Operation Rafiki Children

First Pres Ocean Springs has been wonderful with supporting me and Rafiki throughout the past few months, and now they are doing Operation Christmas Child-Rafiki Version. In place of the normal Samaritan’s Purse project to send shoeboxes full of goodies to kids around the world, FPCOS has decided to take this year to send Christmas to my kids in Uganda! I couldn’t be more proud or excited about this, and I want to thank everyone in advance. Instead of wrapping shoe boxes, they will be sending books and matchbox cars to the children. This might not sound like a lot to most in America, but these children LOVE LOVE LOVE both of these. You don’t know what this will mean to the kids. Here is a little video I’ve put together for my mom to show at the gift wrapping/giving celebration going on this weekend in Ocean Springs. If you’re around OS and First Presbyterian on November 6th, you’ll see and hear more about what’s going on here in Uganda!

–Hallie

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What am I doing?

First, I want to apologize to all the people I have not yet emailed back. I have loved all the emails I have gotten recently but have failed miserably in responding in a timely manner. I’d like to say it was because I was just so busy saving orphans, but really it’s more likely I’m lazy and sometimes a little overwhelmed with communication. And I’m 8000 miles away, so I know you won’t get too upset if you don’t get a response immediately. I will get back to you! I promise.

Now that that’s off my chest. I got an email the other day that asked what a typical day was like here. And honestly, I asked myself that same question. There haven’t been many “typical days” since I’ve been here. But I’ve done and seen a lot, and I’ll tell you about the things I do most often. I really just realized when I got that email (that I haven’t responded to, sorry Mrs. Tina!) that I haven’t really talked about day to day life here. So here it is:

I’m a project kind of girl. I like to have a task and see it through to completion. So I’ve gotten a lot of projects that the ROS need done but don’t really have time to do. I’m learning to see Jesus in the small things through these projects. I’ve put all of the books in the library in a spreadsheet so home office can have a record of the books we have. I just finished counting and doing inventory on the widow’s program merchandise to be sent to the Rafiki Exchange and have made up packets of medicine for the children and staff that take medicine daily up through January. Now I’m working on getting a set of new books ready to be put in the library with library cards and “Property of Rafiki School” written on every one. There’s also been other little tasks like putting the kids artwork around the dining hall and running to the photocopier with Cecilia.

I think sometimes Carolyn or Cecilia have me do things more because they know I’ll enjoy it than there actually being a huge need. But I’m very thankful for those jobs. One of those things that I’ve done is going to doctor’s appointments for Lillian and other kids with Carolyn. I guess the ten years I dreamt of all things doctor has stuck with me a little bit. Although I no longer desire to be the one operating (well, most days anyway), it’s fascinating to see hospitals and doctor’s offices in a different country. Some offices we go to are much like what we’d see in the states, although a little more primitive. But the hospital I’ve been to (there are many in our area) was possibly the most unnerving yet intriguing thing I’ve seen in my time here. I’ve also spent a lot of time with Carolyn and Cecilia and Patti going into Kampala for different things for the children and the school. Yesterday, Carolyn and I drove to two different government offices to drop off paperwork that has to be done to keep each child at Rafiki.

For two weeks, I taught/helped to teach Kindergarten. To some, this probably seems like a super easy no brainer job. It’s not. If nothing else, I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for teachers and will send daily goodie bags filled with fun to the teachers of my one day children. Because they deserve it. Teaching is tough. Classroom management is tougher. These Rafiki kids are extremely well behaved. Even the day students. But I must say that was the hardest job I’ve ever had. Only two days of the two weeks was I the only teacher for this group of children, and both days I came home at noon (because the 5’s only go from 7:45 to 12) and took a nap. I was exhausted and my body actually physically hurt. Needless to say, teaching isn’t for me, and I soo appreciate the ones who God has called to it. But I’m also thankful it was just two weeks that they needed me!

I tutor two P6 (sixth grade) boys in math every afternoon. They challenge me to work on my patience without even knowing it, but their desire to learn, the progress they have made, and the fun we have (even in learning) are all huge rewards.

GAMES was a week where the kids had different activities each day while on break from school. (Kids in Uganda [and most of Africa] go to school year round with two or three week breaks every three months and a longer break for Christmas.) They colored the Uganda flag, drew pictures of what Uganda meant to each of the children, had a slip and slide/water day , watched movies, did craft projects, sang and danced, and much more.

I’ve been here almost two months, and it feels like so much longer but not that long at the same time. I love this place, this country, these people. This isn’t a complete description of everything I’ve done and I’ll write more as I think of more! I’ve been fortunate to be able to see and do a lot of different things in my time here, and there’s still more to be done.

