No Man is Able Without God

While visiting the home of the young man today that my mother and father sponsor I noticed a sign on the side of his home and asked what it meant. I could read parts of it but it was written all as one word.

I was told that Enoch had written the sign himself when they moved into the house. It reads: “Mam iTunganan Araie Epidore Araiemamei edeke” which means No Man is Able without God. I took the picture because I thought it was interesting, but the gravity of the statement didn’t hit me until later tonight as I was scanning through the thousands of pictures we take each day and saw it again.

What struck me is that this statement is the opposite of what we (as Americans) so frequently claim: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13).

Now I don’t want to get into a theological debate, but the reality is that this verse (by far one of the most quoted passages in scripture) is most often entirely misunderstood to mean that we can accomplish whatever personal goals we want in life. You know…like making twenty 3 pointers in a basketball game, or making it to state wrestling, or getting that big promotion we want, or (fill in the blank of some personal achievement that you would like to accomplish in your life).

If you really read the passage though, you will see that Paul is actually addressing the hardship of his current circumstances (a poor, travelling, recently stoned and beaten messenger of the gospel) and saying that even though he is currently down, that he is content in all situations (whether rich or poor) because he can do (endure) all things through Christ who strengthens him. That’s the context of the passage. Not that you can be the state champs if you really pray hard enough.

So how beautiful that instead of claiming God as a cosmic genie to help Enock accomplish his personal goals in life, he rather understands the reality that I believe Paul was actually intending to communicate. The reality is that without God, man can do nothing. ” No man is able without God”. He is Jehovah Jirah (the God who provides), El Shaddai (The Almighty One) and Adonai (our Lord and Master). He is who He is. And without Him there is nothing. We accomplish nothing. We are nothing.

I am profoundly struck by the difference that our cultures appropriate to the God who reigns, the God who gives and takes away, and the God that we will all be held accountable to one day when he returns to right the wrongs that we have done to his creation which also groans in anticipation of his return.

I wander if Enoch will have a better understanding of our King, and find a place near his throne and close to his heart…a humble servant who knows that he is incapable without his God. And I wander how it might feel when we western evangelicals stand before this God expecting him to fulfill our petty and insignificant personal dreams and realize that he had something so much more grand in mind.

10,000 Reasons
We kicked off the day teaching the kids a few songs. We started off with some fun…you know…”Who is the King of the Jungle – ooga ooga, Who is the king of the sea – bubble bubble bubble” and then progressed to teach them the words and tune to Matt Redmans 10,000 Reasons. I have been whistling the tune for several days now, and we played the song on the portable sound system that Alissa brought. It was a pretty cool experience singing with the kids.

The lyrics to the last verse go like this:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come 
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forever more. 

Standing there singing this song with the kids, with the stories that we hear day after day of their suffering and hardship, loneliness and uncertainty, I could not help but think about the day that we are supposed to be eagerly anticipating….the day that the Lord of this world, to whom all authority on heaven and earth has been given returns to claim his bride and make right the brokenness that we have brought into his once “good” creation. And on that day, we will sing together with these kids. Disease free. Without hunger or fear, or shame or sorrow….and together sing the praises of the King who is worthy to be loved…(because He first loved us)

….ten thousand years…..and then forever more. 

The Big Ball

We pulled out the “big ball” after our gathering in the morning and had a blast playing all sorts of games that people play with 3.5 foot tall soccer balls. This time around we avoided dodge ball, having learnt the lesson in Ogoloi that 3 foot tall boys always lose against equally tall balls hurled at them.

There was a lot of other activity at the CarePoint all day, but a highlight was that while a few of us left for some home visits, the older boys and girls were split up for some discussion time. The boys headed out to the big mango tree on the far end of the CarePoint with Joe and Mark, and the girls gathered in the pavilion with Alissa, Anna and Gina. These are always some of the best times of our trips, and the kids love the opportunity to sit and learn more about us and the crazy lives that we live.

The questions we get asked are always a hoot. This time around the winners were “Are we born black and then turn white as we grow up” and “Do the men in America also do nothing while the woman work”. Obviously the answer to the first was no, but the second is debatable depending on who you ask. 🙂 Joe and Mark were able to discuss with the boys the idea of responsibility as men to be hard workers and helpful in the homes that they are living in. The girls discussed how woman are in America, and Alissa walked them through Proverbs 31 with some Q&A. I am thrilled that these guys were able to meet with the kids in this way and I know the kids will never forget the conversation.

