Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Ibra is a funny kid.  Not funny, ha ha, although sometimes he is.  But funny different.  You never know what you will get with him.  Sometimes he is cute and charming, sometimes so serious, sometimes goofy, sometimes a mess spiraling out of control, sometimes telling me everything, sometimes inventing stories to cover up and distract me from the real issue, sometimes the perfect kid, sometimes the kid I want to shake.

But always the kid I love.

When I first met Ibra, he seemed to have it all together.  He would come to programs.  Helped with medical.

Soon that all changed.  I started to rarely see him.  When I did, he would be drunk or high.  He was a mess and there was nothing I could do.  I continued to try and connect with him but he was distant.  Aloof.  Never so far but never so close.

At one point, the ministry I was helping before had rented a room for the boys on the street to sleep in at night.  One of my favorite things to do was visit them before they went to sleep and share a Bible story with them.  Not all of the boys could fit in the room, but they would all gather there to hear the story and get a small snack before bed.  It was a great time.

One night, I had gotten to the slum and found out that there was a party.  It was some holiday, I think the equivalent to our Labor Day, and all of the boys were at the party dancing.  While the uncle and I contemplated what to do, we found a few boys.  We decided that we would just go get them.  We decided that half knowing the boys wouldn't leave the dancing and music but we thought we would try.  As we walked to the party (really just an open space where the kids normally play soccer) we decided it probably wasn't the best idea for me to enter, so the uncle went in to get the kids.  I stood outside and down the way a bit with a few of the boys when all of a sudden there was a stampede of shouting kids running right for me. I think that was one of the best moments of Uganda (and my life) ever.  They all were shouting "Auntie Amanda".  So the boys we never thought would leave, left the party just to see me and hear the story I was going to share with them.  (I am still in awe and so humbled by the love these kids give me every day.)

As we were walking toward the room, Ibra came up and grabbed my hand and held it as we walked.  It was the most unexpected thing to ever happen.  It was then that I knew we were connected and he would be ok.  From that day on, we continued to grow closer and I got to know him better.  I think it wasn't long after that that he had stepped on something and his toe swelled up and got terribly infected.  Trying to get the infection out (squeezing the toe as hard as I possibly could) was a real lesson in trust for both Ibra and me.  It of course was excruciatingly painful, but he let me do it.  When it was too much, we went to the clinic for shots and medicine.

I remember the day that I asked him if he wanted to go back to school.  It never occurred to me that maybe the boys would wonder why I had asked them.  In my mind it made sense.  I loved them and didn't want them on the streets, so the logical thing to do was get them off.  Later Ibra told me he was really shocked.  He had no idea why I would choose him.  He told me he did too many drugs and wasn't an easy kid.  He told me he thought he was never going to get a chance.

I am so proud of the young man that Ibra is turning into.  Before we had a cook, Ibra would cook for us each night. He is an amazing cook.  I don't know where he learned but everything that he made was delicious.  When I tried to cook, he would laugh at me and with me, especially on the days he thought I should make the posho.  He has developed a relationship with his family again and makes sure that he talks to his mom frequently.  He is protective of me and I never have to worry about my safety with him.  He is trying to change from his bad habits.  I know everyday is probably a struggle for him to make the right choice.  But he continues to do so.  He dreams of being a doctor one day.  I really hope he is able to be.  He has a kind and compassionate heart.  He would make a great doctor.

Meet Ibra!

in his school uniform

on our way to drop me off at the airport

cooking after he was caught in a riot and tear gassed

Add caption

John Ojja

It is difficult to start writing about John because I have already shared a lot about him.  I would say that I am closer to John than I am with any other boy.  However, this wasn't always the case.  He definitely made me earn his trust/love.

When I was considering sponsoring him, a friend asked if I thought he loved me.  I said I thought so but I wasn't really sure because he doesn't really show his emotions.  I really had no idea.  I was crazy about him and thought that he knew that but I didn't know how he felt about me.  I knew he trusted me because he gave me his money to hold.  I knew he respected me because I could look at him and he would stop doing whatever it was.  I knew he liked me because he talked to me.  But love...???

How I really got to know John was by treating a wound on his chest.  He had been gambling and him and the other boy ended up in a fight.  John was/is an intimidating kid.  He hits first and never asks questions.  He doesn't hide his annoyance well and if the person continues, he hits them.  And he is a strong kid.  Thankfully, he is improving on this now, but before most of the boys never bothered him because that was how he was.  Tough.

Well, the fight ended and the other boy ended in tears.  John...a huge bite on his chest.  He actually has a scar still from it.  Since it was a bite, I didn't want it to get infected so I made him let me treat it.  That was the beginning.

I finally realized he loved me one day when he walked into programs and I was sitting on the ground playing cards with some of the other boys and an aunt.  He walked silently past me and put something in my hand.  It was a heart shaped charm.  On one side it said love and on the other the letter J.

