Today I don’t know what to write.
It was a “rip your heart out” kind of day.
It was devastating. It was encouraging. It was inspiring. I really have no accurate adjectives.
I was picked up in the morning by Alan Penry, the director of the Watoto Children’s Ministries, and Melvin, our guide (that’s him in front of the Watoto church building in the photo below). Our first stop was the Bullrushes, the Watoto Baby Center in Kampala. Apparently it was named this way as a reference to the fact that Miriam protected baby Moses by placing him in the bullrushes of the Nile. And the first baby they cared for here when it opened up happened to be named Moses!
At the Bullrushes they care for premature and sick babies until they are well enough to be able to go to one of the children’s villages. Some of the children here are quite sick and fragile, including little Emmanuel (in the striped top below) who was only brought in a few days ago. But he is getting stronger and, if you could see him, has a distinct spark in his eyes!
We then moved on to visit two of the Watoto Children’s Villages, first at Bbira, and then at Suubi.
Here’s the quick description: orphans are brought in, either from hospitals or from the local version of social services, and are assigned to a house. Each house is presided over by a “mama” – a widow who will live with and raise them until they are truly independent. There are eight children to a house with one mama. There are eight houses in a cluster – like a mini village. In Bbira there are about 850 children. In Suubi there are 1050. Each village has a primary school, a secondary school, offices, teacher housing, a community kitchen and a church. in Suubi they also have a number of vocational training facilities and a goat farm. The children are supported all the way through school – including university or vocational training if desired.
The real honour was the lunch I was served at Suubi. I was the guest of Mama Edith who provided a wonderful meal in her home, assisted by two of her boys, Charles and Henry. There are no words for this. She lost her husband to AIDS. She has 6 children, two of whom came to Watoto with her, one of whom died, and the other three are living on their own. She has been through unspeakable things – but God has protected her and to see and hear her now takes your breath away.
Charles played the recorder for us.
The drive back to Kampala gave me time to think. What a physical representation of restoration this is. Why isn’t it being done everywhere? Would it work in other places? Is it too “sterile” a model or can these villages become, for their children and mamas true villages and communities?
In the evening we were invited to a chapel service at the Makerere University. It was an Anglican service but it bore no significant similarity to many such services at home – other than in the basic structure and liturgies. There was a real sense of life here – made all the more apparent when Pastor Ted gave the message, ending up on a chair at the front of the sanctuary!
It appears that a common theme coming out of all of my experiences so far on this trip can be best summed up in the simple refrain:
God is good. All the time.
All the time. God is good.