Minor prayer request: I feel silly even writing this, but oh well. In a few weekends (November 18-20), the women ROS and I are going to Jinja and Iganga for the weekend. We’re going to see two different organizations that were started by girls just about my age, Amazima and Musana Children’s Home. The girls from Musana are friends of one of the ROS and came to see Rafiki about a month ago, and now we’re going to see what they do. I’m going to write a post about them when we get back. Their story is incredible. Amazima is the organization that Katie Davis started after moving here 4 years ago. (Links to more info on her are under Change the World on my blog header.) We are going to a feeding program that they do for children in a town outside of Jinja. Here is the prayer part: I really want to meet Katie. and the people from Amazima that I’ve talked to say she’s usually there. But would you pray that she would be there? Her blog had a big impact on my life last semester and is one of the ways God used to get me here. I feel so silly asking for that, but it would be really neat to be able to meet her. (Also, if you haven’t gotten her book Kisses From Katie, buy it and read it. I haven’t found it here yet, but my mom is sending me a copy. I’ve heard it’s incredible.)

In Him,
Hallie

**Also, I am playing with the format of the blog. If you want to leave a comment, it’s up at the top of the post under the date. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with this format, but it’s fun to play!

**Another thing: Aren’t these boys on the header sooo cute? My cottage 12 boys. Benon, Jerome, Simon, and Isaac. Can I fit them in my suitcase and bring them home, Dad?

Propane Update

Thank you so much for all the prayers for propane.

The propane truck came today and we are now 38% full! While we’d obviously like to be 100% full, 38% is a huge answer to prayer, and we hope to get more next week.

Again, thank you so much for all your prayers. Our God is one who listens and answers our prayers. Carolyn reminded me of the story of the woman and the oil and how God provided when she thought she would run out. I’m not sure what to say other than it is truly amazing and a blessing for the Lord that we didn’t run out. Not one kid went without their normal meals, and the options that were available for other cooking methods didn’t have to be used.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 
Matthew 7:7-11

So thankful! Thanksgiving comes a month early.

So I have a half written blog post in my drafts that I will be deleting as soon as I finish this one.
It was all about how miserable things are. HA! Which is funny, because things aren’t really miserable at all. Things are actually quite good. But the past couple of days I was in a funk and ended up writing a not so cheery post last night. (and thankfully not publishing it! my dad would have been on the next plane to Uganda to bring me home with my negative nancy thoughts.)
So instead of focusing on the bad, I’m writing about the good today. The things I’m thankful for. I know Thanksgiving is in November, but think of it as a early Thankgiving. (and my only thanksgiving. thanks pilgrims for not coming to Uganda. ;])

I’m so very thankful:

For God. For being so faithful everyday when I am so not. For walking beside me and giving me exactly what my heart desires. And for making my heart desire Africa. For protecting me but not allowing me to be content with “the safe”. For the past six months of growth in our relationship, and for revealing yourself to me in new incredible ways everyday. For reminding me that you are with me always and I’m never actually alone. For the Bible. Your incredible word. For each and every story in the Bible. For Esther and her being ready “for such a time as this”. For books like “Radical” “Secure in Everlasting Arms” “Crazy Love” and “Jesus Calling”. For pulling me away from my little world so I could get a glimpse of your big plan with right perspective. For allowing me to get caught up and lost in the world so I could turn and run to you and understand how good You truly are. For being the one who says “Come unto ME and I will give you rest” and waits patiently as I run around trying to find rest everywhere but there until I end up exhausted where you were all along, quietly whispering that it is YOU that I was looking for. (No picture to go with that one. I just can’t find one that does You justice.)

For Africa. For Uganda. For Kampala and Wakiso Town. For parts of the world that don’t make sense to me but find a place in my heart. For poverty and the ability to live and thrive on so much less. For finding joy in the little things. For the things that work smoothly and the parts that I won’t ever understand. For the frustrations that lead me to prayer and the prayer that leads to the realization of His power. For the lessons I learn in difficulties. For the love all around. For God’s provision in matters like propane and surgeries and illness and absent teachers and traffic.

For Rafiki. For the incredible job that is done caring for each and every one of these kids. For the ROS. For the fun that they have shown me. For the lessons they have taught. For finding “spiritual lessons” in everything. For Mike and Carolyn and that they would give up their lives to serve for the past ten years. For Cecilia and Stan and the way they keep things running and are selfless in serving in jobs that aren’t always the most uplifting or rewarding. For Patti in her first few weeks here and the adventures we have already had.

