I read once that hurry is the enemy of peace. If that's true, then Africa should be an incredibly peaceful place, because NO ONE IN AFRICA IS IN A HURRY... EVER! (and everyone who has ever visited Africa said, "Amen!") In fact, it's quite the opposite of hurry. There seems to be an inordinate amount of time to do whatever needs to get done, whenever it happens. There is such a thing as "Africa time," which means that if I say I will meet with you in the "afternoon," I might mean 12:30... or 3:30...or even 5:30, and when it happens, we'll both be happy to see each other and no one will comment about the time. It also means that if I say I'll stop by at 1 and don't come until 4, everyone will be ok with that too. There are times when this impresses me. For example, when we visited Pastor Zach's church, the 10:00 service didn't start until 10:30 because the first service "wasn't done worshipping." I can be all over that, and was as happy as everyone else to stand outside and wait. Of course, I wasn't teaching Sunday School, or dragging kids along, or planning to be somewhere after church, like I am in the States.
My African friends have convinced me to stop wearing a watch. They say (about your watch), "Do you own that, or does it own you?" They also say, "Americans have watches. Africans have TIME." It's true. I think when your life is more about relationships, you're more willing to take/make the time.
There was a day, the week before I left for Africa, in which my entire day was scheduled almost to the minute. It was the last week of school, and there were end of year assemblies and parties and a couple of errands to run in between, and details to work out, and on and on and on. If you called me on that day, I likely did not answer my phone, because I did not have a spare second to have a conversation. In sharp contrast to that, I found myself one day last week sitting for almost 3 hours visiting with Pastor Steven, our driver for the week. We had left the orphanage about 2 in order to get some things done at the hotel administratively before we left. Steven has mentioned that the hotel's pork ribs were his favorite (?!), so I invited him in to have some. It should be noted that any order placed at the hotel restaurant involves a minimum of 45 min to prepare, so every meal is long at best. On this day, it was an hour and a half before Steven's ribs came. By then, we were deep into a discussion about mentoring marriages within the church. I had been riding with Steven for 10 days at this point, but in the midst of our travels, it never came up that he and I both have ministries to marriages. Marriages are so different, and yet so much the same in Africa that it was fascinating, enlightening, and challenging to have this discussion. More importantly, perhaps, it cemented my relationship with a pastor who I believe in and who is doing big things in his community.
So... I've stopped wearing a watch, but I'm pretty sure I haven't started making TIME. I'm sure of this because since I got back home, I've been busy again. (It helps that in Africa I don't cook or clean or do laundry!) I want to place more value on people and the time I spend sitting with them and listening... for hours, even, because I value relationships.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Last night, I was saying to God, "I love this work have called us to, and have enjoyed this trip tremendously, because it has been all about relationship. Sometimes, though, I wish we had a project we could point to in order to say, "I did THIS while I was in Uganda."
He showed me, throughout the day today, that we're called to be here for the little projects -- Like yesterday's laundry with Damili. Today, when I arrived at Agnes', I had a wonderful surprise! Faith, one of the older girls, was there! Faith was originally from a Muslim family. Her name was Medina. She came to Agnes' when she was small, and was renamed Faith. A few months ago, Faith's older sister, who is grown and has a husband and children, came to get her (presumably to be a help to her.). We missed her terribly, Agnes was very sad to let her go, and we have prayed for her. Wednesday night, Faith returned to the orphanage!!!! Unfortunately, her sister left one day and never came back, and the grandmother who had taken Faith to Ms Agnes years ago helped her return. She was so excited to be there, and so excited to see us, but her excitement couldn't have matched mine and Agnes'! She was anxious to return to school with her friends from the orphanage, so Agnes called yesterday and found out that she only has to pay a fine for not coming at the start of the term, and she can go! We have paid her fine, and she can go back tomorrow! Praise God!
