Today started off the same as yesterday. I had breakfast, consisting of buttered bread and milk-tea. I took it alone today; I guess I missed everybody. Chris was still in bed, and the others weren't about at that time. No matter, I didn’t have long until my first visit to the Feed My Lamb school in Naguru.
At about 10:00 AM, Chris and I left the Jesus House compound, and boarded a taxi (a minivan jam-packed with people with places to go) just outside the gate. I got to sit next to the conductor, so he kept jumping in and out at every stop. I remember thinking to myself that this is something that would normally freak me out - by that I mean, cause significant anxiety about safety and health, but it was not. I felt fine. I did make note to myself that this would not be easy with two children and a wife, but that there are other ways to travel with a family of four. Chris told me when we got to our stop, and we each paid our fare of 2500 Ugandan Shillings (about $1 US). We crossed the street, and popped in to a grocery store for water. We had to check our bags at the counter, and were subjected to a wand magnetometer by a security guard, as is common for any substantial grocery store here. We found our water, checked out and collected our backpacks. We then walked through the streets of Naguru, passing the Chinese-built hospital, a football field, and some very nice houses. Then we crossed the street. Literally across the street from these large, well-built buildings full of well-to-do people, was the slum. This slum is home to the Feed My Lamb school. Chris asked me to video the kids’ reaction to his return, because he was surprising them. I gladly did so. As we turned the corner and started up the hill to the school, the kids saw Chris from their recess break and charged him. I was actually worried that he was going to be knocked to the ground for a moment. He survived on his feet, and was welcomed as a returning hero. Then the kids noticed me, and came over, saying “hello, Nick.” They knew who I was, even though they had never met me. I was overjoyed that it was so meaningful to them that Chris and Courtney, and now I had come to help. We walked, with the kids holding or hands and clinging to us, up the hill to the school yard. Clare came out yelling and crying and immediately latched on to Chris. She kept pulling back away from him to look at his face, and then burying her head in his shoulder again. Then it was my turn, a very loving welcome from Clare, with big hugs, yelling and crying. The video looks like the Christian version of The Blair Witch Project, with shaky camera work and lots of yelling, but it is heartwarming.
Somehow, Clare was able to gather the children up and get them back into the classroom. The classroom was dimly lit, and very cramped. There were benches/desks for all but about six of the children. They all had a place to sit, and slid themselves into their places, one right against the other. There were posters on the wall, a few of which were factory made, but most had been created by hand, with all the typical elementary school subjects, such as days of the week, a number chart to 100, and the like. There were also three posters dedicated to welcoming Chris and me, complete with pictures of us that we had sent. There were several handwritten notes from the children, welcoming us, pasted to the wall. I have never felt so expected. Clare settled the kiddos, and welcomed Chris and me, again. She had Chris stand up and say hello, which quickly prompted several questions about Courtney. Chris explained her absence, and assured them that she would return with him in July. The children erupted with applause. Then it was my turn. I introduced myself, and thanked them for their warm welcome.
Chris then told them that I was bringing my wife and two children back in the summer, probably, which received quite the applause as well. (although not the level of excitement that Courtney got. She trumped us all.) Chris then led us in several songs, which the children loved. Then we went out to play. The kids selected a game that you all dance around until Chris calls a number, and then you have to hug into a group totally that quantity of people. It was a crazy free-for-all, especially with the prospect of hugging onto Clare, Chris or me. Unfortunately, I got out pretty fast, as I had waaaay too many kids in my group. Sad for Nick. The play continued for a few minutes, but then the sky opened up with a heavy rain. One of the students quickly moved their water jug to where the roof was directing a steady stream of water. We then went inside, and had “quiet time.” I have to use this term loosely, because about half of the class was dutifully quiet, while the others allowed Chris and I to take photos and visit with them. After about an hour of the rain, it ceased, and Clare told the story of Abraham and Sarah, like I have never heard it before. It was accurate, but interwoven into the portions where Abraham was obedient to God, were school rules. For example, "Abraham obeyed God, so he did not fight in class with his friends." After the story, we all prayed, and school was dismissed for the day. The students filed out, and happily gave Chris and me hugs and high-fives. A very quiet girl shook my hand, carefully slipping me a note in the process. I opened the note after the rest of the line had passed by, and I found that it was from Daisy. It was a hand-drawn picture of a rabbit, a hen and a turkey, plus some flowers. Tears came to my eyes, just seeing how important these children are to God, but how forgotten they seem to be. And yet, they were so joyful!
After the students left, Chris and I took Clare to lunch. We went to a nearby place, called Good Africa. It is a coffee bar and restaurant, catering to the well-to-do Ugandans, or the ordinary outsiders. We sat and talked, and ate, and Clare told me her life story. It is not my story to tell, but let me tell you that she has overcome what many Americans have not even thought about facing, and has turned her struggle into a passion for helping others, despite any personal cost or difficulty. Clare is a strong woman of God, who loves Jesus more than anything, but shares that love with everyone she meets. She is a joy to be around.
After lunch we went back to the Jesus House to collect the items that I had to give to Clare and the children. As we went through the suitcase full of clothes for her boys, teaching supplies for the school, and toys for the students, Clare was nearly overcome with emotion. She praised Jesus for the blessings, and thanked Him for Sarah and I. I know that Clare will put these items to good use. Clare showed the clothes to Phillip, who immediately put on a brightly striped sweater. He was so happy, bouncing around the house and on and off of both Chris and me. Phillip snached my sunglasses off of my head, so I took him to the clothes I had brought and we found the sunglasses that had been given to him. (Thank you, Landry and Kelby!) He felt so cool to have sunglasses. I took him out front and photographed him in his new duds. Then Phillip and Chris and I played the game of Phillip driving his new matchbox cars under the couch, so that Chris and Nick can try to find them. This quickly led to the game of steeling Nick’s flashlight. It was a pretty fun series of games.
After John had hand washed the car, using the light rain as an assistant to the washing, Chris and I left, leaving Clare and Phillip for some needed family time. Chris and I took the car for an oil change, which took 45 minutes, and cost 95,000 Ugandan Shillings ($38 US). While the car was being serviced, we walked about, and ended up having Alvaro soda in a local billards/dance hall. It was empty save for the four young men playing pool. We enjoyed our drinks and went to collect the car, and head back to the Jesus House for the evening.
Chris and I both took the opportunity to talk to our wives on the internet. Georgie, Peace and Melaka joined me and we Skyped back to Kansas, seeing and talking to Sarah, Andy and Bethany. Once we discovered that we could high-five through the video-chat, that was about all that we discussed. Eventually I was able to get the kids to sit with Chris instead, and I got to tell Sarah all about my day with the kids of Feed My Lamb.