Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to Africa???

Hey everyone!

Just want you to be praying with me. I have the possibility of returning to Africa in Feb and again next August.

Still working out the details and praying really hard. I want to go again,but want it to be in God's timing, not mine.

If any of you have ever thought about a trip like this, I will be posting more details soon about how to join me!!!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Last Day in Africa

There is not much left to say. I head home today changed forever. I am already praying about returning in February. This trip will only be Ethiopia and will be 10 days long. Kari is leading the group, and I would love to be her co-leader. I want to come back to Korah. I want to hug Abenezer again. I want to love beyond my capacity and change lives forever.
Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this trip. Thank you for the new friends I have made. Burn their faces and stories into my mind forever. I pray others will be changed by my stories and that they will be willing to change a child’s life forever, too.

Day 11 – AHOPE HIV Orphanage/ Sleepover at Korah

We started the day driving to AHOPE Orphanage. They have around 50 kids who are HIV Positive. This experience was SO much better than the last HIV orphanage we visited. There were 2 different locations, on for ages 2-8, and the other for ages 9 and up. My group went with the older kids and we played a game with the soccer ball, little Sally Walker, and I used a lot of my fingernail stickers. It was a bit rainy today, so we couldn’t do too much. I did get quite the workout, though, walking from one location to the other, literally uphill both ways…there was some downhill too, but in that altitude it was pretty exhausting!!
It is really cool how God redirected our team over and over again. There were two orphanages that we were supposed to visit, but they didn’t work out. One of those, we arrived at the orphanage, but there were no children there. The gentleman who was there told us they were all in school. We left a few donations, but no cash. We found out later that there were no children and that it was a scam. Wow. God is good!
Last night Kari told us about a big surprise. No, it had nothing to do with slaughtering sheep, but it did have to do with Korah dump. They asked if 6 of our team would like to spend the night at the shelter with the Korah kids. There are 30 in our team, so I didn’t know if I would get to go, or even if I wanted to go. Project 61 is not in the dump, but is close enough to Korah to be able to smell the dump!! I told Kari that I would like to go (even though I was a little bit terrified!!). She really wanted me to go, so that I could bring some donations to Sumer (the American director of Project 61 – a cool story in itself). Kari was only planning to “tuck us in” then head back to the guest house. Well, it turned out we only had 5 of our team volunteer to spend the night there…so I volunteered Kari – ha! She packed really quickly and told me she was pretty scared too!
We grabbed our bags, plus the sheets and pillows from our guest house beds and headed out the door. Our team said goodbye to us (and I asked “Have you ever been going to the dump and you feel like you have forgotten something?!”). When we pulled up to the shelter, the kids were so excited!! There are only around 20 kids who actually live at the shelter. 150 are sponsored, but most of those either still live in the dump, or are living with others in Korah village. As I stepped out of the van, I saw my friend Abenezer from a few days before. He ran at me and gave me a HUGE hug. Then, embarrassed, he stepped back out of the way. We went into the shelter and were met with a warm welcome from the kids and were asked to sit down. They brought us popcorn (the Ethiopian party food) that tasted like kettle corn and had oreo-type cookies mixed in. They also started preparing for the coffee ceremony – which is offered anytime you have an important guest. We watched as the beans were roasted over a fire and ground then made into very strong coffee.
I have had many cups of the thick- espresso type coffee offered in the coffee ceremony this week. IF you know me, you know that I only like coffee if it is half milk/half sugar and just a touch of coffee. When we visited Kids Kare orphanage, I couldn’t even get the tiny cup full down. The coffee the teen girls made at Korah, however, was excellent! Still very strong, but not bitter. The best coffee ceremony coffee I have ever had.
While we were eating, Abenezer kept shyly looking at me. I would smile, he would smile back and look away. Eventually a seat next to him opened up and I sat by him. Now the other day when I was at Korah, he was one of the 3 boys that I befriended. His English was not as good as Binyam’s so we didn’t talk much, when we did, one of the other boys would translate. The other boys weren’t there, so we didn’t talk much at first. He did tell me he was happy to see me. When I told Kari that this was my friend, he corrected me and said “No, brother”. I told him, yes, I was his sister. Later one of his friends asked if I was his sponsor, I told him no, that Abenezer already had a sponsor. Abenezer, leaned over and whispered in my ear “My sponsor has forgotten about me. I want you be my sponsor.” Apparently his sponsor is paying for his schooling, but has not sent letters or been in contact with him like some of his other friends. I told him that being his sister is better than being his sponsor.
