon because it started to rain! Rain here in Uganda is beautiful. It wasn't a down pour but it wasn't sprinkling. It was perfect and the sound that the raindrops made as it hit the roof of this shelter could put me to sleep! We got out these foam crosses that were sticky and had them stick them to a piece of paper and write down their favorite verse. I had the little ones so they just colored. I didn't get to see any of the older kid's favorite verses until a boy named Aliga, whom I had never spoken to before, came up and gave me his and said 'gift' and I said well thank you so much as he walked away. I then looked down at the red piece of construction paper and realized he had written John 3:16 with very colorful drawings everywhere. It was really beautiful and it touched me! Not a minute later a little girl came up and opened up her hand and it looked like a handful of beads but when i picked one up I realized it was a bracelet and a necklace. The little girl ran off as soon as I put them on and I didn't get to catch her name but it's safe to say that I will wear them often and pray for that delightful little girl. During coloring the children were taking turns tracing their hand on a sheet and writing their name. What a neat idea! I haven't yet seen the finished project but I am super excited to get to see it today!
After craft time with the bible verses and pictures we had kindof a free time with the children. I got the chance to sit down with a quiet girl named Kathy. I learned she was 9 and had been at the orphanage for 3 years. She told me of the place she was from and told me that her parents have both passed away from AIDS. This silenced me. I knew most of these children's parents were gone but to have this little girl, Kathy, whom I had played ball with yesterday while she was screaming and laughing, had no parents. Her parents were the teachers and caregivers of the orphanage. I learned she had a twin, Moses and he soon came over to talk with me and told me of his friends at the orphanage and what he was learning. I had braced myself for this experience but I don't think anyone can truly prepare themselves for when a loving and beautiful child tells you of their parents dying from a scary disease such as AIDS.
Because craft time took so long because of all the fun the children were having and the detail they were taking in their drawings, after my conversation with Moses and Kathy it was time to leave the orphanage. It didn't hit me until I got on the bus that tomorrow is the last day I get with these children and it's a short day at that. I am excited to go to the market tomorrow and bring some things home for the ones who didn't get to experience this, but at the same time I am wishing I had more time to connect and hear more of these children's stories! It's daunting to me that I can't fix everything for these children and I can't bring them home with me and now I have to leave them all together and on the way home from the orphanage passing all the children on the street yelling 'Mzungu' (white person) like the kids had the first day at the orphanage, tears started streaming down my face. These kids weren't just orphans anymore, they were Kathy, Moses, Martha, Kato, Waswa, Barbara.. They were my friends and will never leave my heart.
I ask that people following this blog pray for our team and saying our goodbyes tomorrow. It will be really hard for all of us to leave behind these kids. There will be tears from me I know and I'm sure from many others. We came to teach and play with the kids but the kids have taught ALL of us SO much that I will never forget. I just hope we can take back the stories of this trip and more people get to experience it. I wouldn't trade the heat and exhaustion for anything right now. I almost don't notice it anymore when I'm playing with the smiling faces.
Goodnight and God Bless,
We started the day watching foot races between a few kids selected from different age groups. The team and kids enjoyed it so much and were cheering each group on just as loudly as the one before. But the group we all loved most and who God used to remind me of a very important lesson was the youngest group, "the babies" they call them. They were the last group and they ran with every bit of spirit, focus and intensity as the older kids. The smallest one could not have been more than 4...maybe 5 years old, tops. The other kids were yards ahead of him, several had already crossed the finish line when he was just passing mid field, but he continued on, running just as hard and with as much intensity as if he still had the chance to win. He wasn't just last, he was dead last, but he kept running like he was in first place and nearing the finish line with someone hot on his heels! He never gave up. There have been many times in my life that I've wanted to give up on various things, a few times this included life itself. God guided me through many dark seasons of life and even though I've made it through to better seasons of life, I've been reminded this week and today in particular, that I still have much to learn, many truths to be reminded of...and today's reminder was brought to me by a little Ugandan boy who never gave up. Never, ever give up.
