Tonight’s blog update is from one of the adopted team members, Ryan. I’m one of the four Americans that the group joined here in Uganda and who was blessed beyond belief to serve alongside the team. It seems like it was just last night that we were meeting them at the airport and bringing them back here to the guest house. Now, as I type this post, the team is making its way towards the Entebbe Airport through insane drivers, heavy jam, and crater-filled roads. In a few hours they will be boarding their flight and at 2:35pm Saturday afternoon they will be stepping off of a plane back in Dulles International Airport.
As the team returns home and shares all of their awesome experiences with family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and complete strangers, I think about Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:12: “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshy wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
The past two weeks I watched as 14 amazing men and women of God conducted themselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity. It was simple, sincere actions of love that God used immeasurably these two weeks. Putting a band-aid on a little boy’s boo boo. Playing football with dozens of rowdy teenagers. Reading Harry Potter to a boy in pain. Coloring alongside a child. Listening to some guys who just needed someone to hear them. Giving a friend a meal and saying “This one’s on me.” Handing down some old clothes. Going over to some friends’ place and spending hours just hanging out with them. Singing, dancing, worshipping, and learning alongside brothers and sisters. Giving some of God’s beautiful children the time of day that the world would not.
There will certainly be much boasting about what has happened these last two weeks, but the boasting is not in anything accomplished through our fleshy wisdom. The boasting from this trip is all through the grace of God. Boasting that our Healer healed in magnificent ways. Boasting that our Provider provided by mysterious means. Boasting that our Comforter comforted when nothing else could. Boasting that our Creator created new hearts and new minds. Boasting that our Daddy in Heaven loves the boys living on the streets of Kampala, Uganda soooo much! And boasting that the Alpha and Omega has great plans for Amanda, Jansen, Michelle, Katie, Angela, David, Emberli, Erica, Kate E., Holly, Anna, Amber, Shannon, and Melanie that don’t end at 2:35pm Saturday, January 14, 2012, they are just beginning!!
“I have a plan for you, I have a plan for you. It’s gonna be wild! It’s gonna be great! It’s gonna be full of Me!”
Hey everyone! It’s Kate E. and Erica….We decided to write this blog together tonight because we have both had similar experiences on this trip. Since both of us come from good ol’ Drakes Branch (represent!), Africa has been such a mind blowing trip for us small town girls. The past couple of days have been pretty laid back but it’s been hard realizing that in a few short days we will be leaving this beautiful place. The Lords presence has never been so prominent to either one of us as it has been on this trip. We’ve realized even more just how great and powerful prayer is. We definitely take that for granted back home. In the US miracles happen every day but we are so often distracted by so many other things. A saying we’ve heard here is the difference between Africans and Americans is that “Americans BELEIVE in God but Africans DEPEND on God.” We both really took this to heart because it’s not out of the norm to see miracles performed daily right before our eyes. We spend so much of our day praying over the street children and boys from the homes for physical and spiritual healing and it’s incredible to literally see the Lord heal people right in front of us. We are constantly reminded of his love and his power.
Like we said these past couple of days have been pretty laid back and that’s been such a blessing. We have fallen so deeply in love with these boys and the Jesus in them. At street reach we have been playing football and fun games and just hanging out with the boys. They have been such a blessing to us. At the homes we had the boys do skits yesterday to act out “Treasures in Heaven”. It was so funny! They had us all laughing. Today at the homes we didn’t do our normal small groups but just the lesson and hung out for the afternoon. It was a nice relaxing evening. We are so excited to spend the next few days with these wonderful boys but keep our team in your prayers for guidance and to love like Jesus!
Hello all of our beautiful followers! This is Shannon speaking! We apologize for the lack of posts so we know there’s going to be a huge amount posted now, everyone one of them is important so please make sure you’re reading them all ;)!
