Remember back HERE when I talked about how sometimes it takes going forward to be able to look back to see the “path” that led you to the spot where you are? Sometimes you just have to trust that you’re going the right way, trust the nudges along the way, opening yourself up for guidance. And then you look back and realize that all those nudges led you to the exact spot you needed to be? In hindsight you see the path all laid out neatly in your wake, but you couldn’t, for the life of you, see in during the journey.
I feel like that happened for me, standing on packed red dirt, the foundation for a school building to service kids who are now meeting under a makeshift metal awning, wanting so much to learn. I saw that “pathway” clearly in my wake…all the little things that happened to get us to that spot in the outskirts of a town called Mbale, my family working along with the Ugandans, so excited to have a school in their midst.
Oh, they didn’t need us to build that school, that’s for sure. They are very good at their trade. But they were nice enough to let us work alongside them, sorting through those rich, clay bricks to layer in our piled-high cement.
Shoveling dirt to fill in the foundation.
Shoveling other dirt to mix the cement.
We were building a school, yes. But we were also building friendships. Building love. Building a partnership in a way. Because we fell in love with these people and this organization and are so looking forward to continuing our relationship going forward. To continue to learn and grow in the things that were planted in our hearts over there.
We need to back up here for a minute.
Because building wasn’t the beginning of the story. I hope we’ll always remember pulling up (after lots of bumpy red dirt roads from our little hotel through countless little villages filled with people sitting and working and selling and waving) to a little canopy covering four or five large, propped up chalk boards with just as many different groups of children huddled around, notebooks in hand, poised for learning (before we came in to make some commotion):
And oh! How those children (and teachers) welcomed us. And sang for us. And smiled at us.
And how quickly we fell in love with them! Loved that Grace kept saying over and over again “this is my favorite thing ever!” and everyone else’s expressions saying just the same as we sang with them and blew bubbles to their great delight and hugged and joyed in the togetherness of two different cultures merging together, instant friends.
You can’t even see Grace in this picture below because the kids were so excited about her cell phone and how they could see themselves on that screen:
After that big welcome we went over to the job site (where the foundation of the school was waiting for us)…
…and I loved watching everyone get to work, finding things to do. At first they were a little lost, but within minutes Abby was scooping up huge shovels of dirt to wheelbarrow over where it needed to be, the kids were all shoveling cement and stacking rough hewn bricks into place…
…Claire sitting in the dirt reading books to kids huddled around her, all of them with the biggest smiles,
…Abby snuggling babies 🙂
div class=”separator” style=”clear: both; text-align: left;”>
…with some pretty sweet “cheerleaders:”
And even some great maize refreshments that the neighboring women brought over one afternoon:
(my kids loved that)
Loved having Lucy helping move bricks and move cement with the trowel for a little bit each time we were there before she got tired and sat on a bench being patient and examining her work gloves intently for hours and helped with teaching or playing here and there.
Some “moments” to remember:
Abby and Claire coming back from working at the school like little pied pipers, the kids all following them in a row with huge smiles, Abby cradling one of the teacher’s tiny babies in her arms just glowing.
Sitting in the dirt at the school worksite with a cluster of kids crowding in learning how to play the Dr. Seuss matching game we brought. Their delight, and mine and Lucy’s too (loved that Lu was involved) as they glowed catching on to the concept.
Melting in the heat as we shoveled cement and scooped it onto the walls, sitting in piles of dirt playing with the kids and putting star stickers on their foreheads.
One of the days after lunch we went over to the outdoor school to do an art project and shift things up a bit. Rather than doing the project, the teachers just turned the time over to us to “teach.” I was like a deer-in-the-headlights with all those faces looking to me waiting to learn, but Abby inspired me in the next section over, and I cannot explain how great it was to hear her as a little ring-leader just teaching away, jumping around with actions and enthusiasm, then Max joining, then the other girls too.
The rise of laughter and everyone speaking English with their African accents ringing through the air was so beautiful. And I didn’t do so bad myself with a little inspiration from everyone else 🙂
Even Lu got so involved when they were teaching about animals and she got to be a dog 🙂
My favorite thing was watching those kids teach…from English words:
…to just playing together:
Dave and I had a little meeting with the teachers who explained how they are in desperate need of workbooks for the kids to get them ready for the Ugandan testing. Working on a way to help as well as give ownership with that one. Loved these notes one of the kids was showing me:
Each night when we got back to our little hotel we gathered outside in our little courtyard, everyone in such good spirits to stretch out and relax in the light since our rooms are so dark.
…then to dinner on the rooftop (always some sort of curry).
Dinner morphed into a devotional each night, led one by one by the kids starting with Max.
I loved everything about this trip, but perhaps those devotionals were my very favorite, sitting in the dim light of that rooftop, all those people I love close around me, realizing in wonder that every one of them is old enough and have spirits big enough to talk deep. Deep about Christ and love, repentance and learning.
And then it was on to Lucy’s favorite: card games of course. Love that Abby caught this little moment:
Yes, not only on that red dirt school foundation, but on that rooftop with my family, I was filled with the realization of that “path” that had become so clear to get us right there. Right then. And I am so grateful.
Ok and that’s a wrap for part one of our Ugandan adventure.