They taught us how to shake our hips, to laugh, to not worry about our hungry stomachs, or dry throats, to give into love so quickly that it utterly breaks your heart when you leave hours later. Imagine the sound of the beating drum, laughter, and “I lahv yooo Jezus, Jezus een mah haut.” There was a moment as I was spinning with children on both hips that I was home. I could close my eyes and sit at the foot of the throne singing for eternity with these beautiful souls. All I could promise them was that I would see them in heaven, that we would wear our grass skirts, sing, and kiss each other’s heads again.
Sitting in the van, with my hand out the window grasping my girls’ hands, watching tears roll down their dusty cheeks was burned my heart. The orphan crisis is real. The problem is real. It is big. There really are thousands of fatherless children. Real children with skin, memories of violence, hungry bellies, dreams of becoming lawyers, singers, and italian cooks.
Driving back through the busy city, all I could do was sit and watch. Someone in our van said, “there is no such thing as second chances here”. How true it is.
We relocated to a beautiful guest home farther outside the city before day 2 of travel. This morning we prayed as we drove 2 hours to a “childrens’ rehabilitation center”, knowing that what the day held would be dark, jolting. After being escorted through a check-in process, we were brought through the facility. A corridor of confinement cells, cement floors and walls, entry rooms where children are put as they arrive for weeks with no clothing and a plastic basin. Running water is a more recent installment to the compound. Barren landscape. 219 kids. 200 boys. 19 girls. I didn’t even know how to begin to process what my eyes were seeing. Wynne made the analogy that they treat these kids as if they were lost pets. When you lose your dog, you call the shelter, who you hope has picked them up on the streets. Most of them will never be reclaimed and are unjustly detained. Kenneth was walking home one day when a group of young boys came up behind him. They were being chased by police for petty theft, so in the shuffle, Kenneth was sent to M1 too. For 2 years. The children had open wounds, untreated sores, and clothes that you would never even let your child wear as pajamas in the States. We throw out clothes with one stain from snack, these children would give up a meal for a bar of soap to scrub their clothes. They will keep them in solitary confinement cells for weeks, months even, to “break them down” for crimes that they either didn’t commit or committed out of desperation.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. I don’t worship on my knees till they ache, sway to the movement of the Spirit, and weep at the taste of His mercy. I never hunger, shower in privacy, know where my parents are, drink water whenever I thirst, entertain myself mindlessly, make a doctor’s appointment at the first sign of a cold, and know that my dreams could be accomplished. These children have no second chance. Many will be held in this cold compound for years, away from their schooling and family, mistreated, and beaten. When they are released, going back to primary school is unfathomable, trade school costs $250 every 4 months.
But then there is Moses Alutia.
He visits all 6 centers across Uganda weekly, plays soccer, sees that they receive medical attention, reasons with the system, creates a second chance. 60 feet ministries is carrying the Gospel headlong. These centers may never change, the environment may always keep their wounds from healing, and mistreat children, but Moses is seeing to it that they find their families, and hopes to build homes for them to live in after their release. It is only possible through sponsorship and the forming of these homes that this sick cycle will slow, much less end.
Africa is real to Wynne and I. God commands us to care for the fatherless, and now we see why. They have no advocate. Only two days in and I am wondering what the heck I am doing with my life. Pray for God to provide ways into the 2nd center tomorrow, for continued health, and for our hearts to connect with our eyes.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to posess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Love, Chloe and Wynne