Today completely rocked my world. But before I start, I need to explain a few things. Right now, I’m sitting under a mosquito net, I am in a bed, and I am in a room with four walls. The walls are nothing special, but they are strong, dry and reliable. But right before I came into this room I sat on a wooden couch and ate rice and beans with my African SOUP partner, Michael. But WAY before dinner or bed-time I sat on a plane flying through the stratosphere sipping cola out of a very clean plastic cup. A nice woman handed me this cola on a napkin with an additional option of either cookies or crackers, but I kindly declined because of the filling previous meal. Fast-forward. Here I am sitting in this simple African setting. I do not have wi-fi or the capability to stalk on Facebook, but my mind is on overhaul.
Today I went to the SOUP's new school/orphanage site. As I arrived, 200+ shy, yet eager children came out to greet me. They jumped up and down and a little one latched onto my leg. :-) I started to feel a bit emotional. These kids looked different. I couldn’t quite grasp the difference, but it seemed so evident. Then it hit me. These kids were being fed, educated, and cared-for. BEING CARED-FOR! They each lacked a lot. They lacked a few very obvious things, but as of right now, these children are whole, happy kids! This almost took me off guard; it was as if I was expected the same scene I ran into two years ago when I first visited the site. I was wrong and I am so overwhelmed. It was in the moment that I realized a very important lesson: our African staff, the SOUP staff, little old me, and all of our donors put together could have never made this happen. This was only made possible with the complete encouragement, grace and love of our mighty Savior. How beautiful!
The new land we purchased last year (about 1 mile from the current school) has also made momentous strides. We have a building! It’s within weeks of finishing. It will be a new school with plenty of room for our beautiful kiddos to learn. We also dug a 30-foot latrine for the future bathroom facilities. Soon our kids will transition from the last location to this new one.
Now that I have stated the steps we have made forward I need first explain what we are lacking (if you have a weak stomach, please refrain from moving forward and flip on a Lifetime flick). At the very beginning stages of the SOUP we planned on just meeting the physiological needs of the children (especially the completely orphaned children) in a very rural and impoverished community in Uganda. We basically wanted to feed them, clothe them and send them to school. However, as we began, we realized that our call was more than just providing the basic for the kids. We needed to do more and so we committed. We committed to building a new school, with a standard far higher than the first one, but more importantly, to build homes and families for these orphaned children. To clarify— Our charge has not changed. However, I’m afraid I overlooked the fact that every child in this community lacks so much. SO so much.
As I sat and spoke with the teachers in a very broken English conversation, I noticed a rash on a little girl’s head. I called the little girl over and asked what happened. The teacher said that the parents could not afford any ointment for her head, which was infected by a bacterium that left the right side of her head bald. In a confused, yet very angered tone I asked why we had not taken the call to fix such a problem. He smiled and responded, “There are far worse health problems here, that one would just need to wait.” Slightly perplexed I asked what else was wrong with our children. “None of these kids sleep under mosquito nets, so many fall sick with malaria and each of them have worms from their water at home,” responded the teacher. “WHAT?!?!”
I felt so terrible. These beautiful children were sick and I was doing nothing. I was clueless of such a serious threat to these kids. He noted that this was common and nothing personal. But it was personal. It is personal. These kids are no longer lost and forgotten-- WE, those who strive for supporting the least of these, will not allow that to happen. So before we move forward with building, each child needs a mosquito net and each child needs to be treated for worms. Michael and I will go out tomorrow and get the prices for these two items, along with ointment for that little girl.
As I sit in this modest room in Iganga, Africa, I sit under a mosquito net, protecting me from malaria and other diseases. The very, very least I can do right now is also provide that opportunity for someone far more important than myself.
I did not want to report my visit without being completely honest, so please do not think that such a terrible realization ruined my visit. We have come so far! It’s amazing the things that have been done in two years, but like I said we can do so much more! These kids deserve it. They are full of joy and full of life.
Two years ago I journeyed to a village on a field visit, now this village has a name a purpose and 200 faces. I don’t need cookies or cola or clean plastic. I just want God’s purpose to fill each of us. To feel an ounce of His pain for the “least of these.” There is no turning back. :-)