Time here is a strange thing. So much happens in each day; sometimes at the end of the day I look back and think, "Wow, I can't believe I did that this morning." The days are long, but the weeks are so short. It feels like I got here last week but I have been with HEAL Ministries for six weeks now. So much has happened in those six weeks: I have fallen in love with Uganda. But more importantly, I have fallen even more in love with her people. I get to love on 50 children every day here at The James Place. I am "Auntie Betty" to them and I love each and every one of them so much. The days are filled with playing, laughing, feeding, cleaning, naps, snacks, runny noses, drool, teaching, and growing. Our kids get to actually be kids. It's easy to forget that that isn't reality for most of the kids here in Uganda.
Besides the kids, I also get to love on all of the staff and the women involved in our programs. Most of our staff is made up of women who have been abandoned, but their lives are filled with such joy because of their relationships with Jesus. Our women in the program have all been either abandoned or widowed, and they use the programs here at The James Place as a way to learn so they can become sustainable and provide for their children. They have the opportunity to learn English, take business courses in which they create a business plan of their own, learn how to sew and make rugs and pillows, make beads for jewelry out of paper, and we just recently started a pottery program.
I've been with the pottery class since day one and it's awesome to see how much they have learned in the few weeks that it has been going on. The other day, I watched the women start to purify the clay (it has to be purified so that it doesn't break when put in the kiln). The process involves breaking down the hard clay into smaller pieces and then crushing it with rocks and sifting out all of the bigger particles. The resulting product is finer than sand. Some of the women were so good at this process and I found out why: Isaac, our teacher, told me that it's the same method they use in the villages to make flour, by grinding the wheat down with rocks. It was an awesome moment for me, being able to see these women apply a skill that they already knew to another medium, one that can help provide a future income.
HEAL Ministries also has an emergency shelter on the property. A few weeks ago, a 15 year old girl named Parvin showed up at our gate, due to give birth within a couple of days. She shared her story with us; her mother had died before she can remember anything, she was raped, and her father didn't believe her and wanted nothing to do with her. We had a bed open in our emergency shelter and she moved in the same day. I got to know here during the next week or so and last week I went with her to the doctor after her water broke. I held her tight as she found out she had to have a c-section. I felt her body shake with fear but felt her calm. By the time we got to the Medical Center where the procedure was to be done, she was at complete peace, a peace that only Jesus could give her. I sat in the room as she was taken away to the "theatre" for the surgery. I prayed for her and her baby while we waited. Eventually, a nurse came in with the baby. I felt so guilty because I got to see Parvin's baby before she did! We had to wait a little while longer and then I watched as people carried her body into the room. That was the scariest moment for me, watching people carry Parvin using only a bed sheet, weaving through a room of people and then getting her onto the bed. I got to watch as Parvin saw her baby for the first time. Both baby and Mama were fine. It took a couple days before she could be released, but now she is back here with us at The James Place. Both Parvin and Baby Benjamin (what an awesome name right!?) are doing well. It is amazing to me that I am going to get to watch this little bundle of life grow up for an entire year.
So much has happened in these six weeks, and I know so much more is in store for the weeks to come. I'm excited to see how else God is going to work here, in these children, in these people, and in me.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10
- Betty Ross