So today…let’s see..how to even begin to describe today. Well maybe I should start with something God has really been teaching me. That’s prayer and His power through prayer. I’ve always believed in praying, praying before bed, before I let my feet touch the ground in the morning, but never did I think of really using it for every decision and person I come across. But God has been showing me that it is important to come to Him for everything…no matter how little or small it may seem in my eyes, it’s important because it comes from Him. We’ve been doing a lot of praying with the boys at street reach, and for me in particular, during medical. I’ve seen God heal before, but never in such a way that I have seen in the past week. There have been days where I prayed for just one more day, one more breath and then saw the same joyful heart running and bouncing around, healed, the next day. James, a boy we met who is suffering from some serious diseases was really a pure miracle. We gathered to pray for him last Thursday, and as we carried him to the bus and then to the hospital, we continued to lay hands over him. Today we watched him helping translate and serving the other boys in anyway possible, because of the healing power God showed through prayer. Today, Sebastian who had a cut in his foot so deep it would make any of us cry out in pain, was instantly calmed and quieted after a simple prayer for comfort. It’s things like this, that we are being blessed to see every day that make me continue to believe in the power of prayer.
Something else that God has really called my attention to is blessings in my life. For example, I never realized how blessed I am to know my birthday and how old I am. If I really wanted to, I could calculate the exact second of my existence…I could do this because I know there is record by the people that love me, of my exact time and date of birth. Wow, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL THING! Somebody loves me so much that they cared to document a day so special in my life. It seems so simple…but so many boys here don’t know. Their ages might change depending on what team member you ask simply because these beautiful, joyful, CHILDREN OF GOD, don’t really know how old they are, or what day they entered this world. So it made me think, what really is age? If we didn’t know how old we are would it really matter? Would people still tell us we can’t do things because of how “young we are”… or would it be based on our ability, or for that matter the ability that our Beloved Father in Heaven has blessed us with. Well I know for one thing, I will never doubt my ability to change, impact, or do God’s work again because of how little or young one might think I am.
Okay Dokey Artichokey’s!!!! I hope you are having a beautiful day. I hope God has showed you something beautiful today. We are basking in the glory of the Lord and enjoying our time here in His kingdom. Thank you for your prayers and support, please keep them coming!!! We can’t wait to share all of our stories and hearts with you when we land! Love you! (ps: Holla Rusty and Vickster! I love you both and I hope this reached you both well! Pass my love onto katattack and roadster and craig…please feed him…please don’t set him free in our backyard. oh, I’m alive!)
This blog was supposed to happen on Friday, but due to power outage/internet being down… here it is :)
December 27th 2011, a friendship was sparked that would change the world, or maybe just two lives. Amber Whittaker and I, Melanie Raines, fell in love at first sight. Over a twenty-four hour plane ride to our destination of Kampala, Uganda, and one day falling in love with boys on the streets, we knew this would be an everlasting friendship. So today, we decided we were going to write the blog together, to give you guys an understanding of what a normal day in Uganda is like for us. Our creative idea is to make a list for y’all of all the things we never thought we would do, hear, or see. Enjoy and you’re welcome :)
Things we never thought we would do;
Mel- Allow children to call me watermelon, and not get offended.
Am- Kissing what seems like a million dirty faces of precious boys each day.
Mel- Ride down the dirt roads of Uganda listening to Ludacris, Brittney Spears, and Bruno Mars while the entire team sings along.
Am- Struggle to carry my full jerry can as a two year old trots by with one on his head.
Both- Pray for a boy who was dying of Aids and see him healed and smiling the next day.
Things we never thought we would hear:
Mel- A little boy, Marvin, tell me he wished I was his mother.
Am- Sweet prayers of street boys thanking the Lord for their blessings.
Both- Hearing homeless, orphan boys explain what it means to have a relationship with the Lord more clearly than some adults in America do.
Things we never thought we would see:
Mel- A one year old carrying a jerry can.
Am- Watching Melanie wash her skinny jeans and cardigan in a bucket
Mel- Watching Amber stir a pot of posha (extremely thick Ugandan mashed potatoes) for fifty street boys with a spoon the size of a gondola paddle.
Am- A tough little street boy walking around in high heels.
Mel- Watching Amber sweep the ground of the slum with a big tree branch.
Both- Walls being broken down and hard exteriors of street boys being removed by the Lord each day.
Both- Fifty rescued street boys worshiping the Lord with all their hearts, such a privilege.
