Some more thoughts from Carissa.....
Today I learned about joy and pain and how they sometimes go together on the very same day.
After another trip to the pharmacy in the morning, we met the other van at African Hearts. We had told many people to come back on Wednesday, and I think they told more people. When we arrived people were already waiting on benches outside our little makeshift clinic, babies on their mamas and children milling about. Today was emotional, more than any other. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more emotions in one day. The people came in, the doctors talked with them, so many children, some very, very small babies. We tested for malaria a lot today, and there were so many positives that I lost count. In the middle of one of the hours, Deb & Lynsay tested five children for HIV. Two came back positive. I didn’t know until I saw Deb. Her raw emotion told me the news. It was hard to hold it together right then. The tears welled up, but there were people waiting and things to do, so I pushed it away. She is right, children do not ask for this, are helpless to prevent it. One of the little ones had malaria on top of the HIV. Really? It was too much.
We took a break midday -- just about when emotional overload was getting the better of us -- and ate Moreen’s delicious lunch. At every meal we have rice, potatoes and some sort of vegetable and fruit. They make delicious peas...nothing like we have; it’s thick and nourishing yumminess. Or we have beans. Fruit grows in abundance here, bananas, pineapples and mangos. It brings refreshing balance to the meals. The break revives our spirits, and we move back into the clinic and carry on.
I gave lots of instructions on antibiotics and malaria meds. It is strange to hand a preteen boy a sack of meds for he and his brothers, no parents around. Will he remember that they need to take every pill, that every pill is so important? Somber eyes listen to instruction and nod. I think even the little ones realize the meds are rare, to be taken seriously. Kind of like when my boys were diagnosed with Type 1. The reality that insulin meant life hit them early and serious. They listened to every word the nurses and doctors said and were intent on following directions. Perhaps that’s how people receive the medicine & instructions here. I hope so.
The line outside didn’t seem long, but at every glance it seemed the same length. The docs treated patients longer than planned, and we turned away the back half of the line, sending them home with vitamins at least. Hard. And then the joy came.
It was time for the children at African Hearts to perform. They are a talented group of young people. They danced for us and sang. Boys drummed out lively beats while the girls danced. Their smiles and African whooping about...well, I have no words. I will never forget it. It reminded me of my little G, how easily she dances and how music delights her so. Such joy in the midst of this place. African Hearts is an oasis of love and learning for these children. They also thanked Monica and Anna for the many shoes they donated, and Deb spoke briefly too. I felt blessed to be in Uganda today, blessed to experience the body of Christ here. I wish William & Christian & Gia could have shared these moments with me.
Today I felt ripped apart and gently put back together by my heavenly Father, showing me His goodness and grace and joy. Ugandans are beautiful. I see them walking with sad faces. Then I see joyful faces. There is much to be sad about here, yet there is joy in the simplest of things. They sing, dance, play instruments, and make beautiful things out of not very much. I love how the children express their creativity here. I feel like our kids could learn much from them, how to take the joy from the day God has given us and use the resources we’re given to the fullest. These kids live this out well. One little girl made me a tiny green purse out of a folded banana leaf. George talked of how he used to cut chain link fence and tires and make things. I saw a boy pushing a thin tire with a forked stick, running so fast, expertly guiding his tire...a moment of childhood bliss on a dirt road in Uganda. He was happy. I don’t think he needs to keep a gratitude journal -- something I’ve tried and failed to do, you know, to remind myself how grateful & happy I am.
After the clinic we made the 1/2 mile drive to the boys’ home. We drove through the gate just in time to see the milking of the cow. We piled out and assembled in the middle of the dirt and grass front yard. Then the Converse shoes were passed out to their owners. The team had asked the boys what color Converse shoes they’d like and their sizes. Fresh from the States and new, the Converse shoes were a bit hit. The boys’ smiles were priceless! As I look back at the pictures, I love the smiles of the team giving out the shoes!
That evening we ate dinner with the boys, and Heidi, the “auntie,” told us about their ministry and what a day looks like at the boys’ home. They have an hour devotion & prayer time every day. In that morning’s devotion they had talked about old self vs. new self and how all things become new when we know Jesus. A powerful message for these boys, a reminder that they are not defined by their past, but they are seen as the wonderful men they are becoming, full of Jesus and His light and righteousness.
The boys get up at 5:30 and do chores, go to school. These boys are from the slums of Kampala, where some were on drugs and knew nothing about God, family, love or hope. As we played, ate dinner together and talked in the small, cozy room with chairs around the parameter, I once again marveled about being in this place in AFRICA, for heaven’s sake!!!, and seeing the CRAZY AMAZING things God is doing here with these boys!!! HE LOVES THEM! Hallelujah for a God who cares not only about boys in slums, but also middle-aged suburban (blah) women and overindulged American teens (in fact, all of us are overindulged!)...and knits them together! What in the world?! He is SO good to us, so patient with us...transforming with grace our hearts and lives!
I go to bed with a smile on my face amidst some sorrowful thoughts about the day. Joy and pain in my heart at the same time. Jesus knows all about this, and I’m happy to give it to Him and sleep.