The day that I asked if he wanted to go back to school, we went out to eat. We sat and talked and I asked him what he wanted to be.  I don't remember the first thing he told me but I remember the second.  He said that he wanted to help children just like me.  I will never forget that day.

Since then, we have had so many hard times.  I thought he was going to be the easy kid but he has turned out to be one of the most difficult.  He has shattered my heart so many times, it is a miracle that I still have one.  The wonderful thing about us is I know when he has done something before he even tells me.  Even being a world away, I know.

Even in his stubbornness, there is hope.  He realizes his mistakes and always admits them and takes his punishments.  His problem is he is hurting and broken and doesn't think.  Not an excuse, but the truth.  One of the last times he made a mistake, I thought I was going to lose him forever.  All I could do was cry and beg God not to take him away.

Thankfully he is still with us.  Thankfully, he is changing.

One day before I came back to the US this time, he didn't go to school.  He was being super dramatic and said he couldn't find his shirt.  So instead of looking for it, he pouted in his bed.  I eventually found it but by then it was too late to go to school.  So I made him come with me on all of my errands.  We went to the middle of no where to get some jewelry, got lost, walked forever, it was hot.  He was absolutely miserable.  He said he would never miss school again.

John has a special place in my heart.  He has taught me about love, forgiveness, and second chances.  He makes me laugh and makes me cry.  He reminds me that it is difficult to love and people don't always understand.  More than once, people have told me to give up on him.  I can't even think about what my life would be like without him.

It is funny to think that God put this plan in motion so long ago.  Before I even knew where Uganda was.  Before John was even born.  God knew that He would bring us together.  He knew that I would see myself in him.  He knew that I wouldn't give up on him.  And in the times when I felt like it was too much, He carried me and gave me the strength.  God definitely chose these kids for the home.  He chose John.  He chose me.  I would be stupid to think that I was the only one God was using here.    It may seem that way.  But I promise you, I have gotten more out of having John(and the other boys) in my life than I can even begin to explain.

Meet John!

at home

John and me

John and Davis
This was actually taken when he had ran away  from home.  An aunt found him at the clinic with Davis and convinced him he needed to go back home.

Uncle Steven, John's aunt, John
This is from 2 weeks ago when he went back to his village for the first time since he had left.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Where to start with Willy?

Even though he has been with us for a long time now, I have never actually lived in the house at the same time as him.

How does that happen?

Well, I adored him when he was on the street.  He is so sweet and quiet.  You will never find him fighting or arguing.   He makes good choices.  A fairly easy kid.

When I left Uganda in September last year, he was still on the streets.  John, Richard, and Ibra were in boarding school.  I asked a friend to look after them in school and if I didn't make it back by the end of the term, they were going to stay with him until I got back.  Julius and Tom already stayed with him, Tom going to school and Julius helping make beads.  He was an uncle at the programs so he knew all of the boys well.  He loved Willy a lot, so after a short while we decided that he should ask Willy to live with him until I got back so he didn't have to stay on the streets anymore.

Of course Willy accepted and went to stay with him.  Not long after, we offered the boys to return to their villages for a visit.  Willy wanted to go see his family and left.  He was only supposed to be gone for a short time, but he stayed gone a long time.  He kind of went missing actually.  We couldn't get a hold of him or track down where he went.  When we finally found him, I offered to pay his school fees in the village but he insisted that he wanted to return, he couldn't stay with his family.  He made plans to return but he never showed up.  His father wouldn't let him leave or go to school in the village.  He wanted him there to work and take care of his family.  He is 13.

The other boys started asking about him.  Why he wasn't back.  If he was ever coming back.  And I actually didn't have an answer.  We waited and waited and waited.  School started and he wasn't back.  He kept saying he was returning, he never did.

He finally returned after I left.

He started school last term and performed well.  He is back in the village now again.  He would really rather live there than with us.  But it isn't possible.  His dad is a really difficult person.  He is nice only for so long.  That is when Willy decides to come back.  He is the only sibling that actually still communicates with their father.  I hope his father's heart continues to soften.  I hope Willy will be able to reunite completely with his family.  He is part of our family but it is more important for him to be a part of his own.

Please be praying for Willy and his father.  I know he wants to be in the village and I would love if he could be.

Meet Willy!

When he was still on the street


This post is not about a boy in the home.  It is about a boy that should be.  He has been on my mind for a while and the need to share his story.  It is about him and what a beautiful boy he was. Even though he is gone, I don't want him to be forgotten.  His absence has changed me and our family will never be complete without him.

My hope as you read about him is that you will realize why it is important to help, why these boys are important, and the cruel life that they face each day they spend on the streets.

So here is the story of dear, precious Patrick...

You think you always have time.  Nothing is so urgent.  If you wait one more day, what difference will it make.   Each day I wish that I would have acted when I felt moved to, but I felt like I had time.  I wonder how things would be different.  Sometimes when I am just sitting quietly my mind drifts to him and the last time I saw him.

