Musana Children’s Home

Two weekends ago, we made the trip to Jinja and Iganga to see two ministries run by girls just a few years older than me. It was a trip we’d been planning since the very beginning of my time here, and I was really excited about it. I know so many people were praying for the weekend, and thank you! because it was an incredible weekend full of good time with Jesus and ones that love Him dearly. This first post is just about Musana Children’s Home. I’ll write another about Amazima later this week. There’s so much to say, and I want to do both of them justice!

Musana is a children’s home run by two 23-year-old sisters, Leah and Andrea Pauline, originally from Boulder, Colorado. I got to meet them in September when they came to visit and see Rafiki. Cecilia and Stan are from Colorado and had met the girls and their mom when they were in the States a while ago.

Musana came about when Leah and Andrea were on a summer trip/internship in Iganga and found/were shown to an orphanage that changed their lives and plans. There were 162 children living in three tiny rooms without beds, mats, or even blankets. When it rained (which is often in Uganda), the floors where the children slept would become mud. The adults running the orphanage were corrupt and would show the awful conditions to people traveling through to get money that they claimed would be spent to buy bunk beds or feed the children or fix the buildings or…. They, however, wouldn’t spend any of that money on the children. The kids were rarely fed and, in desperation and hunger, many turned to the streets to sell themselves or beg and steal for money or food.

After seeing something like this, Andrea and Leah couldn’t just return to normal American life. They got together with locals and worked to acquire land and buildings to move the kids to. They were allowed to take 80 of those kids from the orphanage and now three years later have about 100 from that orphanage and around Uganda.

One of the Buildings at Musana
The Library

Musana is beautiful. You can just feel the love of Jesus coursing throughout the campus. Every building is painted a different bright color, and a few have large wall murals on the outside.

The children are beautiful and loving. They are so thankful to have a home like Musana, probably because they remember the conditions that they were barely surviving in just a few years ago. From the moment we got there, they were welcoming and excited about being alive. The kids live in a dorm situation divided by age groups and gender with a “mom” in each room. They were all over the property, playing football (soccer) and other games, reading in the library, cleaning, and doing other things. One of the little boys recited a poem he had written about Musana. It was precious. These kids know what a hard life is and are so thankful for Leah and Andrea and the rest of the staff for giving them the love and chance at life that Musana is giving. Leah and Andrea are fantastic and solid. I’m hoping God will open doors to let me go and volunteer with Musana at least short term one day soon!

Musana’s whole goal is to be sustainable by Uganda. Right now, they have a sponsorship program and recieve funding from the States and other countries (Leah and Andrea have a sister who lives in Beijing and was doing a fundraiser for Musana the weekend we were visiting!). Their goal is to eventually be totally funded and run by Ugandans to give the people a sense of ownership and break bonds of dependence. They would love to be able to leave it completely to Ugandans eventually. But these things take lots of money to keep going. They have a cafe, tilapia farm, chicken project, jewelry and cloth business, as well as other projects in the works to make this dream a reality in the future.

Making Paper Beads

Paper beads drying after being dipped in sealant.

Altogether, I was so very impressed by Musana and so thankful to see how God is working in HUGE ways across this impoverished country. He’s using normal people to do incredible things. Leah and Andrea make sure things are running smoothly, but they try to let everything be run by Ugandans. Each project (school, cafe, children, etc.) has a Ugandan in the leadership position. This way, God forbid something would happen that foreigners wouldn’t be able to be in the country, Musana would run smoothly. Rafiki has many of these same precautions in place just in case of a problem, although obviously everyone prays this never has to be an issue. It was so neat to be able to see Musana because Andrea and Leah aren’t very much older than me. Because they said yes to God, He has given them Musana and goals and dreams and a reality that is, I’m sure, bigger than they would have imagined on their initial trip to Uganda a few years ago.

If you’d like to read more about Musana (they probably would do a better job of telling about themselves than I do), click here!

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Throwing out an idea. And a few pictures from the weekend!

No great moral is coming out of this post! I’ve been feeling out of writing since my last post, but I wanted to throw out an idea and share some pictures of last weekend adventures. I’ll write more later!