From the races we moved to their beautiful prayer garden for a time of worship. Today was different in that instead of us just leading them in worship, THEY led us first! It was fantastic! Joyous songs of praise lifted high with voices, hands and dancing, quiet songs of reverent worship from pure hearts... Most were in English, but a few were in their native language of Luganda and I think we all agreed last night the songs they sing in Luganda are our favorites. This service was by far the most enjoyable and moving one of the week for me and one that I will cherish the memory of forever.
It's been a week full of constant amazement and awe at the perseverance, spirit and faith in God these children possess and we all agree that we will be broken-hearted when we have to say our goodbyes tomorrow.
Here are a few photos of today's activities.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Spending time with the kids at Blessed Hope today was truly wonderful. Starting our days at the orphanage by seeing the kids, absolutely enthralled, sprint to the bus and wait at the door just to touch the hands of their visitors, has been a touching experience. After that, today, we split the kids into their houses and played different games with each house. Darlene and I taught some of the kids to throw a frisbee, while other members of the team led different games. At this point of my recounting of today’s events, I would like to take the time to brag a bit on Darlene. Her energy and uncompromised passion for these children, that has been evident in all she has done including even teaching them this simple game, have brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. She, even if she won’t admit it, has a natural ability to make children feel loved and she has proved to be invaluable on this trip. Anyway, she and I organized different frisbee games and the kids really had a blast.
After playing these games, the kids had a field day organized by the Blessed Hope staff. The kids ran relays balancing glass coke bottles on their heads in the first event. I tried to do it. After failing miserably, I was really able to appreciate the talent of the racers. The kids also ran a race while balancing a spoon and egg in their mouths, which was also interesting. The last event was banana peeling. This was a treat. Each child was given a knife and five bananas to peel as fast as they could. This was made even more interesting when children as young as six joined the competition. My mind was blown at the skill of these children with the knife. I used to work at the Bonefish Grill on the cook line, and my fingers have practically been mutilated. I quit after three weeks. Anyway! These games were a true delight.
This was followed by a feast of a lunch. The ladies of Blessed Hope have prepared unbelievably tasty lunches and have gone far beyond expectations every day. Their appreciation and sense of generosity goes beyond anything I have ever seen, and this is just one illustration of their boundless hospitality.
After lunch, a worship session was held in the prayer garden. Darlene, in her amazing, cheerful spirit, led as I played guitar and our team sang songs for the children. This was an amazing experience, not because of anything we did, but because when we were done, the kids sang back for us. We all saw the hope of the children when they sang to us in their language, Lugandan. We did not understand the words, but we saw the faith of the kids, and we saw the loving and hopeful spirits inside of them. I was not aware of a dry-eyed team member during this experience.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know the oldest member of Blessed Hope’s orphanage. His name is Sseguya and he is eighteen. Sseguya was orphaned at six. Though I do not know how, his parents died then, and his grandmother could not care for him. And though I also do not know how these came into existence, many scars cover Sseguya’s face, chest, and arms. So I know his past has been seen violence. That understood, meeting this young man has changed me. I know he has seen tragedy, yet today, in the prayer garden and afterwards in conversation, I saw his hope and sense of honor. Since he is eighteen, Sseguya will be leaving the orphanage soon. He wants to continue school, but his future is uncertain to everyone. Though he acts as a big brother to the other kids and does not show fear in front of them, I was able to see it today, though it was quickly destroyed by his beautiful hope for the future. I talked with him about being brave and what it means to believe in something more, though as I am typing this, I realize that as I spoke these truths to him, it was like I was coming to understand the significance of them myself. It was not he who needed to understand these principles as he lives the meaning of kindness, honor, and strength (he wants to be an engineer and help bring clean water to his people), rather it was I who needed to understand. And now I do. Undeniably, these kids do more good for us on the team, than we do for them. Our blessings here in Uganda are diverse and numerous. Though I have been overwhelmed with the poverty of the people, the sense of optimism, appreciation, and love present here have changed not only my experience on this trip, but also my life.
