Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
-Or some are serving time for a crime they committed
-Or for some, their exasperated parents aren’t willing to care for them anymore. So the parents bring the child to Kampiringisa.
The intention of Kampiringisa was to rehabilitate street children. However, there’s not much rehabilitating going on. The children just exist there….not even enrolled in a form of education. They’re not offered much hope. Yes, it’s better than street life; however, no child should have to live in a place like this.
Each individual here has a unique story, but they have something in common: they’re lacking love. My heart breaks at this reality. At first, I was concerned about their poor hygiene (many of the kids are filthy, and they wear clothing that hangs off their bodies.) And I was concerned about the fact that they’re lacking medical care for their illnesses and diseases. And I was concerned about the fact that they’re sitting on the dirty ground, eating a “meal” of liquid porridge.
But then it hit me.
You can still survive and grow without clean clothing. You can survive and grow without great medical care. You can survive and grow without gourmet food.
But can you REALLY survive and grow without love? Without someone to pick you up when you fall. Without someone to hold you close and whisper, “I’ll always be here for you, darling.” Without someone to run to when life seems too much to handle.
I spent the day loving on these beautiful children: handing out stickers (they were ecstatic about such a simple thing!) and also administering de-worming pills to many of the children. I went with several Dwelling Places’ staff who give medical care to the kids at Kampiringisa twice a month. A missionary doctor from Ireland was here, so he helped us out as well.
One little girl in particular captured my heart. I asked around for her name but no one could provide me with an answer. So I’m calling her “Hope,” because I have hope that God will send her someone to permanently love her. She can’t be older than 4….she was living on the streets until she came to Kampiringisa a month ago. I don’t know what her future holds, but I pray for safety and God’s grace.
When I met Hope, her somber eyes were filled with sadness. Diana and I attempted to make her smile. Over and over we tried, but Hope wouldn’t budge, a solemn look stayed on her face. I almost can’t blame her. What does she have to smile about? Hope cracked a faint smile during Diana's silly faces.
I picked her up and snapped a photo of us together, showing it to her on the camera screen. After a moment or so, a smile danced across her mouth.
I was determined to show her Christ’s love, if only for an afternoon. When was the last time she felt loving arms embrace her? As I cradled her in my arms, she began to doze off. I could have held her for hours and hours, but I eventually had to head home. I blinked back tears as I placed Hope on the ground and waved goodbye to her, trying to ignore the fact that tears were welling up in her eyes. Yet another person walking out of her life.
It’s an incredibly helpless feeling to witness children living like this but not be able to immediately do something except pray. I am so thankful for Dwelling Places and their endurance as they continue rescuing children from the streets of Kampala.
You’ve just read about the lives of thousands of children here in Uganda. I’m asking, “does anybody care?” Please don’t forget these children. Pray for them. Or even consider sponsoring a former street child through an organization like Dwelling Places (contact me, and I can hook you up.)
As I type this, encouraging Phil Wickham lyrics play in the background.
“Jesus, Your love has no bounds. Your love is deeper than any ocean. Higher than the heavens. Reaches beyond the stars in the sky. Your love has no bounds.”
Tonight I pray that His love reaches especially to these hurting children. His love has no bounds, and for that I am grateful.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
This will be a much more light-hearted post than the last, so read on and enjoy! I’m hoping you can get a glimpse into what daily life is like here. I’ll be honest: the first week here in Kampala was a difficult transition, as I was completely bombarded with so many new things to learn and challenges. The culture shock only lasted a few days, and I am really enjoying life here. Still not sure how I’m supposed to go grocery shopping and bring my purchases back on the Boda with me (my backpack’s not THAT big, people! : ) but I’ll deal with that next week….
Oh! My favorite thing about my flat? The view of the village from my little porch (I’m on the third floor) which is just heavenly, and I try to sit out there after work each day and journal/do devotions.