About that time, the teen girls came over to me and I knew exactly what they wanted. I had come prepared. I handed them my brush and sat down for over an hour of torture, I mean fun, while they braided my hair. I love to have my hair played with, so it was fun some of the time, but my goodness, they pulled it tight! I had gotten a sunburn on my part a few days earlier, so there were definitely times where I could feel it!!
After the hair party (2 of the other ladies had their hair “fixed” too), I finally had the chance to get back to my brother, Abenezer. By this time my photo album of my family and pics of Fowler was going around the room. Ab had seen it before, but started looking at the pics again. He studied every picture over and over again, memorizing the names and faces of my family. At one point he whispered to me that he wanted to be a pastor. He said he wanted to be a pastor because of me. Wow. I was overwhelmed.
At around 11pm we started the movie “The Wild” (I’m thinking I need to buy them some other movies – not the greatest Disney has ever made, but the kids loved it). Ab sat by me and at one point put his arm through mine and put his head on my shoulder. This boy is broken. He had such a gentle spirit, was so timid, but wanted so much to be loved and cared for. I asked Sammy to tell me his story. Apparently a lady from the US was in the process of adopting a child and was out in the countryside outside of Addis. She saw 5 boys living on the street. She called Sammy to see if he could help them. He said he would and brought them to the shelter at Korah. The shelter/sponsorship program is only 5 months old. Ab is being sponsored so will be going to boarding school in one month. He does have a mother and some sisters back in the countryside, but they cannot afford to keep him or feed him. He does have friends at Korah, but his eyes just told me he was lost.
Everyone kept joking with me, “So are you bringing any kids home from Africa?” I don’t know. I do know I love this 15 year old boy. I know I need to do something, but not sure what I am supposed to do. He is adoptable, but we can’t afford that right now. I know he will be getting an education, but what he needs is love. They say this school is excellent, but it won’t be a family. Sumer said one of the options is to get the kids a Student Visa so they can come to school in the states. They could be here without being adopted, finish school, even go to college, but would eventually have to go back. I think they can even come to the stated on a student visa while you are going through the adoption process.
I’m not saying I am planning to do any of these things. I do know that God connected the two of us. I also know that I will not forget about him. I will send him letters and emails and continue to remind him that God has a plan for his life. That he is never alone. And that someone in America loves him very much.
OK…so back to the sleepover. As the movie finished, we Americans were already nodding off. They brought two foam mattresses into the front room of the shelter, we put our sheets on them, then went to bed, praying that no creepy/crawlies would be joining us. There is no bathroom in the shelter, just an outhouse. Now, there is a western style toilet (like we have in the US) but it didn’t flush and it was S.T.I.N.K.Y. Kari and I went out to do our business and prayed that nothing would happen through the night that would make us have to rush out into the dark to use it again.
We said our goodnights and smiled as we heard the girls giggling in the other room. I was amazed that these 7 girls, who less than 6 months ago, were literally sleeping on trash in the dump praying the hyenas wouldn’t eat them, were now in beds, in a house, laughing like teen girls at a sleepover. Overwhelming. I was feeling a little guilty that I was uncomfortable sleeping on a mattress on the floor when hundreds of kids were sleeping on trash not ½ mile away. Needless to say my perspective has been changed forever.
I want to tell you just one story of a girl at the shelter. She is 17 years old. She was living in the Korah dump and was attacked and raped one night. 9 months later, she gave birth to a baby boy…in the dump. This girl is SO smart. I showed her my photo album when we were there a few days ago. As the photo album went around again that night, I heard her pointing out each of my kids, naming each of them. She carries around her baby boy, who is now 5 months old, and tells everyone about his new family. Her son is in the process of being adopted by an American family. She will be leaving for boarding school in a month. She is so brave. She loves Jesus. And she is willing to give up her son, so he can have a great life. Each of these kids has a story. A story filled with tragedy, abuse, malnutrition and sickness from eating from a garbage dump every day. But Sammy has given these kids a life, a hope, and a Savior. I was afraid to sleep at the Korah shelter. But these kids have faced more than I can imagine, and live with a sparkle in their eyes, and a hope for an Eternal Home that I rarely see in Americans.
I pray I will never forget this night, and I pray I will never forget these precious children of God.

