(written on the last day of the first two week team)
My 6:30am alarm went off but I didn’t need it. The roosters had already gone off and all the birds were waking up outside our window. Somehow, the roosters weren’t as annoying as my alarm clock, but even pleasing to lay and listen to. On a hill above Kampala, Agape Children’s Village was beginning to wake up. The air was fresh and cool and a young Ugandan boy was walking along the path outside, singing a praise song. Other children had already begun their chores and the sun was coming up. Day after day, from this village on a hill, is one gorgeous sunrise after another, never two the same.
Today, five of us would begin our journey home. There would be many goodbye hugs, photos taken, farewell notes and more goodbye hugs. Words can’t express how difficult it is to leave our precious friends after we have worked together, played together, loved each other, talked, heard their stories and realized how long it might be before we see them again, and knowing that after the excitement and activity of our time together, their lives will return to the day to day struggles that face them all year long. So much done yet so much more to do. But what will carry us through, and carry them through, is the love the Lord has lavished on us during our time together.
What every single one of our team has heard, over and over again from our friends at Agape, is “Thank you for loving us!” “Thank you for loving us!” “Thank you for loving us!” Powerful words. Humbling words, especially since most, if not all, of us feel that WE are the ones that have received so much love from them. Everything we’ve done, whether services rendered or gifts given, translates to them as having been loved. Both to the giver and the receiver, a holy and awesome privilege. And none of us will be the same. Whether together or apart, the love remains.
. . . At this point in my blog, we are back home in the U.S., but so much of me is still back in Uganda. I find myself wondering, “What are they doing right now? How are things going?” I remember the sights, sounds, smells and feel of Uganda, look through my photos, and relive in my mind many of the experiences we had there, knowing that only a relatively small number of people would be able to say, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean”, because they were there. So there’s the challenge for all of us who went, to go now to any who will listen, and relate the story of loving and being loved by our Ugandan friends. To bring as many as possible along side of us, to help us continue to love them, by providing scholarships for these precious children to get their education, to complete, outfit and staff the medical clinic in Kaihura, to meet the overwhelming medical needs of the community at large, and to reach out to them in whatever way that we can. So please, come help us. We would love to have you partner with us and know the joy yourselves, of embracing Uganda.
Why do I love Uganda? Well some of the quick answers are - I love the chaos of Kampala traffic, the open air butcher in the heat of the day, the morning roster outside my hotel, the motor bike overloaded with Chickens on their last ride, and the clarity of the stars in the sky at night, while the dog barks in the distance!
But most of all the Children……. What can I say!! The beauty of their smiles, their laughter, their warmth, and their heart ache. The hunger for touch, their fear, the questions that reside in the core of their hearts – WHY am I alone, WHO loves me, WHERE are my parents, will I survive? When I meditate on these things, and the seemingly insurmountable problems these questions pose, LOVE bubbles up in me, and I realize that at the end of the day there really is no other answer other than LOVE. We Love by being with those who are alone, We Love by comforting those who are alone, We Love by supporting those in need. We learn to Love by the example given to us by a God who stretched out his arms on a piece of wood and had nails driven through is hands, so that the questions these children ask can be answered.
So I am here to do those things. I am not perfect at Loving by any means. I am not a very good comforter, and I am certainly not good at being with people for that matter (just ask my wife), but as that child’s small hungry hand reaches out for mine, I reach back out in whatever stumbling way I can.
So why do I Love Uganda? because Uganda helps me to learn to LOVE a bit better, by the small hands reaching for mine.
GOD is LOVE.
A few background facts. I am with the second team which arrived on Sat. afternoon safe and sound. We spent the night in Kampala, and this morning we went to church at Pastor Michael Oakawkol’s church, and then drove to Agape Children’s village where we will be spending the next couple of days.
John Sibert, Sr.
What a privilege it has been to meet the “mamas” of Agape Children’s Village. That’s an understatement. To watch them hour by hour, starting before daylight, working hard with their hands to prepare food and help their children have what they need is more than inspiring.
As I passed by any one of them – Josephine, Christine, Topi or Grace, they never missed the opportunity to grab my hand, smile and say warmly, thank you for all you are doing. Grateful Hearts. Each night I went to Mama Grace’s home for bible study, prayer and singing. It was more than just a highlight of the mission, it was a highlight in all my life’s experiences thus far.
