Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A VERY emotional day.....

We tried to fit a little much in to one day today, and so we got up and on the road early this morning to the second prison. You probably noticed from my post yesterday, but we have to be very careful about specifics regarding these facilities, for many reasons. The main reason is that Sixty Feet is doing such an amazing work with these kids, and we don't want to do or say ANYTHING that would cause that to stop for any reason. They are giving these children hope, and for most of them, that is literally all they have.

We got a pretty good rain yesterday afternoon, so the roads were not so great today on our 2 hour drive. We went to a totally different facility today that is much farther out in to the rural most of the trip was made on dirt roads....which had been converted to mud roads by the rains.

The drive was long but interesting. It was our first time that far out in the rural areas so we were able to see much less of the street vendors, shops, downtown etc and much more of the mud huts, grass roofs, cows, goats, pigs etc.When we arrived at the facility it was time for the children to have their breakfast so we were able to serve them some biscuits (cookies basically) with their porridge which was a treat for these very shy and guarded kids. Then, we went into a large room where the children that we were working with sang songs for us and worshiped. All I can say about it really is, you will just have to see the video. They sang and praised and then they all prayed, out loud, together but individually at the same time. They were all very clearly pleading to God for was overwhelming. Most of us cried. Some of us (me) had snot and tears running down their faces by the time they were finished. When the kids looked up from their prayer time, they certainly must have wondered what one earth was the matter with all of us.

Then, we sang a couple of songs with the kids and started our t-shirt craft. I would say that it is very likely that not one of those kids has ever had a t-shirt that no one else has ever worn before. Much less one with their own name on it. Much less one that a herd of weepy mzungus helped them decorate. They had a great time and were all very creative.  We were very concerned from the start about having enough t-shirts for all of the kids. We didn't want to offer something like this to some and not all. When we got towards the end of the line, the girls who were handing them out, saw about 20 more kids in line, and only 1 more shirt. They started to panic and asked Diana what to do. She said "all we can do is pray". So they did. Then another team member opened up a zipper pouch in the suitcase. Guess what? More shirts. We all cried some more.

Then, we went out in to the yard (much bigger than yesterday) and did bubbles, balloons, jump rope, soccer and just played with all of the kids. It was tough to be there. It was tough to leave.

We decided to take the other road out...which turned out to be a mistake. The mud was even worse on that road than on the first, and we got stuck. A bunch of children from the village were all out running and waving at us, and those sweet kids proceeded to push our bus out of the mud. We hydroplaned for a little while, but then we got back on track....sort of. We got stopped by the police once we got one the paved-ish roads. They probably just wanted to see what a whole bus full of white people were up to in that part of town. The officer came on our bus, said ha-looo to us all and sent us on our merry way. Then we got stopped again, but I don't think the officer even messed with us one he realized we were all white...and women.

We finally got back to Namirembe Guest House and we had to literally get our lunch, switch out our donations and leave. We were already late to Royal Hope Academy, and we didn't want the children to have to wait on us any longer. So we hustled on over there....only about a 20 minute drive.

We were greeted on both sides of the road by all of the school children lined up singing and clapping. It was so sweet. Then we went in to their large classroom where they sang and danced for us some more, and we sang for them some as well. Rebecca shared a little and welcomed us all. Then we went out in to the yard area and just played. We were able to see the kids classrooms, play their games, and I took ALOT of their pictures. Little Ruthie, who you will see when i am able to post a few pictures, stole the show immediately! She is the sponsored child of my friend Amanda, and I wanted to keep my eye out for Ruth so I could meet her.....I never imagined she would find me. She was the life of the party the whole time. We all had sweet happy kids playing and hanging all over us. It was just what we all needed after a very sad morning.

