This past summer I had the opportunity to spend time loving on and sharing God with the incredible men, women and children in Uganda, Africa. I know it sounds incredibly cliché – but we really are so blessed. On this trip I realized how oblivious I am to many things outside of the U.S. It’s also cliché to say that we really do have it easy, BUT we REALLY do…if only I could remember that! The gratefulness and thankfulness that is present among these people despite the little they have according to the world’s standards is just an amazing testament to the conditions of the hearts of the Ugandan people.
Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. – Ephesians 5:15
Our team hosted a total of 7 medical clinics where teems of kids and adults young and old would line up to see a doctor or receive medications. For many this was their only opportunity to receive any type of medical care for free all year. It was here during these clinics that we really got to interact with the people of Uganda and love on them. Many times we would arrive to a line of people who had heard we were coming and wanted to be sure they could see the doctor. We always saw more kids than adults – I was always amazed how many children we were surrounded by when there was not a single adult around. Truly young kids completely left by themselves for hours to fend for themselves at such young ages – that was really sad for me. Beyond the likelihood of them being hungry physically, they were just starved for attention and affection. When you have a child standing in front of you with who is dirty, flanked with ring worm, naked, shoeless, smelly, sick, and has snot dripping out of both nostrils you really have to die to yourself and think if I don’t love on this child at this moment there is a very good chance no one else will. In Uganda showing affection, praise or love is not something parents do with their children – the need is so great here.and affection. When you have a child standing in front of you with who is dirty, flanked with ring worm, naked, shoeless, smelly, sick, and has snot dripping out of both nostrils you really have to die to yourself and think if I don’t love on this child at this moment there is a very good chance no one else will. In Uganda showing affection, praise or love is not something parents do with their children – the need is so great here.
Their Beautiful Eyes
Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love. – 2 John 1:6
We had an opportunity to visit a special needs home and sing, love and do a de-worming clinic with about 110 kids who were just jewels. Again some of the sweetest smiles and beautiful eyes looking back at you despite their twisted, motionless bodies. In Uganda children who are born deformed are instantly considered to be outcasts of society and are often times abandoned. Despite the outward appearance of the hundreds of children, they all shared something very special – they all had the most beautiful eyes. Looking into some truly took my breath away. Sitting on the bench looking out into the hundreds of kids waiting to be seen I was reminded of two things: That man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart; and that the eyes are the gateway to the heart and soul where the Lord lives in us.
New Creation Home
You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong to God’s household with every other Christian. Ephesians 2:19
From the Victory City Church choir, to the children at New Creation School, to the 17 children at the home – I have never heard such fervent praise lifted up to God. One of the many things I love about the children in Uganda is that they don’t hold anything back. When I first met the children at the home I was immediately surrounded by a group of smiling, loving kids. They were practically bursting with excitement upon our arrival and jumping up and down as our bus came into view. A few had climbed up on top of the monkey bars to catch the first glimpse of our bus as it rounded the corner for their home and hurried to open the gate for us as the others quickly filtered out of the house. This came to be the usual welcome anytime we came to visit them, it was the best welcome I’ve ever received…pure joy. They love holding your hand, playing with your hair, inspecting the veins and freckles on your skin, playing games outside or just sitting with you. A few times we were blessed to share their devotion time with them. What a wonder it is to see kids so young praising the Lord with all their hearts, mind, bodies and souls. Eyes closed, hands raised, sweet voices praising the Lord – brought me to tears everytime. It was truly something to experience. Their prayers were something else as well – they flowed so freely out of their mouths, so pure, innocent and sincere – I felt like I was witnessing a group of true prayer warriors.
