Our time together has been so wonderful– your prayers could not be more felt. The above picture is with one of my new friends named Grace. She is such a beautiful person inside and out. I have learned so much from her about contentment, godliness, gratefulness, joy, fun, and service. She is the music teacher at the Primary School we are working at in Kadacar (pronounced, ka-da-char). She has four children and one of them is named AUGUSTINE! eek! We both flipped out in excitement to have shared in that commonality of naming our sons.
This picture captures a small glimpse of the amazing blessing God gave me today. I shared with the group that often in my mothering role I tend to forget to enjoy the fun aspects of life such as praising God through music and just having so much fun. I want my children to remember that we had lots of excitement in our home- that it was a joyful place to be and full of worship of our God. I don’t want them to remember that I primarily prioritized clean clothes and sanitized dishes (though they are important!) over worship and joy. After lunch today, we gathered around outside and played music together for at least an hour. The women sang and the children danced around us to the contagiously happy melodies. It was so beautiful to experience a people who have their priorities in line. They display such unity, contentment, and peace. I have learned so much from this culture and I can’t wait to share more with you.
Praise God for such a gift in this trip. I am so grateful for all that I have experienced and learned in just a few days. Please continue to pray that God would use us to minister well to these people as well as for Shaun as he watches our children back home.
Yesterday, Kait and I decided to bring three of the sick babies from Home Again back to Mama Faith’s house with us for a sleepover. Sarah was surprised but more than willing to help. I have to say, mothering three babies has been quite the task, but it has also been filled with joy and laughter. We somehow survived last night, and the babies actually slept through the night (for the most part). The child sleeping with me was so congested that it was like sleeping with a freight train. However, every time I looked over at her sweet face, I couldn’t be mad. These precious babies are so innocent and in need of love and attention. From this experience, I have learned more about the heart of God than I have in a long time. And since the babies are (finally) napping, I have some time to write out the insight that I have had.
After we picked up the babies yesterday, we took them straight to the medical clinic to get medicine for their coughs and colds. As I was playing on the floor with the babies (Eva, Esther, and David), I noticed that David had dirt and food all over his face. He didn’t seem bothered by it. He either didn’t realize it was there, didn’t care that it was there, or he wanted it off and just didn’t want to endure the process of removing it. It was then that I decided to take the risk of wiping off the mess. Though I knew he was going to cry and scream and thrash, I also knew that he would feel so much better after his face was clean. As I began to gently remove the caked on dirt and food, he began to fuss. It wasn’t long before he was screaming and hitting and throwing a fit. But despite his obvious defiance to my efforts, I patiently continued, knowing he’d feel better when it was all gone. Once I finally got all the grime off his face (which, trust me, was quite a job), he was much happier, just as I knew he’d be.
As I was cleaning his face, a thought popped in my head. To me, the dirt and grime on David’s face is much like the sin on our hearts. Sometimes we want it there, sometimes we don’t know it’s even there, and sometimes we want it gone but don’t want to go through the process of removing it because it’s painful, tedious, and unpleasant. But God, so much wiser than us, knows that we will be happier and better off without the mess. So He lovingly and gently begins to remove our sin from our hearts. We cry and fuss because it’s not an easy process. It hurts, and we try to convince ourselves that we are fine without God’s help; that we are fine in our sin. But gently and persistently, God continues to clean our hearts because He knows that in the end, happiness does not exist outside of Him, and we cannot experience the joy of Him when our hearts are covered with sin. Once we finally allow God to wash our hearts clean, like I washed David’s face, we realize how much better off we are. The process is never fun, but we are thankful that we serve a God who knows so much better than we do; that despite our fussing and squirming, God values our betterment over our comfort.
And the most important part is that it was done with a heart of love. It’s not that I enjoyed making David cry; it broke my heart. I was almost tempted to leave the dirt on his face so that he would stop fussing. But because I love him and want what’s best for him, I cleaned his face. I allowed him to be mad at me and defiant towards me during the process because I knew that in the end, it was for his good. And so it is with God. He shoulders our complaints and our resistance because He knows that in the end, we will be grateful for His persistence in making our hearts right with Him again.
As we have been here one of our biggest joys has been spending time with the children who live at the Home Again House. This orphanage is full of smiling children who are eager to love and be loved.
