Saturday, December 31, 2011

Funny stuff

I wanted to post something funny instead of all of the serious stuff that I am always posting. It is a long post but full of funny stories. So here goes...

Since I have been home, I have been taking public transportation(the bus).  Now, if you are from a big city you may not understand how the bus system works in a smaller town.  Taking the bus here is not like taking the bus in Chicago.  It is usually inconvenient and doesn't always run when you need it to.  Instead of every 10 minutes or so, it might be every 30 minutes or an hour.  Also, here, to ride the bus announces to the world your life is in some sort of ruin (This is a stereotype that almost everyone here has.).  Since it is not convenient only the people that are desperate ride it.  That means the drunks, drug addicts, people with DUIs, teens, convicts, you get the idea...and me.

Waiting for the bus I get many looks and riding the bus I experience many things.  I keep joking that I am going to write a book with all of my stories, but for now, here are the top 10.

10.  There is a certain bus driver that is so grumpy and mean, literally every time I have gotten on his bus, he yells at me for something, usually because he doesn't like where I was standing. One time, I was standing in the exact spot another bus dropped me off at! 

9.  I was at the transfer station downtown standing in line waiting to get on the bus.  There were two people standing right next to me talking very loudly.  It was obvious that they had just met and had exchanged numbers.  I hear the girl telling the guy she is going to call him. I turned my head and the guy says to me, "What? Do you want my number too?  Let me give you my number.  You want it?  I hear you listening to us.  You must want my number too!"  Um...NO!

8.  I was on the bus and there was a lady sitting across from me.  We stopped and picked up another lady and she sat down across from me also.  We stop again and another lady gets in and sits next to me.  She realizes she knows one of the ladies across from me so she moved next to her.  She sat very close to the other one, so that lady then moves next to me.  The two ladies across from me are talking about the one's son and girls chasing after him when the friend announces, "I know they say you ain't supposed to hit a woman, but if she that dumb you need to slap some sense into her." Really? WOW!

7.  I was heading home from a craft show and had a back pack, another bag and a poster board with me.  I get on the bus first and 2 ladies get on right after.  One sits across from me and one next to me.  I could already tell that the ladies were a little off/slow.  The one across from me started asking me why I had so many bags, so I told her.  Then she said how she liked my earrings and asked where I got them.  I told her Africa.  She looks at the other lady and says, "Did you hear that?  She is from Africa!"  The other lady says to me, "Oh wow!  So do they sound like us when they talk? I mean I can understand some of the words you are saying, but not all of it."  I was speaking English!

6.  I was leaving the Farmer's Market and was standing waiting on the corner for the bus.  It isn't unusual for me to see people in their cars, look at me and start saying something to the other people in the car.  I can only imagine what they are saying, but I am sure it is creating a story as to how my life has gone drastically wrong.  So when I was waiting I saw this happening.  I could see the driver but not the passenger, but I could tell they were looking at me.  When the light turned green, and the cars started to move, I could finally see the passenger.  As the car drove past, I saw it was someone I actually knew and was friends with until we had lost touch.  Instead of waving as they drove by, she instead gave me the saddest smile that said, "I'm sorry your life is a mess but I don't really want to acknowledge that I know you or stop and ask if you need help."  Sigh....

5.  Riding the same bus home all the time, people start to look familiar and then they are convinced they know you.  I was standing waiting for the bus and a guy that rides the same bus says he thinks he knows me.  I assure him he doesn't.  We kind of chat but then another girl screams at him from afar and comes over and starts talking to him.  He tells her about his fiance and then asks if she knew they had a baby.  She informs him she didn't, so he offers a photo.  She then says, "Oh my gosh!  Look at her.  She's so f@#$*&^ cute!  Look at her f%$#@&* red hair!  How f^%#@$& cute!"  Yeah he was shocked too!

4.  I was trying to get to the post office one night before it closed and I should have known as soon as I got on the bus it was going to be bad.  Someone had dropped a milkshake right at the door of the bus.  The driver was very concerned but did nothing to clean it up.  She just warned everyone that it was there.  There was also a coin on the floor that was causing further chaos.  One person gets on the bus and tries to pick it up and hand it to the driver and she quickly tells him to put it down.  A kid is then running to catch the bus, gets on, sees the coin and goes to pick it up.  The bus driver tells him to put it down, but he doesn't understand why so doesn't.  She then yells at him to put it down and he still doesn't.  So she shouts, "I told you to put it down!  Drop the coin, now!"  He drops it but is then annoyed that she yelled at him so they start screaming at each other.  He goes to his seat but they are still sparing back and forth and then he says a cuss word.  I don't even remember hearing it but I know he did because then the bus driver says to him, "You have one more chance and then I am calling the police to the bus."  Yep, all over a coin.  Did I mention the kid was probably 13 or 14?  Yeah...

3.  This wasn't on the bus but on the South Shore on the way back from Chicago.  We are making the stop in Michigan City when this lady starts running through the train car screaming, "Baby, wait!  Wait baby!  I don't live here no more.  I live in South Bend.  Baby!  Wait!"  She then takes off her hat and starts shaking her hair and says, " See baby.  I live in South Bend!"  What hair has to do with South Bend I am not sure but then she starts walking back to her seat and says, "I just got loud in here."  Really, you think?  She then sits back down and continues talking loudly so everyone can hear.  She asks the man next to her if he wants to do a word search with her and says how she knows the train driver is so tired.  When we are about 10 minutes from the airport, she gets up and starts walking to the door and says, "This is South Bend?  Is this South Bend?"  No one really answers her because she has been talking to herself the whole time and she gets annoyed by this and says, "What? None of y'all going to answer me? Oh ok." and then starts mumbling to herself, sits down, and then gets up and walks to the next train car.  Thank goodness!

2.  Yesterday, I was standing at the corner waiting for the bus.  As always, people are starting and I can see them talking, and I try not to make eye contact with anyone.  I am just trying to get home.  I notice the car at the light but don't pay much attention to it.  A few moments later, there is a guy standing in the parking lot of a business behind me talking to me.  It was the car that was just at the light.  The guy asks if he can offer me a ride.  Now, maybe I have watched too many Criminal Minds, but I am sure this is how people end up dead, so I tell him thank you but no.  I inform him the bus is coming and I am fine.  He says, "Oh ok! Happy holidays!  Have a good day!"   Did he really think I would say yes??????

