Two New Children Added
JOURNAL ENTRY FROM BRENT HOUSMAN (BU SPONSOR OF MERCY & BOARD MEMBER) – on his recent trip to Uganda in July 2014.
Beginning the last week of our trip brings both good and bad thoughts, happy and sad thoughts, happy and sad feelings, and a motivation that we only have a few days left here. The time here has been so bitter sweet. So much hurt, so much need, yet so much love, so much contentment. The people of Uganda are a beautiful people that have and can weather any storm. I have loved my time here with the Beyond Uganda team, especially the time that I have gotten to spend and to get to know the Not Forgotten children. They are so sweet and so full of love!
Today we head to Busia for a couple of projects. There is a grandma that is raising her 7 grand children after her son and daughter in law both died of aids. She is such a sweet lady but literally struggling to survive every day and just to put food on the table. All of the kids had skin issues when we arrived, so Elizabeth and Elissa and Micah went to the pharmacy and bought medicine to rub them down. One team will stay at the house and assemble bunk beds that have been donated by Beyond Uganda. Last night, 8 people slept directly on the floor on 3-3 inch foam mattress. Tonight they will sleep on bunk beds and each person will have their own bed and their own mattress. We sent Pastor Noah, a local pastor down the road to buy mattresses for the local price rather than Mzungu price. It starts to get old after a while when you are here in their country helping a widow lady that is taking care of 7 orphaned children and the locals want to take advantage of you and charge you double what the going rate is. Really? RUKM?
Noah was more than happy to go get the mattresses in his car which means we wouldn't have to walk a mile or so carrying them. So I was doubly thankful for his generosity. We decided to get the 4 inch nice mattresses for the bottom bunks where Mama and the bigger kids would sleep. When Mama walked in a saw the new beds, she literally fell to the ground weeping. She could not believe that someone would do this for her. Thank you Beyond Uganda for allowing me to witness this. Of course the beds had to be taken apart, loaded on top of the bus and then reassembled. For a little bonus to the bed maker, he came with us for the entire day and helped us to build them in place. They were put together with long nails so they are no somewhat permanent, but they are the most sturdy bunk beds that I have ever seen.
The other assignment for today is to go and do a home visit at Mercy's hut which is another 30-45 min drive outside of Busia down some very rough roads as the pavement ended right at the edge of town. Konah was driving which is an experience as he drives in the middle of the road and has very delayed reactions. Dear Lord, please protect us as we travel. Capulan, Elissa, Max and Allie, and Mercy were in the van with a couple Ugandans. As we head toward the hut, I begin to have an uneasy feeling. Mercy has not been back to her hut or seen her family in a year since she left. She cried during "holiday" or semester break because she missed her brother and sister so bad and she was worried about them. How will she respond? Will she want to stay? How will her dad respond? Mercy's mother abandoned the children and divorced the father because of his addiction to alcohol. She left and went to Kenya. Apparently from the neighbor's story, when he became intoxicated, he became enraged. During the last year, Mercy has gone from malnourished to a flourishing young lady, but would the presence of family be too much for an 8 year old baby girl be too much to overcome?
We neared the hut as the path began to disappear. We were now driving through the corn field and mowing down stalks with the front of the van so we urged Konah to just stop the van and we would walk the rest of the way. As Mercy got out of the van, she became excited! She knew where she was and where she was going. She pulled at Allie's arm and drug her quickly behind her and their pace continued to increase as Max ran along behind to catch up. However, the closer that I got, the tighter the knot in my stomach became. We walked into the middle of a group of huts where several men stood and more than a few children. One of the men in the circle was a District Councilman, so he would take care of the introductions. We each introduced ourselves and were offered seats to rest under the shade tree. The chairs were hand made of rough sawn wood, sat low to the ground and were rickety at best, but we took our seats as instructed, although very gingerly.
The next few minutes were awkward. Mercy smiling wildly because she was seeing her brother and sister, the councilman feeling like he needed to offer excuses, Pastor Konah trying to facilitate conversation and the dad not knowing what to say at all. We conversed for a few minutes and found out that the dad had remarried (again for the 3rd or 4th time) to a mentally challenged woman because she had become pregnant. The councilman told us that both were alcoholics although the father objected and said he didn't drink "that much", to which the local people erupted into laughter. Evans, whom we were told was 12 years of age, the same as Max, could not be as big as Jack, my 9 year old. Elizabeth our social worker said that he could be 10 at the oldest. Erumbi has not been to school yet and appears to be around 4 or 5. Both of the children were not allowed to live in the home any longer after the new mom moved into the house, so Evans roamed the town and stole to eat or begged. Erumbi was taken in by a neighbor after the mom left.