Day 10 – New Life Orphanage, but not really

We decided last night that after the emotional day we had yesterday, we would start slow today. We had a late breakfast at 8:30, then headed to New Life Orphanage at 10:00. Or that was the plan. We, once again, drove around for quite a while (did I mention the horrible fumes and exhaust from the busses – ugh). When we finally found the orphanage, Kari jumped out to meet the director, and guess what. They weren’t expecting us either. Actually, there weren’t even any kids there because they were at school. SOOO frustrating!! That was the only orphanage on our agenda for the day so Kari and our drivers talked for a while about Plan B.
We stopped for a restroom break just outside the Ethiopia Museum and had our box lunch on the van. Bizrat (one of our Ethiopian guides) used to work for a street kid program and asked us if we wanted to go there. I think all of us were just asking God to show us where he wanted us to be today. We agreed to go, and were taken to Onesimus Child Development Association. This organization finds kids who are living on the streets with no family. They invite them into the program and give them clean clothes and food and teach them about Jesus. Some of their stories were amazing. We met Casey and Cameron who were American college students volunteering at the program this summer. We played games, sang, ate some popcorn and took lots of pictures. We actually had the chance to minister to kids – which is why we came to Africa in the first place!! God is good.
We left there around 3:30 and went back to Kaldi’s – Ethiopia’s Starbucks. We went back to the Guest house for an hour then left for our Italian dinner at 6:30.
We ate at Makush Italian restaurant and it was so good! I ordered a large pizza, which was only about $4.00. This was a very elegant restaurant with fine art hanging everywhere. Several of the team members purchased pieces to take home.
When we arrived back at the guest house, Sammy from Korah gave his testimony. His father had leprosy and at the time, if you have that disease, your family thinks you are cursed and will kill you. He found out that his father told his older brothers to kill him and he ran away and ended up at the leper colony/hospital at Korah. That is where Sammy’s parents met and had him. He was raised in the dump, searching for food every day and literally starving. At age 12 he tried to join the army, but they laughed at him and sent him back to the dump. He was broken in spirit from being rejected over and over again in his life. When he was a teenager, a group from Young Life ventured into the dump and told him about Jesus. They read verses about Jesus healing the lepers and loving them, and that changed his life.
Many of Sammy’s friends were sponsored and sent to boarding school but he was left behind, rejected again. He was so sad and asked God every night why he didn’t get to go. Less than a year ago, a girl named Sumer came to Ethiopia with Visiting Orphans (the same itinerary we are on) and God told her to come back and help these kids. Sammy and Sumer together have found sponsors for 150 kids in the past 5 months. They leave in one month!! God told Sammy, you did not get to go to school, so that hundreds of others will get the opportunity. He is so amazing and the kids just love him and Jesus! What a great testimony!!