1.  My best story comes from today.  I was waiting to get on the bus and this guy comes up to me and starts talking.  After a few minutes it is obvious that he is either crazy or high on something.  He starts telling me how beautiful I am and asks me about my shoes.  He tells me I should have a hat on the same color of my shoes and then I would be "head to toe".  ?????  He keeps talking to me and saying all sorts of things including screaming at his friend that he should look at me.  Thankfully, for me not them, 2 other girls walk up and so he starts talking to them.  He tells the one girl no wonder she can't keep a man, her eyes are crazy!  Then he asks her last name and she tells him, "Uh, none of your business."  He asks her why she said uh like she forgot her name, never mind the none of your business.  He decides to leave them alone and starts talking to me again.  There was a guy that seemed to have very low vision standing next to me. The crazy guy says very loudly even though he thinks he is trying to whisper, "Is that your husband?"  When I tell him no, he asks why he is standing so close and I just shrug.  He then says, "because he's blind."  What he doesn't realize is its because I keep moving over towards the other guy to get away from him!  He then announces that he is a bad boy and asks me if I have ever heard of a bad boy and if I want one.  When I tell him no, he says, "Oh you only like the nerdy guys!"  At this point I was ready to start screaming like the other girls for the bus driver to hurry up!  The other guy is announcing the crazy one is high as a kite and the crazy one just keeps going.  He then asks me if I go to the dentist a lot?  I think I hear him wrong, because that is weird, but I didn't and I say sure.  Mind you, he is missing several of his teeth and almost all of the front ones.  He then points to this old lady and says, "I bet she was beautiful once.  Look at her now."  Then he goes back to announcing he is a bad boy and it is his birthday.  Thankfully the bus driver came and I ran on. 

Hopefully the stories made you laugh.  I know they are the only thing that makes riding the bus bearable, because I know I will get to laugh.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year!

Blessings!

***If you haven't checked out the Indie GoGo widget on the right yet, please make sure you do so and help in any way you can! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Indie GoGo

You have probably noticed the new icon on the right.  What is it?  It is a campaign that I have created for Indie GoGo.

Indie GoGo is an online forum that anyone can use to fundraise.  I chose to create a campaign on there because it will reach a broader audience and the more people that know about the boys, the better.   It is really important to share the campaign with everyone you know, every way you can.  The more people that view the campaign and share it, increases the chances of my campaign being on Indie GoGo's front page.  This would mean everyone that visits the site would see it first. 

I hope that you will take the time to visit the campaign and give what you can.  As of right now, I have a fifth of what I need to go back and get the boys off the streets.  I leave January 13th.  I am going back to move 8 boys off of the streets and into a home, get them in school, and provide everything they need.  This campaign will hopefully help me to reach the goal and cover all of the start up costs and the first 3 months' expenses of the house.  Please do what you can and make sure you spread the word!

Thanks for everyone's support and prayers!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All of my hope is in You

Yesterday, I was reminded that God doesn't need me to do His work in Uganda but has given me the amazing privilege of sharing in it.  I would like to think it is my love for the boys that is making them change, but in reality it isn't.  Only God can change these boys' hearts and He is doing it whether I am there or not.

I have talked about John on here before.  He is an amazing kid and part of what helped me realize Uganda was where God wanted me.  I can't imagine loving anyone more (Of course I love all of the boys the same, but he has a very special place in my heart.) and would do just about anything for him. 

John and I are very similar in personality and I think that is part of the reason that we connected so well.  He is very quiet and shy, until he knows that he can trust you, and then he never stops talking.  He holds a lot of things in and is very guarded, but has an amazingly soft heart.  It took work getting to know him and there were many days I was convinced he didn't care about me one bit.  Of course, now I know that isn't true.

Very soon after I told him I was going to take him back to school, we were talking and I was asking him about his family.  It is almost a useless topic with street kids because most of the time they won't give you the truth as to what really happened to them.  However, I feel like if it is possible to keep the family ties, then the boys should.  So I was asking him if he would like to go home for a visit or to stay.  What he said shocked me and broke my heart all at the same time.  He told me, "Why would I ever go back there?  They don't love me."

While that could very well be the truth, there is a chance it isn't.  He could have just been hurting so much at the time from all of the trauma and abuse that he couldn't see the situation clearly.  There is a chance his family is missing him and praying he will come back, but there is also a chance they don't care and are happy without him.  Since that day, I have never asked him about his family again.  He has shared a bit at his own will but nothing in depth.

Yesterday, I was talking to him on the phone, first he told me that he forgave someone he was very upset with.  He was upset because she never came and visited him at school and he was expecting her too.  He felt hurt and abandoned and said he would not forgive her and never wanted to see her again.  She finally did visit and he forgave her.  I was very proud of that accomplishment alone.  It showed great growth and maturity on his part but most importantly it showed how God was working in his heart, that the healing had begun.  Then, as if that wasn't enough, he asked me if he could go visit his parents because he missed them.  What????  I couldn't believe it...

There are a lot of ups and downs with these kids.  Sometimes the downs seem so overwhelming, that I wonder, "Is it ever going to get better? What is the point?"

But John is the point.  God calling us to take care of orphans and widows in their distress is the point.  A while ago when I was trying to decide if it was God calling me to Uganda long term, a friend told me that it is our choice to accept God's calling in our lives.  God doesn't need us to do His work, so we can choose to accept the calling or not, but if we don't we will miss out on the blessings from doing His work.

For me, this means I would have missed out on moments like this with John.  I would have missed out on miracles because it is a miracle what is happening to John's heart and many other boys like him.  I would have missed out on being loved by some amazing kids.

