My Intent was Relationship- By Lori Somers

Jen asked me to share my personal blog posts and trip stories from my trip to Uganda in August. I posted them below and here is the link to the posts on my blog Bukedea Posts ~Lori Somers

Bukedea Sponsorship

It all started in December 2011, when I chose a little boy to sponsor in Uganda through Children’s HopeChest.  I knew nothing about this program or organization. But friends of my daughter were beginning to do some work in Uganda by setting up CarePoints in villages in order to find sponsors for orphans.  I remember this being on my heart for a while. I also remember searching many profiles through World Vision and Compassion International for ‘just the right one’.  Maybe it was someone I shared a birthday with.  Maybe not.  But I kept looking.

Bukedea was the next village in the Children’s HopeChest program that was profiling children, sending local people into the village to find the most vulnerable children, and so I kept looking for that certain someone to sponsor.  I had planned to give this ‘sponsorship’ to our family as a gift so that we could share this as a family.  I won’t go into how that ‘gift’ was received, but a few were not as excited as I was to begin this adventure.  In the back of my mind, I prayed that ‘one day’ I may get to meet this small boy that I chose to sponsor.

Sponsorship has a lot of dark clouds hovering above.  You will hear comments from a variety of people of how they ‘tried that’ or we did that through our church and ‘the money was stolen’ or my favorite comment, ‘what about the children in America’.  So before I jumped on board, I did a little soul-searching and a lot of researching.  Some are simply thrilled that all they have to do is write a check each month to feed a child.  God gives each of us a heart for helping and we each have to walk that faith out. Not everyone desires to get on a plane and meet their sponsored child.  And that is perfectly O.K. I won’t be the first one to tell you that Africa is not for everyone. But that was not my intent.  My intent was relationship.

Sponsorship for Children’s HopeChest is part of their survive-thrive-succeed program.  You can read more about what sponsoring a child does http://orphansofteso.com/sponsor-a-child/  I wanted to simply make a difference in the life of one; to send him to school, give him one meal a day, and put feet on my faith.  And I trusted that it would make a difference in his life.

This is the little boy I chose in December 2011…Juma Odeke, 7 years old and in second grade (P2) at the local primary school.

2011 JUMA ODEKE

Through the years, I’ve gotten updated photos, letters and pictures from Juma. I am able to send him photos with the team that goes twice a year.

So to actually meet Juma…is very hard to put into words.  I feel like after 4 years, I know him.  I know his heart.  I read between the lines of his letters. I see how he his being discipled at the CarePoint.  He draws pictures for me from his children’s bible that I sent to him.  He tells me stories of Abraham, Moses and Noah in his drawings and letters.  The statement ‘there are starving children in Africa’ now have faces and names.  They are real.

I was a ball of emotions as we drove to Bukedea and our first village of three that we would be visiting.  I wasn’t even sure if I’d recognize him.  The last picture I had of him was from January of this year.

Then we all heard…get your cameras ready…as we were greeted on the dirt path by the village guardians.  Time to get off the bus!

Bukedea…WE ARE HERE!

Saturday, Aug 15, 2015

My prayer for today: Lord, empower us with your strength. Give us your hands and feet today in Bukedea. Amen.

I was a puddle of emotions as I stepped off the bus. You could say we were greeted with dancing and singing! Shouts of joy came down the dirt path to greet us.

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We follow the guardians down the dusty path.

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And around the curve.

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To the Bukedea CarePoint

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No one noticed that the children were not here.  Those of us first-timers didn’t know what to expect.  But as we circled the building, out came a few hundred children, busting out of there in laughter!

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And they took their place under the tent. Eager to learn about this new group of mzungu who have come to see them from America.

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The very first thing we heard from the children…

GOD IS GOOD…ALL THE TIME.

ALL THE TIME…GOD IS GOOD!

Of course this was God gently whispering to me in blessed assurance what He had been confirming all around this trip.  This is my mother’s favorite saying, her favorite song and to hear the children’s greeting made me smile as I knew that God knew what He was doing. His timing is always perfect.

We were entertained with dancing and singing.  Yes there were microphones and music and a generator.  You just never know what you might find in Africa! “TIA” — this is Africa

We introduced ourselves, one by one, with an interpreter speaking to the guardians and children.  Those who sponsored children in this CarePoint were carefully looking for their child.  There were no nametags and no one waving flags with our name on them.

I told the children that I had prayed for 4 years to come and see them, and that God is faithful, He answered my prayers! I didn’t know until later, that a certain little guy was also praying the same thing!

The entertainment came in all sizes. I loved their dancing!

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Once the dancers and welcome was over, I was busting my own move over to the children’s tent to find JUMA!  Aaaaugh…be still my heart.  One of the first things he said was, “I’m so happy you came to see me.”  Me too buddy. Me too.  We had the rest of the day to chat.  I didn’t write down our conversations because emotionally I was pinching myself the rest of the day, reminding myself what just happened.  He was able to understand me.  He is very soft spoken with a quiet spirit about him. What a sweetheart.  I felt like he was already a part of our family. And he reminded me a LOT of my grandson Justice.

