Nsambya Babies Home

We took a break from our regularly scheduled day to go serve at Nsambya Babies Home.  It is an orphanage for babies up to six year old children.  The children are brought to Nsambya by the police when they are found abandoned, neglected, or abused.  If the child’s family is able to take care of them, they are returned to their family.  If not, many children are placed for adoption, either locally or internationally.  Those who aren’t adopted go to a different children’s home/school from ages 7-14 and then attend boarding school for secondary school.

While we were at Nsambya, the guys cut firewood, and us girls mopped.  Mopping is a three person job.  One person pours soapy water on the floor and has a mop with a brush on the end to scrub the floor.  My job was to squeegee the water along the hallway, and a third person followed with a traditional looking mop to dry the floor.  We also handed out porridge to the kids in class.  There were at least 60 children in each classroom and the rooms were probably ¼ the size of my classroom in Minnesota.  We then sat around a giant basin of water and washed hundreds of porridge cups. 

I am learning that so many ministries and charities here do not have adequate staffing.  Rather, they rely on outside volunteers coming in to help for periods of time.  The group was at a different baby home before I came, and that one had so few volunteers that the babies’ “diapers” could only be changed at certain times a day.  It sounds awful and heartbreaking.  And yet, it is the best care the skeleton staff could provide.  This babies home was staffed by many people – including some nuns.  Our favorite nun was the one with the sparkly silver belt.  If the next Sister Act movie was filmed in Uganda, we are hoping she could star in it 🙂

unrelated… here is a picture of the kids planting a little “garden”

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

You are definitely not in Minnesota anymore, and might be in Uganda if the following applies for you:

  • I can’t understand a child and I’m not sure if it is because of their accent or if they are speaking in Luganda
  • I answer to Auntie Laura, Mama Laura, Teacher Laura, or Mzungu.  And Laura often sounds more like Lola.
  • After dinner the team sneaks a Twix past the kids table and can’t break it apart, so we just pass it around the circle, each taking a bit until it is gone.  And no one thinks a thing of it – we are just so excite for chocolate.
  • Day dreams involve pizza, Chipotle, Caribou, and being at the lake.
  • My hair air dries every day, and the kids are constantly touching it and “restyling” it so it doesn’t matter if I try and make it look decent.
  • I wear clean clothes and am told I look smart
  • Getting groceries might involve bringing home live chickens.
  • The fruit is indescribably tasty – so tasty you are willing to eat it out of a child’s grubby little fingers.
  • Vegetables are virtually non-existent
  • Avocadoes are twice the size of my fist
  • Kids give you the gift of garbage and are genuinely excited to share their treasure.
  • Goats and chickens and scrawny cows are everyone on the side of the road.
  • Women walk along the sidewalk with a basket of bananas balanced on their head.
  • You roast at night, but can’t open your door for fresh air because of malaria
  • You sleep under a mosquito net
  • There is a mouse in your dining room
  • You start hundreds of children’s movies, but finish none of them.
  • When someone farts, they “gassed”
  • You put “full stops” at the end of your sentence and have “maths” on your school schedule
  • Children see a picture of fireworks and say, “Happy New Year!”
  • A drum beat makes anything better

Porridge Break at School

play-doh time!


Today’s Brilliant Idea

On Wednesday, Jen and I stayed home with the kids.  We taught some preschool lessons to Emma, Carol, and Don in the morning and played with all the kids in the afternoon.  We also thought of an activity to do in the afternoon after all the kids were home from school and had their snack.  I decided that we would read the book, “All Creatures Great and Small” which is about how God created everything.

Afterwards we would be making flowers.  The petals and the stems were pre-cut and the kids just had to glue them into place.  The other summer missionaries had already learned the hard way that the kids don’t know how to use scissors.  So I decided that this summer we would learn to cut!  Brilliant, right?  I mean, I have seven years experience of teaching kids how to use scissors.  So we are starting with snipping.  They got a green rectangle and snipped it to make grass to add to their flower scene.

Oscar using scissors

Fortunately all five aunties were there to supervise and assist.  The kids were really excited and actually did a really good job – I was proud of them.  No one fought over our five scissors and everyone was at least moderately successful!  Hooray!  It is a step in the right direction in the world of scissors.  Good job, kids!

