I had the pleasure of spending the last week with a board member one-on-one here in Uganda. Dee Anne and I went around doing the things together that I normally do alone. When someone asks me what my week looks like, it is really hard to answer with a simple answer. It is much easier to just take someone on a journey with me through my week just as I did with Dee Anne. There are things that are scheduled and there is a routine, but the schedule has to always be flexible.
Flexibility in adjusting to God's schedule rather than my own schedule is what I'm learning here. This is what the last week looked like:
Preschool is taught every morning from 9:00 to 10:00 am at Amani Baby Cottage. Sometimes, the preschool schedule runs smoothly and wonderfully with several volunteers and sometimes there is a hitch, and we have to adjust the day's plans. But always, we meet. Teaching consistency is key in early education. Dee Anne is an educator and she was able to see first hand the benefits of consistency with the children. They have learned so much and have come so far since January.
We visited the Crisis Pregnancy Center on Tuesday to see how the classes were going. One of the teenage moms had her baby just three weeks ago and they both look so healthy. Dee got to meet the young mother that I have grown fond of with twins. Carolyn helped out by finding her a temporary place to stay since her twins are considered a curse in her village. Holding these beautiful twins bring the crisis to a serious reality. I cannot imagine someone wanting to sacrifice not only one child of God but two beautiful children the Creator knew before they were born. The mother is doing great and following all the guidelines that have been set before her. One day at a time. That is the only way many of these young ladies in crisis can survive. Thinking too far ahead creates too much fear and stress. And, so one day at a time, improving daily, praying daily, and daily doing the best that she can do, this mother of twins is smiling and surviving.
I took Dee to see the village of Nyenga where we meet with a group of ladies once a week. The ladies get a bag of food that means the difference between life and death many times for their children. They receive rice, beans, flour, tomatoes, eggs and Oil as well as formula and baby cereal if needed. I was able to see my friend that I blogged about a couple of months ago, Maureen. Maureen is the lady that was sent to jail for abandonment and left her newborn baby with a 14 year old taking care of a small boy and the baby. Now, through intervention, Maureen is taking care of her baby and learning to be responsible. I can't believe how healthy the baby looks after just one month. To see Maureen walking into the class smiling and to see the baby's smiles made me realize (once again) the importance of family intervention. I see the theme over and over and over and God keeps confirming the importance of helping families stay together in a crisis instead of giving up.
We then met with Fazirra that I recently blogged about on Mother's Day. Fazirra is overwhelmed with six children. He oldest son, Sharif, helps her keep her sanity. Sharif is 10 years old and more responsible in the village than most children his age. By making weekly visits with Fazirra, I learned that Sharif needed help with school. They could not afford to pay his school fees and for just 110,000 shillings (about $45 U.S. dollars) we were able to get the school supplies that Sharif needs as well as pay his current term's fees. I still need to find some shoes to fit him and get him a backpack to carry his school supplies in because the 2 miles that he has to walk to school is difficult when carrying supplies back and forth but he manages. He is a survivor and wants an education. He is pictured with his headmaster below and holding the required broom and 2 rolls of toilet paper the first day back after holiday.
On most days that I make village visits (and I have developed relationships with several ladies that I try to visit and check on) to Fazirra, I find a crisis. And crisis is not an exaggeration. This past week, I visited her on Monday (the day after she accepted Christ) and found Fred (the 4 year old) in horrible pain. He had knocked over a large pot of boiling water on his legs and entire private area. I had to put my big girl pants on and not get sick or cry but I wanted to run for help. Instead, we went to the Canaan Clinic down the road and made sure that someone was there to care for him and made arrangements to pay for expense. We then went to town to get some Silver Sulfadiazine Cream for burns. We sent Fazirra to the clinic (gave her boda money) to take care of this on her own. The clinic did a fantastic job and the next day we showed her how to clean the burned areas and apply the cream. Working with the abandoned ladies here means so much more than sharing Christ. It means taking the time to care, to teach life skills, to teach health and safety and to just show up. One day while we were nursing the burn, her 2 year old girl bit her tongue badly and it began to bleed. Pray for my overwhelmed new Christian friend, Fazirra.
Education: that is another topic that I've learned quite a bit about during my research months here. Sharif's class has 105 students. Yes - that is not a typo - 105 children are learning together in one room with one teacher. Sharif is in P3 and does not know how to speak English because school does not typically start teaching English until the 4th grade (P4). The problem with that: the exams after 7th grade are in English. Imagine learning a new language and working on it for 3 years and then having to read an entire exam in every subject in that new language. And failing the exam means repeating the 7th grade. That is why many of the students in secondary school S1 (the next level after passing the exam after primary school) range from the ages of 13 to 17.
I spend Monday and Wednesday afternoons in Masese with a Bible lesson to two different groups of women and children. We visited my group on Wednesday and found about 150 children ready for games and songs. God brought me a Ugandan friend that wants to be a youth pastor. Literally, Godfrey was walking through Masese and walked up to me and asked me if he could translate or help with singing. He now meets me each Monday and Wednesday and leads the kids in Ugandan songs and he is so full of energy. His shirt that he was wearing last Wednesday said "the next generation" and I thought it fit him perfectly. He is showing the children a strong, male Christian influence.
Our last meeting with the government officials went well and we were just asking advice on the needs of Uganda. We do not want to have our own agenda, but want to follow God's plans and so we seek the Ugandans input. What we have learned more than anything else, is that here, in Uganda, it is best to empower the Ugandans to help each other. To continue to follow God's calling and to serve and to be thinking of ways to help them help each other in the future. I am thankful that God has me on this journey and thankful for HEAL board of directors, like Dee Anne, that come to visit to see firsthand what God is leading us to and to give me a shot of encouragement while reminding me where my strength comes from.
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."