I'm already missing these smiling faces though.
The trip was wonderful. Heartbreaking. Joyful. So full of love. Life-changing. Scary at times. Amazing.
After seeing what I have seen, I will never be the same. After hearing some of these precious ones share their stories, I cannot forget. Heart-wrenching stories of loss and abuse... and Jesus. Absolutely amazing stories of redemption. These children told of things they've lived through that I'm positive I would not have been able to endure, and they are so grateful to be alive. So thankful for what they have; which, most times, was nothing more than the knowledge that they are not forgotten by their Heavenly Father. These children have so little. The only reason they are alive is because God is taking care of them. They KNOW this. I want to NEED Jesus like these little ones. I cannot let myself believe that I can do anything without Him.
God was all over this trip. I saw more miracles than I ever remember in any two weeks before. Maybe it was because I was asking (begging) for them and expecting them. We all were.
Our second day in Uganda we visited a prison (the second of two that we visited.) This prison housed about 150 children ages 8-18. The kids at this particular place were actually serving their sentence (they had already been to court and the children we'd seen the day before were awaiting court.)
When we arrived, we learned that the night before the police in Kampala had rounded up 220 street children (these are children that don't have parents - they literally live on the streets fending for themselves), some as young as 4 years old, and brought them to this prison. We were told that we would not see these kids, because they had to be kept separate and screened to make sure they were healthy enough to interact with the other children. Healthy does NOT have the same definition in Africa as it does here.
The plan was to let the kids decorate a t-shirt with fabric paint. These kids had probably never had a shirt that no one else had worn before them, and we had a suitcase full of brand new t-shirts. We had another suitcase full of bottles and bottles of fabric paint. We brought some cookies and passed those out to the kids with their lunch. We had a time of worship and prayer with the kids. Then it was time to start the big art project. :-) We separated the shirts by size and the children began lining up so that we could take a look at them and give them a shirt that would fit them.
We handed out shirts and more shirts. The line started dwindling so members of our team started to put bottles of paint on tables and helping the kids get started. There were about 4 or 5 of us left handing out shirts. This was when we realized that more children were appearing. More children than we had shirts. Apparently, some of the 220 that we were told we would not see were being allowed to participate after all. We were running out of shirts. I was beginning to panic. Diana (one of our team leaders) passed by the table and I told her we were running out of shirts. She looked at me and said "pray." Oh I prayed. I begged God to somehow make sure that every child had a shirt. How was I going to look at those faces and tell them how sorry I was that they didn't get to have a new t-shirt decorated just the way they wanted it? The last few boys got shirts that were way too big for them but better than nothing. We ran out of shirts. There was still a line of boys. That was about the time that I closed the paint suitcase (not the t-shirt suitcase) and unzipped the front pocket. I stuck my hands in there and pulled out about 15 t-shirts that no one knew were there. The few of us that were standing there lost it. We were laughing and crying at the same time. Those boys must have thought we were crazy. Everyone got a t-shirt, and we ended up with about 5 left over. The first thing that every last one of those kids did was paint their name on their shirt.
After we finished with the shirts, we went outside and played. We had soccer balls, bubbles, balloons, and sidewalk chalk. The kids had a great time. It was hard to leave. Especially the little ones that had gotten there the night before.
We were told those little ones would only be there a day or two before they were farmed out to orphanages around the city. I'm thinking it was no coincidence that they were brought there the night before we came to love the kids inside those walls.
I'm thinking it was no coincidence that we had more t-shirts than we thought we did.
I have lots of stories like this one.
It's good to be home. Thank you for praying for us.