June 22, 2013
This morning, Brittany and I woke up around 5:00 a.m. to fill Hannah's room with balloons and sing Happy Birthday. Her mother had sent me a birthday care package almost two months ago and I was anxious to share it with her!
The kids were dismissed from school today so we took a nature walk to the nearby lake. It is so beautiful in Kenya! As we got closer to the water, there was a sign that said "Beware of Hippo!" What?! Thankfully, we did not have any encounters! As we walked, the kids grabbed wild cactus fruit and carefully ate them. What a beautiful land these kids get to explore.
At evening worship, I realize that I've been claimed by a little girl named Milcah. She placed her bible on a chair next to hers and doesn't move it until I walk in. Just like my Ugandan girls, she doesn't say much. But holds my hand tightly and likes to be held in my arms. So that's what we do! I put my arm around her during worship, I put her face in my hands and tell her how beautiful she is when I say good night, and we walk hand in hand. That's how I play Mama to these kids. That's all they want, to be someone's undivided attention. She waits patiently for me at the bottom of the stairs during our teams mealtime and she saves my seat in worship time. She wrote me letters everyday and today she wrote it to Mom!
We went to Amazing Grace Ministry today, which houses about 30 children ages 4 and up. They truly have very little, but are full of joy! The ministry director has a calling to love on these kids in a family setting, not like an orphanage. The kids are full of love and spirit. They very proudly showed us their individual gardens, their rabbits, ducks and cows. They had two puppies that are supposed to be guard dogs, but are slowly turning into pets, after the kids had watched an American kids movie introducing them to pets living in a home. They keep asking if their dogs can sleep inside with them, but to Africans, that is silly!
One of our team members got to preach tonight at evening worship. Kristi did an amazing job. I'm so glad she stepped up, I was worried about having to do it myself...lol! After the kids had their evening worship, our team spent some time in our devotional and worship time. Naomi, made a special birthday song for Hannah, which was hilarious! And Brittany and I introduced the warm fuzzy books I had made for each team member. We began writing about our memories together.
This is our last full day together. We had some of our team working in the Fiwagoh clinic, some playing with kids, and some teaching at the school. Most of the teachers handed over their classrooms to our team. Our team taught science, social studies, math,and English. We dipped out when it came to Swahili, ha!
In the afternoon, we visited Haven of Hope again. The team really seemed to enjoy spending time with the kids there. We unloaded donations of clothes, crafts and sports equipment. The kids sang a few songs for us and we preformed a few for them. What a beautiful ministry!
After dinner and Fiwagoh worship, it was time for our team to process and come to a close. We gave the opportunity for anyone to share any talent, or scripture. Hannah showed us how she can lick her elbow, and Brittany and I preformed a reenactment of Praise Him, a hilariously bad performance from some young adults in Kampala. We got serious and talked about what is next? Many shared how God worked thru them during this trip. It was awesome! We had our final team worship and we belted it out! We cried out to God and praised Him for brining us together.
We said our goodbyes to Ekubo and got on the road to County Lake Resort.
This was our respite. A day of relaxing and recouping before another week of ministry. We processed a little on the road. I was super excited to take the team to this Resort because it it simply beautiful! We were eating lunch watching the waves crash on Lake Victoria when I remembered a team member telling me she wanted to get baptized. Brittany and I were honored to be a part of this! We scouted out a good spot, and got it done! What an experience!
The shower I took at the resort was one of the most fulfilling showers I have had! The water trickled out slowly, but it was warm and I was clean! Brittany and I reclined on our private patio talking and giggling! After dinner, we had our team devotional and worship time. Wow, it was powerful! Rest and a nice hot shower can do wonders for a team! We all piled into one of our teams rooms. It was a tight fit, but I think the coziness made for better worship. Once again, our worship leader rocked it!
At bed time, Brittany and I had the great idea of checking up on our team members with a little humor. We snook up to one of the room windows and not even 5 seconds later, we had two hysterical young girls! It was actually very funny, and they took it very well considering! So we thought we'd try scaring some more rooms. What a bad idea! At the next room, there was no window, so we went to the back porch. I couldn't reach over the fence, so I pushed a chair into their back door, expecting a scream or some kind of reaction. Instead, there was just silence. So I kept doing it. The lights went out. Brittany and I were about to pee our pants with laughter! We went to the front door and Brittany opened it. It was unlocked! I lost it! I couldn't stop laughing! Well out came two very very frightened team members that were on their knees praying, thinking that someone was trying to break into their room. Uh...mission team leader fail! Brittany and I felt awful! Awful! I wasn't sure those girls would ever forgive us, so we retreated to our room and locked our own doors!
