Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Divine Orphanage & Divine Love



Have you ever had a day that just feels life-changing? Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on how, but you’re left with an impression that after the events of an afternoon, things can never be quite the same.

I had that kind of an afternoon yesterday. I felt, strangely, as I held these particular little hands in mine, sitting in a dusty room with children strewn all over me and one little girl in particular clinging to me, as if this afternoon was the foremost reason why He brought me to Uganda in the first place…


Em and I arrived at Acacia Tree in a season when the home is only caring for 4 baby boys, so we spoke to Robin, the director, early on about helping out anywhere else she knew of during our time here too. She mentioned to us a Ugandan-run ministry she knew of which was caring for over 20 orphaned and abandoned kids and decided she would take us there one day. Naturally, things took their turn and we ended up keeping busy enough at Acacia Tree and Robin didn’t find the time to take us out to visit her friend Molly who runs the ministry she mentioned, Divine Orphanage.

And then yesterday, in our last week with our boys, a young lady named Agnes from Divine Orphanage showed up at Acacia Tree to take Blessed, one of the Ugandan staff at Acacia Tree, and us 3 volunteers-- Amber, Emily, and I-- out to meet Molly and the kids—of which there were not “just over 20”, but 53!

We had no idea what to expect, and even felt like visiting was a bit pointless now that we have only a few days left at Acacia Tree before leaving Uganda, but we took the ‘coaster’ (public taxi) out to the nearby village and followed our young guide down the dusty village roads. Em and I drew her out as we walked along. She told us that she had been an orphan too and that ‘Auntie Molly’ (anyone who is older than the one speaking is called ‘Auntie’ here, for respect) had helped her, and that she was serving God by helping her with the younger ones. I found her inspiring…

We walked past a beautiful garden-like area in the midst of the disheveled look of the village and were told it was a shrine in the local witchcraft practices. Em and I spoke some prayers under our breath and I was reminded of my thankfulness at Christ’s sovereignty and the way He’s taken me as His own!


The lovely, gentle-spirited Agnes showed us up a dusty path to an unfinished building, and took us through each unfinished room, describing what their uses would be when finished, and we followed and listened attentively, but with no frame of reference for what she was showing us and wondering why we were there. Then we walked a few more hot and dusty paths until we came to an inconspicuous grey gate, leading into a very ordinary-looking compound. Molly came out to meet us, a beautiful 40-something Ugandan woman with a generous smile and a warm, welcoming nature. She showed us into one of the houses on the compound, to 4 very small rooms filled to capacity with bunk beds where we were told the children sleep 2 to 3 to a single bed, each room with one older child for about 9 little ones. We were then showed out to a big backyard with a massive clothesline hung across, loaded down with little pieces of apparel. 


At one end of the yard was a 2-roomed building fitted with a very basic, primary-level classroom and a colourfully-painted but otherwise empty and concrete-floored play room (…a playroom all but devoid of toys). The moment we entered in the door, we were literally swarmed with primary school aged children so that we couldn’t get through the room. Every smiling face was attached to two welcoming hands anxious to reach out and shake our ones and say a smiling “hello!”, until our arms were entirely covered with these precious hands of greeting. “Oli Otya! Oli Otya!” we sang out again and again, repeating virtually one of the only things we know how to say in Lugandan (their greeting, which means literally, “How are you?”)—which not all of the children could even speak as they come from many different tribes and regions of Uganda.


