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Archive for the ‘Mission Trips 2009’ Category

“You can mop !”

Access to internet has been a challenge, thus the long break since we last wrote.

The time in Kaihura for me was a time of reconnecting with people who I love so much. The children are growing up. Victor speaks in full sentences and James could be featured as a Pillsbury Boy, he has gained such good weight. Vincent no longer cries when he sees me. Sharon’s new teeth have all come in and Juliet has become a young woman. There are lots of new children. Rose, and Alan, and Caleb; Baby Paige, who is doing great. Then there are the twins, Favor who always smiles, and Faith who almost never smiles…There are others…and all the ones we remember from the last two years. When we first came in 2007, there were 33, now there are 58.

The clinic looks great in the space that is rented across the street from where it used to be. Just before leaving, I saw a one week old, Baby Stella with multiple anomalies. Of course, she needs to see a geneticist an orthopedist, and an ENT. But Mulago Hospital is far away, and getting there costs more than mom can afford, not to mention the fees for doctors and hospital. We were able to give her some money for the first few days. We will wait to hear what develops. Insurmountable challenges continue.

The kitchen at Dorcas is finished. On the last evening, we celebrated with the Dorcas students with song, dance and worship. This experience alone will carry many of us through to the next year as we hope to see all of them again. It was good to spend time with Faith as we walked through the community of Kyongera, visiting with families who are benefiting from agricultural teaching and malaria prevention. We talked about where the Kaihura has been and where things seem to be moving. Electric poles and wires now are part of the landscape, and overall, Kaihura has grown up a lot since last year.

Saying good-bye after just two days was hard for me. It was even harder for our one month crew. But it seemed different as we now know that coming back is always a possibility, and several of our kids are already planning for next year.

So we traveled east and arrived at Agape Children’s Village on Friday night. Things are different here. This is a well established orphanage, along with a church and a school. There has been ongoing support, infrastructure is in place. Electricity has been here for a while even though it comes up missing certain random times of the day.. Children live in spacious duplex homes with 12-16 children under the care of a house mother. Right now, 65 children are here, with another 20 or so in boarding schools away from the village.

Just as in any other part of Uganda, children have a lot of chores to do. The day begins before sunrise with cleaning and scrubbing and cooking and helping to maintain their homes. There is always a song to be heard. And any interest in their activity is usually answered with a smile. They are anxious to teach us Luganda, their language. We share morning and evening devotions with lots of song and dance, and we share our meals with them. What makes this experience so powerful is the opportunity to get to participate in their every day routines. We sleep in their rooms and at times it allows me to contemplate the realities of their lives as I lay awake and listen to the breathing of the little people who are fast asleep in the next bunk bed. I am humbled when I try to sweep the dirt floors, only to watch an eight year old do it after me, faster and better. The first morning here, I asked Annet, (13) if I could help. “You can mop !”, she replied, and so I did; …with a rag and a wash basin.

I no longer think about the ways we do showers here or manage to go to the bathroom. So what. The flashlight comes along and the water has to be brought with you. It works just as well.

I do think about the pace here which is so much healthier; the direct link between the land right in front of us and under our feet which provides the food that we eat; the sense of community which is enabled by a lack of distractions.

I worry about children’s feet that become infected because of lack of shoes and simple cuts without ready access to proper care. I worry about children who sleep without nets which could reduce the chance of contracting malaria by 80%. A simple course of medicine to treat ringworm presents a challenge. I hurt for Patrick and Juliet and Annet and King, who just want to go to school, but, until now, have not had much hope because it costs money.

I pray that God would keep our children here safe until some of these changes for the better can happen, without compromising the beauty of this culture. I hope that all of us who have been part of this experience will carry the dreams of these children in our hearts, until we have done our part to help make them happen. I hope that the teenagers in our group will grow up with hearts and minds filled with desire to make a difference. I hope that all of us will not allow the everyday business of our lives at home to drown out the story of the Children of Uganda.

Dirk Hamp

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We have been in Agape Children’s Village for a few days now and it is different than Kaihura, to say the least. As soon as my feet hit the ground I met a girl named Joyce (Coincidence? Haha.) who told me to stay in House 4. There are eight houses all together here. These houses are not what you are thinking a house for a children’s village in Uganda would look like. I would be happy to live in a house like this. They are very nice. Only four of them are being used, 2, 4, 7, & 8. I found out that I was staying in House 7 with Sarah Beth, John, Davis, and Mrs. Riedell. When we first headed over to the house we met all of the children and the house mother. Our first impression of the house mother was not a good one. She seemed extremely harsh and somewhat quiet. Well, we were very wrong. She is wonderful and very smiley and so sweet and always willing to help us.

