Monthly Archives: August 2013

Glimpses of the Kingdom

The “Kingdom of God” is an image whichhas been percolating in my heart and my time in Uganda encouraged me to revisit it and gather a few thoughts.

One of my great joys in Uganda was to visit 3 other “Children’s Villages” (orphanages with schools) in Uganda.  Two villages are in Lira and the third, Watoto, in Kampala.  During each visit national staff from Children of the Nations alongside American staff and volunteers asked questions of the other organizations about their vision, history, growth, current projects, challenges, etc.  Each village is unique yet the goal of each is to raise orphaned and disadvantaged children in loving, caring homes growing to love Christ and lead the nation of Uganda.  Aspects of each village sparked our interest.  A fully functioning computer lab, a highly successful secondary school, a school working to have international accreditation (not being tied down to national exams), electricity, running water, a culinary program, a baby’s home complete with washers and dryers, and so many other ideas.  Then we all thought of the 60 or so full care children at Children of the Nations in Uganda, the many Village Partnership children and what the future may hold for all of them.  We dreamed privately and out loud as we all can be part of building it.  At COTN Uganda a new circle of homes is underway with 2 of 8 homes finishing completion.  There are children who complete Primary 7 and then go to secondary boarding schools but maybe an on-site secondary school would be better for students.  The potential projects and plans are endless both at COTN and every other children’s village.  Dreaming and planning on how to best love, serve and raise kids who love Jesus is daunting, exciting, and part of something much larger, God’s Kingdom work. 

As we began our tour of Watoto, thanking them for their time, a longtime administrator was so very gracious which helped bring perspective.  She said, “We’re all building the same Kingdom, right?”  She went on to state that they are glad to share what they have learned over nearly 20 years of caring for children through developing children’s villages.  She stated they have learned through successes, but also failures, and are glad to share what wisdom they have gained.  The Same Kingdom.  Her graciousness, willingness to share, honesty, and purpose shined through.  So we visited one of the Watoto Children’s Villages with over 1000 children, a baby’s home with 98 children under the age of 2, a thriving secondary school with students getting top national marks, and a shop building furniture and roofing for future homes.  The atmosphere was that of a prep school located like a city on a hill, which it is.  It could be easy to be pulled into thinking and feeling Watoto is “better” in doing the work of God, in building his Kingdom.  However in Lira they (Watoto) aren’t better, they aren’t there.  It’s not a criticism rather an acknowledgement that each person, church, and organization must take responsibility for the work given to them by God.  My trip to Lira left me encouraged that the work in Lira through Children’s of the Nations is important, critical, and Kingdom building work which He brought me to be part of.

My return home via 4 days in the UK still had me thinking of Kingdom work.   I woke at 5am on Sunday August 11th with thoughts of what my role has been this summer in Kingdom Work in Uganda.  That phrase kept mulling about my brain as I thought of the reports yet to write, recommendations to make, pictures to edit, and so much to consider in terms of next steps as my work is not complete.  Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision, was speaking in church that morning and he said, “Having accomplished what he came to earth to do, why didn’t Jesus finish all of history right then and there? Well, he gave the church a mission; it is now the church’s job to do the work of building the kingdom of God.”  

As part of the Church I went to Uganda – the church made up of the support of family, friends and church members.  Throughout my time in Uganda it was clear that I was the face of a much larger Kingdom team and for that I am humbled. 

My theme song for the summer was “Kings and Queens” by Audio Adrenaline

“Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in Your majesty

When we love, when we love the least of these”

 

When I think of the Kingdom of God my heart turns to the children pictured below.  There is room for a multitude of Queens and Kings in this Kingdom here is a glimpse of a few of them. 

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God “Outdreams” Me Every Time

As I left the Children’s Village and then the Guest House to venture home via safari the question by the children and staff was, “Will you come back?” Well that’s the question I’ve been asking as well. My intention is to return to Uganda but I’m also not about making promises and more importantly I don’t know what God’s timing is and when he will lead me back. I don’t know what my work would consist of in Uganda (though there’s plenty of it) or for how long I would go. I do hope to come back sooner than later and to continue to use my skills. The unknowing causes me a bit of anxiety – Does it mean that I haven’t been listening to God’s leading/direction and am I missing it other places in my life? Yet I believe He led me to Uganda and I went. They are the questions which stir in so many of our hearts as Christ Followers: What is God asking of me? How is He leading? What is He saying to my heart? However this time with the question of “Uganda” on my mind the anxiety is minimal. Isn’t this what God always is asking of us? “Let me guide” “Don’t be anxious” “I’ll care for you.”

