Happy St. Patty’s Day!

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY FROM SOME STINKIN’ CUTE CHILDREN!

Those last two photos took lots of coaxing and bribery to get them to sit still. It’s a rare occasion for Martha to perform for the camera and it’s almost impossible to get all three smiling at once. Usually 1/3 is crying and our photos look more like this…

and this next one is just plain hilarious…

Oh, the joys of sisterly love.

(Thanks Mom for the headbands and decorations… again.  And thank you Garry Hill for bringing a whole suitcase full of stuff to Uganda for us! The kids LOVE their new clothes!)

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Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, Jovan, a child at M3 started having seizures while we were there. He had been brought to M3 the previous day by the police. He was abandoned at a mosque and then brought to the hospital who turned him over to the police. He has special needs is severely malnourished weighing in at 17 lbs. at about two-years-old. After the first seizure, we found the administrator who told us that she was waiting on the probation officer to pick him up because she is not equipped to take care of special needs babies. After his second seizure, we couldn’t wait for the probation officer any longer. He needed medical attention and needed it quickly. Kelsey drove and I held Jovan in my arms. He was so tiny and his cries were so little. At the hospital, he slipped in and out conscience, worn out from the seizures. He looked so lifeless, I put my face next to his and listened, checking for signs of life.

Only hours later, I sat in a nice, private room at Mengo Hospital. Nambowa Medina was sitting beside me, drinking juice, and watching Finding Nemo on my laptop. This hospital visit was very much different from the one only hours before. This visit was planned. A duffle bag sat in the corner full of new clothes, next to a grocery bag full of food for her and Coca Cola for me. Nambowa’s tummy is full from dinner at our house. Her bed is made with clean sheets, blankets, and pillows. On the nightstand are books, toys, and a teddy bear. Nambowa is at the hospital preparing to have surgery to remove a very large and painful hernia on her belly button. Over the last few months, I’ve watched Nambowa pull her shirt down, embarrassed, trying to hide what can’t be hidden. But soon, she won’t have to be embarrassed or in pain anymore. She will be a normal ten-year-old with a normal belly button.

I can’t help but compare the two visits. Two children. Two different hospitals. All in one day. One child is fighting for his life. The other is having a surgery that will change hers. Today, I’m praising God for his blessings. Celebrating the new life that Nambowa has been given. But I’m on my knees begging for His mercies, for the life that Jovan has yet to live.

Please join in me prayer over these littles’ lives. Pray for a fast recovery for Nambowa as she spends another night in the hospital. Pray for her next week as she leaves our house and goes back to live at M3. Pray for Jovan, for healing. He was diagnosed with malaria but the doctors cannot explain his seizures.

A Place To Go

During our Christmas party at M2, I noticed a girl that I hadn’t seen before. She was listening to Kelsey preach and the tears were welling up in her eyes. Afterwards, I met Nadiah and found out she was brand new to M2. In fact, she was brought there that morning by her mother and aunt. Now, you would probably assume that she did something pretty awful since her own mother dropped her off at a prison. But, you’d be wrong.

The day before, Nadiah, refused to kneel down and greet her Aunt. The next morning, her mother told her they were going to the market but brought her to M2 instead. Nadiah is only 13.
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A 17-year-old girl is living at M2 even though she’s been released. She was sent away by her brother to be a house-girl. Then he called her back to his house and tried to rape her. She ran away to live with a friend and when her friend’s house was broken into, she was falsely accused of theft and sent to serve her sentence at M2.

She has nowhere to go but back to her brother’s house.
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If you’ve had the opportunity to visit M1 this year, you know who “Didi” is; the cute little Karamojong boy with the infectious smile. Didi was picked up by the police while begging on the streets. He has a mother but she has never come for him. He doesn’t remember where he lives. He can’t be resettled. He’s been living at M1 for the last 8 months and would probably remain there for years…

…Unless, he had a place to go. Since Sixty Feet began, they have dreamed of building a home where the youngest and most vulnerable children at the M facilities could live in a loving, nurturing, family-like environment. A home for children like these.

Now, Sixty Feet is doing just that. Several donors have stepped forward and agreed to match any donations made before December 31st up to the amount of $60,000 towards purchasing the land for the children’s home.

