Thursday, March 24, 2011

What to Say?

I don't even know where to start! I'm sitting in the Amsterdam airport thinking about all the sweet children that are getting ready to eat lunch. Saying goodbye was so difficult. I did not just want to spring it on the kids that I was leaving yesterday so a day or so ago I started talking about the fact that I was leaving, which meant I wasn't going to be there when they woke up from their naps and it was my last day to teach preshool. Katie, the oldest girl continually made me laugh and cry my last day at Amani. She would look at me with such a serious expression and our conversation would go something like this (keep in mind we had it at least 10 times)

Katie: Auntie, you fly in airplane?
Me: Yes, I'm going in an airplane.
Katie: You fly like a bird? You won't fall out of sky, no?
Me: No, Katie I won't fall out of the sky.
Katie: Auntie Kallie (cause none of them said my name right) you miss us? You cry in the airplane?

All I could do was nod my head-because yes I miss them and yes I cried and I have tears in my eyes as I type this. Those precious children have a place in my heart forever and I keep thinking that if I love them as much as I do and care about their needs and their futres, how much must the Lord care for them? I am humbled and amazed by the constant realization of His love for his children-for me-each time I saw their sweet smiles, heard them laugh, and asked for 10 hugs and kisses before bedtime.

Just as the children long to be held and loved (and I gladly did it), the Father longs for that so much more from me. He wants me to run to him and say "Daddy-hugs!"  He has been teaching me that my source of comfort is in Him alone. My first instinct needs to be to run to His open arms and climb up into His lap and find all my heart longs for there-in His sweet embrace. Yes, family and friends to talk with are great, but He is so much greater. I feel like this is something that I have known in my head in the past, but now my heart knows-and it is sweet :)

Well those were the thoughts that came as I was thinking about my last few days, but here are the faces that are occupying more of my brain right now...

My two girls-Katie and Siouxanne-love them both dearly. Pray for Katie as she will be travling home to her forver family in just a few weeks!!

 Jonah and his pj pants that were just a little too big :)

Brian just forgot to say cheese...haha!

Kisses for my sweet Zurita

Maggie and Princess Debra-good thing Maggie lives in Nashille and we'll get to keep hanging out when she comes home with her family in May!!

More to come...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What I've Learned

1. Uganda is beautiful

2. Having several children fight over who is going to sit in your lap makes any day a good day

3. Anything can ride in a car-including a goat

4. Hearing basic truths sung about my Jesus by 3 and 4 year olds is an amazing way to start the day
   “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty-there’s nothing my God cannot do.”  (I tried to upload a video for over an hour and it wouldn't work-so sorry)
5. It hails in Uganda-didn't get a picture of it though
6. Dance parties are a lot of fun (for the kids and the mamas!)

7. Coke Light is NOT the same as Diet Coke. Which is why my sister is bringing one to the airport when I get home, right JoRae?! :)
8. Every child deserves a family

9. Worshiping inside a church building is going to seems strange after having church under the African sky for the past 9 weeks

10. I will not take my air-conditioned kitchen for granted again
11. This face

and this face

 and this face

and all these faces

 will forever be etched in my heart

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Weekend

Aw….what a wonderful weekend!! The Lord has really provided friendships for me while here and it’s so refreshing. How sweet to live with other girls how share the same heart and desire to serve the Lord. He has provided a place for fellowship and also an environment where we can share each other’s burdens and take them before Him in prayer. I went with three of the other volunteers Rakul, Simona, and Sarah to Kampala to spend the weekend with Megan. Megan lives and works for an NGO in Kampala and has been coming to Jinja almost every weekend to get out of the craziness that is Kampala!! I have so enjoyed getting to know her and will miss seeing her when she heads back to the States on Wednesday. People have said that Kampala is crazy and we were given at least three warnings each by the mamas as we left. And it is!! There are so many people in a relatively small place, no traffic rules, it’s overwhelming, its busy,  and it’s dirty. After spending two days there-I’m really glad I live in Jinja! We arrived Friday evening after almost leaving Sarah behind. Her boda driver took her to the wrong taxi park where we were waiting on the bus for her. But that’s a long story and she made it just in time.
On the coaster (bus) headed to Kampala-with Sarah 
All of us pitched in and made fish tacos for dinner and just enjoyed each other’s company; in the dark (cause that’s what happens when you live in Uganda). Saturday we SLEPT IN-what a treat! And then went to Entebee to spend a relaxing day by the pool. It was wonderful!! Sunday was church and then we climbed a few trees to get mangos and avocados-YUM!!  Here are a few pictures from the weekend!!
Enjoying lunch at an Italian cafe

The end of the day by the pool

Living in Kampala means using public transportation (matatoos) which are very crowded and bumpy and slightly smelly. We had about 22 people in this 13 passenger van!

