My trip to Uganda changed my retirement – By Jinny Foldoe
As a financially struggling divorced woman in her mid forties, God blessed me with vision and energy in raising my two adolescent children. Sometimes in my exhaustion and indiscretion I would let thoughts slip out aloud, and they came back to haunt me.
“Mama, are you really going to leave us and go to Africa where the children dance and sing all day?”
I turned around to see the pained face of my 12-year-old daughter. “No Rachel. I won’t leave you. I promise.”
A few years earlier two events happened. First, an overseas teacher returned and told me that despite African poverty, joy was displayed in the children’s impromptu and constant music. I was intrigued. Second, we attended an African dinner at a church and were instructed it was “okay to eat with our fingers.” It was wet and mashed food. At the exit, a man shook my young daughter’s hand and asked her if the evening had whetted her appetite to travel overseas. Rachel was usually friendly, but I was embarrassed by her obvious coldness and recoil.
Ah, that was a quarter century ago, before God turned it around.
In 2010, my very same daughter and her husband told me they were planning a trip to visit orphans we were financially sponsoring in Uganda. I was living in Connecticut and asked if they wanted me to tag along. I was surprised at the “yes.” Then another surprise: their first child was conceived. I held my breath; with Children’s HopeChest’s blessing, they postponed for a year. Their son was born the summer of 2011, and the following year was going to be a busy one for me. I was going to move back to Minnesota to be an active grandma, and since I was 65, why not retire from this rat race?
My son helped me move back to Minnesota via U-Haul, where I had time to reacquaint myself with my grown kids and my grandson. Then, in August 2012, I boarded Africa bound plane with Rachel and John.
Although I was apprehensive about my fitting in because the average age of the other nine team members was thirty, I wanted to meet my sponsored sixteen-year-old named Sarah Monica, who was very shy; I went to her home in the van with other team members and my daughter. Monica lived so far from the Bukedea CarePoint she could only attend secondary school if she moved into a boarding house, and Joseph, the Uganda director of all the CarePoints explained that one needed to be built before that could happen. At the home visit, we spoke through our interpreter, Richard, and received the family’s blessing for Monica’s continuing her education, even if it meant moving away from home.
On the way back to the CarePoint, Monica sat next to me in the van, reached over, and caringly rearranged a wisp of my hair. It seemed her first act of love until I was presented with a doily, handbag and hat she had crocheted for me before my arrival. I was deeply moved.
At a team meeting late one night, Joseph answered my question about what needed to be accomplished in order to set up an opportunity to get Sarah Monica into a secondary school. The answer was simple: Get as many sponsors for the children attending the Bukedean CarePoint. There were close to two hundred, and all were not sponsored through Children’s HopeChest.
I spent my first month back in America compiling photos of my trip and sending a follow-up thank-you to those who contributed. Then I heard of a job opening as a tutor in a local public high school. I applied and started working in October. I brought photos of my Sarah Monica and of my trip to Africa, always letting my students know how they were helping me to help the African students. My job was God’s provision for me to open my purse but I was hesitant to sponsor many kids myself, so I sent photos and information of unsponsored orphans from the Children’s HopeChest website to enable others to choose their own children.
By January, I had found friends and relatives who agreed to share sponsorship: I would cover the finances and be invisible to the children, while the co-sponsors would write, send photos of themselves, and pray for the children. I added two orphans to Sarah Monica for my own full sponsorship.
Remember how the birth of my first grandson postponed my family’s first visit to Africa? My Sarah also gave birth, and policy disqualified her to continue as a student at the Bukedean CarePoint. I was given a younger orphan by CHC to replace Sarah. On Rachel’s scheduled summer trip in 2013, she was able to make a home visit and was photographed with Sarah and baby Francis. Though I supported the policy, I was disappointed, but believed God’ plan was bigger than my own. Children’s HopeChest did not abandon Sarah Monica. A beautiful and unexpected photo of her kneeling by her own sewing machine, with the largest smile I have even seen on this shy young mother was sent to me in a newsletter. The CarePoint funded her training so that she could use her talents to substantially provide for her family. How I marveled at those results, though they were different than my first hope for Sarah as I worked towards providing boarding school for her. Recently, one of my current orphans has been selected to attend one. Imagine that!! (We are currently raising funds to help her and other vulnerable orphaned children attend boarding school this winter if you would like to help make that possible please click here to donate.)
This is my third autumn since my African visit, and I continue to work in the local public schools, but now as a substitute teacher. I have a lot of enthusiasm because I consider this job a gift from God. A couple of my co-sponsors have taken over the financial portion of the their orphans, but I lift all of the children I have sponsored to God in prayer. I have a bulletin board in my kitchen with my favorite photos, and have even created a 3-ring binder of pictures and correspondences.
My original reason to travel to Uganda with my kids, Rachel and John Antoine, was to witness firsthand the overseas ministry they began through Children’s HopeChest in their home church in Moorhead, Minnesota. I had no idea it would change my heart and my life as it did. I do not plan to return, because my investment is in sponsorships, but I praise God that my daughter or son-in-law have returned yearly to keep us all a global family. I only hope God uses my own late-life experience to change some of my readers’ plans.