Monday, July 11, 2011

This was quite a journey

This morning we woke up early and packed up for the last time. We worshiped with our Fiwagoh family, and then prepared to say our goodbyes. This time, we had the kids make as line leading out towards our bus, and we all walked down the line to give hugs. I hugged 183+ necks and said 183+ God bless you’s. I have a purse full of the sweetest letters from the sweetest kids. Despite our tears we headed back to Nairobi and to do a little shopping while on the way to the airport. We had a 3 hour delay in Kenya, which ALMOST made us miss our flight to D.C. I can’t imagine the mess we would have all been had we not made it, but, by the grace of God, we are all on the plane safe and sound headed for the U.S.!

There is a stark difference in these two countries we have visited:

Uganda: I did not see the whole country by any means, but what I did see in Kampala and Jinja and surrounding areas really struck me. This place is unique. It is like no other place I have ever seen. As a whole they live in extreme poverty, but their way of life was not what I expected. When you see people in poverty in New York City for example, they tend to beg and pester you and generally make you feel unsafe. Ugandans are not that way. I never once felt unsafe while I was there. A little uneasy when we were exchanging so much money, when we were stuck (at night) forever in downtown Kampala traffic and when our bus got stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere, but never unsafe.

The people here are many, but their ways seem to be the same. They come out of their tiny little “shops” in the mornings (because I am sure they sleep there) and they get down on their hands and knees and use a wet rag to wash the stoop, if they have one. These shops look like what we would call an outhouse in America. Yet they go out and they use tiny back breaking brooms to sweep and trash that has collected in the dirt in front of their shop during the night. They sweep their dirt.

I would have thought that people in such poverty would be dirty and live amidst trash etc. but that is not the case. They all sweep their dirt. The sweep the trash into large piles, and some get picked up by a garbage truck, and some get burned. But away from the trash piles, it is clean.

The traffic is nuts. No signs. No lights. They just toot their horns and make it work. In America, people would be yelling obcenities out the window and having a serious case of road rage. Not here. They don’t even blink. Men walk directly in front of cars and vans, perfectly timed so they don’t get hit, and no one even blinks.

If I lived in Uganda in those conditions, and saw a bus full of well off white women, coming in to town to “do good” for a week and then go back to their normal lives, I think I would feel some sort of  resentment or even anger. The people of Uganda welcomed us with so many shy smiles and waves and made us feel like we were right at home.

Kenya: It is winter here. I didn’t get that memo. The location of Hope Children’s Center is situated in just the right spot in the Rift Valley, to require the children to wear knit caps and jackets pretty much all day. It looks like Africa here. The Acaia (I think) trees and the hills are exactly what I pictured, but we saw none of that in Uganda. Granted, we were in the cities in Uganda, and in the Rift Valley mostly in Kenya, so there may be similarities that I haven’t seen, but in my experience, these two neighboring countries could not be more different.

The time we did spend travelling through Nairobi and Eldoret cities were a stark contrast to Kampala and Jinja. They knocked on our windows, and actually tried to open our windows, to get us to buy the candy, strange toys or bags of peas they were selling. One guy even climbed up the ladder on the back of our bus as we were driving in to a gas station. In Uganda, they just waved and smiled and yelled “Mzungus!” like we were celebrities.

Kenya is very picturesque. We got to see a whole lot of beautiful country, and we even happened upon some wild girrafes, zebras, and some monkeys. It looks like what you would imagine an African safari should look like. The area surrounding Fiwagoh is absolutely gorgeous. It makes my heart happy to know that these kids have such a loving and beautiful place to live that can only be from the hand of God.

As our plane begins to land in D.C., my heart is heavy for Africa and the children and friends I will miss. Many of you will want to know “didn’t you just want to adopt every one of them and bring them home?”. I thought that was how I would feel, but oddly enough I don’t. The majority of the children we met, who would be “eligible” for adoption (i.e. not street kids and not the ones we met at the prison who had just come in off the streets), were happy. This is their home. Their past circumstances in some cases have been no less than horrific, but, due to the mighty hand of God and the love He has instilled in the people who run these orphanages and ministries, and the people who finiancially support them, with a true heart for the orphan. They are, for the most part, being loved so well. Sure they may be “better off” here in a home in the U.S. by our standards, but to them, the orphanage where they live is home. The people in charge are their parents. The people they sleep and eat next to are their families. These places are few and far between in the BIG picture of Africa, but it was so good to be able to leave most of the places with a sense of peace that God will continue to provide support from outside and much love from within for these sweet kids.

We are almost home. I cannot wait to see real bathrooms, with toilets seats, that don’t require extreme physical excursion to use. And that flush every time. I want some normal food. Beans, rice and bread will NOT be on the menu for me for at least a little while. As it turns out, when you stay in orphanages, they tend to have no hot water and certainly no internet. Duh. So a hot shower and feeling “re-connected” with the world are at the top of my list. I cannot wait to see my kids and just soak up their love. A little piece of me will always be in Africa, and I know I will be back if the Lord wills it….but for know, I am very grateful to be home. Almost.


  1. You have such a beautiful heart dear friend! I have been so incredibly blessed to get to know you and have you in my life these last two weeks!

  2. Thanks again for taking us "in your pocket" .

    I enjoyed every blog and so happy you got the opportunity to go on this glorious blessed journey.

    love you,

  3. I just wanted to thank you for this post! I am just now reading your blog from your adventures. I lived in Masese (a village just outside of Jinja, just a few minutes from where the Kjong tribe is) for seven months, and am back in the states now but preparing for Kenya. God works in the most magnificent of ways. I love your story about Jane and her mom. I love that little girl! Two of the kids I fostered were first at SHC, then with me, and then ended up in Kenya with an existing ministry that I am involved with, just 24 hours before I left Ug (huge massive answer to prayer!). I had four opportunities to visit the Kenya ministry but for whatever reason I was never able to make it. I think God knew that saying yes to living in the village 8 hours from Nairobi would be hard enough without having ever been there! I heard it's colder than Ug, but thanks to you, now I know IT'S COLD :) These things are important, especially when you have a five year old and you have been in Phoenix and Ug, where it is just HOT all the time! So thank you!!!! I am looking forward to reading through the rest of your posts.... here goes :)