I am very nervous about John going home and part of me wants to tell him no just to shield him from more possible heartache but that wouldn't be fair.  So I hope you will be praying with me for God's hand to be over this reunion, that his family is missing him and will welcome him with open arms, and that God would continue to work in John's heart and would prepare him for whatever he finds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God moments

Some times there are moments where the only explanation is they were God given.  Today I was lucky enough to have 2...

I went to a craft bazaar at a church today that I had never been to.  I saw the sign advertising "vendors wanted" so I decided to call for information a few weeks back.  Today was the day of the show and I was all prepared to sell the jewelry.  All day I had in my mind a set number that i wanted to sell, so I prayed throughout the day that God would just keep bringing people to my table.  With only about 45 minutes left, I was $50 dollars from my goal, and most of the customers had gone.  I prayed again and waited. When it seemed that I was not going to sell anything else I thought, "God, what happened?  I thought we were selling $500 today." A lady that had a booth and came by earlier to chat walked by and said bye shortly after and started heading out the door, when she STOPPED, TURNED AROUND, CAME BACK, and handed me $40 and told me it was for the kids and I should be encouraged.  I definitely was...

Last week, I contacted a church here that has a heart for Africa and the mission pastor told me I should check out a service and then give him a call and we could chat.  I decided that I would check it out tonight.  It was very different than any service I have ever been to, but I took away something very important.  The pastor made the point that Jesus never performed a miracle for someone that wasn't willing to ask for it.  He talked about the man with the deformed hand in the temple.  Jesus asked him to stand up, which would have shown everyone that his hand was not right.  He had a choice to make, either stand up and show everyone what was wrong with him and admit he needed help or stay seated.  Because he stood up, he was healed.  He admitted he needed a miracle and Jesus performed one.

Made me think, maybe the reason that I don't have all of the sponsors and support I need is because it will take a miracle to get them and I haven't admitted that I need a miracle before.  So here I am, admitting that I need a miracle...

God, I need a miracle. You have known it all along, but I finally just realized that I needed to ask.  I am ready to ask for it. I am standing up and admitting that I cannot do it without You, You are the only one that can provide for these boys.  I pray that just as you healed that man's hand when he stood up, You would hear my cries and see me standing and would work a miracle for these boys, that I love so much, and provide all of the support that is needed, so they never have to spend another night on the streets.  I ask this in Your name, Amen

Friday, November 11, 2011

LOT 2545

Matthew 25:45
"He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"

I am happy to share that yesterday, the paperwork was filed to incorporate LOT 2545 in Indiana and it was approved!

LOT 2545 is going to be the non profit I use for my work in Uganda.  I got the name from the verse in Matthew.    Street kids are definitely the "least of these".

I am really excited for this new step and can't wait until the last piece of paperwork is filed.  I know God has big plans for LOT 2545 in Uganda and can't wait to see what He does.

Thanks for the continued prayers and support!

Friday, November 4, 2011

What's the season?

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about how fundraising was going.  Thankfully, he is wise beyond his years and gave me the best advice.  He recited the following verses to me:


Ecclesiastes 3 (easy to read version)

A Time for Everything
 1 There is a right time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time.

 2 There is a time to be born
   and a time to die.
 There is a time to plant
   and a time to pull up plants. 



He then told me that everyone knows that it is impossible to harvest at the same time as you are planting.  You must plant first and then come back later to harvest.  He reminded me that this is my planting time.  I need to be patient and wait for the harvest.


Seems like simple advice...it was.  But it never occurred to me, I was trying to harvest before I even planted anything.  


I was interested to see what the rest of the passage said, so I looked it up.  How appropriate is the rest...


3 There is a time to kill
   and a time to heal.
There is a time to destroy
   and a time to build.
4 There is a time to cry
   and a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad
   and a time to dance with joy.
5 There is a time to throw weapons down
   and a time to pick them up. [a]
There is a time to hug someone
   and a time to stop holding so tightly.
6 There is a time to look for something
   and a time to consider it lost.
There is a time to keep things
   and a time to throw things away.
7 There is a time to tear cloth
   and a time to sew it.
There is a time to be silent
   and a time to speak.
8 There is a time to love
   and a time to hate.
There is a time for war
   and a time for peace.

God Controls His World
 9 Do people really gain anything from their hard work? 10 I saw all the hard work God gave us to do. 11 God gave us the ability to think about his world, [b] but we can never completely understand everything he does. And yet, he does everything at just the right time. 12 I learned that the best thing for people to do is to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live. 13 God wants everyone to eat, drink, and enjoy their work. These are gifts from God.
 14 I learned that anything God does will continue forever. People cannot add anything to the work of God, and they cannot take anything away from it. God did this so that people would respect him. 15 What happened in the past has happened, and what will happen in the future will happen. But God wants to help those who have been treated badly. [c]
 16 I also saw these things in this life [d]: I saw that the courts should be filled with goodness and fairness, but there is evil there now. 17 So I said to myself, “God has planned a time for everything, and he has planned a time to judge everything people do. He will judge good people and bad people.”


My favorite part????  God wants to help those who have been treated badly and He does everything at just the right time.  


I know the harvest is coming. I know it is His plan for these boys to be off the streets. I just need to be patient and wait upon the Lord.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Church

I started this almost 2 weeks ago but am just now getting around to finishing it...

Yesterday, I went to a church craft sale to sell jewelry.  It is a smaller, local church.  I didn't know anyone that went there, but saw the sign asking for vendors.  I have been selling the jewelry at the Farmer's Market but I worry that if I am there every week, eventually it will become a waste of time to be there.
So I went to this church yesterday not knowing what to expect.  What I found was very friendly people.  Everyone talked to me, welcomed me, and the lady in charge went way above.  She was very friendly and treated me like we were old friends. 

The sale was supposed to last only one day, but since the sale was kind of slow, they told us we could leave our things set up and return after the services on Sunday.  I decided to check out their service and then be there to sell.

Service started at 9 and there were maybe 100 people.  The pastor told a story from his childhood about the dinner table.  He told us how the table was a covenant of love.  That when you sat at the table at his grandma's you were considered family, no matter what had happened earlier in the day.  There was no discipline or angry words at the table, only love.  He compared it to the table where we take communion, where there is only love and we are all family.  It was a simple but very powerful comparison.