Well it is my privilege and honor to write another blog for our Uganda Sweet Sleep Team. As Monday was filled with hard work and sweat, the last two days has been filled with grace filled conversations and the forming of friendships here at Blessed Hope Orphanage. If I had any reservations before I came on this trip, it was whether or not I had room in my heart for any more children. With my two precious boys back home, Gideon and Abel, and the two boys I fell in love with from last year’s trip to Uganda, Joseph and Amos, I simply didn’t know what to expect from this year’s trip. It is comforting to know that God can always carve out more room in our hearts for those that he created us to love.
Yesterday, I sure that you read from previous blogs, we were blessed with the opportunity to give the kids new Bibles. Many of these children have never owned a book before, let alone a Bible, and they cherish God’s word with such passion. After the kids got their Bibles our team spread out across their campus and spent time with the kids, going over their new Bibles, and answering questions about faith, life, and our homes back in America. During our time together, I was showing the kids my small pocket sized Bible, and the bookmarks that I keep are pictures of my family. The kids just loved looking at Gideon, Abel, and my wife Abby, and asking all about their lives back home. It makes me miss them, but it helps so much, as I get to make them a part of this experience. During this time, God began to expand my heart in some pretty significant ways.
Directly following our Bible time, we moved to the shelter do to some rain that began to fall. Our next activity with the kids, was for them make nametags for their beds, and to write thank you notes to all of the people that made their new beds possible. The kids that I was with during our Bible time, all moved to the shelter with me and it was amazing to see their creativity at work, and their wonderful penmanship. As the kids were finishing up, I noticed that one boys note began, “Dear Gideon,” and I realized that Dallen was writing a note to my son. I was very touched, and so I wrote on the back of one of my photographs in my Bible and gave it to Dallen as a gift. He was very touched, as was I by our gesture of friendship.
Upon leaving the shelter, a young boy named William whom I had played soccer with earlier gave me a photo of his family, and I was deeply moved. What a gift, my heart grew more. William is 14, his father is dead, his two sisters stay with his mother, and he has been at Blessed Hope for 5 years. He dreams of being a soccer player, has great potential, and I am excited to pray for this dream to become a reality. I have since talked with William at length, and I hope that our friendship across the world can give him encouragement to chase after his dreams.
I spent the better part of today talking with boys that I have connected with, Dallen, William, sweet little Gilbert, and a natural leader Ishmael. Before we left today, I received another note from Dallen, and I have cried a few times since I have read it. To think that he will be praying for my family, and especially my boys as they grow up, and to have the honor of praying for him as he matures into the man God created him to be is more than I can comprehend. I will write to you both notes that Dallen has written to me, and I am so thrilled that the God I serve can expand my heart far and wide!
“Dear Gideon, I love you so much. I want to tell you that God love’s you. I wish one day one time I will see you. I wish you a good day. From, Dallen”
Dear Uncle Mike, I greet you in Jesus’ name. I love you so much and your friends. I like to be with you everyday. I will not know what will happen when you have to go back to your country, but I will be praying for you everyday. You will be in my heart all of my life. From, Dallen I wish you a good day.”
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
During that time I had a chance to speak with one of the girls who speaks English rather well and is incredibly smart. Her English name is Babra, spoken as Barbara. Babra shared with me that she was a twin before her twin brother died of Malaria and next her father was also taken by Malaria. Her mother is unable to support her and now lives quite a distance away from the orphanage. She is fourteen years old and is amazingly intelligent. She says she wants to be a doctor for babies. I told her that it is called a pediatrician and we had a good laugh as she tried to pronounce it. Later, she asked me to come with her to her classroom. She showed me her books, how to spell her African name on the chalkboard and also gave me a letter she had previously wrote. The letter warmed my heart and went like this: “Dear Aunt Alexersis, I greet you in Jesus name. Yesterday I was so happy. It was a blessing day. Thank you for the love you showed me. Thank you for the beds you and your group provided. I are so happy.
God bless you, from Babra.” This was definitely the highlight of my day.
I think it is safe to say I will never forget Babra.
Worship was also awesome today. After singing a few songs the children were given their Bibles. It nearly brought me to tears to see how happy the children were to get a Bible. In America, most children do not think twice about new Bibles. I sat with a group of children and taught them how to read their Bibles and helped them find specific verses. One little girl wanted me to read her Bible with her and we sat as she read and asked for assistance on the difficult words.
