Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh how things change

The tap

Our old house and some of the boys

One night when we had just opened our children's home, what feels like forever ago, David was doing a series of, "women of the bible" for the devotions with the boys before they went to bed. I was sitting in the room just listening. The entire time the general feeling of the boys responses were essentially, that men were God's gift to women and that women were completely unimportant and low. At one point during the devotion David was talking about how God had used Abigail in the bible for His will and all of the boys began jumping around exclaiming, "No way!" "God can never use a woman to do anything!"   I was so hurt, shocked, upset, and I will even admit angry that I immediately stood straight up and with head held high marched silently out of the room. The boys stopped talking and started whispering among each other as I left.

Now I am going to have to set the scene a little bit. Uganda has many strengths, the people are generous, merciful and have such strength, etc- but it also has weaknesses as well. Patriarchy and a generally low view of women is one of them. Especially in the slums where there is a "ghetto culture" and men do whatever they want, it is even  worse. All of the boys in our home had just recently come out of that culture.

Back to the story. I went out of the house and over to the "ladies quarters" 3 small rooms on the other side of the compound where I and some other female nurses from the churches clinic lived. I went into my room and sat in silence. After a little while the boys got out of devotions and went to brush their teeth at the tap behind the house. I went out of my room and also got some water from the tap (just to remind them I was still around), and then silently went back to my room. All of the boys became deathly silent as I passed. One of the boys, Dirissa came tenatively to my room a little later and knocked on my door. When I answered he cleared his throat and told me, "Auntie... Forgive them. They are sorry." Frustrated that he was apologizing for everyone else I gave Dirissa a curt reply, told him goodnight and shut the door.

That night I cried and cried as I talked to my one day to be husband but friend at the time. I told him that maybe I had made a mistake. I had moved all the way to Africa and moved into a tiny little room in a slum and committed my life to a group of boys that couldn't see enough value in women to admit they could do anything of importance. That I had always thought God wanted me to work with boys to change this mindset around so that they would one day be men that lifted up and protected women, that through working with boys, I would help even more women. But that I was obviously wrong. David encouraged me and we prayed together. David told me the next morning we would talk to the boys.

The next morning Dirissa came to me and apologized again for the group,  (bless his sweet little heart) and I told him that I was wrong to have been tough with him the night before and he was brave to come back and apologize, that I was sorry and I forgave him as well. The rest of the boys avoided me like the plague and became silent whenever I passed.

It was a Sunday morning and as soon as the boys were all ready for church, David called them together and told them that we needed to have a family meeting in the living room. The boys sat on the benches and David set a chair for me to sit in.

I talked to the boys for about 10 minutes about all the ladies that had helped them in their lives, God's view of women, and how their words had hurt me as well as their response (other than Dirissa to approach me) to ignore me when they knew I was sad. The boys all became completely silent and then one of the boys came to me knelt down in front of me and apologized (here culturally women kneel to men, so this would have been a very signigicant sign of humility), the rest of the boys made a line and came up and apologized one by one in the same way. I told them I loved them and forgave them.

Someone had recently given them a large mirror and as we were at church, the boys had agreed to give it to me and had secretly put it up in my room while we were at church. Another boy, Sadic used his allowance money to buy me the flashiest pair of dangly rhinestone earrings I have ever seen.

I think in many ways that day was a start of a big change in their lives of the way that they viewed manhood and women...

Two weeks ago in devotions again we told our boys how we had been working with a group of ladies who had had to resort to prostitution in order to survive. That they had received a lot of healing, love and job skills in our Hope House programs, and that they were going to graduate the next week. We told them there was going to be a big graduation ceremony and asked if there was any of them that wanted to help serve the ladies that day, washing dishes, serving the food and cleaning up. It would not be a time of having fun but of working and serving the ladies.  Almost all of the boys hands shot up! We had to narrow it down to six boys and last week, sure enough they came to the ceremony.