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas season coming into full swing in the US, I wanted to put an idea out there and see if anyone would be interested in it. I know so many people have done so much for me from donating for the trip to wrapping books and cars for christmas gifts for the kids and sending school supplies that are hard to get here, but God’s laid something extra for you to help with on my heart a few times. If you’re interested, I’d like to raise some money for Rafiki and the organizations that we visited this past weekend. If God doesn’t have me here next semester helping with orphans, I’d love to at least make it a little easier for the ones He has called for this time! These are all organizations that run on small budgets but do really incredible things for the people of Uganda. I can’t wait to tell you more about our weekend and Amazima and Musana later this week.

I’m not sure how this would play out. It’s definitely up for discussion. I’ll be home in about two weeks and I’d love to get something going for when I get home (nothing too involved Mom, I promise!). Maybe get kids involved in a tangible way. There’s a group that gets kids to do cupcake stands (kind of like lemonade stands) to raise money for orphans. Maybe something along those lines? Hot chocolate and cookies around Christmas time? Or something completely different. Whatever works! I haven’t even mentioned this to my parents, so if it falls flat, that’s totally fine! I just wanted to put it out there because I know this is a season of giving across the world, and I want to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of all the busyness of Christmas as I travel home in a few weeks! If you’re interested in helping or have ideas, email me at Darphin@mc.edu or comment here!

It’s been a week since our trip to Jinja and Iganga to see Musana and Amazima and the work both of these organizations are doing in this beautiful but very poor country. It was a really good and busy weekend full of experiences and conversations I won’t soon forget! I’m going to write a post on it soon (hopefully), but for now, here are some pictures! Enjoy!

And thanks for prayers. I got to meet and spend time with Katie Davis! God answers even the small desires of our hearts.

Thanks so much again for all the support, prayers, notes, facebook messages, books, school supplies, matchbox cars, packages, letters, emails, comments, and love that has been sent my way (and the kids way!) during this adventure God has had me on the past three months!
I love each and every one of you and am so thankful that you’ve followed along so far!
Hallie

Goggles.

Each afternoon, I tutor two boys in P6 (sixth grade) math. It’s kind of a joke that I would be tutoring math, but I’m thankful it’s sixth grade. Almost any higher level and the students would be doing the tutoring. These boys have been the most rewarding and at times most frustrating part of being here. We started with 4 when my mom was here, and I tried to continue with the group after she left. But it was too much for the girl who might struggle if she was given a P6 math exam today. And so we’re down to two. Two that need help the most. Two that want to learn the most.

There is Robert, and there is Disan.

Robert lives at Rafiki in Cottage 10. He’s behind because of medical limitations, but he tries hard.

Disan is a day student. His dad is one of our guards, also named Disan. He’s come to our Rafiki school only in the past year and is far behind his classmates. He desires to learn so badly but needs the basics in multiplication as his class moves to angles and geometry. His English has improved drastically even in the time I’ve known him. It might be the official language of the country, and therefore taught in schools, but many day students speak nothing but Luganda or other dialects at home, making English classes a struggle.
It’s likely that they’ll both repeat P6 next year, but this is common in a country where education is rudimentary and testing stringent.

Because of medical issues, Robert gets a snack each afternoon, which leaves Disan and I with a few minutes, sometimes more, each day to start the day’s work and to talk. Disan is curious. He desires so much to learn and know. He knows there are possibilities beyond what he has right now, and he’s ever asking questions about “my country”. Today when I walk into the dining hall where we sit each afternoon, I’m wearing my Ray-ban sunglasses. They’re almost a necessity for those of us with light eyes here in this bright country near the equator, and there’s rarely a day I don’t have them on. I lay them on the table, and we start working on multiplication tables.

As he writes his multiplication tables for probably the thousandth time in the past two weeks, he asks questions. He points at my sunglasses, the ones he calls goggles, and says that someone has told him that they are very expensive. Wealth and poverty is a conversation I’m not sure how to have, so I automatically try to look at the bright side, trying to think of a way to turn this into a conversation about how he is wealthy in other ways. And then he says it, with big eyed awe, “Very expensive, around 15,000 shillings.”