The sick feeling that had overcome me, could not get any stronger. The father asked to go inside to see his hut to which we did. As he showed us the spots where other kids other than his own were sleeping, it was about more than I could handle. I felt myself becoming more angry and agitated. The father made many rude comments and said that we should support them more, to which we replied, he needed to step up and support his children (Mercy was not in the hut at this time and she is the only one that could understand English, so nothing inappropriate was said in front of any children). Even though it was difficult-if I can be honest-we prayed over him, his family and his hut and that God would lead him. We quickly exited the hut and noticed that the Councilman had found the machete and had got to the field to cut some maze for us an offering. I took a couple of pictures of Mercy interacting with her siblings as the father took notice. He then took the machete and went to cut one ear and came back and stood in the middle of the circle. Cocking his head back, he demanded his picture to be taken so that it would look like he was a hard worker. At this point I was done and motioned to our entire team that it was time to say our goodbyes before this bad situation got any worse.
I hate goodbyes and certainly don't enjoy them and today was no different. Mercy hugged and held her little sister as Erumbi began to sob. Evans quickly came and embraced them both and added to the clamor of tears and snorts. Capulan sat down in the dirt at the edge of the circle of huts and it wasn't long that she joined in. Mercy had left with Allie and Max at this point and was heading down the path towards the van with me close behind. I had left and walked away to avoid completely breaking down in front of everyone, especially Max and Allie who seemed unsettled at best. I was on my 3rd kleenex at this point and was blowing my nose when I heard my name being called. I did NOT want to go back, but when I noticed Capulan in the dirt with 2 kids in a mound in her lap, I had no choice. As I walked closer I could hear Erumbi speaking to which Elizabeth the translator quickly explained that she was saying that she missed her sister and just wanted to go with her. Evans was whimpering and uttering as well, but his words were slightly different. He exclaimed that he "wanted what she had." What was that we asked? He wanted to be able to have shoes and go to school. His tattered shirt that was many sizes too big was hanging way off his shoulder, no underwear or shoes and had not seen a shower in days if not weeks. So I could understand that he wanted what she had too as she sat in her newly cleaned school uniform, socks and shoes. They tell me that you would recognize the difference in Mercy in a year of being at school: being loved on each day and being able to eat every day. But that doesn't change the difficult situation that we are facing right now. Capulan uttered for me to pray. I have no idea what to say or pray, but I remembered a song that I heard recently, "when you don't know what to say, just say Jesus. So I did-I think.
We left the hut area and walked toward the van as everyone followed, kids still crying. As we arrived at the van, and some started to load, Erumbi and Evans began to cry even more uncontrollably. Elizabeth took Erumbi back to the neighbor to hold as we loaded the car. Once the door was shut on the van, Elizabeth (the trained social worker) doubled over in the back seat of the van and completely lost it. Her too? Wasn't she supposed to be the strong one? Only Konah and Isaiah in the front seats were not crying. I was trying to hold back as I held Max under one arm and reached to console Allie. We drove slowly back through the corn field back toward the main road for what seemed like an eternity. Had we driven that far into the field, or was time literally standing still? Had someone pressed pause on the world's clock? When we finally made a right turn and got back onto the dirt road from the field, Cap tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look behind the van. It was Evans, still crying, shouting and running behind the van. Isaiah hurled direct commands out the window for him to retreat and go back home that he could not follow and Konah speed up. As he sped up, so did Evans for what seemed like minutes but had to be at least 1/2 a mile. Isaiah repeated the same process but this time, Konah had stopped the van so Isaiah could get out. He addressed him sharply and directed him to go back and even asked a neighbor that had now walked up to assist.
While he was out of the van, Capulan was passionately pleading with Konah to which he had no real recognizable response. When Isaiah returned to the van, Capulan addressed him and exclaimed to him that if he got a mentor here, that we would find sponsors at home. All of this while the sobbing continued inside and outside the van. Isaiah simply said that we should wait and plan and maybe in the future. Konah pulled away and drove down the dirt road and of course Evans was still close behind. How long could this nightmare continue? I can't handle this any longer and apparently the locals can't either as we hear a sharp exchange of Luganda in the front seat. All of a sudden, Isaiah turns too us and says, we shall take the boy. Was he serious??? Before anyone could object, Konah had stopped and I flung the sliding van door open so quickly it may have jumped the track. Evans jumped in the back seat and there was no getting rid of him. I closed the sliding door as quickly as it was opened and we left. I quickly dug through my back pack and found water, crackers and cookies and gave them all to him as I had no idea when this young man had eaten last. As he ate, it hit me like a brick-did we really just leave a village with a boy? YES I THINK WE DID. I looked over my shoulder several times to see if anyone was following us. Since he lived on the streets, would his dad really even know? Isaiah did tell a man that he knew at the edge of the village that he knew that we had taken the boy, but would anyone care?
We drove in silence for a while. Yes we had rescued a young boy, but why didn't this crater in my stomach subside? Max was happy for Evans but when I made eye contact with him, he began to cry again. I assured him that I knew and I understand why he was hurting. Although my words were empty, I tried to explain that sometimes ministry was hard and that we couldn't do what we wanted to do even though it was the right thing to do. He wasn't buying it and truthfully I wasn't either. On the way to town, we "interviewed" Evans and asked him many questions. We asked about school and he informed us that he was kicked out of school because he had no paper and pencil and his dad would not give him any or the many to buy it. 3,000 shillings would take care of this so for less than $1.25, he could have been in school but he was sent home. Shame on the school and shame even more on his father!! I asked if he would like to go back there with his friends to which he replied, "I don't care where I go, just don't take me back there." Soon we arrived back to town and for some reason, Konah's driving down the middle and playing chicken with boda bodas didn't seem to matter as much. We got out of the van at the bunk bed house where we were greeted by our team and questioned about the last 3 hours as it was evident the stress was written over each face.