Then, we had the honor of going back to My Fathers House, where Rebecca, Michael, Charity and the 16 children they have taken in live. Charity had made the most wonderful dinner for all of us.Potatoes, fried rice, noodles, green peas, pineapple and watermelon....that wasn't even all of it. It was fabulous. We all began to eat and then the power went out. Without skipping a beat, Rebecca, Michael, Charity and the children just went right along with what they were doing. I am sure that wasn't a first for them! We were able to talk and eat for a while with Rebecca and the kids, and then we painted the girls toes, outside, by lantern light. We gave them all the donations we had brought, hung out for a little longer, and then we had to be on our way. Rebecca and Charity prayed. We all cried. The most surprising thing was, I realized that Ruthie was crying too. She kept saying " I want to go toooo America!". Bless her sweet little heart.

Can't wait to post some pics from today so you can put all the pieces together, but that will have to wait, because I have a low internet signal, and I must go shower and wash all the caked dirt off my feets. :)

The place we are staying in Jinja for the next 2 nights has no power, so I will probably not be able to post again for a couple of days. But I will try to write the blogs and just post them when we get back to Namirembe on Friday.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So many questions......

Today was our first day ministering to the kids at the first remand center we will visit. They greeted us with a song that was beautiful even though none of us understood a word of it. Then we went around the circle and introduced ourselves to all of the kids. They truly wanted to know about us which was so neat.

We taught them a couple of songs with motions which they enjoyed, and then shared the gospel with them….via translation. We then split in to groups and helped the kids make salvation bracelets….I was surprised by how many of them did not even know how to make a simple knot. They really loved the bracelets but enjoyed seeing us smile and talk to them even more.

I spoke with one boy who spoke great English. He said he had been in University before he came to the Remand center. He said he hopes to go back when he gets out. I hope he does. 

Then the fun began. Boys were constantly on the drums. The soccer balls came out and we played in the small strip of dirt that they have as their “play” area. Beach balls, balloons, kick balls all were flying through the air. The kids had a great time and so did the team.

As our time began to come to a close, 2 boys I will call M and H sat with me and began to ask me so many questions.

“Why are Americans so (motions with his hand out from his hips) fat?”
“They tell us that Americans eat snake and frogs. Is this true?”
“They tell us that if we come to America they will take us at the airport and question us and arrest us. Is this true?”
“Is it possible for a boy from Uganda to marry American woman”
“How can we ever make it to America?”
“Why does America have all things and are so rich, but we because we are brown are all so poor in this whole country?”
“What are the prisons for children like in America?”

The best answers I could come up with were pray because God can do anything and work hard to get your education. I know I probably left those boys with more questions than I did answers, but I hope that I gave them at least the smallest glimmer of…..hope.

It is amazing to me what a world opens up inside of these children with a simple smile and eye contact. One asked me why we would come to Uganda for vacation. I told him we were most certainly not on vacation and that we came because we care about him and God does too. I told him we were missionaries (they knew what that meant but I just think our group of women was not what they had pictured J) and we want to pray for him and tell him about Jesus.



P.S. Mom: (since I know you are my one loyal reader J) will you please give Brandy this blog address and have her leave me a comment here every day or 2 to say how the kids are? I cant get a great signal on the phone, and Facebook is sketchy at best… I will just focus on this as my one main form of communication. Thanks!

Monday, June 27, 2011

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore......

Ok so these Africa posts are going to be mostly me journaling things I have seen and experienced, devoid of my usual witty banter. :)

I meet up with my friend Jenny Dixon, who just HAPPENED to be not only in our same hotel but on our SAME FLIGHT to Ethiopia to adopt their daughter....what a cool God thing to see a familiar face on such an unfamiliar trip!

The air travel was actually not as bad as I had thought it would be. It was looooooong, but not unbearable. I slept a lot so that made it go by faster. Then we arrived in Ethiopia. I lost a day in there somewhere.....and I am still not totally sure what day it is now, but I know it is dark outside.

After a quick hour and a half flight to Entebbe, our air travel for the first (of 3) legs was complete! We were greeted by our friend from Cannan Children's home, with a bus to tote all us crazy women, and a truck to tote all of our huge luggage. Before I even got off the sidewalk at the airport, a car came at me so fast that I was sure he would hit me, and half my luggage flew off my cart. He hustled out of his car exclaiming "muzungus!" (white people). I knew it would happen eventually so why not get it out of the way right at the start. Then the drive through Kampala began.

