I have learned it’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. It is about people and moments and making sure you are really living each and every one of them. I have had so many beautiful moments here and I know there are so many more to come.
I wrote that in my journal a few days ago after four of the interns that became my family, left. I was sad to see them go because when you live with 14 other girls in close proximity it’s pretty easy to start viewing them as family. The relationships I have formed here feed my soul and even in one short month, they have become so important to me. The interns, men, women, and children that fill the gates of the James Place are the heart and soul of this place and the reason that Jesus’ presence is felt here each and every day.
When I was accepted and started planning to become an intern for HEAL I was not entirely sure what to expect. All I knew about this organization was taken from pictures I had scanned on social media and what I had learned from their website. The pictures and the website were filled with smiling faces and what appeared to be a place that was overflowing with the love of Jesus. When I arrived, I was met with those smiling faces and hearts full of Jesus, but I was also met with so much more.
It’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. And that is so true. Every second of my days are filled with them and fueled by them. I wake up at 7am every morning and get ready for the day in the bedroom I share with 5 other girls and a bathroom I share with around 13 other girls. We get ready for the day together while a few prepare breakfast together and get it set up for everyone else. There are lots of good morning’s and how did you sleep? ’s and is it time for breakfast? ‘s and should we make an extra thing of coffee? ‘s. There are conversations during breakfast and someone sharing a devotion and kids walking past us to go potty and change for preschool. There are women walking past, waving to us and smiling while talking amongst themselves. See? So much relationship and community and togetherness already and its only 8:15 in the morning.
After breakfast we all go off to our areas of work for the day, which would be childcare for me unless it’s Wednesday in which case I would go to Social Work. When I walk down to the children they are all sitting on a tarp with the childcare workers and usually I plop down next to a staff member named AJ, give her a smile, she asks me how I slept or how I was and I ask her, and some sassy words are usually exchanged because that’s just how AJ is- sweet, sassy and a whole lot of attitude (and her daughter is pretty much an exact replica, its hilarious). And while I am still getting situated on the tarp a child will plop them-self down on my lap and I open my arms to another sweet angel, Benja, and he gives me the best hug ever. And then its potty time during which I grab a child’s hand (or two) and begin the journey up to the bathroom.
After potty time the children play on the playground and so I switch between playing with them and talking to the women. I ask Maureen (another staff member) how she is doing, sit with AJ at the sandbox, maybe learn some words in Luganda, maybe slip away for a quick visit with Parvin, Grace and Teresa in pottery and exchange pleasantries with everyone I pass along the way. There is so much more that I am forgetting, but you get the picture. I am constantly surrounded by women and children and interns and so there is always something to be said and more to listen to, lots of experiences to share and to be had…laughter, loud voices and crying babies are pretty much constant sounds that fill the air at the James Place, it’s pretty wonderful. The women and men on the compound are not only co-workers, they are friends and family. They support each other and they love each other. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” At the James Place, they live life together, share together, learn together, grow together and as a result they have gone so far, together.
They build relationships with each other, but they also welcome relationship with us. They share their wisdom with us and invite us to their homes, they ask about our stories and then share their own, they call us friends and tell us they love us and when we leave they are sure they will see us again, if not here on earth, definitely in our forever home. When we are gone for the day they welcome us back and ask where we’ve been. And each time I walk in the gate I hear from Dennis or one of the guards, “welcome back” or “you are welcome”. It is something I never get tired of hearing, and that is good because it is something you hear fairly often in this country:)
Each day the staff eats lunch together while all of the interns also eat together, usually crammed into a space that really is not big enough to hold 16 adults. During bath time staff from all different areas come together to wash the kids and carry them to nap time. The childcare workers and laundry staff all do chores together after bath time and usually the childcare interns help out. This past week I helped Maureen wash and rinse hand towels and afterwards she washed my shoes and feet just because she likes to.
I have had so many beautiful moments here, one month straight of them. I am excited and thankful for five more filled with a whole lot of different types of moments, mostly beautiful ones though.