I know you are all waiting for this massive update. The who’s the when’s the hows, my travels, if I got here safe, the rounds. And I promise, I will get there. But there’s something about writing in the moment…and I just can’t pass up the opportunity.
What’s great about never have been on a mission trip before is you don’t have any idea what’s ahead or have any idea what to expect.
And you get completely wrecked by every little thing around you.
We started our caravan for the day, and I got to see Uganda in its brightest form. People roaming the streets. Hustling, bustling, meandering and mingling throughout their city, going about their day to day. We pounded through the countryside to see rolling hills and hills and green and trees—Africa that nobody in the States really knows exists. And we continued our journey to the Children’s Prison, M1.
People described the children’s prisons to me. I’ve heard stories from our past teams of what they witnessed. I had a pretty good vision of what I was walking into today….
… or so I thought.
After warnings of not being able to film or take pictures, being completely denied access to a facility altogether—my opinion started changing today. We pulled into M1 prison and unloaded the bus and van full of Man Uppers and my vision became clearer. M1 is a Government run facility that hosts children who have been orphaned and picked up off the streets, children that are awaiting their court sentence, and children who have been given their sentences—about 150 kids, from any age up to 18. We all had to sign in and we were taken on a short tour of the “facilities”. An extremely humbling experience to say the least. About 4 big buildings filled with concrete cells. Rusted showers—that maybe worked on occasion. One giant plastic water basin in the middle of the ‘courtyard’, used for their drinking water—to which I watched some take the liberty of washing their hands. A fire in the middle of the property that burned throughout the day—because they didn’t have trash cans. Stagnant, sour air filled our lungs walking through the buildings. Cement cells with no windows. Community rooms made entirely of concrete, cold walls and cement floors. Mattresses scarce. Bathrooms nonexistent.
The kids stared back at us, but with bright, wondering, hopeful eyes.
And we rushed. We bombarded those kids like they were our own. And soon enough, they became just that.
It was like the world and all around me evaporated into thin air. I couldn’t help but notice the children hovering over small water bins, scrubbing furiously to wash their clothes clean. Not once, not twice, but three times I saw a little boy ask their Director for soap. They didn’t have soap to give them. So onto washing in his dirt colored water he went. I realized it was such a small offer, but I asked if I could give them some bars of old hotel soap we’d had donated. (Ya know, those small bars that never get used because they’re either too drying for our skin, or we don’t like the brand the hotel uses. So they get trashed and thrown because we are just ‘that’ country). So, as I knelt down to give my new little friend a small offer, it was then, at that moment, like the world and everything that existed around me evaporated into thin air.
And I began scrubbing.
I scrubbed with that little boy with our little bars of hotel soap until I could see the white trim again on his torn up basketball shorts. I scrubbed with that little boy as he would lift and check the stains on his shirt, only to find more stains on the back and continue the process all over. I scrubbed with that little boy until he approved of my work with a short, acceptance smirk. (Which, I think he did just to make me feel better because my scrubbing DEFINITELY wasn’t up to the caliber as his). I scrubbed and washed and scrubbed and washed…. And it was in that moment that more little boys started lining up. They didn’t want my help scrubbing their clothes like I expected. They were hoping for more of that sudsy miracle.
And mini hotel bars of soap became the newest, hottest commodity that ever existed.
To say what happened next, however, there are no words. My description can’t do the feeling justice, and you can’t write enough to try.
We packed into one of the community rooms and were blessed with song and dance from the children. Praise and worship like no other. About 200 of us, Shouting and Singing and Dancing and Jumping and crying out to the Lord. This impromptu worship service, all being led by a former child prisoner, all but 17 years of age. As I was doing what I do best—being c razy and acting silly amongst the kids, I saw him.
We were jumping up and down, kids hovering over him and dancing around him, ignoring his presence as he stood maybe but 3 feet tall, and he locked eyes with me. I smiled and kept jumping and singing. He kept looking at me. The praise continued and those kids dropped to the floor, dropped to their cold cement concrete alter and began praying. Praying like I’ve never heard before. Cries and prayers like I couldn’t ever imagine. And he continued to look at me.
I waved for him to come closer, but the shy little guy wouldn’t have it. I kept waving him over, but he just stared up at me. Eyes round as the sun and just as bright. The room around me started to blur, and It wasn’t until I actually stopped jumping up and down, knelt down to his level, held out my hand… he finally came.
And he never left.
This little boy stole me at that moment. There was something about his gaze, like he was trying to read me. Trying to see right into my heart so he knew I existed. We prayed together, we sang together, we laughed and smiled together, hand in hand sitting on my lap. But even though we were sharing those moments, we were still a world a part as my little boy didn’t speak a word of English. There was still something missing, even through all we were experiencing during that hour of worship. I felt it. He felt it.
And then, if it was even possible, God blessed me even further.
That little boy played with my hands, traced the ins and outs of my fingers, felt across my wrists and my arms—desperate to figure out why we weren’t ‘the same’. Confused glazes crossed over his face as he looked at my freshly washed, stark white fingernails and compared them with his little, tiny, broken and weak brown ones.
That little boy continued to scope out my hands as he drifted toward my right ring finger. His tiny fingertips slowly came to my tattoo that lay there between my two fingers, and he froze. It was like I felt a shock run through his body and he almost jumped.
He traced the tattoo over and over and over and over. He didn’t look up at me, but I knew right then and there, that at that singular moment, we were finally connected. We were finally brought together because that little boy, not an English word in his vocabulary, understood what that symbol on my finger meant.
That small Cross connected our two worlds so far apart, and it was at that moment we became ‘the same’.
|I never got his name. But I know Jesus is takin care of him.|
And for that…. I will be okay, too.