Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I wish

These last few weeks, I have been really discouraged and felt like I was being attacked on all sides.  I felt like someone was doing everything they could to make me want to give up on Uganda, to give up on the boys.  Things I was really hopeful about, didn't work out.  My dog died.  Promises of help, never came through.  Unkind words. One of the boys ran away.  For others, it seems so easy.  Crisis after crisis and I am not there.

So many things.

And I thought, maybe Uganda isn't in God's plan for me.  Maybe that is why I am not back.  Maybe I should give up, just get a job, and send money.  The kids will be fine.

I actually considered it.  In a moment of frustration and weakness, I considered never returning to Uganda.  I thought about what I could do here, what kind of job I could have.


That is all I can say for that.

Thankfully yesterday happened and my hope has been restored.  Even when I am angry at God or doubting that He has great things in store for me, He still loves me and wants to give me hope and encouragement.  Yesterday was my reminder.

It started out at the market.  It was an amazing day and people were buying the jewelry before I even had it displayed.  They had kind and encouraging words.  I left the market knowing that God loved these kids, He put them in my life and He would bring our family back together when the time was right.  He promises that He will make everything beautiful in its time.  I left the market knowing that when the time was right, it would be the most beautiful of days when I get back to Uganda.

It was enough.

But He didn't stop there.

I talked to the boys for over an hour.  I had to apologize to one because I got angry the last time I spoke to him and it wasn't his fault.  I thought he wouldn't want to talk to me but he did.  He accepted my apology and  moved on and was laughing and joking with me.

But He didn't stop there.

I was talking to one of the boys that has had a difficult time adjusting to living in the home.  When he first got there, he stole so many things from everyone and caused so many problems until we discovered it was him.  He has ran away at least twice, one time coming back with chicken pox.  He is different now and is working really hard at school and trying to behave well.

The last time we talked last week he told me he had a story he wanted to tell me.  As he was telling me the story, we ran out of airtime.  I kind of forgot about it until yesterday.  He said to me, "Don't you remember I was telling you a story?  I never finished."  And he began his story again.  It was his story.  His story of how he came into the house.  When he was finished he said, "I sit here and wonder, why you took me?  I was a bad boy.  I don't get it."

I asked him if he wanted to know why and of course he said yes.  I told him that I loved him and thought he deserved a chance.  I told him I knew he could be different.  I told him I knew he could be a good boy, I saw something in him and believed in him even if he didn't.

My wish?

That these kids could see themselves how I do, or more importantly how God does.  I wish that they could see that they were wonderfully made by an everlasting God with unfailing love.  I wish that they could put their trust in their Creator knowing He made each one of them for a purpose. A good purpose.

The kids aren't the only ones that need that reminder.  Sometimes I do too.  Maybe so do you?

Today my hope is restored.  My faith is in a God that loves these kids, and me, more than I can ever imagine.  He works everything for His good.  He makes everything beautiful in its His time.

I pray that I never forget that again.  I pray friends that you never forget it either and it would give you comfort if you are struggling or doubting of the great plans He has in store for you.

Monday, June 25, 2012


First I want to thank everyone for the prayers.  He is finally home!

It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. (The Message Matthew 6:21)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV Matthew 6:21)

Saturday was a very strange day at the market.  For those of you that don't know, one way that I raise money for the boys is through selling jewelry made by 2 different women's groups in Uganda.  The women get paid per piece so they can support their families and save for their own businesses, and then the rest helps to support the boys.  So most Saturday mornings when I am in town, you can find me at the local Farmer's Market.

I thought Saturday would be a typical Saturday.  I like being at the market because I hear lots of Africa stories.  People stop by and share their heart for Africa or about some one they know that has gone and brought them a souvenir.  It is really interesting and encouraging.  I have met many cool people and until this last Saturday everyone only shared kind words.

A lady that I had seen at the market many times came up to the booth and picked up one of the bracelets.  She was looking at it intently and finally asked, "This is paper right?"  So I told her it was and as she showed it to the lady with her, I began to tell the story, why I sell them, who makes them, etc.  Then, she put the bracelets down mid-sentence and started to walk away.  As she was walking away she very rudely criticized me for not helping here.