After service, everyone talked with each other and knew each other.  I had forgotten what it was like to attend a church where everyone knows everyone.  People know you and when you aren't there, they miss you and wonder what is wrong.  There is also accountability.  It is impossible to sneak in late, not go, or sneak out after service in a hurry. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my church.  I love the messages.  I love the worship. But if I don't go, no one notices, no one knows me.  It is impossible to know everyone.  I didn't have a problem with that until today...

I remembered what it felt like to be part of a church family instead of a nameless face in the crowd.  To have people that know you personally and care what you are doing or going through.  They have really opened my eyes and have started to make me question what church is supposed to be.  More and more, I am starting to think that church was intended to be a family and with this church, I think it is possible...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  John 14:14

If you ask any of the boys what John 14:14 says, they know.  They believe it with their whole heart and recite it often.  For me, sometimes I forget.  I don't know why, but I do.  

Lately, I have been feeling stressed and worrying.  The time that I wanted to spend in the US is coming to an end and I feel like I have accomplished nothing.  I don't have any sponsors and without sponsors, I can't return, the boys can't get off the streets.  And so I have been stressed and doubting.  Stupid I know...

Sunday, I decided that I was going to put it back in God's hands, where it should have been all along.  I decided that this week I was going to fast and ask for guidance.  And like always, God heard and answered.

I know God loves these boys more than I ever could and wants them off the streets way more than I do.  So I am putting my faith back where it should have been all along.

I hope you will pray with me...

God, I know you love these boys way more than I do and Your heart breaks with each night they spend on the streets .  I ask that you provide a way, that you would put people in my path that have a heart for these kids and want to see them off the streets.  I pray that you would provide all the resources that are needed to bring these kids into a home, so they will never have to spend another night on the streets.  I pray that I will be back in Uganda by Christmas so the kids can receive the best Christmas gifts ever, a home and a family.  I ask these things in Your name.  Amen.












Thursday, October 6, 2011

Future Plans

As most of you know, I am planning on returning to Uganda in December.  What you may not know is why or what I plan on doing.

The why:

When I left for Uganda almost a year ago, I was supposed to stay for only a year.  The plan was to check it out and return after the year for school.  I didn't know what I would find in Uganda and I questioned if I would like it.  At first, I didn't.  Everything was so different and took a lot of getting used to.  What made the transition easier was the 16 boys I was living with.  They were so excited to have me there and welcomed me immediately.  After a while, I started to see the house as my home.  Then I started getting involved with the street kids.  After that, there was no going back.  I looked forward to Wednesdays and spending time with them.  Soon we started having programs 5 times a week, but I ended up there 7.   I found a reason to go see the kids everyday and it was really difficult to leave at the end of each day.  Before I knew it, working with the boys was all I did. 

I soon became close with several boys, at the house and on the streets, and I began to wonder how I could leave and never see them again.  How I could just walk away, like I never loved them.  I started to wonder why I was going to waste another 5 years of my life in school to do something good in the world, when I was doing something good now.

It was in those questions that I started to doubt returning to the US at the end of the year.  What also contributed was everyone that I talked to from home told me how happy I looked in all of my photos.  When I stopped to think and listen to what God was telling me, I discovered that I was where He wanted me all along.  I was happier than ever and finally felt joy.  I realized, very event leading up to that point, God put in place to make sure I made it to Uganda and stayed.



The what:

1.  Open a home for street kids.  The kids I feel called to are older boys, 12-16.  The older a boy becomes, the harder it is for him to go back to school and get chosen for a home.  Just like in the US, when a family is looking to adopt or foster, usually the younger kids are chosen first.  Same thing in Uganda.  It doesn't help that the longer a boy is on the streets, the harder it is for them to get off.  Living on the streets, the kids are their own boss; no one tells them what to do or when to do it.  They develop a sense of freedom and independence that is hard to let go of unless they really want to.  All of the kids that I am closest to are in that age group.  I know that they will take a lot of work and a lot of patience but I know that it is worth it.  They deserve a chance and I want to give it to them.

2.  Outreach within the community.  We work in a slum.  Everyone is in a terrible situation and needing of help.  When we come in and only pay special attention to the street kids and send the other kids away, it is no surprise that it furthers the resentment and dislike some people feel for street kids.  I want to have a day once or twice a month where the community kids can come for a snack, watch a movie, hear about Jesus, and play fun games.  I think that this will go a long way to helping build community relations.

3.  Start a women's program.  I plan to do this by starting a small group, 5 women, and teaching them a craft.  I am thinking weaving because they can make baskets, place mats, purses, etc.  The program would last for a set period of time (6 months) and they would be paid well above market value for their items.  They would keep a portion of their money to provide for their families and the rest would go into a forced savings account.  During the 6 months, the ladies will also receive business training, English classes, counseling, and Bible studies.  It is the goal at the end of the 6 months, they will have enough money saved to use for capital and enough knowledge gained to start their own business.  If the first group is successful, the program will be replicated every 6 months, eventually increasing the number of the women.

Yesterday, I was trying to put together a 5 year plan.  I think it is important to know my goals and objectives for my ministry in Uganda, so I know what I am working towards.   As I was writing, I kept wondering is this even possible?  But I kept writing.  If it is God's plan for me, I know He will provide a way.  All morning today, I keep thinking, the problem with asking God for the impossible is sometimes we get it.  Right now, everything seems like an impossibility, but with Him, I know it's not.

If you want to help with any of these projects, email me at amanda.jones0314@gmail.com and I will give you more information as to how you can!

Thanks for the continued prayers and support.

Ibra

sleeping

sleeping

Ibra

bathing

Emma washing dishes after programs

playing football at programs

playing football

Derrick

Friday, September 23, 2011

The right choice

I have been trying to write this post for at least a week now.  I have been home for over 2 weeks and I can't seem to find the right words for what I am feeling, but here goes...