It was exactly what I expected and totally not what I expected. I assumed that the "rural" areas and the city areas were separated, at least by a little distance. But that is not the case in Kampala. We saw goats just hanging out on the side of the road. A bull with horns so big I would swear they weighed more than he did. Unattended children everywhere....mostly small babies. No way to tell if they have mothers nearby or if they are street children.

Women wearing no shoes, were selling shoes on the side of the road.....not one of which had a match. Just a sea of individual shoes....I guess you just try to find 2 that sort of "go" together. Women with baskets of bananas on their heads. Women grilling corn over a grill that I am sure hey probably also carried on their head, from wherever it is that they live. The mannequins in the store fronts wore African clothes, but they were all white. And all wearing very strange expressions on their faces.

And then there is the traffic. Not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road, but they drive 2, sometimes 3 deep on the wrong side of the road. And the motorbikes. They are everywhere. They just come whizzing by your window between 2 cars that were way to close together to start with. It is a wonder one vehicle in this city still has it's rearview mirrors in tact. Each motorbike 1, 2 or 3 deep with passengers. They honk their horns as if it will make any difference at all. It doesn't. The "traffic police" blow whistles and wave people to move on in LITERAL bumper to bumper traffic as if it will make someone hurry. It doesn't.

After a brief time to get settled in at the guest house, five of us went out with Michael from My Father's House, to exchange currency and get some water, bread, peanut butter etc for the team for lunch tomorrow. I didn't expect the traffic to be insane-er than it was the first time. I didn't expect the dudes with rifles outside the currency exchange place, although I was grateful they were there. I didn't expect to see a woman in the dirt on the side of the road pulling up her drawers after doing her business there in front of God and everyone.

Then we went to the market where you can buy anything from Nike soccer balls to doormats to bread and peanut butter. All very surreal.

The traffic was even worse on the way back and that is when we saw the street children. Sitting on cardboard mats, spread out at an equal distance from each other, begging. For anything. One little boy, about 4 years old , came up to our can and we have him all the peanut butter crackers we had through the window. He smiled and ate at least 2 before he even got back to his "spot". The we saw a mother who couldn't have been more than 15, set her 1 year old baby down on the sidewalk while she plundered through the trash for something to wipe he hiney with. I guess the baby had a dirty diaper.....just no diaper.

So, we are experiencing a great deal of culture shock and exhaustion. Going to bed now. We will be at the prisons tomorrow so pray for that.

Whoever has my babies, kiss them extra much for me tonight please!

Much love,


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last post before I leave for Africa: This was NOT what I expected....

I purposely waited until I got to DC to write this post....simply because I did not want to have to write about it before I knew how it was going to turn out. Here's the thing: I KNEW I was going to be stressed for the last couple of weeks as I prepared for my trip. There is sooooo much to think about. It requires so much strategy to pack 2 bags that weigh 50 lbs but no more than 50 lbs that it really should be a TV game show.....or maybe reality show. Crazy things have been on my list like take Typhoid Medication (which turns out to be way more complicated than I had imagined), don't forget to get last vaccination (which I almost forgot), not to mention keeping up with the list of ALL of the donations for our whole team (of course I volunteered to do that what else do I have going on?), finish all the stuff I have to do in the sweatshop, wrap up all photo shoots, tie up loose ends at my big girl job, pack for the kids, find clothes for the kids to wear in public so my mom doesn't take them out looking like urchins.....etc etc etc.....but the thing that I didn't expect was, that none of that came close to stressing me out as much as .....leaving my kids for SIXTEEN DAYS.

Now, you must understand, this is not a trust issue. I have an oddly great relationship with my ex-husband and his wife....actually so odd that it probably deserves it's own blog post at some point. I trust my parents, I trust Gigi. It is not that I am afraid they won't be well cared for while I am is just that this mama is going to miss them so much. And I know they are going to miss me so much too. SO, I set out to "prepare them" the best way I knew how.....and yes, I know I have a tendency to put more on myself than what a normal human can accomplish in any given period of time.....