Home Visits
We were able to visit several homes today, and learned a lot about many of the kids that you all sponsor. Here are a few updates on what we learned. We will provide full updates for these visits when we return, so this is just the basics (we also have a lot more pictures of each visit)

Alice, Charles and Norah
Akwii Alice (Jordan and Whitney Funkhouser)
Charles Ilaborot (Vilinda Gleason)
Norah Icakuna (Jinny Foldoe)

We visited this humble home first to learn more about the family and for Jordan to get to know Alice better. We learned that her father died in 2003 in a car accident (also very common here…easy to understand when you see how they drive). The mother is still alive but suffers from severe back pains from years of farm work. The family has 2 acres of land for the 9 people living in the home, which is nowhere near enough to sustain the family.

We also learned that although the kids school fees are being paid for by their sponsorship, that they are in need of uniforms and are being sent home occasionally from school because they don’t have any. We will work to make sure they get informs soon. The kids have no bedding or mattresses, and the three kids sleep on the floor in the hut with their mom.

Jordan was able to give a small gift to their mother, who was extremely grateful, both for the gift and for the fact that Jordan and Whitney would provide for her child in that way.

Phillip and Joyce
Philip Adusa (Jay and Morgan DeVries)
Joyce Akaruet (Becky DeCarlo)

Phillip is 10 years old and in P4. Joyce is 8 and in P3. They are both great kids and their mom was honored to have us visit.

After their father was apparantly poisoned and died in 2004, they were forced to move back to their family land which houses 15. They now live with the grandmother who is also a widow. They farm the small 3 acre plot for food and are not able to produce enough food to survive. The sponsorship is a big deal for these kids who otherwise would not be going to school.

While we were there, we noticed Joyce’s leg and were informed that she has suffered from birth from a painful swelling of her leg that leaves her unable to walk properly or play. She has seen the doctor who actually took a sizable chunk out of her leg (there is a large scar and dent) for testing. There have been no results as yet. We are looking into how to get her to the doctor again for further testing and to see if we can cure the issue to get the issue addressed  This kind of thing is often left unchecked because the people know that they simply don’t have the resources to pay for the procedures or meds necessary to heal the issue.  Hopefully we can make progress soon.

Enock, Charles, and Joseph
Enoch Outa (Colleen and Hans de Bruin)
Charles Emong (Stephen Bohlen)
Jospeh Engole (Danner Rieb)

The kids live with their mother Florence on their grandfather’s land. Their father died in 2000 of HIV and were kicked off of their land by the father’s brothers. The land that they live on (owned by the grandfather) is around 10 acres, and they have 2 goats and 3 cows) that help sustain the 15 people living together in the home.

The kids’ mother is HIV+, as is Enoch. Joseph and Charles have tested negative for the virus. The mother and Enoch are on Anti-retro-viral drugs, and apart from the fact that Enoch is currently sick with Malaria, they seem in decent health. The mother is a little gaunt. There was a set of twins born after Enoch who died of HIV as well. As before, the kids are in need of uniforms as they are being sent home from school occasionally for not wearing them. We will look into this and likely arrange for new uniforms for all the kids soon.

Scovia, Phiona, and Kevin
Scovia Aulikol (Bree Swenson)
Phiona Akiror (Kelly Cananaugh)
Kevin Akiror (Emma Schroeder)

There are 7 kids in total in this family, 3 of which are sponsored. Their father died in 2005 when Piona was 3 months old after being poisoned. The mother owns the small 1 acre plot of land that they live on, and they are extremely poor, even for this region. They are simply incapable of producing enough food to sustain themselves. The mother and elder children work in neighboring fields for income and they grow cassava on their land to feed themselves. The mother also suffers from severe back pains from too many years of bending down to farm. When asked if the family had any livestock they mentioned that they had been saving and had recently acquired a chicken to produce eggs for them.

Rose Amron 5yrs -available for sponsorship

When we realized the severity of the situation at this home I decided that we should profile the youngest child (now 5) so that she too could have school fees and a meal each day accounted for to alleviate that pressure from the family. She is an absolute gem. We will have her profile up in a week or two (if someone doesn’t snatch her up from Jen before then).

