Thursday, January 24, 2013

Uganda Photo Journal – Days 4 to 6


Hello everyone! We are back in Kampala and while the internet is spotty, I am typing this into Word and hoping to catch the connection strong enough / long enough to be able to post it along with some pictures. I know I said that I was going to try to post again on Monday but quite honestly, I just haven’t had the energy. I’ve said several times since we got here that this is the busiest trip with the least amount of down time I have ever been on. So much to squeeze in in such a short time! Also travelling with other people, as much as I’m enjoying the company, does not leave much time for blogging. Anyway, without further delay, let’s get to the part so many of you have been waiting for – CAMP!

From Monday to Wednesday of last week, the four of us had the privilege of running a Vacation Bible School type day camp for over 80 children ages 6 - 12 at Bugolobi Primary School. Personally speaking, this was the most anticipated portion of our trip. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have always secretly dreamed of coming to Uganda with my mom, aunt and uncle. Part of that dream included the four of us being able to run a camp at Bugolobi school. I did camp at Bugolobi on my first trip here in 2006 and again in 2007. Although the students have all changed, I still have such a heart for that school and a love for the teachers there and as the four of us stood in front of the students to kick camp off that first day, I almost had to pinch myself to believe that it was real.


The theme (or Power Point / Direction if there are any Metro peeps reading this!) of the week was “God has good plans for you – you can trust in Him”. Each day we had an opening session with an ice breaker, some singing and an object lesson related to the theme of the day. The kids then rotated through four different activities each day: Bible lessons (with Andrea), Crafts (with Corina), Dance (with Wendy) and Games (with Peter). In the midst of all of that we had a break for snack and another for lunch, all provided through money that was donated towards the camp. 
Finally we ended the day with a quick memory verse revision, a reprise of everyone’s favourite dance from the day and a time of worship led by the students themselves.

A little ice-breaker to start off day one...

Serving lunch

Everybody sing - Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na, na na na na, bok, bok, bok bok! 

Day One’s theme was, “Even when life is hard, God’s plans are always good”. The Bible lesson that day focused on Joseph with a memory verse from Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” What a powerful moment it was to hear the whole building echoing with the words of God’s promise as the kids competed boys vs. girls, one grade vs. another, etc. to see who could read it out the loudest. The kids decorated Joseph’s ‘coat of many colors’ with balls of tissue paper and enjoyed dancing to some old classics such as the Chicken Dance (a.k.a. “the bird dance”) and the Hand Jive. Finally, games were definitely a hit, especially Uncle Peter’s many unique versions of tag such as “mosquito tag” and “chop-the-tree tag”!


  


Day Two’s Theme was, “God’s plans cannot be destroyed”. The Bible lesson that day focused on Esther and the Israelites with a memory verse from Psalms 33:11 “But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken.” This was the one day Auntie Andrea was able to compete with the others as the kids’ favourite station as the memory verse activity included writing the words to the verse out on individual balloons and popping them one at a time! In actuality, day two was a fun day all around with high energy dances such as Cotton Eye Joe (a.k.a. “the cowboy dance”) and The Twist and a variety of relay races in games. Crafts were also a real draw as the kids got to decorate beautiful crowns to remind them of their identity as children of the King.



  

Day Three’s Theme was, “God’s plans are to use you”. The Bible lesson that day focused on Gideon with a memory verse from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” The kids had fun playing a hangman-type activity to uncover the hidden memory verse and playing timeless games outside like Dodge Ball and Simon Says. In crafts the kids enjoyed making necklaces out of colored straws and favourite dances from the day included The Macarena and The Limbo. Our last day was also made special as we were able to distribute gifts to each individual student: a few essential school supplies packed lovingly by a group from PEI with a unique stuffed animal and handmade necklace/bracelet generously donated by a donor in Montreal thrown in. The kids loved their gifts and we were thrilled to be able to leave them with something to remind them of how much we and everyone back in Canada loves them.






It was an utterly exhausting, absolutely wonderful three days and as is always the case, the goodbyes did not come easily. I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to lead camp and share His Word in that place one last time and so grateful for my family (Bonny and Allan included!) who served so tirelessly. What a blessing to be able to minister alongside one another in that way and how special that these memories that will last a lifetime are ones that we will all share.   


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Uganda Photo Journal - Days 1 to 3

In the interest of time, I think the best way to catch you all up is with a photo journal of sorts - less words, more pictures. I really want to share our time here with all of you but after falling so far behind, the idea of typing it all out is more than a little overwhelming. Besides, I know most of you are just here for the pictures anyway :)

So, here's my best effort at recapping days one to three... I will try to do days four to six (the camp) tomorrow.
***Disclaimer: Parts of this will be inspired by blatantly plagiarized from my aunt Corina's e-mail updates as she has been doing a much better job documenting our trip than I have.***

We arrived in the early morning hours (think 1 a.m.) on Friday, January 11 and spent the night at a motel near the airport before driving into Kampala. We were greeted in the morning by a baboon perched on the water tower outside and everyone agreed - we were officially in Africa.

First Morning in Uganda!
Left to right: my mom, Wendy, me, my uncle, Peter and my aunt, Corina.

