A day out of the city…

My “Africa Mix” was the only CD we had with us. My roommate Debby and I were jamming out to IMG_20130831_111001Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” when we were stopped at a traffic crossing. A young boy selling bananas approached the car.

“No thank you, sebo!” Debby said to the young boy, who then heard our music and began dancing beside the car as we waited for the traffic police to let us through the intersection. It was a great start to the long day ahead of us.

The car was loaded with toilet paper, rice, tea, sugar and soap we had purchased to take to the orphanage in Bulamo. Bulamo in normal conditions would be about 30 minutes from Kampala. But in African conditions, it took us almost two hours to get there.

I was mystified at the beautiful Ugandan countryside. So much green, everywhere! Sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of a jungle.

We did some “off-roading” to get to the orphanage, which was down a long lane with lots of bumps and holes, chickens and cows, and of course, children, who would smile, wave, and yell, “Mzungu!” as we drove by.

IMG_20130831_120842The orphanage was thrilled to receive the supplies we brought them, and I walked around the compound with Debby as she introduced me to all the wonderful staff and children there. It reminded me a lot of Lifesong Zambia, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love walking around the compound.

Soon after we arrived, we met up with Bruno, Debby’s sponsor child. I’m not sure I should call him a “child,” considering he is 19 years old, but he still has one more year of school left before he goes to university. Bruno walked around with us for awhile and then we started the journey to Bruno’s father’s house.

Again, it took us about an hour to travel not much longer than a few miles. Bruno filled us in on how he was doing with his studies and his plans after graduation. He wants to study tourism at university, and with that sweet smile of his, I can definitely see him succeeding!

Debby had told me that Richard, Bruno’s father, would likely have all their nicest things out for our IMG_20130831_112601arrival. Sure enough, as we walked into their “house”, the couches and coffee table were covered in lace doilies. We were given the royal treatment, as Bruno’s step mother served us ice cold Cokes. Bruno’s little brother, Peace, was pretty overwhelmed by the two mzungu’s in the house, but he smiled big when Debby gave him the toy car we got him earlier in the day when we bought supplies.

We talked with Richard for a few hours, mainly about his profession. Richard is a butterfly catcher. How amazing is that? When he has the money to pay for his license to catch them, he spends days at a time traveling across Uganda and catching the most beautiful butterflies you’ve ever seen! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so passionate about something like that, but what made Richard even more special is his love for God, which was just as apparent as his love for butterflies.

Debby, whose heart is one of the biggest I know, wanted to help Richard pay for his license so he can get back to butterfly catching to make money for his family. I was more than happy to offer to split the cost with her, and we gave him the money he needed for the license.

After saying goodbye to Richard, Mary and Peace, we took Bruno to where he could catch a taxi back to school. We might have gotten a little lost then, even to the point where we stopped and asked for directions and the lady said, “You are really lost!”

Eventually, we found our way to Garden City where we enjoyed a nice meal at Café Javas and did some window shopping at Nakumatt.

While the entire day was pretty amazing, I think one of my favorite moments came after we left Garden City. We were stopped at a light when a young, thin boy approached the car to ask for money or food.

“Do you want to give him your leftovers or take them home?” Debby asked me.

I was thrilled that she thought of that, and I handed her my box of food. She rolled down her window and handed it to the boy who smiled and said, “Thank you!” We were stopped at the light for a long time, which was totally worth it to see the boy sit down in the median, dig into my leftover club sandwich and fries, and smile the biggest smile I had seen all day.

Needless to say, it was one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had since I’ve been here.

Meeting Mayrober

His picture jumped out at me right away. His giant brown eyes couldn’t be ignored, and I knew he was the one for me. “Mayrober” was his name, and he would be my sponsor child from Nicaragua.

That was a few months before I went to Terrencio, Nicaragua on a church mission trip, and many of us felt led to 200745_10150105570821573_4972463_nsponsor a child from the village through Food for the Hungry. All I knew about Mayrober at the time was that he was five years old and liked to draw. My heart danced when I got my first drawing from Mayrober, and I could hardly wait to meet the little guy on our trip.