Day 9 – Kids Care Orphanage and Mother Theresa HIV Orphanage

Today was the most frustrating day of the trip so far. We should have left the Guest House at 9:00 am. The group split into three groups to visit 3 different orphanages. The first two groups left a little after nine, but our bus never showed. Finally one of the guys who worked at the guest house called someone else to pick us up. We finally left around 10:00. Then, the driver had no idea where we were going so we were driving through Addis, usually behind big busses with exhaust flowing into our van, for about an hour. After getting lost on several occasions we finally made it to Kids Care. Our reception was not exactly warm and I felt that we were in the way. We didn’t really even get a tour, we just wandered around looking for kids. I finally found the school aged kids. 30 of them were crammed into a room about a fourth the size of one of our Fowler School classrooms. There was about enough room to walk between the tables, but that was it! We handed out some bracelets and necklaces and suckers and some of the group tried to color, but there was just no room!! The staff made a coffee ceremony for us, then we were off. I’m kind of glad we got there late, I didn’t really want to be in their way any longer than I already was!
We stopped at the Hilton and had a nice American style lunch in the courtyard. We did some shopping (most of the stores were closed for lunch when we got there – lunch break being from 12:00 – 4:00, now THAT is a lunch break).
Next we headed to Mother Theresa’s HIV Orphanage. It was another hour or more drive through the city. We all had headaches from the car fumes and pollution by the time we got there. Kari went with one of the workers to talk to the nuns about our tour. We found out they had no idea we were coming and they had another group already there, and they didn’t really want another big group there at the same time. One of the other sisters said that since we were there, we should be able to stay. So we had a nun argument on our hands. We ended up getting a tour, but it wasn’t really what we wanted. There were over 400 kids at this orphanage, all infected with HIV. One poor little girl, Senait, wanted love so badly. She would hang on us and kiss on us, but had sores all over her body and her ear was bleeding. It was so hard to love on her, knowing that she had HIV and open sores. It was heartbreaking. She did nothing to deserve this disease, and she, along with all those other kids are outcasts from society. The spirit of this place was also very hopeless. Most of the places we visited were full of hope and joy and Jesus. I just didn’t feel that here. The staff seemed very cold to the kids (now, the sisters I saw interacting with the kids were very kind). Keep in mind, we were only there for a short time, I have no right to say anything bad about the staff, I really was not there long enough to judge them. All I can do is compare it to Korah dump and Canaan’s and the spirit was not loving like it was in those homes.
I cried for the first time on this trip when we left that place. I felt we wasted our time there because we didn’t have time to interact with the kids or to contribute anything. We left some donations, but really didn’t have the opportunity to minister to or love the kids. I felt like we were abandoning them.

For the evening we went to our first Ethiopian Restaurant. I was so sad, and even sick, about leaving the HIV orphanage, I didn’t even want to eat. We all talked about the day and how frustrating it was and we all vented some of the emotions we were feeling. By the time the food arrived we were all feeling a little better, and the food was Amazing!! We even watched some Ethiopian dancers. One of them reminded me a lot of Tem! So, the day ended well, but it will be a day I will not forget.

