generous hearts

christmas donationsThe kids ministry at Hope Community Church, where I attend, decided that it would be awesome to collect Christmas presents for the kids at my favorite orphanage in Uganda.  I went to all the Sunday school classes and shared a little bit about Rafiki Africa Ministries and showed a short video with all the kids in it, and invited the Hope children to bring presents for the Rafiki children.  The kids were all super excited about it, and had lots to say.  I loved their enthusiasm and was so encouraged by it.

But the moment that touched me the most is when I was visiting the first grade class (who I taught last year in Sunday school and adore them all) and after we took a picture for a Christmas card, one little girl came up to me, took a bracelet off her wrist, and said, “Do you think the orphans in Africa would like my bracelet?” and without hesitation, she put it in our donations box.

I loved so much that this sweet little one’s heart immediately was so filled with love and generosity, that she gave up a bracelet off her wrist.

Merry Christmas, Rafiki Kids – know you are loved by these kids in Minneapolis who have never even met you.

Goodbyes Suck. Planting Trees.

This is a post that I intended to put up long, long ago.  But I never wanted to write it. But yesterday I finally sat down and made a photo book about my summer at Rafiki Africa Ministries.   Then I saw on a current Rafiki volunteer’s blog that she is heading home in two days, and it reminded me of how hard it was to say goodbye and transition back to life in the states.

Turns out, I eventually had to come home from Africa.

I love Emma, Don, Carol, Jerom, Esther, Annet, Brenda, Oscar, Fauziya, Joel, Joshua and Cocus like they are my own children.  Saying goodbye to them and not knowing if I would ever see them again was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It was the kind of sadness that translated into physical pain.  I felt like my heart was being squeezed tightly and then ripped out of my chest.

To sum up non-eloquently: saying goodbye sucked.

What encouraged me was the reminder that God is using all sorts of aunties and uncles in these kids’ lives.  He is blessing this ministry with volunteers who are coming to do His work in different seasons.  And none of our work is in vain.  We might not be there in person to see the fruits of our labor, but that is ok.  And with this great thing we call technology, we can still watch these kids grow up through Rafiki’s blog, facebook page, and monthly newsletters.

Andrew Peterson wrote a song called Planting Trees that I think captures this idea really well.  Basically I cry when I hear it.

I would like to share with you a video that captures my time in Uganda really well.  I don’t often take the time to watch videos on blogs, but I would love it if you took a few minutes to watch this one.  Not only does it include video of my time there (which shows Africa so much better than still photos) but it also includes the song Planting Trees, so you can hear it!

Planting Trees

We chose the spot, we dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground to have and hold
As Autumn falls to Winters sleep
We pray that somehow in the Spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

He took a plane to Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light
Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees

She rises up as morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake
And her heart is so full; it overflows
She waters us with love and the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone

love & giggles

This evening the plan was to make a ridiculous mini-documentary about school communities in Uganda for our kindergarten communities unit.  But then I got to looking at some of my other video from my time in Uganda and I kept watching these three – Don, Carol, and Emma dancing around and saying “I love you” in both English and Luganda and I figured you would probably want to see it too.  I love them so much.  Seriously – this will be the cutest 57 seconds of your day.  You are welcome.

We Love Our Sponsors

Sponsorship is what makes it possible for children to become a part of the family at the Rafiki children’s home. Each of the kids has multiple sponsors that help cover the cost of food, clothing, school fees, medical bills, etc.

Without sponsors faithfully contributing $35 a month to Rafiki Africa Ministries, these kids would still be living in a closet in their grandma’s house; walking a mile to get water multiple times a day; suffering from spinal tuberculosis; living on the street; raising their younger sibling; malnourished; hungry; without hope …

Right now there is an empty bed in the girls’ room at Rafiki, just waiting to be filled.  Waiting for sponsors to commit to helping one young girl in Uganda find new life.  Right now there is a little girl in Uganda who needs a home, who needs a family, who needs food, who needs clean water, who needs an education, who needs sponsors. 

The kids love their sponsors so much.

They are so thankful for them. 

We spent quite a bit of time this summer working on cards for our sponsors. 

But what really got to me was watching a couple of the girls receive a card in the mail from their sponsors.