For the children. Each and every one of them. Beautiful children and still children all the same. For their bright spirits and incredible ability to make a tough day so worth it. For teaching me more than I could ever teach any of them. For the smiles they so willingly share and the love they pour out. For each and every one of them being at Rafiki. For a God that works through awful situations to bring glory to His name. For the stories. The good and the bad. For the staff. For loving on the children and the mini-missionaries alike. For the teachers. For a Christian education for each of the children. For the day students. Even the ones that are hard to deal with. For projects–completed and in the works. For keeping busy but also having time to reflect and live. For not being too busy to hear God for one of the first times in my life.

For my family. For my Dad. For letting me follow God 8000 miles away from his doorstep, because I know that’s not an easy thing to do. For my Mom. For joining me for the first two weeks and getting me settled and leaving me here. For encouragement for when I need it and when I don’t. For my sister. Hannah. For listening to my ridiculous stories and reacting just the way I was hoping you would. For choosing to be a teacher. Because I have quickly realized how hard it is, and respect you all the more for that. For my little brother. Because you’re awesome and you actually emailed me today. That gives you like 1000 points in my book. For my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. For the love and support that you immediately showered upon me after hearing about my trip and the continued support. For loving me. Always.

For everyone who supported me and continues to support me. For there being a reason for me to write so many thank you notes (a lot more than I have a picture of!). For the cards and notes and newspaper articles and letters and emails and facebook messages. For encouragement. For prayers. So many prayers. Each one answered in its own way.

For my First Pres OS family. For the sweet words of encouragement and financial support for this kind of crazy but definitely right decision of my life. For loving me and these sweet children from far away. For choosing Rafiki, a place so near and dear to my heart, to give Christmas gifts to this year. For loving me because of your love for my family, many who I don’t even know well. For what God is doing in the life of the church in terms of missions and the excitement that comes with that.

For my wonderful boyfriend, JT. For loving Jesus. For being so excited about God’s plans and putting Him first. For never discouraging me from this or any of my dreams, but instead sticking by me through it no matter how far away from you it takes me. For our stream of emails and Skype conversations. For listening to me and never telling me exactly how ridiculous I sound. For praying for me.

For my friends. For Kristen. My roommate. I think I’ll still be calling you “my roommate” when we are married with families. For being that person for me. The one I have cried and screamed and laughed with. I miss Gunter 106 but am excited for more adventures when I get back. For Hannah and Jennifer. For making me laugh. All the time. For keeping me in the loop of MC and being such an encouragement. For keeping life fun. For all my friends. For prayers to Jesus on my behalf. For sweet Facebook comments and emails and blog comments that have made each day (even the ones I haven’t replied to! sorry!).

For Laguna. My sisters. For each and every one of you wonderful girls and the encouragement you are. For your willingness to put together a box of happies for the kids here. For making me so proud of everything you (we) are, even a continent away. For throwing what you know, being loud and proud, and bleeding blue.

For MC and Pinelake and my life in Clinton. That God has blessed me with a place I desire to return to but has put me in a place where I’m content to stay.

And for so much more…

I read on a blog a few months ago where someone said they were trying to live their lives as if the only things they would have the next day were the things they thanked God for the day before. I know I probably forgot a thousand things I’m thankful for, but I think I’d have a pretty good life if these were the only things that I had tomorrow. (Well.. and then I’m thankful for planes too. Because I do want to get home eventually. :])

What are you thankful for today? Focus on those things.

–Hallie

Wakiso Baptist.

I went with some of the mommas and children this week to a village church. I guess I wasn’t really thinking about what the church would look like. Honestly, “Wakiso Baptist” sounded middle-class to me. So when we pulled up in the taxi on a dirt road next to a market (market is using the term loosely), I was a little surprised. We hiked down a dirt… road I guess, although it was more just dirt than a place where people drove. I was a little surprised initially by the physical state of the church, but after a few minutes at the church felt relatively at ease and normal. I left wanting to come back, though I didn’t really understand all of the English translations and no American preacher would ever have the guts to speak as long as this one did.

At Wakiso Baptist, stripped tree logs hold up the pieces of tin that ward off the rain over the dirt floor. The “stage” is a platform also made of dirt but packed in slightly higher than the rest of the church. The focal point behind the pulpit is not a large wooden cross or projected image of a small international child smiling. It’s a shower curtain or a few of them, mainly there for the practical purpose of shielding rain, as it also acts as the front wall of the church. The congregation sits on bench frames made of metal pipes with one piece of wood that my bottom didn’t fully fit on. It’s relatively dark, actually it’s only as bright as the day is because there are no lights. There’s no electricity or running water, and as far as a bathroom, I didn’t ask, but I did see a little boy peeing at the back of the church at the end of the service.

