June 27, 2011

Balungi (Ugandan for Beautiful)

I started this journey in an attempt to find beauty myself.  Inner Beauty that is. I had always been drawn to missionary type people and often wondered how my own life would play a part in serving others.  This past month, I went on my first mission trip to Uganda, Africa.  I had traveled to Ethiopia the year before to bring our daughter home, but this time my trip was dedicated to loving the sweet children of Uganda that couldn't be adopted.
You probably recall my post that challenged you all to donate hair goodies for these little princesses.  I was blown away by the amount of donations that you sent it!  It was the most amazing thing to go to my mail box daily and have boxes and boxes of very well packed and well thought out donations!  You all sent in over 4,000 headbands, flowers and bows, thousands and thousands of barrettes and beads, and so much more!  Everywhere we went, we crowned princess after princess!  The girls were so excited that most times, when it came time to pass out the goodies, we got ambushed!  Only a few injuries resulted, so no need to be alarmed!
You can read all about my journey to Uganda, here.  I went on a trip through Visiting Orphans, who organize trips all over the world! I would LOVE to talk to anyone that is considering one!  I truly think everyone should go on at least one in their lifetime!  To learn more about the children and ministries of my trip and the children that you brought beauty to, you can find out more on their websites.

Most of the girls in Uganda do not have hair, so the headbands were a very extra special treat!  The girls that did have hair were so excited to get it all dolled up by this Mzungu, Ugandan for White person.  My team and I loved on too many children to count and we were able to make the already beautiful girls shine thanks to your generous donations!  

Since my trip, I have felt a strong desire to go back annually and to train to lead my own teams of short term missionaries.  I hope that by sharing this experience, that you will be compelled to help again in the future, or even join me one day!  Thanks again for you admirable compassion!

June 25, 2011

Uganda Day 9 Return Ministries

We headed back on the three hour drive to Kampala at about 10:00 a.m..  I got motion sickness for the first time, nothing too bad, but I did get to sit at the front of the bus!  We went straight to Return Ministries.  The children were all sitting in chairs, as if they had been waiting for hours.  They actually had been, due to a communication error of the staff.  But we jumped right back into missionary mode and jumped off that bus with our donations in hand and ready to love and sing!

After I found my donation bag filled with all the hair goodies, I headed out to find a baby to hold!  For most of the trip, I had ben bonding with the older children, which is right where I needed to be.  But today, I needed a little one to snuggle.  Many little ones were already being loved on…and then I found Gloria!  She seemed to be around two years old, the same age as my baby back home.  I took her under the canopy tent and started loving on her…and of course her hair too!  She just laid on my chest, sucking on her fingers.  I so needed that!

The girls were so excited so excited to have hair pretties, especially the beads and barrettes. Pastor Samuel, the director of Return Ministries, has a daughter and his wife Sarah, was so happy that I had barrettes and beads.  She said she had  been looking all over the place for such stuff!  I was so happy to be able to give those items out.  A big thanks to all who donated!

When we got back to the Adonai Guest House, we got to unpack and eat an amazing dinner of lasagna and garlic bread!  Moses and Betty, from Sixty Feet were there.  And Pastor Samuel and his wife Sarah, from Return Ministries were there with their daughter Pearl.  She is only 7 months old and has to weight 30 pounds!  Such a sweet girl!

Uganda Day 8 Leaving Canaan's

I woke up knowing that I would be saying goodbye to the three girls that have made me their American Mama.  I wrote them each a letter and took it to their dorms.  We had about 45 minutes to be together until it was time to take them to school.  We sat down on a cement slab and held each other in silence.  Words can not describe the emotions that I was feeling.  I had only known these girls for a few days and they attached to me to easily.  I can imagine that bonding one on one with a loving adult is not easy in an orphanage.  I am thankful for the opportunity to love these girls, but will miss them deeply. I asked Carolyn what she was thinking and she said, "I will miss you."  I look forward to being able to see their sweet faces in August via Skype when the next team comes to visit.

When it was time, i joined the rest of the team an the school children on the walk to their school  it was a quiet walk up the red dirt path that sat next to the road.  I had my arms around Sharon and Carolyn, while Helen held my right hand tight.  They wore their new pack backs so proudly!  A the younger sisters of one of my girls joined us.  When we arrived at Canaan's school, I huddled around the three girls and prayed. I asked God to fill their hearts with the love I have been giving them and to protect them from harm and illness, the same prayer I pray over my American children.  With tears streaming down my face, I hugged and kissed each one and told them I loved them.  They looked at me with a blank face, no tears, just an empty stare.  I'm sure on more than one occasion, these girls have heard the promises of family members, temporary sponsors, or other visiting missionaries.  But I truly want to be their American Mama and hope they will grow to trust that.

