Sunday, November 29, 2009


I feel like the last three weeks I've been being tossed around in the center of a whirlwind, that is, if a whirlwind has a center.
First, term 3 ended. This ended the first year of the running of the school. I guess that shouldn't have really made me feel upside down. But, it did. It meant preparing end of term exams. Yes, I still think it's crazy to give a 3 year old and exam. But, it's done here so..... when in Rome, do what the Romans do! Then I had to grade those exams and fill out report cards for the kids.
Then there should have been thoughts of rest. NOT. The week after end of term I spent running around trying to get prepared for the holiday program. I was doing that in the midst of collecting kids from schools (because that was when most schools were breaking off) and trying to collect bankslips for school fees for next year, school supply lists, photos, etc. to begin getting ready for next year. That's a whole nother story.... one that has got me in panic mode.... But, like I said that is another story.
Then the beginning of the holiday program. It's been a lot of work but it's been fun for the kids. Of course, we were only half ready on the first day. But, that is the great thing about here. No one noticed. And since we are catering to kids, I don't think they really cared. All they know is they get to run around and play, get help with school work, get to hear about the Bible every day, plus get breakfast and lunch every day. (We actually tried to do away with breakfast because of funds. That worked only for a day....)
In the afternoons, the older kids stick around. The past week they worked on making beaded necklaces. I think this next week they are going to be learning how to make necklaces from recycled paper! And there is a guy at a local school who has a degree in art that is interested in coming to VOLUNTEER to teach the kids art!
I'm disappointed that enough money didn't come in to keep the program going throughout the entire holiday. We'll end on Dec. 18. In Jan. I'm still thinking that maybe at least the older kids can come in the afternoons (after lunch since I can't afford the food) and study and work on projects. Plus they are low maintenance. They don't need much supervision!
And my house is filling up! Of course, Mary and Jackie live here. Esther joined us for the holidays at the beginning of Nov. Today Hawah and Queen joined us. And later this week Juliet, Janet, Shakira, and Penina will be arriving (along with a mzungu on Sunday for a week visit!).
The first thing we did when Queen and Hawah arrived to night was to have a family meeting. It went well. We divided up the household chores. And wrote and posted it on a list. This way it will be hard for someone to deny that they didn't do the work or blame someone else. Pretty much, Jackie and I will be fetching water every day and Jackie is on trash duty daily! The other girls traded things around from day to day.
Now Jackie is sleeping and the other girls are in the other room talking and laughing! I love that sound!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not Forgotten

This is Jonathan or Jonah or Yonah. He is one of the most recent additions to the school. He joined us mid-October just a couple of weeks after his mother's death. Although he was a bit too young to be in school this year, I didn't have the heart to leave him at home while allowing his brother, Kevin who is 4 years old, to come. I let him go ahead and start coming if for nothing else than to eat breakfast and lunch every day. Kevin will move up to Middle Class (sort of like K4 while Jonah repeats Baby Class (kind of like K3).
When Jonah first started coming to school, he would cling to me most of the day. All he wanted was to be held. I spent most of those first few days with him on my hip. Now, he's used to school, and although at times still wants to be carried, he's full of life. He cracks us up with his silly antics and amazing smile!
A little over a week ago, Jonathan had no sponsor. Within minutes of me emailing out my newsletter, one of my "moms" from the states emailed and said that she would sponsor him. So, while life has had a rough start for Jonah, things are looking up. God did not forget this precious little boy. God has made a way for Jonathan to attend school, get two meals a day and to daily hear about how much he is loved by God.
There are millions of other children around the world that while the world forgets about them, God hasn't forgotten. Pray for these children to know that they really aren't forgotten, that there is Someone that truly cares for them and what happens to them, and for more children to get to experience the gift of feeling loved by someone somewhere in the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Encourage, Don't Judge