One night in particular, moved me like no other. Mama Grace began to read Matthew 25: 31-46. Her eyes and voice became pensive as she read vv. 35 -36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mama Grace, with her effervescent smile explained how the people of Embrace Uganda had come when they were without hope…”you found us just in time and gave us hope.” She told the story of the day the schools sent the Agape children home because they had not paid school fees and were not going to wait another semester; how that not only became a burden for educating them, but it required that they have more food supply, which they didn’t. Then “Embrace” found us, and everything changed. You gave us school fees and allowed our children to get the education they need. We were no longer eating so little – you gave us something to eat and drink, so our families were in better health. You brought us clothes and uniforms so that our children were proud to go to school. “It is like we were strangers to you but you just embraced us and provided for us and gave us hope. Now we are close friends.”
Comparatively, they still have so much less and there is still so much more that they need to progress. But with a full and grateful heart I heard a sweet testimony from one mama and her family and the real change that had been made; the lives that could now reach their full God-given potential, instead of a life of poverty.
Thank YOU Mama Grace for encouraging me to spend more time sharing the story of Embrace Uganda.
Thank YOU supporters – look at one beautiful example of your generous giving.
Dorothy Bowman (Mama Dot)
Wow. What an amazing past few days in Uganda! I honestly can’t believe I am actually here. I love the land, culture, and most importantly the people. They all have such incredible hearts, it really just amazes me. So to begin my journey it started at 3:30 in the morning on Friday morning. I couldn’t even sleep the night before because I was so excited (or maybe because I had to get up at 2:00 am. The flight to D.C. was actually not too bad, I slept for most of it! We got to D.C. and I learned our next flight was going to be close to 14 hours, this was not okay. You know when they serve all three meals… It’s going to be a long flight. And trust me- none of the food is even edible. I tried to entertain myself with music, movies, and card games but there are only so many movies and card games you can play before getting bored out of your mind. We finally landed in Ethiopia- one more plane! The plane to Uganda was actually really enjoyable, the sight out of the window was so beautiful. We finally arrived in Uganda (it was not a smooth landing though), I couldn’t believe it. I WAS IN UGANDA.
When we finally arrived in Agape Children’s Village the next day, the bus was swarmed with children. They were all so cute and loveable. We played with them for the next couple hours and then had dinner in our assigned “home”. The Mama and the kids in the house I was assigned to were so, so sweet. They actually gave us all backrubs after dinner. That was one of the best backrub’s I have had in my entire life. I don’t know if it was because I had been traveling for so long, or because they were doing such a good job, but either way it was one of the most relaxing things. It was just what I needed.
Today, July 2, was the last day at Agape’s Children Village. I painted all morning and some of the afternoon. Let’s just say that my entire shirt is covered in purple and peanut paint, and my arms are so dead. After painting I played volleyball for almost 10 games. Yes, 10 games. It was so funny to watch how competitive some of them are. I love playing games here, it cracks me up every time. After playing volleyball we ate dinner and then I got to have my first real “shower” experience here. And by shower I mean bucket of water and a cup. It actually ended up not being that bad. I can’t believe tonight is the last night here. Even though I have only been here for two days, I will be leaving a piece of my heart here. I don’t know how I am going to be able to leave them tomorrow. I have made so many new friends, and I hope I will be able to see them all again sometime soon. I am so blessed to be here in Uganda, and I can’t wait to see what God is going to continue to teach me in the next little while we are here. He has been humbling me so much, and I am truly blessed to be here. Well, I am falling asleep so I am going to stop writing now before I start typing gibberish. Goodnight! I love and miss you Dad, Mom, Kristi, and Alex!
Back at home, I love rainy days. I know it may sound really strange – but I love getting a good blanket, some hot chocolate, and a great movie. It rained today in Uganda, and when it rains in Uganda it really rains. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my cozy blanket , hot chocolate, or even a couch to snuggle on, but it was still a very good day. Our month long team got a day of rest which was much needed. AND (as silly as it sounds) we got to watch a movie.
