Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Eseri's beautiful smile
Children of Upendo (though still Camp El Har in our hearts), you all are some of our favorite things. And in 27 days, we'll be on our way back to you!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I've asked my mom to share today:
There are some things in this life that we may never know. People that we pass in the mall, on the street or a stranger sitting behind us in church, we may or may not know their life story, but we may be the one person that will change their life forever.
Thereza is a perfect example of how spending a small amount of time showing her God's love has had a huge impact on her life. We won't know the long term affects for some time, if ever.
The first year we went to Uganda in 2007, I knew that I wanted to meet the mother of Eva, the child we sponsor. I had heard the story of how she had abandoned her children, except Eva, who was too small, after her husband had died of AIDS. She had begun to sell alcohol, and would punish Eva by pouring boiling water on her. My heart broke for this woman, and I knew that she needed the love that only Jesus Christ could give her.
We visited several families before reaching the small humble home that Eva shared with her mother. This woman that I had never met before ran to greet me, wrapping her arms around me in an embrace that I thought would never end. This couldn't possibly be the same woman that had done horrible things to her children. She thanked me for helping Eva, and for making a difference in their lives. Before we left I shared the gospel with her and other onlookers. She accepted Christ that day! What I didn't learn until 3 years later, was that her other daughter Mercy, had been listening to me that day too, and she also accepted Jesus that day.
You see, we don't always know what our actions and our words mean to others!
When an opportunity arises, would you be ready to share your faith? Not just do you believe that there is a God, but how to have a personal relationship with the one who created you.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Shortly after we were off for a day of home visits. We visited my sweet girls and their mother at their home. After a funny exchange with Sophie about not being able to find her panties, and of course catching up with their mother, encouraging her, and praying for them, we were on to our next home.
We had no idea at the time what kind of impact that two minute drive would make.
When we arrived, we were greeted by two kids, a boy and a girl, around 13 and 14 years old. There were 4 kids total from that family. The oldest girl was away at a boarding school and the youngest lives at Camp El Har, AMG's orphanage in the city. But these two remained at home.
You see, their father died of AIDS and their mother remarried. In Uganda when a woman remarries, her new husband often will not accept the children from a previous marriage so they are sometimes left with family members, but more commonly just left.
While I was sick, at times I felt hopeless, like I'd never get better. But God always brought me hope and reassured me that He had a purpose for it all. And I knew that hope wasn't for me to keep to myself, but to share with others too.
So that day we walked into their home and sat down on small wooden stools. The only light in the room was streaming in from the open door and the holes in the tin roof. My heart was completely broken. When I wrote last week about how sometimes it hurts to love these children, this was one of those moments. But as I fought the tears (and it was hard to fight them as my mom and one of the workers were both weeping and my dad was brushing away tears) I knew that everything I had been through led me to that moment. And even though my struggles couldn't compare to what they were going through, I could honestly tell them I know what it feels like when it seems God has abandoned you.
Looking at them caused a lump in my throat and tears filling my eyes. So I picked a stone on the dirt floor and started to share. I shared a passage from 1 Peter. I said that the Bible tells us that we will face many struggles in this world, but because of Jesus we have this reward in heaven that never goes away. For me, I needed good health. But one day my health will fail me, I'll grow old and die. In this life we need food, but one day that food will spoil and it will be no good to us anymore. But this reward we have in heaven never spoils. In never fails. And it will never change.
When I finished we prayed with them, and as we always do on home visits we gave them a small package of beans and rice. As we left we realized why they were so somber when we arrived.
They had no food.
Just before we came they were trying to figure out how they were going to get their next meal because they had nothing. And as we left, one of the workers gave slipped them a little bit of money because now, even though they had some rice and beans to eat, they didn't even have charcoal to cook it with.
And before we left, Thereza smiled. The worker we were with said she hadn't seen Thereza smile since her sister went to Camp El Har a year and a half before that day.
After we left our hearts were so broken and we felt overwhelmed by the needs of these children. I cannot even imagine what they've been through. Facing their father's death, their mother abandoning them, having to deal with grown-up issues when they've barely been teenagers for more than a few months, and on top of that facing the day to day struggles of going to school and being a kid growing up in the third world country.
They have no one. No one to tuck them in at night. No one to help them with their homework. No one to hug them when they have a bad day. No one to care for them when they're sick. No one to talk to about all the things teens need to know as they grow up. There's no one there.
And it just tore our hearts apart, especially knowing this was one family. These aren't the only kids facing this situation. We were surrounded by it.
We knew we needed to do something. Now, Thereza is sponsored through AMG. Her brother Simon is not. Simon was too old to be moved to the orphanage, but in the past year he's been moved to a boarding school. Being a little older and being a boy, he was not so much at risk.
But Thereza, on the other hand, was. You see, when you're hungry, eventually you get to a point where you'll do anything for food. Our goal was to keep that from every happening. Instead we worked to get Thereza into Camp El Har with her younger sister, Vicky. We found the necessary sponsors, and she has sinced moved into her new home at Camp El Har.
We are so beyond excited to see her, to see how she's grown over the last year. We've heard from the workers that she is doing so well, but I can't wait to see her with my own eyes and wrap her in a giant hug.
