Thankful for this cool, cloudy Sunday morning for spiritual refilling at Mbuya church. Enjoying the lullaby of a heavy -early morning rainfall, I woke up from a Benadryl’s night rest. Benadryl has been a good friend to me helping reduce the swollen itchy welts all over my legs- which after two weeks in Uganda look like a battlefield of scratches, scabs, and discoloration after many a night of itching, digging, smacking, pinching, fingernail pricking and any other manner of reducing persistent itching, swelling, and irritation. I share this only to show how it pales in comparison to the annoyances and aggravations faced by nearly each and every woman I meet in the programs here at BeadforLife. Suffice it to say that today’s message at church about complaining and provision by God – taken from Exodus 16- and John chapter 6 helped put my wandering thoughts about perceived difficulties back into perspective.
I joined fellow BeadforLife staff member and friend, Phoebe, yesterday for a meal at her home in Buziga- a beautiful neighborhood accessed by a series of bumpy, severely pot holed dirt roads. Her home is so lovely and is as open as her Giant heart! Papayas, green beans, avocados, passion fruit, and more grow in her garden outside, while wild turkeys and chickens frequent her front porch!
I love cooking- and Phoebe provided the first real opportunity to prepare local Ugandan cuisine together with her in her cozy home with husband Ben, and two children- Tendo almost 4, and Carol-2. Matoke steaming in fresh banana leaves on one burner, rice boiling on another, and gorgeous halved plantains sautéing in golden bubbling hot oil in another saucepan! We were friends cooking together over a hot stove, talking like women do- enjoying the simple gift of each other’s company! What a blessing it was!
After sharing a hearty meal, we loaded up Tendo, Carol, and some cousins from down the street and headed to Ggaba village – a small bustling fishing waterfront district on the coast of Lake Victoria. We walked hand in hand through the Saturday markets where one can purchase anything from saucepans, to wooden spoons, to firewood for cooking. Heaping piles of tomatoes and “Irish”- white potatoes- stacked like cairns on a hiker’s trail marking the way! A sensory overload- a feast for the eyes and the nose!
I held hands with two precious young girls – Sylvia age 7, and Stella age 6. Sylvia is a cousin of Tendo and Carol by blood, while Stella is a relative by love and tenderness of Phoebe’s extended family who took her in as a baby 6 years ago. See, Stella’s mother is a prostitute in a red light sort of district here in Kampala. It is believed her father may have been an Asian tourist- as her characteristics show evidence of mixed backgrounds. She is an absolutely beautiful girl who is incredibly shy, severely underweight for her age, and just overcame a bout of both malaria and typhoid which she obtained by eating ice cream made with unboiled water. This precious orphan girl is living with a 70 year old auntie of Phoebe’s who just had the heart to provide a home for her when she was left unwanted as a baby. Being adopted myself, I feel tremendous compassion and connection with these girls here. I could feel her longing for love, longing for a sense of permanency, longing to have someone to call “mom”. Stella stole my heart from the moment I laid eyes on her- I could just tell she had a different story. Again, a silent communication of sorts that said, ” will you please give me your love today, and I will pretend you are my mommy today while we are walking around hand in hand on a Saturday afternoon”…. “I will pretend, just for this hour that you love me unconditionally, and you don’t judge me because I was left as an unwanted orphan girl , daughter of a prostitute mother I have never met, and a father who probably doesn’t even know that I exist and would not care if he did.”
After watching birds nosedive in the blue lake searching for food, storks perched on the edge of rickety and sun faded wooden boats, we held hands again and returned back through the bustling marketplace. On our right, outside of a crowded firewood marketplace, I noticed a girl about the age of 10-11 years old sitting on a stool covered in the most horrendous 3rd degree burns imaginable. Her skin was black and pink in areas where regrowth and healing had occurred, and yellowish-green and bubbling puss covering the length of her right arm, right leg and foot, and right side of her face. Unable to continue to just walk on, I asked Phoebe- and she suggested we approach and offer to assist if we could. Turns out, the young girl- named Susan- was the victim of a severe petrol fire. The co-wife of her father set fire to her home in a rage of jealousy. In an attempt to kill Susan’s mother, believed to be inside, the deranged woman killed Susan’s younger sister and severely burned Susan by pouring petrol on the house and lighting it on fire. Susan’s mother ran inside and was able to to rescue Susan, severely burned. Unable to seek treatment in their local area of Masaka- they were referred to treatment in Kampala- over 4 hours away by an overcrowded taxi making frequent stops. Susan’s mother sells firewood collected to help get money for her daughter’s treatment in the local hospital. All I kept thinking was that if this was at home, this young girl would be hospitalized and her open bubbling 3rd degree wounds wrapped with care in gauze by a nurse in a clean facility with antibiotics given to prevent infections- not to mention some type of generalized pain relief. Yet there Susan sat, people staring at her in dismay and with despair- wondering what her story was. We gave to help her mom what we had available in our hands at that time.
Stella grabbed my right hand, and Sylvia my left hand. I think even these two young girls were frightened by what they saw. When our fun day together was over, I gave the girls big hugs and took photos with Phoebe’s energetic son Tendo and contemplative little girl Carol. After rounding the corner of her foster home, Stella peered back, and ran to me again for another big big hug! I held her sweet little head against my belly , hand on her head as she snuggled in for more affection. What a precious little girl- hungry for love.
What are you hungry for in life? Do you crave the material things the world tempts us with? Those things designed to help us forget momentarily our appetites for something deeper, more fulfilling? How do you get your spiritual filling and are you even aware that you crave nourishment of another kind?
I will be reminded of the Stellas of the world, the Agnes’ of the world, and share the light I have in me given so generously by the grace of God our Heavenly Father from above.
For as it was preached today’s message, ” it is a blessing to be hungry for this kind of spiritual fulfillment”. To hunger this way is in itself a blessing onto us. ”
Photo: left- Stella(red and white dress) Jen, Sylvia, Joseph, front: Tendo and his baby sister, Carol.