The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

Thinking About Uganda (text only)

(Editor's Note: Since the original Thinking About Uganda post is messed up, I'm reposting just the text here in the hopes that you can at least read it now! Sorry about the mess. I don't know what else to do about it.)

2 March 2010

We were only gone for 12 days, and only 10 of them were "real" (ie, not traveling), but I feel like I was in Uganda a month. We packed so much in to every day, went so many places, met so many people, saw so many incredible things. For those same reasons, it's difficult for me to know how to talk to people about the trip, in person, or here on my blog. You've already read the team accounts, so I'll try to tell a few of the more personal stories.

First of all, the village we ended up choosing was Lajwatek. Many of the best stories come from Lajwatek, which may have something to with why we chose it. After we had visited the four possible sites for adoption (Lugutu, Piqwini, Lajwatek, and Ungai), we sat down, just the six of us from LCC, over dinner for discussion. Tim asked us each in turn to tell which village we felt God was pointing out to us. As we took our turns, each of us felt drawn to Lajwatek. God was already at work there, having raised Esther from the dead (I'll tell you the whole story in a moment!), and 40 people already professed faith. They were meeting in two mid-week cell groups and walking some 7 miles on sunday to attend church at the Farm.

Also, we saw that the people were taking initiative to imporve their lives. One result of the war is that many people lived in Internally Displaced Peoples camps for years or decades to escape the rebels. People were not allowed to work while they were at the IDPs and food, clothing, their basic needs, were supplied through handouts. Those who participated in the rebel army (against their will) were "provided for" through plundering. So, the techniques of farming, building, etc. were not taught to the younger generation and the work ethic was all but obliterated as well. What we saw in Lajwatek surprised us. The men delivered a load of bricks to a widow's property on Wednesday. When we returned all together on Friday so that we girls could see Lajwatek for ourselves, the house was built and Jessica, the widow, was out gathering thatch for her roof. While we were inspecting the house (which was well done), a man appeared. He said, "I heard that the church was helping here and I had to come see for myself." Many organizations, as well as the government, have made promises of aid, but few deliver. Fewer still help in ways that empower the people toward self-sustainability. Somehow, that moment, that turn of phrase, "I had to come see for myself," struck us all as being something biblical. It wasn't the first--or last--time we had the feeling we were part of something very close to what God meant for His people all along.

Photo: Jessica's house, in progress. The walls will be smeared with mud/mortar inside and out. A center pole will hold up the roof and the thatch will be applied.

Another thing that drew us all to Lajwatek was the need. Now, there's need everywhere you look. There isn't a person we met in Uganda who wasn't poorer than us. Not a person who couldn't benefit from something SOI was doing. Not a village that didn't need development. And, Lajwatek probably isn't really "needier" than the other places we visited. After all, they walk to the SOI Farm where there are wells and food and the Gospel. It's anywhere from about 4 to 14 miles to walk, but it's accessible. There is a government school nearby for those that can afford to send their children. They'd need to walk only 1-10 miles to get there. There is a well in the village, put in by the government, but it's too shallow and it's dried up, no good to anyone now. So, the people resort to natural water sources. Like this.

Photo: The main water source for Lajwatek. We saw bugs and tadpoles in there.

There was also an emotional pull to Lajwatek. That day we went to see the house, we drove into the area and stopped the van next to a mudpit where young boys (ages 7-9, I'd guess) were mixing and molding bricks. Other children appeared as we walked over to Jessica's house, some of them hers. It's very common to see little knots of children without adults (it's also very normal to see knots of men or of women without children, too). Those who aren't in school, because of age or poverty, wander around during the day, taking care of themselves and each other. There's almost always and "older" (like 7-11 years old) kid in this group, usually a girl, carrying a baby on her back, her sister or brother. The mothers are typically working in fields/gardens, toting water, or, like Jessica, gathering thatch or other supplies.

On this day, there were at least two babies in the group. One little girl was carrying her sister in her arms (instead of on her back) so I bent down and held my hands out to her and asked if I could hold her baby. I don't know if she understood my words or just the gesture, but she timidly allowed me to cradle the baby. I held that baby as we walked a few yards (big sis at my heel) to Jessica's house. I held her as we talked to the "I had to see" man (it was actually about a 20-30 minute conversation as Aloysius, head of SOI in Gulu, interviewed the man about himself and the village). I held her as we looked at the house Jessica was building, and the remains of the house that had been destroyed in the war. I held her as we walked back down the path that led past the van to the waterhole.

