Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
[psalm 47:6]

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
[psalm 34:1]

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing Your praise
and not be silent.
o Lord my God,
i will give thanks to You forever!
[psalm 30:11:12]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

i saw what i saw and i can't deny it...

"i saw what i saw and i can't deny it..."
and so, among other things, i blog about it :)

but i'm not the only one!

here are some of my team-members' blogs
for those of you who'd like to read more/see more pics: (Kim) (Shelby) (Steph) (Jenn) (Faith) (Diana) (Brenda) (Simon/Amanda)

help these kids know they're loved...

here's my lil "family"
at Canaan Children's Home.
in front we have Owen and Dorcus,
in the back we have Peter & Jotham (in the plaid).

Canaan Children's Home is really a special place.
for an orphan, it seems about as good as it could get.

the people that are working there are doing some amazing things. aunties each caring for roughly 25 kids. they are BUSY and have their work cut out for them! laundry, cleaning, taking care of the sick ones...

so what we were able to do, was come in and be reinforcements. and just give love! endless hugs and kisses ...that's what the kids crave more than anything. more than any item or material thing. attention and love is what they crave.

that's what breaks my heart the most. now, i am SO grateful their basic needs are getting met: rice & beans at every meal, a safe place to lay their heads, godly men & women teaching and providing for them. but what breaks my heart is that they're not getting the 1 on 1 care that they so crave...

who's there to tuck each one into bed?
who's there to look into each pair of eyes,
and tell them they are special or brave or beautiful?
who's there to listen deeply and hear their story

and remind them of how loved they are?

it hurts my heart to think about. that's why i believe adoption is such a beautiful, redemptive, important part of healing this orphan crisis.

but for the kids that aren't adoptable right now... what about them?

1) pray for them. seriously. it makes a difference. these kids believe in the power of prayer. pray that they will feel loved and secure. that they'll know their worth in Christ. that they'll trust God as their Abba Father.

2) sponsor a kid. the money goes to a general pool that provides money for food, money for school fees, money to help keep Canaan's going. but the biggest thing: i can't even convey how special it makes them feel to have an individual sponsor. i heard these kids talk about sponsors alot. they LOVE to write letters and would probably write you endlessly. [seriously, i probably was given over a dozen of the most precious notes EVER from these kids at Canaan's.]

you can sponsor a kid (anywhere between age 2 and 18) while they live at Canaan's. after that, there's a special need for people to pay "scholarships" of $500 to send a Canaan grad to University for a year! otherwise, they cannot afford it and do not go. this is a huge blessing.

if you're interested in sponsoring/scholarshipping a Canaan's kid let me know. i can put you in touch with my friend Brenda who works for Visiting Orphans. she's communicating with them back at Canaan's to get sponsorships set up. you can see pictures and read stories about specific kids (!) on this page, just click on "Sponsor a Child".

sponsoring a kid says to them "you are seen". you are important. you matter. someone notices you. someone is praying for you - by name!
it speaks
worth and value into their life.

it looks like my Mom and i will be sponsoring my "son" Peter together.
i am so excited about this way to partner with him... a tangible way to show him how much we love him. plus, he is gonna be one heck of a penpal :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

stuck in a moment, and i can't get out of it... [thanks U2]

when i think back on my trip,
there are a few special moments
that i particularly treasure:

1. one early morning i was reading my bible on the steps outside our room.
little Owen came up (as always) and sat down beside me.
i asked him if he'd like to pray together & he eagerly said yes, no fear at all.
we held hands
as i prayed out loud in English,
then he in Lugandan.

i so wonder what he was telling God in his sweet prayer.

i love that our God is Lord of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
sitting there praying in 2 languages with Owen
was such a glimpse of Heaven for me.

Owen is 7 years old. he's lived at Canaan for 2 years.
his details are not mine to share, but they break my heart.

Owen has the most penetrating eyes in the world.
he's the one looking right at me in the above photo.
his eyes were always looking.
always searching. always watching.
for love? stability? acceptance?
could he find me? was i still there? would i remember him?

2. another of the moments occurred one night after dinner.
after finishing, we decided to have some worship as a team.
Devin started playing his guitar, and we started singing.
a few songs in, i felt compelled to ask if we could invite the children in
to sing with us. of course! thanks Holy Spirit :)

i stood at the door held open
and watched delightedly as kids just FLED inside
"wanna sing with us?"
was all i had to say
and watch the kids RUN in.

each child found a seat
(mostly in our laps)
my Dorcus, the little girl below, pictured with my Owen,
found her seat in my lap.

i will never forget singing to the Lord
while holding her in my arms
and how when i'd lift my hands in praise,
she'd put her little hands in mine.