While taking pictures of the family’s home and chatting with everyone, the mother appeared with something in her hand and informed Tyra that she had a gift for her. It’s hard to see in this photo (the only one I took cause I was so shaken up) but in her hand is the one chicken, feet tied and ready to be handed over as a gift. It was incredible. And heartbreaking  These people have nothing. NOTHING. And they can’t feed themselves. Without help they will die. And in response to the $34 a month that the sponsors of this family provide, this woman was wanting to give up the only real possession she had in gratitude. It was tough to handle. Tyra was too choked up to respond, and frankly didn’t know what to say, so she beckoned me. We almost never turn down the many gifts that we receive from the humble people of Uganda, but I simply could not take this chicken, and we explained that the gift of her prayers were all we could accept. I’m still shaken up just typing this.

So we will be buying chickens for this family. Hundreds of them if I have anything to do with it. And if I can gather the funds I will buy them a couple of bulls too, which will change their lives drastically as they can rent them out to neighbors for ploughing.

…Ten thousand years and then forever more…..

 Alex Okanya (Anna Maloney)

A year ago when we visited the home of Alex Okanya I wrote his story in the Post entitled “Smelly, Rejected, and Ashamed“. Alex is a young boy that has been through a lot. He has a bladder control issue that required surgery to remedy, and he has as yet been unable to undergo the surgery despite our best efforts.

I took Anna and Mark to visit Alex and his father in their home right next to the CarePoint. It was good to see Anna with him, as she had sponsored Alex when here sister Ally returned to tell his story a year ago. Alex is slow to respond, and his demeanor displays his broken spirit. Years of shame and embarrassment has left him a broken shell of the person that he was meant to be.

Alex’s condition has not improved, despite several visits to doctors and a period of slight improvement after the visits. I don’t have all the details yet, but it appears that the primary hospital in Uganda in the city of Kampala does not have the necessary equipment to facilitate the surgery that Alex requires, and we would need to consider an out of country surgery to get this accomplished. I have no idea at this time what this might cost, but we will look into it. In the meantime, we are discussing the possibility of purchasing adult diapers (depends) for Alex so that he can potentially return to school (he has been unable to attend due to the distraction that his bladder control issue caused at school). We will keep you updated on Alex as we learn more, but I am committed to making this boys life a little better, as is Anna and Mark.

One day Alex will stand proud, his head not bowed and staring into the dirt. One day Alex will know that he is loved, and will run and play and dance with the other kids. One day Alex (and the many like him around the world) will sit on their father’s knee…not in humiliation and shame like he does now when his current father is around….but with full confidence in the love and affection that his real father (who has never stopped loving him) is there with him. He will make this right when he returns….

And on that day 
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
Ten thousand years, and then forever more

Wrap up
I was able to wrap up the day playing guitar with a few of the kids at the back of the CarePoint, and we played the Ten Thousand Years song together a few more times, with the kids staring intently at me as I played. The day came to an end quickly, and as we hung out for the last few minutes at the Carepoint is was obvious to see that relationships had deepened even since that morning. The kids grow attached to their treasured visitors quickly, and I think we would all agree that (despite our fatigue), we are pretty darn attached to them too.

Tomorrow morning we plan to teach the kids a few more songs, head out to get an update on Samuel Malinga’s Mom and family, and then hand out the gifts and books etc that the sponsors have sent with us for the kids. And then we will say goodbye, which will be tough. But we will be back. With new friends. And new stories to tell.

As always, I have posted photos on the Facebook Page
Check out the album Bukedea Day 3

Please know that although we do our best to post as many photos of as many kids as we can, we have likely not posted photos of everyone’s kids. When I return Jen and I will spend our evenings sorting through thousands of pictures to try and send you what we have so that you can see your kid’s faces. That said, it is important that you all know that a few of the kids are out of town this week while we are here, living with other family members during the month and a half long break from school in December and January. In these cases we are unable to get pics of the kids. If for any reason you haven’t seen your kids pics yet, please shoot me an email and I will look into why.

Thanks again for all of the support you give as sponsors and for caring about these kids.
We are all grateful.

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