I don't care what the community said about him or what he was known as to them.  The other boys in the home were known for the same things.  Some of them were the most difficult of difficult; always stealing, doing drugs, gambling.  But inside, they were different.  I actually didn't even know Patrick's reputation until afterwards.  Had I, I know it wouldn't have changed anything.

When we were living outside of the slum, we went to church in the slum.  One of the last times I saw Patrick was at church.  I had already sat down and was giving the evil eye to the other boys to make sure they knew they better not leave that church.  In walked Patrick.  It caught me off guard.  Here I had to scream to get us all out of the house and to church, fight about clothes, shoes, you name it.  We were always late.  A bit of a circus.  (This day people we laughed were actually laughing at us.  Ronald was running around with my glasses, I was screaming to stop.  The boys were chasing each other.  My glasses almost got stepped on and broken a hundred times.  Ronald and Jacob started fighting.  We were a mess!)

But there was Patrick.  Dressed in the best clothes he had.  At church.  He gave me the same smile he always did when he saw me, we bumped fists, and he sat a few rows in front of me.  And then he began to worship.

He danced and sang and worshiped God with all he had.  A boy, that had nothing, sang and danced for God.  No one made him.  No one forced him to go.  He was there on his own.  What did he have to be thankful for?  He didn't have a home, probably hadn't eaten yet that day, probably didn't sleep well the night before because either he was outside or in a cramped room.  In our eyes, we would say he had nothing.

I was taken by his worship.  I was shamed by it also.  I had so much.  We had food every day.  I had a room to sleep in that I didn't need to share.  I had a home full of laughter and love.  He didn't have any of those things.  But he was the one happy to be in God's presence, worshiping like he had the whole world.

It was that day that I knew he would join our family.

Patrick was always smiling, singing and dancing every time I saw him.  He always said hi, we always bumped fists, and then he went back to his singing and dancing.   He always put a smile on my face.  He always seemed happy.  I never saw him moping or in a bad mood.

After I left Uganda in March, I thought of him often.  I thought of him coming home after I got back.  I thought of him having a future.  I felt like it wasn't urgent, that a few more months wouldn't make a difference.

Well, they did.

It wasn't long after I got back that I heard the bad news.  Except I was a world away and no one was clear as to who it was.  I prayed it wasn't him.  When I finally saw a photo someone published on Facebook, I was crushed.

No one can tell the exact story.  I have heard a different one from everyone that I asked.  But it seems, that Patrick was out collecting scrap.  It was still dark out.  Apparently, he was somewhere he shouldn't have been.  Maybe there was a guard.  Maybe he was chased.  Maybe he slipped.  Maybe he was stabbed.  Maybe he fell.

Whatever the cause, he should never have been in that situation.  He shouldn't be responsible for providing for himself at such a young age.  He shouldn't be living on the streets.  He shouldn't be without a family that loves him and values him.

The injustice doesn't end there...

Some how, they figured out where he was from.  They traveled to his village to tell his family the bad news.  And from what I heard, they didn't care.  They didn't want to come and claim him.  They didn't want to bury him.  They said he was a burden in life, he wouldn't be a burden in death also.

Can you imagine?  Me neither.

He finally was buried on his family's land but no thanks to them.  He is finally at rest.  He isn't suffering, wandering the streets looking for food or scrap to get food.  He will never be chased or beaten again.  He will never be harassed again.  He will never be made to feel like he is less than nothing.

Actually, I can see him now.  Dancing and singing at the feet of his Father who never gave up on him.

I will love and miss you forever Patrick!

Meet Patrick!

at the beach

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I remember very clearly the first time I met Vincent.  It was actually his very first day in the slums.  He had just left home and found his way to Kivulu.  He was wearing a blue soccer jersey. I was hanging out after programs playing with some of the kids and chatting with the uncles.  It was starting to get dark, so I was trying to leave.  The boys didn't want me to go, so they tried everything they could to keep me there.  Even though Vincent was new, he jumped  right in.  After much laughter, screaming, and trying to run away the boys finally relented and I made my way home.

Vincent is really quiet and I cannot remember really seeing him hanging out with any of the other boys on the streets.  I am sure he did, but I just don't remember who.  with most of the boys I would tell you which boys they were always around, but I don't remember with him.

When he got to programs, he had a huge smile.  He wasn't on the streets for very long when he showed up to programs with scrapes all over his face and a missing front tooth.  I felt so sad for him that day.   He said he was running and playing when he fell.  His lip was so swollen and I am sure it was excruciatingly painful.  Now when he smiles, he has a gap.  It is rather cute but I am sure he misses his tooth.

