(This post is part of the Julie's Journal series)We exited the Entebbe airport to find three pastors and a young man with a shy smile waiting for our small team. I was back in Uganda in October of 2006, a little over a year after my first visit.
“Hi. I’m Julie. I guess you sort of work for me,” I said awkwardly. “It’s nice to meet you, Tomusange.” I butchered his name.
He smiled and shook my hand with the welcoming, soft Uganda 3-step handshake and said in flawless English, “It is a pleasure to meet you. You can call me Tom.”
We piled into the pastor’s SUV, and Tom and I began to discuss the program for our two-week trip. He had set up meetings with several children’s organizations in Uganda to learn from their experience since we had NONE. From that, we hoped to develop plans and procedures for the care of the 17 orphaned children living in the John T. Miller School I had come to serve the year before.
But there had been a last-minute item added to the agenda for this trip by surprise. A branch beyond providing for the care of those 17 children…
“Oh wow. That would be a new branch,” I had thought to myself. We were already out on a limb with the care of 17 kids and taking on more wasn’t on the radar.
But I did the math on my phone. “I've heard it’s about $60/year to attend a government school. For 33 kids that comes to $1980.” I had answered, reassuring myself that a garage sale wouldn’t come close to that target.
And yet, when we counted the garage sale money, it totaled $1989.50. Once we’d subtracted the cost of a dump run to clean up after the garage sale, we’d realized we had, in fact, raised $1980.
“That's enough! What are the chances of raising the exact amount? This is a God thing!” Heidi had said. I admitted it seemed like a message and tried to hide my disappointment that there wouldn't be support for the current expenses.
I’d met some of these children Heidi wanted to help the previous year during our outreach tour to several village churches with the school's pastors. Everywhere we visited, we had faced poverty on a level I had never imagined, but Kyakitanga Village had been the worst. There the kids there were barefoot, and dirty; their clothes in tatters. They watched us with curious, brown eyes.
We reached the papyrus marsh spotted with small, spontaneous fires which ignited in the bog.
A tea plantation covered rolling hills in chartreuse green.
Local villagers sold their produce at roadside stands.
Eventually, we reached the trading center of Kalamba with its typical mix of brightly painted buildings, rough-hewn wood-slat structures, and vendors rushing to our windows with roasted meat skewers or maize.
There we turned south to a ribbon of orange earth whose twists, turns and potholes would eventually take us the 12 miles to the village of Kyakitanga.
At least that’s what I thought would happen...