We each had our precious 5 hours of sleep, then went to breakfast. Pastor Samuel from Return Ministries met us and had a great devotional with us as we finished eating. He taught us that being an orphan is not about being without a father or needing food or needing an education, it is about the heart. Orphans have a lot of pain…you can’t just minister to their physical needs, you must minister to the heart.
After breakfast the 28 of us plus the driver and Pastor Samuel piled up into the van and went into town. Our first stop took us to the bank to change money into Ugandan Shillings. The exchange rate was 2200 shillings to 1 US dollar. It took us a LONG time to get through the line, but we finally made it back to the van and headed to Return Ministries.
We arrived at the center and as we pulled up we heard the sound of 200 children cheering . It was a bit overwhelming! We came into the compound and hugged lots of children…and heard several little ones crying. We were supposed to be there at 1:00. It was now almost 3:00 and the kids had been waiting on us to eat!!! The little ones were so hungry! We marched into a covered area where the kids sang 3 songs to welcome us. I do have video of that!! We then helped serve the children their food. Once the kids had their food we filled our plates. They served beef, beans, rice, potatoes and some strange dish that looked like purple refried beans that was made of nuts. I had the beans, rice and potatoes and they were WONDERFUL!! For the next 4 hours we just had mass chaos with the kids. Some of our group painted fingernails, others held babies, all of us were touched, hugged, drooled on, sneezed on and peed on and were just loved by the kids. We left there around 5:00 with our hearts full…but just exhausted.
We had received a phone call that our luggage had arrived. After arriving at the airport, we were stopped by a police blockade and we each had to step out of the van to be patted down. There was an African Leader conference, so security was really tight. After lots of paperwork and organization by Judson, we were finally able to go in to retrieve our luggage. Praise the Lord, every bag was there! All the donations were going to be able to be delivered to the orphans!!
We returned to the hotel for a late dinner and decided we would try to be a bit more organized the next day. We were going back to Return Ministries, and knew there would probably be even more kids the second day. Instead of the same chaos we decided to split the kids into age groups and work with them in that setting. It worked great. Since we had all of our donations back, we were able to give each kid a coloring book and I was busy working on balloon animals for them all. The kids had a blast and so did we. When we left, we felt so blessed by the kids. They just loved us! We headed out to the next orphanage, Our Father’s House, at around 2:00. We were all pretty exhausted and I know I was not looking forward to having to exert the energy needed for another group of orphans. We arrived less than 20 minutes later and were welcomed by Rebecca , a young American girl who had been working and building this ministry since 2007. We only met 10 kids and were welcomed into their home. They asked us to sit in the living room and we were served fresh passion fruit juice and incredible fresh pineapple. It was just what we needed to energize us again. Our Father’s House has 12 children, but the school has over 200 students. We followed Rebecca down an old dirt road…shanties and trash and chickens all around us. We turned a corner and went down a hill. I really cannot even begin to describe what happened next. It was more moving and amazing than any words can express. Even the video doesn’t express the emotion of that moment.
These children were SO excited to meet us. They had planned for months and we were their first group of American visitors. As we turned that corner, we heard voices singing. They were singing a song welcoming us to Africa. I turned on my flip camera just before we turned the corner, expecting to see a group of kids, choir style, singing as we approached. I was wrong. All two hundred kids were lined on each side of the road. We had to walk down a road paved with the voices of angels. They sang, smiled, reached out their hands as we walked between them. Again, my words just do not express how beautiful that moment was.
We entered the church and the children followed us inside. I say church. It was 4 wooden posts, roofed with corrugated tin, walls made of sticks with a concrete stage in the front. The children sang again…so beautifully. When a couple of the girls sang a duet, with the choir behind them, singing about their mother and father dying, but having the love of Jesus in their hearts, I lost it. It was so moving to hear these kids singing about their difficult lives, with such joy in their circumstances because of their Savior, Jesus. They also sang a song that ended with all of the children simultaneously bowing their heads and praying quietly…but loud enough to hear. Whispers of 200 orphans praying is a pretty powerful thing indeed.
We had to leave sooner than we wanted and they all wished us farewell by trying to get on the bus with us and running for over a mile behind us. Several of our team were asked by the kids to please, please sponsor them so they could continue to go to school. It was heartbreaking. If anyone is interested in sponsoring one of these kids, PLEASE let me know. I have all the information and I have seen the school and met the leaders. Every cent would go to the kids and not into some administrators pocket.
Needless to say, we felt mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted by this point. We now had a 3 hour drive to Jinja to Canaan Children’s Home. It was a great time to just decompress and think about the 2 days (2 days! SO much happened in those 2 days). We had a very exciting trip to a gas station restroom without western style toilets (just a little porcelain hole in the ground – us girls were very entertaining to the attendant as we tried to demonstrate how to do your business without getting your clothes wet). OH side note! If you are ever in Uganda and need to use the restroom, you just tell them you need to make a “Short Call” if you have to go #1 or “Long call” for #2. We joked that if you were going to need to be in the restroom for a long amount of time, you were making an “International Call” – ha!!
Finally we made it to Canaan’s Children’s Home in Jinja. There are over 400 Children here. Once again we had a King’s welcome. We could barely get off the bus we were so crowded by children. They all wanted a hug as we disembarked…so it took us a while to finally get to our rooms. I was proud I could use the 2 phrases I had learned the day before. I will spell it out phonetically in case you ever need to use them. “How are you?” is “Oleo-‘tia” and they respond “Jindi” which means I am fine. They really loved hearing this “Muzungu” (White American) use their language. BTW: Every time our bus would drive through a village and the children would see us through the windows, they would yell “Muzungu!!!” and wave. One little boy, maybe 3 years old yelled “Hello Muzungu!!!” So funny!!
Right now it is ten minutes after 11pm and I still need to shower. I had 5 hrs of sleep the first night and 6 hrs the next. Hoping to get a full 8 hrs tonight. Tomorrow, 400 kids to love on!!