Vincent became friends with one of the uncles at the programs.  The uncle is in charge of cooking.  When his roommate decided to move out, he didn't have anywhere to go so I offered him a place to live in the mean time.  At that time, we were living right out side of the slums and it was really convenient for him.  Vincent would often follow the uncle around and help him cook.  So one day when the uncle came home, Vincent stayed to watch a movie and get food.  I went to bed and didn't really expect to see him there in the morning.

Well...he was still there.

No big deal.  sometimes some of the boys would stay the night and leave the next morning, so I didn't really think anything of it.

Next morning?  Yep, still there.

So I asked the uncle what was going on with Vincent and what he wanted.  He said that the streets were hard for him and he thought he was just tired.

Next morning?  Yep, still there.

At this point we were used to having him around.  We sat him down and had a serious talk with him about what he wanted, his family, and what we should do moving forward.  He told us he didn't want to go home or to school, but he would love if he could train to be a mechanic.  So we told him, if he could show us he was serious and had good behavior, he could stay with us and we would send him to train.

He has been with us ever since.  He is laid back and easy going.  He is pretty quiet so normally he isn't shouting along with the other boys.  he is always respectful and tries to be very responsible.  He just went back to visit his family after being gone for over a year.  The reunion was a success and he asked me the last time we talked if he could visit again.  Who knows?  Maybe one day he will chose to stay there.  for now, he is still learning English and Math, but by the start of next year, I think he will be ready to go to a garage and start learning.

Meet Vincent!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Richard had me at hello.  He was so cute and so sweet.  He is a little charmer.  He could have asked me for anything and I am sure I would have done it.  He is one of the first 3 boys that I took responsibility for.  I don't remember the day that I first met him, but I remember the first time he walked me to my boda after programs.

He was standing by the church waiting for me and as I started to leave he asked if he could walk with me.  That was the beginning.  Every day after that, he walked me to get a boda after programs.  Every day at programs, he was always near me.  We talked a lot.  I found out he loved swimming, dirt bike races, school, marbles, dancing, everything any other 11 year old kid would love.  I also discovered he was a hard worker.  He was always looking for scrap to sell.  Sometimes he would use his money to go swimming at the swimming pool, that is how much he loves to swim.  Whenever we go swimming, he is the first boy in the water and the last to leave.  One of the last times we went to the beach, he refused to get out and eventually I tired of giving him 5 more minutes so I told him I was leaving.   He ended up chasing the taxi down as we were driving out of the parking lot, unfazed, those last minutes in the lake were worth it.

He is the youngest and smallest boy of the house.  It causes him a lot of problems sometimes.  He loves to talk, and it isn't always constructive, so he has found himself in some not good situations with the other boys and also with me.  What he lacks in size, he makes up for in words.  We are trying to teach the boys not to handle their problems with fighting, but old habits die hard.  As a result, Richard and 2 other boys have formed a sort of coalition to stand up to the bigger/older boys.  They usually just find themselves in more trouble because they are so spirited and will taunt the other boys until they are ready to riot.

However, Richard can also be very sweet.  There have been plenty of times where he has shared his food with me (even when he was on the street), washed my feet, brushed my hair, or just sat and talked.  He loves to make friends and loves attention.  He can make you smile in an instant.

He was brothers with one of the other boys before he even knew it.  One of the other boys that I first took responsibility for was John.  When they were both on the street, they would fight and argue over who I liked more.  I don't know what they were measuring this by, but each day, Richard would tell me something about John to ensure that I wouldn't love him more.  It was really cute and definitely funny.  It was obvious from the beginning what was going on.  They were brothers in the making!

A lot of the boys struggle with the idea that even if one more is added, my love for them won't lessen.  Richard really struggles with it.  We have had lots of really rough times, many frustrated talks, many moments where I was ready to give up.  With the other boys, it was difficult to build a relationship with them in the beginning.  For some of the boys, I really worked at it and prayed and prayed and prayed.  But not with Richard.  In the beginning, it was easy to love him.  He was cute and sweet, easy to get a long with, and he wanted a relationship.  Since then, our relationship has been more strained while it has only gotten easier with the other boys.  I am no expert or counselor, I don't really know what is going on.

But I can guess.

Sometimes the reality of being loved is too much.  We think we don't deserve it, it will end, the person will just disappoint us, they can't really love us...I am sure you all can continue on with the list.  I know I can.

It is difficult to remember the good times in the beginning with him.  Don't get me wrong, I still love him so incredibly much but it is no longer easy and some days I admit I am ready to give up.  But the truth is, God used Richard to make me stay in Uganda.  The first time Richard walked me to the boda, a plan was set into motion.  God planned it that way way before I had even met Richard or stepped foot in Uganda and He  knew I would fall in love with Richard and choose to stay.  Richard changed my life and consequently changed that of all of the other boys in the house.  Regardless of the frustrations, Richard is a part of my heart and life that can never be removed.

And I would never want to.

