Saturday, June 25, 2011

From the Archives: Celebrating Life

Today is my big brother, Derek's birthday. Some of you may be surprised to find that I have a brother. He doesn't go on the trips with us. He always says someone has to hold down the fort while we're gone. So he's part of our team at home.

(He was really annoyed that I took this picture last month and I'm sure he's going to be thrilled to know I put it on the blog...)

Growing up I thought he was pretty much the coolest person. For the most part we didn't really fight. He was always so patient with me, and we were always taught to respect each other. He'd play baseball with me in the yard, shoot hoops, ride bikes, and even let me watch him play video games (I was 4 1/2 years younger than him so I thought that was pretty awesome). He always "let me" watch the Little Mermaid even though he was the one who actually wanted to watch it (that French cook cracked him up). Now, all these years later we're still pretty close. He's a teacher too, so you can often catch us talking about school or grumbling about grad classes. So today I say Happy Birthday to the best big brother a little sister could ask for!

Sticking to the birthday theme, today's from the archives is taking you all the way back to 2008.

One of our favorite places to be in Uganda is at Camp El Har. This is AMG International's home for orphaned children. Back in 2008 there were only about 18 kids living there. One of them being one of our sponsored children, Eva. We wanted to do something special for the kids, so we planned a birthday party. So many of the kids don't actually know when their birthdays are. Record keeping in Uganda isn't the best and for many of these children who were orphaned at a young age don't have parents around to tell them what day they were born. So this party was not so much about celebrating birthdays as it was about celebrating our lives together.

We first planned to have the party at a local school, but there were other local kids around and it would've been difficult when it came time to eat and pass out gifts because we only had enough for the kids from the Camp. So we ended up moving our party to Reuben and Florence's home. It was so peaceful and relaxed.

The girls arrived all wearing thir best dresses and the boys were handsome in their nicest shirts. The celebration started with praise and worship all led by the kids. We sang praises to the God who gave us life and brought us all together for that special day.

Then we started the games. We challenged the kids to a 3-legged race. They thought it was pretty hysterical. Some of them were really good at it, while others struggled to even take a few steps. But they all learned quickly that it took team work.

We played pin the tail on the donkey, which they had never played before. They loved it, especially when someone (like sweet Eva) was so disoriented from being spun that they couldn't even find the donkey.

We ate sandwiches and had cake and ice cream. And then we had the honor of handing out gifts. The kids were quite surprised when we started handing out shirts for everyone. And we didn't just hand them out. Each shirt had a name attached to it. It was their shirt.

It was a bittersweet day because we were able to take time to celebrate, but it was also the last day we would see them. So as the sun set and the night ended, we had to say our good-byes.

The best part of the night was that for just a few hours, these kids could set aside the hurts they've endured in their lives and just be kids. For a little while they could set aside their responsibilities, worries, and fears and just have fun.

I think it was during that time that we spent together that day that we went from being visitors among them, to being family. And that's where we've stayed ever since.

- Aly

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