Thursday, July 24th, 2008
by Michelle Boland

This was a very powerful day for many in our group. Family time started us off in an attitude of caring for one another as we shared highlights and concerns. As the team settles in, there are more opportunities to choose from each day so I can only write about what I experienced. I know I hit the lottery from start to finish!

A group of us went into Tororo this morning and visited the main site for Smile Africa. Pastor Ruth has created an amazing ministry for widows and children there. She shared her experiences that led her to begin this outreach and her calling from God to do so. We had a chance to watch some of the women make the paper beads that we have fallen in love with, and a couple of us even got to try our hand at making them. We also shopped at the widow’s store for handcrafts to take home. Boy, did we shop!

Pastor Ruth then took us to where the Karamojong children are fed and cared for. This was an experience of incredible joy and sorrow. Before we even got off the bus, hundreds of children began greeting us in song. They literally swarmed the bus in their happiness to greet us. But once off the bus, it is starkly apparent how impoverished these children are. The Karamojong children are a gypsy tribe that has been displaced from the Northern part of Uganda. They are often shunned within society and have resorted, along with their families, to scavenge for food on the streets. The ministry that Pastor Ruth has brought to them provides two meals a day and exposure to basic skills like hand washing. We mingled for a time before serving them their afternoon meal. Wednesday is the only day when they are able to have meat with their meal – one small stew-size piece in a bowl of rice. We so often take for granted having enough to eat, and it is humbling to see a child receive perhaps the only meat he or she will taste for days.

After returning to the hotel for lunch, a group of us – Jim, Becky, Katie, Natalie J. and I – joined Tom to attend a meeting with the Wanjala Yonah, the director of the Center for Human Rights, Democracy and Development. The meeting was held to discuss their partnership with Hope for Kids to bring a micro-lending program to the area to help individuals start businesses for themselves. It was a great meeting, and it gave many of us our first chance to join in policy development for the area. The CHDD has put together a comprehensive plan that has the potential to serve a great many individuals in creating their own businesses with the aid of small, low-interest loans and collaborative efforts with others in their area.

It was an honor to end the evening at the home of Pastor Agree for dinner with his family, Tom, Natalie & Nick (Tom’s kids), Pastor Bob, Becky and Natalie. We were treated to the most incredible hospitality, warmth and delicious food! Pastor Agree’s wife, Rosemary, and her good friend, Rita, had been preparing the meal for two days, and everyone around the room was in heaven. Tom’s mouth had been watering all day for Rosemary’s chicken – now we know why! Pastor Agree is a man of such deep faith and spiritual wisdom that when he shares his stories, you know you are in the presence of a great servant of God.

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