Friday at 5:30 we were deposited back at our apartment by Isaac, our safari driver, who was anxious to get home to his wife for Valentine’s weekend. He had made several stops on the country roads on the way home, picking up such delicacies as jackfruit, mangos, and fresh goat meat to bring her. We bid Isaac goodbye, threw our backpacks inside, and walked up to spend some time with the kids at the Deaf School.
The kids loved having their pictures taken, and the girl in the right in the last picture made a big deal about being afraid of the moles and freckles on us muzungus. She was really funny. The girl in the middle was also hilarious and pointed at me, pantomimed long hair, and walked, swishing her hips. Everyone’s a comedian.
Saturday morning found us toting four huge suitcases full of baby clothes and supplies to Baby Watoto in Kampala. This was the orphanage where Bekkah had lived for two months in 2010. I was blown away by how gorgeous a facility it was.Set back on a hill, it reminded me of a Spanish villa, with beautifully manicured grounds, stucco walls and large, open patios. Inside was bright and airy, and the babies slept peacefully in comfy, clean cribs.
We unloaded 200 pounds of baby clothes and supplies (Thank you everyone who donated!).
For the next two hours we got the privelege of playing with and feeding babies on the lawn. I got to cuddle some real cuties, and a little baby boy named Emmanuel fell asleep in my lap.
The nannies, who care for the babies day in and day out, were cheerful and warm and you could tell how much they loved their little charges. One of the nannies, Brenda, was there when Bekkah was there before. It was really sweet to see them reconnect.
Around 12:30 we headed for Javva’s Cafe to meet a couple friends for lunch. Bekkah’s friend Rita would be joining us as well as my friend who lives in Richmond, Aisha, who was visiting family. Aisha brought her sister and nephew as well and so we made new friends! It was great to get out of the sun and drink a nice Iced Caramel Latte, and to catch up with our friends, who are both from Uganda. After lunch we all headed to the open air market to do a little souvenir shopping before church.
Church tonight was at Watoto Central, and we got to see Pastor Gary Skinner preach. The worship was energetic, uplifting and inspiring, and to be surrounded by so many Ugandans on fire for the Lord was good for my heart.
Church was over around 8 and we went back “home” and watched Pitch Perfect for the fourth time, laughing, talking, and going into hysterics over an imaginary person named Shushawna.
Sunday. Our final day in Uganda. In the morning we caught a ride with Watoto staff member Stephen to Watoto Suubi, a beautiful hilltop campus out in the country. It looked as though it could be a college campus, and in a way it was because they had an on-site trade school to teach the older children viable work skills. There was also a primary and secondary school, and a breathtaking sanctuary with floor to celing glass walls that offered a 360 degree view of the mountain vista.
Worship in Watoto Village ( they called it Kids Church but it was all teenagers) was sweet, made even sweeter by the kids playing piano, guitar, and drums, and leading praise enthusiastically while their peers got down to the music, dancing and singing with all they had.
It struck me that nearly every teen in this worship service had been orphaned; either by abandonment or the death of their parents. You would never know it to look at them . My heart swelled with joy seeing them not just surviving but thriving in this environment. They were loved here.
The pastor was both hilarious and passionate, and I would have loved to come to church regularly to hear him preach. His message began with the value of purity, and he made it very relatable to the kids. He talked about how Mary, a betrothed virgin, had to go and tell her friends and mom and fiance that she was pregnant: and not by Joseph. He asked if they could imagine how people would react when she said “No, I didn’t sleep with anyone! I promise! It was the Holy Spirit!. He told the kids, “Now don’t be thinking the Holy Spirit came and did funny, funny things to Mary!”. He explained the same God who is capable of creating light by just his word was certainly capable of putting the child in Mary’s womb. Then the pastor changed course, speaking on feeling like an outsider. He talked about how Mary would have been made to feel ashamed, and how it felt to not want to be who you are. He talked about his own story of an abusive father who threw acid on his mother and then drank the acid himself; commiting suicide. He talked about growing up as the sole caretaker of his now severely disfigured mother and feeling so ashamed of his family. Can you imagine the whisper of people on the street? His mother was the first documented acid attack in Uganda. His story could have ended there, like many do when tragedy strikes. Instead, he spoke of meeting God and finally being able to step out of all of that shame and pain; becoming a joyful, whole person again. By the grace of God, there he was, on stage, spreading hope, love, and truth to a bunch of kids who are also there by God’s grace. What a blessing to have spent the morning there with all of them.
After church, we drove down to the residential area of the village. Here, family houses, clustered in groups of nine, each house a Mama and eight children. These women, usually widows from the community, apply for jobs as Mamas, and are interviewed extensively. Once approved, they are able to bring as many as two of their own biological children to the village, and they become mothers to up to 8 orphans. These family units live in small but sturdy homes built by teams of volunteers from all over the world, and the kids get to experience family. The meal together, do their homework together, and share life together. We got to you have lunch in one such home with a Mama named Audrey and seven of her eight children ( the other girl was on tour with Watoto Choir, which travels internationally) . One of the youngest kids ( there were three five year old boys in this house) was Harrison: the little boy Bekkah had bonded with at what Baby Watoto five years ago. It was a sweet reunion, Mama Audrey could throw down in the kitchen, and it was heartwarming to see the kids: well adjusted and happy, playing their brothers and sisters. Life was good.
Wow. I had come to Uganda with the mindset that this was my vacation. I’d spent a good amount of money on a plane ticket, and I wanted to have fun. The Safari, which I had been looking forward to for months, was great. The countryside was beautiful. But my trip would have been completely wasted if I had not gotten to connect with those precious children and the inspirational people who devote their lives caring for them: raising them up to be strong, independent, influential citizens. They are my best memory of Uganda and I am moved by them.
Watoto’s mission statement is “Rescue. Raise. Rebuild.” The orphans that they take in are not adopted out to other countries. They are raised to love God and others. They are educated, and leave Watoto fully prepared to do life successfully. They will be the ones who impact their generation for God. The median income in Uganda is four hundred and eighty four dollars. Per year. The 100 students (so far) that have graduated from Watoto have gone on to become lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc. This organization, started by two people faithful to God’s command to care for orphans and widows, is making a huge difference for that nation, one loved child at a time.
Watoto is run on prayers, volunteer work, and the generosity of viewers like you. If you would like to be a part of the work being done there, visit http://www.watoto.com and get involved. All of us who went on the trip will be sponsoring a child for $50 a month. We may even try to get a team together to go back and build some houses for the Mamas and kids. It’s such a beautiful place and I was so lucky to get to see that beauty in action. God is glorified in that place.
The Uganda School for the Deaf in Ntinda is also a God place. The headmaster, teachers and volunteers work tirelessly to provide these kids with a good education and a loving home. This is a country without resources to integrate people who have to do life differently. The Deaf School is doing their best to equip these bright little students in any way they can.The little bit of money we were able to give them will be used to create smooth walkways for their blind and deaf student, and a little girl with cerebral palsy who also has trouble getting around on crutches over the rocky pathways they have now. They need so much more. They need volunteers, money, hearing aids, Braillers, and supplies. They do a phenomenal job with what they have, and I can only imagine what they could accomplish if they had the actual resources that they needed.
The best part of my vacation was not the safari. It was the privelege of meeting a lot of people who are living the way that God has called them to. Sacrificially. With perseverance. With joy. These are superstars, and it was an honor to see their dedication. They are changing the world, and I want to be like them when I grow up.