And those five words break my heart and send my head spinning. Because 15,000 shillings is the equivalent of less than 7 dollars. I look at my Ray-bans and do the math in my head. Yes, very expensive, because this plastic I wear over my eyes cost almost 20 times that 15,000 shillings. “Now, they were a gift,” I justify in my head. “And you’ve had them for almost two years,” counters the little voice that wants me to be content with the luxury I have.

But still. He looks bewildered just at the thought of 15,000 shillings, saying he could probably never afford them. And I think of 7 dollars and the stuff I have spent it on even since being in Uganda.

I think of Pinterest, the latest fad in social networking, and the outfits, jewelry, and things I have pinned to a board, things on a wish list. Almost all things I could very practically have if I wanted them. All things that are disposable as soon as the next bigger and better comes out. I come from a society where the sky is the limit. And from a family that has been given much. And from parents who have worked hard to provide for not only my needs but also my reasonable desires.

But reasonable is so different to this 13 year old who tells me in conversation that he digs for food each day and dreams of a better life. I think of my own little brother, just a few years older than the brown faced boy who sits before me, and the Facebook status a few weeks ago exclaiming of the new Iphone 4lmnop (I think it’s actually s, but I’ve always been a little theatrical.). And I wonder where this disconnect has come from. Because it’s not the things that are inherently bad. As I write this, I’m sitting in my house wearing a $10 target watch looking at my $50 Lifeway Bible typing on my I’m-not-going-to-think-about-the-price MacBook Pro. And all these things are good. And are blessings. But I just don’t know what to do about it. Because I could give Disan all the money in my wallet. By tomorrow, I could get him all the money in my bank account and my savings. I have friends and family who are loving and generous, and we could raise enough money to buy him Ray-ban sunglasses and an Iphone and a Mac computer. We could outfit him in Abercrombie (is that still what middle school boys want to wear? it’s been a while.) and his sisters in Anthropologie. But would that fix anything? Would that be enough? No.

Because while Disan and so many others like him dream of America, I dream of Uganda. I want the simplicity that comes with life here. The taste of it I have had is enough to make me want so much more life and so much less stuff. I know I’ll go home soon, but I pray that I will be back before long. And if this place isn’t my forever home, I pray that God puts me in places of poverty: physical, spiritual, and emotional. Because I’ve tasted secondhand the joy that comes in knowing that the only way that your life will even go on is if God provides. And I want the closeness to God, the dependence that comes in that realization alone. I don’t know what God has for my future (after college, that is. Mom and Dad, don’t worry. Without a major act of God, I am coming home December 10th, and I will graduate from MC next spring.), but I want more… and less.

I want to break the bonds that money and stuff has on my heart. The desire for more when I know more will never really satisfy, just leave me craving the next thing. I want to be willing to give it all up because it’s there where relationship can grow. Relationship with God. Relationship with others. It’s when I stop competing that I can love. It’s when I stop striving that I can see. It’s when I put on glasses that allow me to see like Jesus and overcome the near-sightedness I fall into so often in my cozy beach town or when my biggest worries are tests and tailgates on that green patch of earth half-a-world-away but ever so close in my heart.

Because yes, those things matter. Yes, those things count. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t. But eternal is the prospective that I should base my life on.  That what we do for Jesus is the only thing that matters. Because, Thank God, this earth will soon fall away, and all the problems in it will be a distant memory. But God wants to use us. He wants to use ME to get people to see His love and His light. And it’s there that He gives us the desires of our hearts.

In fact, He invites you and I to be a part of the planning committee of the biggest party the universe will ever see, if only we get out of our comfort zones and do what He’s calling. Sometimes it looks like a cake in the oven and balloons on the mailbox, and sometimes it looks like a plane ticket halfway around the world, but God wants each of us to celebrate Him. If only we are willing to give up everything we’ve ever strived for, put on the glasses that give us right perspective, and run full force after the One who can give us everything we’ll ever want or need.

