Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Always where I fail, God steps in. 

And we are so lucky that He does.

When one of the boys(Kansiime) joined the home, I begged him to go to school.  I knew how smart he was and that he would do really well in school.  The problem was he was 18 years old, had never studied before and is one of the tallest Ugandans that I have ever seen.  He had to start at third grade and he was taller than absolutely everyone in school, including his teacher.  He felt so bad about it, that he begged me not to make him go.  We tried encouraging him, bribing him, everything we could think of but nothing changed his mind.  These boys face such difficulties at school and everyone makes fun of them, including their teachers.  He couldn't handle it.  So he begged to go to vocational training. 

Another boy(Davis) had studied recently but didn't like it.  He still couldn't read even though he had been at school for 2 years before he joined us.  He begged not to go back to school because he claimed he wasn't good at it and would waste everyone’s time.  School here can be pretty awful.  It is all memorization and no critical thinking.  If you can’t read or speak English well, you will just get pushed along.  There are usually 50-100 other students in class with you and the ONE teacher doesn't have time to care if you can read or not.  He is also 18 years old and asked to go to vocational training.  No amount of begging could change his mind otherwise.

Maybe it was God’s plan all along for the money for vocational training to never come in and all of our plans to fail.  Who knows?  But the boys have been waiting patiently since the beginning of this year.  The apprenticeships are so expensive and it just hasn't happened.  We are all frustrated by it but no one more so than the boys.  They were eager to get started and start life on their own.  They are ambitious and want to work, so they have been passing time by finding odd jobs around our community.

Then God showed up.

The beginning of last week, I was teaching Kansiime at home.  In a matter of 10 minutes, he learned how to tell time perfectly.  The next day after seeing 2 problems he learned how to add when you have to carry.  I told him how smart he was and begged him to go to school again.  He agreed if he could join 7th grade.  There is a lot of work to be done to get him ready for primary grade 7, but at least we have hope now.  I never thought he would agree, but I know God changed his heart.

The same day that Kansiime agreed to go back to school, Davis went with the uncle to get firewood for cooking.  They found an older man there that started counseling them on going to school and wasting their chance.  He told them that he didn't have the chance to study when he was younger, so he is going back to school now even though he is so old.  He talked and talked to them and Davis just sat there quietly listening.  On the way home, he told the uncle he heard the advice the man gave him and realized he had been making a mistake and wasting time and he should also be in school.  He told me the same as soon as he got home.  It is a rare day when Davis is home during the afternoon.  He helps at a shop at the end of our street almost every day.  God definitely stepped in to make Davis home and make him go with the uncle that day. 

What are the chances that in the same day, both boys realized that they should be in school?  Also what are the chances that just two days prior, we learned of an accelerated school for adults where students can move through each grade in only a few months?

I know it was God’s plan all along for these boys to be in school but they just weren't ready for it before but they are now and everything is coming together for them to go.  We are working at home with them to better their English and reading skills and plan for them to start school in January. 

Would you like to help them go back to school?  $50 a month will pay for their school fees each month, transportation to school and all requirements.  Visit here for more information on sponsorship or to sign up.  Feel free to email any questions to lot2545 at gmail dot com.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Monday, October 21, 2013

It is crazy how much time passed without me being in Uganda.  A year and a half is a long time.  What is crazier is how so many things are the same while so many are different.  Kampala is changing, and it has been great to see the new development.  The city is cleaner.  There are so many new buildings.  It is quickly developing and changing.  The way people are dressing is different.  So many things different, but so many the same.

I used to go to the slums almost every day but since I have been back, I have only gone twice.  There are many reasons, I guess, why I haven’t gone.  Mainly, I am so happy being at home with the boys that I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else.  I get why moms want to stay at home now.  I never understood it before, but I guess I am changing too.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the kids drive me so crazy, I feel like if I don’t get away from them I am going to explode (like when they find a variety of creepy insects, today a giant cockroach and praying mantis, to chase me around the house with).  But mostly when I am not with them, I miss them like crazy and count the seconds until I am back home.  So I find reasons, to not leave the house for days in a row.  I never thought that would happen to me.  I love the city, the noise and chaos, but now I love being home more.