I thought home would be weird.  I thought it would feel strange to be back in the US because it is the complete opposite of where I have been living and considered home for the last 10 months.  And it is weird.  It is weird how I feel like I never left.  It is weird that I am equally comfortable here.  A friend that has been living in Uganda for over 2 years now told me that I would feel at home in both places.  I thought she was crazy.  How is is possible to consider a place like Uganda home and the US?  I was convinced that I wasn't going to feel at home in the US anymore, but I do.  And it leaves me confused.  Confused as to what am I doing, confused as to maybe I am becoming complacent here, confused as to if I am making the right choice to go back.  Just confused. And then yesterday happened...

I have talked about Ronald on here several times.  He is an amazing kid and probably my favorite of favorites of the kids on the streets right now.  Since the moment I met him, I have been praying for God to bring him close, more like begging really.  I knew God put him on my heart but every time I thought we were making progress in our relationship, he would disappear, stop coming around or start ignoring me, but I knew I couldn't give up on him.  I would just keep praying that we would make progress, that God would provide a way.  Ronald is about 15 and acts like he is grown.  He is very independent and works hard for his own money. So he can be a bit stubborn and sometimes the uncles don't have patience for it.  (This is what happens with a lot of the older boys.)  Don't get me wrong, I saw his stubborn side (the gambling, the bullying, the fighting, the not listening), but I also saw a kid with a good heart that just needed someone to love him so he could be a kid again. 

As most of you know, I am going to go back to Uganda specifically to open a home for street kids and Ronald is boy number one on my list.  One of the uncles that knows all the boys really well told me I should reconsider.  He told me he was stubborn and difficult, and loved to fight. I told him there was nothing that could make me change my mind about Ronald.  I told him to just wait and see.  He would see that he is perfect.  I talked to the uncle 2 days ago and he told me that I was right.  Ronald is becoming perfect.  He told me that Ronald had stayed at his house a few times and goes there to pray.  To say that I was happy with this news doesn't do my feelings justice.  I was absolutely over the moon!  The uncle told me that I should call on Thursday because the boys would like to greet me.  I didn't know who would be there and it didn't matter.  I am missing them all like crazy and wanted to talk to whoever would be there but I was really hoping Ronald would be there.

When I called yesterday, I talked to many boys...Joel, Dunkan, Derrick, Willy, Tom, Julius, Ivan, Richard, Bwanika, and of course Ronald.  One of the first things I heard was Ronald screaming in the background.  He hogged the phone from the other boys, told me how much he missed me, and sang to me.  In general, the phone call was amazing and exactly what I needed to hear.  Tom, the boy that never talks, said thank you so many times for paying school fees, told me he loved me and called me his mother.  Joel, who can be a bit moody and I don't always have patience for because he can be difficult, talked to me non-stop and told me he missed me so much and can't wait to see me. 

If I ever had any questions as to if I was making the right choice, Ronald and the other boys reminded me I am.  Even though I feel at home in the US, Uganda is now my home also and I have a new family there.  One I can't wait to get back to...

I need everyone's help to get back to Uganda and get these boys off the street.  If you are interested in sponsoring Ronald, another boy or me, please contact me at amanda.jones0314@gmail.com.  I will send you sponsorship information.  All donations are tax-deductible and most importantly will change the lives of these boys. 

Ronald
Ronald and Ivan


sleeping outside

Innocent sleeping outside

some of the boys sleeping in the room they pay to sleep in if they have money

sleeping outside



bathing in the canal

me with the boys at street program

Sebastion is in the middle with all the bandaids.  He picked up a piece of metal and it cut all of his fingers.

This is Richard.  He accidently drank acid right before I left and was on a milk only diet for a week because of the sores in his stomach and throat.  He made a complete recovery and is fine now.


Willy

me and the boys at uncle David's house





Sunday, August 28, 2011

A day of wonders...

One thing that made me sad about leaving was I thought I was going to not get to see David before I left.  If you read my last post, you know he was arrested and taken to a remand home.  I love David a lot and he is definitely one of my favorite kids. I was so sad when he was taken.

Turns out he wasn't taken where I thought but instead to a place here in Kampala.  I was in Kivulu today at the clinic and the other aunt continued on to programs.  She called me and told me I needed to come right away, someone that had been missing for a while was back.  I was hoping the whole walk there it was him, and I was so convinced it was him.  I have never been happier to see anyone in my whole entire life.  There he was!  Fine, a little skinny, but he was fine!  God heard my prayers and brought him back to us.  Another boy that I love a lot was taken also.  His name is Ibra and he is back also.  Unfortunately, Semanda wasn't able to leave.  I guess he is really sick and doesn't have the strength.  Please be praying for him.  I would love nothing more than to see him before I come home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The rollercoaster ride of working with street kids

Yesterday was a special day.  There were 3 main events that were so far from each other on the happiness scale that it left me confused as to how I should feel.   Sorry it is a long post.

A lady that I know here has been working really hard to find sponsors for a few boys so she can put them in a home.  Well she found all 8 sponsors and yesterday was the lucky day for 6 boys(1 hasn't been decided and the other I don't really know) that I know and love so much.

Mathias
She chose Mathias and I couldn't be happier.  Mathias is a funny kid that never stops.  He is probably 15 years old and is so smart but you would never know it.  He is a jokester and refuses to speak English.  He knows English very well and understands everything that is said to him but he always responds in Luganda.  He can read the Bible perfectly in English and translate. How he talks is also so funny.  He is always slurring his words and sounds drunk.  He probably reached 5 or 6 grade.  He is definitely one of my favorites but because he is rarely serious, I never thought he would get a chance.  One of the last things that happened with him yesterday was I was chewing gum and he told me that he was sick and the gum would make it better.  I knew he wouldn't like it because it was mint and most people here don't like mint or cinnamon flavored things, but I gave it to him anyway.  He looked like he was in pain to chew it.  He then tells the uncle near by that he doesn't know what I  gave him because obviously what I am chewing is so sweet and I gave him something so sour.  I am so happy he is home but I am going to miss him like crazy at programs.  His jokes and unseriousness always put a smile on my face.

