I had to go to Jinja, which is about a 2 ½ hour drive from Kampala, in order to extend my visa on Tuesday this week. I took 2 boys with me, Davis and Vincent. Davis used to work every day where we lived before and then study at night, so there was never so much extra time for outings with him. Vincent, is one of the first boys to ever volunteer to escort me and therefore goes with me a lot.
|Vincent in an old fishing boat|
We had a really great day. We got my visa extended, no problems. Then we had lunch at a small restaurant and walked to Lake Victoria. The only place to see the lake was a fishing dock, but they didn’t mind. We found a few fisherman around, but it was pretty empty. There wasn’t really a beach, but the boys found some way to get in the water. They played with dead fish trying to make it swim (boys will be boys everywhere!), while I shouted for them to put it down. They wanted their pictures taken. They played in the water. It was really a great day. We laughed. We had good conversation. The day was just the break that I needed.
The taxi ride home was long and we were all tired. We finally made it to the taxi park to take the taxi home. We hurried and jumped on the taxi. It was probably about 9 pm by that time. I think Kampala never sleeps. There are always so many people, no matter the time. There are buses that leave to various places late into the night. There are people selling and trading, trucks of goods arriving, people trying to make the last shillings before heading home. As we were on the taxi and pulled out of the park (think huge bus depot for taxis that go all over the city and even country), we passed a small crowd gathered around a truck unloading bundles of what I assumed were clothes. As I watched the people working and wondering how they manage to work so much, a boy from the street passed. The taxi wasn’t moving so fast because of the congestion, but as we were passing the crowd and the boy, who by the way was doing nothing other than passing with his bag of scrap, one of the men pushed him and slapped him across his face/neck.
As quickly as it happened, the boy moved on and the taxi was out of sight of them. But it stayed with me. I wished I would have been outside of the taxi to hug the boy and tell him he was loved and valued. I wished I was on the street, just so I could ask him how he was and defend him. I wish I were standing in front of that man so I could tell him what a coward I think he is and ask him what he proved by slapping a child. But none of those things happened. I was gone and that boy was left by himself, just like he is every night.
I wondered how many times he had been hit like that. I wondered if he had already started to believe everyone when he heard over and over, whether in words or actions, that he was worthless. I prayed for God to keep him. I prayed that God would heal his heart and keep him strong. I prayed that this world wouldn’t break him, but that he would find comfort in the love of a great God that loves him immeasurably more than he could imagine.
After I thought so long about him, my thoughts turned to my boys. And I wondered how many times that had happened to them. I didn’t need someone to answer my thoughts, because I already know. Too many. Even if it happened once, which I know it was many more, it is too many. Sometimes I forget where these boys come from, what they have come through. We laugh and joke, and most days are happy. I forget that they are broken inside. I forget that they heard too many times that they were useless. I forget that they were beaten because they didn’t have homes. I forget that they aren’t trying to drive me crazy on purpose, but sometimes, they really don’t know what it is to be loved and live in a family. I forget that they aren’t struggling with being sober because they think it is fun, but because their memories haunt them and they can’t forget. Sleep doesn’t even give them an escape, instead they see family members murdered over and over, they feel the beatings, the fear of wondering what would happen to them at night, and it is too much.
Sometimes, I feel like we are coming so far. There are so many changes. New lives beginning. But sometimes there are set backs. We forget and fall into old habits. Make bad choices, sometimes of epic proportion. I get so discouraged and feel like everything is failing.
All because sometimes I forget. The suffering that they have known. The pain they endured. The difficulty of trusting that life will work out in their favor, just once. Sometimes, I even forget that this life is beyond difficult. It is messy and crazy, but it is absolutely beautiful and more than worth it. Sometimes, I forget that the pain is just temporary and brighter days are ahead.
***I don’t know if I knew the boy that got beat. I didn’t see his face, but there are thousands of street kids in Uganda and millions around the world. They are all suffering the same fate as that boy, the same fate that mine faced. Please pray for them. Pray for their hearts to be strong. Pray for protection. Pray for food. Pray for a way off the street. And mostly, pray that this world wouldn’t destroy them, but they would hear God’s voice and believe Him when He tells them that they are loved and worth more than anything in this world.