Having not gotten back to Jesus House from Fort Portal until 2AM, the night was short. We were to go back to Naguru and to Feed My Lamb to see the kids, and Clare was picking us up at 10. Plus, I had to pack up, as this was my last day in Uganda. I sleepily and slowly packed up my clothes and gear, sad to be leaving, yet excited to share all that I had to share with my family upon my return to Kansas. Because one whole suitcase had been dedicated to supplies and gifts for the students, I was able to reduce my luggage by one – fitting one suitcase inside the other. I packed what I could, and prepared to head for the community of Naguru. Clare picked us up, and John had already found the time to wash the car, inside and out, following our very muddy adventure the previous evening. Chris and I hopped in, and off we went to the school.
We arrived, and this time, because Clare had also been absent, she received the brunt of the welcome, followed closely by Chris, and I brought up the rear of appreciation, albeit significantly more than my first arrival. The kids are so joyful, and so loving, without restraint. A part of me wished they had a little more restraint – the part of me that still worries about what germs and sickness these beautiful children are covered in. However, this part of me is so quickly overtaken by the love and hope that these children see in us. Having these thoughts is convicting, albeit natural and acceptable, but so quickly pushed aside. I love these children, and the risk of whatever they might pass on through normal contact is far outweighed by what I hope to pass on to them in the name of Jesus. These children are the least of these, and I will insist on loving them, even when my First World standards try to stand in the way. Chris, Clare and I made our way of the hill to the schoolyard, each with our own pile of clanging kids. I’m not sure of it was recess time before we arrived, but it certainly was once we reached the school. All but about six students were out, playing, running, laughing and being some of the most joy filled children I have ever met. Soccer was the main event for the boys, enthusiastically kicking a tennis ball from end to end of the 40 foot long dirt yard, desperately trying to squeeze the ball between two piles of rocks forming a goal. Of course, whenever there was a point earned, the ball continued to fly off the ‘field’ and down the hill, across the trash pile, settling against the building that houses the ‘toilets’. The boys race down after it, cackling and shouting with excitement of scoring a point, not a thought about the filth that they are playing in. They just retrieve the ball, put it back in play, and go at it again. The only thing that seems to distract them for the love of the game is my taking photos – I got very brief pauses for impromptu posing, and they are quickly back to their sport.
The girls are moving around only slightly slower than the boys, laughing and giggling and running around. Apparently, even in Uganda, girls are more relational than boys, as more conversations were taking place, in between the running and jumping and playing. There was something that reminded me of Duck Duck Goose going on. There was no fighting, no bickering; just happy energetic kids. One of the little girls came up the hill with a small chink of frozen juice (where she got it, I have no idea). She offered it around to her classmates, gladly sharing what little she had. It was completely natural for her to share what she had, even when it was obviously a special and rare treat for her. I saw no hesitation in her sharing, just a communal love and respect for her classmates. This was reciprocated by her fellow students, as no one took more than their small portion, and none expected to take more than their proportional taste of the treat. These kids love and care for each other like I have never seen children do. These kids, who have nothing, freely give it away.
Soon, Teacher Clare gently calls for the students to come in, using a peaceful and calm song, not having to raise her voice, nor repeating herself more than once. The children bound into the classroom, knocking against one another as they squeeze two and three wide through the doorway, to their desks. Today the classroom is divided into three sections by a couple of large boards serving as temporary walls. Clare greets the children, and allows Chris and I to do the same. Clare then shares that it is my last day with them for a while, telling them that I have to go home to “collect Sarah from this picture (pointing to our family photo on the wall) and the children.” The children all started clapping emphatically, so terribly excited that I will be bringing my family to meet them. There is no talk of the boarding school, no talk of moving, no talk of even a new project. They are simply excited to meet my wife and kids, because they have been told how much we care about them. I stand up and explain that I have to go back to get them, and that it will take a few months for me to return with them, but in the meantime, God will continue to love them, and that I will continue to love them, and I will tell my friends about them. I tell them that I look forward to seeing them again, and I thanked them for letting me come meet them. (By the way, I was somehow able to hold it together for this, in case you were wondering.)
Then, Clare tells them that we found Andrew, and that he sent them bananas. Chris and I went to collect them from the car, and three of the older students were sent as helps. We carried the fruit up the hill, and placed it on the front table. It looked like a lot of bananas, until you looked at how many mouths were pursed toward them. Each child would get half a banana. Clare told the kids that we would be sharing them, and that there would be no fighting, pushing or being rude. Every student calmly sat at their place, patiently but anxiously waiting the delivery of their snack, which in reality was likely the only food they will have eaten today, aside from their bite of iced juice. For at least a few of them, it might have been to only food they could expect for the day. But each and every one of them sat, quietly, patiently and politely. Clare asked for a volunteer to pray for the meal – yes, the meal of a portion of a banana. Several hands shot up, and Clare called forward one of the girls, and handed her a bunch of bananas, and told the rest of children that it was time to pray. The girl prayed proficiently, and formally, but honestly, thanking God for this blessing, and for taking care of them. This was a beautiful moment. The students all said “Amen” and went back to patiently waiting. Chris counted the bananas, and told Clare that we should have enough, so we started passing them out. Each little one received one entire banana, and said “thank you” when they gently received it, not grabbing or reaching or begging. Clare seemed very surprised that the quantity was sufficient, and I told her that it was the story of the two fish and five loaves. Clare praised Jesus, loud enough that all could hear, thanking Him for blessing them with the bananas. I suggested that she tell the story, but she suggested I tell it. I stood up and asked the children to listen to a story as they ate their banana. I had their attention.
I told the story, slowly, wanting to make sure I didn’t mess it up, and to make sure that I was giving the students enough time to eat and think at the same time. I told the story in the way that my son’s Bible story book does in what it titles The Boy Who shared His Lunch, starting with “The mommies and the daddies and the aunts and the uncles and the grandmas and the grandpas and the children”. The kids paid good attention, and then Clare followed up, checking for understanding. The kids new that the point of the story was that God loves them, and will provide for them. They added that sharing is important, and that when God provides, we share that. I praise God for that opportunity. After the bananas were all eaten and the peels were discarded, Clare asked of the children wanted to take me for a walk through the community. They enthusiastically agreed! Clare led us out of the classroom, across the schoolyard, and down the hill. The other two teachers had several of the boys re-tuck their shirts, because “we want to look like gentlemen” as we walk through the filthy, sewage ridden and disease filled slum that is their community. The boys quickly obeyed, and continued bounding down the hill.
After the bananas were all eaten and the peels were discarded, Clare asked of the children wanted to take me for a walk through the community. They enthusiastically agreed! Clare led us out of the classroom, across the schoolyard, and down the hill. The other two teachers had several of the boys re-tuck their shirts, because “we want to look like gentlemen” as we walk through the filthy, sewage ridden and disease filled slum that is their community. The boys quickly obeyed, and continued bounding down the hill.
After the tour of the community, it was time for Chris and me to leave. We had to stop by the Jesus House to get my luggage, and then head to the airport. I had to catch my plane home, which was bittersweet. I love Uganda, and I was not ready to leave. However, since I will be moving my family here for a year, I need to go home and prepare! There is much to be done in Kansas, so that we can get to work in Uganda!