Our day began with the 30-minute drive to Butangala. We threw candy to the many kids waiting beside the one-lane dirt road. I really believe they knew we were coming!
We were greeted by hundreds of beautiful kids. They lead us to the thatch-covered shelter where the worship service soon began. Pastor Charles had lead us in singing some of the hymns during our bus ride so that we would be prepared. You haven't lived until you've sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" in Lugandan! We seemed to reach our peak when we hit the words "Yesu" and "Kristo".
There were baptisms of 5 infants and 2 adults. What a precious occasion for us to be a part of! There are always interesting twists to stories and events in Uganda - Pastor Jason handled them all with grace!
Pastor Jason's sermon focused on the woman at the well. There were so many parallels to be drawn in Uganda. But it was also interesting to personalize the feelings of being an outcast at times - for all of us.
After worship, we took a tour of the land and each of us planted a eucalyptus tree from the nursery they have at the back of the property. There are rows and rows of sweet potatoes currently planted behind the school.
When we returned, we listened to speeches by various leaders and I had the opportunity to introduce the team. We had lunch and then the dancing began. A company had been hired to provide a DJ, dancers, and a sound system - with incredibly large speakers that were heavy on the bass. It was great fun! Video to follow of my friends dancing....
We gathered the sponsored kids together and began the process of handing out packets. Such a beautiful thing t.o watch them cautiously open those envelopes and see the smiles that come when they pull out a picture of their sponsoring family! Jason, Matt, and Ann got to visit with their own sponsored child - that can be a life-changing experience all by itself. The Fesslers got to meet Muhammed's family.
Pastor Paul and Brian brought out the soccer balls to entertain the kids in the village who aren't sponsored. Giggles and dust filled the air!
We passed out new Hearts and Hope shirts to the teaching staff. It is truly easier to get a photo of 80 kids than it was to get one of the 14 staff members! They were so busy posing and laughing....they are a great group, working under some really tough conditions.
Immanuel Lutheran members donated funds at Christmas for some specific gifts for Butangala - school supply money was used to build a school office where supplies can be stored and secured, textbooks have been purchased and a cabinet built to hold them, benches and desks that were purchased so the kids don't have to sit or kneel on the ground, bedding kits (mattress, blanket, and mosquito net), and goats. The village leadership determines the recipients of these gifts, based on our request for the neediest children to be included. The next hour was spent making formal presentations of all of these items. There was much to celebrate!
Our thanks to the Hearts and Hope Project Coordinator, Henry Ballidawa, for spearheading these projects and making everything run so smoothly! Many thanks to Ronald, Violet, Mariah, Maj, David, Peter, and Nicholas as well - we know how many hours must have gone in to making this day such a success.
We look forward to the future of Butangala and Immanuel! Lives are truly being changed by this partnership.
This morning we are heading to Kamuli, with a brief stop in Nakabango to tour the school. We will have no internet access tonight so it will be awhile before we are able to make another update. Thank you for your prayers!