My last week in Uganda was so difficult. I just kept finding myself in total amazement of everything surrounding me. I knew my last night was fast approaching and I was going to have to face the hardest task yet....saying goodbye. I didn't give myself much time to actually think about leaving until I was forced to. Every encounter with the kids was getting harder and more emotional because I knew they would be some of the last times, for right now. I am so relieved and excited to say that I will be returning to Fort Portal, Uganda this summer for six weeks. Whenever I tell the kids at the orphanage that I am coming back in July they tell me I am lying. They say so many volunteers promise to come back and they never do, it's so heartbreaking to hear things like that. I can't wait to prove the kids wrong and see their faces when I come back! After my trip this summer I don't know what my relations with Uganda will be, there's a lot of things I don't know. But I do know God isn't finished with me there yet. I know I am happiest there. I know that even being home surrounded by family and friends, I still feel like my heart is half way around the world. I know I won't be able to stay away for long. I have been doing a lot of soul searching and praying lately in hope of figuring out what I'm supposed to do. All I know is there's a whole orphanage of beautiful children In Fort Portal that I've fallen head over heels for, and so many more orphans in Uganda that I've yet to meet. When I think about this the answer is simple: I need to help. In any way, at any time, in any place that I can.
When I reflect back on these last three months it doesn't take long to realize they have been the most powerful, life changing, challenging three months of my life. I look around at the relationships I've formed and the things the volunteers and I have accomplished and my heart smiles. We managaed to construct a new dorm for the orphanage through donations. This dorm will allow 40 orphans on the waiting list a place to live. One of the new orphans moved in a few days before I left. He's a three month old baby and was dropped off at the orphanage by a police man. The baby has a huge gash above it's right eye and has barely stopped crying since he got dropped off. The police man explained that the babies mother had a "problem" and had gotten very mad and beaten the baby, hence the gash on his face. Everytime I look at this baby my heart hurts. It will grow up not knowing who his mother or father is, or anything about his life before the orphanage, like so many other children there. They all experience something on a daily basis that my mind can't even grasp. The overwhelming thing about this baby is how all the girls from 11-14 years old act like its mother. The way they care for it is so humbling. Another child who will be occupying one of the beds in the new dorm is an 8 year old boy names Jonas. Jonas was left out in the rain during my last week and ran to the volunteer house for safety. His mother decided she didn't want him anymore and just threw him out of the house. His feet were full of jiggers and his eyes were full of fear. One of the volunteers at our house who is a nurse removed the jiggers and Jonas is on his way to being a healthy boy. He fits in perfectly at the orphanage and all the kid have welcomed him with open arms.
By doing a less expensive Christmas, my family managed to donate money to construct a playground at the school I taught at. The last month was filled with stressful and tiring days of planning and constructing this playground, but we did it and it looks AMAZING! Special thanks to Brett Kennedy for building it! I have never been so proud. The playground is fully equipped with a slide, monkey bars, fireman's pole, swing set, AND basketball court! I'm so excited that the kids will now have a playground to play on during break time and after school, and even on the weekends. Playgrounds like the one we built are pretty much unheard of around Fort Portal so it was a huge deal to the Bishop, headmaster, students, and even the local people. It was a very satisfying and heart warming project, and I can't wait to see how much the kids have enjoyed it when I go back in July.
For a going away party, we bought a goat and a cake for the orphanage to eat. The kids never get to have meat or cake so this was a very special occasion. Their constant thanks assured me that they liked it. After the party we sang, then the kids each gave a farewell speech. Needless to say, 5 minutes into these speeches I was a wreck. I tried to keep it together for the sake of the kids but the tears kept falling. I have never actually felt my heart break like that. I just kept looking around the room, at every face, and realizing how in love with all of them I am. After their speeches we prayed. I prayed for the future of these children. I prayed that they know there's people in this world that love them and want them to succeed in life, myself included. I pray that they know no matter how hard their life gets, that God will always, always be there for them and that they never fail to reach out to Him. After prayers, it was time to say not only goodnight, but goodbye. I can't think of many things harder than saying bye to an orphan laying in their bed with tears falling onto their pillow. I don't know how I managed, but I got through it.
When I was on the flight home I was thinking "Well, back to reality," but then I got to thinking, and realized I wasn't going back to reality, Uganda is reality. You can't get more realistic than the things my eyes have seen and heart has felt the past three months.
My first week home was nice because I was excited to see my family, take a hot shower, eat some good food, and just relax. Now that another week has passed and I've gotten used to America, I find myself wanting nothing more than to be back in Africa. I miss the kids so much. I miss tucking them in at night and saying goodnight. I miss seeing their faces first thing in the morning. I miss everything. I fear becoming comfortable with my life in America again. I hope that my memory and love for Uganda will carry me through until July when I can go and feel at home again.
Thank you all for keeping up with me during this journey. It has meant so much to me to read all of your messages. I hope my blog has given you some inspiration, and educated you about the tremendous need for help in Africa. Thanks again for your support and God bless all of you!
|I got class pictures printed out for my class and gave it to them as a going away present. They never get to have pictures of themselves so they were really excited!|
|Dan and Godfrey showing off their new watches|
|Coloring before bedtime!|
*If you would like to donate to the orphanage/ministry, sponsor an orphan, or pay a childs school fees, visit www.eternalchurchofgod.org. If you have any questions don't hesitate to facebook message me or e-mail me at HemphillM10@gmail.com.