The past week has been surreal. About 3 years ago we heard about an organization in Sunday School called Parental Care Ministries (www.pcmonline.org). I could spend a ton of time telling you about the ministry, but they do such a great job on their website and in their blogs that I will just tell you that it’s an organization started by a pastor and his wife in Uganda to minister to children. Apparently it is very common for parents to abandon children in Africa due to not being able to support them economically, HIV and AIDS among other things. A pediatrician’s wife from Tyler met the pastor in Africa at a missions conference, and she and her husband began to support what he had started. They now have 6 schools and over 1800 children they support. They also help equip about 40 rural pastors to teach the gospel and serve their people. One of the main ways they ask for help is by sponsoring children. This is not unlike many other great organizations out there, but we connected with this one so the week after they presented at church we began to sponsor Adrine. We were asked to pray for her, write to her and send packets with teams that visited a few times a year. She was 14 when we started sponsoring her, and all the information we knew about her was on this sheet that I received from PCM.
Every time a team goes to Africa, they write on the blog on the PCM website about the kids and things they see. KJ laughs at me because I pretty much sob through each one. I couldn’t imagine the lives these people were living, and the situations they had come from-and were currently in. The thing that is so remarkable though is their JOY. They are the picture of the Joy of the Lord. They are able to love and rely on him in a way that I don’t think we ever “get” over here.
Anyway, we wrote to Adrine, prayed for her and loved getting her letters back to us. I enjoyed getting to know a little of her, and watch her grow through the letters. I would still love to go to Uganda one day, but I knew from the beginning that the likelihood of me meeting her was slim. Well, a few months ago Christie, a sponsorship coordinator with PCM, sent me a text telling me that Adrine was scheduled to visit the US with a choir tour! I was beside myself that I was going to get to see with my own eyes this girl that I had fallen for.
Last Tuesday those sweet African feet hit Tyler pavement, and I got the privilege of seeing it. I was an absolute mess, as you might imagine, but I hugged on that girl until she all but ran from me in fear!
This was the day I first heard she and her friends sing and worship the Lord. He could have come on back right then and there, because I just don’t know much that would be better. They speak pretty good English with a strong accent that I love listening to, and even when their songs are in their language the looks on their faces tell the story. The dancing-oh my lanta- the dancing! These people have a bounce and sway that this blonde white girl just won’t ever have!
The best part of this whole thing was that we got to keep Adrine and one of her friends at our house for the weekend. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but I was thrilled! We ended up with Adrine and another younger girl named Sherinah, and they are the most darling things I’ve seen.
Sherinah requested bike riding as our activity, so that is just what we did. Adrine’s bike was a little too small, and she couldn’t quite figure out that you had to keep your feet on the pedals, but those girls had a blast! Listen, I know these aren’t our kids and I am fully aware that their time with us was finite, but watching KJ help those little girls ride a bike just about did me in.
The first day was a little tough to communicate since I felt like I was asking lots of questions and getting short answers. I later found out that in Uganda children are not supposed to talk to adults, only answer when asked. Also, women are encouraged to be mostly quiet in public. I think they were just still unsure of what to think of everything about the US, including talking freely with an adult. Sherinah enjoyed bubble baths, and was still young enough to want my help. One night while I was sitting by the tub watching her make a “dress” out of bubbles, Adrine came up behind me and just wrapped her arms around me in a sweet hug. About that time, my heart broke into about a million pieces and I again prayed for the Lord to just come and take me. She kept running her hands through my hair, and we talked about how I wished that I could have volume like hers 🙂 I tried to tell both of them at every chance how beautiful they are, how much we love them and that we pray for them often. I wanted to somehow impress on them in our short time together that they were so loved and cared for even from across the world. Adrine’s father died of AIDS, and her mother does whatever she can to feed her family. Sherinah’s parents abandoned her and her siblings when she was still too young for school. They are both very loved and cared for by the PCM staff in Uganda, but I wanted their time here to mean something.
Of course we introduced them to some US staples…
We laughed at the way they experienced new things. Sherinah’s eyes got as big as saucers when I opened a can of biscuits for breakfast. She still doesn’t know what to think about that! Adrine came in the bathroom while Sherinah was taking another bubble bath-filled up the sink and started scrubbing her socks with bar soap. She had no idea that we have a machine to wash and dry her clothes-Bless it! They laughed at my attempt to learn some of their dance moves-bless my heart!
Our last morning with Sherinah was her birthday! I told her we could go and get a cake to share with her friends to celebrate. She was thrilled to pick out a chocolate cake. I mean can you even stand this face?!
She wanted to hand out the pieces of cake to each of her friends before she would eat hers. I think she was happy to be able to share this treat with them. She loved her cake, but I can promise you that I loved watching her more!
The truth is that I will probably not get the chance to hug those precious necks again on this side of heaven. I hope at the very least to get to continue to know them through PCM and letters. There is no way I could tell them all the ways they have changed me. I want to always remember their smiles and pure joy at life. I want to never forget their sweet prayers and how they thanked “Father, King of Kings” for helping them to “pass through this day when many do not”. Oh that I could be thankful for the gift of simply living through each day. I want to worship the Lord fully and with great joy like they do. I’ll never get over Adrine telling me that she used to walk 4 hours barefoot by herself at age 4 to school-can you even imagine that? I want to remember their jubilant dancing for the Lord like their feet just couldn’t help but to move. I’ll forever love the memory of going into their room to wake them up, and seeing their arms immediately go up for a hug. I got to stick my finger into the icing on the cake of motherhood this weekend. I didn’t get to fully experience the joy of eating the cake or the pain of having to wash the plate, but I did love getting to love on those precious girls for a little while. Supporting this ministry is the best $35 a month we could ever hope to spend. I pray that these girls grow into the great plans I know God has for them, and I hope that someday in heaven they will come to my house for bubble baths and Oreo cookies again.
This girl is our first child, and we will never be the same-Thank you Lord!