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Lori & Juma Aug 2015

Juma 11 years old, p5 (5th grade)

The kids line up to wash their hands before eating

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then in line to get their posho and beans

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and then find a place to sit and eat

IMG_0577While the kids eat, we get our nourishment on the bus in granola bars, beef jerky, peanut butter and whatever else we packed to snack on for lunch.  We also had an ample supply of bottled water everywhere we went.

The rest of the day we played games with the kids, sat and held kids, snuggled babies, painted nails.  Amazing how fast the day rolls by when you are surrounded by kids.  And we goofed around taking lots of photos for sponsors, getting to know the kids and enjoying all of the personalities! And of course you know where my focus was.

No words – just smiles

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The CarePoint made these posters for each one on the team. 🙂

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This little corn-stalk hut.  The boys in the village made this hut for the mzungu visitors so that we would never have to go home again.  {sob}

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We usually left the CarePoints around 4-5 pm, depending on our drive back to our lodging for the night.  We boarded the bus and headed for Kumi for a couple of nights.  Where the large black beetle-bugs make a thug when they hit the floor.

Bukedea on a Sunday

Sunday, August 16, 2015

We arrived at Bukedea for day 2. I simply love these greetings, singing and welcome!

Since we arrived before breakfast, we got to help serve porridge to all of the kids.  Our team wore these “LOVE DOES” shirts randomly during our stay in Uganda.  They were always a reminder to us that Love is a verb.

1 John 3:16-18  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

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We had a short program before dividing the kids up into age groups to share a lesson, a story, answer questions and anything else we wanted to talk about.  I went with the 9-11 year olds and we each shared a little bit about ourselves to the group with an interpreter.  The kids learn English at school, but the smaller ones still understand eTeso better.  We also had more singing and dancing today.  I simply loved their songs, their smiles and their moves.  I wish I could dance like that!

These stringed instruments had the most heavenly sound

and the song told us “nothing can stop me from serving the Lord.”

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more dancing

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The kids asked us what kind of crops we planted, what kind of animals we had. And what kind of food we ate. We taught them a song, “This is the Day” and then they tried to teach us a song in eTeso.  When we went back together with the big group, Uncle Simon spoke that verse in Psalm 118:24 over all of us.

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The selfie-sticks were very popular.  They were a magnet for the children!  And us!

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And then it rained. And poured. And we all got crazy.   Oh the joy in their hearts.

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It was the dance party that did NOT want to end today.For lunch today the kids had chicken and rice.  They get protein/meat once a week.We headed back to Kumi for the evening. Our cup runneth over.

{Sigh} and Good-Bye

Monday, August 17, 2015.

This is our third and final day in Bukedea. I promised Juma that I’d be coming to his house today for a home visit. I wanted to see where he lived and meet his family.  I was already tearing up just THINKING about saying good-bye and I didn’t want this day to end. Ever.

On our way to the CarePoint today, we stopped by Silver’s hut.  Silver was a sponsored child at one time in Bukedea, he now runs a radio station that he created and he showed us ‘over the hill’, how far his signal reaches.  He was the also the D.J. running all of the music at the CarePoint for the kids to dance to.  Later in the day I got to share with him about the hope he has as a beacon for the children in the CarePoint.  I also shared  Jeremiah 29:11 and spoke that verse over him.  God is using him in the lives of many children while he instills a hope and a future into Silver.

Introducing Jovia.  For a few months I felt the Lord’s prompting to sponsor another child.  And I figured why not Bukedea; keep my heart in one place in Uganda. I selected Jovia in October of 2014.  I didn’t really feel connected to her yet, as we’d only started corresponding and she was little, just starting pre-primary school. I figured she didn’t know much English and I’d just get the relationship started.  On the first day in Bukedea, a little girl came up to me, shook my hand and did the ceremonial bow as younger children met their elders.  Later I found out who she was!  It was my Jovia!  After she figured out I was her sponsor she was stuck to me like glue :).  She was very quiet and solemn.  But I watched as her personality bloomed and that smile started breaking through.  Later I find out she has a sister Janet who is older and not in the sponsorship program, but was singing hymns to Jamie all day, writing and drawing pictures in English as well.

Jovia (3)

Jovia is a very small 9-yr old, in pre-primary school. She just started school when I started sponsoring her so she hasn’t been in school very long.  Notice her shoes in the picture on the right.  She wore these shoes when we walked to her house.  They do not fit her.  One of the gals ended up putting her on her back to carry her all the way back to the CarePoint on our home visit.Jovia

Jovia lives with her grandmother and grandfather, who is a diabetic.  They are her caregivers.  Her father was killed in a accident as a policeman.  Her mother moved away 2 months ago leaving her and her sister and brother behind.  Her grandparents speak English well.  This is so helpful for the kids to speak English in the home. They were so thankful for our visit and help with Jovia.  We prayed together before we left that God would give them strength to number their days as they care for their grandchildren.