I sent them on their way and left crying.  I needed a moment to myself, so I started on the journey back alone.  On the way back, I found two metal boxes and locks for the girls to store their belongings.  I gave  a staff member some money to find a third box, so all three would have one.  I wish I could have seen their faces when they received them.  

By 10:00 a.m., it was time to board the bus and travel to The Haven for our Sabbath, our day of respite.  We have a little under 24 hours to rest until we head back to Kampala.  

The Haven is a bungalow community on the bank of the Nile River.  It is so beautiful and luxurious for Uganda.  A team member and I walked down to the bank of the Nile and took picots and put our feet in the cold water.  We saw a women doing laundry. It was truly a day of rest. In the evening, I took a boat cruise.  There were so many kids cooling off, scooping up water in their gasoline like containers, or washing clothes on the bank.  There were fisherman fishing.  The steep hills that came to the bank of the water were covered rows of cornfields.  They truly used any piece of land they can!

I slept so well in that cute little bungle for four overlooking the Nile rapids.  We all needed that!

June 23, 2011

Uganda Day 7

I awoke to the preschool children giggling and laughing.  The school children were already off to school.  They go to school sic days a week for eleven hours a day.  I went a close by store and found two back packs.  I was so excited and continued to look for one more.
At breakfast, my team informed me of my wild drunken night. Apparently, they woke me up right after I had fallen asleep with Ambien.  OH MY GOODNESS!  Sorry, no pictures or video were taken…to my knowledge!  I would take the sleep aid because I'm a princess when it comes to sleep! And an unairconditioned room with 7 women in bunks and all sorts of animal noises outside is not an ideal sleep setting for this drama queen.  So I secretly, or so I thought, would take the sleep aid as I was quietly minding my business in my own bed with the mosquito net already drawn.  So what I am told is that I fell asleep while journalling and Mama Kiki, my crazy team leader, came in to tuck us in.  When she saw me, she shown her flight light in my face.  That is when I allegedly told her to "get that light out of my face you heifer!"  I do not recall any of the above events.
After breakfast, we went to the market to shop and eat lunch.  I found some good deals but much of my effort was towards finding my girls dresses and backpacks.  Those sweet girls hardly left my mind.
We then traveled to Amani Baby Cottage.  The director is a 20 year old Mzungu!  Amani has a beautiful compound.  The kids were in cloth diapers and had many things to do on the very large lot of land.
When i went into one of the rooms, a little boy ran right up to me holding out his arms.  I scooped him u and he laid his head on my chest.  I was accustom to this routine by know.  I played Mama to baby Eric for a few hours.  We played in the swing and I chased him around the lawn!  Sweet boy!  I did get to do one hair of head while at  Amani.  Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post photos of Amani Baby Cottage, as some of their children are in the process of being adopted and to respect their future families, we are not allowed to post.
Back at Canaan's , it was market night right outside the ministry compound.  I grabbed a few team members and went looking for some great deals.  I did find a few things too.  I went back with Sharon about ten minutes later and bought her some flat bread.  She was very thankful.  Have I said that I am in love with these girls?!

Uganda Day 6 Canaan's School

After breakfast, we walked over to Canaan's school house.  They had 4-5 primary classes, each having about 100 children.  They sang songs to us and asked us several questions about America.  Like, "do you have chikens in America?"  We sang songs to them, read a scripture and answered questions.  the were asking about Africans in America, so we brought out my family photo album and they were in awe.  The thought it was so funny that a Mzungu, a white person, was married to an African.  I tried my hardest to explain that my husband was American AND Black.  It was difficult for them to comprehend.  I truly think that they believe all American's are White….haha!

The bell had rung for playtime and all the kids had run out into the courtyard.  There were street vendors selling little seet biscuits.  They were charingin one coin.  Some children didn't have any money to buy one.  I later found out that the sponsored children had coins and the children without sponsors did not.  Since I had extra money to give (thanks to all my awesome friends and family!), I bought every kid in the school a snack!  It was so sad to watch the children sit on the side while their peers ate.  Thankfully, that day they didn't have to!

We came back to Canaan's to eat lunch, then packed back up into the bus and drove an hour to Iganda to visit Living Hope.  They are a church, orphanage and Christian Ministry in a predominately Islam village.  Joanna is the director and a former orphan herself.  The ministry has about 70 children.  We also sang and did a bible story.  The children and village kids and women really enjoyed the bows, beads and barrettes.

Since Living Hope is a new ministry, they have very little funding, so our team took up a love offering.  I believe we raised well over $500.oo, which is HUGE in Uganda.
We arrived back at Canaan's and Ginger let me use her iPad to video chat with my family.  That was the best thing ever!  My girls, the Aunties and many others gathered around me in amazement.  It was so nice to see my family, let them see the kids I was loving on and let the sweet Ugandan kids see my family!  They giggled as my kids made faces and reached for me through the screen.  What an awesome experience!