Then that night at staff devotions, Mama Esther said she is so glad we are here and that we could think of such creative things to do with the kids.  In my mind, it was a good project, but not overly amazing, so it was just really encouraging that the staff and kids are both excited about simple activities that are fun and work on lots of skills.

Sharing the Gospel in Nabingo

On Tuesday after we finished up helping with the construction project, we also went out into the community and did door to door evangelism.  It was unlike anything I had done before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We split into groups of 2-3 Americans and 1-2 Ugandans.  While it was a bit awkward at times, mostly because of things being lost in translation, it was amazing to be part of this experience.

You have to realize that we weren’t actually going down a nice sidewalk and knocking on doors.  Rather, we were walking down a red dirt road that was filled with bumps, holes, twists, and turns.  We were surrounded by hills, small structures, and trees.  In some areas the road was more of a questionable path, and in other areas it was wide enough for a car to travel down.  We didn’t knock on people’s doors.  Most people were outside either cleaning, caring for children, doing laundry, or some sort of manual labor.  Once we started talking to people, a small ground usually gathered.

The children had mixed responses.  Some shouted, “Mzungu!  Mzungu!” and followed us down the road smiling shyly… after a while perhaps even having the courage to hold our hands while we shared the Gospel.  Others were terrified at the sight of a white person and hid behind their mothers.

So we told people about Jesus.

We told them how God created us and loves us so very much, but we mess up all the time – we sin – and God can’t be around sin. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But God still loves us and wants a relationship with us, and wants to spend eternity in heaven with him.  Romans 5:8 shares God’s solution, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He paid the price for our sins.  All that we need to do is believe and accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

The decision to follow Christ is an important one, and I’m so glad we were able to give people information about the new church in their area so that there is a place for them to go and learn more about God and His great love for us.

We were able to pray for a lot of people, including some women who were doing their laundry in buckets and setting the clothes out on plants to dry.  These women know about Jesus and want to follow him, but their husbands are not Christians and they fear losing their families if they made a decision before their husbands.  We also prayed for three men that were making red clay bricks.  We talked to them for quite a while and learned that one was a witch doctor who worships the devil.  He knew a lot about the Bible and was convinced that the devil is as powerful as Jesus.  We answered a lot of his questions, but the whole experience reminded me of the importance of memorizing scripture.  We might not come across that many witch doctors in day to day life, but Paul does encourage us in 2 Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season to share the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.

These people don’t have much.  Some of the children barely had clothes to cover their bodies.  But Jesus loves them all the same.  I pray that they will come to know of His great love and that God’s power will be at work in Nabingo.

*thanks to Jessica for the pictures in today’s post!

Ways to Pray

Thanks so much for praying for me while I am gone!  I want to share some specific ways you can be praying.

  • Pray for unity amongst the team that is here
  • Pray for energy and endurance – the days here are long and exhausting (in the best way possible).  We want to do all we can to be a blessing to the people here and not be a burden.
  • Pay that we will remember our purpose – that we have come to Uganda to share God’s love.
  • Pray that we will make our relationships with the Lord a priority, and that we will not lose Jesus in filling our days in doing good work.
  • Pray that God will guide Joseph in setting up our team project days – that God will give him wisdom to make decisions on where we can go that help is desperately needed.
  • Pray for Sara and Joseph as they lead and direct Rafiki Africa Ministries
  • Pray for Mama Esther, Mama Lois, Mama Monica, Uncle Godfrey, and Uncle Moses – the full time staff at the children’s home.  They work tirelessly to feed, clothe, and care for these precious children.  They are amazing.
  • Pray for the kids: Joshua, Joel, Fauziya, Jerom, Emma, Carol, Don, Esther, Benda, Annet, Oscar, and Cocus.
  • Pray for of the kids specifically, who’s birth mother just came back into the picture and there are some custody and care issues that had been settled, but not may be brought back up.

Thanks friends!  Enjoy some pictures!

Carol loves to snuggle


recess at Little Rina

My Summer Home

I thought that perhaps I could take you on a tour of the orphanage.

Let’s start in my room.  Rachel – the top bunk is for you when you come!  On the other side of my room I have two metal chairs and a small dresser.  The other girls are next door in a room with two sets of bunkbeds and a small sitting area.  We have our own bathroom up here – we even have a water heater for the shower!  You just need to be sure and turn the heater on about 20 minutes before you plan to shower.  Downstairs is where the boys on our team have their rooms, as well as I think Uncle Moses and Uncle Godfrey, but I could be wrong on that.  Our rooms are detached from the main house with a small walkway in between the two structures.  This area is used for cooking and laundry and the rubbish bins.