I decided (sort of at the last minute) to collect soccer balls and have the kids decorate them. I will be leaving one at each of the orphanages we a way for the kids to feel like they are making a difference and are part of this trip too.

"Aidan loves Africa Girls" was not exactly what I was going for....but you win some you loose some right? :)

Then, mommy had the bright idea to make Ella a necklace and Aidan a bracelet similar to the ones we will be teaching the Karamajong women to make. Partly because I wanted to learn how to make them. Partly because I wanted the kids to have one more thing to remind them that mama loves them while I am sooooo far away. And partly because I am a crazy person.
And of course, they had to have Africa SHIRTS!

And a map.....and a DVD with 16 video clips of me reading a book, us singing  a song, or saying prayers together.....turns out that making a DVD with a video for each of 16 days away is no small task.......

And last but not least, we finished our very first chapter book AND saw the movie!
When Ella and I were talking about Africa a few weeks ago, she started to well up with real crocodile tears (not the fake ones that she somehow generates for fits). She BEGGED me not to go. I tried everything I could think of to make her 4 year old little brain understand and nothing helped. This went on for about 10 minutes. Then I told her (thinking this will surely seal the deal) that GOD wanted me to go to Africa and love on kids who have no mommies or daddies or toys etc and when GOD tells us to do something we have to obey Him. She thought for a moment.....then she turned her tearful face to the sky and screamed "GOD PU-WEAZE DONT MAKE MY MAMA GO TO AFRICA! PU-WEAZE! PU-WEAZE! PU-WEAZE DONT MAKE HER GO TO AFRICA!" At that point, I cried like a baby too and just held her for a while until she finally stopped. Her fit ended....and that is the day mine began.

So, ever since, I have been SOOOOOO stressed about leaving for the airport. I just knew that one or both of my kiddos would have a total five alarm come apart when it was time for me to leave and I thought that MAYBE if I stressed myself out to the MAX doing everything I COULD DO to prepare them before I left, they would be ok......and guess what...they were.

Leaving for the airport this morning was a total non-issue. Ella was distracted with her new roly poly collection (God bless them) and Aidan was in the rain filled baby pool in his underwear ready to play beach ball with his 7:30 in the morning. God has got this thing under CONTROL!

So, I ask you this: I am now at the point where there is nothing else I can do (with the exception of calling when possible) to keep my kids from missing mommy too much while I am away. Please pray for them. Please pray for my mommy heart because it is a little broken right now. I miss my people and I know that every set of little brown eyes that I look in to on this trip will only make me miss them more.

So, even though this is not what I expected to be stressed about, I know that God has this and all the rest of the details under control....He showed me that in a very tangible way this morning, and for that gift I am very grateful!

I will update as soon as and as much as I can!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why the Honkin' bird made me go to Africa

I have always loved hummingbirds (Ella Mae used to call them Honkin'birds). The main reason is likely because my grandmother loved them. I have so many memories of her standing at her kitchen sink and watching the delicate little birds flap their wings, so fast that the eye cannot see them move, while they drank red juice from a feeder that one of us probably gave her for Mother's Day or her birthday. I guess she loved them because they are such interesting little creatures, and very beautiful.....maybe even inspirational.......and super hard to photograph! :)

So now I have a hummingbird feeder outside my kitchen window. I have random stuff with hummingbirds on it. I even have a hummingbird tattoo......don't let that little bit of info turn all your attention to the tattoo issue, because it really isn't a big deal. I have 2 others. I just say that to make the point that you have to really totally ALL CAPS pink puffy heart love something to get a tattoo of it...because they a really lot.

I recently came across FUNKY FISH DESIGNS via Project Hopeful, an organization that has done AMAZING things for children who are HIV+. Please oh please oh PU-LEASE follow those links and see what amazing jewelry (much of which benefits Project Hopeful) and read all about Project Hopeful.

