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

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:  

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Our Boys

It’s been 3 weeks at Acacia Tree and it’s taken far less time than that to fall hopelessly in love with our boys. They are simply gorgeous with their smooth coffee-coloured skin and deep chocolate eyes, and each one with his own little distinct personality. Em and I truly long to adopt them—2 in particular—and can only pray over them as we rock them and cuddle them and bathe them and feed them and play with them and love them. We still have only 4 little ones at the moment, and wonder every day if today might be the day we meet another sweet baby coming to us in need, like John Mark did on our first day…

Speaking of which, John Mark, our littlest man at approx. 6 weeks, is growing so perfectly healthy and strong with Acacia Tree’s TLC! Now when I burp him on my shoulder he’s lifting his little head with his strong neck. His smile is to die for. And his newborn baby cuddles even more so! I kiss his perfectly smooth mocha-coloured skin, caress his downy soft black curls, and pray for the man he grows up to be, knowing that I would give him a home and be his mommy in a heartbeat if I could…

Jonathan, our oldest little man, has just reached a high enough weight to start his ARVs, but at 4 years old, he’s still only about the size of a 2 year old. His Autism sometimes means he’s not in a mood for any physical contact, but then other moments he just cannot be cuddled enough. It warms my heart EVERY TIME he’s in the mood for cuddles and just wraps his arms around my neck and lays his head on my shoulder!

Isaac (Zac) is the strongest and farthest developed of our boys and at nearly 15 months, he’s so close to walking! He is uncommonly handsome with his great big expressive eyes and ready dimpled smile. He has very long limbs, like a proper African man. And, my favourite discovery, Zac LOVES kisses :) And attention… We have just discovered that the family from Ohio working on adopting him have named him Henry, so we’re trying to get him used to his new name by calling him Henry-Zac!

Moses, whom has been affectionately nicknamed MoMo because it just suits him, has charmed his little way right into my and Emily’s hearts without effort. He is more darling than I can attempt to describe! Because he was extremely malnourished, his muscles are still very weak at nearly 19 months so he has the mobility of a much younger baby and cuddles like one too. He also has a massive round belly which he loves to pat. His favourite mode of communication is to wave across the room to one person, then the next, then the next—he’s an equal-opportunity waver. He also likes to imitate anything anyone else is doing, so he now attempts to snap his fingers, and blow kisses with the “mwah!” sound (nearly as cute as the little wave!), and shake his pointer finger at someone when they’re being naughty—though he hilariously always points it at himself :). His favourite thing is leaning back his head (which is a bit too heavy for his little neck) and having his throat tickled :) Just today he popped out a new trick when he began taking my hand and kissing it at the knuckles, just like a little royal prince to a princess! The cuteness of this child’s winsome personality cannot possibly be summed up in a paragraph. I just adore him!!

We are trying not to think yet about what it means when we leave here in 10 days time... 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Some "Radical" Quotes

I have just finished a great and convicting book. I love how He does that-- puts certain books in our hands at just the right times... It is called "Radical" by David Platt and I have to share some of the hard-hitting quotes from it with you! The message is so close to my heart...

“In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday morning, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food. If it were our kids starving, they would all be gone by the time we said our closing prayer. We certainly wouldn’t ignore our kids while we sang songs and entertained ourselves, but we are content with ignoring other parents’ kids. Many of them are our spiritual brothers and sisters in developing nations. They are suffering from malnutrition, deformed bodies and brains, and preventable diseases. At most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here…” – David Platt, “Radical” pg 115

“When God tells us to give extravagantly, we can trust Him to do the same in our lives. And this is really the core issue of it all. Do we trust Him? Do we trust Jesus when  He tells us to give radically for the sake of the poor? Do we trust Him to provide for us when we begin using the resources He has given us to provide for others? Do we trust Him  to know what is best for our lives, our families, and our financial futures?” – David Platt, “Radical” pg 123-124

“When we have the courage to look in the faces of brothers and sisters whose bodies are malnourished and whose brains are deformed because they have no food, Christ will change our desires, and we will long to sacrifice our resources for the glory of His name among them.” – David Platt, “Radical” pg 127
“Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?” – David Platt, “Radical” pg 127

And, most poignant and true to my heart--
“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes…” – David Platt, “Radical” pg 139

Love on, love on, love on!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Our Newest Baby Boy!