However, one of the main reasons I don’t go to the slum any more is because it is too hard.  When I go into the city, the last stop for the taxi is in one of the slums.  The kids on the street there are in much worse condition and almost all of them do drugs.  It is a dirty and dangerous place, and seeing the boys there kills me.  It is strange, it upset me before to see them but not to the extent it does now.  I see the boys at home and then the ones on the street and wonder who is going to come for them.  Who is going to believe in them and give them a chance?  Somehow because we are so happy at home, and I see where these boys could still be, I don’t know how to deal with it.  I wonder why people don’t care and how they can see a monster in an 8 year old child.  It hurts the most when I see a boy that I know and love still on the streets a year and a half later.  One boy in particular, I fought so hard for him to leave that slum and his drugs and he was but now he is in a worse place than when I left.

In the other slum where I was all of the time, a friend has programs and has asked me to visit.  I finally did a week ago.  It was so sad to see so many new faces and even sadder to see so many of the same.  The problem is now they are growing up and many people won’t let them at their programs because they are too old.  Even if they did go to programs, they know their chances are gone.  So they just stay away.  Fourteen years old, 12 years old, 16 years old and left to life on the streets.  No future.  No hope.  Just life on the streets.

It is too much.  I don’t know how to love them where they are.  I know I will fall helplessly in love with them and want to bring them all home.  And I can’t.  Each month we are barely making it; one more boy would totally break us.  And the injustice of that is too much.  They are no less worthy than the boys I already have.  I cannot reconcile in my mind why some boys will get a chance and for the others they will just become men on the streets, crazy from their drugs, or dead or in prison.  I can tell myself that at least 23 boys now have a new life, are loved and have a future but that seems empty.  It doesn't seem like it is enough. 

The second time I visited the slum, I saw a boy that I have been crazy about forever.  He was wild and spirited, full of life and probably a little crazy.  I remember a time one of the uncles asked him to come for devotions and his answer was he was very busy reading the newspaper.  He can’t read.  This time, he is different.  A little less spirited.  Maybe it is age, but probably the streets have just worn him down.  He is 16 or 17 now and I wonder what will happen to him.  

What will happen to all of them...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monday was definitely the hardest day since I have been back.  We had to a have a really hard talk with the boys that no one wanted to have.  We had all been avoiding it, but we finally ran out of time and had no choice.  I knew that they would all be upset but had no idea exactly how unhappy they would be.  Before the home, they boys’ lives were in constant chaos and change.  So many people came in and out of their lives and disappointed them.  Broken promises, abuse, neglect, death, every difficult thing you could imagine has already happened to them in their short lives.  As a result, they don’t trust or love easily but when they do!  They will love you forever, with a loyalty and fire that you have never seen before.  Once you are part of the family, they really attach and don’t want to let go.

On Monday, we told the boys that our house uncle is moving out soon to get married and we are starting to look for a new uncle.  Saying they were devastated is a huge understatement.  It was like their whole worlds crumbled right before them.  They knew that he was getting married but I think they were all holding out hope that he wasn't actually going to move out.  He still plans to be around every night, but they can’t trust that he is telling them the truth because so many have hurt and lied to them before.  They tried to convince us that they don’t need an uncle and all nominated themselves for the job.  They suggested that he move in to the house with his new wife.  They suggested he never get married.  Everything they could think of was suggested to persuade him from leaving. 

The most heartbreaking was after our meeting.  One of the boys came into my room and begged me to go to boarding school.  I told him no and that this was his home, he needed to be here.  He sat down, on the verge of tears, and started to tell me so many things I never knew about him.  He told me he didn't want a new uncle because he was sure that he was going to be awful and treat them terribly.  He told me that he was so tired of suffering, that he had already suffered enough and  from the bottom of his heart he has felt pain and he couldn't manage to feel any more.  He told me about his life:  how he ended up on the streets, how his mother died, how people broke promises of helping him, how he suffered as a child, how he never knew his father, how people showed him he didn't deserve redemption and forgiveness for mistakes. 