Matthew
Moses 
Two other boys Moses and Matthew, I am so happy for also.  Matthew has had a bit of a downward spiral in his behavior and so I thought he would never get a chance either.  I know he was angry and bitter because when we first started programs back to 5 days a week, he was one of the best behaved kids, but he saw many other boys get chances and he was always overlooked.  He turned into a mess and all he ever wanted to do was fight and quarrel with everyone.  I am glad she is taking the chance on him because I know he can rise to the occasion.  Moses is one of the sweetest boys.  He hasn't been on the streets for so long but I am glad he is going home.  Funny thing about Mathias and Moses is they look identical and they swear they are not related and come from different parts of the country.  They look so much alike that for a while I couldn't tell them apart unless they were next to each other.


Peter
Musa
The other 2 boys, Peter and Musa, are boys that were working making paper beads.  Now they will have a chance to go back to school and do something that they love.  I will also miss their jokes and laughs at the uncle's house but I am so happy they are getting the chance to go to school.  


Nelson


The last boy, Nelson, has been working on the land to build the new boys' home.  He has been working so hard there and everyone loves him.  He is a quiet kid and well behaved and cannot fight with anyone.  His real name is Patrick but everyone calls him Nelson or Mandela because he is so quiet and passive.  He worked so hard on the land because he really wanted to go back to school and an aunt told him she would match his money for school fees.  Now he actually gets a real home and gets to go to school.  I am so happy he is in a home with someone from his hometown(he doesn't speak Luganda so has a difficult time communicating but he speaks English well) and I know he will do great things.






Semanda is on the left




I hope you are still with me....

David 
After the boys were taken to their new home, I took a few kids to the clinic and found out that some boys were arrested the night before.  I was told that they were taken to a remand home.  This place is awful, there are too many kids there, it is not regulated, outsiders aren't allowed, it is basically a prison for kids.  Two of the boys that were taken were David and Semanda.  David is one of my favorites and I love Semanda a lot also (I wrote about them both the night I took Tom to dinner.  They seem to be best friends and are always together).  My heart is broken for both of them.  They are in a terrible place and it will probably take them some time to be able to escape, if they are able to at all.  About 2 months ago, the police came and arrested about 200 street kids and that is where they took them.  I still have not seen some of those kids since.  I have been told by other boys that have been there(most boys have been there several times if they have been on the streets for a long time) that for the first week you only get beatings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I am not sure if they were exaggerating or not but even the thought of it being even half true...For kids that are already traumatized and have had a lifetime of abuse, this could really push them over the edge.  David is a very fragile kid mentally, physically he is a fighter, and is already struggling with believing anyone could love him and he is worth something.  I am so sad because I probably won't see them before I leave and when I get back, they might not be the same  kids, if they are even able to escape by then.  Please be praying for them.  Pray that they are able to escape quickly and that they would be the same kids that I fell in love with when they return.

Semanda is on the left and David is behind

The terrible news of David and Semanda definitely took away from some of the excitement of the other boys going home.  It left me feeling angry, heartbroken, and confused.  I am beyond happy and grateful that 6 more boys are off of the streets and for all the people working here trying to make a difference but I am angry for David and Semanda.  They shouldn't be on the streets.  Now they shouldn't be in prison just because they don't have a home and people here don't care that they are just kids and they need to be taken care of.  It makes me feel like there are so many kids and I can only do so little and kids that I love so much are suffering and I can do nothing.  I know that is just the enemy trying to discourage me so I give up.  In my heart, I know they will be fine.  I know they will return to us.  I know this because God is good.  He loves them way more than I ever could and He will make sure of it.  Just like He provided for the 6 other boys I love so much, He will provide for David and Semanda.

Don't stop reading yet...

Tom
The last event was a boy named Tom.  I have had so many problems with Tom.  One day, he was so mad at me and hit me so hard on my arm I had a huge bruise.  Tom can be an angel and be so well behaved, but he can also be a nightmare.  To say I am cautious  towards him is an understatement.   I love him dearly but it is difficult to know how he will be.  One of Tom's main problems is he likes a drug called chenge.  He likes it so much, his nickname is chenge chenge.  We always have problems because I will take it from him and he gets SO mad, but I keep taking it anyway.  He was living at a home but he said the uncle there beat them so he left and is now staying in Kisenyi (probably the worst place in Kampala.  It is a slum but 100 times worse than where we work.)  He was walking with me when I was taking the kids to the clinic and was telling me all sorts of things.  When I found out he was staying in Kisenyi, I told him I didn't want him there and I didn't want him doing chenge.  He said he wasn't but as we were talking more, he told me he couldn't stay in Kivulu because if the uncle from the house saw him he was scared he would beat him.  I told him if he goes to Kisenyi and does chenge I would beat him.  What he said next was the most surprising thing ever.  He asked, "you would beat me if I did chenge?" and I told him, "yes, it is so bad for you and I don't want you doing it."  To which he replied, "well you are my mother."

Working with these kids is the most amazing thing I have ever done.  They bring me so much joy.  They have taught me so many things, especially about love, trust, and family.  At the same time, my heart has never been so broken.  Working with these kids is an emotional roller coaster and yesterday was the perfect example.  There are always amazing things happening with these kids and at the same time you watch kids you love so much make the worst decisions ever for themselves and you don't know how to feel.  One minute your happy, the next heartbroken.  But through it all I have joy and love...


Sunday, August 7, 2011

new best friend

At the street program, the kids are all very different.  I love them all but I am closer with some than others.  With all of the kids I am close to, I can tell the event that brought us close.  Usually it is very obvious and I am just as aware of the change as they are.

For example, Ibra and I became close when his toe was really infected and I took him to the clinic several times.  John and I became close when I started treating his bite wound.  I became close with Gabriel when I kept encouraging him to stay in Kivulu and talking to him about why he shouldn't use drugs.

Many times, it is a trip to the clinic that brings me closer to the kids.  Typically the kids are very guarded and it takes time to earn their trust. When they are sick and I take the time to go with them to the clinic and get them the proper attention, they loosen up.  That was the case with several of the kids, most recently ronald.  I have been praying that God would bring him closer and it finally happened last week and it was through a nasty wound on his leg.  Funny enough, that is how I met Ronald.  I took him to the clinic for another wound on his leg.  On Friday, he was one of the first kids to say hi to me when I got to the church. I am praying that he stays around this time.