3. oh, my Peter. sweet, sweet Peter.
13 years old and heart of gold.
we connected from day 1,
with lots of conversation.
he gave me notes & drawings
and his own schoolbook
translating English to Lugandan
so i could keep learning :)

he refers to himself as
'your son Peter'

Peter is so bright, so smart, with such dreams.
he loves the Lord, and early on began asking me
"if i would pray over him??"

as we were leaving the last day
i seized the opportunity
and him
as i literally grabbed him
"we've got to pray!"

i held him
and prayed for him and his life
asking for blessing and that he'd know how LOVED he is...
then got on the bus.

praying over Peter
was the last interaction
i had with a child in Uganda

i wouldn't have wanted to end it any other way.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

now, it's PERSONAL.

God has been growing my heart for the orphan the past couple years.
He pricked my heart with the staggering numbers
[147 million orphans worldwide]

then numbers became faces
when He started exposing me to specific stories
of adoption & orphan care ...

on this trip
faces became friends
and that has made all the difference.

the lyrics in this song are spot on.
now that i have seen,
i am responsible.
faith without deeds is dead.
now that i have HELD you
in my own arms,
i cannot let go...

play this video, listen, and scroll down to look at the friends i made...
now, it's personal.

one of my teammate's Jen captured this photo
it's very simple but i wanted to share it...

part of the fun on this trip was learning Lugandan words.
i LOVED that!
(partly because i'm such a word nerd)
i love learning new words even in plain ole' english,
so trying to learn a whole new language was so much fun to me.

this photo was captured
when i was teaching them a very basic way to communicate
"i love you"
(in sign language)
pretty simple, pretty universal.

so much of love comes in how and what you communicate.
this photo says it all.

video from our trip

one of my teammate's made this amazing video that documented much of our time there...
ps - you can hear Ugandan children singing in Lugandan in the background :)

canaan children's home

so after our boat ride on beautiful Lake Victoria,
we sort out all our donations - figuring out
what shoes go where & who gets these books & who needed deodorant again?

so we all load up to head to our 1st stop.
our 1st group of kids.
our 1st orphanage.
the place (we were warned) we would fall in love with.

and oh they were right.

Canaan Children's Home

this is Papa Isaac.
that's what all the kids call him. :)

he is Canaan's founder and is one of the most humble & godly men i've ever met.

Canaan's is home to over 1oo orphans.
most of these kids came to live here after their parents died and they were dropped off at Canaan's as a last resort, or if Papa Isaac heard about the child and decided to take them in.

from age 2 up until 18. there are different rooms for little bitties, for young boys & young girls, for junior boys & junior girls, for oldest boys & oldest girls. each room has an "auntie" who takes care of that specific group of kids.

many of these kids lost their parents to AIDS or war.
some have been raped or molested.
most came to Canaan's neglected and malnourished.

these kids are some of the most precious people
i have ever known.

the young ones go to school on the main property,
while the bigger ones go to primary school down the road.

these kids are so bright and ambitious!
they want to be pastors and bank managers and pilots and musicians.
they study hard and have such an appetite for learning.

here are young kids to the left and big kids to the right. each classroom has SO many kids! with one teacher per room. we got to visit every room, play games, sing songs, and take pictures. their favorite thing on the planet is getting their picture taken :)

on the far left we have Debra, Joy, Sharon, and Rebecca. these girls live at Canaan's, & are standing in front of their school.

in the next picture we have Uganda's version of the cafeteria line. lunch is a bowl of posho, a soupy dish made from cassava root or maize.

not all of the kids who attend school at Canaan's live at Canaan's.
some just come from the surrounding community.
for the kids who do live at Canaan's, their other meals consist generally of rice & beans, sometimes with mushrooms & veggies added in when available.

you never heard a peep of complaint from these kids.
they were grateful for all that they had.
full of joy
and gratitude
and LOVE.

oh how these kids love!
they are obviously so hungry for it.

from sun up to sun down
each of us had dozens of kids
wanting to hold hands or be held,
falling asleep in your lap,
just wanting to sit and talk.

tickling, laughing,
praying, crying, sharing stories,
trading words both Lugandan and English.

these kids
both received & gave love

so easily
so quickly
so eagerly.

it amazed me:
they gave it (love) to us,
wrote it to us in letters,
told us countless time,
even though they knew we would be leaving soon.

they didn't hold back.

