December was a relatively quiet, enjoyable month. Much of our conversations centered around the upcoming celebration of Christ’s birth. We discussed the Christmas story to great length and how Jesus’s birthday is the only birthday which has been celebrated for two thousand years, and how no other man had such an enormous impact on the world and will always be the most important man to ever live. The boys had much knowledge concerning the North Star, and its position over Bethlehem. They knew of the Wise Men, the Shepherds, Mary and Joseph’s inability to find lodging and how baby Jesus was born in a stable. They were a bit confused about the gifts the Wise Men brought, telling us it was gold, bed sheets and shoes, haha. They did, however, understand that the Wise Men would not have journeyed to Bethlehem for just any birth, that the Christ child was indeed, very special. We made a paper Christmas tree and each boy also made a decoration for it. None had ever had any type of tree. As part of the upcoming celebration, seven of the boys were baptized. The Muslim boys took Christian names and even some of the Christian boys added a new Biblical name to their original names.
Zede’s mother called me to ask if I would allow Zede to spend a few days with her prior to Christmas. Of course I had to say yes, but was emphatic that she must return him safely and that he not be exposed to any undesirable behaviors. Zede said that he had fun. He told us he also went to visit his father where there was a birthday party for him (he turned 5). Much of what he told us certainly wasn’t true, such as him racing a bicycle and someone giving him a big bag of money, but that is Zede…..his imagination is only exceeded by his intelligence!
Christmas was great fun. I had brought all the boys small gifts and candy from the States and Elijah put the gift bags under our paper tree for when the boys awoke. They called me bright and early to thank me and all wore their new shirts to Church. Our good friends (music artists) Soldier and Allanor joined us for the day. We had a huge meal….chicken in a vegetable sauce (yes, we bought live ones which Andrew butchered), potatoes, matooke (green steamed mashed bananas) with peanut sauce, rice, spaghetti and cookies and cakes that I had made for them. Everyone was absolutely stuffed. We then decided we would sing and dance Ugandan style, a perfect way to work off the huge meal.
Soldier led the boys in some choruses of Feliz Navidad, which they already knew…..except little Zede who sang Police Novida (Novida is a pineapple soft drink). We couldn’t stop laughing just imagining what Zede thought Police Novida might possible mean! For some of the boys, it was their first Christmas celebration…..that made me a bit sad, but also happy that their first was spent with us!
Henry had been complaining about toothaches so Elijah took him to the dentist. Seems he had three molars that were already beyond repair and had to be extracted. We felt so sorry for him but he told us that it was ok, that he felt so much better with them gone, that now he could eat without his mouth hurting. Henry is a sweet child, he doesn’t know how old he is, though we think perhaps 12 or 13. The last class he attended was third grade. He is my current translator, understanding me perfectly. I found this amazing, but he told me both his parents spoke English at home.
December was the month to return six boys to their homes all over the country, some very far away. These boys were an absolute pleasure…..polite, attentive, reasonable, helpful…some attributes which definitely are not always present in street children. We had many conversations before they left, talking about the past, the present and the future. Shaban, age 14, told us he had been on the streets for 10 years….that he climbed onto a bus as a small child and hid under the seat until the bus arrived in Kampala, what must have been a very long journey. He spoke a language, from the Bagisu tribe, unknown to most of the others and talked of a local food that his parents grew and sold, amalewa, a leaf that is stripped into fibers and boiled and served with a peanut sauce. All the staff knew of it but never tasted it, they said it smelled really bad, hahaha. I asked Henry what the first thing was that he would do when he arrived home. His answer brought tears to my eyes and made me realize how very fortunate we are to serve the Lord by helping these boys in any way we can. Please think about this….”I will beg for forgiveness for leaving my home and my family. I will tell them I forgive them for the wrongs they put on me. I will tell them I love them and will ask if I can stay with them forever.” The most humble statement from a very special child.
Elijah reported that every single guardian had tears of gratitude when their boys arrived, every one was filled with delight and happiness. We’ll miss this group of boys, but knowing they have been reunited with their families makes every minute of work and worry worthwhile. When we reflect on the year, we recount that some 40 boys have come to us, all dirty and malnourished and angry. Not a huge number by any means, but every single boy left healthier and happier. Every single boy left with a mattress, clean clothes and a Bible….and that has made us all realize that this Shelter is important…..it has changed the lives of so many lost and forgotten boys. For that we thank very sponsor, every friend, every visitor and volunteer, everyone who has prayed for us, laughed with us, cried with us, guided us. What an absolute blessing to be part of this!
We will bring ten new boys into the Shelter during the first two weeks of January. We have already purchased the linens and some of the mattresses. We are excited…..new faces, new names to remember, new personalities. As with all vulnerable children, they are all somehow the same, and somehow different. January will, for sure, be an interesting month. Please consider joining us, we promise it will be a time you won’t forget!
All of us wish you a happy and healthy and Spirit filled 2017! May you always be blessed,