Introducing Acacia Tree's newest little one, John Mark!
I told you about his dramatic arrival on our first day.
By our second day, I'm pretty much in love :)

My heart has so gone out to his young mother. Only 15 years old, Blessed said she cried when she gave him up after waiting desperately for help these 4 weeks, but to me it speaks of love and wisdom in her heart which is greater than her age because she knows she can never give him the kind of life she wants him to have... The only other option she had at this point was to leave him at the infamous "baby dumping grounds" which the boda driver spoke of ominously... Can you even imagine?

I've been whispering prayers over him as I rock and feed him. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

First Day at Acacia Tree!

Em and I really hardly knew what to expect of the ministry I had contacted back in November for us to work with this month of February in Uganda. I contacted them through their website and they were only so willing for us to come along and lend a hand so the discussions were short and the plans were quickly made, sight unseen! So today’s introduction to a lovely Texan missionary lady named Robin (who is so personable and easy to talk with!), her 2 adopted Ugandan daughters, Reya Joy and Sara Bella, her lovely Ugandan staff of “mothers”, Blessed and Desire, her handsome British boyfriend (goodness, I love those—handsome British boyfriends ;)), David, and the current babies (ooh!) in the rehabilitation ministry, was a long-awaited and exciting one :)

Basically, Robin and her team simply run the ministry out of her home and at the moment they have only 3 little boys, whom Em and I have spent the day cuddling and caring for and loving on. Jonathan is nearly 4 but he’s about the size of a small 2 year old. He’s HIV positive, has down syndrome, and autism. He reminds me so much of little Dragos from my time in Romania. They even do the same actions and make the same sounds! Then there’s Isaac (Zac) who is, I think 14 months. He’s GORGEOUS. He, like most all the babies who come to this rehabilitation ministry, was malnourished so he’s still catching up, not walking or talking yet, but he is one handsome little man and he’s in the process of being adopted by an American couple! So he’s only there til that goes through in the next few months. Then there’s Moses, who is 18 months old and SUCH a sweetheart! He was severely malnourished and is only now beginning to fatten up with a tremendously fatty diet, including olive oil in his milk bottles and butter and fattening supplements in all his food! He looks about 7 months old in size, and though he can sit up on his own, and seems to have pretty good upper-body strength to drag himself around, his legs are still very tiny and weak. But he is the most contented baby I have ever met, and has totally won our hearts with his dimpled chin, big smile, his charming little wave, and the way he plays the “where’s your nose?” game with his tiny little pointer finger! I’m afraid if I don’t watch her carefully, Emily might try to lovingly smuggle him away in her handbag :)

These babies have come to Acacia through all kinds of ways. Moses, for instance, was spotted lying under a tree when a friend of Robin’s who works with an AIDS/HIV organization was on a field visit to one of the islands on Lake Victoria. She thought he was a puppy until she drew up closer to find a very frail human baby there. Isaac’s father asked for Robin to help him find a family for his son when his mother died when he was only tiny. He used to have to carry Isaac around to do his work tied to his back like the mamas do with their babies here.

