The second half of our week has been no less busy than the first. As always, the days are long, but fulfilling. On Thursday, we began our day in Mbulamuti, where we delivered packets to 100 sponsored students. They were so excited about our visit! We helped them paint self-portraits and work on a message to their sponsors. The teaching staff and students there are ready to begin school on Monday!
Our next stop was the village of Namwendwa. There is no Hearts & Hope partner for this village, but thanks to generous donations from Party With a Purpose attendees, we have put in a borehole well! This changes the lives of these people in so many ways – clean water means healthier bodies, kidss can go to school instead of hauling water long distances, and girls are safer when they don’t have to fetch water when it’s dark. We will officially dedicate the well this coming week. We played games with the kids and let the women (and a few teenage boys) make cross necklaces and then we were on our way. Such beautiful people!
Pastor Paul, Beth, Pastor Scott Rische, and I attended a banquet in honor of all the pastors and their wives on Thursday evening at the City Hotel in Jinja. It was a wonderful affair and gave me a great chance to catch up with some people that I don’t get to see too often! I appreciated the invitation. Becky, Wendy, and Mariah spent a quiet evening at the hotel and caught up on some sleep.
On Friday, we were able to visit the village of Butangala, where Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wentzville, Missouri partners. They started their school, which is housed in a temporary structure, a week early so we got to see a lot of the kids. There is a huge disparity in kids who go to school and those who don’t. We spent a full day there and loved being able to let their creative juices flow through painting and some other crafts. Dental hygiene was a hit and you couldn’t help but believe that this was brand new info for many of the kids.
On Saturday, we headed down Iganga Road, which runs east out of Jinja. We stopped at the new seminary and enjoyed a tour given by Pastor Peter Maganda. It is quite a campus and will be fantastic when it is complete! They have been holding classes there since August.
The best part of the seminary for me was pulling onto the land and seeing three faces I had not seen in about 2 years. Three boys who lived on the streets of Jinja most of their lives. Messiah Lutheran Church had attempted several things over the years, hoping to give the boys food, shelter, an education and mostly some love. Each time, the boys left to live on the streets again. We came to realize that they needed more than what we were able to give. They needed someone who understood the allure of no rules and exactly what kind of environment they needed. Over the next couple of years, one boy in particular, Abraham, would appear every now and then. Sometimes it would be while I was eating at the Source Café or shopping in Jinja. Sometimes it would be at one of the schools we were visiting. But in 2016, I never saw him. I really thought I would not see him again; honestly, I kind of gave up.
And then, there he was. Tall, strong, truly a young man! He could look me in the eye and when he spoke, a deep voice had replaced the soft whispers I used to hear. They are working on construction at the seminary. They have beds (that were neatly made!) in one of the unused classrooms. They were making African tea when we got there. Violet and Pastor Charles both told me the boys are “reformed”. I felt that, too. They talked about their goals and how they are using the small amount of money they are making. My prayers will continue to be with them as we look at ways to get them into vocational schools so they can learn a skill that will support them for the rest of their lives.
After the seminary stop, we headed east to Busia and then south to Nalwire. This village is very near the Kenya border. It was very dry and there was a lot of dust; you could see the impact on the crops.
We were entertained through song, dance, and drama by the Sunday School kids. Their music is so joyous! You can’t help but smile the entire time! Nalwire has no partner through Hearts & Hope. The land where the temporary school and church structures sits is only borrowed; it and 2 adjoining pieces are available for sale. We toured the land and talked about the cost.
Afterwards, we had a short amount of time to visit with the women and kids. We had lunch at Margaret’s home – she is the women’s leader in Nalwire and a wonderful hostess. The skies darkened during lunch and we had to say a hurried good-bye before getting on the bus, but not until we presented goats to four of the women. A donation from a member of Redeemer Lutheran in Redwood City, California allowed us to give this generous gift.
We made our way home and made a quick run to our hotel rooms before we gathered back at the reception area to head to the All Friends Restaurant for dinner. Several of our Ugandan friends joined us and it was a wonderful night of laughter. We got back to the hotel and most of us went straight to our rooms. We are tired!
It has been a fabulous week. We look forward to the second team of 17 people arriving this evening! Praying for safe travels for them!