There are houses and people everywhere

Rakul demonstrating her tree climbing skills. We got several mangos and avocados-Thanks Rakul!!

I can’t believe my time here is almost over L It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long most days. Some days are longer than others. My sweet sisters reminded me to continue being whole heartedly involved and active and to not start checking out now. That was so needed and they spoke to what I was feeling. It seems easier to start putting up the walls now so that the goodbyes aren’t so hard. But that’s not fair to the kids. They need to me to continue to be invested 100%, and yes, the goodbyes will be hard. But, hopefully each child will know how completely and fully they were loved. I know there are many of you wondering what happened with Zurita. I’m happy to tell you that she is still HERE where I get to hug her, kiss her, and tell her I love her several times a day.  I do not know why she is still here or what is going on with her family. But I’m going to rejoice each day I see her sweet face. Praise Jesus!
A lady at the market, dressed in her finest (traditional Ugandan dress) holding her live chicken in a bag!

Spending some time with Susan!

Matthew's silly face :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Learning and Learning

So it's been a really good but long week and I have lots of pictures that I want to share with you. Some are recent and some from a while ago.

Valentines Day!!! We had so much fun celebrating and making fun heart crafts with the kiddos. In preschool, I've been going through the alphabet with the kids and teaching them how to write their letters and names. It was a bonus that we talked about the letter L for love on Valentines :)

This week I got to go to Kampala twice with the adoptive families that are here. It was a wonderful experience to see how adoptions work in country and go to court with the prospective parents. I will forever be grateful after this experience for the way our court system works. We had to go twice because the first day, the officials decided to send the judge appointed to our cases to another location and the judge that was there couldn't see us. So after a 2.5 hr drive and about a 1.5 hr wait with 4 kids, we were back on our way to Jinja. We turned around and went back the next day and the judge heard all the cases. All the families passed! Sweet Luke (above with his mama) will be moving to Nashville in about 6 weeks with his new family. How incredible that I'll get to continue to be part of his life!

Enjoying a celebratory lunch with the new families. It's amazing how God brings families together and watching His plan for these children's lives unfold before me is unbelievable.  That he would allow me a glimpse into His heart is incredible humbling. Welcome to your forever families Luke, Katie, Nathan and Isabella!
Princess Debra (yes, that is what the other kids say she is!) during preschool

Benja working hard on practicing his letter Y 

Sorting by shapes and colors. Who knew learning could be so much fun?!?

The toddlers reading stories. The boys all go haircuts this week and now they all have bald heads :(

I love this little girl

Auntie Maggie made head wreaths for the kids during playtime. Beautiful Jemima is showing hers off.

Preschool has been so much fun! I knew that I loved it from teaching it before during the summers when I was in college, and this has been no different. I love watching their little brains try to figure things out and how proud of themselves they are when they do. Their writing skills have improved dramatically and I even have a few that are beginning to write their names on their own. They are not the only ones what are proud! I can't believe that my time here is almost over. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world! 