Honestly, I can't remember her exact words.  I only remember how she made me feel.  ***Lesson here, the saying is true.  People won't always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.***

I felt hurt, angry, shocked, outraged, bitter, heartbroken, the list could go on...

I couldn't believe that someone was actually criticizing me for trying to do something good. That they felt like the boys weren't important enough to help.   

Now I could go in many different directions with the story.  But the path I am choosing is to try to share why Uganda.

I could have gone anywhere in the world and found someone in need.  Every single space on this earth is filled with someone in need.  Maybe not the needs we think of but still needs.  There are spiritual needs and physical needs.  There are needs of friendship and comfort.  There are needs of emptiness and feeling alone.  Everyone, including me, has some sort of need.  I could go anywhere, even to the most wealthiest places and find someone in need of something.  I could have stayed here and found something.

Before I left for Uganda, I volunteered a lot locally (at an afterschool program for kids in a housing project, packing boxes of food for the food pantry, at a food pantry, at church, grocery shopping for an elderly lady that couldn't get out, raising awareness for Heifer International).  I worked locally in jobs I thought would make a difference, as a teacher and at the Boys and Girls Club.

While I was happy to do those things, because I saw a need, my heart wasn't there.  I can't explain it.  I loved helping and working with the kids.  I have some great memories and it is wonderful running in to kids I used to work with and seeing them and how they have grown or progressed.  But I didn't LOVE it.  There was always something missing.  


That feeling where your heart comes alive and even if you had to walk up hill to the moon in a tsunami and blizzard with no shoes, you would do it.

I never felt that until I moved to Uganda.  That is how I feel about the boys.  That is how I feel when I am in Uganda.  My heart is in Uganda.  I would do anything for the boys to make sure that they have everything they need.

In Uganda, I have found my calling.  I have found God's purpose for my life.

I realize there are needs everywhere.  But I can't be everyone to everybody.  no one can.  But I can be someone to one, in my case 20.  God has called me to Uganda.  Uganda is where my heart is.  Uganda is where I will stay until God calls me elsewhere.  I know many people don't get it.  I understand people feeling that we should take care of our "own".

Guess what?

We are all God's children.  The boys are as much of my "own" as the people here in the US.  Sorry if that upsets you or makes you angry, but it is the truth.  We are all part of this world.  What happens in other parts of the world, does have an impact on what happens here.  Martin Luther Ling Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Where you live or your skin color doesn't make you any more of my "own" or any more in need as anything else.

Not everyone is going to have the same passion as me and that is fine.  I don't care if you love dogs and want to rescue them.  I don't care if recycling is your thing.  I don't care if you want to visit inmates or tutor after school.  

Just do something.

There are needs everywhere.  Just because someone doesn't have the same heart as you, you shouldn't criticize them.  As long as people are doing good in the world, trying to make it a better place, living out their faith, I can't argue with that, even if it is different that what I choose to love or do.

Like the scripture says, "where your treasures are, your heart will be also."  I have many "treasures" in Uganda and that is where my heart is.  That is why I go. That is why I choose Uganda.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Get out of My way!

Once more I realized this week that God doesn't need me for this work but I was lucky enough to be chosen.  I always say I didn't choose the boys, God did.  The safety and peace of mind provided by that statement is unbelievable.  It gives me comfort to know that he will always take care of them.  It gives me peace knowing the boys are difficult and have issues, but He will watch over them, change their hearts and convict them of their sins.  It reminds me that all God has asked me to do is love them like He loves me and He will do the rest.

We have added 3 boys since the beginning of May.  If you remember, 2 were added because Ronald begged me.  I agreed without seeing pictures of either.  I took the kids' and uncles' word that they were good kids and did in fact deserve a chance. 

I knew I knew the boys but couldn't see their faces.  I am terrible at remembering names, but knew I knew the names just not with a face.  I asked for pictures so I could see our newest family members and was sent one of John.

When I asked what happened to the photo of David, I was told the other boys accidentally erased it and he didn't realize until he was at the internet cafe.  I kept asking for the photo and then he told me he lost the cable for his camera.  I finally got the picture last week. 

Before I continue with my story I want to say that I love all of the boys on the street.  I think that everyone of them deserves a family and a home with people that love them.  I don't blame them for their bad behaviors and habits and think it is just the result of growing up on the streets and being neglected and abused.  The longer they are on the streets, the more difficulties they have.  I don't hold that against them.  But sometimes...