Meet Richard!

me and Richard when he was still on the streets

when he was still on the streets

Richard in the home

Richard at school on no uniform day

Friday, August 24, 2012


David has had a hard life in his short 13/14 years.  You can just look at him and tell.  He doesn't talk about it, but I know it is beyond my imagination or comprehension.   There are little clues to the cruelty he has suffered and it breaks my heart each time I see them.

David looks very tough.  He can have the meanest scowl you have ever seen.  Underneath, he has the softest heart.  He is very sensitive and can become upset very easily.  But usually he is so joyful.  Laughing and playing and making jokes.

The very first boy that I sponsored was named Tom.  He is very smart and performs well in school.  For a treat at the end of one term, we went to the movie theater.  It was a huge treat.  (This was way before the home or I had decided to make Uganda my home.) After we went for a chicken dinner at a popular restaurant near his home.  While eating, a bunch of boys came up to us.  One of the boys was David and another was Semanda.  It turned into a huge scene, but after we left I remember David showing me where he slept each night.  It was on a street corner in between a makeshift shop.  The space was so small and him, Semanda and 3/4 other boys slept there.   Tom's home was very close so we decided to walk but it was late so David and Semanda decided to walk with us to protect me.

Before I left Uganda last Fall, the worst thing imaginable happened.  David and 2 other boys were taken.  They were arrested for loitering or who knows what.  It was rubbish.  Just a way to "clean up" the streets.  I found out after it had happened.  There was nothing I could do.  I thought I was never going to see him again.  I prayed for God to let me see him again before I left Uganda.  I prayed for his safety.  Where ever he was, I knew it was a miserable place.  He probably wasn't eating, he could have been sick, no one would care.  To them, he was just another street kid.

One day I was really busy.  It was only a few days before I left.  I was running errands and was in the slum for something.  I was with a friend and we split up.  She had a program to go to and I went to the clinic.  A few minutes later she called and told me to hurry.  The whole way there (a 5 minute walk) I was praying it was David.  And sure enough it was.  I was so happy to see him.  Unfortunately, only one other boy was with him.  The other boy, Semanda, was still missing.  When they escaped, Semanda was too sick to jump the fence.  So he stayed.  We have never seen him again, so we can assume the worse.  He was a beautiful kid too and no one should have had to suffer like I am sure he did.  The comfort is he is now in Heaven, he is with his Father, and doesn't have to worry about sleeping another night alone and cold on the streets. It will be a beautiful day when I am able to see him again.

Of all of the boys in the house, David was the only boy that had a "proper" invitation to join our family.  The other boys just kind of were or they showed up and never left.  Don't get me wrong, they are all there on purpose.  They all belong there, but David was the only boy I asked to join us.  I had gotten back to Uganda, there were 7 boys in the home and we had room for one more.  I was planning on asking David.  But then Dunkan came and he made 8.  David was my first leap of faith.  He made 9.

When I finally asked him, I took him to dinner.  He was so concerned because he didn't have anything nice to wear to dinner, so he was afraid to go.  I brought him a pair of jeans and off we went.  I wonder what he was thinking that day.  During dinner, he barely spoke.  Maybe he was dying with anticipation.  When I finally asked him, all he could do was smile.

It has been wonderful having David in the home.  He works hard at school and appreciates everything he is given.  He is silly and goofy and always wants to make me laugh.  He listens when we talk.  I hope that the longer he is with us, the less his pain will be.  I know that it is only God that can heal his heart.  It is only God that can make him see himself for who he is.  A beautiful child of God.

Meet David!

David at the beach

David at school.  He is slightly obsessed with kung fu.  I think he was practicing .

Semanda is on the left.  David is on the right.  Dan is below.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I met Moses because someone else fell in love with him.  The most noticeable thing about him when you first meet him are terrible looking scars on his neck.  They have a horrific story to tell and it makes your mind wonder how he survived what happened to him.

When I first got to Uganda, programs for the boys only happened once a week.  The community doesn't like the boys and frequently get angry about the presence of the programs.  They start to put pressure on the police, who pressures the church, who pressures the ministry.  Before I got to Uganda, it is my understanding that programs stopped all together and right before I got there was when they were finally able to resume.  When I had only been in Uganda for about a week, another visitor came to stay for several weeks.

She fell in love with Moses and found out he wanted to be resettled.  So one day we all piled into a taxi and Moses nervous with excitement and fear, rode the whole way with his eyes wide open absorbing every second of the trip.  He was gone from home for maybe only 6 months.  The taxi ride was beautiful.  It was the first time I experienced Uganda.  Everything was so lush and so green.  It was easy to fall in love with Uganda that day.

Everyone was in good spirits and expected the best.  The conductor of the taxi recognized Moses immediately.  When we got off the taxi in the village, people recognized him immediately.  He saw old friends and neighbors.  Everyone happy to see him.  But there were whispers.  And we covered Moses ears praying they weren't true.

