Spending time with the kids at Blessed Hope today was truly wonderful. Starting our days at the orphanage by seeing the kids, absolutely enthralled, sprint to the bus and wait at the door just to touch the hands of their visitors, has been a touching experience. After that, today, we split the kids into their houses and played different games with each house. Darlene and I taught some of the kids to throw a frisbee, while other members of the team led different games. At this point of my recounting of today’s events, I would like to take the time to brag a bit on Darlene. Her energy and uncompromised passion for these children, that has been evident in all she has done including even teaching them this simple game, have brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. She, even if she won’t admit it, has a natural ability to make children feel loved and she has proved to be invaluable on this trip. Anyway, she and I organized different frisbee games and the kids really had a blast.
After playing these games, the kids had a field day organized by the Blessed Hope staff. The kids ran relays balancing glass coke bottles on their heads in the first event. I tried to do it. After failing miserably, I was really able to appreciate the talent of the racers. The kids also ran a race while balancing a spoon and egg in their mouths, which was also interesting. The last event was banana peeling. This was a treat. Each child was given a knife and five bananas to peel as fast as they could. This was made even more interesting when children as young as six joined the competition. My mind was blown at the skill of these children with the knife. I used to work at the Bonefish Grill on the cook line, and my fingers have practically been mutilated. I quit after three weeks. Anyway! These games were a true delight.
This was followed by a feast of a lunch. The ladies of Blessed Hope have prepared unbelievably tasty lunches and have gone far beyond expectations every day. Their appreciation and sense of generosity goes beyond anything I have ever seen, and this is just one illustration of their boundless hospitality.
After lunch, a worship session was held in the prayer garden. Darlene, in her amazing, cheerful spirit, led as I played guitar and our team sang songs for the children. This was an amazing experience, not because of anything we did, but because when we were done, the kids sang back for us. We all saw the hope of the children when they sang to us in their language, Lugandan. We did not understand the words, but we saw the faith of the kids, and we saw the loving and hopeful spirits inside of them. I was not aware of a dry-eyed team member during this experience.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know the oldest member of Blessed Hope’s orphanage. His name is Sseguya and he is eighteen. Sseguya was orphaned at six. Though I do not know how, his parents died then, and his grandmother could not care for him. And though I also do not know how these came into existence, many scars cover Sseguya’s face, chest, and arms. So I know his past has been seen violence. That understood, meeting this young man has changed me. I know he has seen tragedy, yet today, in the prayer garden and afterwards in conversation, I saw his hope and sense of honor. Since he is eighteen, Sseguya will be leaving the orphanage soon. He wants to continue school, but his future is uncertain to everyone. Though he acts as a big brother to the other kids and does not show fear in front of them, I was able to see it today, though it was quickly destroyed by his beautiful hope for the future. I talked with him about being brave and what it means to believe in something more, though as I am typing this, I realize that as I spoke these truths to him, it was like I was coming to understand the significance of them myself. It was not he who needed to understand these principles as he lives the meaning of kindness, honor, and strength (he wants to be an engineer and help bring clean water to his people), rather it was I who needed to understand. And now I do. Undeniably, these kids do more good for us on the team, than we do for them. Our blessings here in Uganda are diverse and numerous. Though I have been overwhelmed with the poverty of the people, the sense of optimism, appreciation, and love present here have changed not only my experience on this trip, but also my life.