Molly called all of the children into the play room and asked them to sit down—I think in Luchiga, the local language of this area of the country, and we filed in at the front of the room beside her. One little girl who looked to be about 4 years old didn’t take a seat amongst all the other children of primary age and younger (the secondary school children were mostly at school in the village) but sidled up to me and took my hand. Molly began to tell us a few stories of a few of the children. She introduced the little girl holding my hand and her twin sister, who stepped up and took my other hand, and told us of the condition they were found it. When she told us matter-of-factly that the precious little girl whom had first took my hand and had not let go had been raped by a grown man by the time they found these twins, quick tears sprang to my eyes and I fought with myself not to show my emotions. So many stories, so many dire conditions. As she spoke and as I fought to keep the tears from showing on my face, I looked out at the sea of beautiful little faces and 2 of the tiniest ones stood out to me immediately. The smallest child was a little girl in a tiny little red checkered uniform, and the child whom most pulled on my heartstrings was nearly as tiny, with the thinnest of cornrow braids in her baby bit of hair and a standoffish look on her somewhat haunted-looking face. Each time Molly would tell of a child whom had come to them, that child would stand up, and eventually both of these two little ones stood up. When the first little one did, she came up close to where I stood with a twin on each hand, so I kneeled down and she sat in my lap (I felt a bit unsure of whether it was alright for these little girls to leave the rest and sit with me, but I didn’t seem to have much choice :)). Her name was Kavina and she was 3 years old and she clung to a water bottle, which seemed highly-coveted, as all the others kept trying to take it off her. She held her own, though :) 


As Molly spoke, the children sitting on the floor inched closer and closer to us until by the time she finished, they were all over all of us :) Molly said that many of them had never seen a “mzungu” (white) before, and it showed. The children were fascinated with Em’s and my blond hair, and began tentatively reaching up to sweep tendrils from my face, savouring the texture, and soon I was sitting on the grass with a dozen of them running their hands completely through it, and over my earlobes, and along my jaw and brow and across my fingernails. Their curiosity and wonder was delightful and unreal to me!


Only one precious little princess didn’t show the openness and happy curiosity and delight at life in general like the others did, no matter the harrowing lives they’d come from and the limited ones they now had (by western standards). In fact, she didn’t seem to take much delight in anything… And she pulled at my heart from the moment I saw her. So, after we’d made our way outside to play in the one toy they had—a blow-up pool someone had given them and which they all stripped off completely for and took turns in, monitored by the older boys (who couldn’t be more than 11-12), I went to her and scooped her up in my arms. All of the children had been taking turns being scooped up, but this one I didn’t put down. She said to me, unsmiling, and in perfect English, “My name is (something African I couldn’t understand, as they state their surnames first here) Shianna.” And I thought my heart would melt. Then she wouldn’t let me put her down. So Shianna and I sat down in the grass with the swarms of lovable children of every shape and size and age all about us, playing with my mzungu hair and stroking my mzungu skin, but if any got too close to my lap, Shianna guarded her territory, but she didn’t say much. I stroked her cheeks and whispered to her of His love, and played with the other children all around us (snapping photos and showing them their images can provide endless hours of amusement :)) 

My precious Shianna...

Suddenly, Agnes said something and the children all immediately began to scamper off—obedient like it’s hard to believe!—for naptime. Sweet Shianna held my hand as we walked to her room, and I helped her to take off her little dress so it could be washed during naptime, and into her single bed with two other little girls already in it. My tears were close to the surface again as I blew kisses to all of those precious babies, told them how much Jesus loves them, and that I love them, and said goodbye. I did the same in the other rooms, and then went out to join Amber and Em talking to Molly in the shade.

She exuded His nature. His peace and His beauty and His inviting love. Em and I were so moved by these children, we plied her with questions and soul-feelingly promised our prayers and asked her how we could be in touch. She told us of how God started it—how she just simply knew she couldn’t walk by all the needs she was seeing when she worked for TASO (The Aids Support Organisation). A woman who has raised her own children and worked as a teacher and a counselor, she only recently retired. Within months, they are already providing a home for 53 abandoned, orphaned, malnourished, and mistreated little ones from 3 years old to 18. The older ones look after the younger ones. They have no staff; only faith. She didn’t lose her joyful, peaceful smile when she admitted that she doesn’t always know where the next meal will come from to feed everyone, but that God is faithful. She spoke of each individual child with love and value of them which spoke to my little heart of His love and value of each individual one of us.

I think the Lord has brought me here to meet this woman, these children, this home. I think He has laid a desire in me to be a voice for this quiet ministry, giving its all because of His love, with no need for applause or accolade. This is what His heart looks like. And I am undone.