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And now the Bukedea finale.  I handed out the backpacks/school supplies and gifts to my two and the other kids on my list.  We sat together and I showed Juma and Jovia my pictures that I gave them of my family, where I live, our crops and my garden.  They loved the pictures.  I also gave Juma a children’s daily devotional book from The Upper Room. I showed him how each day there was a story and a bible verse.  I think that all he has is the Jesus Storybook Bible, but I don’t know if the CarePoint gives them bibles or not.   Soon after, we left for Juma’s house.

IMG_0957I met Juma’s mother, Margaret and the rest of the family, who lives on the uncle’s land.  The sister was running around the huts and I’ll never lose the visual of seeing her dive horizontally behind the hut. I heard a chicken squawk and then it  hit me.  She was catching a chicken for me. Juma’s mother wrapped up its feet and Juma presented the chicken to me as their gratitude to me for sponsoring Juma. It is a bittersweet gift, as it is a meal for them. But they give out of what they have.  His mother told me that he has been praying and praying for me that I would come for a visit.  {Again, pinching my emotional self to hold it together and not create a puddle-scene.} Juma showed me his hut and where he sleeps at night, on the dirt on the floor of his hut. IMG_0981No mattress, just a thin mat.
I. CANNOT. EVEN. IMAGINE.  I noticed another hut in the circle that had some drawing on the outside of the hut.  I asked him if those were his drawings. He smiled and nodded.   There were two areas of grain drying in the center courtyard of their huts.  I remember Juma telling me about their crops and him helping in the garden.  We gathered up the chicken, said our good-byes, and headed back to the CarePoint.  We were riding in the truck, but I was glad to see that he doesn’t have to walk far to the CarePoint for his meal. Juma is the only child in his family that attends school.

IMG_0984How do you top that?

To see with my eyes and my heart where Juma lives and sleeps at night prompted me to pray for my next action step.

What else can I do to help him?
We headed back to the CarePoint for our final good-byes and a few more gifts.IMG_0988

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When we got back to the CarePoint I told Juma I’d miss him and we were both crying.  I also told him that our faithful God answered his prayers and that God brought us together.  We were both sad, knowing we’d have to say good-bye.  The closing ceremonies included a few gifts from the children to us. The girls brought out necklaces for us and the boys placed straw hats on our heads.  Afterwards I went over and sat on the ledge with Juma and Jovia, just soaking them up.  Juma and I were both crying and I told him I’d see him again.  I took this final picture so we could always remember being together.   I left my heart in that CarePoint.  We all hugged sobbing children in our arms as we inched toward the bus.  So much love.  So much fun.  Our cup runneth over.

It was time to head to Soroti for the night to stay at Joseph’s house before heading to Ongongoja, the ends of the earth.  I was already wondering how I could do this two more times…leave sobbing children and parts of my heart weaving a thread of connection across Uganda. I had only been here for four days!  And yet my heart strings were being tied to little hearts in this village.

And my chicken?  It’s on the bus. It will make her way to another village to be a meal for someone else.  I got to see my chicken in the courtyard of my favorite coffee spot at Joseph’s house when we stayed there a couple of times.  I named her ‘little Jo’ after our bus driver.

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Our evening meetings and projects

20150816_221727One of the fundraisers this time was to raise money to purchase school supplies for the kids in each CarePoint.  We also found people to sew backpacks for the children.  After our evening team meetings we worked on stuffing the backpacks, and organizing all of the school supplies.

Thankfully the Kumi Hotel had a nice large room where we could spread out and take over as part of the team organized all of the supplies and figured out which grade level got which supplies.  We then took our lists of kids, found their grade level on the sheet and headed towards the supplies to load up their backpack.

This was not a simple or quick undertaking, so I’m glad we had music and Fanta to keep us company! And a LOT of help.

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This was after a long day in Bukedea, dancing in the rain, going on little sleep and we all just wanted a warm shower and bed.  But LOVE DOES.  Love always does. And most likely there were no warm showers waiting for us at the end of the day anyway.

We did this again when we got to Joseph’s house before we left for Ongongoja, Organized more backpacks and gifts, etc.

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The best part of this project was connecting with the children, handing out the bags and helping them read their letters from sponsors.  They love the pictures the sponsors send.  Great job sponsors!  Other great ideas I saw was a solar flashlight, white boards and markers, headbands for girls, hoodies, or any type of shirt.

20150817_230422With our large team of 18 (once Joel joined our team), we had some lengthy team meetings.  But I found that decompressing from the day helped you process a day at a time.  If you don’t get time to talk about your day it all starts piling up until you burst with exhaustion, emotion and don’t know what to do with it all.  We didn’t all have earth-shattering days and thankfully we didn’t all have sponsored kids in the same CarePoints, or we may have overwhelmed the two guys on the trip.  The home visits were really fun to hear about and I have TWO home visits planned for my last day in Bukedea.

Lori Somers, Mission Tripper 2015

http://changeofviewyahweh.blogspot.com

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