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

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