Wednesday, June 30, 2010
There is a point in every trip here when the realization of how we are perceived here comes crashing on you in a very real way. For Ugandans we are called Mazungu. This term of endearment is one (mostly) of respect. There are very few white people in the villages so we stand out from a distance. In many ways our presence is celebrated. We are invited to sit and visit with strangers, we are invited to shop or buy from any vendor, and we are greeted by most who see us on the street - nearly always from the children. From the surface this word Mazungu has an endearing quality. Translated; however, the word means rich white person. In Uganda rich and white are indistinguishable.
This is the point in the trip where the cross of cultures hits home. I stood in John's (out sponsor child) room yesterday for about 20 minutes. The colored concrete floor had been hand swept before I arrived and I stepped over several pair of flip flops in my muddy running shoes to sit on one of the beds. The room has a standard size locally made metal door and a small window. The walls are plaster taped with notes, report cards and occasionally etched with some art and markings of one of the residents. The wood rafters holding the tin roof are covered with running shoes, back packs, drying clothes and lanyards of the mosquito nets that drape the 3 metal bunk beds. At 2 in the afternoon it was mostly dark in the room and there is no lighting or power. I sat and cried for a while at the contract of our worlds. This room would be unsuitable back home for 2 prisoners. Here six boys were proud to call it home. Proud because in this part of the world a plastered wall and a metal roof are nicer than the street or a mud hut. Proud to have a 4" piece of foam they call a mattress to sleep on. Proud because they come from the streets. I sat there thinking about the house I am building at home... 1 bed for every kid and a bathroom for each sex... A castle to anyone in this country. I was embarrassed. As I stood to leave the room I read the sign at the bottom of the door neatly written "Please remove your shoes".
Our kids eat 3 meal a day. For breakfast they eat porridge - a spiceless watered down version of our oatmeal made from corn. For lunch and dinner (everyday) they eat pinto beans and posho - cornmeal stewed into a mash. At the house we have been eating at a large wooden table covered with 2 table clothes. It takes the whole room to feed the 13+ of us leaving minimal room for a fridge, computer table, floor mounted fan and a cupboard with all of the plates, silverware and coffee mugs. There is a large window facing the front yard that has old white sheets with a blue floral print neatly sewn together and hung on a strip of bailing wire attached to a wooden window frame by 3 temporary drywall screws. Our meals have been different from the kids. WE have been treated to many favorites from here and home. Mac and cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, chicken, goat, beef and eggs. TO drink we have ice cold bottled water or a selection of Cokes and local sodas. At night when we eat we close the window sheets. I am told that it is to keep the neighbors from looking in. I have my doubts... I am fairly confident that the 6 foot tall plastered courtyard wall keeps their views blocked. Closing them seems to be a bad idea too since it stops the only real airflow into the room. Nevertheless, we close them. I HAVE noticed that they do a fairly good job of disguising what we are eating from the orphans playing on the other side in the front yard. I am not sure they would really mind or be surprised. The only place to wash food is in the back courtyard that connects the house to their rooms and their outdoor unplumbed bathroom. The only way into the house from the courtyard is through a see thru screened door that leads into the kitchen. Needless to say, I am sure they are aware of what we eat. Sitting in the dining room this morning, I really felt like an American as I "earned" the right to blog today. I felt like an American doing our part to "help" the needy hiding behind a transparent sheet.
The truth of our trip is that we have become more aware of what we have and what people here don't. By the time we leave I will have many new and strengthen Ugandan relationships, 11 new American friends and many stories to tell. My hope is that we can look beyond the things we "have" a gain an appreciation for what matters when you don't... Pride for what you do have, thankfulness, and a clinging to God's provision as though life depends on it. It really does regardless of what you "have". My prayer is that both cultures can find genuine discipleship in the process.
Your Kingdom Come
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Today was clinic...130+ files, pics, charts, eye exams, HIV test, polio, tetanus, and measles vaccines, vital signs, dental exams, and letters to sponsors. Praise God...ZERO HIV positive.
That's it for now. We're tired and going to bed. We'll get back to creativity tomorrow. J
Love to all!