…and I bet Disan never thought a simple comment about a pair of “goggles” would turn into a million thoughts and a blog post. Actually, I can tell you for sure he doesn’t know what a blog is.

–Hallie

This Weekend: Prayer Requests

Sunrise at Rafiki (Thanks for the picture, Cecilia!)

We’ll be getting up bright and early tomorrow morrning to travel to two towns about 3 hours from here for the weekend. The women ROS (Carolyn, Cecilia, and Patti) and I are going to see two ministries, Amazima and Musana (learn more about both in “Change the World” below the header). I talked a little about this trip on this post. Both ministries are run by girls just a few years older than me, and I’m so excited about it! Please pray for  safe travels as the roads aren’t the best, and for a good time of fellowship and relaxation/learning for all of us. I can’t wait to tell you more about what God is doing in these places when we return!
(And continue to pray that Katie Davis would be at the Amazima feeding program. It’s a silly request, but I really want to meet her!)

–Hallie

Queens and Princesses.


It’s Saturday at Rafiki Village Uganda.
I sit and play and talk with the girls of cottage 1,2,3, and 4.
Around me, they twist palm fronds and tell stories.
They laugh because I just can’t get this art that’s been mastered by ones who have not yet reached seven years.
They weave patterns as I weave memories. I want to be followed around with a camera.
I want to have each and every second on film.
Recorded so I won’t ever forget. Recorded so I can relive these moments.
Because I know they won’t last forever.
That I will have to go home in just a few weeks.
That I won’t get to hug and laugh and weave for much longer.

When I’ve done enough for today, probably only ten lines, I put my palm-frond-turned-messy-creation aside, thinking of how much it is like my life.
All messy when I try so hard to put it perfectly together, only perfect when I’m not in control.
I shake the thoughts from my head and pull her into my lap. Little Mercy.

She tells me she’s three, even though I know she’s four.
She wore a birthday crown and recieved a book just a month ago.
But she’s four, and these kind of things slip quietly out of the minds of those so young.
She cares more about play and laughter and love than the number that somebody told her corresponds with who she is.

She sits on my lap facing me and we talk.
She tells me that she is brown and I am pink.
Pink like a queen, because that’s the color of the ones in the books on the shelves.
And I want nothing more than to erase this image from her mind.

For her to know that queens come in all colors and that she is the Princess of the One that I love.
The One that loves her so dearly.
But she knows.
She knows in her own four-year-old way because she is surrounded by His love.
At this place down long dirt roads carved deep with the lines of memories of the rainy season.
At this place that He specifically ordained little Mercy to be, she’s not an orphan anymore.
She’s loved by a family. His family, and hers too. Because they’re the same.
By Mama Jane, the only mom she’s ever known. The one who laughs at her four-year-old statements and delights in her four-year-old love.
By her nine sisters who’ve helped raise her like she’s 4 going on 14.
By the staff and family of Rafiki.
And by that one pink skinned girl who desperately wants to love and be loved by the ones all gathered around her for a photograph and all the ones who haven’t found the love of a home like my Rafiki children have and more importantly who haven’t found the Love that only He can bring.
–Hallie

When we kinda sorta trust.

The following post was supposed to be an email to my boyfriend, and as I wrote it, I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy.

