Tuesday, August 7, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 6

Yesterday and today I took another step in learning what sponsoring a child means. Before Hillary came to Uganda her first time, I had always thought of sponsorship as another name for a donation. Hillary helped me put names and faces with the donation, but until yesterday, I still didn’t fully comprehend it.

Yesterday, we had a party for the kids we sponsor along with those who are sponsored by our friends and family. We celebrated Courtney’s birthday too, so we had Ugandan cake and ice cream. It was interesting to coordinate everything since our fridge doesn’t always work…we had to get the ice cream at the last minute.

The kids sing Happy Birthday to Courtney!

First we put some games out, along with colored pens and paper. They spent most of the time writing love letters to us and the others who sponsor them. Then, we had lunch with the kids and they were nearly silent, sitting politely while they ate. We asked them why they were so quiet. Deborah said, “It is impolite to speak while you are eating”… obviously quoting something they had probably recited numerous times in school. Mabel, the group’s unofficial spokesman piped up with her squeaky little, “Also, you might spit in someone else’s food.” Good point!

Later as they played, we took them, in small groups, into another room to give them the clothes and supplies we had brought from America. A lot of it we bought at Goodwill, Target, and Walmart and really didn’t have to spend a lot of money. As they pulled their gifts out of the bag, I can’t even describe the gratitude in their faces. The only thing I can compare it to is Christmas, plus a birthday, and another Christmas all rolled into one…times ten. Yvonne tried to hide her tears as she looked at the scrapbook Hillary had made for her. She slowly looked at every picture and read every word that Hillary had written. Bruno got all blushed and excited as he pulled out his new clothes. The smile on his face was so big and permanent. He quickly gave us HUGE hugs as if he didn’t want to let go. Mabel kept a running commentary for everyone else’s gifts and then her own that Leslie’s sister, Stacey sent. We think she and Stacey would have a LOT to talk about. Jane had her usual light-up-the-room smile as she opened her bag. When she got to the princess crown and scepter and said, “It’s just for me?” then HUGE smile, even for her. Her sister, Anita, was sick all day, but didn’t want to miss this party. She managed to smile weakly even though she could hardly sit up without bending over in pain. She did manage to write a love letter to Kelly, her sponsor. Peter, who my mom sponsors, just sat around and giggled. He’s the youngest kid in the choir and my mom would love him. JuliusAs I’m writing this I’m realizing that I don’t have words to describe the experience. That’s’ unusual for me! I’m learning that they really have a hard time comprehending adults that love them. They really feel like their sponsors are the only ones who really care about them. They really view us as adoptive parents. I’ll never miss sending another check for our sponsored children. As sponsors we are literally their life-line. I don’t know if I’ve ever even felt that with my own children.

Oh, one really fun thing…we played Hillary and Courtney’s graduation videos. They got a GIGANTIC kick out of watching highlights of the girls as they grew up. They noticed every detail. Every time a new picture would flash on the screen, they’d say “Hillary” or “Courtney” or “That’s Courtney and Hillary”. It was so funny. They got a big laugh out of seeing me with a full head of hair. (It wasn’t a “mullet”! It was bi-level!). What a great day.

Today, as we drove the two hours to Troas, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This would be my first experience in “the bush” of Uganda. As we turned off the main road, we started up a narrow, pothole filled red dirt road. I soon realized this was actually another main road as we turned onto, what looked like, a narrow bike path. As we drove into the schoolyard, the children started screaming and scrambling to some predetermined positions. They all lined up and, just like at St. Mbuga, put on a program for us. Troas was a different experience from Lusaka. Children at both schools are poor. Probably the best way to describe it is that the Lusaka kids at St. Mbuga are “slum poor” while those at the Troas school are “country poor” and seem a little sadder. I’m not sure why. One little boy, maybe five years old kept getting my attention by waving at me. This is not unusual here. As a white person, you can’t drive into any area where children are playing without hearing, “MUZUNGU! MUZUNGU!” and they wave until you wave back. Sometime they wave more and sometimes they run away laughing and jumping around like they just won the lottery. But something was different about this little guy. While the other kids were performing, he would walk in front of other kids and wave at me with a far away look in his eyes. “He’s dumb.” Hopkins whispered. I thought the worst, but she went on, “he can’t hear or speak.” Apparently no other school would take him, not even the schools for the deaf, so someone just dropped him off at the school. I spent the rest of the day waving at him, shaking his hand and talking to him whenever I got the chance. I couldn’t help but love this kid!

