Smelly, Rejected, and Ashamed

Before we left for Uganda a couple of weeks ago, we received an overwhelming response from sponsors of the various children, as well as from our friends, and even from folks we don’t know who wanted to contribute. Our request for financial support in order to be able to afford the Mosquito Nets and supplies we had hoped to buy for the kids was more than met….and we were incredibly grateful.

I wanted to take this opportunity to fill everyone in on how those donations were appropriated, but more importantly to share the stories of how your gifts were able to have massive impacts on peoples lives.

We are out of Nets…
We had not planned to bring any gifts or supplies for the kids at Ogoloi or Bukedea, but at the last minute we became aware of a couple of larger donations and decided that we might as well see if we could raise enough to buy nets for all the kids as well as whatever else we could pick up on the ground in Uganda. We already had a lot of medical supplies for the clinic we planned to host, as well as a bunch of soccer balls and toys for the kids. So we threw out the option for people we knew to chip in for additonal supplies in the hopes that we would have enough to buy nets and shoes for everyone.

In the end, we were able to provide the kids in Ogoloi and Bukedea (that’s almost 400 kids) with the following:

Treated Mosquito nets -malaria spreads through female mosquito’s at night, and Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the area. Every one of the kids were able to receive a new net.

School Shoes – This was a big one.
For many it is the only pair of shoes they have ever owned.

  • Underwear and Sanitary Pads – the older girls received a box of Pads (a total luxury for them) and all the kids were provided a pair of underwear. It seems trivial, but most don’t have any underwear. 
  • We also had a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste for all the kids. 
  • We were able to distribute most all of the additional clothing that had been donated through friends and family (and that we could find space to travel with at this time as well)

It was hard to watch the kids who could not find an article of clothing that would fit them search for something that might fit a family member. Very humbling.

We also took this opportunity to hand the kids whose sponsors had sent them photos or letters their personal gifts. This was by far the highlight for most of the kids. They held the photos of their sponsoring families up like treasures. It was amazing to see. 
Our distribution at Ogoloi went smoothly, although I’ll admit that it was not extremely gratifying. I know the kids loved the gifts, but there is something about handing out STUFF after loving the kids for 4 days that felt “cheap”. Its hard to explain, but we all felt it. 
When we distributed the items at Bukedea 4 days later, we realized about half way through the 250 kids that we would run short, and our hearts broke as we watched children in line reach the front to be told that we were out of nets, shoes, and everything else. Their response was even more heartbreaking. Not one complaint…not one sour face. They were completely understanding, which only made it harder for us. 
Fortunately we have made a plan for the 50 or so kids who did not receive anything to receive nets and shoes in about a week once we buy more. All in all, the nets and shoes were a massive hit with the kids, and we were truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to hand them to the children on your behalf. THANKS!

A new Home for an old Tata

On one of our visits to the homes of the kids, we came across a particularly old Tata (grandmother) who cared for one of the Bukedea kids, Levi.

Levi was a charming little guy who was very reserved, but also incredibly conscientious.

He led us to his home, about a 2km walk down the dirt trail from the CarePoint. When we arrived at his home we were met with shrieks of joy and praise from his Tata at the idea of having visitors honor her with a visit.

Our visit here was brief, but after a quick tour of the woman’s compound and a brief discussion with her about her living arrangement and how she cares for the boy it was obvious that there was a lot of need.

This widowed grandmother has cared for Levi since both of his parents died. She has a very small plot of land that could never produce enough food to feed her and Levi, so she works in the fields of her neighbors every day, all day. She earns around 3,000 Ugandan Shillings a week for her labor. Sounds good doesnt it? Well, at 24,500:1 that represents around a dollar and 25cents a week.

That’s right…$1.25 a week!

When we took a look in their home we were saddened to learn that Levi has no mat of any kind, and sleeps on the hard floor. He gets his meals each day from the CarePoint, while the Tata works to try and earn enough to feed herself and provide enough to allow Levi to attend school. More than that, the roof of their hut was full of holes, and they have simply had no way to repair it. The straw must be purchased and a skilled thatcher hired to repair the crumbling roof.

Typically we would not recommend simply handing out cash to people in these circumstances, but as I stood there learning more about the situation, all I could hear, over and over and over again in my head was the words to 1 John 3:16 and 17…everything else sounded like a dull noise. Over and over again….

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

We simply could not walk on without doing something. $1.25 a week! It was unacceptable that a woman old enough to be in a retirement home should be slaving away every day simply in order to scratch together enough money to afford herself a meal each day.

So through the translater, I told the Tata that we would like to help her with the resources that Jesus had provided us. It took a couple of explanations, but when she got it she fell face down on the dirt floor and loudly praised God in front of all of us. It was uncomfortable, and yet beautiful. So right. And also so wrong.

