Yes, I know it has been many days since my last post. But some things just take precedence over everything else, and one of those things is getting a new grandchild! That’s right! On Thursday, July 16th, Selah Noel Guthrie was born to Travis and Kristen way down in Austin, Texas, weighing in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces. This caused a great deal of excitement and was a major distraction for me this week. Imagine that! So without further adieu, here she is!
I will be spending two weeks in Austin, starting July 31st, and a week in Dallas chaperoning a youth group trip the week before that. Therefore, I have to get busy and finish blogging about my Uganda trip, because many of you are waiting to read the next installments, and I assure you there are many great things to come! Lord willing, you can expect new posts nearly every day this week.
24 June, 2009
The weather was beautiful today. I have marveled at how the rain has never interfered with our plans. This evening was a perfect example. It rained only after we returned to the hotel, cooling things off nicely. We are very near the equator here, so the sun feels hot, but it isn’t muggy, and there is nearly always a breeze.
This morning I told Pastor Ruth that I would like to buy fruit for the children with some of the money friends had donated, so she took us to the Tororo market, which is tucked in the center of a “block” behind storefronts, and covered with canopies. It is a very large market, and overflowing with produce of every kind. I bought around 800 bananas for 90,000 shillings, or about $45.00.
I was still in the van talking when we got to Smile Africa, but suddenly I heard the children shouting and cheering. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“They see your bananas!” Denise replied. Sure enough, the bananas were being carried toward the kids, generating great excitement. The teachers got them all seated in rows, and then the children began to sing a song of gratitude. I will post the video of their “Thank You” song. If you gave money toward this trip, this song is for you. Even if you didn’t contribute, it will bless your heart to hear their voices.
We all helped pass out the bananas through our tears. It is truly humbling to observe such gratefulness for something we normally take for granted. Not one child turned down a banana, and we had enough for two a piece for the older children.
A couple of my neighbors had donated clothing, and I also bought several skirts and dresses at Goodwill to take along. Today was bath day, so I took the clothing into the office and sorted it. As the children were bathed, they were brought a group at a time for us to dress –lots of little naked children lined up with great anticipation. They just beamed, once they were dressed in their new clothing! So, of course, we took a lot of pictures. The hard part was seeing how disappointed the rest of the children were. Many had taken off their clean clothes and crowded around the office, hoping to be included in the “new clothes group.” I simply could not have brought more clothing with me. But the experience helped me to consider a direction for more of my donated funds. Later in the day I talked to Pastor Ruth about purchasing clothing in Uganda for the rest of the children. We will be looking into that.
This afternoon I was able to visit the classrooms. I began by teaching the song, “Who’s the King of the Jungle?” The actions made them giggle. They loved it!
Next, Eli the eagle puppet shared his story, and then we talked about caterpillars and butterflies and the new life that Jesus Christ offers. I also handed out cards printed with II Corinthians 5:17, and they practiced memorizing the verse. The students then made butterfly pencil toppers, something that many volunteers had helped me to prepare before the trip. Here are a couple of things to note about the classrooms. First, the children are literally packed in, wall to wall. Those taking pictures had to do so from outside the room. Secondly, you may notice that some children are holding babies. These are siblings that they are responsible for. They are carried to Smile Africa on their backs, up to 3 miles each way (see the top photo). Many children play, eat, and go to class with babies on their backs or in their laps.
Side note: Have you noticed how many of today’s blessings were made possible through the generosity of the wonderful Christian friends and family members who gave as unto the Lord Jesus? I keep thinking of the passage in Matthew 25:34-40, in which Jesus says, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat....naked, and you clothed Me...Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?’...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” I am fully aware that I am just the “middle man,” but I feel so privileged to be the one passing on all of these blessings and seeing first-hand the expressions of joy on each face.
Jan followed up in each classroom by handing out pins with various colors of ribbons representing the gospel, which she explained in detail. The children heard the gospel message loud and clear today, but we are confident that they have heard it before. Pastor Ruth and the teachers of Smile Africa love Jesus, and they are continually reminding the children of His great love for them.
We again handed out candy as the children left today. With each gift throughout the day, the teachers and children exclaimed, “Thank you for blessing us!” Yet we were the ones being blessed repeatedly. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive, and possibly more of a blessing still to give what you have received for the explicit purpose of giving!