Monday, June 28, 2010
Pre-breakfast was filled with a walkabout through the red streets of Iganga; streets full of commuters on bicycles, businesses unfolding for the day, and school kids happily hand in hand with a few of us Texans. Parting with one kid meant joining with another as we enjoyed being out numbered. An occasional stench from rotting trash or a tattered mud hut might be the only things there to remind you that your walking down anything less than a fertile community; full of people who understand joy and how to pass it on via smile. Ryan and Jamie take this chance to visit a African Chipate street stand and migrate back to the house for breakfast with two bags full of what we made out to be as fried tortillas.
After we all survived the subtle heart attacks attached with eating something like that, we focused on the task at hand; labeling 200 custom hand crafted neon name tags with the VBS children's beautifully unpronounceable names. Brilliant! To be honest, in the midst of all the focusing, I found myself lost outside with Kayla, soaking a Slinky in bubble solution trying to reinvent the entertainment wheel. After figuring that no matter how many times I submerged that Slinky in bubble juice, it was not going to send soapy spheres flying in every which direction when I churned its springs. So we soon celebrated our defeat by heading out the main gate for two and a half hours of improvisation with the neighborhood kids. My time was spent watching the thrill seeking kids eat bubbles out of thin air while a dozen of the more curious-from-a-distance children were making themselves comfortable surrounding Kayla's lap. Either way, I was happy to be on their side of the fence.
Now back at Phil's house, we have some issues to tackle, one being the yardbirds. After several consecutive 5 O'clock wake up calls provided to us by the roosters in the front yard, the vote was in, and rooster/chicken was on the menu for tonight's dinner. So the hunt was on for fowl. Most of the team felt obligated to participate, so out we went with a common goal so dignified, the walkout the door was almost in slow motion. Brian, our fearless leader, does what any self-respecting chicken hunter would do, and grabs a 2x4 board...priceless. For the next 10 min we played a classic game of Scare-the-chickens-from-one-unreachable-spot-to-another; but by the 11th minute Phil's main man, Ibra, was cleaning them. Job well done A-team.... B-team? OK B-team.
VBS! Today was the day we cut the ribbon on a four day commitment of fun and fellowship that scales language barriers, cultural differences, and sunburn. Passing out the name tags became a lotto, but everyone eventually came out a winner. After re-organizing under a tree, you better believe we sang like we were the ones who put the "dang" in dangerous. So what if we had to belt an alternative version of "peace like a river" 4 or 5 times to get down the hand motions. After we broke down the choir, we went right into nameless games and did not stop until the van called us back home.
On the way home, we made a stop to the Widows home, where 15 or so lioness women knitting, weaving, and pioneering making ends meet and looking after one another. Most of these ladies are the mothers of the children Phil looks after. They graciously invited us in to greet them, look around, buy anything we would like to take home to you all, and then we promptly relocated outside for what I can best describe as a welcoming ceremony. There we are on one side sitting in every chair and on any bench they could find while they take the mats and floor seats, leaving a ten foot gap in between the them and us. The awkward space was soon trumped by an elderly widow who had a dance move or two left in her. Could have been something in the air, or maybe fact no one should ever dance alone, but I stood up to dance with her and discovered that moving like Shakira is only a decision away.
In the end, we got to pray over those Women, and in doing so, couldn't help leaving feeling like amen wasn't enough this time, and the next chance we get to love their children for them, may we do it in a moment of surrender, with all the more selflessness, and in such a way, words become evaporative, and we are left with only the faith that we attempted to love as hard as Christ calls us to. Always with his Strength, if only so its not our own.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Today we woke up after some much needed rest and had a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs, potato's and toast. During breakfast we were listening to Phil explain who all the staff was and how they came to work for him when I looked around and noticed that Colton was missing. Now anyone who know Colton knows that this in not an unusual event :) We then heard music and looked out the front window and saw Colton out there playing his guitar and singing. He had about 20 little girls all around him and some of the neighborhood kids were scaling the wall to catch a glimpse of our resident rock star! My first thought was “this is why God has him here.” He has such a heart for these kids and I will admit he had me crying in my coffee. It was truly beautiful.
