It was never a dream of mine to visit this country. Honestly, I never really planned on going. That was before last summer, when I read War Child. My heart broke into a million pieces as I read that book. About this same time, my church was planning a few trips to Sudan and Uganda. We partner with a local church in Sudan and help them run two orphanages. So….I went. This was August 2009.
I’m sitting here now, trying to remember what changed me so much in the two 1/2 weeks I spent in Uganda and Sudan. Almost 8 months later, here are the moments I remember most.
My home away from home (in Sudan) - and that blasted mosquito net! See that fan in the top of the pic? We had electricity for about 2 hours every day. It would shut off riiiiiiight about the time I was falling asleep. Then…boom. Hot, hot, sweat myself to sleep….and deathly quiet. (plus the blackest nights I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.)
We trained hard for this moment, the moment we faced the African roads. Ohmygoodness. Never in my life have I experienced a road so horrible.
This was Day-o (I have NO clue how to really spell it, but that’s how we pronounced it. He gave us water every day, and he was always dressed like a gentlemen. I ::adore:: him. Plus, he had the highest voice…ever. Ugh, slay me with that cuteness. His cheerful, “Hello, how are you?” made the sleepiest morning better.
The first child I made contact with at the orphanage. Their red and yellow uniforms were ahhh-mazing. Until I learned they were the only clothes they had, the uniform on their backs. *sigh*
So, from that moment on, I hugged and kissed every child I saw…ringworms and all. Told you. Photo below taken by Daniel Davis.
Sad moments – like looking into the eyes of a child, sick with maleria.
Awkward moments – like peeing in a corn field, trying to ‘miss’ anything that looked edible. (While every African in the area watched my every move. I mean, I was going in their garden…whoops.)
and being um…welcomed(?) into the community? I guess the cook didn’t understand the concept of private property and personal space. Poor Paul, he almost lost it taking the picture. Can you blame him?
Learning how quickly a smile can leap across any language barrier.
Spending time laughing and working with the mothers at the orphanage. Very few of them had children of their own in the orphanages, but they each looked after 8+ children that were practically their own. (photo taken by Daniel Davis)
And that dancing is also a language. Steal my heart away, you sweet children, with your drums and your chants and your precious harmonies.
Sneaking out to explore our compound, and running into some local children…and quickly getting my camera taken away by one of the older girls. Click, click, click…
which led to one of my favorite moments, captured by Daniel.
There were times of joy, higher than I thought were ever possible…
Like giving away deodorant to the mothers who were working at the orphanage. They called it ‘pit perfume.’
and hanging out with the orphanage pastor – before he tried to steal me away. When he couldn’t take me, he stole my hat instead. Yep, my Fossil girl’s hat is being worn by an African pastor….hopefully, at this very moment.
There was also a time when my stupidity almost led to my death. Never go into the streets of Sudan alone with a huge bag of free Dum Dum suckers and think you can get out without starting a riot. This led to me chunking a bag full of hundreds of Dum Dums into a ditch and running, as fast as I could, the other direction before the riot got any more out of control. The best part was driving away, seeing people lining the streets with white sucker sticks hanging from their mouths. Ha! At least they were happy.
These faces – oh, those faces. This is George….he has a piece of me. I wanted to SQUEEZE him and bring him home with me.
The happiness a camera can bring…once they see themselves. Silly faces will never get old.
(this photo was taken by Paul – Thank you!)
Falling in love with these two beautiful little girls and having it confirmed even more that I will adopt one day. One of these lovely ladies was crippled, but that never kept her from smiling…or dancing.
There were many, many, many happy times. But there were also hard and heart wrenching times that caused me to pull my chair into the garden, in the pitch black, alone, underneath the most incredible display of stars, crying my eyes out and pleading for the Lord to save these people from any more tragedy. They were too young to be orphaned, widowed, fatherless, to lose limbs… Like these two babies, left helpless and alone because their parents had been taken by HIV but not before passing the sickness on to them. We saw the virus already taking control of their tiny bodies.
We witnessed an African funeral. The second week we were there, a preacher in the community had a motorcylce accident and died two days later because he didn’t have transportation to the hospital for a tetanus shot. At the funeral, I heard the mother sobbing and saw the newly fatherless children in the corner. They clinged to each other and cried the saddest little tears. I’ve never, in my entire life, witnessed something that heartbreaking. We were so helpless, just feet away from this family who had unexpectedly lost so much in such a short time.
But then, the pastor and his wife from the church we were working with brought the fatherless children back to our camp. And, with the help of bubbles and a few jump ropes, we saw them smile. In no way were these huge smiles and fits of laughter, but they were grins and enough to take their mind off the tragedy that was so fresh. We heard their story and our team pooled enough money together to completely pay for the eldest sons higher education. He’s going to be an architect. And a great one.
My team from The Village Church consisted of nurses, photographers, and teachers, and me -ha. We were joined by the Sudanese team of pastors, widows, church members, orphanage workers, and doctors. The African people were the most loving and thoughtful people I’ve ever been in contact with. Not to mention SO full of life. I’m so thankful to have met them. Seriously. They changed me. The Lord has changed them and in that, they changed me.
But I will never forget that sky. (photo taken by Daniel Davis)
Or those faces. (another incredible shot by Daniel)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.
So, one day – one amazing, glorious, magical, awe inspiring day…..
there will be no more sickness, no more hunger,
no more sad faces of little children who watched their parents get murdered by genocide,
no more tattered school uniforms (one per child, that’s all they get…ever), no more orphanages without toys or pencils or enough clean water to go around,
no more maleria, worms, HIV, fleas, mosquitos, dirty water,
no more hurt.
But until then….He uses us to bring good news and to bind up those broken hearts and to put beautiful smiles on perfectly loveable African children.
and so I will. And one day I will bring one home with me….to stay.
(photo taken by Paul Go Images// in Uganda at the Mosque)
PS – I’m no photographer, BUT we did have some fabulous ones with us!! To see their images (they are breath taking) go to:
AMAZING work those boys do…..simply amazing.