Thursday, October 6, 2011

Africa Trip Day 1: The Road to Canaan

The first three days of our trip were spent at Canaan Children's Home in Buziika which is a few miles south of Jinja, Uganda. Pastor Isaac and his wife Rebecca started this home back in 1996. However, the real start of the story came years earlier. Left for dead in a mass grave by soldiers during the reign of Idi Amin, Pastor Isaac heard these words: "Isaac, I have saved your life so that you may save the lives of my fatherless children... Isaac, I will be the father of those children through you." I encourage you to read his full testimony to see how the Lord used tragedy to start something incredible.

Loading our luggage at the airport. Forty-eight 50lb bags!
Of course the airport is not right next to Buziika. We landed at Entebbe around 1 PM. We got our passports stamped and we found our drivers and loaded up the luggage. I think just about everyone on the team had brought two 50lb suitcases full of donations. If you plan to travel on missions work a piece of advice: bring more cash and less stuff. Buying in country is possible so you can still help people and stimulate the economy at the same time. Besides, luggage is a pain normally. We thanked God numerous times that no one in our group lost any luggage.

The kids had just finished school so they still had on uniforms.
After loading the truck we all piled into Canaan Childrens Home bus for the 3+ hour drive to Jinja. That includes driving through the "parking lot" of Kampala. We tried to look out the windows but after being awake about a day and a half at this point I kept nodding off.

When we did begin approaching Canaan's the children knew we were coming and started running after our bus. At this point the magnitude of being in Africa hit me. I had tears in my eyes watching these happy children crowd around as we got off the bus just waiting to talk. Despite having been awake for nearly 40 hours, I was flooded with adrenaline. I had read blogs and books about Africa. But these little hands in my hands were not just words on paper. It was just like holding my own little boys hands. I soon realized I would rarley not be holding someones hand, regardless if it was a 3 year old little girl or a 17 year old boy. The kids at Canaan's are well cared for but they still crave relationship and human touch. And why not? God created us that way!

Sarah has some new friends!
We started to unload the luggage and the kids insisted on helping. I am not joking when I say they made it look easy to sling around 50lb bags. So once the bags were in our rooms we asked if it would be OK to give the kids some soccer balls. We pumped six up and took them out to the main yard. We got to kick the soccer balls around and hang out talking until it got dark. The kids and our team had a blast.

We finally ate some dinner (everything we had at Canaan's was delicious) and crashed for the night. Since Sarah and I were the only married couple we got our own room!
A few of the children I can not wait to see again!
That first day was a whirlwind because of all the travel but one thing was very clear to me: the children and staff were ecstatic that we had come to visit and love them. What I had not expected was to BE loved so much. Many of these children have been orphaned by terrible violence, HIV, addicitions, and despair. Most of these children have only a few articles of clothing and almost no personal possessions. They are better provided for than many Ugandans but by our cultures standards they have almost nothing. And yet they have joy that I rarely see in America. They freely give what little they have to friends and even strangers. More on that in a future post.

Building relationships with these children is a vital piece of short term missions. We heard many times on our trip how important it was that people from half way around the world came to their home and showed them love. That is why Visiting Orphans works with the same in country missions to send teams all year long. That is why so many team members return on future trips. That is why Sarah and I will return again. You just can not walk away from meeting these joyful children and adults and not yearn to see them again. And from what we have been told, the SECOND time you come back the kids trust that you really do care for them! I can not wait to walk back into the courtyard at Canaan's and see my friends again!

P.S. This was just my second blog post. I will get better :)

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