All of that being said, when I was gone in Rwanda, I spoke to an aunt and she told me a boy named Derrick was super unhappy with everyone.  He thought I had left for the US and no one had told him.  He informed the aunt that I was his best friend and I had better come back.

Derrick is rather new to our programs.  I don't really remember how he showed up or when.  He is an outgoing kid and speaks English well.  I had no idea until the aunt told me that he cared about me so much.  I am not really sure what happened to make him feel that way but I am happy he does.  Now that I am back, I am getting to know him better and I absolutely adore him.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rwanda

I didn't want to come to Rwanda.  It was kind of a forced decision.  I didn't want to leave the kids, my dog, etc.  Last time I renewed my visa, the office said some nonsense and only gave me a one month visa.  That meant I either had to change my plane ticket again and come home early or leave the country for a few days and go to a neighboring country.  Since I already changed my plane ticket once, it would have been crazy expensive to do it again.  Therefore, I gave in to Gina's insisting and agreed to take a break and go to Rwanda for a week.

The bus ride was interesting.  It left almost an hour late and was crowded.  After fighting for seats we finally got settled and the bus left.  Thankfully it left at night, so I was able to sleep most of the way.  However, the ride was terrible and I kept waking up thinking we were going to crash and I was going to die or throw up everywhere.  The driver was flying and the road seemed to be one huge pothole.  Every time we hit another one, I thought the bus was going to tip over...it was just swaying back and forth.

When we finally got into Kigali and got off the bus, we were greeted with many taxi drivers.  We chose one and we started our journey of finding a place to stay.  The guest house we wanted to stay at was full but recommended another one.  We couldn't find contact info for it before we left so we just decided to come and see what happened.

Rwanda is very different from Uganda.  The differences were apparent from the second I stepped off the bus.  For example:

  • The very first thing I noticed about Rwanda is how green it was.  It is an absolutely beautiful country and there are flowers and plants everywhere, even in the city.  
  • Next thing I noticed was how clean everything is.  There isn't trash littering the streets and a terrible stench from rotting trash.  
  • One of the biggest differences is the traffic.  It drives on the right side of the road and always the side it is supposed to.  People aren't continuously honking and almost crashing.  It moves in an orderly fashion.  The roads aren't one huge pothole.  The bodas only carry one person and everyone wears helmets.  They are also required to wear vests that signify that they are certified.  Most importantly, traffic stops for people and sidewalks are only for people(as opposed to bodas, cars, and taxis in Kampala).
  • Probably one of my favorite differences is when I walk out I am not called muzungu a million times.  It is nice to just be and live life without being singled out and screamed at.
  • It is also quiet here.  It has given me time and space to think.  There aren't cars honking, trucks blaring music and advertisements, people shouting, etc.  There aren't street vendors (they are illegal) so you can actually walk down the sidewalk or street without having to shout at the person with you or fight your way through a crowd.  It isn't congested at all.  
  • Everything is super expensive here.  Way more than Kampala.  This is a huge inconvenience especially if you are trying to have a budget.  The prices are closer to prices you would have in the US.
  • The food is delicious.  We have eaten at 2 buffets that are considered local food.  The food was amazing, definitely not the posho and beans I am used to.  This morning I had bread for breakfast and it was super fresh and by far the best bread I have had in a long time.
I am loving it here and now that I am here I can see how needed this break was and am glad I came.  However, as crazy as Kampala is, I am missing it...  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

good news

We have a new member to our family as of Tuesday night.  His name is David and he is 6 years old. 
I am really excited that he is home with us.  No kid should be on the streets but especially not a 6 year old.  He was super vulnerable and everyone would take advantage of him.  The longer he stayed on the streets, the harder and more traumatized he would become.  It is only through God's power that he is home with us and we couldn't be more excited.

The last interaction I had with David on the street was Sunday.  We had taken another boy Joseph to the hospital because he was bitten by a dog.  Of course when other kids saw me and the other aunt, they followed.  so Mathias, Ivan, and David joined us in our hospital visit.  While we were waiting for Joseph to be treated, David fell asleep.  First, he was half on a bench and then he fell to the floor.  To say we were causing chaos in the hospital would be an understatement.  David was so sound asleep, he barely noticed.  When Joseph was finished and it was time to leave, David refused to wake up.  Everyone at the hospital thought he was sick and we were just refusing to have him treated.  Mathias picked him up but almost dropped him so the other aunt and I went to help and he let go of him completely thinking that we should carry him.  Of course we couldn't and so we had to put him back down.  At this point, we are laughing hysterically and losing it.  The hospital workers were very concerned.  Mathias and Ivan finally pick him up, one carrying his legs and the other his arms.  David is still sound asleep and refusing to wake up.  How, I am not sure.  Halfway down the steps, the boys get tired of carrying him and put him down and refuse to pick him back up.  He still will not wake up.  Finally we shout at him and make him stand to his feet.  He wakes up.  We discover he is so hungry, he is just holding his stomach, whimpering.  We take the boys to get something to eat back in Kivulu and once he starts eating, he is back to his energetic, sweet self.

I am so happy that I serve a God that hurts when His children hurt.  I know that His heart broke Sunday night also and He never wanted David to be so hungry again.  He put David so strongly on the other aunties' hearts to ensure David would never have to suffer again.  Monday night, I got a call asking me what I thought about David coming home.  It is amazing how God works!

Other good news, 2 other amazing boys, Abdul and Peter, found homes also.  Abdul moved to Jinja to go to boarding school where a pastor will mentor him, and Peter went to another home about an hour outside of Kampala.  Both amazing kids, both so deserving of the opportunity.

God is good all the time...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rare form

I have been super stressed lately and not very happy.  Everything is much more difficult than it used to be and most days leave me feeling angry and bitter.  I just had someone tell me, "while we should all want to live our life for the Lord, when we do, it is really hard."  I couldn't agree more.  He is pushing and I am pulling.  And i know the pushing is to get me where I need to be to serve Him but doesn't make the frustration or other feelings go away or any less significant and sometimes I just snap.