We have only been here for a week, and already our lives have been changed by the power, the love, and grace of the Lord. We feel so incredibly blessed and unworthy to have the opportunity to serve the living God, here and at home. We have learned so much about the Father and His heart through amazing boys who would give us the clothes off their backs. Thank you all for your love and prayers, each day we’re seeing the streets of Uganda slowly transform and be restored. The victory is the Lord’s, the battle is already won, WE WIN.
This is who? This is Katie Beals! Uganda is what? Uganda is a beautiful place. Our team is what? Our team is in awe of God’s beauty tonight. You may be wondering why I am asking questions and answering them, but that is because Ugandans, especially the boys in the New Life Home, often talk in such a manner. Learn to talk in Ugandan English Lesson #1 Ask Questions and answer them! Learn to talk in Ugandan English Lesson #2 Pronounce your L’s as R’s.
Anyways, down to business! Today was a “normal” day. Well, as normal as a day spent with orphans in Uganda can be. It was a beautiful day, though. There is one street boy that holds such a special place in my heart. His name is Ivan, and he is such a giving boy for an orphan who lives on the streets. Monday he brought me a card wishing me luck on my exams. It cracked the team up, but I know I am going to do well on my exams this coming semester because I have a 16 year old boy from Uganda pulling for me! Tuesday, he brought me a precious little necklace, and today, he brought me a bracelet AND a card. For boy who has next to nothing, he lives up to his love language of gift giving. Now Ivan and I do not share many words. The English he knows is very limited, and the Lugandan I know is even more limited. It gets so frustrating because I just want to tell him what a place he has in my heart, but even with a translator, I don’t think I could put it into words. God has just nestled this boy deep in the crevices of my heart. I never want to leave him, and I always want to give him one more hug. It probably sounds like I’m in love with this boy, but really, I am in love with God in him.
Now what do I do? Uganda has changed my relationship with God; therefore, changing my life. What does this mean for my life? What does Ivan coming into my life mean? These are all questions, and they can all be answered by the song “Come Away” by Jesus Culture. We had a wonderful night of worship and sang that song. The lyrics that have been stuck in my head, and I think everyone else’s heads because I have heard multiple people singing it since, are “I have a plan for you. I have a plan… for you. It’s gonna be wild. It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be full of me.” God has my life. It is his and up to him what he’s gonna do with it. God has a hold of Ivan’s life, and I know that Ivan’s life is gonna be wild and great. That makes my heart explode with joy and hope.
Another thing that I am feeling called to share with you is a verse from Job 5:8-9. It says, “If it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that can’t be counted.” The word unfathomable has been describing so many things in my life. I can’t fathom the life of a street boy. I can’t fathom what God’s plan for me is. I can’t fathom heaven. I can’t fathom the love God has for me. I don’t have to fathom them though. I just have to ask God.
This has probably been somewhat of a jumbled blog post tonight, but I’m on a roller coaster of an adventure here. It all comes down to God’s good love for all people. Inquagala nyo (I Love you very much in Luganda)
Unfortunately the power and internet connection were lost last night as I was preparing the blog, so we’ll try it again.
We were asked to debrief our day of Street Reach Ministry and New Life Homes visit in one word. Can we do it? Yes we can.
Jail (none of us have been arrested nor do we plan to be)
God-Full (I know two words)
And for a quick Angela M. Jackson perspective…Oh the pressure to be the first Black American that most of the boys and uncles have seen or met. I have been pinched, sniffed, starred at from afar, passed by as boys introduce themselves to the Muzungus. I’ve had my arm held up for a color comparison, asked how and why my skin is brown, asked where my parents and grandparents are from, and told that I am Nigerian, Ugandan, Jamaican, and even Muzungu.
After the shock, awe, and chatter amongst themselves; I have been greeted with smiles, amazement, glee, the question “You are a Black American?” , and even a song by a popular Ugandan musician named Cesar which is about a girl named Angela.
a ni ono (Who is this?)
o we wa n’a sa na (Where are you from?)
To say the least, the experience has been new for all.
Good Morning-Good Night-Good Day from Angela M. Jackson, the Black American
One last thing. After reading the blog, I’m sure you’ve wished to send an encouraging word with the New Life Home boys. Never fear, you still have that opportunity. We still need about 18 letters/notes to distribute. It can be as simple as three to four sentences or as long as you want. Please email your message to Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello From Emberli! or Emberri as I am called by everyone here.