Life is certainly not fair. How does a child that is so full of life have such a deadly virus living in her body? Why? Why not an old person that has had a chance to live life? Probably I'll never get answers to any of those questions.
I frequently hear comments from people (mostly westerners) about why is AIDS so rampant. Why don't people do something to stop it? Why do parents infect their children? It sounds so heartless and lacking compassion when I hear it. Do people not realize the circumstances that most of these people face that puts them at risk for infection.
I live in a society where women have no rights. Their well being often depends on a man. A woman's no is heard as a yes by men. So, what can a woman do? Really, only pray and trust God that her husband will be faithful. This is rare, the faithfulness, I mean. Remember I live in a society that says it's OK for a man to have many wives.
I don't think any mother would intentionally infect her child, especially not a mother that understands the consequences of this infection. But, what can this mother do? Often she is depending on her husband for economic survival. She has no where to run to. And what man is going to come home and tell his wife, "Oh, by the way, I've been sleeping around. I'm now infected with HIV so you probably are too." Few, if any. So, most mothers don't know they are infected until they begin falling sick. By then it may be too late for the child. So many women here don't have access to prenatal care. This means that preventing transmission to the unborn child is low.
Instead of condemning these women, why not encourage them and help fight for their rights!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Keep Breaking My Heart

I have a visitor coming in a little less than two weeks. Today, I had a random thought on that. I was wondering to myself how my home will look to her. Not my house where I sleep but the country I now call home. I sometimes forget those first moments here in Uganda where I was taking everything in. All the smells, the sounds, what I saw.
I sometimes wish I could see with those eyes again. I looked around as I was thinking this. I was on a boda boda at the time. I couldn't help but think how all these things had become so familiar to me. The piles of trash, the naked children with their bloated stomachs, the mud, the smell of urine, the run down slum, the trenches that have to be jumped (while hoping you don't land in it), and all the poverty.
I wonder if when people first come if they are totally disgusted. But, you see, this has become my world, my home. I sometimes don't notice these things. They've become common to me. I don't get disgusted. Then I wondered to myself, does this mean I'm becoming hardened to the things around me? Am I losing the passion that I once had? Or is that I love these people so much that I have just come to identify with everything and choose not to let it bother me?
I got some answers this afternoon. I try to visit every family of the children that are sponsored at least once a month. Today I felt like going to visit a number of people. I went to the family that lost their mom recently. I hung out there for a bit amidst the flies hovering all around us. I then went to visit two old grandmothers raising their orphaned grandchildren. As we were sitting there chatting and laughing, I felt my heart breaking again. I can help these children with school but there's not much I can do about the situations they are living in. I would love to, but the money is never enough. There are too many people. Too many broken lives. All I can do is give the best hope I know, Christ.
Then I went to visit another family that I've come to love dearly. I've suspected for a long time that the parents and one of their three children are HIV+. They've never admitted it to me but there are just some signs. While I was there today, the mom sent all the children out, asked her sister to come in, shut the door, and then busted into tears. She let it all out. Both of the parents are infected and so is the middle girl. I also cried. I love these people. I love their little girl. She's a gifted child, always number 1 in her class, very bright. But, I know the reality is that she will probably never reach her full potential. Her life will be cut short. She will leave this world before it should be her time.
So, my questions were answered. I've not become hardened. My passion is still there. I walked home fighting back the next flood of tears. But, at the same time very aware of my determination to help at least a handful of these kids make it out of this slum.
God, I pray you keep my heart broken..........