They worked soooooo hard! All of the boys waited last to eat so that they could serve the ladies first. When I asked one of the boys if I could have a rag to wipe down one of the tables the boy said, "No Auntie Babirye! We will do it! You cannot do anything, you are a lady! Let the men do the work!" My heart just melted at this. Here it is women that do all of the work, they carry water, work in the fields, take care of the house, etc-

Some of the boys serving =-)

 For a long time I have not been able to carry anything other than my small purse around the boys as they will always run up and take it from me so that they can carry it. It has been a long road with many aunties, uncles, counselors, and visitors repeatedly sharing the same truths with them, but God has truly been able to change these boys hearts and raise them up into the most amazing young men! I appreciate our uncles so much as well for being the ones to pave the way. It is men that must make way for women to raise up, women cannot do it by themselves. Everytime the uncles have opened door for ladies, helped them, done the work for them, etc- it has shown the boys what it really means to be a mean.

David and I pray everyday that God will raise the boys up into godly young men that provide for their families and use their strength to not oppress others but to instead lift up women and children. God has been encouraging my heart so much as I am beginning to see glimpses of this coming to pass.

Some conversations with the boys over the last couple of weeks:

- (Me and Dirissa) "Thank you so much for helping me cook, Dirissa, are you going to help your wife like this?"  
"Of course auntie! Because I will love her!"

- (Me and Monday) "Monday are you going to take good care of your wife?"
"Yes auntie!"
"Monday what would you do if she got so angry that she pushed you?"
"I would walk away, because I have more power than she does"
"You are right Monday..."

-(Shafik and Caitlyn) "Auntie I need to wait for you to escort you to the football pitch. I need to walk behind you in case a bad man jumps out!"

And every time that we ride back from church in our van that cannot fit everyone, if we ever ride pass one of our Ugandan aunties walking, our big boys always jump out of the vehicle to give their space to the auntie to get in.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Just love.

A few pictures from when I first got to know Monday while he was still on the streets, he positively captured my heart.... 

Monday is the boy on my lap

Monday is the one in light pink

Monday today

Monday Bogere. I can't ever forget that name. Why? Because the first time I met him he had carved the name deep into the inside of his arm. Because the first time I saw him in Kisenyi slum, I saw the saddest pair of big brown eyes that I had ever seen. Why? Because I knew that He needed love and I felt God pushing me straight towards him. Why? Because after moments of meeting him, I knew that he had never been safe and loved before and that just maybe, I could be the first person that he loved and trusted in his life.

I fought for that child. As much as he pushed me away I tried my best to show him that it didn't matter, that I loved him regardless. Over time, love won.

I cried so many tears over Monday. Tears of pain for his hurting heart. For the fact that he lived on the streets. For the fact that he went to bed cold and hungry and high every night. And then... one day God allowed me to be able to take him off of the streets.

 There are just some people that you know God always intended that you should meet. People that God had to add a few things to your history, personality, etc- so that the day you met them, you could share the same heart language, you could have a connection of the heart.  Monday and I may not have the same history but we have that connection. Monday is loyal to the core. He defends, and protects, and spends time with people that he loves. (This is one story of many) one time someone said that I had eyes like a doll and Monday became so upset at this that he went into a fit (and since then he has come quite far in handling strong emotions) he was so upset that someone would insult me that he felt he needed to protect me.

Monday may not fling his arms wide open to everyone that he meets, but once you are in his heart, you are there to stay. I love that about him. I love how brave he is, loving, and passionate.

 If the only life God ever allowed me to able to help was Monday Bogere, and I died today, I would be happy. I really would.

Monday is growing up so much and so quickly! I used to be able to put my chin on the top of his head. Now, he is an inch and a half taller than me (and counting!) He is so muture and has developed a heart for helping others, (women and children) for protecting, and doing the right thing. I am so very proud of him.

We have been trying to get together files with all the, "basic information" for the boys. Uncle Peter was asking all of the boys where they were from, their parents, etc- When he asked Monday (who has always refused to mention anything about his family of origin or background) he said that he did not know the names of his parents and that he had no biological family. When Peter kept asking him he said, "If you are really have to know, I will tell you the truth. My mother is named Abigail Kakeeto and my father is David Kakeeto. I come from Phoenix Arizona."

My heart felt like bursting when I heard that. Quite obviously Monday has a painful past and that kills me, but it makes me so happy that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has a home, a forever home, and a family that he can trust, that love him and won't leave him. That he can be so confident of that that he can claim it. From devotions and other things that he says he has also internalized the most important truth the he has a Heavenly Father that also loves him and who will never, ever leave him.