Our welcoming committee

Once in Kampala on Friday, we had a chance to catch up with my African brother, Bonny who you may remember reading about here. I met Bonny on my first trip to Africa in 2006 and our friendship has been growing stronger and stronger ever since. Over the years, Bonny has become a member of our family calling my mom "mom" and my grandma "grandma". Bonny even named his first born daughter Wendy (my mother's name!). For years Bonny has been praying that my mom would be able to come to Uganda and having my aunt and uncle come along was the icing on the cake. There is no doubt in my mind that in the months and weeks leading up to this trip he was the most excited of all of us! For those of you know familar with Bonny, I encourage you to follow the link above to read more about his story, his heart and his vision. Bonny has adopted four children (in addition to his biological baby) and we were thrilled to meet three of them, along with their Mommy, Julian, on Friday.

Bridget, Uncle Peter and Joram were quick friends
Jjaja (grandma) Wendy and Baby Wendy 

Bonny, Wendy and Julian

On Saturday we started the week off with a bang with a visit to Kids Club Kampala. Again, I have talked about Kids Club on my blog many times before but if you are not familiar with them, I would encourage you to follow the above link to their website or to go back and read more here, here or here. I was first introduced to Kids Club in 2007 by Bonny and his good friend, Sam who were in the process of starting this ministry. At that time both Sam and Bonny had a desire to reach out and share God's love with the impoverished children around them. They had many dreams of how they would like to do that and were praying that God would make a way for them to accomplish His will. Six years later, Kids Club is working in 16 different centres, reaching over 4000 children each week! On Saturday we had the opportunity to visit two of these centres. The first was in a rural village called Guyaza. There we met about 75 children and spent nearly three hours playing with bubbles, balloons and balls along with lots of hugging and hand-holding.It was really neat to see our small team of four spread out across the field, each loving the children in their own way according to our own unique gifts - encouraging the older boys, being silly with the little ones, joining in the kids' games, praying with those who God had put in our path. What a blessing it was to see my family loving so whole-heartedly and falling in love with the children I have loved for so many years. 









After a quick stop at Bonny's home-in-the-making (more on that another time), we headed out to Katanga. Those of you who have been followers of my blog for a while will remember Katanga as the place where the school supply distribution took place on my last trip. Unlike the lush, green, tree-filled field in Guyaza, Katanga is one the poorest slums in Kampala, filled with little more than dust, dirt and despair. Katanga has long held a special place in my heart and and I was glad to be returning once again. Before Kids Club began, Sam and Bonny took us on a walk through the slums to give us a better understanding of the conditions these kids are living in. Remembering the first time I was given such a tour, I know how staggering it can be. My aunt described it this way: "It was a heart-wrenching, and heart-warming, experience to walk single file, following our Ugandan leaders, through the narrow, rutted, passages between the "houses", and have dozens of children running out of their homes to walk with us, usually with several clinging to our hands. Wendy likened it to a 'pied piper' experience... These children live a harsh reality, but as one girl told us, 'the best thing about Kids Club is learning about God'. The strength of their faith and love for God can certainly put most of ours to shame." We spent our time in Katanga pouring out as much love as we could to these dirty, sick, malnourished, beautiful children and I think it is safe to say that I am no longer the only one whose heart will forever remain in that place.






Finally, on Sunday we went to church in the morning and had an afternoon filled with last-minute camp preparations for the following week. That evening we had the privilege of attending an outdoor live dinner theatre that highlighted some of the many Ugandan cultural groups through their music and dance. The highlight for all of us, however, was getting to spend the evening with Bonny's family and with Allan, a wonderful young man of 18 who my mom has sponsored for over 6 years, but had never met before that evening. We ate, laughed, shared stories, and even danced together and, as my aunt so beautifully put it, "it certainly felt like our family grew again that evening."

The Family Picture

My mom, her sponsor child, Allan, and her namesake, Wendy






Friday, January 18, 2013

Surprise!



I guess I owe everyone an explanation... For everyone who knows me in real life, received my latest newsletter and has been continuously checking my blog over the past week waiting for stories and pictures from Uganda - I'm sorry. We had no internet while in Kampala and no time whatsoever to even think about going to an internet cafe! For all my faithful blog-world friends who have just begun learning the news of my upcoming adoption from Vietnam and who are now super confused wondering, "what on earth is she doing in Uganda?!" - I'm sorry. You know how I mentioned that I have become a horrible blogger and had so much to catch you up on??? I wasn't kidding.

Long story short, I am here in Uganda with my mom, aunt and uncle on what I'm calling my "bonus trip". Coming here with the three of them has been a dream I have never dared to pray for let alone speak out loud. That, along with the fact that I truly believed (and had accepted) that my last trip here might be my last one, this trip is truly a "bonus" in every way. We arrived last Friday and spent some time meeting/catching up with my/our friends (aka family) here before running a three day day camp at Bugolobi school, where I have had the privilege of doing camps twice before, then heading out to Jinja to spend time at local orphanages I know and love. My aunt and uncle actually left today for Zambia where they will be doing a build with habitat for humanity and my mom and I are here for just over a week longer. 

I want to catch you up on some of what we've been doing but I don't have the time or energy to do that tonight.
So, for now, here's a quick preview of what's to come...