Thursday, December 26, 2013

Don't judge a book...

A few days ago I was in town with 2 of the boys.  Kampala is a crazy city.  There are so many people everywhere.  People are selling things.  They are begging.  They are shopping.  They are going here or there.  The amount of people and chaos is overwhelming.  Out of control overwhelming.  Sometimes I love it but sometimes I want to get out and never go back.  Things aren't easily situated either, for the most part.  You can’t just go to a store like Walmart or Target and get everything you need at once.  First you go to one building, then to another, and so on and so on until your errands are done.  Sometimes it is easy because you know the area of town you need to go to if you want to find a certain thing, but when you have so much to do, it can be exhausting because you have to visit many places. 

I think this particular day we had been in the city for maybe five or six hours and were all exhausted.  As we were walking back to the taxi park, where we have to go to find a mini bus that takes us back to our village, I was in my own little world.  There were people everywhere and while I was aware of them, I didn't really take notice.  One of the boys was walking about an arm’s length away from me on my left and the other a few steps behind me.

My little world was shattered by a woman’s voice.  I heard what she said but it didn't make sense to me at first.  It took a moment to register.  When it finally did, I was still like “WHAT???”  She told me to keep my bag, meaning to hold it better and guard it.  Between me being in my own world of thoughts and the ridiculousness of what she was implying, I know I had the craziest look on my face.  So I replied to her, “He’s my son, but thanks” as I reached out and grabbed the arm of the one next to me.  It was then her turn to be shocked as she stuttered, “Oh!!  I thought…” 

As I grabbed his arm and pulled him close to me, we turned to the taxi park.  I told him sorry and he asked what she had said.  I know heard and I know he understood her.  When I told him it was nonsense, he replied, “Are you sure?”  We continued on to our coaster and went home and left that lady behind.  But I know he understood her and I am sure it hasn't left his mind.

It isn't an infrequent occurrence that people stop me in town and warn me about the boys.  Whether they want to point out that I am unsafe by being around them or that they are going to rob me when I am not looking.  Even today, someone told me that I was walking with a bunch of bad guys.

I admit, some of these boys are pretty intimidating.  Like you might cross the street at night if they started walking towards you, intimidating.  It is ironic that I take comfort in the exact thing people warn me about them.  I have never felt safer than when I am with them, especially the boy from this story. I know that they will all protect me, no matter what.  I don’t fear being robbed or anything when I am with them.  I know that I am always safe.  They will protect me no matter what.

Maybe I should feel bad that people think the boys are nothing but common street thugs.  And in a way, I do.  I feel bad for them.  It is like they can never escape their past.  They have made great strides to change and some are completely different, especially the boy from the story.  I feel bad that people still insult them and don’t give them a chance.  I feel bad for the people insulting too because you cannot find people with softer hearts than these boys.

We decided that instead of going to church for Christmas, we were going to be the church.  We were going to follow Jesus’ example and serve and give.  One of our friends was having a party for the boys on the street on Tuesday, so we woke up early to go and serve them.  On the way, one of the boys found a small boy that was clearly lost and looked confused.  He stopped to talk to him and ask where his parents were.  He was a street kid but he must have just arrived and was still lost and scared.  He tried his best to get the boy to come with us but in the end, the boy refused.  I wonder how many people have passed by that boy without so much as a word or offer of help.  But my “thugs” stopped to try and help him.  When we got to the party, the boy from the story helped to cook and do whatever was needed for 7 hours so his friends on the street could have a nice day and a good meal.  Anytime I tried to do anything, he would say, “No, let me do it.”  The other boys helped too.  Washing dishes, fetching water, running errands.  You name it, they did it.   My “thugs” that everyone is afraid.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

At the end

You know the saying, "Separation makes the heart grow fonder"?  Well in our case, it is true.  I think....

The boys have been on holiday since the end of November and we are driving each other crazy.  


The honeymoon period of having me back is definitely over.   We have moved on to real life and it is hard.  Like the most difficult thing I have ever had to do  hard.  In my fairy tale world, I somehow magically expected 23 hurting, broken boys to fit into my perfect little children box that I had created for them.  Memo to me, its never going to happen.  And so, last week I got a rude wake up call.  It was particularly difficult.  Everything we could think to fight about, we did.  It left us all frustrated and feeling like we were failures as a parent.  (Ok, maybe that is just me.) But nonetheless, we are all frustrated.

Living with hurting people, is really difficult.  This past week, I realized why no one wants to deal with the older boys.  Before last week, I only knew it in theory.  But the ridiculousness that I had to deal with made me want to run for the hills or the US or actually anywhere that wasn't home.  I was at a place where I just couldn't take one more temper tantrum, one more person ignoring me or one more disagreement.  I was at the end.

Thankfully, right when I was about to snap, I saw what was important.  God gave me 2 really good days and the break from the chaos was so needed and welcome.  Four boys that I had been fighting with all weekend over a majorly bad choice of theirs, finally calmed down and we were able to have a real conversation and come to an understanding about their consequences and why I was so hard on them.  They saw I wasn't being unfair and biased and they even apologized, which they swore to me they weren't going to do.  When I asked them why they had changed their minds about apologizing and talking to me again, they responded "Because we missed you.  We didn't want to be away from you any longer."

Thank you Jesus.  I needed that.

On Monday, one of the boys that I first started with had a birthday.  He turned 16.  We had a birthday party for him and as everyone told him why they loved him (part of our parties is to appreciate the birthday boy and tell him things we like/love about him.) the smile on his face made my week.  We almost didn't make it.  He almost didn't make it.  Over the last 3 years, I almost lost him many times.  I was the only one that believed in him and had to beg people not to give up on him and to give him another chance.  Everyone told me he wouldn't change, and there was even a time when I believed the same thing.  But I loved him enough that I kept trying.  I have cried more tears over him, than any other.  And to finally celebrate a birthday with him, was the best gift I could get this holiday season.  When we cut the cake, he asked me to cut it with him. Seems simple, but its a huge honor.  Afterwards, I wanted to talk to him to tell him how proud I was of him and how much I loved him.  I told him I was so happy he stayed in the house because I knew that it wasn't easy.  I told him I was so proud of the boy he was becoming and that I knew that he had a great future ahead of him.  I told him I loved him so much and I was happy he was in my life.  Being a 16 year old boy, I figured he would hate all of the gushy, mushy stuff and be like whatever but instead, he said that he liked hearing it and I should tell him more often because it made him feel better.

Thank you Jesus.  I needed that.

It has happened time and time again.  Just when I think my heart cannot take anymore, there is a break and the boys are angels.  Just when I think the money is going to be over, it is there.  I know God is in control of this whole journey, and I am so grateful He is because I know that I cannot do it on my own.