Yesterday, January 2nd, I had an experience that gave me hope for the boys on the street. As the others were sharing the lesson yesterday at Buganda Field a boy named JOELLE motioned for me to sit with him. As soon as I sat down he started talking to me. At first I told him that we needed to be quiet and listen to those speaking, but I soon realized that his questions were way way more important. So, we scooted away from the group and talked a few yard away in the grass. He asked me what it meant to give his heart to God. I spent about twenty minutes explaining that giving your heart to God meant telling God you believe in him, and you want him to live inside of you, and to base your life and decisions on what you have learned from him. Then I asked him questions about his life and made sure he understood me. He explained that his parent take part in witch craft,and he gets beaten for refusing to sin, but then he said something that shocked me. He said “I want to do this. I want to give my heart to Jesus. I want him to be part of my life, and I will pray for his help in my decisions. I understand that this may cause me pain and my parents may not like it, but this is what I believe” So we called some of his close “uncles” (young adult me kind of like youth sponsors) over and he confessed his belief of Christ and asked God into his heart. It was an amazing and heart warming experience. Later I found out that Joelle lives in a Discipleship home run by two uncles, Mark and David. They and Katie have been talking to him for a couple of weeks, but no one was expecting all the things he said. Now I am working on giving him a Bible which we have a ton of thanks to all of you. Kotunda Mulungi ( GOD IS GREAT) Love, Emberli
Kate E. and Holly here! Oli otya (how are you)? The team is gyendi (good). Today was our first day at street reach. Street reach is a program run by Abaana for kids who live on the street to come and have a place to be a kid and to get a meal. These are boys who literally live on the streets, or live in the slums. Many of them have come from abusive homes where they have had no choice but to runaway. Everything they own is precious to them because it is all they have. As mentioned earlier, some of the boys struggle with drug use and addiction. They sometimes turn to drugs to numb pain or because they are just so hungry. It was not unusual to see boys doing drugs and huffing oil when we saw them today (they were either taken away by staff or asked to leave the program).
Something that really hit us was when Shannon, David, and Holly were reading some bible verses to the boys when a group of men from the city council showed up at the top of the hill where Street Reach happens. One of the uncles who was interpreting for us told Shannon and Holly that they arrest or beat the street boys. Fortunately, he told us that they couldn’t do anything while because they were at a program, but if they ran they could arrest them or beat them. The initial reason why they were there was because there was a man cooking/selling on the street when he shouldn’t have. They ended up arresting him; it turns out that this man actually physically abused the boys so they were happy that he was arrested. We were really upset by the fact that the city council/police beat or arrest them because they’re just kids who’ve been dealt a difficult hand. They’re not necessarily looking to make trouble, but they are just trying to survive and the government is not helping them at all to do that. It’s just not fair that they have to run from the people that you would think would protect them. They are being robbed of their childhood and what they go through is unimaginable but for them it’s real life.
Although today was difficult, God did show up. One of the boys was led to Christ (Emberli will explain more in another post), and another (who is Muslim) got to talking to Jansen and is interested in learning more about God.
We were excited to reunite with our new family at the New Life Homes today. We led small group discussions with them on the Beatitudes and we were really impressed with everything they knew. Some of them could have easily led the discussion themselves! Despite how much they do know about God and the Bible, some of them doubt what they do know. Pray that they will have the courage and not be afraid to speak out and to tell others of the hope they have. (PS—all of the boys, not just the ones at the home, have such BIG dreams! Pray that they will have the opportunity to fulfill these dreams).
Two really funny things that happened today with some of the boys from the homes. First, Amanda wanted us to mention that she was reunited with 2 of her good friends from last year, Michael & Jared. When we were leaving, Holly was on the bus and he/everyone came to the windows to say “see you tomorrow” again to all of us, and Michael asked Holly if she knew Harry Potter. I (Holly) said, “yeah, I love Harry Potter!” He came back later and asked again and I told him, “yeah! We grew up together!” His immediate response was something along the lines of “You grew up with Harry Potter?!” He was shocked and couldn’t believe it (but he did, haha). I told him that it was a joke and he just laughed, and we did too.
