I apologize for taking such a long time to continue with my posts. I spent this past week in Dallas with our church youth group, working in various ministries around the city. It was a great trip, and I was so happy to see our youth serving the Lord with servant's hearts. My computer also developed some serious problems last week. I am now at my son's home -the son with the new baby, Selah, and I am using his computer. Selah may be somewhat of a distraction for posting this week :). I will do my best to continue, however!
Day 7: Life in the Slums
26 June, 2009
Our first revelation this morning was that the toilet wouldn’t flush, and there was no running water. I “bathed” with wet wipes. A container of water was later brought to our room, just as we were leaving for the day.
Our first stop today was at Smile Africa. The kids cheered when they saw the van drive in. They missed us yesterday! I brought a parachute to leave with them, so we got it out to demonstrate it this morning, asking some of the older children and teachers to take the handles around the perimeter. When the younger children saw it unfurl, they ran toward it shouting, “Umbrella!” and crawled underneath. I demonstrated how to move it up, down, and center, how to wave it, roll a ball on it, and finally, how to bounce a ball on it. They loved bouncing the soccer ball, and soon several little homemade balls, retrieved from pockets, were tossed onto the parachute as well. It was great fun. I’m sure the parachute will get lots of good use.
During their morning opening time I sang “King of the Jungle” with the children once again. We then gave each of the teachers a package of several items (toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, cocoa mix, lotion, soap, antibacterial gel, etc), plus 30,000 shillings (or about $15.00). They were overjoyed! I also gave the pinwheel craft I’d prepared to Joyce, and showed her how to put it together. She was so happy to have a craft all prepared to use at a future time. Finally, I gave her several Bible story big books. Again, she was almost giddy!
Denise had asked Pastor Ruth if we could see where the children go when they leave Smile Africa –where they sleep at night. So today, with special permission from the government, we went to visit the slums.
I used more of my donation money to buy three large bags of grain (rice, beans, and posho or corn) and a case of soap. The soap came in bars approximately sixteen inches long. The grains were portioned out into smaller bags and we took these with us to the slums, along with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. As our van drove through the narrow streets, children appeared from everywhere shouting, “mazungus!” which means “white people!” We had little packs of children following us everywhere we went. In one case we heard rustling as we passed some trees, and then up popped a few children out of the branches.
The first home we visited was a round mud hut with a grass roof –very small, with only a mat on the dirt floor and a small cooking area. A man and his two sons were there. The man wore an overcoat, despite the heat, most likely because he did not have pants. His wife was away. He asked for us to pray for his home and his family, which we did. It was a humbling and heartbreaking experience. Next to his home was a church with only partial walls and no roof. Pastor Ruth says that is a believing church with a fine pastor.
The next home belonged to a Smile Africa student and her mother. It was actually a narrow room with only a door (no windows), a mat, and a cooking space, with a few items stuck in the wall for storage.
Next, we visited the home of a woman whose baby had recently died. She had a toddler with her, but she seemed either very nervous, or ill. She was shaking and sweating as she shook our hands. We prayed for her, and for her home as well, and she seemed more at ease by the time we left.
In each slum area we gave toothbrushes to the children who gathered around, and toothpaste and dental floss to the adults, with instructions not to eat the toothpaste. We were told that it would be tempting, since it tastes so good and they are hungry. Children, especially, would most likely eat it despite our warning. I also demonstrated how to use the dental floss, because it wasn’t something they were familiar with. In fact, they found the concept rather humorous!
Paul, a Smile Africa employee, was traveling with us and asked if we would like to see his house which was nearby. Repeatedly he told us what a nice house it was. We walked through a maze of doorways and clothes on clotheslines, before reaching his house where his wife and two children greeted us. Their home was a slightly larger room than the others we had seen that day, but still contained only a sleeping area and a cooking area. Paul beamed as he said, “My house is a very nice house, but I wish I had a table.”
Animals roam or are tied up throughout the slums, and many small garden plots fill the spaces between buildings. Dozens of homemade brooms dry on the roofs of some homes, and women are busy everywhere: cooking, washing clothes, sorting tiny fish, cleaning, and hauling water. The population is dense, and we observed many small businesses such as hotels, pubs, barber shops, and medical clinics. We left the slums with heavy hearts and a better understanding of how many Ugandans live their lives.
Our next stop was at another building that belongs to Smile Africa that houses many of the widows Pastor Ruth ministers to (including her own mother), a nursery school, and a small store where the women sell their handcrafted items. We did our souvenir shopping here, greatly blessing these women by our purchases. Their offerings include baskets, banana fiber balls, shirts and dresses, hand-made bead necklaces and bracelets, African dolls, tingos, and slippers. Pastor Ruth had sent one of the women to Kenya to buy flags for me as well, a special request from my grandson, Noah, who loves flags. When I had told Noah that I would bring him a Ugandan flag he had replied, “I think I want one from Kenya, too.” He will be getting three flags: Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
We retuned to the main Smile Africa campus just in time to hand out some bracelets, toothbrushes, and candy to the kids. Sadly, this will be our last day with them. Knowing that, it was hard to watch them go, and hear many ask wistfully, “You be back tomorrow?” Even in the short time we’ve spent with them, these children have found a special place in each of our hearts. We will not, can not forget them!
Next, Pastor Ruth took us to visit her church and to meet several church leaders and the bishop, whose lovely wife, Robinah, we had met at the vision celebration. The church is quite large, but has only a canvas canopy for a roof. Eventually it will have a large balcony area surrounding the ground floor. We were asked to pray with these church leaders for their church, their ministry, and the city of Tororo.
When we returned to the hotel we were pleased to find that the water was working again, although it was initially very thick, dirty water that came from the spouts.
We were all hungry, so we ate at the restaurant, and I discovered the “egg and mayonnaise salad,” which was cole slaw with sliced tomatoes and three hard boiled eggs cut in half with mayonnaise on top. It tasted really good. The french fries and boiled potatoes are very good, too.
As we got up to leave the restaurant, Mary, an American woman, approached us. She runs the humanitarian organization the Yale students are working with, and we had spoken with all of them this morning before leaving for the day. Mary said, “I just wanted to tell you that we had a very good day today –so many things went well for us, both big things and small things. As we were discussing our day Allison said, ‘I think it’s because we talked to those Praise God ladies before we left this morning!’. We wanted you to know that your presence here made a difference in our whole day and in the lives of many people we are trying to help.”
Our reply was, of course, “Praise God!”