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's a New Day

So, teen life is more than just a little complicated. I hated those years in my life and I'm not sure it's any more fun raising a child through it. We spent yesterday pretty much in a silent house. I have decided though that unless someone is dressing, doors should not be closed.
I had already made plans to go to lunch with a friend that is leaving the country today and wanted Esther to go to the school for lunch. She wanted to stay at home. I relented and allowed her to.
Now, I have few rules in the house. I don't want to have to live by many and I know most of these kids have never had to live by any so to keep things simple, I just try to keep them as few as possible. One of the rules is a particular TV station I do not want turned on. I can't figure out how to block or remove it so I've just told the girls it shouldn't be turned on. Like telling them that is really going to work....... I'm contemplating getting rid of the TV. I never watch it anyway.
So, back to the story. After lunch I picked Jackie up from the school and we went home. Immediately, she turned on the TV and what station was there..... Yeah, you guessed it. The one I don't want on and what was on my screen was a horrifying sight. Teacher Hadijah was with us and we both just told Jackie to turn the TV off. We explained to her that she is a child and should watch something else. Luckily, Dora the Explorer is one of her favorites so I just popped that in on my laptop.
I called Esther into the sitting room and asked her if she had been watching TV today. She told me no. Now no one else had been home since morning and we had it on the Christian station then. I asked her if she was sure she hadn't just put it on for a moment. Again, she said no. I asked if she was absolutely sure she hadn't been watching that particular channel and she denied it.
I then put on the TV and asked her why it was that the station was there on the television when the TV was turned on. It couldn't have been put there on its own.
She kept quiet and went to her room.
I knew we really needed to have another talk. All of this behavior is so unlike her. She's always been my good girl, one of the ones I know I can depend on. This has all been just too weird.
I began asking her some questions and she finally broke down and told me that she had started fearing that one day I wouldn't want them to live with me, that I would tell them they couldn't come back.
It hit me like a train. How many times growing up (and possibly still do) did I act in strange ways to push someone away out of that same fear? All I could do was assure her that I was committed to them and no one was going to tell them to leave, no matter how crazy they acted. We talked about some of the good times we've had together and how much I wanted those to continue. I shared that I want for them some of the things that I never had.
I told her that I still had to punish her, not because I was angry but because I love her. If I let it go, then she would think it was ok to do it again. She had lied in front of others and it would set a bad example for them. Of course, she was disappointed and cried for a while.
But, later that evening, I saw the young lady that I know come back to life. She came in my room with a letter that she had written. She had looked up Proverbs 12:1 and written it down for me along with a note asking me to forgive her and that she understood.
I told her that tomorrow was a new day, a chance to start over and do things differently. And so far today, she has been a joy to be with. We've chatted, laughed, cleaned, and goofed off just like past holidays.
Pray that all of us will survive the holidays (there will be 8 teenage girls in my house + Jackie + me) and that we can all survive these teen years. And just think, after this group, I've got another round to go with Jackie and whoever else God decides to plant in my home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soften Her Heart of Stone

So, how to discipline a teenager. I haven't really figured it out but had to do it tonight. Not sure how effective I was.......
So, we sat down for a family meeting around 8 in the evening: me, Esther, and Mary. Jackie started out with us but fell asleep. I figured she probably didn't need to be that involved since she was pretty oblivious to what was going on and just kept interrupting us as she would burst into her version of the B-I-B-L-E.
The conversation began with a question. Well, really a series of questions. What is a family? How is best to live with one another? How do we relate and be open to each other? From there we talked about choices. Mary answered a few questions. Esther just kept quiet and looked at the wall ahead of her.
Finally, I became direct and told them that I expected them to communicate in the house. I also expect them to tell the truth and to be trustworthy. Then I again explained to them that I had some Christmas things stored in one of the cabinets and some of it had been eaten. I told them that it was best to admit it now and just ask for forgiveness instead of making the problem bigger by lying. Still no admission. I asked both of them directly if they had taken anything.
Then I told them that I knew who had taken it and had removed it from their things. This meant that since they had hidden it, they possibly felt in their heart that it shouldn't have been eaten (sneakiness) and that they then covered it by lying.
We talked (or I talked) about how one lie will lead to another one until it is just a big mess. We talked about reputation and trustworthiness. Again, I asked. Again, both refused.
I directly told Esther that I knew she had taken it. She adamantly denied it. For about two hours we went on like this. Finally, I told her that one thing I wouldn't allow is someone that I can't trust in my house. I have another young girl that I dearly love but she's not allowed to enter my home because she steals and lies. I asked Esther if she wants to be in that category. After a few minutes she told me that she took it. But, there was still no sign of remorse. Just stoniness, like yeah, I did it. So what. The whole time never looking at me, never saying sorry.
We then talked about consequences. Her consequence is to be missing her school trip on Friday. That's when I saw remorse. The tears started. I'm not real sure yet if the remorse was for lying, for getting caught or missing the trip.......
I wish these girls could see their real potential. Esther is a beautiful girl. She's smart. She's a natural leader. I'm praying that God will soften her heart and that she'll use that potential to reach somewhere she's never dreamed or imagined reaching.
But, one thing I'm certain of is that this teen years stuff is no joke. By the time the conversation ended all of us were crying. OK, Jackie cried earlier because of wanting to sleep so by the time we were crying she was knocked out. Esther was most likely crying because of missing the trip. Mary was crying because she felt bad for her friend. I was crying because I had to be the bad guy, which I hate.

How Do You Handle a Teenager That Lies?