The other thing happened on the bus on the way back to the house we are staying at. Two of the boys came with us because they are sick and we took them to the clinic (Their names are John Paul and Moses). Moses is a character. He told us he had a really funny story to tell us. When we got on the main road, he started to tell us how when he was younger he lived on that street. They call white people “muzungus”, and he told us that every time a bus with white people came by he would yell “muzungus!” like most Ugandans. He also told us that he used to think that “muzungus” ate black people. When a group came out, he would run away, and he said that he told his sister that if he ever saw one, to run away. Thankfully, now that’s he’s been at the home, he knows that we do not eat people. He said that the first he met just hugged him and that it was part of our culture and that he loved us. We were all cracking up by the end of the story.
Just one quick thing to add…a lot of you have asked or are probably wondering where the girls are. Unfortunately, most of them are in hiding or being kidnapped and being trafficked as sex slaves. When girls are on the streets they are much more vulnerable than the boys are. This is another thing that just breaks our hearts. However, Abaana and Calvary Chapel Kampala are looking into starting homes for girls.
A few other random things…storks are the ugliest birds ever. These are the birds that supposedly are the ones that bring babies to their families, but they are so gross looking and they are GINORMOUS. Also, rolex is delicious. We’re not talking about the watch, it’s Ugandan food and it’s made from chapte (basically a fried tortilla…but not…because we’re in Uganda…) with fried eggs and more chapte. The pineapple is the bomb dot com.
We have officially been up way too late, so sula bulungi (good night)!
Hi from Uganda! This is Katie B and Erica, and we want to share our story from today with you all.
Today it hit the team… the reality of being in Africa… the reality of the lives of these boys who live on the streets… the reality that we were called here to serve our Lord by pouring out our love onto these boys. We were truly broken. We decided to write this post together because we both were faced with the same reality of their lives that we could not even fathom.
We started today out by team breakfast and then headed out to Calvary Chapel, Kampala (this church is connected to Calvary Chapel , Farmville). This church is located in the middle of the city. It is so funny to enter the city because we are “Muzungus” (White people). So we get stared at like celebrities. Many of the street boys come to this church. It was incredible to worship at a church in Uganda, and just to be surrounded by people who love the Lord and are of a completely different culture. Even in Uganda, singing “How Great Thou Art” brought both of us to tears, and it was a beautiful thing.
After church, we ventured to the streets and experienced food from street vendors for the first time. Some of the things were new and not as enjoyable, like sugar cane, but some were delicious like “chipate” (a Ugandan tortilla). It was a worthwhile experience, nonetheless.
Now is where we get to the heart of the story. We headed to Deliverance Church for a program called Tomorrow’s Heroes. Tomorrow’s Heroes is a program for street boys, where they can come and play games, hang out, learn about the Lord, and get fed. When we got there, we were greeted by some of the boys that were at church. After a brief rainstorm, we played some games and started our program. Our team focused on teaching the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Beatitudes are Jesus’ teachings and promises of blessing upon us when we are in different situations. As a team, we were surprised by the ways God revealed the boys’ faith and relationship with him through these discussions and the questions they asked. After our talks with the boys, the Uncles (older Ugandan Men who look after and mentor the street boys and the boys in the homes) lined them up to get the chipate and bananas we had for them. As the line was dwindling down and most of the boys had gotten fed, one boy, Johiah had passed out, and Katie, Mallory, and one of the Uncles rushed over to him. Later, the team found out that there was more than dehydration afflicting this boy. He is 7 years old and addicted to drugs, and Mallory and Katie told us that the last time he came to a program, he almost died. Soon after, we were rushed off to the bus, and the Uncles brought Johiah. When we were on the bus taking him to the clinic I (Erica) just placed my hand on him and prayed for healing. Others placed their hands on me and the whole team began praying for this little 7 year old. After he was carried off the bus I couldn’t help but cry. It really hit me, what I had just done. I had just prayed over a 7 year old’s body who didn’t feel like living anymore; a 7 year old who wasn’t enjoying his childhood but rather trying to flee from it.