I don’t know if Toy Story 3 would normally be my first pick for a rainy day back home, but for here it was perfect. We had some kids from Agape trickle in while we watched it. It was definitely a good “pick me up” for them since they had a tough morning saying good bye to the other part of our team. It was adorable to see the kids laughing at a movie in a language most of them did not fully understand. It is incredible how happy the little things make them. Just resting with our team, hanging out with the kids, and having a chill day was one of the best ways to spend this day. It is probably one of the best rainy days I have ever had.
Watching the kids react to the 1st team leaving this morning makes it hard for me to prepare for Tuesday when we all have to say goodbye to our friends at Agape. But at least now our team is energized and ready for Kaihura! Keep us in your prayers as we travel to western Uganda!
I had never appreciated hard ground before I went on a 13 hour plane ride. When I got off and got on hard ground, I almost fell and kissed the ground, then I realized, “Yes Carson lets lick the ground that thousands of people walk on every day.” Probably not the smartest idea I have ever had, but what can I say, I was drained after that long flight. We had another three hour layover before boarding another flight, but thankfully it was only two hours. As much as I thought I missed plane rides, I realized I had no idea what I was thinking, because those plane rides were torture. Although I will say, the benefit (being in Uganda) was definitely worth it.
When we arrived at Agape Children’s Village, our bus was quickly surrounded by ten children screaming with excitement to meet new faces. My suitcase was quickly snatched out of my hand, but not to be stolen, but to be carried down to our house (House 6). When we all got settled in, Sam (one of the adults traveling with us) and his team ensued a volleyball match against Evan Holland (who HATES it when he loses) and his team. While everyone was watching or playing the game, many of the children gathered around to watch and play. These kids are literally the most ticklish children I have every played with; just one poke sent them screaming and laughing. There were three children that sat next to me the entire afternoon until it got dark, Juma, Ezra, and Sashi. While Juma sat in between my legs, Ezra and Sashi were on my back and on my side, all watching volleyball with me. When there was a break in the game I would move my hand around in a wave motion and hum the “JAWS” theme song before I began tickling them, and when they weren’t paying attention, I went in for the kill (not literally, there are perfectly fine). By the end of the night, my forearms were sore from so much tickling, but it was well worth all the laughs and giggles. It is really sad that we leave tomorrow morning (July 3), because I only got to spend two days, not even (because they were in school), with the kids. I have made a lot of new friends at Agape and hate the fact that I have to leave them so soon.
In case you were wondering why I put “the Whistle” in the title of this blog, you can literally ask any of the team members and they will tell you about it. Nixon, a small five year old who lived in Agape, somehow acquired a whistle. How he got that whistle I do not know, in fact no one knows how exactly he got it, but the fact that he did was very bad. He was blowing his whistle all last night (July 1) and today (July 2). Everyone was complaining including me, but I just kept thinking that if it gave him joy to play with it; then by all means, let him play with it. A little after lunchtime, we somehow managed to trade the whistle with a small hand-held fan. It was glorious to not hear that loud whistle all day. It was truly a blessing from God.
I really cannot believe that we are leaving Agape tomorrow. Even though I have only been here two days, God has really worked in my life and blessed me with all these kids. Once again, a lot was put into perspective, which is exactly what I needed.
These past few days have been a true test of faith and trust for me. Originally, I was scheduled to stay in Uganda for only two weeks, meaning that I would depart tomorrow. However, Uganda has so captured my heart that I called my parents on Thursday to see if they would support me staying for another two weeks. Because God has given me the most amazing and loving parents in the world, they agreed to try and let me stay. However, due to logistical reasons, I will find out at the airport tomorrow if I’m leaving or staying. Lord, give me the ability to trust Your perfect plan.
Earlier on, I wrote about the beautiful names and joyful faces that were capturing my heart here. Some of those names and faces belong to my brothers and sisters in House 8. The joyful Mama Josephine is the house-mother there, and she showers me with more love than I thought possible. Her love flows straight from the Lord, and she showers it on everyone she encounters. Last night, Dirk, Devon, Jessica, and I had a dance party with all of House 8; we exchanged dance moves and they clearly out-danced us, even after I broke out the lawn mower and sprinkler. (Editorial Comment: Everyone danced, while Dirk watched) They all have an inextinguishable joy that flows through them when they dance. It’s absolutely contagious, and I found myself laughing and dancing freely. I will miss these precious moments with these special people. This dance party is only one of the many memories that I will forever hold dear of House 8.