Friday, March 25, 2011

my teammate (& now friend) Shelby told me about this song.
it pretty perfectly explains my experience and what i'm processing through now.
play it and listen to the lyrics, and read on :)

ok so. let's just start at the very beginning. a very good place to start :)

day 1.
we finally land in Entebbe, Uganda! here we go!

wait, who's "we"? we are a team of 17 people,
going together as a group through Visiting Orphans,
an amazing ministry i would recommend ANY of you supporting.

sign up to go serve on a trip with them. seriously, just do it! they send teams to love on orphans all over the world. the best thing is that VO has valuable partnerships with local ministries that are supporting orphans, and VO has become a great voice for them - helping expose people to the work that's being done & still needs to be done for the sake of orphans around the world.

as i was saying, our team: ranging in age from 20 to 60, married and single, from all over the US from arizona to ohio to georgia to tennessee and more! didn't know each other before, but it was so awesome to see how God handpicked our team. we were such a unique & different bunch, yet we worked so well together, learned a ton from one another, and had a blast doing it. generous, serving, loving people! awesome picture of different parts of the Christ's body coming together to serve as the church!

so, we loaded up our DOZENS of 50lb bags full of donations. we had bags & bags of stuff - donated clothes, shoes, panties, medicine, toiletries, books, jump ropes, dolls, sports equipment, arts & crafts, donated laptops and cameras, and more... so we loaded up an entire truck full of our bags. we loaded ourselves up in a van and made the 3+ hour trek from the airport to Jinja!

oh Jinja. [i left my heart in Jinja!] after landing in Entebbe, driving through Kampala, continuing to head out to more rural parts of Uganda... you get to Jinja.

as our van made its way through the streets, we'd constantly hear the voices of little children crying out "mzungu! mzungu!" (meaning white person) and just smiling and waving.

our 1st night we spend at the beautiful King Fisher Resort, settled right on gorgeous Lake Victoria. i had no idea Uganda was as lush as it is! this was a beautiful area. the sounds in Africa are wonderful. so many birds, and cows, and roosters! oh my goodness. roosters and chickens everwhere! i think they're the Ugandan version of squirrel and chipmunk.

we stay the night in beautiful little bungalows, and wake up the next morning to take a boat ride out on Lake Victoria into the Nile!

next up... we head to see the kids!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

i'm back

goodness, where to begin?

i feel so small and overwhelmed right now.
i arrived back home last night. today's been kind of a fog -
not able to focus on much besides looking at photos of & praying for the people i'm so missing.

one word. THANKFUL.
for every moment i spent in Uganda,
for each incredible ministry i learned about,
for the godly men & women God's using there,
for each & every precious child who touched my heart.

the following expresses a lot of how i feel about what i saw:

MUCH much more to come :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

hello from JINJA, UGANDA!!

hello everyone!
at an internet cafe here in Jinja.
don't have the time to describe what we've been seeing and doing...
but we are loving on hundreds of kids.
these people are breathtakingly beautiful, and generous, and hospitable, and kind.
we have met many faithful believers who are doing the work of Christ here,
caring for the fatherless and the least of these.
pray for Pastor Isaac and the work they're doing at Canaan Children's Home.
pray for Godfrey and the work they're doing with the street kids at Pillars of Hope.
so many sweet kids, so desperate for hugs and hands to hold, so full of love for Jesus.

i am SO BLESSED beyond words to be here. God's world... it blows me away.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the countdown begins

24 hours to go...

2 50lb bags full of clothes, shoes, books, deodorant - CHECK
50+ handmade cards for sweet sponsored child Ellis - CHECK
a dozen or so letters written to Katie, to encourage - CHECK

thanks to the donations of so many of y'all,
i leave for my Ugandan adventure TOMORROW!

please pray for:
-safe travels & good health
-unity of our team
-opportunities to share about Jesus with many
-orphans to find new identity in their Abba Father!!!

this last one is so near & dear to my heart.
my walk with God was RADICALLY changed when i read Abba's Child as a college student.
pray that many kids would find the love they're so longing for
in the sweet, loving arms of their Heavenly Father.

with each group of kids we'll be doing a VBS program -
complete with games, arts&crafts, singing, and Bible teaching:
all centered on what it means to know God as your Abba Father.
pray that these kids will come to know Him in a real way!