I love having all the girls home! I love having a full house! Most of the time I enjoy their noise and the fun they make.
But, I'm discovering that young children, although more work, are somewhat easier to be a "parent" to than teenagers.
For example, Jackie doesn't mind showing me that she loves me. I can correct her. She's teachable. She doesn't stay angry for long when I discipline her. She accepts what I tell her and tries to remember it the next time. Like when she removes her clothes before bathing, she is supposed to put them in her basket for washing. If she leaves them on the floor and I ask her if that is where they go, she quickly picks them up and puts them in the basket.
Teenagers, on the other hand, don't like to be corrected. They think they already know everything. And, discipline is somewhat of a problem. I find it difficult to spank a child that is bigger than me!
So, Esther is home and I am very happy to have her here. But, things change when the girls come home. Mary behaves different. Mary usually is wonderful with Jackie but when the other big girls are home, Mary doesn't want to be bothered with her. I've caught both Mary and Esther hitting Jackie the last couple of days. Now, I know Jackie can also disturb them. She doesn't want to sit still and let them do what they want to do. So, I try to keep her distracted. But, they also have to realize that she's a young kid and sometimes just deal with it.
Mary does ok when she's corrected. She tries. I hope she doesn't get influenced by her peers. Esther, just looks at me like I've grown another head.
Then on top of that she has a habit of sneaking behind my back and lying. Mostly about food. I pretty much let them eat whatever they want to but ask them to be reasonable. Like I don't see why someone should sit down and eat 5 slices of bread at a go.
Then when I ask her if she wants something to eat, she'll tell me no. When I leave the house, food gets raided. I'll come back and a whole bag of chocolate will have been eaten. She's the only one in the house. Jackie and Mary are still at school.
We bought sugarcane the other day and there was a small piece left. Jackie wanted to eat it but she had already had enough. I told her to keep it for after school. We came back and it was gone. I told her to ask Mary and Esther if they had eaten it. She asked them and both said no. How does it just disappear like that. I knew Mary had been at school and unless she had taken it to school, couldn't have eaten it. She told me that when she came back she saw Esther eating it behind the house. I didn't want to confront Esther because I don't want her and Mary to be awkward with each other.
Also, someone had sent me a package of goodies from home. I decided to keep them and share them with all the girls at Christmas time. I had hid them up at the top of one of the cabinets, over where the stove should go. It's not a place that someone would ever really look in.
Mary knew it was there and it has been there for about 3 months without her touching it.
Yesterday, I noticed the cabinet had been left a bit open. When I checked, I found several things had been removed. So, I decided to feel like a snoop and check the girls' things. Jackie is too short but I checked hers anyway. Not that she would have been able to hide it well since we share everything. I found it in Esther's things. I quietly removed it and then locked the rest of the Christmas things in my room.
Later, I told the girls that the things that were there were for Christmas. I told them that some of it had been eaten and asked each one if they had eaten any of it or taken any of it. All replied no.
Now I feel like I have a sneak in the house that also lies. So, now how do I discipline? I don't feel like I should still be having to spank a 14 year old. I feel like now it more of a heart issue.
The reason I say heart issue is because of attitude. Or maybe all teenagers just have attitudes.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Esther's Home!!!!!

If any of you can dig out one of my newsletters from about a year ago, you can refresh your memory on who Esther is. Or I can just tell you.
She's a young lady that I have been blessed to know. A total orphan but understands that God is her parent. Both of her parents died of AIDS. After her father died, her stepmother sold off their property and left Esther with nothing. Esther served as a housemaid for a family where she was abused and not sent to school. Then she met another "aunt" who took her in. But, this aunt was poor and lived in a one room house with her husband. The aunt was pregnant around the time that I met Esther. Anyway, to make the long story short, I started sponsoring Esther (yes, I also sponsor some of my kids) and she moved in with me, at least for holidays.
Esther was in Primary 7 the past year and most children prefer going to boarding school for this class so that they are well prepared for the Primary Leaving Exam.
Well, Esther took the exam earlier this week and arrived home yesterday evening! We were so happy to see her. She was greeted by Jackie shouting for her from our 4th floor balcony. I think now the whole village knows that Esther is home! Mary is happy to have someone home that is not over the age of 30 or under the age of 5! She and Esther didn't sleep until well past midnight last night. I'm not real sure how Mary managed to wake up and get to school. I hope she doesn't spend the day dozing in class.
The past year that I've spent with Esther has been wonderful. I've watched her grow and trust God more. She eagerly goes to church. She is awesome at leading her peers in prayer and Bible study. I wish everyone could know the blessing it is to have such a child in their lives.