Overall today was amazing.
Today we got the privilege to give 202 Bibles to the kids at the orphanage. There are no words to describe how they reacted. They were so excited. The team was giving them out and the teachers helped put their names in them and then they all sat down and started looking through the Bibles, page by page. The kids that were 8 years old and younger got a story book Bible and the kids that were older got a real bible. The kids gathered around into different groups and each team member sat down with a group of kids and the group that I got to sit down with had the story book Bibles. So I figured I would start at the beginning with Adam and Eve. One little boy knew the story and was saying whatever came next. It so encouraging to know that they already knew some bible stories. Clearly the teachers have been teaching them God's word. So I read that story- thinking that they were going to be like my little 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school class and ready to move onto something else- they just sat and looked at me, so I continued onto the next story and then Noah and the Ark and then we skipped over to the woman that touched Jesus' cloak. It was awesome to see kids so sincerely interested in God's word.
One other thing that I have to tell you all about is the kids singing this amazing song. They sing it with drums and dance around- hopefully someone will download a video of it (if they haven't already) and you all can see these amazing kids for yourself. The lyrics are very African like so the words do not do it justice, but I'm going to give it a shot.
"No more suffering, I no more suffering." One kid yells 'Will you beg for food?' And all the other kids go 'I will not beg for food!' Kid yells 'Will you beg for bread?' All the others 'I will not beg for food!' And then they all sing 'He is my Daddy Lord!! He is my Daddy Lord!!'
What amazing words coming from these precious children. And they sing it with such heart and the biggest smiles on their faces- it's beautiful.
Thank you all for your prayers. It is obvious to me that you are praying!
Monday, June 14, 2010
It is so hard to put our experiences here into words. I am so often speechless just taking everything in. Today was an incredible day filled with hard work, sweat and tears…of joy. We accomplished so much in so little time building, moving, covering 200 beds with sheets, blankets and mosquito nets. We made beautiful, colorful tissue paper flowers with the children sitting in the shade under the trees. We sang and sang and sang some more. We worshipped together and sang some more. These children LOVE to sing. And yet, despite the fact that we have a plan going into everyday and activities and games to fill our time together, I see the most joy in these kids faces when someone is simply holding their hand and sitting quietly with them. I am grateful to have had one of these experiences today with 2 little girls named Maria and Jovia. I had been talking with them and getting to know them a little while they sat on either side of me holding my hands and stroking my arms. Maria began whispering with her friend and then looked up at me and said “we want you to pray with us.” I asked her to clarify what she had asked as I am not always certain I understand their accents clearly. She repeated herself clear as day. I was so impressed that these young girls of 8 or 9 years of age would ask a stranger such a request and then I was overcome with the emotion of just knowing that God was there in that moment. I had the privilege of sitting there on the grass with these 2 girls holding my hands and leaning over my lap to pray for their health, their relationship with Christ, their futures, their sleep and at their request “wisdom.” I am so humbled every minute by these children. Their love for each other, their love for Christ, their joy and their gratitude are overwhelming. It makes me thank God every day that I am here for this opportunity and challenges me to become a better wife, mother to my 2 girls, and friend myself.
What and incredible day with the kids at Blessed Hope Orphanage. When we arrived this morning, following our exciting drive through Kampala, the kids were all lined up in their respective primary classes and sang a beautiful song for our welcome. They then practiced calling us by our names, with Auntie and Uncle in front of them as a sign of respect. They were able to get a few of our names, although they attempted to call all of us either Jen or Stuart over and over again.
The frames of the beds had arrived last night, so we had a jumpstart on our bed day. 176 brand new bed frames were scattered across their activity lawn, and the mattresses, sheets, blankets, and mosquito nets arrived a bit later, following lunch. While some of the older boys helped organize the bed frames with Gary and I, the others made paper flowers with the kids. After finding a pretty good way of working with the frames last summer, we were able to work together and get things organized pretty quickly. It is amazing how eager the kids are to help us out, and are will help out in any way that they are asked. We were able to get about 100 beds in the two girl’s dormitories, and another 90 beds in the three boy’s dorms. The kids were so excited to see their news beds. While we were bringing in and laying out the bed frames, a young girl came in to her room, she looked where her foam mattress used to lay on the floor, saw a new bed in its place and began to jump up and down with excitement, with the biggest smile on her face.
