They came from all parts of town. From just blocks away, or an orphanage across town, or the outskirts of the city of Gulu. At the headquarters of Health Alert Uganda, the partner of Sweet Sleep in Northern Uganda reaching out to the HIV positive children, many, many came. Many more than were expected. More than what mattresses were available. They came hoping, expecting to take home a soft place to lay their head, but many left with only a mosquito net this time. They left with a smile, though, knowing that they were on the list for the next distribution there, hopefully with the next team in November, 2012 if enough funds are raised to provide them.
As for the numbers of the day, 147 beds were distributed and another 200 nets were given out to those new ones who came and registered.
It was a day where The King of Kings was lifted high. His name was proclaimed through testimony, story, song, and actions. We participated in being the hands and feet of Jesus, giving love and hope to some who others have stopped giving love and hope to. Drawing, coloring, playing ball, holding, carrying around, laughing, blowing bubbles, having pictures made, placing stickers on, as well as countless other activities with children of The King.
Most of the drawings were of a religious nature. Bruno, with palsy affecting his face, drew a church and Jesus. Scovia drew Jesus being baptized. Linda just drew lines, like any 3 year old would.
We sat down and spoke with December, the director of HAU, who shared some great facts about the great partnership between Sweet Sleep. Over the past three years, mattresses have been provided to over 2,000 positive children in Northern Uganda, but there are over 4,100+ positive children identified, with more being added when they come out of hiding and get registered. Sweet Sleep has played and important role in helping to bring these children out of hiding and getting identified and started with the HIV anti-retroviral medication and support.
After a long day, our last in Gulu, we had time to get cleaned up before returning to the HAU headquarters for dinner. Little did we know that a feast fit for a king was in store for us. We were met at the gate with native drums and singing and dancing, The Welcome Dance. Teenagers were dressed in native attire and performed for us throughout the evening. We were allowed to join in the dancing and drumming. It was an incredible evening that words and pictures will never fully describe. The group usually only performs for visiting dignitaries, such as the President of Uganda, kings or leaders of other countries when they visit Gulu. We were informed that we were being thought of in such high regard and the works we had been doing the past few days was that well respected. The food was delicious, the entertainment incredible, the fellowship with the staff of Health Alert Uganda was uplifting. We came to Uganda to serve, yet we felt as though we were the ones doing so much receiving.
Of all the mission trips I’ve been on, this Sweet Sleep trip is so unique and powerful. We didn’t come just to go somewhere to do a Backyard Bible Club or VBS. We have come with a purpose, one goal. We want to be Jesus’ hands and feet and be able to provide a sweet sleep to the children of Uganda. This trip has been a life-changer. Providing a soft place for a child to lay its head, when all the child (or even their parent) has even known was a hard dirt or concrete floor. THAT is a life-changing event. But OUR lives have been changed forever, also.
Seeing the joy these people have, when sometimes that is all they have. Holding a child that might only have a caregiver or guardian instead of a parent. Seeing how we should never take things for granted, or complain about some of the simple things in our past daily life. And finally, this mission journey has been and will continue to be a life-changer in our church. Having spent the past seven months raising funds, preparing for it, and now following this on the Facebook page or blog post. Waiting daily for word from halfway across the world to hear what God and the team is doing. Exploring new ways to reach out and minister to those close to home.
Today was truly a day fit for a king. We were treated as royalty, but our prayer is that The King of Kings will be lifted up and receive all the honor and glory as we continue on to our week in Kampala and an orphanage close by. Thanks for your continued prayers and support, and begin thinking of ways that we can help raise funds to help provide more beds so hundreds of children who walk long distances can receive not just a mosquito net, but a bed and a Bible so they can experience a Sweet Sleep.