Unfortunately, after a short boda ride, we discovered it was worse than we could have ever imagined.  In the short time since he had been gone, his mother, father, and baby sister had died.  It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life.  You don't have words in situations like that.  There was nothing to be said that could ease his guilt of leaving home, his sadness over never getting to say goodbye, his wonder at did they know he loved him, his pain of leaving home.

We found his house empty and locked up so we continued to the grandparents and that is when the day got worse.  I remember a man walking up and I thought he was a stranger.  He walked by us, no greeting, no handshake, like we weren't even there.  Turns out that was his grandfather.  He was indifferent to Moses' return, to our presence, to our requests.  He didn't want us there, he didn't want Moses there.  He had enough to deal with.

So we left.  We went back to Kampala.  That was the longest taxi ride of my life.  No one talked really.  No one knew what to say.  Where would Moses go now?  It seemed cruel to send him back to the streets.  But where else could he go?

A few days later, an uncle paid another visit to the grandfather.  His heart softened, he was overwhelmed by us being there the other day and couldn't manage another child.  He loved Moses and with help he would keep him.  Moses stayed in the village.  He was supposed to go to boarding school in the village.

And then he showed back up in Kampala.  I found him at church one night.  He didn't have any of his things. All he could do that night was cry.  He wouldn't explain what happened.  He just cried.

It was difficult not to fall in love with him through all of this.  So I agreed to help.  The visitor was going to sponsor him and me and an uncle would look after him since she had left.  Moses was a good student.  He performed well and got good grades.  However, his behavior spiraled out of control.  He was always fighting, being rude and disrespectful.  He got in trouble at school so many times.  He would dodge his counselor and hide from her.  He was angry and showed the world he was.

Moses left school after a last incident where someone could have been seriously hurt.  The school was tired, I was tired, and no one knew what to do for him.  He went back to the streets, he continued to fight and be out of control.  In order for things to be different, we knew he had to want it.   So we waited.

When I got back to Uganda at the beginning of the year, I noticed he was calmer.  I asked around and the uncles said he was a little different.  Just when I was contemplating what to do with him, another visitor said that we needed to talk about him.  She was an answered prayer.  She asked if I would watch him if she sponsored him.  Of course I said yes.  Moses was finally home again.

We aren't out of the woods with Moses.  He still has a lot of anger and can be very quarrelsome but I finally have my own home where he can stay while we work through those issues with him.  He has made improvements in his behavior and we are thankful for that.  He asked to return to the same school that he was kicked out of so he could prove to them he was different, that he could be a good boy.  When we went to school that day, everyone remembered him.  No one was happy to see him.  They didn't believe he had changed.  They didn't believe he was different.  After much begging, they accepted him.  He had good school terms, but he definitely could be better.  It will take time.

 Heartbreak and anger like that don't go away over night. I don't know that they will ever go away.

 But he is more than his pain and anger.

 He is more than his hurtful words and outbursts.

He is more than the fights he starts.

He is more than his defeats and failures.

Just like Moses, we are all more than all of those things.  We are all wonderfully created.  Just like Moses, some of us are so hurting and broken, we can't accept who we are, how God sees us, how much He loves us.  We don't think we are more or deserve another chance.

And probably we are right.  We don't deserve it.  But God loves us so much He won't leave us where we are.  He promises that.  He will keep fighting for us, giving us another chance, just so we can be who He created us to be.

This isn't just another chance for Moses.  It is another chance for me.  A chance to be His hands and feet.  Another chance to show Moses the great and unending love of our Maker.  Another chance for us both to be different.

Meet Moses!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Jimmy just appeared one day.  I am sure he had been around for a long time.  Later on, he even told me he had.  But I had never seen him until he just appeared.

It is funny how you can see someone so many times but then one day, you see them.  That was how I met Jimmy.  One day I finally saw him and then I couldn't forget him.  I wish I recorded things better because I am forgetting things I want to remember forever.  For most of the boys, I can't tell you about the first time I met them.  It was just any other day and they were any other kid.  The difference with them from other boys, is the day that I finally saw them or knew God put them on my heart.

With Jimmy I remember everything.  He said hi to me.  His voice is really soft but very high when he is happy.  He shrieks and giggles a lot.  When he first said hi to me, he was very quiet and shy.  But I took notice.  There was something about him.  Soon I began praying specifically for him and a few other boys.  I didn't know what the plan was but I did know that we were crammed into the house so I didn't really expect an answer so quickly.

But I got an answer.

When I was back in Uganda at the beginning of the year, I didn't really visit programs very much.  I felt my heart being pulled in a different way and I finally felt at peace about not spending so much time on the street.  It was really weird actually because before my life was filled by the boys on the street.  But the home was growing at the same time my heart was growing for it.  One day I woke up and I wanted to stay home and cook beans instead of go to the programs.  It was on the rare occasion that I went to programs that I met Jimmy and began to pray for him.  I asked God what He wanted me to do for Jimmy and if I was supposed to take him now, He needed to show me that and provide a way.  The day I got my answer, I stopped by and there were so many people around.  There wasn't anything to do so I said hi to a few boys and was just standing around at the back of the church.  One of the aunts that I knew came and asked me what she should do.  A boy was really sick.  When I walked over to where the boy was, I was shocked.