I have just started venturing out alone on walks through the village. There’s always something interesting to observe, whether it’s watching the locals make yummy Chapati (Indian flatbread) by the side of the road or perhaps saying hello to the wide-eyed, curious children who are EVERYWHERE! Love that!
I’m slowly picking up some Luganda phrases, but I don’t hear it much doing the day in the office, so it’s hard for me to learn. I just learned two phrases, which I use quite often. Have a nice day: “Siiba bulunge” (see-bah bah-loon-gee). Have a good evening: “Sula bulungi” (soo-lah bah-loon-gee).
I’m incredibly grateful that the Lord has provided some wonderful people in my life here, and though most of them are leaving Uganda this weekend, I won’t forget the blessing they were my first few weeks in Africa. Africa Inland Mission sent out a short-term team of 9 Americans to help at Dwelling Places (the ministry I’m serving while here), and they’ve been a blast to hang out with. Also, I’ve enjoyed getting to know two girls from Scotland, one from Ireland, and one from Canada. My roommate, Grace, is from South Korea and is a sweetheart…you’ll see her photo below. All these wonderful people invited me over to the guesthouse (where the American team is living) on my 23rd birthday, and we celebrated with a delicious meal of fettuccine alfredo, bread, and homemade passion juice! Some of the guys cooked the meal over hot coals outside behind the house—I appreciated it! Here are a few photos from my birthday…isn’t Uganda a beautiful country?
Let me introduce you to Sarah, who has been invaluable during my transition! She's from South Africa, who has been an AIM missionary in Kampala for more than 2 years. She’s leaving soon (getting married!), but I’m thankful for getting to know her! Sarah lives upstairs in the flat above me; my first week here, when I didn’t know a soul, she invited me up for tea and introduced me to delicious mint-flavored South African cookies called “Romantic Dreams” (just gotta get past the awkward name!) Monday evening, Sarah had Grace (my roommate) and I over for dinner (and tea! See a pattern here? I love that tea is a staple part of the day here : )
Grace taught us a self-defense phrase: “Jakukuba!” (jah-KOOKOO-bah) which means “I will beat you” in Luganda. Here they are, looking quite fierce. I don’t look particularly threatening, so I probably wouldn’t scare anyone off, but this phrase could come in handy when I walk past men who shout out obnoxious comments like, “hey American! My love! Come here…” or “my wife!! I want to marry you, mzungu!” Perhaps ignoring is better than provoking violence though? ;)
I know this blog entry is full of randomness, so thanks for bearing with me. Saturday was perhaps my favorite day since arriving in Africa. I attended Friendship Club, which is an outreach for children in the village (we teach them Bible verses, songs, etc). About 20-30 kids attend on average. It was my second week helping out, and I’m already in love with the kids, so I think I’ll incorporate F.C. into my weekends. After it ended last Sat, all the kids went home except a handful. I stayed with Cody and Jeremiah (two guys on the AIM short-term team) and played with the kids in the yard for about 2.5 hours. I can’t even explain how those kids blessed and rejuvenated us. They taught us many fun, unique African games. And then we played musical bricks ;) I created a circle out of bricks (which Cody and Jeremiah chided me for, but no one got hurt!) and when the music stopped, you had to find a brick (instead of a chair like we’re used to.)
After F.C. we decided to be spontaneous and go to a nearby café for coffee. So we invited a new friend we’ve made (a young man who’s part of the Dwelling Places youth program), and the four of us flagged down two Bodas to drive us across town. My life flashed before my eyes multiple times, as we sped across a busy, paved road (our driver was crazy and hardly slowed down for speed bumps, so I was rising off the seat.) And then another Boda was about 4 inches away from hitting us when we were turning into the parking lot. I think I’m going to start to wear a helmet after that experience. I was encouraged by our conversation, as we shared what has impacted us during our time thus far in Uganda. The night-time ride back to my flat was much more peaceful, through quiet village dirt roads. At one point, I jokingly said to Cody, “What if our Boda doesn’t make it up this hill and we have to walk?” About 2 minutes later, our driver motioned for us to get off. So we had to stumble our way in the dark up the hill, but it was quite humorous. This is the second time this has happened to me, so needless to say, the Boda engines aren’t very strong.