Pastor Juma was quickly brought up to speed and he assured us that he approved of our actions. Only a few minutes had passed when a huddle was formed and we decided at that very moment, for the betterment of Erumbi, she could not be left behind. A few of the previous ones and a few different team members than before, loaded the van and quickly headed back out to the village. It would probably be 2-3 hours at best round trip, but there was much work to be done on the bunk beds, mattresses, and fungus that was growing on the children's heads in this house. So 1/2 the team went to the village while the rest of us stayed and played catch up. Lunch that was planned for around noon would be eaten at 4 only after the Pastor insisted that it was culturally unacceptable not to eat the meal that his wife and helpers had spent most of the day preparing.
Back at the village, Konah drove straight to the same stopping point in the corn field and the team made haste to get back to the hut of Mercy's father. He was not there and neither was the step mother if you could call her that. Someone told the team to stay put and summoned the dad. He came soon and informed the team that he had already sent Erumbi away but that he would go to the neighbor and try to locate her. The step mother was attempting to join but she had stumbled and fell in the nearby corn patch apparently due to being heavily intoxicated, even though it was 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon and the team had just recently left her. RUKM? Once Erumbi had been located, Isaiah informed the father and the neighbor of our intentions and that we had returned to take Erumbi with us. A bit shocking of a response, but the father did not offer the slightest objection, even though the neighbor did. No blood relation, but these 2 guys cared more about her well being than the father did? After some sharp exchanges in their native language, the agreement was made, the team loaded up and left the village as quickly as possible.
We replayed the day so many times among our team and have asked ourselves, did we do the right thing? The locals and the "white people" agree, we had no choice to take the children and accept them as the newest members of the "Not Forgotten" children of Beyond Uganda. WOW! This one may take some time to sink in.
On the bus ride back to Bugiri, they just sat and looked out the window of the bus of which they have never had an opportunity to ride before. Matter of fact, neither had ever left the village, much less ridden in a vehicle. But it didn't take long to fit in with the team, as they hit joined in the snacks and water bottles on the ride home. We stopped on the way back to feed bananas to the baboons to which the kids were amazed-I know they had never done this before. As soon as we arrived in town, we went to the office and found some clothes for each of them. While they were trying on clothes, Max and Allie slipped to the market across the street to purchase them both their very first pair of shoes. Size? Who cares, they surely didn't. When we arrived home, they both ate dinner like nobody's business. Safe to say everyone in this house will sleep well tonight. By far the hardest day that we have had since we left Paducah, but I believe that is safe to say, that this is what we came for and came to do. Making a difference one life at a time, one day a time. I can tell you that I will never forget this day, the incredible hurt, anger, or relief that I felt all in a few hours of time.
In case you are wondering, that is now 29 children in the Not Forgotten program with Beyond Uganda and each of them has a story, some of them as tough as this one. They desperately need sponsors, so if you want to participate, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
Dennis Wandera is the Business Manager for Beyond Uganda. He runs the second hand clothing store, Hope's Closet in Kampala and helps with all "in country" travel and any special projects. He recently was on the site of the first well being dug at the Mt. Zion Orphanage when he received word that his grandmother had passed away. The staff, Hensel Family and Interns were there to be by his side. Walking through life with people has been the greatest calling by God for Beyond Uganda and for each of us individually. Here is what Dennis had to say...thought it was worth sharing:
"Thanks for the prayers in this season. I was so humbled...really so humbed. by the solidarity shown to me by the Mzungu team here. So small the world, I never knew Lexi and Sam and the interns would ever be to my village. Today, the entire group showed up to comfort me...so humbling!!! So proud of this great family. How God blends us together from different nations. Divided by race and color, but united at Calvary."~~Dennis Wander
Meeting Medical Needs
Travis and Emi Hensel and the Beyond Uganda staff were able to spend the day in the village that surrounds the Heartland Worship Center of Uganda for a Medical Day. Now let me preface this by saying that we are not doctors and Emi does have limited knowledge of medical care but much of the preventable or small wounds are simply things we take care of everyday here in the U.S. But in a remote village, where simply medicines and creams are unattainable, people die from these same things. The medicines taken quite literally are the donated ibprofen, hydrogen peroxide, and anti-biotic cream (like neosporin) that the locals are calling miracle cream. In an area where most adults and all children don't have shoes, open wounds are common and become infected quite easily. These are often life threatening. But days like today not only treat those wounds and many other things but it gives the BU staff a chance to pray over those that come for help and even find enough time to play with the children. God has continued to teach us that building relationships is the best thing we can do. That is the doorway that opens to God being able to walk on into their lives. And afterall, that is the best gift of all.