We walked into the house and realized that we were not in Kaihura anymore. I looked up and saw a TV. Yes, a TV. Oh, wow. I am talking about a television … a working television. I could not believe it. Anyways, we sing here before meals and pray together in the “living room” and then each night one of the kids does a devotion for everyone. It is really cool to see each of these kids get up each night and speak in front of everyone. The first night a little boy named Robert talked about the parable of the lost son.

Oh, and one more thing about life here. Despite the fact that there is no toilet seat and I have finally conquered the hole after three weeks in Africa, there is a light in the bathroom. What? Yes, a light. You can actually see here! The difference between the two places is incredible. This place is like a resort compared to Kaihura. The atmosphere here in general is very different. A lot of that is probably because the children here have so much more and they see mzungus (white boy, in translation, but it really means anyone who is not African) all the time. I was sitting on my bed the other day with Maureen, Harriet, and Prossy pigging out on some cookies that I had bought and they were telling me that every child here has a sponsor and that some people from the UK come and stay a month every year with them. I thought that it was interesting.

So, our time here is running out and it is really sad. While I could have stayed for another two years in Kaihura I am kind of sad that we have such a short amount of time in Agape Children’s Village! The girls in mine and Sarah Beth’s house are wonderful. We bought all of us matching bracelets at the craft market yesterday and the day before that we had a make-up party with the older girls and tonight we are painting nails! The stories of the children here are insane. Last night Sarah Beth heard the story of Edith, the girl in the bunk next to me, and she relayed it to me this morning. John also told us the story of another little boy called Brian and Emma shared one from another little girl. I am not going to write the stories here, but these children break my heart. They are so wonderful and sweet and sometime you forget that they have backgrounds and stories of why they ended up here. These children have gone through so much and it is heartbreaking to hear it and to actually know them by name and have a bracelet that matches theirs! People can sit at home and read chain e-mails with a story about a girl in Africa, blah, blah, blah, and say, “Oh, that is sad.” Then they go on with their lives. It is so different to know them and live with them and know what they have been through.

Witchcraft is a big deal here too. The only thing that I ever really knew about it was what is in the movies, but it is real here! Some of the guys, apparently, walked right by a witch doctor’s house on the way to the well. Yesterday in church, a woman asked for everyone to pray about the child sacrifices. Child sacrifices. I mean, I knew that people still did that some places in the world, but now that I am in a community with a witch doctor and a shrine down the road it is eye opening. Please pray for these children who are victims to witchcraft and night dancers and who knows what. But do not freak out, parents. I am not sure if I should have written that because some of you are probably freaking out right now, but I have no filter. We are not in danger here, do not worry. Haha.

Change of pace … While I will be happy to be home when I get there, it breaks my heart to think about that right now. I love it here so much and I love these kids. My old friends in Kaihura and the new ones I have made here. Dr. Dirk said something the other day that I thought was very relevant. I am trying to remember so it will not sound as good when I say it, but too bad. This is not one trip, it is twenty some different trips because each person’s heart is being impacted differently by each one of these children and this experience. Okay, that was just my version of what he said. Anyway, I have so much more to say, but since I already wrote more than last time I should probably stop. Oh man, I tried so hard not to ramble. Too late. Okay, final thought. I love it in Africa and it is so beautiful and it broke my heart to leave Kaihura and it is going to break my heart to leave here. Now I am off to paint the school!

P.S. I miss everyone so much! I am sending my love in the form of a computer screen!

Victoria Oliver

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Yesterday, after church and lunch, most of the group went to Kampala to a craft fair. It was a very bumpy and dusty ride, so dusty that my sinus cavities collected more dust than was good for them and every time I blew my nose out came a lot of dust! When we got there however it was a very good fair with lots of wonderful goods. The item I liked the best, was an Ugandan shirt. I went around the fair with Edvine, a nineteen year old Ugandan teen who ‘graduated’ from the school last year. He had to have graduated since no one over 18 is allowed at the Orphan school. He has a younger sister who doesn’t go to the school since only one child per family is allowed to go to the school. There are too many orphans and not enough schools. Edvine would like to go to the university, but he doesn’t have enough money and hasn’t been able to get a scholarship. It would cost about $750/yr to go to the university (I’m sure that doesn’t include room and board and books). It seems like so little but with so many people wanting to go, no parents or relatives to help and a little sister to look after, it is almost seems impossible. It’s a story that’s all too common here. On the return trip, the bumps were still there but it started to rain and hence the dust disappeared.

Hal Edwards

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Many changes in the trip came during this past week, all of them changing the atmosphere of the trip. As we said good bye to our friends in Kaihura, we welcomed the second team, who refreshed us, and brought new perspectives, and now in Agape the work is beginning.