Day 8 – Korah Dump/ Project 61

Today we visited the Korah Dump. Last night Kari and I met with Sumer, one of the directors at Korah. She told us we would be splitting into 2 groups. One group would go on home visits while the other team would go visit the dump. Before she left she told us that the group before us paid for 6 sheep and fed the Korah kids a great meal with meat. Kari and I decided that was a great idea! It would cost about 2500 birr (around $200) for 6 sheep. There are 30 in our group, so we had everyone put in 100 birr (less than $10) to feed all those kids. Kari and I didn’t tell the group what the “surprise” was that they were spending the 100 birr on.
When we left the Guest House, we told them to be ready for the surprise. We stopped on the side of the road and watched as 6 sheep (they looked like goats to me) were chosen, bartered over and tied, them placed (alive) in the storage space under the bus!! They actually moved our luggage on top of the bus so the sheep could be placed underneath!! Some of the girls freaked out over how inhumane it was!!
We drove to Korah and suddenly we realized the area looked very familiar. Kari said – this is where Zoie is from!! The paperwork at the clinic said Kore, but apparently they are the same place. Zoie would have lived in the Korah Dump had she not been adopted! Wow.
We arrived at Korah and the smell in the village was overwhelming. We were not in the dump yet, but in the village outside the dump. The people who live in the village are either outcasts, prostitutes, AIDS victims, or descendants of the leper colony who were banished there several generations ago.
Project 61 was started by a guy named Sammy who found Jesus through an American youth group who came to visit Korah Dump, where he lived. He now spends his life teaching others about Jesus, making great relationships with the kids and helping them find sponsors to help them attend school so they can get out of the dump. These kids were incredible. They have nothing but Jesus, and are so happy. They love Sammy and many of them told me that Sammy told them about Jesus and is helping them go to school and on some occasions he even pays rent for them to live in a house (shack) instead of living in the dump under a tarp.
Before starting our tours, we had the opportunity (?) to see our newly purchased sheep be slaughtered. I watched, just to say I had seen the process that happens to make a meal in ET. I will say it was a bit messy. Judson, one of the guys in our group, actually helped slaughter the 2nd sheep. The Ethiopian men held the sheep and showed him where to cut. He did it, but it took a bit longer than when the ET men did it – ha!!
I met three amazing boys at Korah. Benyam, Abanezer and another whose name I can’t quite figure out. They are all three teenagers and already have sponsors. They are 15 and 16 years old, but are only in the 7th and 8th grades because they are orphans and didn’t have anyone to pay for their schooling. Thanks to Sammy and Project 61, they leave for boarding school in a month to finish their education. These boys are so sweet (they wouldn’t even let me carry my water bottle, and when we were walking through town they were making sure I stayed on the dry parts – which were rare) and so smart. Benyam spoke fantastic English and will be an excellent student. If it wasn’t for Project 61 and Sammy, he would be forced to dig through trash for a living and would probably end up having kids who would have the same life. Now he has a future to look forward to. At boarding school, he will live, eat and attend school in a great Christian environment and will have amazing opportunities.
The tour of the dump itself was indescribable. The dump is miles wide and is literally a mountain of trash. There is grass and other plant life growing, but it is growing out of the generations of trash upon trash. 10,000 people live in the dump and 40,000 live in Korah – the village outside the dump. There were sad looking dogs, pigs and people living there. The women would collect plastic, metal and other recyclable materials to sell so they can buy food. Many just eat from the dump trucks. They know exactly where each truck comes from. They know which trucks are from the Embassy, which are from the airlines and so on. So, they know which ones will have good food. It is, again, completely indescribable how these people live every day. And again, the children and teenagers I met there were so friendly and would give you a smile and a wave if you only acknowledged that they existed and treated them like a human instead of more trash. Unbelievable.
After our tour we walked a few miles to the place where the kids play soccer. We walked through the village of the poorest of the poor, along a rocky, muddy and slippery path until we reached a valley. As we stepped out of the village the most beautiful valley appeared below us. There were huge trees that created a canopy above a well-worn dirt field where the kids could play football (soccer). It was a bit difficult to maneuver your soccer ball between the trees, but it was a great place. To the north of the soccer field was a river. Since it is the rainy season, the river was very full and running very fast. Unfortunately, 3 of our newly donated soccer balls ended up falling down the cliff into the river and disappearing. Hopefully some child downriver will find a present waiting for them in the water!!
Finally, we had to say our goodbyes. I will be praying for my 3 friends as they go to boarding school. Even if I do get to come back in February, they will be in boarding school, so not sure if or when I will get to see them again.
We came back to the Guest House (and removed our very muddy and very stinky shoes) and relaxed for a bit before dinner. Actually, the guest house offers one free massage per visit, so I had scheduled mine for 6pm. I will admit, after spending the day at the dump, I felt more than a little guilty being pampered when I knew that many of my new friends were curling up to sleep on a pile of trash or in a small tin house. I don’t think my perspective will ever be the same.
One of my favorite moments of the day was when we were handing out the food to the kids. I sat with my boys as they ate (we had eaten rice in the bus). Benyam turned to me and said “I’m sorry – you have no food – you eat” and he offered to share his food with me. I ate one bite of injera with Shiro, but told him I had already eaten and that he needed to eat his food himself. Can you imagine? Someone with nothing (and who knows how long it had been since he had eaten a full meal) offering his food to me. Amazing. We did find out later that they had prepared a large platter of Ethiopian food for us as well. I will admit, I really enjoyed eating Ethiopian food in a small concrete room, sitting on small stools, eating food with my hands that our team had purchased for these kids. Again, indescribable.
As we were eating another teenage boy told me that he thought “Forenge” people were blessed by God and he wished his skin was the color of mine. It about broke my heart. I told him that in America, people have a lot of money, cars, and things, but many times they are not happy. I told him that I love the Ethiopian people, because even though they may not have big houses, or lots of money, they are so happy because they have Jesus living in them and that is all they need.
Cynthia, one of my teammates, said she was walking with one of the boys through the village and was asking him about his life. He said he had no mother or father, but was one of the sponsored children at Project 61. She asked him where his home was and she pointed around to the different areas of the town. He shook his head no, and pointed up. He said my home is there, in Heaven. Wow.

