Monday, January 23, 2017

Chapter 23 - Update #6 - Christmas Gifts & Trip to the Zoo - Part 1

With our new Beacon of Hope sponsorship we made a few significant changes.  One of these changes involves individual gift giving.  In the past, whenever I would travel to Uganda, some of our sponsors would send an individual gift for their child.  Yet because our children all live under the same roof as one family, it was starting to cause favoritism and division.  This is different from other organizations whose children don’t live together.  Our Ugandan staff requested that individual gifts no longer be sent.  Instead, when I travel to Uganda, I request for monetary gifts to be given so that we can give equal gifts or one large gift that benefits the whole family.  
This Christmas, I sent word out the those who specifically sponsor a child to participate in this year’s Christmas gift for Raining Hope.  Every sponsor was not required to give an additional monetary gift on top of their monthly donation.   Due to some large donations, we received enough to do some very special things for our children this Christmas and it was all done in the name of ALL sponsors.  
One of their Christmas gifts from sponsors was something I mentioned in update #5.  We bought each girl at Raining Hope a skirt & undergarments, and the boys a shirt & pair of trousers.   Something that Silvia said when they were giving thanks for the gift of clothing was how they now know what it means to dress fashionably!  When you see many photos of children in Africa, many times you see clothes that are mismatched.  What I didn’t realize was through the years that your support has provided clothing, they have been learning how to dress well.  Even though our shopping is at the local market like a swap meet, we always try to find the best.  Over the years I have also brought clothing with teams from America.  What we give away turns out to be treasures for them. 
Second gift came from something I talked about in update #4.   I challenged everyone to have a “Thanks Living Basket” or use a journal to write down one thing every night they are thankful for.  Because our theme this year is prayer, I had them go one step further and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for that item as soon as they write it.   We were able to buy a journal for each student that they began using right away!  They also began using the journals to take notes in each night that we had discipleship training.  I will talk about that more next update!  
Third gift were the TWO parties that we had for the children!  One I have already talked about on New Year’s Day also in Update #4.   The feast of food and soda is always something that the children love and do not take for granted.  The second feast was on the second Sunday before I traveled back to California.  More about that to come in another update so stay tuned!  
I saved the best for last to explain the major gift that we gave to the children as their Christmas present.  We took an educational field trip to the zoo in Entebbe!  Not only was it a major gift from sponsors but it was a major event in the lives of these children.  You may be thinking of a trip to the zoo you have taken in your own city.  I would like for you to clear your mind of any preconceived notions or your own experiences of a visit to the zoo in America.  Now get ready to see a visit to the zoo through the eyes of our children. 
First, contrary to what you may think, the area we live in is not populated with animals such as lions (thank goodness), giraffes, or zebras just roaming around!  The most I see are the occasional monkey but mostly birds.  So a trip to the zoo is the one opportunity most of the children will ever have to see these animals up close.  
Second, this is something that they have been wanting to do for quite some time but we have not had the funds to do it.   A child in Uganda may go to the zoo once in their lifetime mainly during primary school years.  Out of our twenty seven children only four have ever gone to the zoo with their school.  On top of that, those four that have gone did so when they were very young.  The majority of our children have never gone to Entebbe let alone out of the Jinja area.   
Godfrey did a little fishing to see if this would be something they would love to have as their Christmas gift as a family.  The children are smart.  When he started “hypothetically” speaking about it, the response was this, “Uncle, don’t sing that same song if it is not really going to happen!”  That made me chuckle but it also convinced me that this was something they really wanted to do.  Little did I know how important this trip would turn out to be. 
The gift would include many parts to make it work.  We needed to rent a bus to carry all thirty two of us to Entebbe.   Godfrey originally thought we could rent a smaller bus plus take our van.  But because our tires are in need of replacing we didn’t want to take a chance on driving it to Entebbe twice.  We would need to drive to the airport on Monday.  We wanted to reserve the van for that.   From the time that Godfrey began checking on prices to rent the bus, it had increased in cost like everything else because of the famine.  Thankfully, Robert & Charles at the hotel helped to secure a bus at the original prices we looked into.  
We didn’t tell the children until the night before that we were going to the zoo.  We wanted it to be a complete surprise.   It is just as hard to keep a secret in Uganda as it is in the US!   Godfrey almost blew the surprise the day before.  He wanted Silvia to go and pay the water and electricity bill on Wednesday afternoon.  It was getting late and her comment was, “I am in the middle of something so I will go first thing tomorrow morning.”  Godfrey said he almost blurted out, “You can’t go tomorrow because we are going to the zoo!”  He stopped himself just short of those words coming out of his mouth!  But I used that to my advantage when we broke the good news! 
After our discipleship time on Wednesday night, we began looking over the schedule for the next few days working backwards from my leaving on Monday.  When I got to the schedule for Thursday, I asked Silvia, “Are you going to pay the bills for the water and electricity tomorrow?” After she said, “Yes,  I will,” I said, “Ok but would you rather do that or go with us to the zoo?”  The room was stunned as if they did not hear me correctly.  After I repeated, “YES!  WE ARE GOING TO THE ZOO TOMORROW!” the room erupted in PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING!  They began shouting and dancing and singing to the Lord!  
I explained we would have to leave by 5:00 am in order to beat the traffic.  It would take over three hours to travel to Entebbe and that is without any traffic.  No one had a problem getting up early.  I actually think that most of them could not sleep that night!   
After dropping me off at the hotel late Wednesday night, Godfrey, Hillary and Henry went into town to buy supplies for the trip.  The Christmas gift would include food for and soda for traveling.  Hillary,  Jonathan and Vivian did double duty and stayed up to make chapati for our breakfast.  In the morning they scrambled eggs and added it to the chapati to make “breakfast burritos” or as I discovered later they are called a “rolex!”  I found this out because on the trip I noticed signs on the road that advertised, “Chapati, chicken, or rolex.”  When I asked what a rolex was they said, “chapati with the eggs rolled inside like what we are eating!”   They got a good laugh when I said in America a Rolex was a very expensive watch!  