Robert was playing with the children during their school break, and noticed that Emma had a bad sore on his leg. Robert was able to clean it and care for it, and we were able to help Agnes with medical costs for arranging for him to see a dr if it doesn't begin healing soon.
Then we went with Agnes out to the "land." This is not the garden we planted last year, but 2 acres she has that is not connected to the orphanage, on which she grows maize and all sorts of other things. I go every year and admire it and take pictures. Today, however, she had other plans and needed our help! She wanted to take the children a special treat with some of the goods that were ripe. And so our jungle adventure began! (I'm not exaggerating!!!). There is one path around the perimeter, then you just veer off into jungle when Agnes sees something ripe!
What the pictures do not show are the huge ants, spiky caterpillars, rat holes, millipedes, and other creepy crawlies we were stepping over, on, and around! :-). We made it, though, and when we pulled up at Agnes' later with bananas, kasaba, corn, and sugar cane, the children all came running out to help us unload the car!
Agnes, Edward, and I met at the hotel tonight to go over a lot of business, and Agnes told me the children had huge smiles at the sweet roasted corn they got to eat with dinner! :-)
The rest of the maize will be ready in July, and she and the children spend an entire day out there harvesting it, and we hire a huge truck to bring it all home! She kept saying she wished we could be there, but I'm pretty sure we only provide comic relief!
There are sometimes in our lives when we don't need huge projects done for us, we just need someone to come alongside us and help with whatever is going on right then. A friend who will come over to talk just when you need it. Dinner delivered to your door when you can't get all the way around. A neighbor who drops pedialyte on your doorstep because your children are sick and your husband is out of town. A relative who helps fold your mountains of laundry while you chat together. A friend who takes your small children for the afternoon so that you can breathe, or comes to sit with your newborn so you can shower. These are the times when you feel like God sees you and hears you, because He has sent you a little "help." That's what our yearly visits have become here. We are not tourists, and yet we're also not here with a big project in mind. We're just here to help. To say, "God knows you and sees you, and has sent some help."
Before we arrived, our medical team was working in a clinic one day when a young boy was hit by a boda boda (motorcycle) on the street just outside the makeshift clinic. The clinic had no medical doctors that day, but had an ENT. He immediately ran to get the boy, whose head was badly injured and beginning to swell. Through a series of completely divine circumstances, the boy reached the hospital and was healed. It's not unreasonable to say that this would not have been the outcome had our clinic not been there at that time. God purposed that visit, and those people, for that moment in this child's life.
Our help is not always that dramatic, but while we're here, we must remain completely open and available, ready to give whatever help is needed --- laundry or children or gardening. When I am here or back at home, I want to keep my eyes and ears this open all the time, ready to be the helping hands and feet God wants to send those around me. (He knows, though, that I'm much better at holding babies than I am at picking corn!).
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Now multiply that by 19, and throw in a few days with no running water. Oh, and did I mention that it's rained for three days straight, so the laundry that you HAVE managed to wash can't dry?!
That's what's going on at Sangalo Babies right now. I'm here to tell you that several of us did laundry all day today, and it's STILL not done!!!!
When we arrived, the sky was clear, the laundry lady was washing like crazy, and the clothes were being hung to dry. She washed, and we hung... Eight (tall!) baskets worth. Blankets, bibs, diapers, clothes, burp rags, socks... All of it had to go somewhere. There was not an available bush or tree branch when we finished.
Then, about 20 min after we hung the last basket full, the sky looked like this...
And so, while half of the people wrangled babies inside, the rest of us collected ALL of the laundry we had just hung, put it back in the baskets, and took it inside. It bears mentioning that it was VERY helpful to be outside with the children because there were literally NO clean and dry diapers. Damili used the emergency disposable ones yesterday, and today, there were none. All of the children were naked from the waist down. Outside, this is ok. Inside... Trickier than you can imagine!
Robert and Bob
The storm had finally passed, so we set to work rehanging the eight baskets of laundry to dry, all the while praying that they would dry before it rains again!