There are kids that really get to me and not in a good way.  As soon as I saw the photo and realized who it was, I was angry.  David was one of those boys.  He had been on the streets for a long time and had lots of bad habits and was always rude and disrespectful to me. 

I have spent the last week kind of annoyed and wondering what to do.  He has been with us for too long to send him away.  The uncle says he is doing well.  When I talk to him he is kind and respectful.  He listens and is grateful for his chance.  So sending him away isn't really an option.  I couldn't.  I wouldn't.  But how can this boy be in the house?  The boy that was so rude to me before...

I'll tell you how. 

God chose him.

It is amazing how God worked to give David a chance.  He knew David belonged with us and kept his identity a secret from me because He knew I would say no.  Even if God insisted I would have said no.  He knew I wouldn't listen to Him, so He made it so I didn't have a choice.  He used Ronald to convince me knowing I wouldn't tell Ronald no.  He hid David's picture from me until He knew it was safe and I wouldn't send him away. 

I am no longer angry that David is home with us.  He deserved a chance and God made it happen.  God worked for David despite my unwillingness.  He saw something in David I refused to see.  He saw that David was redeemable, even though I didn't.

It is amazing how God works for these kids.  He has a plan for each one of them, even the hardest and most difficult.  Because God brought David to us, I can rest in knowing that things will be fine, that there is no problem that we can't overcome, that He is the one in control and His will will be done despite what I want.

Sometimes we have to get out of our own way, out of God's way, so incredibly amazing things can happen.

Meet David.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One year ago

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote this post.

On May 30th, he found his forever home.

The boy I knew as Brian, his actual name is Joseph, is now home.

The picture was taken when he was still on the streets, but who could resist that smile?

When I first met Joseph, I thought he hated me.  He wouldn't look at me, speak to me, or even acknowledge that I existed.  And then one day, by the grace of God, we were best friends.

He loves dogs so much, but unfortunately they always attack him.  He always seems to get bit by them.  But he loves them anyway.  I have had to take him to the hospital for rabies shots and antibiotics.  He has had wounds on his legs from the bites, but it never stops him from loving them.

When I left in September, it was my good bye to him that was the most difficult.  I remember getting on the boda and riding away and looking back at him.  We were both on the verge of tears.  I don't know about him, but I did cry. 

Now he is home.  He is safe.  I don't have to worry about him being on the streets anymore. 

It was another dog bite that pushed me to take another leap of faith.  He was out collecting scrap and got attacked again.  So I jumped again, and prayed that God would provide.  And like the ever faithful God that he is, he has.  There always seems to be enough.  Just enough. 

I am excited that Joseph is home.  He has started primary 2 and I only see good things for his future.  All he needed was a chance...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is it worth it?

It has been over a week since he left.  There is a good chance that he will never come home.  There is a good chance he will...still don't know.  I had a dream the other night that I went to Uganda just to find him. 

I read a blog the other day about the riskiness of love.  I have been thinking of it ever since.  Why do we risk it all for love? 

Because we know it is worth it.

I take a chance on loving these kids because I know that it is worth it.  They are worth it.  I risk it because I know that even though there will be difficult days and plenty of heartbreaks, in the end the reward will be greater than the pain. 

Love is a scary thing.  True love, love the Bible talks about, love that Jesus shows us, means that we have to put another person's needs before our own.  We are selfish by nature.  It isn't easy to put someone else first.  In love, your happiness and joy is directly related to that of the other person's.  When you have only known pain or hurt, how scary a thought to let someone else be in control of your happiness.  When people that you have loved have only disappointed you and shown you that love doesn't exist, why would you take the risk?

The boys continue to teach me more and more every day.  Now he is teaching me that love is a luxury that I have had the joy of experiencing.  It doesn't always work, but I have learned that love is always worth the risk.

He hasn't experienced that.  Probably none of them have.

They have learned that it is better to keep everyone out.  To protect themselves by not feeling anything for anyone. 

I wish they could see that love is always worth the risk.  I wish they could understand that love is good and beautiful, it is people that are flawed and hurtful. 