Monday, February 28, 2011


Sorry its been so quite around here this past week. To be totally honest, I’m not sure what to write. I started this blog to keep family and friends informed of how my trip is going, what I’ve been doing, and things of that nature. The longer I’m here the more I have to process and I feel it’s a disservice to those reading to let you think that its all fun and games around here, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read a whole bunch of heavy posts every week. So I’m not too sure of how this post is going to end-I’ve started it with no plan. Thanks for reading!
Today the sweet Ives family-also from Nashville (we’re taking over Uganda) invited us to go to Kampala with them for the day!! They spent the first 4 months of their time here partnering with a church and were going back for a visit.  The church they attended there is very Ugandan and very African. The church we go to here in Jinja is a mix of Ugandans and missionaries, so it’s a little tamer…haha! It was such a great experience and I loved it! There were three different choirs all dressed in matching costumes, the music was loud and joyful, and the people were so hospitable. I will not lie though and tell you that I am thankful for our 1.5 hour service here in Jinja as opposed to their almost 4 hour service. I wish I would have taken pictures, but that felt disrespectful. Then we went to lunch and I had MEXICAN food-and for being in Uganda, it was really good!!!
This week has been an amazing week of preparing four kids for their new families to come!! We talked about getting to meet mommy and daddy and that they were coming soon. I got to be a part of one family’s introduction to their sweet Luke and it was amazing!! Luke was waiting for them with a worker here and as soon as he saw his mommy he ran to her with arms wide open J  Because I was assigned the job of taking pictures, I couldn’t cry but it was so moving. We’re waiting for one more family and then tomorrow we’ll have a meeting with them about what to expect in court and other important things. Their court date is on Tuesday in Kampala.  I’m very excited that I get to be a part of this process with these families and learn what families go through on this side of the adoption journey. Being able to see first-hand what it is like to live in an orphanage setting, see how it is run, and what the children experience has been so valuable on a professional level. Personally and emotionally-it is thrilling, exhausting, overwhelming, challenging, tiring…and I’m sure I could come up with many other adjectives.
Well I guess speaking for emotionally how things are going-it’s been a trying week. As amazing as it has been to talk with the kids about their parents coming, it’s also heart breaking because that means that there are kids here who aren’t getting to meet their families, who don’t yet have a mom and dad, and who don’t have biological parents or relatives but at the same time aren’t legally free for adoption. Leaving them in limbo. Another little girl, who stole my heart from day one, is going home to her biological family on Friday. There is no such thing as Child Protective Services here. And basically children have no rights. So this little one came to Amani about a year and a half ago after having been subjected to the “treatment” of a witchdoctor, was malnourished, neglected, and abused. She’s terrified of strangers, new things, leaving the compound, and night. The social worker in me is seeing so many things that need to be addressed and causing me to make assumptions about her past solely based on her behavior. It is not pretty. In fact it is dark, cruel, unthinkable, but yet it is her reality. She’s going back. She’s going back on Friday, there’s nothing that can be done, and my heart is going to break into pieces. A song that has been repeating itself in my head says:
                “Oh my God, He will not delay. My God will come through always”
Pray for a miracle on behalf of God’s little princess-she needs one.
Well this is getting long and I’m sure you’re looking for pictures at this point, but one more thing! Saturday, Sarah and I went to Amazima’s feeing program. It was wonderful J Each week they plan for 350 kids. Prior to eating they have a time of worship and a Bible story. These kids are JOYFUL! These children don’t have much in this world, maybe a change of clothes, their school uniform, and a few other things but their smiles and laughs are genuine and contagious. Makes me think of all the material things that I have that have no eternal purpose-that don’t bring true, lasting joy. That is only found in Jesus.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Its a Love Hate Relationship

It's true-I have come to have a love-hate relationship with Amani.  And I know my feelings would be the same for anywhere else I could have gone and will probably go in the future. I love that there is a place like this that exists to provide safety, shelter, beds, meals, and love to children that so desperately need it. Here, and so many other similar places around the world strive to give to what each and every child needs and deserves. And that is commendable and admirable because it's not easy. It's not always smiles, hugs, and laughs. There are lots and lots of tears, screams, hitting, biting, fears, and hurts.  The mamas and care providers strive to give their all. But there is a gap. An orphanage is not even close to being a home and a family.
In three short weeks, I've observed the effect this has on kids-kids we think are not old enough to know the difference, kids that have been here since they were infants kids that have only been here a few weeks. It affects them; it affects them deeply. It comes out in constant questions whenever I leave or say I have to go “Auntie are you leaving?” “Auntie, where you going?” “Auntie, you take me with you?”, “Auntie, you leaving on airplane?” all said with fear in their eyes. They are afraid someone is going to leave them…again.  You see, in their short lives, they’ve only know people to come and go and most don’t come back. They’ve opened their hearts to allow someone to love them, and that person just leaves and they don’t get to go too. They’ve seen parents come to pick up their new son or daughter, and their friend is now gone.  Sooner or later a wall goes up and they shut down. Why should they trust someone who is just going to leave? Or their “bad” behavior is their way of saying their scared-sending out a message loud and clear that says I don’t trust you.  
I know and understand first hand that adoption is not for everyone. But, the Lord calls us, as believers, to care for the orphan and He promises to set the lonely in families. So what does that look like? What is my response? What is the church’s response?  These are all questions I have been struggling with since before coming here. But seeing it first-hand has given me a sense of urgency.  I wrote the first part of this blog after a particularly hard day with the kids. They were hurting and being completely honest so was I. The Lord has reminded me to take a deep breath and remember that He loves them so much more than I do. He sees their needs on a much deeper level than I do. His word reminded me this morning in Isaiah that His ways are not my ways and that His ways are higher than my ways. While this is not an answer to all of my questions, there is peace in that gentle reminder. There is hope in it too. Then He led me to Romans 8 and reminded me that “all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  My job is to love Him. My job is to walk day by day trusting and knowing that His plan is perfect. It is not always easy. For me, it seems that it is rarely easy since I like to know what the plan is and be in charge of that plan. But, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will reveal to me what my response is supposed to be-in His timing and in His way.
Here are a few pictures...