It's been a while since I've been back home. Before I shared about our trip I wanted to fully process all that we saw and did. But I'm learning that it is not a quick or simple unfolding and recollection but one that I will be slowly unwrapping inside my heart and head for years to come.
My immediate goals are to chronicle the highlights before they escape my aging mind. I also want to share the beauty and joy of the Ugandan people as well as the plight of the orphans we met. I want to encourage others to care for the "orphans in their distress"
I was able to fly from Home with my new friend, L. We had a chance to get to know eachother more on the first leg of our trip. I had met her at the amazing hair salon she co-owns and learned through a friend that she was also adopting. Very rare around these parts to find someone else in the adoption process so I became her "salon stalker". One day with foils on my head I asked her, on a whim (actually I believe it was the Holy Spirit) if she wanted to come to Uganda. It suddenly didn't matter if she thought I was nuts, I mean we hardly knew eachother. She smiled and we talked briefly but that was it. Fast forward to a day after the trip deadline of our trip, back in the salon, she wants to go! She calls and is told it is too late but the next day it's a "go" and she's getting malaria shots with Kate and I. On the flight over I learned she had not only never left the U.S. but does not even prefer to go to Wal-Mart solo. What an inspiring leap of faith this brave lady took! She continued to amaze me with her compassion and fortitude.
We met up with our other local compadre, the incredible Kate, and set off for our team meet up in Amsterdam. Kate is a dear friend who is passionate about orphan care and has the gift of being able to getting to know anyones' life story, this woman can and does connect with people through asking and listening like nobodies business.
We met up with our team of 18 in Amsterdam. It was an eclectic group from all over the U.S.
I can honestly say that although we started out as strangers to each other we formed a precious bond that comes from sharing tight living quarters, unique meals, temporary lack of accustomed comforts such as privacy, running water, and power. It was sheer joy to be surrounded by a group of people who really "get it" when it comes to orphan care. It was so clear how God had knitted together this very special group of individuals, young and old-er. I longed for my husband to meet the godly, intelligent women connected to Desiring God ministries. I wanted him to see the amazing college "kids" and how on fire they are for serving the Lord. I wanted him to meet the 4 cool members of a church who currently support the orphanage where we spent a majority of our time. He would've loved meeting the 3 members of the Nightlight staff and would've witnessed their integrity and dedication. He would've undoubtedly been inspired by the adoptive father of 3 and the two women who were visiting the precious children their families had been matched with.
We stayed in Kampala in a comfortable guest house with 4 talented cooks. Each day we climbed aboard a minibus and clamored down dusty roads full of impressive pot-holes. The traffic rivaled NYC rush hour with one important distinction, little-to-no road rage. How polite and organized their traffic appeared compared to ours. The orphange where we spent a mjority of our time was about an hours drive. It was one of the cleanest and well kept orphanages I've ever seen. There are 4 nannies that care for the 10 children. I am unable to share pictures of the adorable children we met there out of respect to the privacy of the children and their adoptive families. Any pictures that you see of children are of the children who flocked outside of the orphanage gates or "un-adoptable" orphans. Let me just say that they were each precious, beautiful angels.
My heart was simultaneously broken and filled in meeting them. Broken for their circumstances but filled with joy that they will all hopefully be matched with families who will love and cherish them. They were all clearly "Children of the Heavenly Father". When we first arrived I saw a precious little girl peering around the laundry hanging from the clotheslines. I held out my arms and smiled and she gently crept towards me. I reached down to hold her hand but she signaled she wanted to be held. My heart will never be the same, transformed by her shy, sweetness, and clear need to be held. I held her for the next hour. Praying over her and the other children we were introduced to. Some of the children were slightly hesitant of us at first but quickly warmed up to our lively group of Mzungus" (an affectionate name given to us pale skins, which we later learned means "tightly wound", how true).
We were able to play and pray with these precious children, celebrate their birthdays with a group party, and even participate in the church service baby dedication. Would you believe that these 10 children sweetly, reverently sat, sometimes slept, through a 3 hour church service?
Our group was able to accomplish quite a bit during our brief time. Some of the more crafty in our group
sewed beautiful couch cushions so the staff at the orphanage could have seating off the floor. The men in our group remodeled the garage into an office so that the existing office could be made into another bedroom for the children.
The rest of us joyfully worked on painting murals on the walls of the courtyard surrounding the outdoor play area at the orphanage, quite fun and rewarding since we were able to leave our mark and surround the children with God's promises and hope
We were also blessed to visit the countryside where the orphanage will eventually move to. Our group planted fruit trees and visited the gravesite of a precious little girl from the orphanage who passed away this year. Words cannot express the sorrow and beauty that intermingled within that time on the Ugandan hillside.