On to Ongongoja- By Lori Somers
Once we left Bukedea, we made an overnight pitstop in Soroti at the home of Elotu Joseph, the Director of HopeChest in Uganda. Immaculate cooked for us, washed our clothes and we had some hints of ‘home’ surrounding us. I loved the outdoor courtyard where the roosters and chickens roamed freely. It was the perfect spot for morning coffee, but more on that later.
Our shared dorm rooms at the house
We had one night in Soroti, packing our bags for the ends of the earth, Ongongoja. We packed up all of the backpacks/gifts, our overnight bags, and whatever else we needed for our next three days. Since we were coming back to Soroti, we only took what we needed. Now that may sound simple but how do you pack for the ends of the earth? How do you prepare yourself for children, the least of these, who were being fed leaves to fill their stomachs, because there was no food prior to HopeChest sponsorship program entering their region.
First you hang on tight, while we bumped down the dirt-washboard road for several hours. Was it 5 hours? I lost track. Massage roads. This red dirt road took off into nowhere. As we passed through Katawki, we stopped for bathroom breaks at the place where we would call home for the next two nights. And where ‘It’s Uganda Life for Us’ was born. More on that later too.
I was already protecting my heart a little because I wasn’t quite ready to let Bukedea pass from my heartscape, but here we were, approaching more children who needed our love and attention. At this point is where you dig deep and search for that verse that is going to give you strength.
And then you see this…and realize that the JOY of the LORD is your strength!
I was not expecting this heart-tug today after so much emotion yesterday but when joy comes running down the road straight for you, there is only one thing to do…get off the bus!
After opening ceremonies we walked down the path to the building site of the multi-purpose CarePoint building. I was immediately ‘yoked’ with a young lady who practically carried me down the road. God was speaking volumes to me about how being yoked with someone, arms around shoulders and waist, is to help each of you. Neither one carries the heavy load, the burden alone. But together you can go far under any circumstance. This is the exact picture of how the CarePoint works in these villages. By sponsoring children, you are yoked with the community, you help shoulder the heavy load as part of the yoke they need to survive, thrive and succeed. A hand up, not a hand out.
I looked for Isaac, the young man that my friend Ann sponsored and he was very receptive, fun and loved goofing off for the camera. He understood English and we had a nice first conversation. He was somewhat shy but maybe just unsure of meeting strangers. The younger children tend to get sponsored first because they are adorable, cute and how do you turn down those faces? But I’m learning how rich of a relationship you can have with the older kids in the CarePoints especially because they know English from attending school. Rich indeed.
Several of us helped serve food and wash dishes today in the food line. I LOVED how the older kids helped serve the younger ones as they washed their hands and served them their plates. More posho, more beans.
These cooks are amazing. Just watching their daily routine and how they have nothing ‘convenient’ to cook with, no stove, no utensils. No counters let alone quartz countertops. But they sing and laugh and dance through their service each and every day.
The other part of the day that was so sweet was hearing the children sing. I grabbed several videos of them singing. When I introduced myself, I told them I loved to sing and hoped they would teach me some of their songs!
I’m starting to pick up some eTeso words finally.
Yoga! = Hello
eYalama Noi = Thank You
Posho = Euga
We made our way back to Katawki where we all loved the authentic African flavor of this hotel.
There are perks to snoring. I got my own room! My own bathroom/shower.And my own super-sized beetle bug in my toilet.That wouldn’t flush down.
Wednesday, August 19
Occasionally I have to look at the calendar on my phone to get a grip of what day it is, what month it is and where I am. And other days I just have to keep telling myself, “I’m in Africa!” Yes indeed.
I left my camera on the bus today. My big camera. I found out how freeing that was and wished I had done it sooner. No fear. I have my cellphone camera with me for the day’s activities. That allowed me to engage more with the kids while we painted nails, they colored pictures, jumped rope and played games. Some of the older girls sat with me and taught me the words to several songs. Then they would test me and make me sing the song back to them.