$60,000 x 2 = $120,000
Add the $30,000 that was raised last year and you’ve got $150,000!!

Currently, over half of the $60,000 has been raised but we’ve only got 13 daysleft to raise the rest! So please help us reach our goal by donating and spreading the word.

To donate, click here.

Best Buds!

Meet my newest friends, Alfred and Faizo.

Alfred and Faizo have been at M1 for almost two weeks now. Both were brought at the same time and are around each other’s age. Luckily, they let me into their cute little duo and the three of us have become best buds. We color, read bible stories, play cards, and cuddle. Wednesday, I read Put Me in the Zoo by Dr. Seuss and we drew pictures from the story.
The only thing is, none of us can speak the same language. Alfred speaks Acholi, Faizo speaks Luganda, and I speak English.  We may not be able to communicate very well but we still have a good ol’ time. Luckily, you don’t need words to tickle, cuddle, laugh or love.

They still like Dr. Seuss even though they don’t understand the words. And even though, we have Bibles in Acholi and Luganda, they like the pictures in the English Children’s Bible. Teaching “Slapjack” was a little bit of a challenge but they eventually got the hang of it and laughed every time we slapped each other’s hands. And when Faizo lost his tooth on Wednesday we didn’t need words to celebrate. He proudly showed Alfred and I the tooth in his hand and pointed to the new gap in his smile. We had high-five’s all around to celebrate this momentous occasion for Faizo.

Praise the Lord that His love and understanding transcend all language barriers!!

Getting Mad

Everyday I listen to child tell their story; where they are from, how they came to the prison, what life was like before, and what life is like now. After a month of listening to countless stories of abandonment, betrayal and suffering, it is starting to weigh heavily on me.

“My mother dropped me off because I was stubborn.”
“My parents don’t want me.”
“My parents are dead.”
“I ran away because I was being abused.”
“My stepmother lied to the police because she hates me.”
“I got lost and the police brought me here.”
“My parents don’t know where I am.”

It truly tears me apart listening to these children and at times I find myself growing angry.

For example, I was at M2 when I heard that Anita’s “step-mother” was in the office. The woman who severely abused Anita for years after her parents died and paid the police to get rid of her was just around the corner from me. I immediately burst into tears just knowing that she was nearby and in Anita’s presence. I immediately wanted to protect Anita from her. I wanted to scream at the woman who intentionally caused her to suffer for years. Thankfully I was already on the bus and was also told that the “step-mother” relinquished her rights to Anita. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted if I had actually come face-to-face with her but I probably would not have been displaying much mercy or forgiveness.

Then last week I met a a girl who was sent to M2 because she talked back to her mother. Seriously? If talking back to your parents meant jail time, I would still be completing my sentence. It’s called being a teenager! Back home, proper punishment would include being sent to your room without supper or being grounded for a week. Here, parents send their children to prison for months.

While it seems inevitable to be angry at the parents and the injustice of it all, it isn’t what God commands us to do. Yet, it’s something I struggle with constantly.

In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul writes “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

Father, this is my prayer. I rely on you because I cannot do it alone. Help me to clothe myself in mercy, kindness, gentleness and patience daily. I want to be full of your spirit. Full of love and peace. Of humility. I thank you for your forgiveness and grace. Have mercy, oh God. I want to be your representative in the darkness. May my words and actions bring glory to your name always. Amen.

One Month Anniversary!

It’s been exactly one month since Kelsey and I packed our bags, left home, and headed for Uganda. Wow, how the month has flown by! I can’t believe it was 4 weeks ago when I stepped into “M” for the first time and met all those smiling faces. Faces that I have come to know, love, and look forward to seeing every few days. Oh, and the children who I have drooled over at M3!! They are just too precious and I want to be around them all the time!! And the sweet boys and girls at M2 who I’m blessed to call my friends.

