We now have only six(oops now only five) weeks left here in Uganda before returning to Australia. It is a time of change for us and trying to hand things over. We have really tried to do this all year but now the need is much more urgent. The hard question is: "What happens when we are not here?" For a lot of things that is easy, we have made sure or are making sure that people are in place to do jobs that we have done. For example, the new village managers are in place and doing a good job. While we are still here we are able to overseer their work but by the time we have left, they will have been through most of the stages of the village with new children and teams being the main ones. We leave the village in good hands with Robert Kafeero still overseering and Robert and Millie very capably taking the reins. There are other things though that we cannot hand over. Each week (often each day) people come to our door. They are needy people, in need of food or money for their rent.
A large part of our mantra this year has been "is it sustainable". Yet, here we are having done some things that are not sustainable. Are we unhappy about what we have done? No, of course not, you cannot be unhappy about meeting peoples' immediate needs for survival. However, it is frustrating, depressing and difficult to consider that these people we have got to know (lots of these not very well) are not going to have food. Fortunately, the season is good and so many people we know are generous with their harvest. Though the quandary still remains. I suspect that we will just continue to support people here who are supporting those in need. In that way we are empowering people to do good. Fortunately, we know of people who are able and trustworthy to do this. It is amazing to meet people who given money for someone else will put aside their personal needs (for basic necessities) to do what is meant with the money. These people challenge me. How often do I hear in Australia, "Oh, but it is important to look after your needs, if you don't what will happen to the ministry". Trust in God has to grow. This is true both sides of the ocean.
In Australia, people are reluctant to give because of their own needs and we do not trust God to meet our needs. In Uganda, people have a need and can justify taking something that is not theirs from someone who has much. This of course is not by any means always the case in either place but simply statements about the challenges that each one of us face no matter which country we are from.
Back to the topic, though the above discussion is not such a great diversion. We are going back to Australia. How have we changed? Is it going to be hard to go to the supermarket and be tempted to buy everything we have not had this year? Are we going to take on the norms that were ours before we came? Have we changed? Will we be able to slot back in? Then of course there are decisions that need to be made and work to be done back in Australia. So many things occupy my mind.
Just today, a week after starting this post, we have had the privilege of bringing some new children into the village. The village is again changing. Less children than anticipated due to unexpected circumstances but needy children none the less. In fact, one of the children when we have visited him in his previous home appeared to lack all the essentials of life, most particularly love. He is a lovely, finely built little boy who clung to us when we visited. He had poo down his legs until the aunt was told (by others) to bathe him. She had her own child, and to be fair life is very tough where she lives and so he was just a burden that she could not bear. Both of us have been moved greatly by his situation and pleased that we could be a part of bringing him into the village. So, today as he came - bringing absolutely nothing except the clothes he was wearing. Due to the weather conditions it was necessary to take the car to pick up children. Hence, after picking him up and the mother doing a great job of being there for him, she had to leave to pick up other children and he came with me to get new clothes. During the process, this silent little boy held my hand and walked with me. After a while he suddenly spoke, in his language but he spoke. Then, he spied the slide and went to investigate. His little legs struggled to climb the stairs but he managed to nearly reach the top and then he stopped. A little hesitant but as he started to climb he had for the very first time, that I had seen, a smile. A beautiful smile, this is home! A little help and then a bigger girl to stand at the bottom, he had his first slide. It is hard to describe the joy of being part of this. Suddenly this little boy has a future, a hope and a safe place to call home. Then, when Ron arrived back with other children this little boy ran to him and again smiled. Too special! So, what are we doing - we are leaving and yet building bonds. We have learnt about attachment and the difficulties for little children who have not bonded properly early on. Are we just adding another problem for these children when we go? Much as I would like it to be about me and what I like, it has to be about these children. Hopefully, we are doing this right. We did spend some time with them today but we also left them for most of the afternoon to settle with their new mother (who incidentally is doing a fantastic job). We are like the grandparents - they are not always around but they are part of your life. We are not leaving here and going back to Australia for ever. Hence, we will continue to be part of their lives. Interestingly, that is what Fiona(one of the first children) said to me today. "You are Jaja (grandparent). You are so happy, smiling with your arms folded looking at them." She was right - it was such a lovely thing to be able to see, the older children checking up on the little ones. The old and the new mixing. The new mother holding one child with another sitting at her feet. Truly a beautiful picture. We treasure these moments but know that we are leaving these children in safe hands.
Today, we also went with Rachel to visit some other needy children. It was a bit of a drive but through magnificent countryside. Along the way we saw some beautiful houses and also some terrible mud houses. Rachel told of the circumstances of some children that she had previously brought into a different orphanage from here. Then, we came to the destination - only a little off the beaten track - enough so for Ron to be reminded he was missing the 4 wheel drive weekend from church in Australia. A little group of houses around a flattened social area with an open-air shelter as well. There were lots and lots of children and we were directed to a small mud hut. Rachel and the others went in while Ron and I stayed outside. The place was very small, in fact all the houses in the group were, and in reasonable repair for mud huts but the horrible part is that in Australia children have better and bigger playhouses than these. There were two little girls being looked after by a very aging grandfather. He was not managing, he did not even have anything for them to eat tonight and the only way they continued was through the help of neighbours, who from our perspective were only just a little better off. Such a sad picture, two orphans, with a grandfather who obviously loves them very much but with only the use of one hand, blindness coming, so no means to provide for them. He wanted us to take them straight away and it was very tempting, instead we gave him some money to at least provide some immediate needs and the process will be continued.
We will leave but the momentum continues both sides of the ocean. Here, the work continues with children and mothers being found, houses being built, and people's lives being changed. In Australia, people are packing a container, teams are preparing to come, people are donating money and time to make things happen. These children have become our children (or grandchildren) and we are responsible. We will go back different people but perhaps most of all we will go back knowing more of the heart of God, to feed the hungry, to help those in need and to be less concerned for those things that have no lasting value.