March 3: Another beautiful day. In the morning there are sounds of
birds and music and cows and roosters and quiet voices... We were
picked up at 9 and driven to Koi Koi House where we were greeted by a
houseful of beautiful children and dear Ben and Pauline who care for
this group of children who have had unimaginable experiences in their
young lives. It didn't take me long for me to see why Mark and Kelly
love these kids as if they were born from them. We had introductions
and some play, and a brief time there until we walked to church, hand
in hand, with some kids being delighted to carry our backpacks. We
were greeted warmly and welcomed by the people at the church, a church
full of families. The Koi Koi children went upstairs to join other
kids. We sat up front and experienced a worship service that lasted a
solid 3 hours. I wondered if the sound of the singing and praising God
could be heard in New York...or at least felt there. The service was
given in Ugandan with an English translation. Before one song, the
pastor explained the power of the lyrics: "You never know when a song
will push you forward." That quote is for Annie!! Some words of the
song that followed:
"You are raising me again
Over mountain streams, over sunset skies,
Over all my dreams in my darkest hour."
A mournful, repeated cry was heard from the back of the church. "The
journey is HEAVY, Lord...Please HELP us!" Others were speaking in low
tones while they asked for God's help.
Pastor: "We surrender to You, Lord. Please take us."
The reading was from Mark VIII, verse 38 (??)
The sermon spoke of forgiveness and love, of climbing a difficult mountain.
Forgiving can be that mountain. It is up to us to love.
The mountain of love, the mountain of forgiveness, both difficult
mountains to climb.
A young mother in front of us had a baby who was sleeping. She wanted
to stand and praise The Lord but couldn't do that easily with her
sleeping child. She gladly accepted Caren's offer to hold the baby.
Caren had a sleeping baby in her lap for most of the 3 hour service.
At certain points in the service the congregation claps. The baby, in
her sleep, put her hands up to clap. ADORABLE!!
Another young (and stunningly beautiful) child, age 3?, wandered over
to me and held my hand or sat on my lap for a good part of the
service. Across the isle was a boy around 8 years old holding his
toddler brother for the entire service. The young kids were well
behaved and paying attention.
Pastor: "I don't know what kind of mountain you are climbing, but The
Lord Jesus will help you. He says 'I was on that journey'"
The Lord's message was delivered in roof raising song and dance and
word. People praised God, fell to their knees, wept and felt His
spirit. For a group that would probably best be described as Unitarian
or cultural Christians, this was quite an experience.
As visitors, we were introduced to the congregation and asked to come
up to tell our names and where we were from. Ben helped with
explaining the bigger picture.
After church we walked back to Koi Koi House (hand in hand...of
COURSE!) to an incredible day of play and more song and dance and a
FEAST of a meal that could be compared to thanksgiving, prepared by
Pauline (mostly) and Ben. What a welcome!! Pauline cooks on an outdoor
fire in using a pot and bags of some sort (?) I would love to ask her
more about how she prepares the meals. They fed ~ 20(?) people...and
were at church all morning!! The kids ate portions that would
challenge a grown man and clearly LOVED every morsel. There was a
roasted banana dish, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rice, chicken in
a sauce, beef in a sauce, a nut sauce that was lavender in color, a
flat bread called chapati, fresh pinapple and watermelon. Utensils
were used by the Americans. The kids eat with the chapati or their
fingers, with much efficiency!
A HUGE hit of the day at Koi Koi Home was Maureen's camera AND
printer. She took beautiful pictures of each child (and of Pauline,
Ben, and their precious Denise...) and put each one in plexiglass
frames for each child to keep. Magic!! Treasures. We brought books to
read that the kids flocked to, and Maureen also brought hacky sack.
Couldn't thank Pauline and Ben enough. We fell in love with this
family of orphaned children who have been through so much pain and now
live in so much love.
Then it was off to Wairaka. The kids didn't know we were coming (which
was decided ahead of time) but when we arrived, we were surrounded
with smiles and many hugs. The women of the village were having their
weekly business meeting where they brought their crafts and discussed
their marketing plan of selling these beautiful items to earn income.
They kindly let us interrupt their meeting. I don't have the details
down of how they sell, or how they manage their incomes (which I
believe is pooled) but we (the visitors) all thought that those items
somehow need to be brought back with us to sell in the US. We have
empty duffles now and could pack at least a couple...but there are
questions of customs, etc...may be too soon. Need to ask Mark and
Kelly and Denise. This may already be planned.
Moses gave us an in depth history of TGCA and a tour of that part of
Wairaka. The story really should be documented (book written?). We met
Mama Joyce and saw the grave of her beloved husband. Clearly the
healing is still a challenge to this sweet woman. I saw such sadness
in her eyes. We met her granddaughter, whose name I need to get the
spelling of, but have not yet met Adam, her grandson, battling
HIV/AIDS, beloved by Mark and Kelly.
Our tour of the village: We saw the greenhouse, a pilot project with a
goal of feeding those there, being a business selling what they grow,
and instructing other communities to do the same. We saw the land
where the school will be built. The kids go to public school now.
Caren wondered why a school here if there is public school available?
We were told that the public school classroom size is 200!!!! With
learning next to impossible in that environment, dropout is not at all
a surprising choice, and so a school is disparately needed! The very
large gardens are cared for by Peter who also attends to the pilot
poultry project. (Happy, healthy chickens in 2 coops.) As we walked
around and listened to Moses share the history of Wairaka and TGCA, I
know we were all awed by the many moving parts that are working to
improve the lives of so many. The team of Mark and Moses and Emma have
an incredible history.
And then it was play with kid time. We brought stickers. STICKERS. And
all of a sudden we were the Beatles in 1964. Books too. We were
swarmed by kids who were treated with stickers and a few books....and
love. Of course more photos and hugs and smiles as we said our
goodbye's for now. We left with craft items we bought for ourselves
(that were available for purchase during the business meeting) as well
as 2 huge avocados that were given to us by the kids. (Many avocado
trees there) They should be ripe in a few days. We were also treated
to a sample of sugar cane, which is, just for the record, SWEET.
Back to the hotel sweaty and dusty and happy, then a meeting with
Moses to go over tomorrow's plans, then dinner. On to a full day at
Kagoma Gate tomorrow, where we will be working in a classroom.