We provided the staff at the CarePoint that afternoon with 150,000 shillings (or in this case a years wages) with instructions to gather some folks together and use the funds to repair the roof, and to give the remainder to Levi and his Tata as a gift from Christ for Christmas.

Even today as a write this (almost a week and a half later), I am as overjoyed by the opportunity to show this woman love, as I am sickened by the fact that a mere $60 could completely change someones life. The same $60 we use to buy a new pair of Jeans, or a nice dinner out.

I am excited to return to Bukedea to visit with Levi’s Tata and to celebrate Jehovah Jireh (the Lord God who provides) together. I am so grateful to those of you who chipped in to provide a truly amazing Christmas gift from our Lord to this amazing woman.

Smelly, Rejected and Ashamed

Alex is a 12 year old boy with a severe bladder control problem. His mother rejected him when he was young and left never to return. His dad has rejected him emotionally because of his condition and provides him little attention. His father is now remarried and he lives in a group of huts near the CarePoint, but his step mother doesn’t want him. He has been kicked out of school because of his bladder issue and foul odor, and his classmates too have rejected him. His dad has given up on him, and like many orphans, he is left at home to tend to the animals while his siblings and friends attend school. Sadly, even the kids at the CarePoint tease and keep away from Alex.

Alex is slow to respond, and at first glance appears to have slight mental retardation. But as you get to know him more you learn that he is fully aware of what is being said around him, and perfectly capable of responding. He appears to have cocooned himself. Presumably as a defense or coping mechanism. Its hard to tell if he has a bladder control issue because of a mental problem, or has a mental issue because of years of humiliation and rejected due to his bladder issue. I presume the latter.

We had the opportunity to meet with Alex’s Dad, and after a long meeting made an agreement with him. We would get Alex the help he needed to correct his urine issue, and the dad would commit to getting Alex back in school and away from tending to animals. We even met with his step mother and thanked her for her willingness to help care for Alex.

This was one of the most difficult meetings I have been in. We have seen many very tough circumstances, and a lot of hopelessness. But the absolute loss of dignity and complete and utter rejection that Alex has faced his entire life was more than I could handle. At times during the meeting I was angry, even cynical. At others I worked very hard to hold back tears. It just wasn’t fair.

In the end, we arranged for a visit to the hospital with a doctor we know that afternoon. Alex’s father accompanied him, along with one of the CarePoint disciplers to ensure that the visit was followed through.

Alex was referred to a Urologist who has scheduled a minor surgery after the first of the year. We will be excited to hear the results of the surgery and really and truly are praying for Alex not only that the surgery will be a success, but that the boy will regain some of his personality and courage to live life with his head held high. He is loved, and fully accepted by us, and his true Father…who will never turn away from him.

All in all the surgery is budgeted for at around a million shillings, and about 200,000 shillings were spent for the first two consultations (including the travel and hospital stays). When all is said and done, and assuming nothing goes array, about $450 will provide the beginnings of a new life and a new outlook for this young man. And if it costs more, we are committed to finding a way to take care of it.

Thanks for affording us the opportunity to be (and show) Christ to this boy, as well as to his Father and the community who has watched him, rejected, for so long….but now sees him loved and cared for as our Father would want. I cant wait to see Alex again.

PS… I am writing this I just heard from Jen that we have a sponsor for Alex.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”

A Good Nights Sleep
There were several kids whose homes we visited in the 7 days we were in Ogoloi and Bukedea that could use a some help. Very few of the kids were bold enough to ask for anything from us, but were mostly just grateful for the fact that we would travel so far just to visit them.

But one request did come up a few times from the caretakers of the kids that made a lot of sense. There were several children sleeping directly on the mud floors of their huts, with no mat, blanket, or mosquito net. We had provided nets for all of the kids, but decided that it would be a great idea to pick up some mattresses for several of the kids that we met who could use them most.

A basic foam mattress costs about $27 and we were able to pick up around 12 for some of the kids. We left the funds with Joseph (the national director for Childrens Hope Chest in Uganda) and he promised to get us pictures of the mattresses when they arrive at the kids homes.

I would guess that from an outsiders perspective, this may seem like an interesting purchase, but I can assure you that when you see where they sleep, it starts to make sense.

We purchased these mattresses primarily from our own funds but used what remained of the donated money, and so once again, thanks for contributing to providing these kids with a comfortable place to sleep at night…

He is Able…
It is immensely important to me that everyone who has supported us in our endeavor to love these children can have full confidence not only in the fact that their sponsorship and donations are being appropriated to its highest and best use, but also that each and every dollar is not just improving the lives of these kids, but also furthering the cause of the Gospel.

I am learning so much in this journey to love the least of these. It is a humbling experience working to love those who have so little, and yet can teach you so much.

I am so deeply grateful for each and every one of you who have supported Jen and I on this journey and have provided for these children through your sponsorships and donations. We are so incredibly excited for what lies ahead. It is amazing to know that you are working alongside a God who is able to do more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

Thanks for your love and support.

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