Published: January 14th 2012January 14th 2012
I have been laying awake since 5 am; partly because of the howling dogs and roosters, and partly because of the upcoming events of our next few days-(Carl and I are leading discipleship and trauma training for 19 staff), but mostly because of the experience we were privileged to have yesterday…
We left Kampala for Gulu in the morning, with a car full of people and topped with luggage. Our 4.5 hour trip took almost 9 hours. We wanted to stop briefly, in a couple of places along the road, to visit some of our ‘young adult’ friends, who have been through the trauma rehabilitation program and are former child soldiers. Each, were willing to meet us at the roadside to make it convenient for the “busy” travelers.
First stop, bananas… but we were feeling frustrated because they were over-charging the Mzungu’s (white people) at $1.25 a bunch.
Next stop, a young man, who calls us mommy and daddy, and his two brothers… we have had the privilege of getting to know he and his family fairly well – 3 of them are now attending school as a result of some of you, who asked if you could
help them. They approached us with proud smiles, as they opened their folder to display report cards and school-fee receipts. Everyone bailed out of the car to hug and encourage, but mostly be encouraged by these beautiful, hard-working and struggling young-men. On his thus far, 3 week “holiday” from school, the one brother has made 2,300 bricks by hand! Carl prayed with them at the roadside and we bid them farewell.
Next stop, three young ladies (ages 17 &18), dressed in their best and I would imagine, weary, from waiting together since morning for us. “Uncle! Auntie! It is so good to see you,” they said.” One of the young ladies had called us on Christmas morning, bawling. She was back in her village and staying with her grandmother and cousins (her parents were killed by the LRA) for the Christmas holidays. She had actually just graduated from her mechanics training, where she was given a box of tools before she left. Her seemingly jealous cousins were threatening to steal her tools from her and sell them for money. Carl helped her with a plan to store her tools at a trustworthy friend’s house. Our initial reaction was to
Spending the afternoon with new friends.
“rescue” her and have her stay with us in Kampala, but God helped her with better plans, staying with her Acholi friends, and where she could enjoy her community.
One of the girls – let’s call her “Mary”, asked if we could please come and visit her family in her village. “They are asking to see you again, Uncle, and they would like to meet Auntie, and my sisters!” She had asked Carl earlier, but he told her he didn’t think it could work this time, as we needed to hurry to Gulu to prepare for our discipleship and trauma training, plus Grace had been sick. Also, we didn’t want to have to drive in the dark and our trip had already taken about 2 hours longer than average… not to mention that her village was about 9KM from the main road, 5KM of which was a footpath, and we had our grandbaby Elijah with us too. “We can drive it” the three girls said almost in unison. “But last time we went,” Carl said, “my motorbike barely made it through the narrow path! – We would have to probably walk it” “Then we can walk!” they all said.
“We’re sorry, we said… hopefully next time! Please greet them from us!” The look of disappointment on Mary’s face was heartbreaking. But she told us she understood, and we hugged them all and wished them well.
We drove about .5 KM and stopped the car. We looked at one another and asked “what should we do?” We told our girls that we wouldn’t get to Gulu Town for at least a couple more hours. They told us to do whatever we thought best. We prayed, felt the Lord’s nudging to go to Mary’s village and turned around. We picked up the girls and headed to her village. We were actually able to drive right up to their hut, as it is dry season, and the footpath is more passable – though it was slow-going and of course, we needed to stop to pick Grace some cotton that she can now go home and plant.
We were greeted by smiles, clapping and cheers. Mary’s aunt and uncle, her caregivers for the past 7 years due to the death of her parents, were dressed in their best. Her extended family had gathered around also, in their dresses and suits.
Children ran behind our vehicle as we left the village.
I was seriously wishing I would have worn a skirt instead of my grubby capris! Outside where we all gathered they had a small table dressed with a lace covering and several chairs set around it, for the “visitors.” They had been planning on us coming since morning. They each introduced themselves and Mary’s uncle, who is a Catholic priest, opened us up in prayer, asking God’s presence to dwell amongst us… He did.
They brought out bottles of soda for us to take – 10 bottles for about 25 people. We enjoyed translated conversation and I learned in my side-conversation with her aunt, that she and Mary were about to visit her sick mother about 45KM from their home then travel to pick up her sister’s 4 young children, whose mother died of AIDS 2 years ago, and whose father is currently dying of AIDS also. They will now be the parental caregivers of these 4 children. My heart is overwhelmed! I think about the thoughts of selfishness that crept into my hesitant mind before bringing Judith into our family, and have such appreciation for the sacrifice of these people, who are undoubtedly living well below the poverty level.
After some time, we decided it was time to go. Mary’s “parents” jumped up and apologized that they didn’t have much to give us. “It isn’t enough, but we want you to take these bananas (about 30 bunch worth), these papaya, and this goat.” The mother untied it and tried to hand it to Grace. Ugandans primarily use their goats for meat and they are quite valuable to them. “We are sorry that we cannot do more!” “What?” I thought. What amazing generosity. To refuse might mean we offend them. So, after showing our gratitude, we attempted to explain that we thought it would be important for them to keep the goat for their now growing family… that they needed it more than we did. They seemed okay with that and helped us strap the banana bunches and papaya to the top of our car. “When will you come to see us again?” they asked. “Hopefully soon,” was our reply. And our hearts couldn’t feel fuller.
We reached Gulu at 8pm, without one complaint from the kids. I suppose our 7 month old, Elijah didn’t mind that while being held by one of Mary’s relatives, he got to drink Mountain Dew and eat the Banana bread that I had given them… fortunately Judith was able to stop the process when she noticed. What a day!