Guess who it was????

Yep!  It was Jimmy!

I showed her where the clinic was and helped her take him there.  It turned out he had Malaria and Typhoid and pierced his hand when he was out collecting scrap.  His hand was really swollen, infected, and hurt him a lot.  I told him to receive his treatment and we would come back and get him, he could stay with us for the night.  When the boys get medical treatment in the slum, in an effort to save time and money the clinic won't always remove the pic line.  This of course leaves them in danger of infection and everything else, so I didn't want him sleeping outside or with a bunch of other boys.  I knew once I offered, he would never leave.  But I felt like I had my answer and he was supposed to join us.

There was some confusion that night and he never came home to us.  The next morning I got a call from the aunt asking why Jimmy wasn't at the clinic but was at another ministry's programs.  I explained what had happened and the aunt brought him to the clinic.  He came home with us that day and hasn't left.

Jimmy was a gift from God and an answered prayer.  He is a joy to have in the home and he rarely misbehaves.  He is quiet and shy.  It is amazing how he has stayed that way with some of the boys in the home.  They are so loud and outgoing, but Jimmy is still quiet and laid back.  He can be silly and goofy but always respectful.  He works hard at school and is thankful for everything.  I am so happy for that day when God brought him home to us.  I am grateful for his joy and loving heart despite the pain he has felt.  I am grateful to hear his laugh and high pitched squeal when he shouts Auntie Amanda.   I am grateful for him.

Meet Jimmy!

Jimmy and me

Jimmy and Uncle Steven

Monday, August 20, 2012


I met Yacobo (Jacob in English) when I first got to Uganda.  He, like Kansiime, was in the paper bead program.  He was probably 16 or 17 at the time.  He is really quiet until you get to know him.  He spoke very little English, so we always used a translator.  When I started teaching the group English and Math, he really struggled.

I didn't know his story, but he said he had went to school.  It was possible but it was so long ago, he could have forgotten everything.  So we were patient and the whole group tried to help him.  After a while, he went back to his village.  He stayed gone a really long time.  Months, actually.

I didn't see him or hear anything about him until I was back in Uganda in January.  We had just moved into our home outside of the slums.   We had 8 boys and the house was full!  We had a little house for the time being and it worked.  The boys shared a room and used bunk beds, the uncles shared a room, and I converted the "kitchen" into my room.  Really it was just a room where my bed fit.  I shared it with the hundreds of roaches I was fighting on a daily basis.  We even took a friends cat to help with the problem but instead of killing the ones already in the house, he caught ones outside and brought them inside to play with them, especially at dinner time.

Anyway, back to Yacobo...

One of the uncles living with us works for a different minsitry.  He didn't have a place to live when his roommate left and so we told him he could live with us until he figured something else out.  He came home from the slum one day and said to me, "look who I found?"

It was Yacobo.

He got chased from his village again.  He came back expecting to be able to return to the bead program.  He didn't know that everyone had moved on from the program and no one was in the house anymore.  So he was back on the streets.  I felt terrible for him.  So I invited him to live with us.

We made room and figured it out.  All of the other boys were in school and so he was in charge of watching the house during the day and cooking.  I remember from before he was a good cook.  Sometimes I would try and help him.  The funniest time was when he was trying to teach me how to cut cabbage.  They are very particular about how cabbage is cut in Uganda and I just can't do it.  He would laugh at me and correct me and show me, but it never worked.  Another time, we were peeling sweet potatoes.  I had brought a peeler with me and so I was peeling them so fast.  He was so amazed!  And we just laughed.  His English still isn't very good.  We still need a translator but most days we figure it out.

The boys called me the other day to talk.  He got on the phone and exchanged our greetings and that is about the extent of our conversations on the phone.  But we were laughing and just enjoying hearing each other when he started saying some crazy words.  I asked what he was talking about and the uncle chimed in that he wanted to speak Chinese.  I could hear everyone laughing, the uncle and all of the boys, and I started laughing too.  I told him I couldn't speak Chinese and Yacobo told me don't worry, I can teach you.

I was laughing so hard.  It totally made my day.  I don't know where he learned those words or if he just made stuff up.  But we had a great time laughing.

Even though we are a world apart and language separates us, we still have one thing that is the same.


Yacobo knows I love him and I know he loves me.  It is so funny to hear him say it.  He tells me he loves me and then laughs.  Every time.  We may not have in depth conversations like I do with the other boys.  We may only be able to say a few things to each other before someone has to translate.  But you don't need a translator to understand love.