John Sibert

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Every Child a Story

Meet Joseph. He is 17 and has been here at Agape Children’s Village since he was 12. I call him “Mr. Winner,” as he lost numerous card games of African Uno to the mzungus (foreigners) the first night we were here, complaining all the time (with good humor) that it was not right that we should win. He’s right. We don’t fully understand the rules of a game which seems to change every time we play it! Joseph is a soft spoken young man, studious in his glasses (which he is fortunate to have). He came to Agape from a life he describes as “very, very bad.” Sitting on the edge of the bed, he told me how his parents died when he was four months old, how his grandmother could not care for him well, unable to pay the fees for him to attend secondary school, how he had no real hope. Because of Compassion International, he was able to come here, a gift of God, he says. Joseph wants to be an astronomer or, failing that, a doctor. That is his goal, his hope. I asked him about goals because of his eloquent and very biblical devotions that he led in our home last night, about “pressing on” and not letting past failures or troubles weigh us down, about God’s plan for each of our lives.

But behind the brown eyes and face of every child here, there is a similar story. There is life before and after, there is the grace of God in this place, a family, a house mother, brothers and sisters, a life of responsibility (they rise at 5:00 for chores) and yet one where their needs have been met, where there seems to be love and consideration for each other, and where there is fun amidst the kinds of responsibilities that few of our kids shoulder.

So you can pray for us as we try to love the kids in our home. I want to get to know Joseph better, but then there’s also Farita, and Edward and Ruth and the motherly and quite responsible Joyce, governing in Mama Christine’s absence. But what about all the children along the dirt roadsides between here and downtown Kampala? The breadth and depth of the need is staggering. I am glad to be here, to be with the few children in front of me, but I sometimes feel small and insignificant in light of the poverty I see.

When I was in Kaihura Faith Kunihura made a comment about an ailing man that has stuck with me. She said she looked at the man she saw the image of God lying in front of her. I hope I can remember that every time I look at one of these children. I hope I see them as individuals, little stories in one epic story God is telling.

Steve West

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It’s been a while since I last sat down to write for the blog, but a lot has happened in that time. We finished our work in Kaihura and bid farewell to our friends there. It was a long drive on Friday to reach Agape Children’s Village (about 45 minutes out of Kampala) but we were able to break it up with a stop at Hannington’s parents’ house (he hadn’t seen them for two months) and a stop for lunch in Mubende (chicken on a stick, chipoti, and roast plantains). Upon arrival in Agape Children’s Village, the team was spilt up among four houses to live with the children under the supervision of a single matron. This has allowed us to get to know the kids in our houses really well and form meaningful relationships. Saturday was spent participating with the kids in Compassion International’s outreach program to both the Agape kid and the village kids. We got to spend time with them in their various “classes” and also have some time for games (volleyball, badminton, and parachute!). Today was mostly taken up by church (3 hours long J) and a trip into Kampala to shop for crafts at the local market. Our “work week” starts tomorrow and continues until Wednesday. We are going to paint several classrooms at the school and possibly some other structures around the property that need touching up. After finishing our work here, we will travel out to Koreng (a rural village that has seen little outreach) where we will host a field day for the kids. Everyone is doing well and is excited about the week ahead. Please keep us in your prayers as there is still much work to do and many relationships to be built. We are missing all of our friends and families in the US and will return with many stories and pictures to share!

P.S. From the (rest of the) West family: Everyone is doing great and really enjoying our time here, we will have many things to share with you when we return!

Stephen West

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June 18, Thursday from Faith’s Home on the beautiful rolling hills of Kahuira. Today we are having nice thundershowers in the afternoon. The morning was clear and we walked up to Dorcus, the vocational school that has been built six of years ago. It has a terrific view of the valley with plantan palms wafting in the breeze. The whole piece of property that Faith has purchased is gorgeous, with rolling hills, cows grazing, chickens clucking and reminds us so much of the hills of Delaware County, NY where Hal grew up. So many wonderful things are being done on this property by Hope for the Family—several schools, primary, vocational, orphanages, a medical clinic, honeybee factory is being built so they can sell honey, churches and a wonderful Christian fellowship that reaches out to the community to help and give hope.

Back to Dorcus. We are given such a warm welcome in song and drum by the students. Then the administrator, Arthur leads us in a cultural exchange of values. The students speak about what is important in Africa. Some songs are sung such as when someone is in love and wishes to marry. It was soft and had a rocking tempo, very different from the rhythmic welcome. After the students were done, each of us had to introduce ourselves, speak about what was important to us. Hal spoke about the importance of mathematics in physics and in being able to solve all sorts of problems in life. Quindell told about what was important in making it as an orphan and about half of the group were orphans there. He said you have to be humble and willing to help in any way you can. God will help you through your troubles and you’ll be stronger for it. He ended by showing how being able to write down your music you need mathematics skill. Music and math skills are powered by the same place in the brain. They are so good in music, they can be good in math. It was an interesting morning.

The students learn sewing, nettling or cooking, carpentry, crafts. I am looking forward to the new dress they are sewing for me. We go back to share our evening devotions with them tonight. Tomorrow we go to Agape Children’s Village. This has been a rich and rewarding experience.

Marty Edwards

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