We have bible study every Thursday with the ROS (and me).
Everyone at Rafiki studies the same verses or chapters (school kids, mammas, teachers, guards, ROS, kitchen, etc.) each week. It’s neat.
Anyway, this week we studied Matthew 14-16:12. It’s mostly miracles of Jesus. One thing really stuck out to me and I wanted to share it with you. Two times in this passage there are miracles of Jesus feeding thousands.
Okay, we all know the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. If you’ve ever stepped foot in a church or sunday school classroom, you know that story. But did you know it wasn’t a one time deal? (Maybe most Christians do, because they’ve actually read the Bible instead of just listening in church like this girl) but I didn’t realize that. For some reason that really hit me.
So, all these people are out in the middle of nowhere and they’re going to go without dinner if something isn’t done. And the disciples say, Jesus, send them away. And Jesus says, no, you feed them. But the disciples don’t have enough even for themselves. And yet they kind of sort of trust that Jesus can do something about it, and he feeds thousands of people… and this wasn’t a one time thing.
I think this really hits me because of where I am. Here in Africa, food is worked for. And if you have to go without one meal, it’s not a huge deal. People are more commonly hungry than not. And people can live without one meal. But the neat thing is that Jesus knew this. He knew that the people could go without one meal and wouldn’t die. Yet, to show how all powerful He is, He takes care of their immediate needs so He can continue to serve their spiritual needs in teaching. And then just a chapter later, He does it all over again, and this time with people He wasn’t even really supposed to be helping, the Gentiles.
God seems to teach me best when I’m in community with other believers. It’s in Bible studies, small groups, church services, and other similiar situations that He seems to speak into me most often. The story of the 5,000 had just been a miracle to me before today. Another show of how powerful God is. More proof that Jesus was the Son of God. And you know, sometimes that’s what we need. We need a reminder or proof of who God is. But I think today, I needed a reminder of how He cares. And He provided just that through a story that I’ve heard a thousand times (and saw once too! Thanks FPCOS Marketplace Bible School drama team for using optical illusions to make bible stories more realistic. Speaking of Marketplace, we should bring that one back. [good thing this is my blog, so i can say what i want, right?]). A story that so often becomes just another show of His power, but really speaks wonders about His character. God wasn’t just concerned about these people’s spiritual bodies, and in all reality, these people probably could have done without one meal. Heck, that might have even been a way for Jesus to show His power in other ways. But instead, He cared about their physical needs and took the little that they gave Him and made it so much more than they could have ever even asked for.
I hope this meant something to someone. He loves you a lot.
–Hallie

p.s. i wasn’t kidding about marketplace. 

7 Billion. That’s 7,000,000,000.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way I live my life.
The way we all live our lives. But particularly me, because you know, it’s me.
We are on this earth for such a short period of time, relatively.
And yet it’s the longest thing we’ll ever experience, this side of heaven.
I think I stuggle with this idea because I’ve always wanted to be known.
When I was little and active in theater, I was sure I’d be a movie star.
In middle and high school, I just knew it was “God’s plan” for me to be a doctor.
And I knew I would use that to do something important: cure cancer, AIDS, etc.
And now, I feel like I’m starting all over again in that dream, but it’s tougher this time.
Because in my heart, I know that I’m not the one to get the glory.
I’m working for the Lord, and it is for His glory that I should work.
But that’s the thing.
I think each one of us has a little part of us, even if it’s hidden or shoved down deep inside, that wants to be something special.
The world population (estimates) reached 7 billion people last week. 7,000,000,000 people. Just like you and me.
How in the world do you become special to 7,000,000,000 people?
You love them. Like Jesus did. You care more about them than the 1 person that you are.
Look how silly 1 looks next to 7,000,000,000. Do you think you’re anything next to that?
Well you are. There’s a guy, Jesus, who laid down His own life so that you could have life.
And He wants to give you life to the full. Here and in eternity.
And I’ve found that the best way to find life to the full is to pour out your life to others.
Whether it be in going halfway around the world to a kid in the slum (which, by the way, I’m not that holy. The kids here have running water and electricity in their cottages on our gated compound.) or next door to the elderly man that needs yard work.
No matter if it’s the “weird kid” in your class or your mom or dad (I don’t mean to imply that your mom and dad are weird… even though mine are. ;])
People need people. And our world tells us that we need things. That we need the latest and the greatest. And that people don’t matter so much.
But they’ve got it backwards.
Don’t take my word on it though. Try it for yourself. Spend one day playing with sweet kiddos across the street. Take an hour to call up that friend going through a hard time. Sit down and write an email to that person that’s been on your mind.
You’ll never know how big God is until you step out and do something that you can’t do without His help.
Because at the end of the day, even if everyone in America knows your name, you’ll still die. The only things that will last forever are the things you do to spread the name of Jesus. And His name can be spread even in the small things.