While browsing through all of the awesome stuff on the Funky Fish website, I came across this:

There is an African proverb that goes like this:

"She told of the hummingbir­d who sees all the jungle animals fleeing a fire. The hummingbir­d, the tiny little hummingbir­d, races to the river, picks up a drop of water, and carries it to the fire. Time and time again, to the confusion of the rest of the animals. The animals ask: What exactly do you think you're doing? 

The hummingbir­d says: Whatever I can.”

Now I love hummingbirds even more than before.....don't worry though, I think I am done getting tattoos...I think. :) But isn't that a wonderful story? I love it when God lines things up in such a way that they all come together at just the right time and make total sense.
So here is the wonderful necklace that Dawn at Funky Fish custom made for me!
It has a heart at the top, a tiny Honkin'bird after that, then "Aidan" and then "Ella Mae". I will be wearing this necklace on my trip to keep my kids close to my heart while I am away....but what does all of this have to do with why I am going to Africa? Glad you asked.....

Many people have the notion (I know this because I was very recently one of them) that it would have a bigger impact on the nations to just send money rather than actually GO on what many consider "Christian Vacations". I will say as a disclaimer, that there are some organizations out there who unfortunately offer these sorts of trips, but Visiting Orphans is not one of them! We will be doing just what the name says, visiting orphans. Some of whom are in prisons and living in filth and dying a little more every day. No vacation here.

But, that still doesn't answer the question: why not just send these orphans the money that is will cost for our team to fly there, have places to sleep, eat, pay for transportation etc? Through the Radical Experiment at Brook Hills, our church was challenged to PRAY, GIVE, GO! You can go here to read more, but the gist is this: we are commanded by God to GO and make disciples of ALL NATIONS (Matt 28:19-20). Short term trips can only do so much, but what we can do is support the local organizations and churches in Uganda and Kenya .....people who have given their LIVES to serve the least of these. So we go to serve THEM, to support THEM and along the way, spread the GOOD NEWS about Jesus to children who may have never heard it.

Hopefully, as we go, we will be able to encourage the workers there, support them and help equip them in any way we can. I can imagine that if I were a little Ugandan orphan, it would mean a lot to me to know that someone came halfway around the world just to visit me and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to me.

Mid and Long term missionaries are the people who are able to go into un-reached places and spread the gospel to entire groups of people who have never heard it. But, I have never met a Mid or Long term missionary who wasn't a Short Term missionary first! :) So as a faith family we go to serve the church on short-term trips with the hopes that God will use that exposure to different contexts to prompt many to serve in longer capacities and advocate for the "least of these" in many different ways!

We don't all have to move to Africa or India. We don't even all have to go there. But, I know that this is something God wants ME to do. So I will go. I won't adopt all of the orphans, I won't end hunger, I won't cure HIV/AIDS, but, like the little Honkin'bird, I will do . . . . .

whatever I can.



"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do an doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Tips for travelling A-fer" (aka afar) and the motherload of embroidery floss.

My Aunt will flip when she realizes that I posted this out there on the internets for the whole bless-ed world to see, so she shall here-to-for remain nameless (but she is my dad's sister, born and raised in Hamilton, Alabama, once crowned "Little Miss Maid of Cotton", maiden name Clark, first name Lana, married name Hindman).

Seriously, this woman means the world to me. She has supported me and guided me in ways no one else will ever know. I love her so totally much.

However, she is to blame for a great deal of my weirdness-es. Those of you who know me, know what I mean. I will not go in to all of them, but when you hear me say things to my kids like "I love you more than snot with green boogers", just know that it comes from her. Here is a tender note I received from her yesterday, that I thought might be of help to many of my friends who are currently preparing for trips overseas for missions, adoption etc.....I will translate below.