My girls, Helen and Caroline remained by my side.  Helen mentioned to me that she had no shoes and no bag or snack for school.  I love these girls and just want to shower them with love.  A team member had brought pillowcase dresses her church had made, so I pulled the girls into our team dorm and gave them their new dressed and flip flops.  They were so proud and very very appreciative! 

After it started getting dark, we headed back to the open air chapel.  We listened to children singing, playing and just being silly.  Sharon, a 13 year old girl, started to get closer to us.  I could tell that she needed love too, but didn't want to make it awkward for her, so I just talked to her.  After awhile, I could feel her head fall onto my shoulder and her hands slip into mine.  What a feeling! By 10 p.m., it was time for me to walk them to their dorms for bed.  I tucked them in and kissed each cheek and finished it with a big mama hug!  They loved it, you could see the happiness all over their faces!

June 20, 2011

Uganda Day 5 Amazima

Our team traveled to Amazima Ministry today to help with the feeding program.  We arrived and all the children were sitting in a recently built open air chapel.  These children are from the Karimojong tribe, who are the poorest of the poor.  They are bussed in once a week to the Amazima compound to play and eat.

I met some tween boys that fell in love with my sunglasses and camera.  Roy, my new Ugandan friend, was such a charmer!  He spoke very good English and was very curious about Americans.  He kept telling me, "Mzungu (white person), give me a sweet!" With hundreds of Karimonjong children around, I knew better than to open up my sweet loaded, goody packed back pack in front of everyone.  I would have been mobbed!  So of course I snuck him a sweet on the down low…lol!  Roy…that boy, so cute!

A little girl, about 12-18 months old, came crying holding her arms out to me.  I scooped her up and she laid her bald head on my chest and there she remained for the next 3-4 hours.  She had a running nose, and probably a weeks worth of crusted over snot and dirt in each nostril. She had on a camouflage button up shirt and a tattered pink skirt.  She was covered in the infamous Ugandan red dirt, like most of the children, and myself at the moment.  And like all the infants and toddlers there, she had on no panties or diaper.

I carried this sweet girl around the Amazima compound as I searched for little girls with hair.  Little did they know that my Jansport backpack was FULL of barrettes, beads, combs and all other goodies!  I spotted a few of the younger girls with hair, they were babies or toddlers.  Most had yarn braids or extensions.  Their older sisters were caring for them.  I tried my hardest to single them out quietly and hand over the loot.  Not possible. As soon as this Mzungu took the backpack off my back, those kids came running!  They knew that meant there was something coming out!  I tried to explain that the girls would be getting headbands soon, but since I don't know Karimajong they continued to beg.  Girls with hair begged for the beads.  It broke my heart.  One girl told me, in broken English, that next time I come she will have hair and I can give her beads!

These girls had no idea what barrettes were. It was so funny watching them try to figure them out!  But after they did, they LOVED them!

And they LOVED the headbands of course!!!

The children were very aggressive when we were passing our bows and other gifts.  I understand their aggression, as many of these children have to fight for their lives.  I watched as children climbed a mango tree to shake the green unripened mangos loose to fall to the ground.  The other children scattered and danced around the base of the tree hoping to catch one of those mangos.  They hoarded their findings in their clothes or in bags.  The child I carried around Amazima had no way of getting a mango, as there didn't appear to be an older sibling to look out for her.  So I traded a sweet, or candy, for a mango for my child of the day.  She held on to that mango for two hours, not letting it out of her hand or sight.  Everything it fell out of her grip she screamed for me to pick it up before another child did.  It saddened me to see these children of God scavenging for unripened fruit to eat.

When feeding time came around, many of my team members served the children out of these huge pots o ver fires.  They were served rice and beans and little pieces of chicken.  I'm sure there were only 4 chickens to feed over 200 children.  I got in the food line with my little one on my hip and they served her a very large  bowl full to the brim.  We walked over to one of the shaded play areas and i sat down to help feed this little one, or so I thought.  She got down!  I couldn't believe how this little girl could scoop up that rice and beans, so pipping hot, and pile it into her mouth!  In the place about the size of an American bathroom, there were about 15 children squatting over their hot meal that they are bussed in for once a week.  I can imagine the anticipation and excitement these children felt.  They scooped up that rice and beans with their little fingers.  Each child had a very small piece of chicken on the bone.  Very small babies were gnawing on chicken bones and navigating to the meat. The small babies that were being carried by an older sibling were being fed with love.  The little one I had wasn't claimed.  It saddened me to think how did this little one get on that bus?

When it was time to leave, I tried to find someone to take this little girl that I got to love on.  No one would take her!  All the older children, obviously tired of caring for smaller kids, gave me the "no way am I taking her," look!  I was baffled, but could understand.  Finally, I found a girl about the age of five or six.  She carried of my baby of the day and wandered off.