Molly invited us to come back any time. She also looks after her grown but paralyzed son, but offers a spare room in their own family house for anyone who would come to volunteer with them. These little ones are insatiably hungry for affection. They’d also like them to be familiarized with English. If He has ever given you any niggling thought in your heart about spending some time serving Him in Uganda, please let me connect you.

This afternoon after we left our boys napping at Acacia Tree, Em and I haggled our way through the market, trying to make our last few pennies stretch to bring Molly and the kids some practical gifts of shoes & underwear (because with 53 children, how could there ever be enough!?) and trying to find impractical gifts too because it devastates us to see their colourful playroom empty of toys, their crowded beds untouched by stuffed animals/soft toys/dolls. There is little of this to be found in Uganda, and nothing of quality. We don’t know yet how we’ll be able to work out a program for aiding this orphanage, but Emily and I feel led to try to do so. But we’d need you. My eyes fill with tears when I imagine how many toys and books we have lying around our American/British houses, while the concrete floor of the playroom of these 53 orphans lies empty. And when I imagine how their eyes would light up…

If you could spare ANYTHING for these little jewels, please do not hesitate to send a package to:
Molly Tabaro S.P.
Divine Orphanage
P.O. Box 55
Baita, Entebbe
Uganda

These beautiful babies of His are also desperately in need of sponsors. Out of the 53 children at Divine Orphanage, 6 have sponsors. To go to school in Uganda there are fees of about $300 a year—that’s $25 a month to give a child a future. A few extra dollars a month would feed one of these bright spots of heaven. My heart is so passionate about them I can hardly breathe, and I only met them yesterday… If this is speaking to you at all, let me know and I will find a way to connect you with a secure way to send your donations. I will be seeking the Lord about how best to champion their cause, so you will be hearing about it!

And please will you pray. I wish I could adequately express everything to you. I know that if you could look into their little faces, peer into their overcrowded bedrooms, witness their empty playroom, see the lives they have been rescued from, nothing could stop you from leaping to their cause. Instead, all you have is my feeble voice recounting to you how He brought me to meet them. But I know He does nothing by accident—and even your reading this is purposeful…

Cry out with me for the orphans; fight beside me in the injustices of this fallen world, living out His fiercely loving heart for all to see and look to Him.

If you can do anything-- pray, give, volunteer, donate, support, offer services-- do not hesitate to get in touch.
We will be the hands and feet of love to these priceless little ones so far removed from what we know…

The truth of His love just slays me.
And with that fierce Father-love, He loves you. So that you might love others.
Oh thank You, Lord…


(P.S. Visit Emily's blogpost on the same subject at:  
http://emmiesreflections.blogspot.com/2011/02/divine-orphanage-secondary-school.html)

5 comments:

The Mugumyas said...

Hi, I somehow stumbled across your blog a couple weeks ago. My sband and I run a ministry running mission trips to Uganda. I am always on the look out for faithful ministries in Uganda to bring our teams to (we feel this helps bring attention to great ministries that may other wise not have it, and helps to raise support for the local ministry). Does Molly have an email adress? I would love to be able to get ahold of her, and visit Devine love.
Thanks,
Megan Mugumya
Www.aliveuganda.com

Gabi Dickinson said...

You may want to look up an organisation called Visiting Orphans. They are always bringing teams from the States to visit orphanages and ministries in Uganda....

Jodi said...

Oh Leah, this is beautiful...and heartbreaking. I am praying!!! And I hope to do so much more someday soon...
Love you, dear, and your beautiful heart.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah...I go to Faith in Park Rapids and am an acquaintance of your sister! I see your niece, Emily, in Cubbies on Wednesdays. Your post about the children in Uganda brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your works there!
May God's peace be with you in your stage of transition!
Brittany

Leah said...

Hi Brittany!
Isn't Emily just the most adorable thing?! Ooh!
It's lovely to "meet" you :) Hannah will have to introduce us at church when I'm visiting in May/June!

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