Saturday, July 29, 2017

Goodbyes


Good-byes are so hard.  This team and these children have been through so much over these past two weeks -- so much learning, so much growing, some shared tears, so much joy, and so much fun!  We are family, and it's difficult for families to be separated by thousands of miles and an ocean!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make this trip happen, and for your prayers throughout.  Ddembe kids, Ddembe House, and Ddembe Ministries are better for it!  We have backed up and reset a few of our ideas and thoughts, done some relational repairs where needed, recommited ourselves to these precious children and women, and have cast a God-sized vision for the future.  We are excited to have met with the Ddembe Board in Uganda, and together as a ministry board for the first time all in one place.  Please continue to pray for what is next!

God's timing

The timeline.  I just recently wrote about how I hadn't misunderstood God's calling, just his timeline.  Today, God showed me again just how amazing He is.  This is Christine.  We have known her since Agnes', and have been in touch with her through Moses since Agnes' orphanage closed.  Christine was in secondary school, and has been working and living with various aunts and uncles for the past few years.  This year, she was close enough to come visit while we were at Ddembe, and on the last night we were there, we rejoiced in getting to see her again!!!!
Christine in 2008









































Christine wants to not have to depend on whatever extended family member can house her at any time, and she wants to work as a nursery school teacher.  All she needs is a certificate.  She brought me her paperwork, and Moses helped me understand it.  I gave her a little bit of money Monday night for application fees, etc, and she spent the night at Ddembe, and got up on Tuesday morning and went to the YMCA, where they offer training.  Before we finished loading the van for the airport Tuesday morning, she was back with all the information required to begin school at the end of August.  Because of some extra financial gifts that came after we left, we were able to commit to paying for her schooling, and she is all set!  In two years, she will be a certified nursery school teacher, and will be able to get a good job and support herself!  Praise God!

While looking over her forms, and the ones Joshua brought to me on Saturday, God made one date stand out to me on each form -- their birthdays.  Both were born in 1995.  That was the year that I graduated from A&M and was working so hard to find a way to help educate children in Africa.  Not an accident that I have borne these children's burden literally from their birth -- even before I knew them!
Joshua in 2008


I know to some that might seem like a coincidence, or like I am reaching a bit, but I know because of the way those numbers stood out to me, and resonated in my spirit, that God was trying to show me something.  He was showing me that He has been at work all this time -- in my life and theirs.  He didn't have to show me.  I would have still trusted His timeline.  It's these moments, though, that overwhlem me.  In Africa, people pray out loud during prayer time, and I am always in awe of what so many voices sound like, all praying different prayers at the same time.  I can't even begin to fathom how God can care about the tiniest details of each of our lives all at the same time.  The fact that He also goes out of His way to show us is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Widows

Ddembe Ministries is about more than just Ddembe House.  Ddembe exists to care for the widows, orphans, and vulnerable children and their families.  In the past few years, we have partnered with a widow group at the church our children attend.  Moses' father, Pastor Henry, is the pastor, and his mother, Ms. Mary, disciples the women.  Ms. Mary, for as long as I have known her, has been helping a group of ladies through a group called Jesus Cares.  These women are all living HIV+, and are all widows.  They come at least once a month to meet together for worship and Bible Study, and Ms. Mary helps fund their anti-viral medications, and gifts them with food as she is able.  This group has grown to 50 women, which is a blessing for those women, and also an overwhelming number of hurting women.


These women come several days a week to the women's building at the church to learn to sew and make jewelry.  We sell this jewelry in The States and send the money back to them, sharing a portion with Ddembe.  In this way, the women are learning a skill that will support them and their children, they are contributing to the funding of their ministry, and sharing in reaching out to help the orphans and vulnerable children.  It continues to be a huge blessing for all of us!




Our team spent Saturday shopping in town for food for care packages for 50 women.  100 Kilos of rice, beans, posho flour, etc.  (Thank goodness for Robert's ability to lift and carry all of it!!)  We spent about 3 hours packing all of that food into ziplock bags, creating 2 packages that will feed each woman and her family for over a week.  It was humbling (and messy!) work, and the results were like loaves and fishes --- 100 is a LOT of bags of food!