See that day we went to visit those kids at their home, we did more than just bring food. We brough hope, love, and a chance at a new future. Thereza is now living in a home where she doesn't have to worry about where her next meal will come from. Someone is there to take care of her when she's sick. She goes to school every day and is progressing in her education - unheard of for so many girls in Uganda.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Well, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am a HUGE women's soccer fan. Since I saw the women win the World Cup back in 1999, I was hooked. And I've followed them ever since. I've traveled to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Cleveland to see them play. I have autographs from some of the best players in the world. And I don't mean to brag, but Abby Wambach gave me a high five and it was pretty awesome. I follow their travels on their blog and twitter. I'm not a stalker...
I prefer the term "professional crazed fan."
So the Women's World Cup officially starts today in Germany. I've been waiting for this day for 4 years, so I am pumped. The US women haven't won a World Cup tournament in 12 years.
I grew up watching Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, and Julie Foudy. They were strong role models for me growing up, showing me women could be strong and confident in whatever they chose to do. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but for a short while I wanted so badly to be a professional soccer player. (Don't roll your eyes. I was 10 and I thought I had it in the bag). I looked up to these women and dreamt one day I could be like them.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Sticking to the birthday theme, today's from the archives is taking you all the way back to 2008.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Need some water? The vast majority of Ugandan's do not have running water and can spend hours traveling to a well. This guy is either selling this water in town or has a big family and lots of laundry to wash.
Now this guy has talent. He's not only riding a bike, but he's riding a bike with a bed on the back. Now all he needs to do is find a way to transport and cook some eggs and he can start his own bed and breakfast.
You're in Uganda and really in need of some new furniture for your home, so you go walk the streets and find a carpenter who specializes in furniture making. You buy a chair and two couches from him but you think to yourself, how will I get them home? Does Uganda have U-Hauls? They do if U-Haul it on your bike!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
And then again at Camp El Har when Fahad did this to himself when I turned by back for two seconds:
Anyways, I was there to pick up some more to use this year because we had so much fun with them before. I got in line to check out and there were a few people in front of me. You know those displays they always have near the cash register that suck you in with cool little gadgets and gizmos? I was just glancing around at the paintbrushes, paper clips, rubber bands, and assorted chocolates. Then it was my turn to step up and pay. But just as I was about to, something caught my eye.
It was...brace yourself...are you ready?
Dial Hand Sanitizer!
You don't understand. We love Dial hand sanitizer. Sure some of the others are ok. Sometimes it's nice to have my hands smell like warm vanilla sugar, but really it's just mean when they smell like country apple or tropical passion fruit or some other mouth watering smell. And then there's germ-x. Sorry makers of germ-x, but your product stinks. And you know it stinks when it even stinks in Africa!
But before leaving on a trip one year we found Dial hand sanitizer. And my friends it smells so clean! And when you smell of sweat, dirt, smoke, and exhaust fumes, having clean smelling hands is like a little piece of heaven. But for some reason we can't seem to find Dial hand sanitizer very easily.
But this week I found it, and when I did I gasped. My eyes got real big, and I just started tossing those suckers on the counter.
And the cashier looked at me like I was insane...and so did the lady behind me...and the guy behind her...
I didn't care, because my hands will smell clean! Well then on our way out of the mall I realized I probably should've bought more than 6. So we ended up going back and getting more. Luckily I have the best friend in the world and she risked her own appearance of sanity (on her birthday no less) by purchasing a large quantity of travel sized hand sanitizer. (Thanks Amanda!)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It was something I smelled.
Someone must've been either having a bonfire or burning trash. That smell, along with the thick evening air did something to my mind. I've heard that smell and memories can be closely linked, and that's exactly what must've been going on at that moment because suddenly my mind was in Uganda.
And all within a fraction of a second I could see the streets of the city, lined with people trying to make a living selling fruits or furniture or minutes for your cell phone. And boda-bodas (motorcycles) were weaving in and out of cars on the road trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Kids giggling as they walk to school, vendors chatting, horns honking. I thought of dense bread for breakfast and sitting on the veranda writing in my journal, tucking in my mosquito net, and brushing my teeth with bottled water.
And it made me kind of sad. I mean I was excited thinking ahead. I'll be going there in 34 days! I was sad because I miss being in my "Uganda home" so much. But I was also sad because it was one of those moments that I realize that my "Uganda home" and "US home" can never meet. When I'm here I want to be there and when I'm there...well I still usually want to be there, but there's a part of me that still wants to be here where my family is. It's here that I feel safe and can eat American food, and not worry if what I'm doing will offend everyone around me.
And most of all, it's here where my heart doesn't have to hurt so bad...
Because honestly when you love these people and those sweet children like I do...it hurts. Because their hurts are real and present and right in front of me and I can't escape them because they're everywhere I turn. I still think about those hurts at home, but because it's not always there in front of me, it's easier to focus on something else when I feel overwhelmed by them.
But I don't want to forget them. I don't want to forget that so many people in this world don't live like I do. It's just sometimes it's easier to forget.
But God has called us to love the unloved and unloveable even when, and especially when, it hurts. Loveis what brought Christ to and through the pain of the cross. So how can I do any less?