When the day came that I would meet Mayrober, I was a little nervous. OK, I was horrified. For four months he had been a piece of paper, a beautiful picture of a child who lived worlds away in poverty. What on earth would I say to him? I knew some Spanish, but not a lot. There would be a translator, but still, what do you say to a five-year-old living in poverty? He doesn’t have a favorite television show or cartoon character. He doesn’t follow a basketball team or play video games. But aside from all of that, I was excited beyond words. Others in our group had met their sponsor kids the day before and had awesome stories about how the kids jumped into their arms and thanked them for writing and sponsoring them. I was so excited for my “moment” with Mayrober!

207828_10150151374481573_3642730_nWhen we arrived at Mayrober’s home he was sitting in a plastic chair outside. Their home was like a hut- it had some sort of roof made of random materials and a couple of walls made of sticks. Mayrober’s mother stood behind and the translator introduced us all. Mayrober didn’t jump into my arms, he didn’t even smile.

Mayrober looked at me like a scared child looking at Santa. He just looked at me and didn’t even blink. It was like he was trying to figure out if he wanted to cry or run away.

“Hola Mayrober!” I said. “Como estas?”

He just looked at me.

I looked at the translator and he said something to Mayrober in Spanish. He still just sat there, but his mom tapped his shoulder as if to say, “Answer her!”

He whispered a tiny, “Bien,” meaning he was doing well.

That’s how the next ten minutes went. I would ask a question, he wouldn’t resond, his mom would make him, and he would have a one word answer. 215199_10150151374606573_4561465_n

I wanted a picture, but Mayrober was afraid. His mom had to pick him up and put him beside me. I went to put my arm around him and he leaned away from me. It was official: my sponsor child hated me.

When I got back to the bus where everyone on our mission team was waiting, they were so excited to hear about my experience. I told them how terrible it was, and they tried to make me feel better by saying he was younger than their sponsor kids, that he must just be really shy, etc. etc., but I was still heartbroken. On the drive away from the village and back to Managua, I got tears in my eyes wondering why things went so poorly.

A few days later was the final day of Vacation Bible School that we were leading in the village. I was assigned the job of helping the kids make paper bag puppets. We had crayons, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and all sorts of things the kids could glue on their paper bags. Seems like a simple craft, but these kids looked like they had never seen or done anything so fun and amazing. They were in heaven making their puppets.

With only about 20 minutes left, I saw Mayrober walk into the “classroom.” He saw me and kind of smiled but then noticed that all the seats were taken… except one at the front of the classroom, right beside me where I was hanging out glue sticks.

207426_10150151390566573_1671953_nThere were three or four of us helping in the room, and I’ll be honest, the moment Mayrober got there, all my attention was on him. I was glad I remembered the Spanish words for eyes, nose, mouth, face and hair so I could help Mayrober decorate his puppet. After each part of the face he would look at me like, “What next?”

It was my happiest moment of the trip, to be sitting next to him, helping him make his puppet and seeing him smile.

He hung around with me even after the puppet-making class. Everyone was to go over to the village church after activities, and Mayrober walked with me. I knew it was the perfect opportunity for a much better picture than the one we’d taken a few days earlier. Sure enough, Mayrober had no 216075_10150149305886573_3381294_nproblems giving a big smile as I put my arm around him for a picture. We were buddies now, and he knew there was nothing for him to be afraid of.

You always see these kids on television, the ones who have no home, barely any food and live in poverty. I can’t vouch for other organizations, but I can say that Food for the Hungry is legit. The money you pay for your sponsor child helps the entire community.

I also learned that the money is only half of the impact you can have on a sponsor child. They love hearing from their sponsors back in the US! I’ve gotten endless drawings from Mayrober, and I love writing to him. Food for the Hungry takes care of the translation both ways.

Meeting Mayrober was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I will continue to support him for as long as the program allows (until he is 18). I write to him, support him, and pray for him. While things didn’t start off the best between us, I am so happy that we eventually got to spend some time together and that he was genuinely happy to meet me.

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