Out front are a couple of picnic tables, clothes lines, and a big area to run and play (and where the van is parked).  Like the surrounding homes, we have a huge concrete wall surrounding our house.

When you walk in the front door you are in a living room with two chairs, toys, a tv, and a small couch.  There is a large dining table with benches around it.  The kids sit here at dinner, but for breakfast and lunch they get out large mats and sit together on the front porch.

If you walk to the right,  you will come to a small kitchen, pantry area, and Mama Esther’s room.  To the left is a hallway which leads to the office, Mama Lois’ bedroom, the girls’ room and the boys’ room.  The girls and boys have sets of three-high bunk beds in their rooms.

And that is where I am staying!  It is really nice – especially after seeing other children’s homes in the area.

Oh, and I was going to say – if you have any questions you want me to answer for you at any point this summer, or anything you’d like to see me post about while I’m here – please email me or leave me a comment 🙂

Beautiful in Africa

Colossians 3:17 and 23, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Sara and Joseph, the directors of the orphanage, are not only passionate about helping the orphaned, hurting, and vulnerable children of Uganda, but also want to help the surrounding community and other ministries in the area.

On Tuesday we had a team project day.  We drove through the city of Kampala and went to Nabingo, which is about 10 miles on the opposite side of Kampala from where the Rafiki home is located.  We stopped at a gas station at one point and Joseph told us that this was our last chance to use a real bathroom before we got to the construction site.  I thought it was a bit ironic that these bathrooms where definitely just a hole in the ground 🙂  Don’t worry – I conquered that experience much better than in the Boundary Waters…

We arrived shortly at Ttega Child Development Centre; an orphanage, school, and church plant for Living Grace Church.  Their ministry is growing and they need more space.  Our job for the day was to help with the construction of a new two story addition.  The structure of the first floor ways and ceiling had been built, and the next step was to flood the ceiling with concrete so the second level could be built.

Us girls started by carrying bricks from a big pile around the school, past the well, and to stack them around the corner from there.  What made this job especially tricky is that they were starting to mix the concrete in our path, so we had to avoid stepping directly in that, skirt around the workers, dodge the children, and then somehow neatly stack the bricks at the final destination, even though our load was too heavy to independently set down.

Just when I thought that I couldn’t carry another brick, we were told that it was time for another task.  Don’t worry – the work just got more challenging as the day progressed 🙂  But the awesome thing is that God totally gave us the strength to get it done and not grow weary. 

The Ugandans were mixing the cement, and we were going to be passing it down, assembly line style, to the addition, where it would be hoisted up the scaffolding to the men working on the roof.  Mixing the cement is quite a task when you are in a village with no running water.  The site had a giant hole in the ground that collected rain water.  There was a cement cover for it so no one would be able to fall in.  They hope to someday had a water pump and turn it into a functioning well, but for now they lower a jerry can down to fill up with water and pull it back up, then carry it over to the cement pile to mix it with the rocks and cement mix (Can you tell I don’t actually know what all went into the cement?) (Jerry cans are the yellow containers that you traditionally see in pictures of places where people have to walk to get water for their home.  Or maybe most people don’t look at these pictures?  And I just do because I teach my kindergartners about fresh water?)  We stood in that assembly line for what seemed like hours, passing heavy cans of cement down the line.

At one point we took what we thought was a lunch break.  So we ate our PB&J sandwiches and Pastor Harmon/Herman (not actually sure what his name was) said, “You are working so hard!  You are making our hearts smile.  How can we thank you?” and then he brought us bottles of pop to enjoy! (and of course all my new Texan friends think it is hilarious that I call it pop, and not soda or just coke).  I am happy to report that African Coca-Cola is just as delicious as Brazilian, Mexican, and Guatemalan coke.  SO much better than what we have in the States.  (p.s.  Amber, do you remember Mirinda – the pop we had in Argentina that we liked because it looked like Miranda’s name?  They have it here too!  It wasn’t orange though –  it looked like some kind of berry soda).  Oh, also an important fact is that we were sitting in plastic lawn chairs up in the kids’ tree house.  Best break room ever.