Sunday after church, Ms. Mary had gotten sodas and chapati for the women, and we met with them.  We had worked out something special for this meeting, though, because Molly was going to teach the women how to paint!  The women were overwhelmed and excited, and Molly taught them in small groups of 10-15, and then allowed them to practice painting flowers around Bible verses.  Molly painted these and sold them in order to raise money for her trip to Uganda, so it was absolutely perfect to see her sharing this with the ladies.  As we got to know the ladies in this group, they ranged in age from very old to very young, every woman who shared had lost at least half of their children, and the heartbreak was so heavy.  One woman had just lost the second of her only two children, and she broke down sobbing while sharing.  The only thing to do was to hug her and cry with her and pray for her.  In the midst of this, you look around and wonder how these women are still standing.  They have lost husbands and children, and are living with a disease with no cure.  Many of them have lost children because they passed the disease to their children.  How does one woman live under those burdens?  The answer is Jesus.  These ladies have found a joy that supersedes every tragedy on this earth.  They know of a healer, and place where they will live healed for eternity, and they are hanging onto that.  Their joy is 100% contagious, and their faith is real.


The ladies, many of whom had never held a paintbrush before, spent hours painting.  They laughed with friends, sung to themselves, and lost themselves in a new and relaxing task.  Ms. Mary told me she had never seen the women having so much fun.  They took great pride in their work, and were excited to have the Word of God to hang in their homes.  The best part?  They asked Molly to please return again to Uganda to continue teaching them.  Several of them were good at it, and are hoping it will be a new way they can make an income as they grow in their skill.


This is Aisha, who recently lost her last remaining child.  Please pray for her, and for all of these women.  





When it was time for them to return home, they gratefully received their care packages, with HUGE hugs for everyone on the team, dancing, singing, and hollering praises to the God who truly does care for them.

Church!

Dear God,
video
When I get to Heaven, please, please, please, can I be in the midst of my African friends in order to praise you eternally?  Also, if it's not too much to ask, please give me just a little bit of Joseph's rhythm so that I may participate fully.  
Amen.
PS-- if you need some littles held during that eternal worship service, this is about as close to Heaven on Earth as I get!

Attending church with our Ddembe kids each year is a precious time for us.  The children enjoy having us visit an important part of their world, they (and we!) value the time of worshipping together in body, and we enjoy getting to thank the church family that cares for them on a week-to-week basis.    

This church cares for the orphans in their midst by supporting Moses as he cares for our kids, sharing extra food growing from their gardens, and by sharing their gifts and talents with our children as music teachers, counselors, and friends.  In addition, they do an incredible job of caring for the widows in their midst.  I cannot wait to share that with you in our next post!  

                    

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Art!





Some things are able to cross cultural and language lines and connect people. Music is one of those things. Art is too!  We have had so much fun for the past few days visiting classrooms at Good Shepherd, where our kids attend, so that Molly could teach art lessons!  She brought all of the supplies to teach the kids to weave, and they absolutely loved it!  Watching them relax and work, and then seeing the pride they took in their creations was priceless. There were 50-70 students in each class, and we did lessons for P1-P4, so we got to see our middle aged Ddembe kids in their classes, and the big kids were jealous! 





Yonna with his creation!
The first day went so well that Lillian, Moses' sister who is the headmistresses at Good Shepherd, invited us to visit a nursery school on Friday morning. We spread out the supplies we had brought in the hotel room Thursday night, and made a plan to create butterflies out of paper plates. We arrived in time for morning circle, which is outside, whole-school, and full of fun songs and games!  I could have stayed all day!!   Pictures can't do justice... when I am home, I will have to show you videos!!!  




Every one of those 50 kiddos took their shoes off to go inside for the lesson-- then had to find their own and put them back on when we went back outside!  


I taught the kids about the life cycle of a butterfly, and Molly led the art lesson. (Diamond was an awesome supply lady!). 50 children ages 2-5, and one chicken who wandered into the class with us!  SO MUCH FUN!


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Friday, July 21, 2017

Old friends

Old friends!

Being able to see old friends is a blessing! Being able to see old friends half a world away feels like a miracle!  

On our way to Jinja from the airport, we met Patrick, from the lacrosse team-- he left this week to play in Israel for a month!  So exciting for Uganda lacrosse!!  The first full day I was here, I ran into Pastor Zach!  It was so great to see him again, and to have the chance to catch up!  

