Uganda is a small country with BIG problems

It has been a week since I blogged and sorry for the delays lately. Part of the adjustment to living here is getting used to the fact that communication is not instant. The first two months that I was here I found myself getting so frustrated with the slow internet. I felt so disconnected from my "normal" world. Now, I am settling in and realizing that I am much more content living in the moment and that most of the time that "moment" means enjoying the now and NOT worrying about communication. Life goes on.

The last week has been very busy going back and forth from Amani Baby Cottage, the villages and the Crisis Pregnancy Center. The young 14 year old girl that I blogged about a couple of months ago had her baby. They are doing great and all of the sudden she looks "grown up". She loves her baby and she is doing a great job taking care of her. The ladies in the villages that I have been meeting with are bonding and forming their own community. Fazirra is doing great and everyone is healthy and sweet Shariff is still in school.

If you have followed any past blogs, you recognize the stories. If you have not, that is okay. The stories just mean that everyone is gradually getting better, gradually growing in Christ, and rapidly winning my heart. Life may be simple here, but the love and relationships are deep and genuine.

I made the mistake of delivering shoes to the villages on last Monday. Monday was a holiday here and so every child was out of school! It only meant that there were literally hundreds of children in line for shoes and I only had about 100 to deliver. We took the names of those that received shoes so that the next time the teams deliver them, we will not repeat giving shoes to the same child twice.

I spent the afternoon at Canaan Children's Home yesterday. Girls are girls everywhere! We laughed, beaded bracelets together and played jumprope. Some of the smaller boys even made bracelets. Each week I learn a little more about their stories and each week they grow a little more comfortable with me. We went around the room to tell what we were thankful for. Most of them were thankful for life and a place to sleep. Several of them were thankful for God's protection over their lives. The older girls are facing life's challenges as growing young ladies and they are really trying to stay pure. Please pray for their hearts and for their protection.

I have been spending alot of time researching the areas around Jinja. There are some villages that have more needs than others. Everywhere that I turn, I see needs. The biggest needs that God keeps placing before me is the need for family intervention. The need for a feeling of community. God allows so many trials in our own lives so that we can better understand and relate to those He places in our path. It is no surprise to me that He placed me in a country that is predominantly single moms. I have read reports that at least half of all families are headed by single parents, usually women. There are many widows due to aids.

Uganda statistics reveal that 88% of the people in Uganda live in rural areas. When I drive around Kampala, I realize how crowded this country is if only 12% live in the urban areas. Uganda is about the size of the state of Oregon in the U.S. There are over 2.5 million orphans in Uganda. One million of those orphans are due to AIDS. Life has been hard here and has resulted in a life expectancy of only 53 years of age. The number one cause of sickness and death in Uganda is still malaria. Education can prevent these statistics from growing. I am so frustrated when I meet a child in the village that needs a simple malaria test. The fact is that malaria contributes to the poverty here. If they are sick, they cannot work. If they are sick, they have to spend 25% of their income on medicines and treatments. Their income is very low. The average Ugandan makes 130,000 shillings a month which is about $57 U.S. dollars a month.

My heart aches for the hurting hearts that I am getting to know. When I am in the villages talking to ladies, I always ask if they are living with a husband. Nine out of ten times they tell me how they were abandoned. Many of the women have a house full of children. Many times the JaJa's (grandmothers) are left to raise children. There are many, many, many children that need a family model. They all want the same thing: a chance for a family full of love.
That is what the sweet little 14 year old girl desires that just had a baby. She was kicked out of her village and lives in a small room behind a house in Masese. The Crisis Pregnancy Center is trying to reunite her with her family. Some of the people here just need someone that believes in them. They need to hear about the HOPE of Christ and they need to hear that it is going to be okay. I would love it if I could help each and every one learn something today that would make their tomorrow better. I am realizing that I am not supposed to help every person I meet but that I can show a smile to everyone I come across. I can show the love of Christ through a simple smile.

There are many languages in Uganda. I'm still learning the Luganda language and working on that weekly. It is a difficult language to learn but even when I don't know what to say, I can simply smile. That translates universally. I take my camera everywhere I go because the people love it. They ask me to take their pictures and then I show them what they look like. In the villages, the ladies will run around and gather their children so that I can take their picture and show them. We may not be communicating to each other entirely all the time by speaking but one thing that we do understand is our smiles to each other and our love for our children. So, I'll keep shooting pictures, loving, serving and smiling until further instructions from the ONE that sent me!
"Let us meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love." Mother Teresa