Photo: Big Sis, the baby, and me. The boy on the right was one who was making bricks...until we showed up!

I wasn't sure the girl was going to the water source with us, so I gave the baby back at that point. I should have known the girl would want to come with us. Mzungus ("Whites") are a major source of entertainment and excitement. Not long after we arrived at the swamp, I saw Big Sis, but without the baby. Later, back at the van, I asked Aloysius what happens to these little babies when their moms are out working. Do the siblings take them to the moms to nurse? I almost wish I hadn't asked. It was the one time during the whole trip that I cried. And I couldn't stop. Aloysius said, "No, the children do the best they can, but when the baby cries, they put it in the hut and let it cry until it gives up."

Now, it's bad enough to consider a baby crying from hunger, alone in a dark hut. It's awful to think of that baby giving up. It's even worse when you understand the cycle of unmet needs and realize that building blocks for emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development are not being properly laid in that baby's brain because her needs are not being met in a timely, sufficient manner. All of that weighed on me in the moment and I couldn't stop crying for the baby and the thousands like her. But later, another layer of realization dawned on me. And I wept for that mother and the thousands like her. To be forced to decide whether to feed your baby or literally put a roof over your heads. The decisions these women have to face because of their poverty. I don't know how I would have chosen.

But, there is hope. And, I think that's what drove Jessica to cut the thatch that day. She tasted hope. When SOI delivered bricks to her property, when they made good on that promise, she tasted hope. SOI's program (it's not really as linear as a program, but it completely thought-out and organized) brings hope to families and villages. Life CC, in partnership with SOI, will provide at least 2 wells for Lajwatek (we found out late in the week that there are 2000+ adults and some 6000 kids in this village!), build a church/school building, train pastors and teachers from among the villagers, teach agricultural technology that will provide income AND feed the people, and give spiritual and emotional support to the victims of war and poverty. It all sounds good here in black and white, but there aren't words to describe what we saw in living color. You really do have to go to understand. The hope and life and vitality that imbued every person we encountered on the Farm astounded us. Each place we visited around Gulu had some of the same feeling--the more time SOI had spent there, the greater the feeling. It would take me hours to tell of it, and I'd still only be scratching the surface.

Now, let me tell you Esther's story. Esther lived deep in Lajwatek, where there was a heavy influence of witchcraft (we met another woman in a different place who was hosting Bible study where before she had handed out the remedies as a witch doctor!). One day, Esther died. It's possible she was just in a trance induced by the witchcraft, but the villagers believed she was dead. They laid her out in her house. Her friend Betty mourned her loss. She was grieved that her friend had passed. Betty had heard about the nearby Koro Farm where people grew banana trees in straight rows (the superstition is that God plants trees where he wants them and humans can't do a thing about it). She had heard that a kind, helpful pastor lived and worked there. So, she walked to the Farm and found Aloysius early in the morning of the third day Esther had been dead. She pleaded with him to come pray for her friend. Aloysius go tthe feeling that Betty believed Esther could be saved from torment if he came to pray. He told her he didn't pray for dead people. There was no point. And he went on his way. When he came home later in the day, Betty was still there. She again asked him to come and pray for Esther. He again told her there was no point in praying for the dead. Hours later she was still there asking Aloysius to come. Because of her persistence and because she had waited for him in the sun all day long, Aloysius relented. He gathered some of the staff and they went to Esther's house. He felt heavy spirits and refused to enter the house. Instead, Betty and some others brought her out. They laid her on the ground and Aloysius and his friends began to sing praises to God. After a few minutes, one of the villagers gasped and pointed. Esther's right hand was twitching. Aloysius and the others continued singing. Before long, Esther had sat up. Aloysius directed Betty to bring her some water. Esther drunk it and began praising God with them! The people who witnessed her resurrection immediately responded to the Gospel. So far, forty people (that's just the adult count) have come to know Jesus because of Esther's testimony!

Photo: Esther, center, yellow shirt, thanking the LCC team and SOI for adopting her village. Betty is directly in front of her.

In the coming days, I'll try to get a photo scrapbook up for you to see more of what we saw and did. There's still so much to tell! But these were the big stories I wanted to share.


My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued