Stepping out of the Boat….Part I

When we traveled to Uganda for the second time in June this year, we had a pretty specific picture in our minds of what we were looking for.

We had imagined finding a small village or Care Point (small enough for us to be able to handle finding sponsorships for within our circle of friends and colleagues)…and something rural and entirely undeveloped (so that we could be a part of the development plan from the beginning). We had spent a lot of time the previous year in the insanely busy big city of Kampala in Uganda and it wasn’t anything like what we were desiring to be involved in. Rural, small, and undeveloped would be perfect.

So, after visiting a few small villages and Care Points a couple of hours north of Kampala, when we came into the tiny rural village of Ogoloi about an hours drive from the nearest “town” Soroti, we knew that we had found what we were looking for.

Playing with the kids at Ogoloi

It was perfect. 120 documented orphans and vulnerable kids ….no previous development (it’s nothing more than a few mud huts and a mud walled church), and a quaint subsistence farm setting in the absolute middle of nowhere. Ogoloi had been attacked by the LRA (Lord Resistance Army) just a few years before, and the Care Point was in a precarious position of not having sufficient funding to continue much longer. Perfect!

Meeting with the local church leaders under the Mango Tree

Joe and just chuckled to each other. We didn’t really need to say much because we both knew immediately we had found what we were looking for. I joked to Joe that day that we could go home now….cause we had found our care point. We spent the entire day with the kids in Ogoloi, joined them for their meal, and sat with the church leaders under the mango tree to learn more about what God was doing in the region. It was a great day, and it was fantastic to know that God had laid the prefect opportunity for us to “get involved” right in our laps.

Gathering under the Mango Tree in Ogoloi

Bukedea
But a couple of days later, after some more visits to care points in the Soroti region, as we were making the slow and pot hole laden journey back south to Jinja on the way to Kampala, we had a couple more stops to make. One of them was another Care Point that happened to be on our route called Bukadea.
Trade center in Bukadea

The village of Bukadea is a small but commercialized town  that acts as a trade center for all the local villages in the area. Villagers from all around the region converge on Buakdea to trade cattle, used clothes and various other goods and wares. As we drove into town the road was at a near standstill with traffic, cattle, people, bicycles and Bhoda Bhoda’s (the name given to small motorcyles with passengers on the back) crossing the road.  Chaos. So far from the peaceful serenity of Ogoloi. It was the opposite of Ogoloi.

We swung a right onto a dirt road and drove a half mile to the Care Point.
More cattle. And the usual pot holes.

And then it happened. 
We pulled into a huge wide open field with 2 familiar looking bright orange buildings on the far end backing up to the quarter mile of crops we had driven through on the dirt road. It was tucked away, out of sight, and it was nothing much to look at.

Surrounding the pavilion buildings (similar to ones we had seen in other established care points) were about 250 kids of all ages, and their activities and games came to a stand still as they watched our minivan pull into and cross the field, coming to a stop in front of the pavilion building.

It didn’t take long at all to feel that there was a unique energy about Bukadea. The kids (in typical form) engulfed us as we climbed out of the vehicle. We were lead to take our customary seats in front of the kids, who as usual serenaded us with songs of hope and songs of Gods provision. This is always a humbling experience, and the gratitude and thanks that the kids have for our small commitment to help is drastically disproportionate.

Life without Playstation  or Wii

After the ceremony from the kids, and a brief group bible study (really just the kids reciting verses and a bible story) we stepped out for some fun. We had races across the field with water bottles on our heads, were invited to play soccer with the older boys, and eventually sat down wherever an open spot could be found on the floor for the usual overloaded plates of beans and maize meal.

After lunch, while the kids continued their games, we spent some time touring the care point to learn more about the meal preparation, discipleship program, and the leaders. The Bukadea Care Point is actually overseen by a group of widows from the area known as the “Widows of Teso”. This group of more than 100 widows have banded together to form an association of support and care for each other, and many of their members have elected to step in and oversee the care point on the ground as caretakers, disciplers and cooks. Teso is the tribal region that both Ogoloi and Bukadea are located in, and is also the dialect of the Ogoloi and Bukadea areas.

Widows of Teso

It’s a beautiful, but sad picture. These woman have lost their husbands, often to AIDS, many times to the war. And these kids have lost their parents to the same. To see these widows stepping in to care for “the least of these” – Gods children, was a perfect picture of what we believe the church is called to. In Uganda and the U.S.
They were acting as His Body….loving others in their need, despite their own.

Under these woman, the discipleship program appeared to be under great management, the care point was thriving (as evidenced by the spirits and joy in the kids), and with the pavilion, latrines and kitchen already built it was clear that this was a picture of a properly functioning and mature care point….this was what we would hope that Ogoloi could one day be.

Thriving Carepoint
Food Reserves at Bukadea
Daily Meal
proud owner of a plate of food 🙂
My American feet were no match for the African ground. 30 Mins of soccer
left me with huge blisters. Despite the fact that there was no well anywhere near
the carepoint and these kids have the fetch the water daily for their meals, I
was provided a bucket of water to wash my feet in. A little embarrassing –
very humbling.

Embarrassed
As we continued to talk and learn, I turned to Joseph (the national director for Children’s Hope Chest in Uganda) and asked him in front of the two lead widows – How many of the 300 or so kids that we saw fed that day were actually sponsored. I had assumed based on the health of the care point that it would be around 80%.

His response to me was a pivotal moment in my life.
 

As only Joseph can (he is a Ugandan local, quiet and reserved, but a towering man), he said something to the effect of ….”Dylan – we do not usually discuss these details in front of the people”

It was pronounced more like this:
“Ay Dillun….we do not yoosooally speek of dees tings in frunt of da peepul)

I apologized, but he said it was OK and continued to respond in front of the widows. He told me that in fact only about 20 of the kids were actually sponsored. The buildings had been a one time donation, and there was no church or sponsoring group for Bukadea yet. The daily food, medical needs and current provisions for these kids was all coming out of the general operating fund from Childrens Hope Chest.

He told me that the widows of Teso didn’t really understand this, and certainly the kids did not either. It was better that way.  All they knew was that CHC was there to help, and that miraculously food was being provided to feed these 300 kids each day. They had little to no concept of the funding, or the sponsorships. As far as they knew ALL THE KIDS WERE SPONSORED by incredibly generous members of Gods body from America. And God, through CHC was providing for their needs.

I was floored.
It was a strange moment, and left a deep an unsettled fire in my stomach.
20-something sponsorships?

Everything about this place was perfect. The kids were thriving. They were eating, learning, and growing. They were attending school. (Except of course that day – cause they had heard Mzungu visitors had come to visit them). The church was acting like the church, caring for one another as they had need. It was all so right…..

Except for one thing. 
One part of the body appeared not to be doing its part. Everything was in place…except that without funding I knew that it was entirely unsustainable.
There was one thing that remained. Someone, who had much, would need to step in with what God had entrusted them, to do their part in this otherwise perfect picture of Gods body in action. It was all so right.

But my heart was broken for the part that was wrong. The part that was missing. It was our part. It was the American church…the wealthiest group of Christians ever to walk the face of the earth…that were not doing their part. It was hard to get my head around. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed for asking…but more embarrassed by the answer.

leaving Bukadea

So at the end of a long day, limping from the blisters of the soccer game, sweaty, tired and hungry, we climbed back into the vehicle, waving to and high five-ing as many kids as we could (without driving over them), and we drove out of the complex and back to the main road on our way to Jinja to wrap up our trip and head home.

There was a strange sense of confusion in my heart as we drove away that day. We had been to many care points in our few short days in Uganda, and we had seen a lot of amazingly cute and courageous young children in that time. They were all adorable, they were all in need. But these kids had entirely unexpectedly captured my attention, and my heart – despite what I was looking for. Ogoloi was perfect for us…but there was something about Bukadea.

Our long journey home to the U.S. left plenty of time for discussion, and after much consideration we decided that we should stick with our initial plans and get the ball rolling with Ogoloi despite a heavy burden and love for the kids at Bukadea. After all….that was manageable for us, and we could always work to try and find someone – perhaps a church back home – who might be able to handle something as large as Bukadea.

We couldn’t possibly take on something as big as Bukadea. It was over our heads.
So I committed that day to work to find a way to get Bukadea sponsored. I didnt know how….but I knew that we had to find a way to get those kids sponsored so that the work that has begun in Bukadea can be continued.

Gods Plans and Ours….
Perhaps you can see where this story is headed…perhaps you already heard…?
Ill be picking up this story in a couple of days to fill everyone in on some exciting updates to our plans as we move ahead with our work in Uganda through Childrens Hope Chest.

               ….to be continued

2 Comments on “Stepping out of the Boat….Part I

  1. I can only imagine the pull on your heart as you spent time in both these villages for the days you were there. I love to read about your experience and see how you and Jen are being obedient to God's calling. How blessed they kids are that God chose you to walk in those villages! I'll continue to pray for not only the orphans but your family as well!

    Like

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