After breakfast Tamara gave a health talk to all the girls and all of the ladies in our group had the pleasure of assisting her. We talked to all of the girls about basic health and cleanliness and their changing bodies. We then dismissed the girls who were 12 and under so we could discuss some more sexual education. We had great presentation from Tamara explaining the symptoms and causes of many common STD's, and Susan did a wonderful job translating. It was actually pretty entertaining to watch because any time Susan had to translate something she was a bit uncomfortable with she would make a sound that reminded me of Billy Bob Thorton in Sling Blade....Ummmm Hmmmm ....! We also discussed how to avoid STD's by abstaining from sex until marriage. We handed out cards for the girls to write down any questions they had and were too embarrassed to ask. We were very impressed with the questions that came back. Many of them wanted to know more about HIV and AIDS. They had questions about the menstrual cycle and about infections. After the Q&A there were a couple of girls who came up to Tamara with symptoms of and infection they were concerned about and it ended up being just a common vaginal infection that is easily cured with some medication that we had with us. Without the information, these girls could have gone months before they said anything. Knowledge is power.
At about 2pm we went over to the boy's dorm to have lunch with the children. The team was treated to the same meal that the children eat twice a day. Posho (corn flour and water) and beans. After lunch we had a lot of time to play and socialize with the kids. It is very overwhelming because there are 149 of them. All of the kids want to talk to you and take a picture with you and want to know about their sponsor family. Believe me when I say the kids do know who you are and they treasure your letters. When I met my boy Eliya the first thing he asked me was “How is Lee? And Kaitlyn and Ryenn?”. I met a friend of mine's child who asked about her sponsors daughter's trip to camp which I am sure was mentioned in a letter. You would not believe how much you mean to them. You are their family.
The kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have their pictures taken. Sue and Amanda spent 3 solid hours taking pictures of the kids. The boys are quite the soccer players. Girls here do not play soccer, they play a game with a ball (tightly waded grocery bags) called Net Ball which is kind of like our basketball except they don't dribble. Colton, Ryan and Jamie played soccer with the boys and they were all pretty unsure about Jamie playing. Every time she got the ball they laughed. They called her “Muzungu” (translated as “white person”) until she scored a goal (which was pretty darn awesome to see) she must have gained some respect because from then on they called her “brunette”!
When we came back to the house, Tamara brought back some kids that needed some care. I helped her with some minor medical issues, but we did have one boy with a serious ear infection. When you see Tamara in nurse mode, you get the chance to experience a truly God given calling. She is pretty amazing. It has been so enlightening to see each of the team members gifts emerge. I could not have asked for a more amazing group of people to accompany me on this adventure.
In His Service,
Friday, June 25, 2010
Everyone on the team is 'excited and exhausted', but feeling well!
Keep praying for em...
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
First, we want to thank everyone who came to the airport this morning. What a wonderful blessing to have each of you there and to have Scott pray over the group. We really appreciate you being there. Personally I should have known something special was going to happen when I got on 281 this morning and there was absolutely no traffic and every light was green!
Our flight to Detroit was interesting. We got rerouted a little due to weather so we waited for more gas. Meanwhile the A/C dripped on us, their was only one bathroom and the aisle was tiny. God must be preparing us and we all know he has a sense of humor!
We'll update you again.
Sent on the Now Network� from my Sprint® BlackBerry
Now for our flight. The bags all got through with no problem. The gentleman weighing them
Sent on the Now Network� from my Sprint® BlackBerry
Monday, June 21, 2010
For the last 6 months we have been meeting and preparing. And now, in less than 48 hours, our team of 12 will be boarding a plane and will eventually make it to Iganga, Uganda. Meeting together for the final time before we leave, the church leaders came and prayed over us. We packed 24 bins with medicine, clothes, food, VBS supplies, medical supplies and anything and everything we could think of to help care for our kids in Uganda. For many of us the reality is beginning to sink in and we feel the weight of what we are about to encounter. The excitement and feelings of anticipation are at times overwhelming. We know, however, that God put together an amazing team and He will use us in ways we never imagined possible. Please keep us in your prayers. To sign-up to be a part of our prayer vigil please click here.