(Our little foam nativity set, Joseph & Mary !! Tks mom!!)It's true. George was right. EVERYONE eats meat on Christmas, I witnessed it on Christmas day. Our Christmas was unusual, but not in a negative way. The air wasn't filled with carols on the radio, snow wasn't falling, decorations were lacking, no candy cane fences and if you didn't remind yourself that it was Christmas, one could easily look around and think it was just another day in Africa. People selling their goods on the streets. Boda boda drivers zipping by trying to earn a little extra cash. There wasn't any traffic ,which is definitely a sure sign that it was a holiday. I guess I never realized how much all the 'fluff' of Christmas could almost become Christmas. When you strip it all away, what you have left is Jesus. This year we found our Christmas to be one of fellowship within our little family and our Savior. Simply that. No Honey Baked ham, no blinking lights (I did miss the glow of white lights & Starbucks eggnog lattes) , no gifts (except our handmade ones), and no Christmas tree. And although our hearts ached from missing the ones we love SO MUCH back home...It was still a memorable day!!
After some thought and discussion, we decided we would cruise over to Mulago Hospital and see if we could visit the kids ward. In 2005, Jeff and I were in Uganda and hooked up with an old vineyard pastor who pastored a international church in Kampala. We just happened to visit the church a few days before Christmas and their outreach team was planning a visit to Mulago childrens ward to pass out gifts donated by Samaritan's Purse. We were invited to come along and it was a life changing experience! It was on this trip that Jeff and I met a little baby named Stella who had been abandoned and left to die in the hospital suffering from AIDS. We spent a good hour with this little girl, who was nothing but skin and bones. She reached out and wrapped her hand around my finger and we fell in love. The nurses told us she wouldn't live as she had stopped eating. Our hearts broke and in that moment God watered the seed of adoption that was planted in our hearts. At that time Jeff and I had looked into adoptionn in Uganda and met with a social worker who told us we would have to live in Uganda for 3 years and foster a child before we could officially adopt. Still to this day we talk about Stella and how she impacted our lives. So, we thought what better way to spend this Christmas than with the kiddos in the same ward of the hospital. Osobie and Fatu picked out some toys they brought from Arua to give to the kids and we bought a couple bags of sweets. We didn't have much but with what we had we thought we could brighten someones day. We got to Mulago and had to do a little maneuvering to be able to get in to see the kids but once we got the O.K. we were in! We prayed and asked God to show O and F which child they should give their toys to. Osobie found this little guy curled up in the small crib and handed him one of his matchbox cars. The boy beamed a glorious smile! Soon enough, Osobie and his friend were racing their cars down the ramp into the childrens ward. What a precious moment!!
I could tell Fatu was feeling a little uncomfortable because of all the crying kids, but she was brave and gave her Polly pocket to a little girl that was in pain in hopes she'd stop crying, she didn't as you can see by the photo.
As we shuffled through the ward, we made our way to the exact area where we had found Stella, 4 years ago. There in a crib sat a little boy, skinny, dirty, sitting in his own excrement. I turned to the nurses to ask his condition, and with a solemn face, she answered "he's abandoned". I guess I should have known that we'd once again find a lost and forgotten child and of course the heartbreak that comes with this. There he sat, alone, scared, confused, and sad. We prayed over him and held back tears. Then, more piercing words fell on our ears, "there are more". Sure enough, 2 more kids were abandoned by their moms that month. One was a baby named Joshua who was being cared for by another mom who was getting treatment for her son. All of these abandoned children will have to go through the system of the hospital and then be transferred to any baby home that would take them. Fortunately in Kampala, there is a baby home called Watoto Bilrushes baby home where a precious American woman works and cares for many of these little ones. We met her while we were in Kampala and plan to visit the home next time we are in Kampala. There are 2-3 other baby homes in Kampala where the children can be taken. Some of the homes try to get the kids fostered by Ugandans and foreigners, but many kids grow up never knowing the love of a mama or papa. They are raised by older girls and boys, street kids, or overlooked and ignored at orphanages.
As we held babies, and played with the kids the nurse aids came in with lunch. The little boy, Uwalu (oowalu) dug his little fingers in his food and tasted all the options that were on his plate. He grabbed a brown heap of mushy stuff, tasted it and put it back on his plate. I was shocked that he wouldn't eat everything on his plate even if it was mushy beans, seeing as he was severely malnourished. But, to my surprise, the bit of brown stuff was actually chicken!! It wasn't that he didn't like it, he tasted it, realized it was chicken and saved it on his plate to be eaten last! Sure enough, EVERYONE, the least of these, the poorest, the forgotten, and abandoned eat meat on Christmas. Thank you Jesus that you care for us!! "Though my Father and mother forsake me, the Lord will recieve me" ps 27:10 YOU NEVER FORSAKE US!! "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" Heb. 13:5 He does not leave us as orphans. He loves us and watches over us, sometimes through strangers, neighbors, and hospital workers. He's inviting us all to be His love, his care, his touch to the lost and lonely of the world. Every day, He's inviting you and inviting me into this extravagant display of love. Every day we have a choice to make. We have to choose how we'll live our lives, how we'll spend our time, what we'll invest in, what we'll care about, and how we'll act if we act. I don't know about you, but I've already wasted many years worrying about things that are worthless, unimportant and self serving. I don't want to waste another day!!
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:1-2
We visited Uwalu the next day. I held him in my arms as he laid as still as a doll and I wondered how long it had been since he felt the warm embrace of mama's arms. We brought him some clothes, toys, and more candy. In the grand scheme it wasn't much and even offering it felt so shallow, so meaningless..., but we had hoped he'd at least feel he was loved that day by His heavenly Father. He desires every child to know His love and be loved, and the truth is, there are too many who have experienced neither. But we can change that...we can...because the One who is inviting us is more than able.