Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Day Four: A Glorious Day!
23 June, 2009
Denise and I awoke early to the sound of roosters crowing once again. We thought it was 5:30, but when we showed up downstairs for breakfast two hours later, it was 6:30. Since we are nine hours ahead of Central Standard Time, I guess our bodies are still a little confused. It made for a very long day!
Denise’s bag was delivered to the Entebbe airport last night. Praise God! Saphon was able to pick it up, and he and Alex will bring it today. They wanted to come for the vision celebration, anyway. The way it all worked out is just one more miracle to add to the growing list!
We had brought with us around 1,000 pair of eyeglasses which had been sorted, cleaned, read, and tagged. Many donors, including the Lions Club of Toddville, Iowa, had contributed to this vision project. Dr. Dan Bwonya had brought his mobile clinic to Smile Africa in May to screen the children and any adults who showed up as well. Today he would be able to distribute glasses to those who needed them.
After breakfast we loaded up the glasses and went to Smile Africa for the vision celebration, which was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m. Several people had already arrived, and the crowd eventually swelled to around 300. Meanwhile, Pastor Ruth gave us a tour of Smile Africa, and Dr. Dan Bwonya, Grace, and Denise sorted through the glasses to match up prescriptions.
The celebration finally got underway about 11:30. We’ve been assured that many events such as this run on “African time,” which is much more relaxed than “English time.” I gathered immediately from all the formalities that Africans like official titles and decorum. Four government dignitaries, the chairman of Smile Africa’s board of directors, Dr. Dan, Pastor Ruth, and Denise all gave speeches. Each speech was translated into Ateso or Swahili for those who do not speak English. One of the officials made the statement that Tororo has 400 registered humanitarian organizations, but only 20 of those are actually credible and successful in achieving their goals. Smile Africa, he said, is definitely one that is successful and benefitting the community. It is especially notable that Smile Africa was originated in Uganda by a Ugandan.
Finally, the glasses were presented with much ado and clapping. The recipients were all extremely grateful and overjoyed! Dr. Dan instructed them in the proper care of their glasses. He is a very kind and gentle man, who is also a believer in Jesus Christ. As a result of his screening, Dr. Dan identified nine people who needed cataract surgery. He told us that his cost for these surgeries would amount to $20 per person! We were amazed that cataract surgery could be so inexpensive, but thrilled that we are able to cover the cost of all nine surgeries! Praise God! Dr. Dan also offered to screen several more people today who had missed the earlier screening. What a blessing he has been!
The children sang for the dignitaries and then they were fed a special meal of rice topped with beef, which Heart of God had requested and paid for in advance. Meat was quite a treat for them.
I can’t sufficiently communicate to you how those children immediately stole my heart! They warmed up to us quickly, attaching themselves to us by grabbing our hand or finger or a piece of our clothing. Just like kids everywhere, they vied for attention in other ways, too. They loved posing for pictures, and especially enjoyed viewing them on the camera. Some of them shouted, “T.V.!” when they saw the camera screen, and everyone came running to see, nearly knocking me off my feet!
When lunch was finished, Denise got out the bubbles she had brought along. The kids squealed, catching and chasing them! They even invented a way to catch them on the stem of a particular plant, and soon many of the children were equipped with one. Their resourcefulness was obvious in other ways, as well. We had brought jump ropes to leave with them and wondered whether they had any experience jumping rope. Before our U.S. version of a jump rope was introduced, we found some little girls jumping a rope made of weeds tied together. (see the video at the end of this post) When we pumped up nine soccer balls and two basketballs and threw them out in the field for everyone to play with, the excitement was unbelievable!
As the children lined up to leave for the day, we handed out suckers at the gate. They were so happy and excited that we almost got crushed! Even the teachers and our driver, George, were thrilled to get a piece of candy!
We were exhausted by the end of the day, but also very pleased with how it all went, and overjoyed to see the joyful expressions on the faces of young and old alike.
This evening we met two young girls from the U.S. in the hotel. They are both students at Yale University and are here to work with a humanitarian organization. Pastor Ruth is familiar with that organization and knows the founder of it, who is supposed to arrive tomorrow. We are beginning to believe that Pastor Ruth knows everyone, and vice versa!
We were hungry, but had a difficult time knowing what to order from the hotel menu. I settled on chicken stir-fry, which came with rice. It was pretty good and also quite a large serving. After we finished eating, Pastor Ruth came to visit with us. She was so happy about the day! The government officials had made some wonderful observations about Smile Africa, and they had made many promises, too. The vision screening and eyeglass distribution were all a success, with the added bonus of the provision of nine cataract surgeries.
What a glorious day this has been! God has been so good in laying all the ground work here, and in allowing us to come alongside Pastor Ruth to encourage and build up the work she is doing for Him. And what a treasure we have found in Dr. Dan, as well!
DON'T FORGET TO PLAY THIS VIDEO OF THE CHILDREN JUMPING "ROPE" WITH WEEDS!