I said to Em earlier today how much I would love it if Acacia had a small baby girl, maybe 4 weeks or less, to love on this month—as someday I would love to adopt a brand new Ugandan baby. This afternoon, when Robin went out to run David somewhere, she noticed a young woman with a small bundle sitting under the shade of the trees outside her gate. She asked her if everything was okay and if she needed anything. She said she was fine, but Robin wasn’t so sure. Later, when she was still sitting outside the gate, Robin sent Blessed, one of the Ugandan “mothers” out to check on her. The young woman came into the house with Blessed and told her that she was 15 years old, had this baby a month ago, the father wasn’t around, and she didn’t know what to do. She had thought of having an abortion, but then couldn’t go through with it. She had thought of leaving the baby somewhere, but then couldn’t go through with it. And she needed help. Blessed (pronounced: Bless-ed) brought the tiny baby boy in to us. After Robin checked him out, she laid him in my arms. He smelt awful. He was wrapped up so tightly in layers and layers of sheets and blankets but as we unbundled him we discovered that he didn’t look too malnourished, just smelt sorely in need of a change and a bath. Robin called the local council member and she hurried over right away to be caught up on the situation. She warned the young mother firmly to tell the whole truth about the situation or she would be taken to the police, to out-rule her trying to take advantage of Acacia Tree. She also told her that if we take the baby, she will be required to visit family planning and get some free birth control or else she suspected she would be pregnant again tomorrow. The young mother didn’t speak a work of English. She never smiled. She looked so drained of life.  I found all the LC (Local council member) said so very bold (but that’s the way it’s done) and felt a bit embarrassed for the young girl, as if my presence was intrusive on this very sensitive situation. But I rocked that sweet baby, and tried to feed him from his first bottle, and tried not to breathe in the smell, and ran my fingers across his softest of skin I’ve ever touched and over his softest of black curls on his head and prayed over the whole 9lbs of him…. And wondered at our God. Robin has had only these 3 boys since Dec (before that she had 12 babies!). Em and I only arrived today, and of all days, this young woman sat at the gate today with her precious little bundle…

Before the end of the day, the baby boy, whom will be called John, was signed over to our ministry for 6 months, his case to be reassessed then. Probably, the mother will want him to be adopted, and it will not be hard to find him a family… Oh, he is perfectly precious, from the top of his kitten-soft head to the tip of his baby smooth toes. And I might have fallen in love with him already :)

If the first day on the job has already held such excitement, what will tomorrow bring!

Oh, how can we live to be anything but His hands and feet in this world? What other point of life can there be?!

“Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him in prayer. Plead for your children as they faint with hunger in the streets.”
-- Lamentations 2:19

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Emily's Here!

Last night my adorable cousin Emily arrived in Uganda for a month of working at a baby home called Acacia tree with me! My awesome new Ugandan friend Dan found a friend of his who was willing to drive he and I down to the airport (it took about 4 hours with the ridiculous traffic around Kampala!) to pick her up—Oh, how gracious and kind Ugandans are! I can’t even describe to you how exciting it was to step into Entebbe Airport and spot my pretty and long-awaited cousin loitering across the arrivals lounge! Em is one of my best friends in the world. Her heart is about as pure and genuine as they come, and it feels like such an unexpected gift of God to share this month here together! I am SO THANKFUL for the mere presence of such a friend! The last time we saw one another was a long-ago last June…

And, she came bearing gifts from home! Mmmmm, how I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups :) They will seriously not last long!

We made reservations at a backpacker’s hostel in Entebbe for the month as it was the cheapest accommodation we could find. We’ve both experienced the “joys” of hostels in Europe and thought surely staying in a hostel in Africa would afford even more “delights” than those stays had (do note the sarcasm!)… So we were completely surprised to be shown to our room, opening out to its own patio, and find it the absolute best hostel accommodation we’ve ever seen! We have a big four-poster bed, our own little sitting area, lots of closet space, and our very own bathroom with a (cold) shower! We LOVE coming home to our special space each day, and waking up each morning to sit on the porch and drink our coffees in the tropical morning light, overlooking the campsite area replete with banana and mango trees. Unreal.

We start our first day at Acacia Tree Uganda tomorrow—a baby rehabilitation home here in Entebbe. We hardly know what to expect but can’t help but be excited! Amber, the other volunteer at Acacia Tree at the moment, is also staying at our hostel and we’ve had such a lovely visit with her over a pineapple we picked up fresh from the dusty village market today :)

We cannot sing enough praises to our great God whom we just hold on to and gaze at in awe as He leads us through this crazy new adventure in serving Him!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...