After a brief time of worship with the kids, we were able to finish getting beds ready, and had the privilege of seeing these beautiful Ugandan children lie in their beds for the first time. What a joy it is to be a part of this experience.
Although the bed day was exceptional, some of my most moving moments of the day came in our hour and one half bus ride too and from the orphanage. To see a young boy, about Gideon’s age (who is my four year old son), selling eggs by himself through the busy streets of Kampala, moved me in the deepest way. I love God with all my heart, and I know that His wisdom is far beyond my comprehension, but it is hard for me to be in the midst of this degree of poverty, and not question the way the world is set up. We as Americans are beyond blessed, and we often haven’t got a clue how the rest of the world lives. We are always comparing ourselves to those who have more and relishing in our own self pity, instead of comparing ourselves to those who have so little, and living a life of grateful service. Whoever is reading this blog, hug your kids, and give thanks for the freedoms they have, and the fact that they are not walking the streets trying to make a living.
Thank you to everyone that is supporting this mission team through their prayers, and through your earlier financial support. You have allowed us to be the hands and feet of Christ here in Uganda, and you are allowing our lives to be changed and broken for the better. For you prayer warriors out there, please say a huge prayer for the luggage of our Evansville team, none of us have yet to get our checked luggage, and there is so much sports equipment ,and gifts for the children that we are missing.
Abby, Gideon and Abel, I love you dearly and hope that you can all join me on a journey to Uganda in the future.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
We pulled up to orphanage today and the children were in the middle of play. They looked up and saw us coming and they ran down the hill to meet us, screaming and cheering. In point 2 seconds flat my heart was in my eyes. They were standing so close to the door of the bus that we barely had enough room to get off. We all started to reach out to touch hands with the kids and say hello and well…..they didn’t let go. Everywhere we walked we had two or three kids holding our hands on each side. They took us to the pavilion where they welcomed us and sang for us, and lead us in worship. It was unbelievable!!! This little boy named Abraham lead the other children in singing, and they sang, “I won’t beg for bread, I won’t beg for food.” And although I didn’t catch every word because it wasn’t all in English, I have every confidence that they were singing about their trust in the Lord. Watching the kids faces as they sang, made me wonder if I truly know what trusting the Lord is all about.
The first child to attach to me was Esther. She didn’t let go of me at all and she’s only been at the orphanage a month. I was in love instantly! She kept looking at my hands, while I held her. She would feel of the front of my hands and then turn them over and look at the other side.
We toured the orphanage and I was amazed. The first room we saw was the administration room, very small, and very minimal supplies. Some donated books. The classrooms were extremely bare. The first dorm room we saw had 25 beds in it and it slept 65 girls. The next dorm room was much the same. We saw the boys dorm room and many of them shared beds too, but many of theirs were on the floor. They are just foam mattresses on the floor. This is something we knew before we arrived but to see it was something different. To put faces on the facts was….well, I just don’t have the words. The way I teared up when they came running down the hill, I decided to stick a tissue in my pocket would be beneficial. I kept dabbing at my eyes all through the afternoon and one of the girls with me, Delphine, asked me what was wrong with my eyes. I told her that they were just happy. Her smile was precious and confirmed her understanding.
We are all so tired, it is unbelieveable. London was great, but I was almost too tired to see it. We saw the highlights. (smile) The ride out to the orphanage is very rough. There are times when I just close my eyes, and hope that we don’t hit what is coming at us. This has unintentionally provided a bit a humor for some of the team members. I first sat on the front seat of the bus to keep from getting car sick, however I was very unprepared for the crazy way everyone drives. And there are people everywhere. I wasn’t always worried about hitting other vehicles, sometimes it was people. At one point Rachel and I talked about the fact that we will be sore from being beat to death on the ride, and from simply trying to stay in our seats. I fell asleep today on a shorter subdued portion of the ride home and was quickly awaken when my face hit the seat in front of me. This is actually a matter of a prayer request for some of the team members (myself included) because of the car sickness that comes from this jolting ride that takes us from the house to the orphanage and back. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes one way, so it is quite a bit of jolting.
