Uganda- “Pearl of Africa”
Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord.”
❤”May Africa be the land and people who speak of YOU- From the riches of their poverty, to me …in the poverty of my riches.”
“I would rather be with little & have a settled heart than be with much and have an unsettled heart” –Ronald (A young man working at Agape that was rising in secular music-but chose to return to church music and to be praise & worship leader at Agape Children’s Home in Bukerere near Kampala, Uganda.) He leads us in morning singing at our devotion time.
He sings and strums on his guitar “My hope is built on nothing less than JESUS blood & righteousness.”
Every morning brings unusual joy to these children. They show exuberance for living “one more day” as if it were an unexpected gift. They sing songs thanking God for giving them breath for THIS day.
Miriam walks alone to school. She holds a piece of torn bread. She gets one cup of porridge every morning for breakfast. Homework is up to her each evening. Her mother left her with a daddy who beat her severely. Scars are proof. She now lives at Agape Children’s Village in Bukerere, Uganda wearing a contagious and resilient smile as God’s grace gift.
At Koreng School the children surround us in groups reaching hands out and waiting for us to take their hand. When we reach out, they bow in respect and say “My name is______” in a crisp British accent. Their English is broken but they sure want to communicate and I do too! (My MS accent is disasterously pitiful juxtaposed to rich English tones.) Beautiful ebony faces glow and eyes white as the moon reach out to lock for communication. No words are necessary as long as I hold the gaze to connect and simply nod a “Yes! I see your beautiful self!” Then the heightened eyebrows and breaking out of a white smile is the language we speak. True communication. Respect in holding each other in desire to know and love.
Doreen keeps finding me and taking my hand as if she knows how desperately I need a steady guide through this unknown cultural experience. I want to love these and learn from them. The 650 school children rushing to greet with exuberant welcome is overwhelmingly beautiful. Doreen is quiet with deep eyes. Is there sadness? Contentment? Mature knowing? Young promise wise beyond years probably brought by harsh circumstances. When a teacher asks her to take care of a need I can tell she is noted as responsible. How do I love her in just a few visits within a week? How can I offer encouragement and tell her I see much potential? And what are her chances? Oh God! I can only ask that You protect and bless her life. Would you set her free with your promises? Above all give her hope and a close walk with You.
And on our final Friday, after the soccer tournament and after the 3 hour closing ceremony which includes a village meeting of sorts-with leaders giving reports of progress and future plans, asking parents to get involved, sharing plans from the PTA, all wanting progress for these relational ones in great need. The bond is strong and unity prevails as they depend on each other for the basics of life. The projector abruptly stops several times during the presentation. The electricity rigged can’t seem to handle the demand in this primitive structure. Determination prevails. It seems what we have here is comradery and community of spirit coming together-African brothers and sisters and American brothers and sisters. A commitment of two different cultures melding together with the powerful love of God. And then, our leader -“Mama Dot” speaks. With poise and conviction she begins to thank the gathered group for letting us love them telling them how all the gifts we bring will tear, get lost, lose their newness and joy. She goes on to tell of the gift we bring that is forever, never losing its joy. It is the powerful love of God. With clarity she tells the way of God reaching to us all. I bow in honor of her gift. So proud of my cousin! So moved.
As the sun sets in the African sky, the jam-packed open brick structure is spilling out-sweaty with joyous pitch black darkness. Only the light of white eyes from the little ones to the elders stay fixed on speakers bringing hope. I am blown away by the focused attention spans of the children. No movement. Eyes fixed. Nothing to do, but BE present in this moment together with no light, no air, no adult prodding-just longing for hope. Speeches still going. No one moves until the last dance and drumbeat. And it’s time for our team to say final good-byes in the dark and head to the van. I’m thankful the dark covers my tears as we walk away. Somehow in the mass a hand finds mine. It’s Doreen. We have exchanged notes earlier in the day. I hug her and tell her how I have come to love her in the short time. She puts her head close to my side and in her quiet rich voice says, “I’m going to miss you.” And she wipes an eye. I know I’m leaving a piece of my heart right here at Koreng School in Uganda, Africa.
Then there are the Primary-7 boys who have also captured my heart! When we shared the Noah’s Ark story and had them act it out, they received it like a gift! Not with typical 7th grade awkward cocky ways. Just thankful for “Muzungu” visitors who’ve come to share. After the story & songs we asked if they had songs for us. Moses stepped to the front to lead. All joined in strong and loud in a song to God. The melody and rhythm mesmerizing…”We pray to You…” Team leaders glanced & nodded in “wow.” Afterwards I made connections with Moses and his friend Paul.
The next day we asked Moses & Paul to share the song and dance with our team at morning “tea time.” As we’re about to leave on Friday night-there’s Paul with that adorable 7th grade-still innocent- smile. He gives a melancholy question mark smile of “Will you remember me? Is there hope for me?” Another hard good bye from a new friend. Oh God…another deep cry for hope for a child. Please let our visit encourage him to get his education and grow beyond circumstances.
There’s Winnie. And Mary. Mercy. Aaron. Lucy. Joyce. Rose. Sylvia. Margaret. Joyce. Brenda. Victor….(so many more)…And the silent tiny girl whose name I never knew-the one with the oversized dress that slipped off one shoulder as she walked around in a sad daze. And all those names and faces I cannot for the life of me remember. God bless the children of Koreng, Uganda. There is great need among deep sadness, but riches in their desperateness for You. They teach me what You desire from us.