Day 7 – Ethiopian Adventures and the Fistula Hospital

We woke up way too early today, had breakfast and split into two groups. Most of the group went to the bank and shopping at the “post office” (a market for tourists). Kari, Veet, Joe and Carrie , Dee Dee and I went to search for (my BFF Kari’s Daughter) Zoie’s birth mom. It was quite an exciting adventure! We first stopped at the police station where they thought she was dropped off. We found that it was not the right one. Next we went to a clinic where Zoie’s mom had taken her for her vaccinations. We spent several hours trying to research to see if maybe Zoie was born there. We did find her name on the vaccination records, but not on the birth records. The doctors and midwives were so friendly and helpful. After that dead end, we went to the area where the vaccination report listed their address (they don’t have actual addresses in most of Ethiopia, just districts). We found her old neighborhood, and drove around for a while. Eventually we went to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This is where women in trouble go to find help. We got out of the van to take pictures and were suddenly surrounded by people wondering what the “Ferenge” (white people) were doing in their neighborhood. There were several older boys (probably 20-25 years old) who came over to talk to me. I tried to explain what we were doing, and then showed them the photo album of our family. As we were leaving they asked to have their photo taken. I will post that later. Unfortunately, the church, was a dead end for the search, but Kari loved seeing the neighborhood where Zoie’s birth mom lived. We are still praying that we will find her before we leave. And if not now, maybe when Kari (and I??) return in Feb.
We stopped at a bank to change money, then went to visit the Fistula Hospital. We were able to give each of these ladies a bag with several gifts (candy, a bead cross necklace, fingernail polish and other goodies). They were so excited. When we walked back by at the end, we could see the ladies clutching their precious bags to their chests. If you have not seen the movie “A Walk to Beautiful” you need to watch it. It explains this place better than I could. These women have been rejected by their husbands, their friends and their families after miscarrying babies and developing a fistula which makes them smell bad. These women are treated like yesterday’s garbage. The fact that the people at this hospital can not only heal them physically but make them feel whole again is amazing!!
After fistula hospital, we went to Kaldi’s for coffee. I had a Pepsi instead (I wanted a Carmel Macchiato, but they were out of carmel). It started raining just as we left. We went back to the Guest House for the night, had our showers and crashed.

Day 6 – Goodbye Uganda, Hello Ethiopia

We started our day early after a late night packing our things. We had a light breakfast at 7:30am and finished packing and putting everything in the back of the truck.
At about 9:30 we started teaching Sunday School. We split into groups and Veet, Kari Hamilton and I taught the Jr High aged kids. We started with the Name Game, and the kids loved it. We started our lesson on the Fruits of the Spirit and handed out Jolly Rancher candies for them to eat while we taught. We found out they already knew about the Fruits of the Spirit and had the entire verse with the reference memorized!! Oh well!
At 10:30 we ate a quick brunch then said our goodbyes to our new friends. We were on the road by 11:00 for the 3 hour ride to Entebbe Airport.
By the time we reached Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it was late and we didn’t get to bed until after midnight.
The Guest House where we are staying is so nice!! We are still staying bunk style with three to a room and one bathroom for every 9 people, but at least we have consistent hot water and don’t have to worry about enormous beetles running through your shower!!
So happy to be in Ethiopia! But, really would love a morning to sleep in!!!