Thank you to my parents for their love and the gift of trying to let me stay here. Thank you, Jesus, for His presence in Uganda. And thank you everyone who is praying for my team as we are here.
Wow what a ride! We are speeding along the red dusty road on the back of a “boda boda” or motorcycle. It’s called a boda boda because in the past, it would take you from one border of the country to another but in their accent border sounds like “boda. ” But anyways we, me, my mom, Dirk, Monica, Mr Sweere, and a mzungu who we met named Karen, are driving along in a procession of seven boda bodas trying to look where we are going but also trying to not get dust in our eyes. We drive along a larger dust road until we get to a turn in the road. The new road is still wide but very bumpy and I thought that was bad! But no, it got much worse the next road was about the width of one motorcycle wheel and the road was in bad repair and tack on the fact that we are going up a pretty steep mountain. The drive to say the least was a little scary but a lot exhilarating. My driver kept trying to look back and talk to me, which scared me even more. He was so funny though! We went through a jungle and it opened up into a farm on a mountain. The boda boda could go no farther and we had to get off and walk up an even steeper hill to this mud building that Jane’s grandfather and family called home. They were so hospitable. They didn’t have much but they let us sit down under their tarp outside on their only seats and served us some of their bread. The grandfather only gets into town once a month so giving us their bread is giving a lot.
He said that he wanted to give us a goat but someone stole their goat and they were sad that they couldn’t give us one. We were so happy just to see him we didn’t want anything from him. His wife broke her leg somehow and had to crawl around on the mud ground since she cant get medical attention on the mountain. The house looked like this: there is a small house that houses about 12 people in it, around the house is a ton of gnats, there are about five chickens that I can see and one of them has about 5 chicks, there are three dogs who are so skinny that you can see almost all their bones and they beg for our bread, there are 25 acres of crops, and a barn right across from where they live with a calf tied to it, and a lot of cows! . Did I mention that the animals use the restroom wherever they want including around the living spaces? And in the middle is a pile of green beans and the eight children doing chores around the house. We talked to Jane’s grandfather about Jane and her family and him and his family and finally we had to go. It was so amazing the hospitality. I wish that people in America had the same hospitality. I’m glad I had that experience.
“Let us not become weary in doing good” Gal 6:9, that is indeed a message to take to heart as we paint the houses. The monotonous rolling of the paint rollers with the same colors for the whole day can be very tiring and boring. Then I remember that the other people have been doing this for three days now. And then I think of all the happy children who will be living in these newly painted rooms. When we are finished we sit down and look at our work. I ask my “brothers and sisters” if they liked their room and they enthusiastically replied “yes” It made all of our work worthwhile. I’m so happy to be a vessel for God’s work. I hope to be molded more and more every day.
May God bless you and keep you may he make his face shine upon you and give you peace
Coming to Agape I knew it would be different than Koreng because in Koreng we were always surrounded by a large group of kids and while it was fun it was also hard to spend a lot of time with one kid in particular. I was also nervous coming to Agape because I was worried that I wasn’t going to bond with the kids or that I wasn’t going to enjoy it here. Then one night while I was doing my devotions I stumbled across Hebrews 11, which talks about people in the Old Testament that were commended for having faith in God. I felt reading that passage that God was telling me to have faith and trust in him and that I would be fine and make some friends with the kids here at Agape.
I was right. Since coming to Agape Hebrews 11 has helped me have the time of my life. I have made friends with kids like Paul who is an AMAZING dancer, is super funny, and has a strong desire to learn more about the Lord. Paul is only 5 years old but you can tell that the Lord is working in his life and has something special in mind for him. Another kid I have become friends with is Richard who doesn’t speak English very well but loves it when I chase him around the village, which happens often now. He always has a smile on his face and always finds a way to make me laugh.
I have shared tons of laughs with a lot of other kids but Paul and Richard are the two I have spent the most time with. I am so thankful that I came across Hebrews 11 because it has helped me have faith and make new friends here in Uganda.