Every year, Robert and I look forward to catching up with Joshua. He's got one semester left after this current semester, and will graduate from nursing school in May, and be ready to get a job!!  He is so proud of himself, and we are proud of him, and grateful to get to continue to be in his life!!





Probably one part of the trip that is the most unbelievable to me, still, is the fact that I got to see Ms Agnes!!  We haven't seen each other in 3 years, and I have missed her and prayed for her so often. We have been back in touch in the past year, and I can't thank God enough for allowing that to happen!  Getting to see her was icing on the cake!!  Even better, her granddaughter, Betty, still lives with her, and she sat with Diamond and me and showed us her schoolwork, while we showed her pictures on our phones from when she was a little kiddo!!!  I met Betty when she was 18 months old, and now she's in third grade!  God has been so faithful to restore this relationship and connection. I am overwhelmed just thinking about it!  Agnes is doing really well, and we even got to see some of her children (the ones who told her they would disown her if she passed the orphanage on to us). Relationships restored, and God proving that His plan is always bigger, and that he sees more than we do-- best thing ever!




Speaking of Agnes, we are so blessed to have 9 of the children who used to live at her house living at Ddembe now. We often wonder, though, about the other ones. We wonder how they are, and what they are doing, and if they are in school. Today, we were at Good Shepherd Primary School, the school our Ddembe kids attend, and a child walked into the room, and I knew it was Pamela!  We worked with Pamela at Agnes' school, and I have pictures of her doing art there when she was only about 3-4. Today she was in the P3 class (third grade!). 


When we got to the 4th grade class, we saw two more faces we recognized-- Grace and Rachel-- sisters who were at Ms Agnes' three years ago!  


God knows where all of his people are all the time. We have to trust him as he brings people in and out of our lives. When he chooses to let us know where people who we have lost touch with are, it feels like a gift. 

Over the past nine years, God has done some pretty incredible things in my life through Africa. I am overwhelmed and grateful. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aunties (& uncle!)


Two years ago when I visited Ddembe, our house mom had left and I was able to step in to help Moses. It was a crazy amount of work for Robert and me, and a crazy amount of lessons learned!  

This week, Esther, the house mom, needed to go be with her mother, who is sick. Esther's sister was recently sick, and Esther gave her all of the money from her salary. We were able to give Esther some money to pay the hospital for her mom, and to give Esther the ability to go be with her mom because we were here. 

Let me just say that if Esther had a hidden camera she could watch, she would see that six Americans cannot do the job she does alone!  We have been without power yesterday and part of today, and it has literally taken all of us to make sure kids are ready for school (Katie stayed with Ainsley and Moses to help with mornings), that the youngest kids are picked up from school at 12:30, brought home and fed, and napped and entertained, clothes are washed, water is boiled, dinner is cooked, dishes are washed, kids are bathed, homework is done, prayers are said, and kids are ready for the next day and put to bed. It doesn't sound like that much for six people, but for six people used to vehicles and appliances and electricity, it's a workout!  Monday I went with Moses to the market and got all the produce for the week. The market ground was about 2" deep red mud, so what is usually challenging to navigate was even trickier!  I loved it, though, and we are set!  All this for about $30! (Seriously-- I bought 15 large avocados for $1.25!!)



The first night we made spaghetti, and it was a big hit!   

Last night, we made chicken and rice and veggies (like chicken soup without the broth) because everyone at Ddembe has a cold!  With the exception of the fact that we had to rely on juice we bought at the market to drink with dinner because our fresh squeezed concoction didn't turn out according to plan, it was also a winner... and cooked in the DARK!! 


I'm bragging about this so that you will realize we have not completely let the kids down when I tell you that tonight we attempted homemade chapati with guacamole and chicken and rice (a Ugandan version of a burrito!), and it was a fail!!  Several of us have made chapati before, but we have always had help from a Ugandan. Today we decided that surely between us, we could come up with the right way to do it.  I left to run an errand and got a call from Ainsley saying, "it's not going to work!"  😂

We had something that was closer to grilled thick pie crust than chapati, and LOTS of help from Vicky even getting it to that point, but the kids all ate it!  Quote of the day:  while frying the "chapati", Vicky said, "even when I am old, every time I eat chapati, I will surely remember this day, and I will laugh!"  

Thanks for all your prayers and help getting here so that we could make memories with our kids! 💚