Day 5, Our Last Day in Beautiful Uganda

I have a confession to make. When I found out about this trip, I was SO excited to go back to Ethiopia. I had no idea what Uganda would be like, but thought I could make the best of it while I waited for week 2 to Ethiopia. I tell you, I have fallen in love with this country and it’s children. We visited 3 orphanages, 1 baby cottage and a feeding program. All three of the orphanages planned a concert for our welcome. Tonight at Canaan’s Children’s Home, which has been our home for five days, we received another amazing gift. The children performed for over an hour, singing “You are welcome here”, “God bless our visitors” and telling us over and over again how much they loved us. Pastor Isaac told us that our group was different than any other group that has been here. He even got pretty emotional talking about our leaving. I really hope to come back here someday.
This experience in Jinja has really been the adventure I was hoping for. Today we made the 10 minute walk from Canaan’s Children’s home to the place where Katie Davis does her Amazima ministry. We were walking through some of the poorest parts of Uganda. Walking!!! On one side of the street you would see children in rags yelling “Hello Muzungu!!” On the other side of the street would be more children in rags…if they weren’t yelling at us, they were running to us with open arms! They would grab whatever hand was available and walk with us for about a mile before turning around, saying “Bye, bye Muzungu” and going home. There were chickens and their chicks just walking along the road, an occasional cow, ladies washing clothes in old tin tubs – bent in half at the waist, peanuts drying in the sun, old men and women with no teeth, staring as we walked by. Oh, and by the way, this is no nice paved road. There are parts of this orange dirt road that are so washed out there is only 3-4 feet of usable road available for the Boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis which are Everywhere!! Several of our team rented a boda-boda for the trip to Katie’s…but I was too scared!!). I don’t have the words to describe the sights and smells I saw the 4 times I went up and down that road today. Poverty as real as it gets. And you can’t believe how many children there were!! We read yesterday that 47% of Ugandans want to use birth control but can’t afford it. Wow.
So, I finally met Katie Davis. If you have not read her blog, you Must!! Just Google Kisses From Katie. You will be amazed at her story. We had probably 240 kids at the feeding ministry today. We met and interviewed Pastor Patrick and Katie. I may post these later, but I know they will be on my friend Kari’s blog – My Crazy Adoption. Katie was what I was expecting…just a great girl who is being the hands and feet of Jesus. What I wasn’t expecting was the blessing of meeting her staff! Pastor Patrick and his brother just broke my heart with their love for these poverty stricken children. They are amazing men.
We hugged and held hands and played with the kids for the morning. At about 12:00 they started their Bible Study. They have a great leader, who reminded me of every other great Children’s Pastor I have known. He told the story of Gideon with the kids’ interaction and play acting. It was great!
At 1, the kids got in a very orderly line by age, and each got one hardboiled egg to eat while they waited for lunch. Again, they got into their orderly lines and each got a plate with chicken, beans and rice. When they left that afternoon, they each received a bag with rice, beans, (something else) and soap for their families. This happens every Saturday. They still need sponsors – as do most of the kids in each of the programs I have visited this trip. If God is asking you to do something about any of these stories – please let me know. I can help you sponsor a child and I guarantee all the money will go to the children. I have met and fallen in love with these leaders and have full confidence in their integrity. Many of them have given up comfortable lives of their own to care for these fatherless children.
This evening we went to King Fisher Resort (the same place we went to visit the Nile) for dinner. We invited Pastor Isaac, his wife Rebecca, Pastor Patrick, the 4 staff ladies who cleaned our rooms and did our laundry, and our Muslim Bus Driver- Abus (yes, he drove the bus and his name was A-bus – ha!!!). I don’t think Rebecca and Isaac had been out for dinner for 2 years!! Rebecca is always cooking for the children at Canaan’s!! You should have seen the kids’ faces when we pulled out of the compound with their “Mama and Father”! They seemed Very concerned!!! Dinner was great, but not as good as Rebecca’s cooking!
When we were driving from the restaurant back home at dusk, I just tried to take everything in. My last night in Uganda. What an amazing country and amazing people. I tried to memorize the smells, the sights, and the touch of the rainy season air. Again, I really hope I can come back to Canaan’s again someday.
We came back to the compound, dropped off our things, then met in the outdoor chapel where the kids, once again, had prepared our farewell concert. What an incredible time. Some of the children were already crying about our departure. We told them we may be leaving, but they will always be in our hearts.
We head out in the morning for Ethiopia. I am so excited to see my kids’ home country again, but am sad to leave all my new friends and this country that has changed my heart forever.