It’s been a challenging month. Coming into this, I knew it would be hard work, but I didn’t think heartache would happen so quickly and so often. There have been a lot of tears but there has been so much joy and laughter! There are lots of stories of abandonment, abuse, suffering and living on the streets, but then there are glorious stories full of hope and redemption.
Kelsey blogged about “Anita” here. Her story is one of the most heartbreaking and we quickly came to adore her. Today, we brought Anita to her family’s home just outside of Kampala. Anita is a double orphan and she hadn’t seen her extended family since she was a child. Yet, they were there the whole time, loving her from far away, not knowing of her situation. They believed she was in boarding school and being taken care of by a family member. She believed she had no family, no one who loved her. Sixty Feet was able to trace Anita’s family and contacted her uncle and grandparents. We spent the entire afternoon with them, getting to know them, and listening to them talk about Anita. Her grandfather said to us, “This is her home. We are her family.” By the end of the day, we were certain there was no other place Anita belonged than here with them. We hugged our sweet Anita goodbye and drove away, promising to visit soon and call often.
Then there is Grace. I met Grace just a few weeks ago when we picked her up from her boarding school for the holiday. She was jumping up and down with joy when we pulled up. She ran up to the car yelling, “Uncle! Uncle” and nearly tackled Moses giving him hugs. It was unimaginable to me that this was the same girl I heard about only a couple months ago. She was living at M1 and planning to end her own life until Sixty Feet intervened. Today, she is a beautiful young lady studying hair dressing at a vocational boarding school, full of joy and loving life. She has many friends and excelling in her studies. She even did a little practice on Moses’ niece!
Finally, there’s this cool dude named Patrick. No, he doesn’t live in one of the remand centers. He’s a normal 21-year-old studying at Makerere University. Last week, Patrick tagged along with us to M1 and M2, toting a giant duffel bag with him. It was full of beads and knick-knacks for making jewelry. He spent his entire day with us teaching the kids how to make necklaces and bracelets. You may think that teenage boys wouldn’t want to make jewelry but you’d be dead wrong! They swarmed those tables right along with all the girls and proudly wore their creations. The teachers at Patrick’s university are on strike so school has been cancelled. Is Patrick out celebrating, having fun with his friends, and enjoying the time off? No, he’s hanging out with “the least of these.” Most Ugandans have deemed children living in these prisons as the lowest of the low, unwanted and stained because of where they live. Not Patrick, he’s right next to them, getting dirty, singing worship and dancing around. I’m blessed to call him friend and to be able to serve alongside him.
So much more has happened in the past month that I haven’t had the chance to blog about, but I will soon, including the incredibly awesome Sixty Feet Missions Team who came to serve for one week!! Thank you for your words of encouragement, prayers, emails, etc. this past month. I truly feel like I have a wonderful support system back home and all around the world. 

Answered Prayers!

Kelsey and I spent yesterday at the hospital with R. When we got there he was sitting up which we haven’t seen him do since Monday. It wasn’t long before he was asking Kelsey and I for shillings. We gave him a couple coins and took him on a stroll in his wheelchair outside. 
On our stroll, we bought some juice for him from the coke stand just outside the children’s ward. He started talking to us so we found a woman to translate. He said, “You give me drink but you don’t give me any food.” Well, okay then. Let’s get this boy some food. We bought some bread from the stand but didn’t give it to him because he still had his feeding tube in. We went inside and asked to have the feeding tube removed to see if he could drink/eat on his own. It was taking the doctors a long time to come and remove the tube and I guess R didn’t want to wait any longer. He climbed out of his bed and started to walk out the door. We followed him outside, amazed that this is the same boy I looked after just a couple days ago and now he’s walking on his own right out the door. He walked outside, right on over to that coke stand, held up his shilling and ordered bread.

They finally took out the feeding tube and he drank juice and ate and ate some more… Whenever we asked someone to translate for us, he was either saying “Can I have more bread?” or “Can I have a shilling?”  He was very active all day, walking around, using the bathroom on his own, and taking strolls through the hospital. I think he’s ready to be out of there! He still has to have a few more tests to run this week since we still don’t know what was wrong with him but HE HASN’T HAD ANYMORE SEIZURES!!! God doesn’t wait for test results or a diagnosis to answer prayers!

We finally got him to rest after his busy day, but he never let go of those shillings!! Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement! We couldn’t be happier with his progress but we’re still praying for complete healing!!

You are weak but He is strong.