Another day waking before sunrise. We boarded our bus to the airport to fly to Kenya. A few days ago Brittany had introduced a game I like to call The Stupid iPod Game. Basically, you put your headphones in and cover your ears as you sing to music and everyone laughs. Well, I wasn't done having fun, so we played this game on the way to Kenya...on the plane! Too funny! Good times!
Once we landed in Kenya, our driver told us that we couldn't arrive to Fiwagoh Ministries until sundown. They are a Seventh Day Adventist ministry and observe the Sabbath. So we improvised and took the opportunity to shop. Our driver took us to various small shops overlooking the Great Rift Valley. Simply breath taking! I can't believe this is my life! The shop owners were very aggressive and Brittany and I had to give our team some tips on how to deal with them. This is not my first rodeo, and I know how much these tourist type items are jacked up in price for white people. When I shop in these stores, I rarely make eye contact, I don't touch an item unless I truly am interested, I never act interested, even if it is an item I've been searching for. I offer 1/3 to half of what they are asking for. If they don't come down to my asking price, I walk away. It sounds harsh, but it works! Almost every single time I walk away, they chase me down and say, "okay, you bring," meaning that they are accepting my offer. This was one of the most aggressive spots I have ever been to and there items were not high quality, so I was roothless in my negotiating skills.
It was starting to get dark, and almost time for us to arrive at Fiwagoh and we saw our first set of wild zebras! I can't believe that I get to do this stuff! We pulled over and snapped a few pictures.
When we pulled up to Fiwagoh, we were greeted with an overwhelmingly warm welcome. It was dark, the sun had just set, and the Sabbath was over. The 200 kids chased the bus until it reached its stopping point. When the doors opened there was a sea of brown arms reaching in grabbing every team member exiting as if to claim them before anyone else could. I was claimed by three teenage girls, my favorite age! We were escorted into a courtyard where the tiny Pastor Benson introduced himself and welcomed us. He was the first I saw to have a megaphone. What a great idea! I'm putting that on my wish list for my next team! It came time for me to introduce the team, and he handed me the megaphone. With 200 kids sitting quietly, I got a little stage fright. My coleader had no desire to help a sister out, so I quickly told them we were excited to be there and love on them and then I introduced each team member. I handed the megaphone back to Pastor Benson and his response was "that's it?" Lol!
Our team settled into their rooms filled with bunk beds and rested.
Fiwagoh ministry has morning worship at 6:00 a.m. And evening worship at 7:00 p.m.. Watching the sunrise is going to get old...lol! None of us had been to Fiwagoh before, so we didn't really know what to expect. I really don't have any experience with Seventh Day Adventists so I couldn't really prepare my team. All i knew was that they practice the sabbath, are vegan and are not charismatic. Flexibility and grace have been our teams theme, so we just went with the flow. The worship was organized and carried out by the children. that amazed me! It started with two hymns, which the children all knew from heart...all 10 verses...lol! And then a word from Nash, a fifteen year old boy. They pray on their knees and then worship is done.
It was late and I was just about asleep, when I hear Brittany screaming! She said that there was poo on her bed! I didn't believe her and thought that maybe she was plunking me. S I got up to investigate and their was indeed some kind of poo looking dropping! Her jaw was wide open in disbelief and I was on the floor in tears! I couldn't stop laughing! We eventually found out it was a prank! I'm so glad to have a team that can joke and a coleader that can take a joke!
Saying goodbye to Return Ministries was difficult for our team. I was the only one who had ever been there, and my visits were only for a few hours. The days we spent there were full of children that desperately needed one on one love and attention. They children didn't want us to leave their sides. Many had open wounds and fevers and my team was broken for them. Already, I saw the wheels in their minds turning. They felt called to help. I look forward to watching that come to pass. That is probably one of the rewarding things to see as a leader!
As our morning team worshiped together to the talented Curtis, I raised my hands high in admiration. I sang loudly with joy and thanks for the work He was just beginning to do in our team. I prayed for my leadership, for wisdom to make the right decisions as a leader, for unity, for my team members to give me grace when I made mistakes, and for the two team members that were still delayed in Chicago.