Look close at my left hand…i had to jot down some kids names so if I found them I could get their pictures!
teaching me some songs
I also found all of the kids on my list for the other sponsors back home and got pictures for them. This always makes a connection for both of us because the kids come looking for you during the day, for a hug, or a smile. I had to ask one of the older boys for help, because there were several I couldn’t find. And you never know if you’re looking for a teenage boy or a 5 year old.
I also took several more breaks on the bus today, drank more water and I could tell a big difference in my energy level. I always felt guilty sitting on the bus but that small respite time was necessary each day to regroup and get some nourishment.
Jamie was a gal on the team who brought a sewing kit with her. Loads of buttons, thread and needles. I would NEVER think of this, but what a perfect activity and much needed in this CarePoint. I always learn so much by watching others and I was so thankful for her insight into bringing these items. And she was always busy stitching and sewing up holes, seams and replacing buttons.
I also got a dance lesson today.
~our dining room ~
the small window to the back is the kitchen and there’s our Immaculate! She came to cook for us!
Love is an Open Door
Breakfast: Cassava, toast, eggs (white), fresh pineapple, bananas
Big bugs. This was a brother to the one in my toilet.
Thursday, August 20
Before the day started, Jamie and I grabbed a few photos.
This is the gal Jamie sponsors in Ongongoja. So sweet.
And I grabbed little ones just to snap some fun photos 🙂
Then it was time to get busy. Jamie left for a home visit before she got started on a little guy’s shorts. She handed over the sewing bag and I started to tackle hand-sewing on the waistband while tucking in the belt loops, every seam in the shorts. and the pockets. Then I’d hold them up to the sun and see if there were any more holes. And I’d start over. I worked on this little guys shorts for two hours. Thankfully we had a pair of extra pants he could wear while I sewed his shorts. I kept telling him he could go play and motioned toward the games. He sat quietly for me to finish. Although I didn’t bring the sewing kit, I did bring some leftover material that came in handy for patches and making belts. And now David has a hole-free pair of shorts :). But we ran out of buttons. So next time I’ll make sure to bring lots of buttons.
God kept whispering to me in this CarePoint, “the least of these” as he would bring children right up to me for hugs, for sewing their shorts with torn seams, for hand-holding and lap-sitting. Once again that JOY of serving became my strength.
Since this was our last day in Ongongoja, it was time to hand out our backpacks/gifts to the children on our list. It was fun digging through their bags, reading their letters to them and showing them how to use their solar flashlights. What a cool gift!
This little guy is my friend, Siera & Matt’s sponsored child, John. I was so thrilled I could meet him and bring lots of hugs and love from Iowa. What a sweetheart. He has a brother, Bashir, in the program too.
Water for the Posho
The women add the flour and then stir with large sticks until it gets pasty and then the men come in and finish stirring.
At one point today I was holding Esther, and all of a sudden I noticed her ripped jacket. I decided I’d grab the sewing kit like I had been doing all day, and just stitch it up quick. I found myself sewing more ripped seams and loops when I was pulled aside for another gift. Jorem’s family brought a chicken for his sponsor. These gifts of the heart are just so touching and Jorem finally had a smile on his face! It is such an honor to represent these children’s sponsors when you are in their village. I named this guy Cy.
We had a few closing ceremonies and songs and it was time to head for the bus. But between us and the bus were a few hundred children telling us good-bye, longing for hugs and that last look of love into their eyes.
My heart was about to explode when we were heading to the bus and one little girl took my hands, she whispered low as I bent down to hear her, “I love you.” These children recognize God’s love when they see it and feel it. It was not anything we did, but God using each one on the team to bend down low to the least of these.
One of my prayers before we left on this trip was for God to make himself known to each one of us on the team. I prayed that we would see God face to face. I didn’t realize I would be the one to see Him at the ends of the earth, in Ongongoja.
We headed over the long bumpy red trail back to Soroti for the night. By the time we left Joseph’s house we had roosters crowing on all sides of the house about 4 am each and every morning.
We have been in Uganda for a week. We have stayed in numerous lodges, had cold showers, and we end our days sweaty and filthy. There are days of exhaustion and days of exhilaration. But its Uganda Life for us!