I don't know what I ever did for God to allow me to live the life that I do, I know it is simply His gift,  and I thank Him for it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Street Boys Resettled and Prayed Over

Resettling Two Street Boys

I.               AppleMarkName: Lyagoba, Faizo
II.              Age: 17 years
III.            Why did you run away from home?
My mother and father died, which left me
with only a grandmother. She did not support
my schooling or living situation such as basic
needs of food and care. It was not good. I was
an only child because the other children died,
so no one could help take care of me. So I
ran away and lived on the streets of Jinja.
Then I lived at Child Restoration Organization,
then came to Kampala.
IV.           Why do you want to go back home now?
I ant to return home so I can go back to
school and learn.
V.             How do you feel about going home?
I am feeling good. I am excited about going to school.
VI.           What is something you have learned from the uncles that you will never forget?
API has helped me and given me guidance. I will remember Auntie Abby reading to us in the street program.
VII.          Is there anything else you want to say?
I want to thank God to bless API so much so they can help other children. May God bless Auntie Abby so much. And I want to be a pastor.
VIII.        Resettlement Summary from Auntie Lauren
Uncle Eddy and I took Faizo to be resettled back home in Jinja, a 3 hour taxi bus ride from Kampala. Once we arrived in Jinja, he told us he had left clothing with someone before coming to Kampala so he wanted to go there first. We were taken to the Child Restoration Organization of Jinja. They gave us background information on Faizo about trying to resettle him with his very elderly grandmother and that it had not been successful. We chose to take him because that is what we had promised. We arrived at his home in the village about 2 hours later. We arrived at his home via boda boda and there was intense conversation among the very frail grandmother, two uncles, an auntie, Uncle Eddy, and the boda boda driver. They talked about how Faizo would come home and then disappear over and over. So Faizo agreed to tell his family when he was leaving the home, and they agreed to keep him.
Uncle Eddy with Ashilaf (left) and Faizo (right)
IX.           Please continue to pray for Faizo and his family.

I.               AppleMarkName: Muhammad, Ashilaf
II.              Age: 14 years old
III.            Why did you run away?
I ran away to go to Kampala. My father was
beating me. (We later found out that his older
brother had seen a boda boda driving by and
he told his brother he should get on and go live
the “good life” in Kampala. So he simply did.)
IV.           Why do you want to go back home now?
I want to go back home so I can study.
V.             How are you feeling about going home today?
VI.           Do you want to say anything else?
May God bless you.
VII.          Resettling Summary From Auntie Lauren
What a blessing this resettlement turned out to be! Our bus left Kampala for the Ashilaf’s hometown of Mbale around 8:30 am. We arrived in Mbale around 2pm. After arriving in Mbale we are told it will be an hour-long boda boda ride to his home out in the village. Once we arrived, we found that Ashilaf’s family welcomed him with open arms! The mother said she had been crying every day for the past 4 weeks since he's been missing, and she was so thankful for our street program and that we brought him home! When Ashilaf was convinced to run away by his older brother, he took a boda boda 45 minutes into town, somehow a taxi bus to Jinja (3 hours away) and then walked from Jinja to Kampala (2-2.5 drive on bus). The family and community was very thankful to have young Ashilaf back home and showed their appreciation to API by sending Uncle Eddy and I back to Kampala with a chicken! The API team enjoyed it at a team meeting the following evening.
VIII.        Please continue to pray for Ashilaf. While in his family’s home I noticed several things that indicated Muslim roots. Please pray that he remembers what he was taught at the API street program. I gave him a small Gideon New Testament and I know that the Word is a living thing and can have tremendous power!


And we will end with some prayer requests that were taken by Auntie Lauren and Uncle Abdul after the street program today: 

 Moses Namisi: Pray that Moses can return to school. He really wants to be in school, but if the boys do not have a home they cannot be in school. Moses has no relatives. His father raised him alone but left Moses to move to Sudan. He also had a grandfather but the grandfather left him as well. Pray that Moses can be able to join a good boys’ home and be able to attend school again.

 Kato Charles: Kato also wants to return to school and study. His favorite subject is
Mathematics. He is unable to go home because of some bad things that have happened in the past. Kato is also hoping to be able to join a boys’ home or that someone will choose to sponsor him so he can continue his studies.  


Thank you all for everything you do in supporting us here at API. May you be blessed for your generosity. -Lauren