Friday, December 31, 2010

As the year ends....

Every year at this time, we are left to think about the past year of our lives.  To be honest, the last two months have consumed me and I don't really remember much about my life before Africa.  Maybe it isn't because I can't remember, but I choose not to. Everything that was an issue before, seems so far away and so unimportant.  I really feel like my heart has changed and I will never be able to be the same person I was.   So many wonderful things have happened in these two months, and so many incredibly heartbreaking.  I don't know what the new year holds, but I hope to be spending it right here in Uganda.

Here are some of the highlights from the past two months:
1.  Having Emma wait over a month to celebrate his birthday with me.
2.  Coming home after an average/frustrating/disappointing day and seeing all of the boys that I love so much and them welcoming me home like I have been gone for days but really it had been only a few hours at most.
3.  All of the boys, except one, getting promoted to the next grade.
4.  Being able to find a home for Moses, a boy from the streets that stole my heart, and hearing that another boy, Edwin, who is also so special to me, has found a home.
5.  Finding out that Gabriel had not been taken and was ok.
6.  Having Abby trust me enough to leave her programs in my care.
7.  Having a disabled lady living on the streets tell me how much she loved God and believed in His plan for her.
8.  Finding a church here that I felt connected to and were capable of helping lead me closer to God.
9.  The moment finally happening when Kampala felt like home.
10.  Having the disabled people coming to church with us for the first time, and the congregation reaching out to them and showing them so much love and acceptance, and the preacher telling the congregation that these people are putting them to shame because they were worshiping with everything they had and asking what the rest of us were doing.
11. The first time one of the boys told me he loved me.  It was Emma.

Since this has become my home and I notice all of the cultural difference, I thought I would share some of them with you.  Here they go:
1.  You cannot make a request from anyone, not even a store worker, without first greeting them and asking them how they are.
2.  People talk in circles and never come right out and say what they mean from the beginning.  So for example, instead of just saying, I really think that is a bad idea and you shouldn't do that, people will first greet and ask how your doing and talk about this one time and maybe hint about the bad idea and make a suggestion, etc.
3. Smelling your food is considered rude.
4.  Stepping over things especially plates and people is very rude.
5.  If you cannot do something you are expected to say so, if you say you will do something and don't it is considered a sign of not liking the person.

Hope everyone has a wonderful new year and it brings them happiness and joy and everything that they hope for.

                                            Little Bashir
         At the street program.  The boy in red is Moses, the cream is Gabriel and the other boy is Alex.
                                           Man selling grasshoppers on the street.
                                                     The son of one of the disabled people.
                                                    me and Emma
                                     This is where the boys on the street bathe and wash clothes.
                              Beautiful African sunset.  It is at the field where the boys play soccer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another beautiful day....

Yesterday was such an amazing day!! 

But I should back up some and start from how it all began.  We have found this amazing new church, Streams of Life, right down the street from our house.  It is about a 20 minute walk.  The pastor is wonderful and so wise and they reached out to us a few weeks ago.  The pastor asked if there was some way that he could help us and offered the use of the church van so the boys wouldn't have to walk every Sunday and make it more of a special experience.  Uncle David had the brilliant idea to instead invite the disabled people from our street programs with us and then bring them back to the house for lunch.

So that brings us back to yesterday.  Uncle David and Jaja Gina went to the streets to pick them up and took them to church.  Many of them cannot walk at all and even the pastor helped carry them to their seats.  They saved them seats right in the front and had a boy to translate into their language.  During the service, 3 of the pastors greeted them and welcomed them on several occasions, people from the congregation came over and hugged them and greeted them and made them feel so welcome. 

The best part of the service was after the pastor was done with his sermon, he asked if anyone wanted to give their lives to the Lord and receive Him in their hearts and 2 of the ladies went forward!!!!!  It was such a beautiful day. After spending more and more time with them, I am not sure who is benefiting more from the interactions, me or them....I am pretty sure it is me though.

God bless

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Only the good....

So much has happened since my last post....I have fallen in love with Africa.  It is a beautiful place and it doesn't get the credit it deserves.  All the media ever focuses on is the bad...the wars, the poverty, AIDS, etc.  Don't get me wrong, those are huge problems and the people need help to solve them but there are also beautiful people, doing beautiful things every day, and you never hear about it.  I think if people heard more of the good things, people would want to do more.  When you only hear about the bad, it seems a bit overwhelming and useless to even try and help because you wonder what the point is.  So I am only going to focus on only the good things that have happened....

First, I have never seen anything more beautiful than an African sunset.  If you have heard anything about African skies, you can't imagine how beautiful it is, no matter where you are from.  Every night, the sun doesn't disappoint.  It leaves the sky in a beautiful way and then the moon comes out and there are soooo many stars that are so clear and bright.  It is absolutely amazing.  I can't wait until I get the chance to go to the village or the grasslands so the city lights aren't spoiling it.

Next, all of the boys except one were promoted to the next grade except one.  He needed to be held back so he could catch up and it is a good thing.  Another lady is coming to live at the house and is going to focus on helping the boys with reading so they are going to be caught up in no time.

Also, one of the uncles got his visa to go to the US with Abby so he can help her with talks.  This is going to have a huge impact on their fundraising efforts and the ministry. 

I went and visited a girls' home the other day.  It was a beautiful house, so nice and clean.  The girls seem well cared for and are doing well.  Those are 16 more lives that have been saved from prostitution and it is this generation now that will be the change that Uganda needs. 

There are people here that have dedicated their lives to the children here that are forced to live in the darkest places and they love the children unconditionally and give willingly.  They care for the children when they are hurt, take their drugs, counsel them, feed them, and spend time with them.  They give a but of hope to children that have none.

The people here are so friendly and so welcoming.  I move around town by myself and never once have I felt unsafe.  People want to hear about the US and Obama and compare our societies.  They may have very little or nothing but are not stingy and happy to give everything they do have.  For example, street kids that have nothing want to give you their necklace or share their food with you.  They don't eat on a regular basis, but they are willing to share with someone that they know eats all the time and whenever they want.  They are also willing to help you with anything that you need and not expect anything in return. 

It really is a beautiful place and I can see why people told me that I would never want to leave once I got here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This week has been emotionally trying....I am not even sure that I can effectively put into words.  There is so much need here and so little help.  Desperation does something to people.  I guess they figure they have nothing else to lose so why not ask.  It is not a good position to have to be in and I can't even imagine.

When I took Emma to the hospital the other day to have his stitches removed, it was the same nurse as when we brought him in the first time.  After she removed his stitches, she asked to speak to me alone.  When I went to talk to her, she said to me how I take care of orphans and then started telling me about her situation.  Her brother and his wife had both died so not only is she trying to support her kids but theirs also.  She can't afford to put them in school and told me that some are really bright.  I knew I would face situations like that but I didn't know what to say.  It is difficult to know that there are so many that need help but you can only help a few.

Then on Thursday, we visited another home.  They were boys that used to be in the street programs but an American lady committed to opening a home and providing for them.  I don't know the specifics of what is going on but I do know they are not being taken care of.  It has been 2 months and they still have the same clothes that they had while they were on the street.  They never received new clothes, some may not be in school, and they don't always have food to eat so the kids have to go back to the streets to scrap metal and plastic to get money to buy food.  This is so wrong on so many levels and these kids are teetering on the edge.  How people can commit to something so serious and then take it so lightly is beyond me. And those kids were so cute.  They have nothing but want to give you everything they do have.  One boy was going to take off his necklace and give it to me.  Their selflessness is amazing and how they can continue to be disappointed and taken advantage of is a huge injustice.  Tomorrow I am going to go to the market with Abby so she can buy new clothes for them.  Please pray that something major happens and someone comes along that is serious about helping them and taking care of them.

After that, we went to the street program for handicapped people and this lady almost broke me.  I was sharing with a few ladies about my life and how I came to find God and what brought me to Africa.  They were so engaged and supportive and happy to listen and tell me how they understood what I meant and how we were the same in so many ways.  I was telling them how I knew God had a plan for me and this lady says to me something like, "You know God made me like this for whatever reason.  What can I do but keep living?".  Are you serious?  This lady has to live on the streets and beg because rebels attacked her village and on top of that she is disabled and she is ok with it.  She has every reason to hate and blame God, to hate her life and want to give up but she is so far from it. I almost started crying hysterically.  I have felt like giving up for far less.  It really put things into perspective for me and made me feel like a spoiled brat.  Back home, if the smallest thing is wrong, I will scream and complain and really its something so stupid.  Funny how sometimes you go to give people hope and they inspire you and touch you more than you ever could for them.  When I look back on my time here, I will definitely remember that lady and that moment.

Thankfully the weekend was a bit lighter.  We got a new volunteer on Friday so we went to pick her up and then I did my first Bible study with the ladies at Hope House.  I shared how God has a plan for us and we shouldn't make excuses as to why to not accept it.  The ladies have also been working really hard and almost everyone sold several pieces of jewelry.  I was so worried about the program because they just weren't doing well.  After that, I got to go and watch the boys play soccer.  They love soccer and are so happy playing.  Their field is just a field of dirt but it is always packed with so many people playing.  It was a nice relief to have a lighter moment.

Saturday, we got to celebrate Emma's birthday.  As some of you know, his birthday was well over a month ago but he told Abby that he wanted to wait for me to celebrate (Keep in mind I had never met him before nor had I spoken with him).  He is such an amazing kid.  He is the same one that told me to step on him so I didn't step in mud.  So we had a birthday party for him.  The kids played limbo and bobbed for apples and played a game with balloons.  They had to keep the balloons in the air without using their hands.  They had so much fun and the house was a bundle of screams and laughs.  We had cake for him and of course, Mija being the cow she is tried to steal the cake.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First week

Well I have been in Uganda for one week already....Time has flown by this week.  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was at the airport.  I don't think I have ever been happier as when I got off the plane and got through customs and saw that Mija had made it safely as well.  As most of you know, I was so terrified to have her fly but we all made it.  Even Calcetas calmed down during the course of our journey.  I met another woman at the airport who was also bringing her dog, but hers was left in Amsterdam and no one told her until the plane was backing out. I simply cannot imagine....

I have experienced so many new things here and have so many stories already.  Forgive me if they come out a little disorganized.  As time goes on, I am sure I will get the hang of this blogging thing and hopefully they will make more sense.

On my first day here, we first visited the women's project (Hope House) that I will be helping with.  There are 15 women that were given a job making jewelry so they could get off the streets and earn an honest living.  The jewelry is made from glass beads and they earn a weekly allowance and are paid for each piece of quality jewelry they make.  Currently, another girl is here and is taking care of all the correspondences associated with Hope House but when she leaves in approximately one month, it will become my responsibility. 

Whenever we want to get someplace quickly, we take bodas (motorcycle taxis).  Riding a motorcycle isn't the frightening part but the driving is.  Reckless would be a very mild term to describe their driving.  Since there is so much traffic and people everywhere, they just drive where ever they find space and even where there is no space (on the "sidewalk", in between cars, etc.).  I think I literally died 5 times my first day at the hands of the boda drivers.  My leg got squished while riding on the boda between it and a truck and got hit with a boda passenger's suitcase while I was walking which caused me to almost fall over and them to almost crash.  There were other close encounters, and that is where the title of my blog came from.  During one such encounter, I was told that those are the welcome to Africa type moments.

The boys, which is the reason I came, are absolutely amazing.  There are 16 of them living in the house and they range in age from about 7-17.  There are also 3 uncles and 4 aunts (including myself).  The boys are so sweet and so helpful.  Saturday I had laundry to do (you have to wash everything by hand) and while I was washing, 2 of them came and took it out of my hand and pushed me aside and did it for me.  They are also very protective.  Whenever we are out, they won't let anyone talk to me and if they try and touch me, they hit their hand away.  The other day at the market,  I was with 2 of the boys and we were waiting for 2 of the other aunties and a guy tried talking to me.  I told him that I was there with them and we were waiting for someone.  He then asked if they were mine and when I said yes, the look on his face was absolutely priceless.  He looked at me and then at them and told me but I am white and they aren't.  One of the boys then told him that they were mine and the guy walked away in utter bewilderment. 

Over the weekend, we had an accident at the house from two of the boys playing and had to take the one to the hospital to get stitches.  He is fine but the hospital here was very strange.  There is no emergency room and no signs clearly directing you where you need to be.  After we walked around for at least 15 minutes trying to find the right place, we were sent to admissions, where you pay just to be seen.  Then they send you to the room to wait for someone to attend to you.  The nurse then has to call a doctor and so it took what seemed like forever before we were seen.  Then we had to go back and pay more.  I don't know what happens if you can't pay. probably you don't get seen. 

I have more to share but that is enough for today.  I will try and post pictures of the boys later tonight or tomorrow.

God bless!