Today would be one of those nights...

First, I should say the one thing i don't find frustrating or more difficult is loving the street kids.  On the contrary, it is where I find all of my joy.  It is the only easy/non-complicated thing in my life right now.  So when I went to dinner tonight with Tom (he is one of the kids that I put in school but lives with another uncle.  He was 1st in his class so as a reward we went to a movie and dinner.) and found one of the kids I love so much, Derrick, looking through the garbage bin outside of the restaurant my heart broke but I was also so happy to see him.  As soon as he saw me, he started jumping up and down and dancing and singing a song.  Of course I invited him to have dinner with us and as we were ordering, 2 more boys David and Semanda showed up.  So they joined us also.  Derrick asked if he could please take his to go so he could go back to where he was staying so he could share with 2 of his friends, Ssemakula and Katerregga.  Of course I agreed and even got him another to take with.

Tom, David, Semanda and I remained and had our dinner.  The area we were, many street kids hang out there.  There is a place to sleep very near by.  So many other boys were around.  I didn't know the other kids but the boys I was with said they weren't so nice and had bad manners.  Nonetheless, they kept trying to share the food with them.  This of course was annoying the security guard.  Then Kasozi shows up and the security guard loses it.  I try to explain I know him and he is fine, he has good manners but the guard doesn't care.  Our exchange leaves me saying, "Fine, i just won't come here or spend my money here any more. Problem solved."  I tell Kasozi to wait for me near the other side, I am leaving soon and will get him something to eat.  Well chicken was too much of a temptation for him and he came back.  Security guard loses it again.  David had finished eating at this point so the security guard tries to push him to go and thats when I lost it...

I don't remember exactly what I said but it was something to the effect of what do you think is going to happen to your society if this is how these children are treated.  Hundreds of children treated so poorly and soon they will be the ones running the country.  What do you think is going to happen?  You should have some compassion.

I should have told him it was unchristian and how is he showing Jesus' love in his behavior.  I should have said a lot of things, but I was furious.  However my question is still a valid one and one I hope everyone that was staring and listening to my rant(the restaurant was full and a shouting muzungu kind of attracts a lot of attention) thinks about.  If a child only knows war, what does he turn into?  If a child only knows hatred and abuse, what does he turn into?  On the other hand, if a child only knows love, encouragement, kind words, compassion, what does he turn into?

I pray that these people get it together and figure it out soon.  These children will grow up.  They will become adults.  What hope does the country have if thousands of the children growing up only know abuse and are treated like they are less than rubbish?

Semanda is on the left and David is behind in red.  Dan is the one in front.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gabriel

Gabriel at craft day
I  don't remember how Gabriel and I met but it is difficult to forget him once you meet him.  However, I do remember our second meeting.  I had gone to Kisenyi to get kids to bring them to our programs in Kivulu.  When I got to the spot where all the kids hang out, I saw him and he announced that I was his friend but the others with me were not, and that is how it all started...

Like all kids from Kisenyi, he got high from huffing aviation fuel.  I took away his drugs many times over the last 4 or 5 months and fought so hard with him to not return to Kisenyi.  It took a few attempts but eventually he did stay in Kivulu and eventually started using drugs less and less.  There would be days where he wouldn't use them at all or only right before he slept.  Every time I saw him, I would take his drugs, he would tell me how sorry he was and wouldn't do it anymore, and I would remind him how bad it was for him.

About 2 months ago, he completely broke my heart.  We had a really rough day at program and he was one of the kids being the most disrespectful.  He got in trouble and we cancelled programs for the rest of the week.  Over the course of the week, I saw him out in the town.  I called to him and he ignored me.  I went up to him and he still ignored me.  So I told him it was fine, I still loved him and would see him later. But I didn't.

He didn't come back to programs for a long time.  When another aunt saw him, he flipped her off.  I wanted to go look for him but thought he needed time to cool down.  Then I got busy and never found the time to go look for him.  Two Sundays ago, he showed up out of nowhere and I was so excited.  He was clean, he wasn't high, and he talked to me.  Over the last week, he has been coming to programs and has been as great as ever.  I noticed that he hadn't been around the last 2 days and wondered why and today while I was in the middle of sharing a Bible story I saw why.  I saw the greatest thing ever.  There was Gabriel, standing across the church, in his school uniform.  I literally stopped what I was saying and asked the uncle who put him in school.

My God is an awesome God and He knows when I am feeling weak and discouraged and every time He does something so amazing and all of my hope is restored.

Please be praying for Gabriel during this time of transition for him.  He is an awesome kid and am so happy he was given this chance.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

a short walk...

Another auntie and I had been wanting to go out into the city at night and look for kids.  We were wanting to reach as many kids as we could everyday at program and thought the only way to do so was to bring new kids.  We finally started our adventure last week.  We have gone out at night at least 3 times now and have met many new kids.  We go out around 8 or 9 pm as the kids are getting settled into their sleeping places.  The problem for the kids is Kampala never seems to sleep so they must wait for all of the vendors to clear out before they can lay down.  Some nights this happens very late.

Our first night out about a week ago was a little frustrating.  We walked and walked and hardly found anyone.  We found out later that about 200 kids had been picked up the night before and taken to a remand house.  So the kids were in hiding.  We did manage to have some fun and had outrageous encounters.  I got dragged into the middle of traffic, everyone gathers around when we talk to the kids, a random lady was demanded a bag, the list goes on.

The last 2 times we have found very many kids.  Some have started coming to our programs each day and we have about 65 kids now that we feed.  Tonight we went out and found many young kids.  One boy, Brian, stuck out to me.  I hope he comes to program on Friday.  He has some crazy rash/infection all over his body and I want to take him to the hospital.  His English was perfect and we were all commending him on it.  When we asked what class he finished he told us 2nd grade.  His English is way more advanced than a 2nd grader and he looked at me and told me how clever he was but then he lost his parents.  My heart broke...

We found 35 kids tonight, a few we already knew but most we did not.  Be praying they come to the program on Friday, especially the little ones.