In an upcoming post, I will tell you all more about Dwelling Places and the exciting projects/events coming up that I’m working on! The staff is incredible there, and I am blessed each morning when we have staff devotions and worship time. Followed by tea time! Business offices in America need to install a daily tea time too, I think!
Friday, July 2, 2010
No matter what language you speak, a smile can communicate so much. On the way to and from work each day, I zoom past the energetic, happy children in the village as they call out “Mzungu!” (white person) or “Ina!!” (a famous actress--I have no idea what she looks like; we probably just share the same skin color ;) I’m on the back of a Boda-Boda (motorcycle) whizzing by them, so I’m unable to engage in conversation, but I can wave and smile. Feeling tired after a long day of work, I passed by a little boy last evening who looked solemn. Yet all the sudden, his eyes lit up, and he flashed a toothy, earnest grin at me. At that moment I realized that no matter what frustrations I face during the week, I can look forward to the small blessing of these kids’ smiles. I wish these children could know how much their smiles touch my heart. I don’t ever want to take that for granted during my time here in Uganda.
Their smiles remind me that you don’t need material possessions to be joyful. These kids scamper across the dusty, dirt roads, rolling an old tire with a stick. That’s their toy. And they are having a blast! Their smiles remind me that you don’t need a grocery cart full of your favorite food to be happy. I’ve been blown away by how resourceful Ugandans are! They take advantage of locally-grown food, which might mean climbing a tree to find a banana or jack fruit. After a 7am-5pm day of school (yeah, it puts American kids to shame! ;) they may have to walk through the village to fill containers of water from a murky stream (saw a young girl doing this yesterday.) I’ll never complain about luke-warm water again. I’ve never had to worry about “will I have access to water tomorrow??”
Despite all the joyful faces, there are obviously children who are hurting and broken. On Wednesday, I went “into town” (Kampala city), and it was there that my heart broke. I walked by several faces that could not muster up a smile. Instead, the faces held a blank, hopeless stare. This was my first time to encounter street children. Just three years old, he has been through more than I can imagine. He’s just a toddler, yet there he sits, begging on the sidewalk, as people walk past nearly trampling him. He sits crosslegged, a position that allows him to be “comfortable” for a longer period of time.
I was helpless, unable to help the children at that moment. So I tried not to think about what I was seeing. Instead, I focused on navigating my way through the crowds of people….concentrating on not getting run over by a taxi bus or a Boda!
It wasn’t until I reached the peace and quiet of my flat that I took time to process what my eyes had seen. “I understand that I can’t hand out money—that would create chaos and may not even benefit the child,” I thought. “But I’m NOT ok with heartlessly walking past these precious children. Next time I have to do something—but what??
After discussing this with a long-term missionary, I know what I will do next time. I'll either carry stickers in my purse and stick one on the back of the child's hand. Or, I bought a long bar of soap today which I will cut into small pieces, handing them out so the child can have the option of bathing. It may not make a huge difference, but perhaps the child will see a glimpse of Christ’s love-- just by the simple fact that I took time to stop and interact with him, recognize that he/she is a valuable human being.
Please pray for the children in Kampala who are struggling to survive day-to-day. Pray that they will experience Jesus’s love and grace today. And please pray for Dwelling Places, the ministry that I’m serving while I’m in Uganda. They exist to rescue and rehabilitate street children.
Those children on the street? I can’t change their lives. But I know a Savior who can. And I am blessed to come alongside an established ministry (D.P.) who is passionate about these individuals.
That little girl with solemn eyes, holding out her hands for a scrap of food, desperate for a glimpse of hope? She is why I’m here.