I was prepared for some of what we have experienced and not prepared for some. I keep reciting a verse that we are teaching to the kids this week – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, Phillipians 4:13. And it has never had the meaning that is has today. May we continue to decrease as Christ increases.
Oh and hi to Brandon and the kids. I love you and miss you!
i kept asking myself yesterday “where did this day begin and has it ended yet?” what a long trip to get here to kampala! FINALLY we started to see land get closer and closer and felt the plane start to descend. Thank you Lord! We went to baggage claim. All of our team’s luggage made it except for the 4 from Indiana. They have such a great attitude. We have all offered different items but they followed advice and at least had an extra outfit in their carry on bag. We gathered our stuff and got on the bus and headed to this “bed and breakfast” type place that is our home for the week. The people here are extraordinarily nice. We settled in and had lunch then headed to blessed hope orphanage. We had no idea what to expect. The bus ride is an hour and 10 minutes one way…on bumpy and windy roads and our driver is not scared of anything. he is the master of his universe on that road. I was thinking much like last night “get me to the orphanage” and sooner than later please. We finally see a sign for Blessed Hope Champions Academy and turn off the main road. This bumpy, bumpy road was lined with banana trees. I kept thinking where are the kids? All I see are these trees…and a rooster here and there. One of the team members said “I hear music” but it was really the sounds of 202 very happy little Ugandan children. We finally pull up to where they can see us and let me tell you, after we turn the corner to head into that sweet place they start running and I mean running towards the bus. Happy little faces just so excited and we felt already loved unconditionally. They were just waiting for us to get off the bus and they all stuck their little hands out just wanting to touch us. We were led to their shelter where they worship. We were then treated to their singing. Videos will follow. They sang to us accompanied by drums and danced and worshipped. As one team member said, “we had church”. We then took a tour of the campus…saw their minimal classrooms and their dirty mats on the floor. When the director announced we were there to make beds for them they all cheered. What reward! I connected with several little ones in particular (justin, maria, esther and barbara) as the Emily (jackie and shamil) and Abigail (robert, nora, vivian)! This is such a treat and an honor to experience this with them! I know the rest of my girls would be so moved as well. i have a little piece of all of you here with me. Thank you for praying for us!
The minute you got off the bus, children were attached to you…holding your hand, your leg, hugging you, and just looking up into your eyes grinning from ear to ear. We made our way over to their assembly area. The children could not stop smiling…they were honestly bursting with happiness. The teachers were all introduced…we were all introduced and then Stuart began to explain to the children why we were here. Josephine begin interpreting and telling the students that we were providing them with mattresses, sheets, comforters, and pillows…Josephine had to stop talking because the children were cheering so loudly. Again with tears in my eyes, it made me stop in amazement that these children found such happiness in things we find so every day.
It’s only Day One, and I don’t even know how to explain the emotions I have felt in such few hours. I am so thankful I have so much more time left. The children are an exact replica of the child like love God wants us to have. The children of the orphanage performed several of their own worship songs, and you could feel God’s presence. I am so thankful for Pastor Joel and the vision he had for this group. The children have already been a blessing and taught me many things today.
I ask for prayers for our team member’s luggage; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be in Africa with nothing of your own. Secondly, that we will all have energy and high spirits tomorrow…traveling for 48 hours truly wore us out. Finally, that we can fulfill as many of these children’s hopes and wishes as possible. Thanks for prayers in advance and hope to write again soon!!
We didn't waste any time in getting settled in and having lunch so we could go to Blessed Hope to meet the children.
I know our team will blog great stories later today, and hopefully pictures! I'm posting live pictures to my facebook and twitter, so add me if you'd like to see those.
Thank you all for your support and prayers which have made getting here possible. There are 202 VERY excited children, plus the 15 of us.
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