It is its own language.  It is shown in your actions and how you treat the other person.  It is in the difficult moments when you make the hard decision because it is what is best for the other person.  It is in your voice.  It is in your eyes.  It just is.  And when it is there, you know it.  You feel it.

Love isn't always easy but it is definitely always worth it.  Loving these kids and being loved in return has been the greatest accomplishment of my life.  And I thank God every day for it.

Yacobo on the day he returned to his village.

Us cutting cabbage

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I met Kansiime when I first got to Uganda.  He was maybe 14 years old and barely spoke English.  He was a really cute kid and had a huge smile.  He was part of the paper bead jewelry program for older boys from the street.  The program was designed to let the older boys earn money by making paper bead jewelry.  When I met the group, there were 6 members.  I started to teach the group English and Math, so I got to know Kansiime fairly well.

After a month or so, Kansiime stayed out all night one night and didn't go home.  Something happened with him and when he finally did go home the next day, he simply asked for his things and said he didn't want to be there anymore.  This wasn't his first time do this, so the group decided if he did come back he wouldn't be allowed to rejoin them.  Sure enough after a few days he asked to rejoin the group and he couldn't.  From that time, he was on the streets.

It was really hard seeing him on the streets.  He was a really sweet boy and loved to joke around.  He used to play around and try his hardest to make me laugh.  It made me really sad that he was on the streets again.  One day he was running and fell.  His whole leg and knee had huge scrapes and cuts on it. For the next month, my job was to clean and dress his leg whenever I saw him.  I thought his leg would never heal.  It got infected so bad once there was nothing I could do for it.  We had to take him to the clinic.  It hurt him so badly, he just cried and screamed uncontrollably as the nurse tried to get the infection out.

It was the hardest when the home opened.  When it started there were only 8 boys.  There were so many more that I loved but I just didn't feel like I could manage.  I remember one day when I was leaving the slum and walking home with some of the boys from the home.  Kansiime stopped me and I knew what he wanted.  It hurt to tell him no that day.  It hurt a lot.

Kansiime started staying at the house after I came back to the US.  I was really happy that he did.  I love to hear his voice when I call.  His laugh is infectious and he always brings a smile to my face.  He has changed a lot since he has come into the home.  I can hear it in the conversations we have and the things he tells me.  He wants to take responsibility for his life and his family.  I am really proud of the young man he is turning into.  It is a huge blessing to have him in my life and I can't imagine not having him in the home.  I know he is going to do amazing things in the future and be the best husband and father.  I think he is amazing now.

Unfortunately, not everyone always sees the boys, including Kansiime, how I do.  I can handle it when they are strangers or people on the street.  I just dismiss their rude remarks as ignorance and intolerance.  Up until last week, I only had to deal with strangers' intolerance and hatred.  Of all of the boys that have returned to their villages, their families have been so happy to see them.  I never expected anything different and then last week Kansiime went to his village.

Last time he went, he visited his father's side of the family.  His dad wasn't around but his grandparents were so happy to see him and he still calls them regularly.  He wanted to track down his mom this time and we expected it to be the same.  We expected everyone to be happy he was back.  He is an amazing kid.  Why would they feel any different?

As it turned out, they weren't happy to see him.  They only pretended while the "uncle" was there.  They told him it was fine, he should stay, and wait for his mom.  As soon as the "uncle" left, his grandparents told him his mom was a bad person and misbehaved so much and they don't know where she is.  They told him that he could not stay there, he had to leave.  They didn't want him.

There he was.  Alone.  Being told he was unwanted.  Again.  I don't understand how they could do it.  It wasn't strangers.  It was his own family.  So he had to make the long trip back to Kampala alone and hurting.

I will never understand how people can just throw these kids out like they are trash.  They are all amazing kids and have added so much to my life.  Each and everyone of them is a blessing and even in the difficult times when I want to rip my hair out, I wouldn't trade a single one of them for the world.  I don't understand why their families don't always see it.  I don't get why strangers don't see it.  I don't understand why people feel the need to say such awful things to them.  I hope this is the last time Kansiime ever has to feel like this.  I hope he knows how much I love him.  I hope he knows that he is always going to be a part of my family.  I hope he realizes how much God loves him and that God is his Heavenly Father and will never let him go.  Kansiime is in the home.  He will hear these things over and over.  There is someone there to love him and make him feel better.  But not all of the boys are so lucky.  There are hundreds of more boys on the streets still that hear the same things every day, only there is no one to tell them each day they are loved and worthy.  There is no one there to comfort them when they are sad and crying because of someone's hateful words.  So they lose hope, they stop trusting, they turn to drugs, they shut the world out.

You can help me make a difference.  We still have room for maybe 5 more boys but we have to get sponsors for the boys we already have and then for the new boys also.  If you want to change a boy's life and let him know how much he is loved, consider being a sponsor.  It will change his life and I guarantee you will only add to yours.  Email me at for more info.