On the bus ride home, we were both just overwhelmed with feelings that we couldn’t comprehend or identify. The wind streamed in through the window as tears streamed down our faces. Upon arriving home, we looked at each other with eyes filled with sadness, knowing that we needed some quiet time with the Lord. We were so torn by seeing the hopelessness some of these boys have. We knew when we left that we were going to the guest house, but where were those boys going? We say they are living on the streets, but we can’t understand what that really means. Spending that time with God, sitting in our brokeness, we saw how wonderful it was to be sad. We sing songs and ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His, but when he was answering those prayers today, we didn’t know what that brought with it and probably wouldn’t have asked if we had known at the time. Looking back though, that is what God calls us to do.
We are looking forward to seeing our new friends tomorrow at Buganda Field for Street Reach and to see our friends at the New Life Homes.
In about an hour, it will officially be 2012 in Kampala! We have had such a wonderful day, so we decided to all share our favorite parts of today that closed out 2011! Also, you might read some pretty interesting things, but keep in mind that is a very different culture over here. Haha! Enjoy reading and have happy New Year! :)
Michelle: The boys are so loving. It has been amazing to hear some of their stories. We feel so close to them already, even after two days! I can’t wait to hear more about their lives and share mine with them.
David: We spent the whole day at the boys’ Home and played a lot of soccer, which was spectacular. And, we spent so much quality time with them.
Jansen:I loved hanging out with the boys. The best part was hearing Fahad, Muhammed, and Moses’ testimonies. The boys want to go deep with us. We just have to initiate. :)
Angela: The best part of the day was when we were circled up in the cow field singing songs with the boys. Julius was an excellent musician, and John Paul is the great “mixer of songs”- so me on the remake. I even rocked out my rapping skills. God has not forgotten. :)
Melanie: I loved being able to sit around and joke with the boys today. We laughed so much!
Amber: I loved holding sweet baby Ester. I also loved when Emmanuel shared his story with me. The way he has been able to forgive those who have wronged him through the Lord is beautiful.
Holly: some highlights from today were dancing and singing with the boys, teaching the boys and talking with them in the team’s new “language,” and almost getting run over by cows! Thankfully it’s part of Ugandan culture to hold hands so I was quickly pulled away by one of the boys so I didn’t get trampled :)
Shannon: Well..she fell asleep as soon as she got home, but I’m assuming that she loved watching Shrek with Emmanuel and taking pictures with all of the boys and kids in the nearby homes. :)
Emberli: Today I realized again that no matter where you are, music and sports are universal. You might have no idea what the person next to you just said, but the rules of the game stay the same. It was wonderful to play “futbol” with the boys and worship nonstop. There was no question. God meant for us to spend this time with these boys.
Anna: As well as Shannon, Anna also went straight to bed! But, I am pretty sure she is definitely falling in love with Africa. She is soaking it all in and I am pretty sure she loved when John Paul and Abraham showed her how Americans dance. She couldn’t stop laughing! Oh wait-she just walked into the living room! She says “Julius told me his testimony and it was very inspiring. I am so overwhelmed with how beautiful they are!” Haha!
Amanda: My favorite part of today was getting to know Israel while holding hands as we watched Shrek that was projected on the wall, having spontaneous worship on the soccer field, eating catered food/watching Abraham eat 4 plates including my leftovers, and talking to Micheal on the phone (who I will be reunited with on Monday!!) :)
Kate E.: When we were in the field, and we got in a circle and just started singing praises and we all wrapped our arms around each other I couldn’t stop smiling!
Katie: Today I made a friend forever. I was sitting with Mustafa and we were talking about how we are good friends he said, “even if we never see each other after you leave, I know we are friends forever because we will be in heaven one day.” So I am closing 2011 with a bunch of new friends forever.
Erica: I loved learning some Lugandan worship songs and singing praises with the wonderful boys. Hearing them sing out to the Lord makes my heart smile. Besides that, teaching the boys how to Bernie topped it off :)
Have an absolutely wonderful day (because it’s like 2 pm in America right now) ;) HAPPY UGANDAN NEW YEAR! nwagaliza omwaka omupya!!!