He lays on the bed, his limbs tighten, bending in ways they shouldn’t bend, his jaw stuck open and I look at  my watch to time his seizures. I turn him onto his side and I stare into his eyes. I beg to Jesus, Make it stop.

In between seizures, I wash his soiled clothes in the basin next to his bed. He can’t understand me, but I still talk to him. I apologize because I’m not very good at hand-washing clothes but I’m trying.

Another seizure starts and I go to his side, caress his arm and sing “Jesus Loves You” choking on the words, “You are weak but He is strong.”

Hours pass before he is seen by a nurse or doctor and my frustrations grow greater. He hasn’t had his anti-seizure medication yet and they haven’t run any tests on him to find out what’s wrong with him. I start to judge the doctors, thinking they have no compassion for this boy.

I ask a nurse for help and I’m quickly humbled. She’s busy taking care of a dead body. She isn’t lacking compassion. She’s taking care of the hundred other dying children in the ward. It’s not their fault there are not enough nurses and doctors.

The seizures continue. More begging to Jesus, Save him, save your child. He slips in and out of consciousness.

He smiles often in his unconsciousness. I’d like to think he’s having good dreams. Dreaming of heaven, of Jesus’ face.

The doctor come and examines him. Everyone asks the same questions.
Who is his caretaker?      I am.
Where are his parents?      I don’t know.
How old is he?      I’m not sure, maybe 13?
Where does he live?      At “M1.” He was picked up off the streets.
What is his medical history?      I don’t know.
Does he talk?      He did on Monday.

Monday, the day Kelsey and I met R. Kelsey spotted him while we were at M1. He couldn’t stand on his own and walked very slowly. The staff at M told us he was mentally ill. Kelsey and I walked him to the room where we have worship. He stood next to us clapping along and holding our hands during Fred’s sermon. Then I heard his small voice whispering, repeating Fred’s prayer to God. Moments later we were in the car on the way to the hospital.

Now, I feel helpless as he convulses again, repeating the only Lugandan word I know: Yesu. Yesu. Yesu. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Children are dying all around us, three died in one night, five the next dayI watch his chest rise and fall, checking for signs of life. I call his name and he turns his head and opens his eyes to look at me. Hope rises in me again.

Kelsey comes to take my place at the hospital and we put on worship music for R to listen to.

I can see the light that is coming for the heart that holds on,
And there will be an end to these troubles but until that day comes,
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You.

I head for home, leaving Kelsey behind to take the night shift, which she graciously offered to do. The power is out but I don’t mind. I lie in bed singing, Still I will praise You. Still I will praise You.
***This was written yesterday. R is still at the hospital, still waiting to have tests run. Please continue to pray for him and for the rest of the Sixty Feet staff as we take turns to be with him.

Those who suffer.

This is C. She is 17 years old and lives at M. Today, I met
this beautiful teenager with big brown eyes. She was drinking porridge for lunch
when I came and sat beside her. She spoke English very well and told me she
would take me to see the girl’s dormitory. As we were walking, I saw large
wounds on her arm that were dried with blood and dirt and she told me she was pushed into the door. I took her to see the Sixty Feet nurses, Lucy and Jessica, and
she came and found me after they cleaned her arm. She smiled and laughed as she
watched me attempt to play volleyball with the boys. Later as we were walking
to the girl’s dormitory, we passed other girls who pointed at her arm and
laughed, even smacking her in the head once. I asked why the girls are
mean to her and she told me that another girl pushed her into the door and was
“beating” her because she didn’t want to clean. She first came to M a year and
a half ago. Her parents dropped her off here because she was sneaking out at
night without permission and going to the clubs. Her parents brought her home a
week ago then returned her to M only days later for “being stubborn” and told
her they would come back in 5 months. She is a beautiful, smart girl, who
desperately wants to go to school. She has made mistakes but what teenager didn’t break a few of their parents rules? She deserves a better life, one outside of M. She deserves to have a future, one not filled with despair. She only smiles when laughing at my horrible
attempts to speak Luganda. She has a tough
exterior. She doesn’t show fear or sadness in front of her mockers but once
alone her eyes are sad and she turns quiet. She says, “Jesus is my only
friend.”  C is 17 years old and lives at M and I hope one day she will call me friend.
“Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds. For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer.” Psalm 9:11-12