I am going to hang this picture in my laundry room, lest I ever again complain that I have too much laundry!
Here's the real kicker...
See the box Robert is sitting beside? It's a washing machine. Next to it... A dryer. You see, a donor in the States purchased these for Damili, but... This donor is coming to Uganda at the end of the month and has asked her to wait to open and use them until they are here. I'm not judging (ok, yes I am, but I am also repenting of every time I may have ever put someone in this position.) I'm just saying that there is a real life going on in the mission fields.. Beyond our blog pictures and idealistic notions are real people, who are really living in conditions that really don't seem like they can wait another day. If there's anything we can do to make their lives easier, we want to do it. Now. Not sometime in the future when it's convenient for us. Today, it was about hanging laundry... Twice.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Bob -- 7-8 months -- eats and falls into that "happy tummy sleep!"
Faith -- 19 months, and sooooo loving that you have to guard the head of the baby you're holding when she's around! (She also loves to bite Kaitlynn Dugan!) ;-)
Isaac -- 2 months -- softest hair you can imagine!
Taylor -- 5 months-- so happy to be held by Jesse, our team member.
Namuso -- 8 months
Grace-- just turned 2. She's the "big sister" to all the children. She follows them around saying "ah, ah William" or "no Oscar!" ;-)
Jennifer -- 16 months
Jennifer's twin, Julie -- they love each other, and fight with each other!
William -- 1year-- when it was time to move to "the baby house" for nap, crawled the other way... And started playing outside!
Sarah -- 14 months ... Loves to play peek-a-boo!
Sarah's twin, Saman
In the black in the bottom right corner is Oscar -- 19 months and NEVER still long enough for me to snap a picture! :-)
Michael -- 6 months -- shares that paci with about five other friends :-)
Samuel -- about 12months... Likes to roll the soccer ball back and forth!
Baby Brandon -- 5 weeks
In the stripes on the right, Andrew-- 9 months, and bent over on the floor, baby Nicole, 6 months.
The precious woman in the middle is Damili, the founder of Sangalo Babies.
Damili takes in abandoned babies and cares for them. At today's count, there were 19 of them, ages 5 weeks to 2 years. We were blessed to spend the day being extra hands. And anyone who's had even 2 preschoolers at a time in their house knows how helpful extra hands can be!!! Imagine cloth diapers and no dryer... Only a clothesline...On a rainy day! Today Damili pulled out some disposable diapers and said, "we have no choice today". All morning we held and fed and played with babies! At snack time, they got some bananas ... 17 of them (!) and fed the big kids bananas and the babies ate mashed bananas. Usually, after lunch, they all take a bath before nap. Today, though, the water was out from the storm last night. (No baby wipes!!) I wish I could show you a picture of the 16 cribs (think daycare nursery) where they took their naps, but my arms were full of babies!
Damili has 7 women who help her, each one gets one day off a week. One lady works in the kitchen (it's a lot of bottles, rice cereal, snacks, and meals... And dishes!!), one lady does laundry (think cloth diapers, sheets, clothes, bibs...), one works the night shift, and the others hold and play with babies! They are wonderful... They sing to the babies, say nursery rhymes, and call the children lovingly by name! The children all respond to their own names, and call each other by name. It's a HUGE undertaking, and Damili has 2 children of her own, 2 adopted children (all in school), and one on the way. This is not a day care that she runs, it is an orphanage, and it's 24/7. We're going back again tomorrow. Please join us in praying for these precious babies and the amazing women who care for them!!!
Damili said it would be easier of we left during naptime (I'm a mom, I TOTALLY get it!!), so we went to the Source Cafe in downtown Jinja. It's run by Christian missionaries, and is the local Starbucks. Robert got cake with icing and sprinkles, and kaitlynn and I shared brownies and tortilla chips and guacamole!!!! Good times, and pretty amazing food.