It was a simple card with a cute letter about what the family had been doing this summer, a family photo, and some stickers.

But these cards meant the world to Esther and Fauziya.

They carried their cards around with them all day and showed it to anybody who would look at it.  They kept their cards in their beds and slept with them at night.  Following the example that we had set, they even shared their stickers with their friends if the other child would recite a Bible verse. 

For information on sponsoring a child at Rafiki Africa Ministries, contact the director, Sara Kiwanuka at sara@rafikiministries.org

The best part though was when I asked Fauziya, “Who is in that picture?”  and she responded without hesitation, “My Family.” 

 

Acholi Hospitality

One of the limited options for women in the Acholi Quarter to make an income is to make paper bead necklaces.

Here is a short video you can watch to see how these necklaces are made.  It is pretty cool!  It is only a minute and forty seconds of your life.  Just press play.

We really wanted to support these women, and let’s be honest – they are super talented and make really pretty jewelry, so Sara and Tricia coordinated a time for us girls to come back to the Acholi Quarter and buy necklaces from some of the women.

Tricia invited her first group of ladies who went through their counseling and discipleship program to come and meet with us.

We piled onto some boda bodas and headed up the steep hill to the Acholi Quarter.  We were a little concerned that we would just slide right off the back of the bodas, but everyone arrived safely.  Whew!

We walked in the doorway of Africa Arise’s office, and there were beautiful women sitting around the perimeter of the room, and the floor was entirely covered in a gorgeous array of colors and beads.  It was a sight to behold. 

Before the shopping started, we all introduced ourselves.

Soon we were able to start buying pretty necklaces from these lovely ladies.

Some of the girls were leaving the next day, so we all were counting our shillings to see how much money we had left and how many necklaces that meant we could take home with us.

Then the rain came.  And came.  And came.

Bodas would not be a feasible option to get home.  We’d have to call Godfrey to pick us up in the van.  Which would take forever for him to drive their in rainy weather traffic. Yikes.

But we were glad to have as much time as we could with these precious women.  Most of them spoke Acholi with only a handful of English words.  Yet we figured out how to communicate.

At the end, before they packed up their wares, one woman, the one who spoke the best English, came into the middle of the group and thanked us for coming and for supporting their families.  She said that if we were to visit the an Acholi family in their home in the north, it was their custom to invite you in and offer you some tea.  It is seen as an honor to entertain guests in your home, so she said that they would then give their guest a gift to thank them for coming.  She said that they did not have any tea to offer us, but they are still honored by us coming, and so they’d like to give us a gift.

Then these women, who have so little in this life, stood up and walked around to each one of us, putting necklaces on around our necks.

It was one of the most special and humbling experiences I have ever had.

I was so grateful they let us visit them and were willing to sell us their jewelry.

I was so grateful to have the opportunity to help support their families.

I was so grateful for just the smallest glimpse into their lives and into their love.

Yet they were the ones thanking us.

They were giving us gifts so freely.

I was overwhelmed in the best way possible.

That is a culture of generosity.

That is love.

Africa, you have my heart

Well guys, we all knew it would happen, but I think I left my heart in Africa. 

Someone once told me you need to experience Africa with all of your senses.  So sometime when we sit down and chat about my summer, don’t be surprised if I don’t have the words to adequately describe this beautiful place to you.

After somewhat recovering from the jet lag that comes with travel, I have started working on posts about the rest of my time in Uganda.

Those will start going up tomorrow.

But for now, as I relax up at the cabin and enjoy spending time with my family, I just want to gaze at these little faces of the little ones who will forever be in my heart.  

What is Love? (schoolhouse rock vol. 8)

As you sit down to read this, I hope that you are wearing a super fancy Valentine’s Day outfit today.  Perhaps one that looks a little bit like this: 

Each year in kindergarten, I ask the kids the question, “What is love?”  Their responses are always heartwarming, hilarious, and sometimes confusing.  This year is no exception.Love is…

Hugging

To be loving with your family and giving hugs

Having a picnic and giving friends cards

Hugging my grandma

Sharing my car with my uncle.

Love is…

Give hugs to another

Giving and Sharing

I love my mom.  I show her by hugging her or kissing her

I hug my mom and dad.  I want to hug my little sister.  We are dancing under these lights. 