The bus actually was an hour late because the driver’s bus was blocked in by other vehicles.  Even with the delay, we made it through Kampala with minimal traffic.  People were still on holiday and the traffic was relatively light.  Godfrey became like one of those tour guides on buses that would point out the various sights to eager eyes & curious hearts!   He made the trip an educational one knowing that most of our children had never been out of our area.  I watched in wonder the look on the faces of the children as Godfrey spoke.  He pointed out where he used to live in Mukono.   Through Kampala he pointed out where he went to school.  One of the things that was larger than life was pointing out Mandela Stadium.  This is where the Uganda Cranes futbol/soccer team play.  For most they had only seen the stadium on TV.  Some made a comment that it was a dream to drive past the stadium!  Godfrey pointed out for me the village of Katwe which is where the movie, “Queen of Katwe” was based.  Funny, we pass through Katwe when driving through Kampala but I never had paid attention to it until watching the film.  

Many of the children had a hard time sleeping the night before with all the anticipation of the trip of a lifetime.  Understandably, there were periods that Godfrey and I looked back and most of them were asleep!   But as we got closer to Kampala & Entebbe, you could feel the excitement in the bus.  Their eyes were wide open and their hearts were full of thanksgiving for the opportunity to fulfill one of their dreams.  
I discovered in talking to the students that they had missed opportunities for zoo trips with their schools in the past.  I believe some of it comes from the lack of funds from parents to send them on the school sponsored trips.  Hillary said that he didn’t think that a trip to the zoo was ever going to happen for him.  This Christmas gift that sponsors provided this year made dreams come true in ways that you can not even begin to fathom.  
This update is extremely long because I don’t want to leave anything out!  But I also don't want to lose you in any of it.  So I will split this up into two updates in order to talk about the actually day at the zoo and another bonus that you will be extremely excited to hear about!  As you read this one I am writing part 2 so stay tuned! 
“You crown the year with bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”  Psalm 65:11.

Mama Eydie Kisakye      

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