He is 16 years old. 

All he has known in his short life is pain and suffering. 

As he shared so many things with me, I had to fight to hold back the tears. He has seen so many people break promises.  He has seen so many people swear that they would put the boys first, only to leave them behind.  He thinks that this time is going to be the same.  That they will begin to suffer again and he doesn't want any part of it.  My words were empty promises to him.  Even though he knows how much I love him and that he is the most important thing in my life, he doesn't know how to trust that I will do what is best for him because no one ever has.

It is a tough time for all of us, especially for the boys.  Their hearts are breaking and hurting.  We have our first interview tomorrow.  Please keep us all in your prayers, that we would find a great uncle that would love the boys, be patient and put them first.  Please also pray for the boys that they would know how loved they are and that their days of suffering are over.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Last night was the first night of workshops for the boys.  Our friend, Jenna, is living with us for the next 9 months and when she asked what would be helpful for her to do, I told her that she should do the same workshops that she did with the kids in prison.  Even though these boys don’t have the same crazy, violent pasts, they still have a lot of the same issues:  abuse, neglect, drugs, etc.  In Uganda, people don’t really talk about their problems.  There are certain things that happen and no one talks about them.  Therefore, no one can heal because they feel ashamed of what has happened to them even when it wasn't their fault. 

Joseph at Ibra's birthday party
These workshops have come at the perfect time because I have wanted to use our nightly devotions in a way that it makes the Bible real to the boys and they can have a safe space to discuss their ideas and concerns and then see what the Bible tells us about each situation.  While the focus of the workshops isn't the Bible, the topics are still things that affect the boys’ day to day lives.  It is going to be very easy to have the same topics during the workshops as during devotions the following day. 

Jacob modeling our paperbead necklaces.
Buy them here
Last week during devotions, we talked about relationships:  how they should treat women, marriage, sex, everything that is a concern to them.  It was a great time of discussion and I was so proud of the boys for how honest and open they were.  I thought that they would just tell me the things they knew I wanted to hear, but instead they were honest about their thoughts and feelings.  We were then able to go to the Bible and see what it says about everything.  While devotions usually take 45 minutes and the boys are complaining and wanting to go to bed, we had to cut them short because they were going on 2 hours.  The same thing happened the week before when we talked about how our words really have power and how we should use them only for good.  Having a discussion where they can bring their own experiences in and make those connections is really starting to make a difference.  After that time, Jenna was walking with one of the boys and a stranger said something bad to her.  Where the boy would have normally shouted an insult back, he told Jenna couldn’t say anything because we just learned about using our words for good in devotions.

Last night the workshop was about our words again.  It actually broke my heart.  Sometimes, I think that I know the pain that these boys have felt and the abuse they went through.  But after last night’s workshop, I realize I have no clue about the things these boys have suffered and how resilient they really are.  During the workshop, they got a piece of paper with a heart drawn on it and the paper was divided into 4 sections.  The first part of the heart was for when they were one week old.  The others for 5 years, 10 years and now.  For each section, they were supposed to write things people said to them and then either draw a scar or a heart inside the heart depending on if it was something good or bad.   I was helping the boys sitting next to me write in their hearts as some still don’t write very well.  The things they told me to write were awful:  you are bad, you are stubborn, you are a thief, and the worst you don’t deserve to be in this family.  He was 10 when someone said that to him.  The full impact of the activity didn’t hit me until I was looking through them all today.  One boy’s heart in particular crushed me.  There wasn’t a single heart in his heart until the time for now.  Before he came into the home, no one had good things to say about him.  Not a single word.  Can you imagine, from the time that you were born, no one wanted you and didn’t try to hide their disgust for you?  The other boys’ hearts weren’t far off, but at least they had a heart here or there.

So many times we want statistics to prove that what we are doing is making a difference.  I don’t have fancy charts or spreadsheets to prove that what we are doing is making a difference.  I don’t have numbers, nor can I say what these boys are going to do in the future or what they will become.  But for now, knowing that for the first time in their lives they all feel loved and valued is enough for me.
Richard and John
Moses and Matthew