It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. – Ephesians 2:10
One of my most cherished places we visited was Melago Hospital. I was completely taken back by the condition of the hospital. Small, rusted beds were crammed into 3 rooms filled with kids that were sick. There was a foul smelling stench in the air and all around it was just unsanitary on many different levels. In order for them to stay in the hospital they must have someone stay with them and attend to their every need – which meant that parents sat and slept on the cement floor beside their children. We were able to visit with each child, sing with them and distribute a few goodies to them so help brighten their day. One of the little girls that stole my heart was in the corner bed with her little leg set in a brace. She had the sweetest smile despite her unfortunate circumstance and was just precious…I wanted to pick her up and take her home. We also visited the Burn Victim’s ward – completely heart wrenching to see the intense pain and agony that they were going through. As I was making my way through this ward a victim across the way from me lifted up his/her (couldn’t tell if the victim was male or female because their face was completely melted flat) hand and nodded at me. I came over to him and pressed my hand against his – honestly it was one of those moments when you want to turn your face away because what your eyes are focused on is so unimaginably painful. Thankfully the Lord gave me the strength I needed to look this person straight in what was left of his eyes and smile as he seemed to beam back at me with joy. That little simple touch and smile went so far and meant so much. To give you some background – people throw acid on each other in Uganda as a form of a hate/jealous crime. After leaving my smiling friend I came up to another bed and offered a package of crackers to her – she eagerly shook her head at me and then I realized that she was unable to feed herself because her hands had been burned off and they were wrapped up in bandage up to her elbows. I spent the next few minutes with her feeding her crackers as we both laughed together over the crackers that spilled down her face as she voraciously ate. Again I was struck with how joyful many of the people were despite their dire circumstances…I wondered to myself if I could muster up a smile to a stranger if I were lying in a bed burned beyond recognition.
New Creation School
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength – Mark 12:30
We were warmly welcomed by a group of 78 sweet, smiling kids all lined up waiting to shake our hands and give us a hug as we entered their chapel. The prayers and worship here again reminded me of the kids at the home…prayed fervently, fluently, without restraint and all at once – mixture of voices heard throughout the room as the prayers reached the ears of God. I just loved watching them dance and sing – their skinny bodies moving in ways that I couldn’t even begin to!
Visiting The Slum Villages
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. – Psalm 25: 1,16
After the de-worming clinic we did hear we were able to go walking through the heart of this slum village. Two little boys took hold of my hands as I walked through and took in everything in front of me. It was basically clusters of makeshift mud structures with thin, colorful sheets used as doors dotted with people of all ages either hanging laundry, making beaded necklaces or just watching us and smiling. One of the ladies I passed by gave me a beautiful turquoise necklace she had made and would not accept any money from me – again I was struck how someone with so little was so selfless…
We were in this village for about 1 hour and not once did the boys’ parents who were holding my hands come looking for them – I couldn’t imagine leaving my two children at such a young age and allowing them to walk off with a complete stranger for 1 minute, let alone 1 hour. It really is sobering to walk through these villages amongst piles of trash swarming with flies and children running through it barefoot. The smell of human feces is intense as the bathroom for these people is basically anywhere they want. It was times like these where I had to remind myself that I was really in Africa experiencing this – this was not a movie or TV commercial.
The Sweet & Lovable Children Of Uganda
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also – Matthew 6:19-21
I found myself very drawn to the kids we would randomly come across in the middle of seemingly nowhere. Our bus would stop and they would just appear and smile and laugh at us. There were usually five of them or so no older than 6 usually wearing tattered and torn clothes, shoeless and a few grinning ear to ear while the others would stare at us questionably. The more spastic ones were fun as they would run around us and squeal with delight. One of the neatest moments happened when the children from the home who were with us came across a group of these children and we had nothing to give them so without us asking our kids took the bracelets off the wrist that we had given them the day before as gifts and put them on the wrists of these kids. Again hit with how a group of kids who had so little themselves would give the little they had away to kids who had even less. Beautiful.
Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
While sitting on the bus going from place to place I was really able to soak in a lot. It was amazing to me how many kids there were…down every alley, or street there was at least one little child. I will never be able to get over how they are left to protect themselves for the better part of the day if not completely. Kids no older than 6 are taking care of kids younger than them. It’s just so backwards. They miss out on their childhood and are given adult responsibilities and stresses. I will never forget seeing children at night carrying large yellow plastic containers of water up a steep hill while another group of children were still at work pounding stones over a steep land mine…again not an adult around.