Playing

Love friends because we play outside

Love is…

Holding peoples hand.

Loving your family.  That you are playing with your family and spending time with them.

Giving cards.

I’m happy when my dad hugs me.

is that not the sweetest picture??

I love you.  I do love my mom.

I love you.  I love my mom.  I love the park.

I’m not sure what this has to do with love, but I love the random fish.  And mostly I love that the student said, “I’m going to draw a mustache.”  and he did.  

I would like to add to their list:

Love is making your teacher a Valentine’s Day Princess crown.  As one child put it, “I am the queen of this kingdom” 

Love is, remembering that your teacher was sad when another child stole her gum from her desk, and bringing your teacher a new pack of gum for Valentine’s Day.

 

Schoolhouse Rock vol. 7

Ok, I know.  I’m out of control with the posting today.  I’ll make up for it by ignoring you all weekend long.  But I just needed to share two more things.  Because one is hilarious and one was adorable.

First of all, today we did a little sight word project relating to Valentine’s Day.  The punctuation on this made me so, SO happy.  Secondly, it was reported to me that there was some funny business going on with girlfriends and boyfriends.  So I gave the old, “kindergartners are too young for a dating relationship” speech.  A child said to me, “yeah, you need to be 13 to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.” and I told him that my mom’s rule was I had to be 16.  He looked at me and said, “But you are 28!  So why don’t you have a boyfriend?” and I said matter-of-factly, “well, I guess no one wants to be my boyfriend right now.” and he replied, “Well, I think you are pretty!” and he gave me a hug and he went back to doing his work.  Sweetness.

All the single ladies…

It doesn’t come up all the time, but every few months they kiddos become concerned about my marital status 🙂  Today it came up because my EA and I are wearing Justin Bieber stickers that her husband bought for her.  We are wearing them for the sole purpose of making all the children jealous and also earning some teacher cool points.

Anyways, here is how our conversation went:

Conversation 1:

Student: You should kiss Justin Bieber

Teacher: No thanks.

Student: You have to, because you are not married.

Conversation 2: 

Student: Should I call you Miss K?  Or Mrs. K?

Teacher: What do you think?

Student: I want to call you Mrs. K, so we can pretend that you are married.

Teacher: Who am I married to?

Student: You are married to a boy named Max.  He has pointy hair.  Sometimes he wears blue clothes and jeans.

To answer your question: No, I don’t know anyone named Max.  I’ll let you know if I meet him!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

So far today we have made awesome valentine’s day hats with hearts dangling from accordian folded paper.  We also passed out valentines to our “teammates” in our class (or at least that is how one kiddo explained it!)Today I asked my kindergartners to answer the question: What is love?

  • Love is to be friends.  I love my mom.
  • Love is when you hug people and you care about your friends and not push them.
  • Love is loving somebody.  Like you give somebody a hug.
  • Love is about family and friends.
  • Love is being together and hugs and kisses and presents.
  • Love is bringing a ball back to someone.
  • Love is giving a hug to somebody.
  • Love is giving hugs to somebody.  You feel it in your heart.
  • Love is when you miss your auntie or your uncle of your mom and dad.  We feel happy.  You give them flowers and a present.
  • Love is that I tell my mom that, “I love you.”   I feel kind of good.  My mom bake me some cookies and I told her thank you.
  • Love is because you love some people.  Sometimes you miss them.  I love my mom.
  • Love is being with our mom and dads.  We really miss them.
  • Love is when you be nice to people and they let you play with them.
  • Love is kissin’ before you go to bed.  Moms give you kisses so you can have good dreams so little kids can sleep good.
  • Love is when you give your mom a flower and hearts.  When you give them love.
  • Love is when you give your mommy a kiss and you say, “I love you mommy so much.  I love when you give me kisses every single day.”
  • Love is when you love someone by caring.
  • Love is loving some people.  I hug my mom.
  • Love is when you do nice things to people and you give people cookies and do their hair for them.
  • Love is kissing.  It is really nice to kiss and it warms their hearts.

p.s.  this is one of the creepier Valentine’s day treats I got: a marshmallow swirl lollipop. yum?

p.p.s.  two of my girls said they cried when they watched Justin Bieber in 3D.