Valerie, here. Using Stuart’s identity to sign in as mine is not working.
Our first full day in Uganda and what a day! We took a whirlwind tour of the city of Kampala, outlying areas, and two orphanages. It was a day filled with overwhelming experiences and images. The city is a hustling, bustling metropolis filled with merchants, storefronts, honking cars making four or more lanes on a road built for two, with bicycles and motorcycles screaming by on either side. And then there’s the dichotomy of the city: people nicely dressed for the most part, all seemingly chatting on their cell phone contrasted against a backdrop of sheer poverty and need. The people are beautiful. The shiny ebony tone of their skin, their smiling eyes and welcoming voices.
We pulled up at Caring Heart this morning, the first of our two orphanages we’re visiting this week, and were welcomed by a throng of children running to meet us as we pulled into their driveway. With windows down, the soft melody of a song I can only assume they made up just for us, flooded our van. “We are SO happy…so happy to see you here today…We are so happy…to see you…here today. So happy!”
After confirming with the director, we realized the sheer number of kids we were dealing with and had to reassess our game plan. For the 350 orphans we were expecting, the actual number was closer to 500-600. We spent a lot of time loving on these guys, cuddling, trying to learn names. Lugandan was overwhelming the spoken language here so we relied heavily on translators and the teachers to help us communicate. Following introductions of our team to everyone and then a song and dance program from them for us, we broke out into smaller groups. While half of the place was outside, getting fresh air and playing games, the rest stayed inside the meeting hall and worked on an arts and craft project.
After saying our goodbyes and loading on the van, we continued on to Africa Greater Life this afternoon. Again, the welcome mat was rolled out for us in the form of tiny faces and huge smiles. At this orphanage, the number of children present met our expectations of roughly 100. They, too, took us into a meeting hall and entertained us with beautiful music and hypnotizing dances. We shared in worship and then again, broke out into smaller groups to spend time getting to know our kids. I don’t think any team member walked around with a free hand or arm the entire time.
It was a long, hot, hard day but oh so rewarding. Our only prayer is that these children and the people who care for them on a daily basis will see in us – in our expense and effort to get here, in our hugs and handshakes, in our presentations and games and arts & crafts projects – that there is a God. A God who created each one special and unique. Who knows their names. Who has not forsaken them. This is just one way for Him to say “well, hi there.”