Thursday, July 22, 2010

Does anybody care?

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The street is your home, leftover garbage is your food.
Your life devoid of love, future dreams are non-existent.
You live in survival mode, desperately trying to make it to the next day.
Longing for a glimpse of hope, you wonder, "does anybody care?"

This describes the backgrounds of the children living at Kampiringisa (a government-run rehabilitation center for street kids). An hour’s drive from the city of Kampala is a run-down, dingy compound which is “home” for several hundred children and youth. There are multiple possibilities why they have been taken to Kampiringisa:

-Some were street children, rounded up by the Ugandan government and then dropped off at the compound

-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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 comments:

Maria said...

ashley, thanks so much for that! such beautiful children... what a blessing <3 i'm keeping all of you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Ashley, My heart is aching for these beloved. i know that your smile and touch may be the one thing hope thinks of while she falls asleep. well done my friend, you are in my prayers as you serve as hands and feet for the God of the UNIVERSE - who knows those children by name.

Not Really My Cup Of Tea said...

I can relate to you, as I visited an orphanage about two hours from Kampala in the war-zone part of northern Uganda. Most the the children had seen their parents murdered. And yet they ended up blessing me from their happiness from the little things, such as candy we handed out, or new shoes. One little girl tried to split an m&m five ways to share with her friends. That touched me so deeply as I realized how selfish I would have been. These kids DO need hope and love, but I think he can learn a lesson from them as well. But never stop praying! You're doing a great job Ashley, and I wish I could be there along side you.

Jill said...

Thank you Ashley for letting Christ live through you :) and reaching out to these kids and loving them! My prayers will be with you and these children continually as you continue in His work. What a blessing God has given you; to have this opportunity for you to serve Him in this capacity. My heart just breaks for them, but God is gracious and has heard them and sent people like you! In Christ, Jill (a friend of Daniel Vandegrift)

ashley said...

Thank you everyone for taking time to read this and pray for the kids. I also appreciate the encouragement! I'm going back to see them on Tuesday, so please pray that I can somehow encourage them despite the language barrier.