His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me. The words repeat over and over in my head and quite honestly now I think of the Safari as I think of the animals rather than the sparrow. It’s true The Lord of Heaven and Earth not only cares for me but he gives me exactly what I need and more. He knows my love for children, serving, travel, adventure, and culture. Sometimes I find myself dreaming about what I believe would be an ideal job, perfect place to live, adventure to take, friends to have and then realize that God each and every time has outdone me. His dreams are better and are not dreams but reality. He has time and time again surprised me by the richness of his gifts of family, friendship, adventure, meaningful work, and moments that seem orchestrated like love notes. Here are two that he gave me.

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The Grace of Jenga and Competition

On occasion friends have commented that I have a competitive nature. Well let’s be honest, friends, family, co-workers, and more have noticed it. I’m not sure how exactly it comes across – maybe it’s the intensity I put into competition with others but also with myself. I strive to do my best, to have personal wins and to improve at whatever goal I have. I hope to not be a sore loser.

As we take out the 2 Jenga games for the 10 girls we have had in our P4,P5, P6 group they get excited. They have played this game before. We divide into teams and set the games on the cement floor of a bedroom lined with bunkbeds. We begin to play and compete. We eat candy and laugh. The towers become higher as these 10 girls (and 2 leaders) are intent on winning this game. I assumed we would play a few times as the towers would fall and we would start over. That’s not at all what happened. The intensity in the room was high, sharp words in Luo to each other, glances at the other team’s tower, advice, correction, and sighs of relief with each block removed and stacked. There was also laughter and celebrating. The girl beside me was full of competitive anxiety as she held her hands around the tower willing it to stay up. There was also physical grace and presence. When these girls dance in a group there is no bumping and stumbling into each other, even as they learn a new dance. They appear to know where their bodies are in relation to others at all times. So it is with playing Jenga. They don’t mistakenly bump another player who may collide with the tower. They are aware of themselves in a way that I admire. The game took nearly an hour.

So, my team lost this competition. There were girls in my group that threw visual daggers at our teammates. Others seem less impacted. So what to do? Talk about competition. I shared about various views of competition and how each person is different. I could not help but smile as if looking into a mirror, minus the physical grace and presence of these Ugandan girls. Many of these girls have highly competitive spirits. So what do you do when your team loses? You find another challenge. I asked the girls if they play football. The boys don’t typically let them and say they’ll get hurt. The Saturday before I left we had a fierce all girls football game with a competitive and gracefulness I’ve only seen in Ugandan young women. I played for each team at different times, and for me it was an afternoon full of wins.

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Good Work in Uganda

My Job Description as a social work consultant in Uganda has included working on Child Profiles (a document which includes background, behavior, emotional health, counseling history, school information, etc.) of 30 identified full-care kids. It also includes making social work recommendations moving forward for the COTN staff as they care for kids. I’ve visited 2 other Children’s Villages thus far with 1 more before I head to London. All of the other Children’s Villages are NGO’s run by Americans though with the majority of staff being Ugandans. COTN is different in that though the funding comes from overseas it is a national NGO, meaning the leadership is national. Americans come to support, advise and encourage but are not primarily directive about how the agreed upon goals and values are carried out.

As I’ve worked there have been challenges completing the Child Profiles and I’ve wondered how to make them as useful as possible to both Ugandan and American staff. English is not any of the staff’s first language, they view child development differently, they see behavior/discipline/obedience differently. The chores and tasks children are expected to do is different from American children. How can I be the most helpful knowing that Americans, and those from developed countries, do not always raise children the best way though sometimes we think we do?

As I’m thinking of recommendations to make I first wanted to share what I believe is done well in Uganda – and specifically in the Children’s Village:

Education is highly valued and not taken for granted

The children are bi-lingual (Luo and English)

Older Children care for Younger Children

Children learn to Dance and Sing and adults join in at the village and at church.

Children are respectful – especially of adults

Children are expected to take responsibility for the grounds (sweeping, mopping, weeding, etc)

Children learn to care for animals (goats and chickens especially)

Children understand the importance of farming and know that much food is grown on the property.

Children are taught to cook and do laundry at early ages – boys and girls.

The children are thankful for what they have and learn to care for it at early ages.

Children are raised with regular times of group prayer and Bible reading and as they grow older they choose to also to have these times on their own.

The children are involved in the local church.

The children are given opportunities to serve outside of the Children’s Village

Children visit their extended family / village when possible on breaks.

This is some of the Good Work done at the Children’s Village in Lira Uganda