I choose to love everyday even though it is difficult and I get hurt.  Right now, all of the boys are angry at me and sometimes mean because it has been so long since I left, they don't believe I am coming back.  They are hurting, so they hurt me with their words.  His leaving has hurt me so much, I can't begin to describe the heartbreak.

But I know times will get better.  Love will win and there will be happy days again.

It is so funny that when I brought the boys into the home, I only thought about how much their lives would be changed.  How they would have a future and a chance at life again.  Truth is, my life has definitely been changed.  Every day, I see Jesus.  I see His heart.  I see and experience opportunities to love like He did.  It is amazing.

Even though I love him so much, I still have 16 other boys at home that need me.  Yet I still want to risk everything to find him, to show him I still love him no matter what.  I can't forget that he is missing.  Then the obvious occurred to me.  He is like the lost sheep or the prodigal son.  It doesn't matter how many are at home, when one is missing, I feel it.  I am sad.  I am heartbroken.  I want to find him.  God doesn't care how many of us He already has, when one of us leaves, He is sad, heartbroken and wants us to come back.

I hope his story ends the same as the prodigal son.  I hope he realizes his mistakes and comes home.  I hope he learns that love is scary, it can be brutal, but it is always worth it.  How happy a day it will be when he comes home.  How I will rejoice and my heart will finally be at ease again.  Home will finally be home again.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Running away

When I started this journey, I expected my heart to be broken on a daily basis.  I think I would wonder what was wrong with me if it wasn't.  But sometimes...

Sometimes it hurts more than other times.  Sometimes it feels as if it is breaking into so many pieces that it will never be whole again.

Today would be one of those days.

My heart has always been for the older boys on the street.  When I look at them, I can't even describe what I see.  I think they are amazing.  To have survived on their own for so long...

It doesn't come without a price though.  It isn't easy for them to trust or connect.  It isn't easy for them to love or be loved.  They don't know how to live with other people or function in a home.  Basic life skills, never learned.  So many things, they don't know.  One of the most difficult things to overcome is having to actually face their problems.  On the streets, they can fight or do drugs or drink or go and watch an inappropriate movie.  They can do so many things to not have to face life.  When they come into the home, they can't escape.

It is overwhelming.

Sometimes they can't handle it.

Small things become BIG things.

Big things become HUGE things.

And then they leave.

They run.

They run back to a life where they don't have to deal with anything.  They make excuses as to why the home isn't a good place.  They create stories just so they don't have to deal with reality.  They go back to a life where they struggle and are abused.  They go back to a life where no one loves them just so they don't have to love or take a chance.

The only coping mechanism they have ever learned is to run and avoid.  If something is too difficult on the streets, there are so many things to distract them.  For kids that have been so traumatized, it is the best environment for them...according to them.  They don't have to think about any of it.  They can just dull it away with whatever is near.

Over the past week, the small thing became big, which became huge which caused him to leave.  I thought he would come back by now, but he hasn't.  He is running.  From what?  Not sure.  But it definitely isn't over the silly things he was arguing about at home.

Now he is back on the streets and refusing to come home.  He knows how much we love him.  He knows how lucky he is to have a home and food everyday.  He knows what an amazing opportunity it is to go to school.  He knows he doesn't belong on the streets.  He knows the streets are going to lead him nowhere.

But it isn't enough.

He was alone for too long and suffered too much.  I don't know if he will ever come home.  I don't know if he will ever stop running.  And for that my heart is broken. Into so many pieces.  Because home isn't home without him. I love him dearly.  But it isn't enough.  It could even be what pushed him over the edge.  Who knows?

God does.  He saw every terrible thing that happened to him.  He was with him every night he spent alone.  He loved him before I even knew him.

Why is it we always choose to run away?

I was reminded this morning that God loves him way more than I do.  I was encouraged by at least he tried to live in a home.  We all knew it wouldn't be easy for him, but we tried anyway.  I would try a million more times for him, if it would work at least once.  When we moved into our first home, I thought I was going to lose him before the first night was over.  When I woke up and he was still home, I was so happy.

God kept him with us for almost 4 months.

So much longer than I ever expected.

I know God can bring him back.

Please be praying that he would come back home.  Please pray that he would be safe while he is on the streets.  Please pray that his heart would heal.  Please pray that he won't stay gone for long.  Please just pray for him.