Then we got back to work, hauling more cement.  Eventually we took our real lunch break – even though no one was hungry anymore.  It was just nice to sit down (and try to eat some rice and beans).  After lunch we played with the kids for a little bit while they started mixing the next cement pile.  This pile was twice the size of the first one we worked on, and twice as far away.  This means that we couldn’t just pass the cans down the line anymore, but we would need to carry them all the way to the building addition.

It was exhausting, backbreaking, filthy work.  We were all covered from head to toe with dirt, dust, sweat, and cement.  Dad – thanks so much for the hiking boots.  I can’t imagine doing this work wearing anything else on my feet.  Even though I probably worked harder than I have in my life, I loved this day.  I loved the chance to do manual labor for Jesus.  I pray that he will use this building to serve and love the people of Uganda, and that ultimately the work being done here will make a huge impact for the kingdom of God.  We were sitting, so dirty and sweaty, playing with some kids, and someone made the comment to us that this is beautiful in Africa.  Hard work, sweat, dirt, and love.

She’s Our Mzungu

On Monday I had my first chance to go to Little Rina Primary and Nursery School, where the children from our Rafiki home attend.  Upon my arrival, I met some of the teachers and one started talking about the new Mzungu volunteer (Mzungu refers to white people, or foreigners, and especially out of the city center we are a bit of a novelty).  Anyways, Benda, one of the kids here was holding my hand and she says to the teacher, “She is NOT Mzungu!  She is Auntie Laura!” which was so sweet but made her teacher laugh really hard.

They start each morning with kind of a whole school assembly.  Each grade lines up and they go over calendar information and the weather.  A child from each grade comes up and leads the group in a song, dance, or chant.  Then they dismiss everyone to class.

I was with the Top Class, which is equivalent to kindergarten.  The nursery school program starts at age 3 with Baby Class.  Next comes Middle Class and then Top Class.  Next comes primary school where the grades are P1, P2, etc.

The first thing we did in Top Class, was the teacher had the children dance and sing for me.  It was awesome.  She then asked if I knew any songs, so I taught them 5 Little Monkeys Swinging From the Tree.  They loved it, and later in the week when I went to pick up the kids after school, a group of students surrounded me, shouting, “Teacher Laura!  Sing for us!”

School in Uganda primarily consists of repetition and copying from the board.  It was kind of tough to watch as this class of 36 kindergartners sat copying words from the board for the majority of the day.  I wanted to plan fun interactive lessons and games and teach them reading strategies and use the STEP test to find out how they are doing in learning to read (a little shout out to my Earle Brown friends!)  I did draw pictures for all of them to color, and then we had porridge for a snack.  The kids had a mid-morning recess and their playground was a plot across the street that had a few cars parked in it and lots of ties for the kids to play with, a big pile of trash, and a little bit of playground equipment.  They were so happy to play.  I wish I could build them a big playground and clean up the trash pile.  During recess, I mostly stood there, trying not to fall over, and children surrounded me and hung on me.  On the way back in to class, the kids from Top Class pushed the other children away from me and claimed me for themselves, shouting, “She’s OUR mzungu!”  After recess, the kids shaded the pictures I drew, then did 4 addition problems before going home at lunch time.

Duck Duck Gray Duck

We were trying to think of something to play with the kids and we decided to teach them Duck Duck Gray Duck.

But I had to swallow my Minnesotan pride and now I’m sorry to admit that I have been playing Duck Duck Goose all week long…

Saturday Bible Stories

On Saturdays the kids are all home, which is super fun.  We plan a Bible lesson and then set up different stations for them to rotate through.  This week we taught them about Joseph and his coat of many colors.  For the craft, we cut out coats and were trying to think of a way for the kids to color them.  Apparently they are NOT good with scissors, so I suggested we have them rip construction paper and glue it on.  It was a total hit and the oldest kid and the littlest kid both had a great time!  Auntie Jessica and I taught the kids a memory verse.  It was Acts 7:9-10, “But God was with him and rescued him from all his trouble.” Now repeat that with an awesome Ugandan accent.

Practicing our Bible verse

My luggage arrived mid-rotation, and afterwards us girls looked through all the supplies that I brought (thanks again friends for your amazing support that made these gifts possible for the orphanage).  We are super excited about the possibilities of things we can do in the future with the fun craft supplies and books I brought!