Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Psalm 82:3

What if there are children who will suffer somehow because I failed to obey God?
What if my cowardice costs even one child somewhere in the world his or her life?
(excerpt from The Hole in Our Gospel)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plans changed - Unrest in Uganda

An update from Angie.

Tomorrow we were scheduled to fly to Uganda. There is some unrest in Uganda right now and it was advised that we do not go forward with our plans to fly there. So, we will be staying in Ethiopia for the rest of our trip. We were advised from the beginning to be flexible with our plans. I guess this is one of those times.

Today we went to Mother Teresa's HIV orphanage and it was not what I was expecting at all. It ended up being a tour and we interacted with absolutely no kids. There was some disappointment about that, but I managed to think of a positive. This orphanage was teh ultimate picture of what happens when the church reaches out " help the least of these" instead of waiting around for the government to do something. This place is clean. It's painted. There is a clinic for kids to get their anti-viral medications, nurses and doctors on staff, etc. It was amazing! The kids go to school - all of them! They aren't dying anymore. They have a chance at life and many of them are eligible for adoption because this orphanage helps that process along. One girl in our group is Catholic and asked the question about adoption and once the Nun found out this girl was Catholic, she said, "Come with me, I help you pick one and then I talk to Mother Superior for you and we get it done." It was very funny.

We also went to another orphanage, but this one was not so great. It could hardly be described as good. We were told that the director and staff really cleaned up the place for our visit with the children today. The couple who minister here said, "Please keep that in mind no matter what you see. We are trying but it's just so overwhelming."

This particular orphanage is run by the government. It looked like a campground and there were 4 - 5 out buildings. The kids who don't walk to school each day pretty much just walked around. The area was not child-proof outside at all. There were ditches, holes, metal - anything and everything you could think of all around the place. The babies are changed only twice a day. There are no diapers or staff to even wash them if they were changed.

There were many newborn babies. I asked where they came from and who drops them off. I was told that women give birth and then run away from the hospital. The police then bring them here. There are 400 kids in this orphanage.

They get a new child every day on average and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who "goes out" to get paper ready for adoption or housed elsewhere. Half of them are not school-aged children and I saw no less than 40 babies - tiny, malnourished babies. I only saw 10-12 nannies the entire time we were there. The younger kids fought. One male team member took a couple of "low shots" for the team. It was incredible, the behaviour issues we saw. But we all agreed that if these kids had supervision, it wouldn't be so bad. If they had more nannies to interact with them, it would be even better. If they had a family...well, we all know how nice that would be!

We were told that there is no formal feeding schedule in place for newborns, either. This means that nobody monitors which babies have been fed and which have not. Despite the work the missionary couple is doing, the government just doesn't see the urgency to increase funding to improve basic food and shelter issues.

We heard many stories of the kids and how they came to the orphanage. One little girl had a family purusing her adoption, but somehow someone said she may have a special need of some kind. The family backed out, thus making her ineligible for adoption. She is four, beautiful and there is nothing wrong with her. The couple had to tell her the people she thought were coming to get her were not coming. Another boy who is also four just came in and he was found under a dumpster with bugs of all kinds eating his flesh. He was barely alive. They brought him to this orphanage and other than the scars and scabs all over his body, he is fine now. He was so happy to have someone simply hold his hand.

Finally, we went back to Korah today. The kids there who are part of the New Hope Ministry love having Americans come and visit them. They all picked someone from our team and claimed them as their own. There are 24 of us and 150 of them in this ministry so obviously we had more than one "claim" us. I had 3 older girls who hung all over me and 3 small children who kept wanting me to hold them.

We brought stickers and beads. These kids treasured the stickers like they were gold. They all had one on their forehead when it wsa all said and done. I don't know how many pictures I have of the loving chaos that ensued as we made bracelets, decorated crosses, put stickers on everything and taught them how to play with Bendaroos.

These kids know Jesus. They have nothing tangible, but I'm telling you - Jesus lives in every one of these kids. They were excited to ask us if we knew who He was and hugged us and called us "family" when we said we were believers too. The hardest part for me was knowing that these kids were getting three cookies and one glass of punch before they went home for the night. Probably their only meal for the day, and they wanted to share their cookie with me. I knew that by not taking it they would be offended. I knew that by eating the small piece I would not only be ingesting who knows what from their little hands, but I would get the few calories they so desparately needed. And then, just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer, one girl who had made a beautiful flower with her Bendaroos, handed it to me and said, "I love you because you come from far, far away to visit me. You take this because I your sister now." This little girl who was 13 years old gave all she had...literally. I think I may be framing these oddly shaped wax sticks when I get home.

I'm not enjoying my daily diet of dirt, dust, snot, spit and projectile vomit, yet somehow Korah sort of feels like home. Don't worry Kyle, I am NOT suggesting we move here. (Kyle, concerned, pauses here for a moment after typing that last sentence. What does she mean?) There is no fear here. Despite the extreme poverty, there is so much love and protection for one another, as long as you don't go out at night. I cannot wait to show pictures of Korah.

I hope my updates aren't too graphic for whoever happens to be reading these updates. I hope, though, that the urgency I see here will touch the hearts of my readers.

On a brighter note, as I typed this update at midnight, there is a group of us in the living room of the Guest House - laughing. I don't even think "slap-happy" could describe the conversations we are having. The people on the trip are so much fun an dour guides/translators/bodyguards are hilarious, helpful and VERY protective.

That's my udpate for today. It's after midnight and I'm going to bed. We have a free morning, though, because we're winging it from here on out. I just hope my sleep aid works better tonight than it did last night! Fortunately, we don't have to be ready until 11am tomorrow.

News from the homefront.

The kids are doing wonderful while Mom is away. Getting ready for school has gone surprisingly well. I rise early and get an hour of work in before the little ones awake. Jared does his own thing and gets out the door on time.

The kids acutally get up on their own and will have about 20 minutes of free time before we have to leave. Of course, free time comes with it's own set of problems, like fighting and arguing over the smallest of things. The kids get to school--on time--and I get to work around 9:15am. I take a quick lunch to make up for lost time and usually leave early so Jared is not home very long as the babysitter. A big thank you to my after-school carpoolers and kid-watchers.

The evenings consist of homework, dinner (another big thank you to the many dinners provided), soccer, showers, stories, prayers and bedtime. Then, it's back to work for an hour or so and posting Angie's blog for the day. Lights out around midnight.

Not sure if I can keep up on just 5-6 hours a night. A Mr. Mom needs his beauty rest. I think Thursday is going to be an early to bed night. Besides, I need to be well rested for the softball game on Friday night.

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