Translated to English: "Rules for Traveling Afar"

Don't talk to strangers. (always solid advice)
Don't drink the water. (yep...don't want the malaria)
Don't eat road kill. (I am going to go ahead and say that this one applies when traveling as well as at home)
If you see a tiger, don't touch it. (got it)
When you need to poop, go do it. (got my travel TP just in case)
Always keep a kleenex in your pocket (b/c my ma-maw did and so we do.....b/c we want to be more like she was :))
If you see a pile of something strange, try to avoid stepping in it. (once again, also applies at home)

And I think the last part is self explanatory :). I love my aunt who shall herein remain nameless.....did I say that already? 

Along with my tender note, she also sent a contribution for school fees, medical assistance etc. for the Karamajong people (you can read more about them in my last post), as well as more EMBROIDERY FLOSS. I think we have officially hit the MOTHERLOAD! Woo Hoo!
Thanks so much to all who contributed embroidery floss, soccer balls, flip flops, money and support for this trip. I am truly blessed.

I have 2 more blog posts rattling around in my noggin that I plan to get out before I stay tuned. I leave Birmingham on Saturday morning, and head to Africa on Sunday from DC!

Much love and gratitude,


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Embroidery floss= HOPE?

Many of you have asked what else I "need" to take on my trip to Africa. Well, this is sort of last minute, but the opportunity has just come our way and we are JUMPING ON IT! While coordinating the details of our trip, one of our leaders got a suggestion from Pastor Andrew who works with the Karamajong's in Uganda. The are LITERALLY the "least of these"...the poorest of the poor. The last Visiting Orphans team was heartbroken as some of the Karamajong arrived at Katie Davis' ministry- they were just tiny, malnourished and greeted you with such Honor. They were not able to actually go into the village and minister to these people....but our team WILL!

(Karamajong women making the paper bead necklaces)

Pu-lease take a moment to go and read the blog post here that Katie Davis of Amazima wrote about these people. They make the beautiful paper bead necklaces that we all LOVE, but as she says, it only scratches the surface of the need in this area.

So, somehow the idea came about to teach the women there to make friendship bracelets to sell in the US and create a sustainable income so that they can feed their families and have money to send their children to school. This money will literally prevent starvation as well as keep young girls from prostituting themselves for food. Here are a few words from Pastor Andrew:

Again glory to God for that yet anticipated and wonderful ministry due on 1st July in Kikaramoja. I have no problem with having the whole day ministry. In fact it will give us more time to do many things.

Ministry ideas during the day: I am thinking of including a few home visits to pray with these families, bringing together widows in different groups to speak to them with the word of God, playing and sharing with the children, children will also be ministering to the visiting team with music, etc.
Is there any other item that you want me to include?

As you may have seen that place, these are mostly widows, single mothers, grandparents, some of whom have lost their partners to HIV. Their income is real miserable and almost there is no hope for a breakthrough future. Some of their children (girls) have turned to prostitution due to lack of school fees.

One of our strategic plan is
-Sharing the love of Jesus and his power to change their lives, -Contributing the their school fees and scholastic materials, -Contributing to their medical assistance, -Income generating activities for the women, -Sensitization programmes to the entire community.

I will be telling you more for the mid term and long term plans and the entire vision.

Kind regards in Jesus' name.
Pastor Andrew.

(Katie and her girls ministering to some of the ladies in the slums)

So, this is clearly a great opportunity. Rather than go in to this village and love on these people and tell them about Jesus....then leave them to continue to suffer with no hope.....we have been given the GREAT priveledge to provide these people with HOPE.

If you feel led to give financially to this people group, please contact me at or simply make a check out to Visiting Orphans and get it to me. But do it soon because I leave NEXT SATURDAY the 25th of June!

Also, if you happen to have any embroidery floss lying around your house that you don't use, or would like to pick some up in the next few days please do so! If you are a Crossbridge person, you can bring it to church on Sunday and I will get my mom to collect it. I would LOVE to have to stuff my pockets and every nook and cranny of my bags with enough embroidery floss to keep these women and girls busy until the next team comes with more supplies! Will you help?!?! What an amazing way to have a direct impact on the least of these!



Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
James 2:14-17
The Message