After 39,000 miles of driving on a bus together....after visiting 160 different cities/churches...after thousands of priceless memories, it was time to let them go. At that point, I knew the Lord was leading me to Africa, but I had no idea which country--so I could not assume that I'd see them again.
The next few months were painful.
In January of this year, Africa Inland Mission called to say they had an assignment for me: in Kampala, Uganda. The exact city where all my Ugandan kids lived!! I'm still in awe of God's faithfulness and how He had this journey planned for me all along...
This past Thursday, I was reunited with 7 of my Ugandan kids at their children's home (the other 3 are at a separate children's home...I anticipate visiting there sometime.) In the morning, I boarded a bus with Josh and Lindsay (two friends of mine who also went to Liberty) and several others. Josh traveled with another team of kids the same year I did, so that's how I met him. After an hour's journey, I saw Destiny ahead of me (their school/children's home.) For a moment, I could hardly breathe as I anticipated what was about to happen. I was about to give them quite the surprise; they had no idea I was living in Uganda!
My heart was full when I jumped off that bus and hugged the life out of Zurufah, Rose, Ezera, Lincoln, Jimmy, Martin, and Gift. I excitedly informed them that I'm living in THEIR country now, doing missions work with an organization that rescues children who live on the streets. I looked into their eyes and said, "Whenever I see a child begging on the streets, my heart breaks, but I thank God that you're safe here at Destiny."
While we were touring (2008-2009), I knew a large portion of the money we were raising would improve and expand this children's home (currently about 1,000 children there!). But it became vividly real when I looked around Destiny's property on Thursday and was overwhelmed when I saw first-hand the results of the tour! Beautiful, clean dormitories...nice school facilities...clean uniforms...and most importantly, a Godly environment for these children (many of which have been affected in some way or another by the AIDS epidemic in Africa.) So thankful for all the churches and individuals back in the U.S. who have helped bless Destiny.
I was surprised that the kids from the tour don't look much different! Although Zurufah seemed taller--no longer the "baby." Lincoln seemed to have blossomed into quite the young man; I saw leadership potential that I hadn't noticed before. [sidenote: Jimmy and Lincoln were such gentlemen and offered me their hands when I struggled up a steep dirt hill w/ my camera equipment. So adorable that they were attentively looking out for me!!] I am so very proud of each of them, for studying hard in school, following their Savior, and loving each other. They were greatly amused whenever I spoke the random Luganda phrases that I know...I told them multiple times "nkwagala nyo" (I love you so much) and "mbadde mbamissiinga" (I have missed you!) .
You can see many more photos on Facebook, but here are my favorites from the day. I was hoping to get a photo with just Ezera [who I sponsor], but he was being stubborn and camera-shy, that little punk.
There they are: Ezera, Jimmy, Gift, Lincoln, Zurufah, Rose [Martin was in class...]
Martin!! Oh, how I've missed that mile-wide smile!
Jimmy, Ezera, and Lincoln being goofy boys
Jimmy. He has one of the most earnest, heart-warming smiles I've ever seen.
Lincoln and a precious little boy