As a short term mission trip leader, I have to be aware of the diversity of our team. I need to be sensitive to different religions, life experiences and personalities. This was going to be our first time praying over ministry leaders. I can recall a time in my life that praying out loud was unheard of! And laying of hands was for the crazy charismatic folk! Our team circled around Samuel and Sarah and lifted them up in prayer. I explained that I would be opening in prayer and Brittany, my co-leader, would be closing. And if anyone felt led to pray in between that they could. I was blown away at the amount of heart felt prayer! We must have prayed over them for over ten minutes, which is nothing to Africans, but I was proud! Proud of the boldness, proud that my team was allowing the Spirit to takeover, proud that they wanted to pray and proud that I was standing back enough to let it happen!
No one on our team had been to Ekubo before, including our drivers. We realized this about an hour after driving around in circles! We had no phone number, nor Internet service. So how does one without any means of communication nor navigation systems find a location in rural Uganda? You pull over and ask any random person walking, of course. But no one knew of Ekubo Ministries. Finally, we found someone who did...or so we thought. He got into the van carrying our luggage and took us down miles and miles of bumpy dirt roads. We come to a compound with newer construction, that looks like it houses a ministry and they say we are here! Whew, we are temporarily relieved! Then they keep calling the ministry by another name. I insist that we are not in the correct place, and the driver tells me, yes we are and that they just call it by another name. I tell them that we are not staying unless we see George and Christie, the ministry directors. One of our team members had an international plan on their phone, so we called VO for George's number. Back on the road we went! We finally arrived about four hours after we were supposed to. Flexibility, right!
When we arrived at Ekubo, it was dark and everyone was tired. The workers and George worked on setting up our sleeping arrangements as Christie told her story. I had already heard George's version of how the unlikely two met, and was anxious to hear her version. A white girl from Alabama marrying a village leader from the bush in Uganda, makes for a funny story!
My team was exhausted, and I could see them coming down from their high. That's a hard thing to see as a team leader. I wanted to manufacture that same momentum we had at the beginning of our trip, but it wasn't my job. All I could do was try to keep it going and hope that through talking thru it, it would bring them back to their sweet spot, so to speak.
Our mattresses were squeezed onto floors in two bedroom home, and then in two small workers quarters behind the home. Mosquito nets were hung with rope draped across the room like a laundry line. We were living in the bush! We knew it was coming, and that our stay would not be "comfortable" by American standards, but I think reality set in once we were actually there. Christie had told us that the water for the toilet and sinks came from a water barrel outside and that her kids had to pump water from the bore hole to fill it. When teams came, it emptied the barrel quickly, so not flushing so often would help with that. There was no hot water heater, so I opted for baby wipe baths! We were living as close as we could to the families in that village. And I'm glad to have had this experience.
Some of our team had still not received their luggage and were sharing clothes with other team members. And Hannah and I had been in Uganda for a week, so it needed to be a laundry day. There were no washing machine or dryers in the bush, so hand washing in basins was our only option. I was excited to wash! I wanted clean clothes! The workers and children laughed at us as we pumped water from the bore hole, carried it to our basins in Jerry cans, and attempted to wash our clothes. I started hanging up my clothes on the bushes to dry in the sun, as they do. But...I didn't realize that my panties would cause such an uproar! There were men working on a building nearby and were giggling and staring at my multicolored Hanes Her Way panties drying on the bush. One of e women pulled me aside and told me to hang them dry in the bathroom because it was causing too much of a scandal! Wow, I learned something new! I never knew those Hanes Her Way would be viewed in such a way...lol!
Christie walked us down to the children's home, where abandoned children are brought until they can be reestablished with extended family or adopted out. There was a little boy crying when we walked up and I picked him up to comfort him. He clang onto me tightly. I was okay with it, but didn't want to be a baby hog, so I passed him onto another team member. Wow, he got upset!
Brittany went to market with George and some other team members to prepare the feast for Ekubo. They came back with about ten really nasty, sick looking chickens that had pooed all over the van and themselves! I had initially wanted to kill one, but those chickens were nasty! So what do I do? I delegated the chicken slaughtering to willing young girls on my team! Now that was hilarious! The knife was dull, and the girls were hesitant, so the poor chickens had a very slow death! Honestly, it was one of the funniest things I have seen...the girls reaction of course!