This is Karen and Trish…. Happy Valentine’s Day!! After a 7:00 breakfast and devotional this morning (about love, appropriately) we packed into the vans and headed to Opit, a village about 2 hours away from Gulu. It was a long bumpy ride on a dirt road, but it was so fun to see the excitement on the children’s faces as our vans drove by, following a truck of mattresses stacked about 30 feet tall. They ran out of their huts squealing and waving with the biggest smiles we have ever seen. I’m pretty sure their favorite word is “Byieeeeee”.
When we arrived to the village, we had about an hour of playtime with the kids. They jumped ropes, played with parachutes and beanbags, and drew pictures with markers, which is something most of them have never seen before (they typically only use pencils so color is new for them!). Most of them were so glad we were there and couldn’t wait to touch us and be held, but a few of the children were too scared to come out of their huts. We walked over to one hut with two toddlers in it who were crying. We handed an M&M to them and they started warming up to us. Chocolate never fails. The little girl looked to be around 2 years old, and the little boy around 5. They weren’t wearing any shoes and had very little clothes on. I could not find their care-giver and they were filthy, completely covered in mud and dirt head to toe. I grabbed wet wipes from the van and began to give them little “sponge baths”. Their tears turned to smiles. I have never seen two kids so happy to have their noses wiped and the mud washed off their feet and hands. Soon after, they were out of their huts, playing and socializing with the other children. I’m thankful for that moment that God used us to wipe the dirt and tears off of them and bring laughter to their faces. It reminded me why we are here.
After handing out the mattresses, bedding, bible, and nets we got to do something very new and special. For so long, many people who were not registered with Health Alert Uganda have shown up to the distributions, hoping to get a bed, but we have not been able to provide one. One of the most heartbreaking things about these trips is turning people away. Today we decided that we are going to give these people that are signing up with Health Alert mosquito nets that they can use until the next team comes in June, when they will be able to also receive a bed. This gives them hope for what is to come and the mosquito net could save them from serious disease until that time comes. Sweet Sleep is walking out on faith in this endeavor, trusting that God will provide. We were able to get on the computer at the Health Alert offices today to post to facebook and other outlets, asking people to donate money to provide these nets and we don’t doubt it will happen. A mosquito net only costs $8 and can save the life of one of these sweet children.
One of the things that touched my heart most today was a lady that was waiting around after we had handed out all of the beds and nets. We had large tarp-like bags (similar to a gigantic trash bag) that the nets were kept in and normally these would get thrown away. As I folded up the bag to put with the rest of the “trash”, a lady walked over to me holding out her hands and even through the language barrier, I could see that she was desperate for me to hand it to her. When she received that bag, tears immediately started streaming down her face and she kept shaking my hand and smiling. She held so tightly to that bag, as if it was her most valuable possession. It broke my heart, but also taught me a valuable lesson. A lot of times we tend to take for granted the things we have, because we have so much. This lady was overjoyed to have received what most of us would consider “trash”. It is hard to grasp this thought, because we don’t have the kind of needs these people have. However, the bible tells us, to whom much is given, much is required. I believe God can use moments like this to not only offer her hope, but to teach us the importance and responsibility to care for others and open our eyes to what true suffering is.
We also got the chance to go to one of the small villages down the road and see first-hand where one of the new mattresses was going. The huts range in sizes, but the one we looked at was about a 10ft wide circle with a straw mat on the floor, a hole in the ground that they fill with charcoal or wood for cooking over, and some medicines and corn tucked into the straw pieces of the thatched roof. There are no bathrooms, or running water, or even separate rooms in most of them, things most people take for granted. One of the children living in the hut we visited was around 3 years old and suffered from Spina Bifida. She was unable to walk and had been sleeping on the floor. The team helped the family set up the new mattress and mosquito net. They were so grateful, as were we.
After everything was finished, we headed back to the Health Alert office to prepare for the next day. We were all exhausted, hungry, and covered in dirt, but there was work to do and the team came together great. Jennifer brought us all water and put some more pep in our step and we were able to roll 220 more mattresses and nets and get bags ready for tomorrow’s distribution. After dinner, we got the opportunity to have a small “surprise” birthday celebration for Jonathan, cake and all. The candles were a cross between sparklers and small fireworks, which made for some good pictures when he tried to blow them out. We then got to offer each other encouragement and share different stories from the day.
Tomorrow we have three different locations so we will be leaving bright and early around 7am and are all looking forward to getting to see what precious children God brings to us!
-Karen and Trish Lane
Give a Net Now
Sweet Sleep is distributing 1300 beds this week but crowds of people have come out of hiding on to register and receive beds. They will have to wait until our teams return this summer. We are committed to giving the children a life-saving net NOW. Will you help us make this possible by donating at least $8 today to www.sweetsleep.org/donate. Note “Gulu net” in the comments box.