But after the initial “oh, this is a Ugandan church” feeling left, it was an incredibly normal experience. There was singing, dancing, announcements, and preaching (athough each part lasted about 45 minutes longer than the 15 minutes we “put up with” in American church.) and I felt incredibly at home. The preaching was good, although translated from Luganda so a little bit jumbled. The story of Esther is probably my favorite in the Bible, (well, second to Jesus. He wins.) and it just so happened that it was the topic of a sermon series the pastor had going. At one point in the service, I looked around and thought “This is not normal, but this is good.”

As I’ve thought about that experience and what made it not an uncomfortable and alarming one, I realize it was because the people were comfortable. This IS their normal. This has been their normal since birth. I don’t think I’ve done a good job at explaining Rafiki here, but let me just tell you, it’s like an oasis. It is not like the world outside our gates. Which is an incredible thing to be able to provide a stable environment for a group of kids that have come from lives that are anything but stable, but as a mini-missionary, it’s kind of like getting the Disney version of a war story.

I sometimes forget the poverty that is normal even right outside my gate because of the amenities I am capable of having as an American (even an American living in Africa). This church was real Africa. And it was eye-opening to me because these people worshipped God, the same God I worship, when He has given me so incredibly much and them a whole lot less. And they accept their state of being. Not that I’m sure each and everyone of them is totally great about living in poverty, but there wasn’t complaining. There isn’t complaining here really actually. People make plans when God provides. They don’t make plans for God to provide and then convince a wealthy church to do the providing. (Now I’m not condemning America. At school, I attend a “mega-church” that just did a life-changing series all about giving more and serving more and loving more and has raised a ton of money through church members and is doing incredible things with that money. I’m just saying that this is a different way of doing things.) But these people GET to trust God to provide because they don’t have another option really.

As I thought further, I realized I expect people to not be satisfied with what they have. I expect for people to be making plans and to be focused on the future and what “better” could look like. It is my normal to look around at what I am given and wonder how it could be changed, how I can make it better. I won’t lie. I sat in the church and thought, “I could raise enough money to build them a building so they wouldn’t have to meet here.” But the incredible thing about all of that is it’s unneccesary. The God we worship doesn’t only exist in finished buildings with the right lights and songs. He doesn’t only exist when we worship “well”. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and He provides. And it doesn’t matter to these people if they worship on a dirt floor under a tin roof. They still worship. And I’m learning to worship right beside them.

**The picture above isn’t of the church. Just a neat picture of African life today.

**Also, still no propane. But we have not run out. Thank you so much for the prayers and please continue to pray.

Lillian

This little girl in the yellow is named Lillian.


I need to get a better picture of her because she has the most joyful spirit.
Lillian will tell you that she’s turning 9 in December, but it’s more likely that she’s about 12. She came to Rafiki about 3 years ago from a village where both of her parents had died.
She was sick and malnourished when she came to Rafiki, suffering with tape worms and chronic ear infections.
She’s seen huge physical growth (although she’s still tiny for her age) and her health has improved drastically.
Because of reoccurring ear infections that went without treatment before Lil got to Rafiki, she has a hole in her eardrum that has leaked something that looks like snot for a while now. This is dangerous because it could drain into her brain and cause meningitis if it is not kept clear and dry.
After almost two years of treatment and cleaning to dry out the ear and find the problem, she’s having surgery to repair this tomorrow.
It was a problem that the Ugandan ENT did not feel comfortable operating on alone, so he scheduled her for surgery with a group of Canadian ENTs that are in Kampala for two weeks doing as many surgeries as they can on local children with ear problems. A Canadian surgeon will be operating on her with help from her Ugandan doctor.
Pray, if you would, that the surgery goes well, and there are no complications.
More to come about Lillian after surgery.

–Hallie

**Update: Lillian is home from surgery and doing well. She spent one night in the hospital and might return to school tomorrow. She’s hurting but will recover well with very little hearing loss. Thanks so much for the prayers. Continue to pray as her recovery has just begun, and she’s in a lot of pain.

Prayer Request

Prayer Request:
Pray that Rafiki’s propane supplier will bring propane to the village soon. The kitchen runs on propane, and the tank is below empty. The propane company was notified a while ago but because of a spike in coal prices, propane supplies across the country are slim to none. Pray that our supplier gets propane soon, and that the Lord provides enough for cooking in the mean time. The kitchen produces about 700 meals a day during the school week which starts monday, and we have lots of hungry kids to feed!

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16