While collecting sponsorship information in Troas, I talked with Hannington, who is like the assistant superintendent for all seven of the schools that were started by Pastor Moses and Hopkins. He told me that, in Uganda, women aren’t considered real women until they have children…lots of children. Often a poor mother will have ten children to prove her womanhood. Meanwhile, Ugandan men are not very good at living up to responsibility, so when it gets too expensive to feed the kids, they just pack up and leave and start a new family somewhere else. This trend, along with the fact that Aids has killed off a lot of the adults, and polygamy is legal, explains why there are so many children here, many of which go uncared for. The government is trying to stop this trend, but it’s so engrained in the culture, it’s slow to change.

He went on to outline the vision for the schools and reinforced that these schools and the sponsors are often the only people who care for these kids. They are teaching the kids to get their education and work hard so they can help other people that they don’t know, just like their sponsors help them. Many of the children say they want to become doctors, so they can help others who are less fortunate. I videotaped an interview of Hannington who has an amazing story. He was down and out and owed so much money (about $150) because his crops had been ruined and he couldn’t pay the rent for the land. He was on his way to a store to buy poison so he could kill himself. On the way a couple of ladies talked to him and told him God had a plan for him. Until then, he had hated God, because he had such a hard life and he blamed God. He told them if he could find a way to pay back the debt he owed, he would listen to them. He went to the landowner and she said, “I know you Hannington. Don’t worry about it. I know you’ll pay me back.” He was amazed, because that just doesn’t happen. Soon he gave his life to Jesus Christ and his life has never been the same. He still struggles to make ends meet, but he’s one of the happiest guys I’ve ever met. He rides boda-bodas to all the schools in the bush and visits with the children, their guardians, and the village leaders to try and convince them to keep the kids in school. He’s been in three accidents and was nearly killed, but he pushes on. His difficult background is what drives him to help those who are in need. Here’s a man who travels all over Uganda to give support and leadership to these schools, meanwhile, until last year, he couldn’t afford to send his own children to school. Some people through ICN have made it so all his children can now go to school. I’ll show you the video once we get back and get it edited. You won’t want to miss it.

On a personal side, we’re all fairly tired, but doing well. Courtney is still fighting flu-like symptoms, but seems to be doing a little better. Mary and Hillary did a great job today collecting information for sponsorships and then dished out the food to the children at lunchtime. It was called porridge, but it looked a little like milky water. When all the kids were given one helping, about ten or twelve kids dove at the big pot that was used to cook and serve the porridge. The all dug in with their cups and hands and cleaned out the pot. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing kids who are starving. I’ve seen American kids ACT like they’re starving, pushing and shoving to get the last piece of pizza or cake, but this scene will probably be burned in my memory along with many others from this trip.

Another short list of things I saw in the past two days on the back of a boda-boda…
- The driver and a mom sitting side saddle holding her two little baby girls and her Bible on the way to church.
- A huge cake delivery box
- Another boda-boda strapped across the back seat.
- A passenger holding two spare tires with a third strapped to the back.

And what did YOU see on the road today?

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Oh the deaf boy sounds like such a cutie! All the ppl you describe I want to see. I feel like I'm almost there but I actually want to be there. Hannington sounds like such a respectable guy. Now that's dedication when you go through trials like pushing to keep kids sponsored yet you're not able to yourself. Wow I can't imagine being in a situation like that. Phew newho...thanks for ending with the boda-boda sightings. That helps lighten me up a bit and stop me from swimming all the way to Uganda! : )

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.