There are approximately eight infants, twenty to twenty five toddlers, and many older students who live in boarding school most of the year but still consider Home Again their home. There are a few Mommas who provide care around the clock and other volunteers who come to help when needed. These women work extremely hard to cook, clean, do laundry, and encompass the role of a mother in all of these children’s lives. Although their resources are very limited, they continually strive to provide for these children.
As we have had the privilege to spend time with these beautiful babies, the burden of their needs has laid very heavy on our hearts. We feel that God is calling us to do what we can to make Home Again a safer and more efficient environment. We feel that we should show God’s love by not only spending time with them, hugging, kissing, and playing with them, but also by providing for their physical needs.
Last week, we had the opportunity to go with the Mommas to buy clothes for the babies. We also had the joy of handing out a suitcase of toys. In a place where toys are a luxury, these children were absolutely elated and overjoyed to receive even the simplest of toys. Both of these provisions were possible through the generosity of Embrace Uganda supporters.
Though we were thankful for the opportunity to provide these supplies, there are still many pressing needs that require our immediate attention. Some of their needs include: a continual supply of diapers and wipes, mosquito nets, soap, medications, etc. We would love for people to visit the Embrace Uganda website to help raise awareness.
Please consider donating to help these precious children. More importantly, please join us in prayer for Home Again and the ministry of God’s love taking place there.
For those who are interested in donating go to www.e and select “Greatest Needs” from the pull down menu. During the PayPal checkout process specify in the “Add special instructions to the seller” box that you would like your donation to go to the baby house or Home Again!
Stephen has never owned a mattress or nice blanket and bed sheet of his own, this week with the support if Embrace Uganda the team was able to take him shooing for his first time and bought him several personal items and it was his first time to go to bigger town than Kaihura! Stephen’s life will never be the same again, just because you gave. Thank you all.
Even after 30 some hours of traveling, it took me a few days here to comprehend that I am actually in Uganda. It doesn’t seem possible that I am on another continent, halfway across the world. I am so thankful for the blessing of being here in this BEAUTIFUL place full of beautiful people.
However, despite the great blessing of being here, we’ve definitely had some difficulties in the process of getting here and getting adjusted. During the two days of traveling our team faced exhaustion, sickness, anxiety, and culture shock. And shew, jet lag is real, y’all. Getting adjusted to the new sleeping schedule has been rough. In all of this, I let my fatigue and frustration get the best of me. Honestly, I lost sight of our purpose in being here and the promises God has made to bring good out of this trip.
Yesterday morning we groggily rolled out of bed and walked up the red dirt path to a Bringing Hope to the Family building where they were having a devotional time. Prossy and Mama Faith encouraged all the people there to
trust in God, no matter the circumstance.
I realized that in my discouragement, I was not living out this simple, important truth. Trust in God.
Sure enough, immediately after the devotion we took a tour of all the different parts of Bringing Hope to the Family and God revealed to me how much he has in store for us here. We saw the clinic, Hope Academy Nursery (Preschool-Kindergarten school), Home Again Orphanage, and Hope Academy (Grades 1-6).
As soon as we arrived at Hope Academy Nursery the children ran up to us hugging our legs, reaching up to be held, and smiling like crazy. They were so full of love and joy. I’m so excited to start teaching them tomorrow and learn their stories.
In Home Again Orphanage, we got to hold the babies! We saw the great need they have for someone to simply love on them and play with them. The women working there are constantly cleaning, cooking, feeding, bathing, and doing laundry. All of this work to meet the children’s basic needs consumes all of their energy. What a blessing to our team to get to show them God’s love.
Hope Academy stole my heart. It is beyond beautiful. It is made up of little buildings that are classrooms with cut out windows that give the perfect view of the most gorgeous mountains I have ever seen. Absolutely breathtaking. Classrooms full of children laughing, singing, learning, and working. Children who shared their love of Jesus and their joy in salvation by asking us, “Do you love God? We love God. Are you saved? We are saved.”
Seeing all of their sweet faces I was reminded of the promises God has given me about serving in this trip. How could I forget? God has GREAT things coming for this month. God is not limited by rough beginnings, sickness, anxiety, or culture shock. God is not limited by jet lag. He is so much bigger than all of that. Although he can do great things despite my negativity, I will miss out on so much if I am negative fail to acknowledge His goodness in all things. This experience is already teaching me so much about seeing rough circumstances not as something that limits God’s work, but instead as an opportunity to trust in Him even more. I am so thankful for the opportunity to not only grow in my own trust, but to also get to share life with these people who demonstrate this trust in God so well.