Day 4 – Canaan’s and Amani Baby Cottage

First of all, did you know that Uganda has bats? There were LOTS and lots of bats, big bats, and little bats. They are not just nocturnal, we have seen them out in huge groups (flocks? Herds? Gaggles? What do you call a group of bats?) even in the middle of the day. I can hear them squeaking outside my window right now!!
OK, so day four. We had breakfast at 9, then headed to the bank to exchange more money if needed. There is a very large bridge and dam in Jinja that not long ago, a group of terrorists tried to bomb. They took pics of the bridge then sent the pics to their leaders to plan the attack. The plan was thwarted, but from that point on no photos were allowed on the bridge. There are armed guards on each side plus video cameras that can see inside the vehicles that drive by. We were told by Pastor Isaac to put all cameras away about a block before the bridge. One of our team members had his camera on the seat between him and another person. Our bus was stopped by that armed guard and we were accused of taking pictures!! Pretty scary. But, our hero Pastor Isaac insisted “No!!!” several times, and they eventually let us go. Definitely an exciting event!!
Next, we went to the market and an internet café. It was 2000 shillings per hour to use the internet. That is less than $1.00 for an hour of internet!! There were 28 of us there, plus several other “Muzungus” and only 8 computers so I only got on for 10 minutes to update my status and send Shane a note. The rest of the time I spent sitting at a table with Pastor Isaac talking about my family and our dreams for the future and hearing this very wise man speak.
His testimony is more than incredible. In the 1990s, during Sadaam Hussein’s reign, he was shot by the Muslims along with 25 other Christian pastors and assumed dead. He was shot in his arm instead of his heart and thrown into a pile of other bodies in the forest. His miraculous story of survival during Christian persecution is just amazing. What a hero. I hope to bring home a brochure with his story to share with you.
After the internet café, we went for too short a time to Amani Baby Cottage. This is a home for children from birth to 5 years old. The facility was spotless!! We arrived while the kids were eating lunch and they were SOOO cute! We started in the toddler room and every time someone would pull out a camera they would say “cheeeeeeeeeese!” You could tell these kids were loved by their nannies and felt safe and secure. There were an adorable set of 5 month old twin girls, Mary and Martha, whose mother died of malaria 5 days after they were born. They were so beautiful!! I also learned that international adoption in Uganda is becoming more and more of a possibility. Laws are changing and these babies may soon have a chance to go from loving orphanages to loving homes!! By the way, I have a picture of the hundreds of baby things on the line outside. If I ever complain about laundry again, just show me that picture!! Unbelievable.
On a side note, it is really amazing the differences in each of the orphan homes we have visited. You can tell the difference between those who live in the loving orphanages, and the kids who are just from the communities attending school there. There is love and respect given by the kids who have seen love and respect modeled to them. Even between the loving orphanages there is truly a different spirit in each! All good, but so very different.
After heading back to Canaan’s for lunch (did I mention we got to live at this orphanage for 5 days!!) we split into several groups. Some went back to the Baby Cottage, some stayed to rest, others went with the big boys to play soccer with one of their new soccer balls and the rest of us went to town again and back to the internet café. I was smart enough to bring my laptop this time and was able to spend 45 minutes updating my blog. We saw Katie from Amazima at the internet café and it felt like I was seeing a celebrity!! We did not get to go to Amazima tonight, but we will be helping with her feeding ministry tomorrow.
We came back to the orphanage for a while in the afternoon and had a ball making balloon hats for the kids, blowing bubbles and just hugging on whatever child happened to be closest to us. At one point we sprayed them all with silly string. I don’t think they got it = ha!! Kari asked me to go with her to make a couple of videos for her blog and we walked to a few different locations to get the shots. As we finished it was time for the younger kids to head to bed (ages 4-10 or so). We carried and walked the kids to their dorm and they began their evening “prayers”. I asked if I could videotape this and they agreed. Instead of the circle of prayer with heads bowed, they started singing….and singing and singing and singing!! I have the video, and you must watch it! What a great way to end your day!!
We ate dinner then split up into groups. We will be running Sunday School on Sunday and we each had a team for a certain age group. I am with the jr high age groups and we plan to talk about the fruits of the spirit (the others had the idea too, I wasn’t just copying the Colombia team!!!) We talked for a bit, but will come up with the rest of the plan tomorrow evening.
It is almost midnight and I need to get some sleep. I have gone to sleep with the sounds of the Muslim mosque (which sounds more like a dance club) in the distance and the occasional squeaking of bats. And awake each morning to the sound of children chanting their lessons right outside my window. “Good morning, teacher how are you…good morning teacher how are you?...” also the ABC’s and sometimes things I just can’t make out. An incredible alarm clock to hear happy children outside your window! Good night everyone!! Love to you all!!!