Meet Stephen. He is ticklish, loves donuts, and has a smile that can light up a room. Stephen was born HIV positive. Both of his parents died when he was very young (likely from HIV), leaving him orphaned. He went to live with his grandmother, where he was greatly mistreated. He lived under such conditions for a few years, and during this time he received no medical treatment for his HIV. He also stopped receiving schooling in the middle of his P-3 (3rd grade) year. When his aunt learned of his living conditions, she took him in this past November.
He is currently around 9-10 years old (he is not sure of his age; we made that assumption from looking at him). Though Stephen is not necessarily mistreated, he is definitely being neglected in his aunt’s home. All of his cousins are going to boarding school, but the aunt and uncle refuse to send him to school because they see it as a waste due to him being HIV positive. Stephen mentioned multiple times that he sees not being schooled as one of his biggest hardships. He
misses it greatly because he truly enjoys learning. Stephen has a rash covering his arms, back, and front. Though it is in part due to his HIV, his sleeping situation is only irritating it.
Currently, Stephen does not have a mattress. He is sleeping on a piece of foam over bamboo sticks. When I sat on the bed with Stephen, I could not even tell that there was foam there. It was literally like sleeping on sticks. He does not have any sheets, and he has an itchy blanket. His mosquito net was old and riddled with holes, and we were thankfully able to immediately remedy this problem by replacing his old net with a new one. We were able to go visit Stephen’s
house to put up the net and survey his living situation firsthand. As I climbed onto the bed to tie the mosquito net to a nail in the wall, my legs immediately began itching and continued to for at least fifteen minutes after. I cannot even imagine what that bedding must feel like on Stephen’s dry, cracking skin. It breaks my heart to think of it.
We met Stephen this morning at Mama Faith’s office. He went to the clinic and received lotion for his rash. He has been suffering from a toothache, and his back molar is literally rotting out of his mouth. He received pills to help with the pain of the tooth, and he has an appointment at the medical clinic on Friday to get it pulled.
We are thankful for the needs that we were able to immediately meet in little Stephen’s life, such as the mosquito net, medicine, and love and attention. He is a sweet boy who desires a bright future, but his obstacles are many.
Unfortunately, Stephen’s story is not uncommon in Uganda. There are many children who are orphaned and suffering from lack of love and care. There are many children who desperately desire education to better themselves and to provide themselves with a better future but cannot access it. There are many children who sleep on sticks and face a plethora of medical issues.
And this is why we are here. This is why Embrace Uganda exists. We work to raise funds for children like Stephen to receive the care they so desperately need and deserve. We at Embrace Uganda believe that every child has a right to a good education and to getting their basic needs met. And we will not stop until every Stephen has hope.
One theme of this trip that has already started to form in my mind and heart is making connections. As a traveler you make many connections. You have flight connections to get you to your destination. You make connections with the lady you bump into in the terminal bathrooms, or with people you sit next to on flights. Some connections are surface level and some are deeper. In order to make those deeper connections you have to be open and willing. I often catch myself on my phone checking social media or responding to last minute goodbye texts before my flight takes off, and today was a typical day of social media boredom scrolling. Today, as I boarded my flight a gentlemen made a comment somewhere along the lines of “looks like you are headed on a fun exploring trip” (seeing my camping backpack) I politely laughed at the comment and told him I was headed to Uganda. As a typical 23 year old caught up in her own life I rudely assumed he was just some dad headed on a golf trip with his buddies and quickly went back to my phone. After getting on the plane and reaching my seat, I realized that same kind face was in the seat across the isle form mine. He kindly helped me lift my heavy backpack into the storage ben when I struggle to find a place to fit it. We then began talking about where each of us were traveling to and discovered we were both doing mission work. Before taking off we knew each others names and had made connections through people we both knew in Raleigh, I knew his kids names and a little about their careers, and he had asked about my college experiences. As the flight went on we chatted about my mission work in Uganda and his former work with the YMCA and different camp programs. I don’t think I would have enjoyed my flight as much as I did if I had just sat in my seat and kept to myself the entire time. I was sad when our flight was over but once we exited the plane we hugged and wished each other luck on our journeys. Experiences like this are reminders that in life it’s important to make connections with people you come in contact with. In these relationships we can share our lives, our experiences and most important of all we can share God’s love. I can’t wait to continue making connections with the people and children I see in Uganda!
Embrace Uganda’s Mission 2015 is about to start in a couple of weeks. Join us and read the exciting stories about what our team is doing in Uganda.