This was the face.
This was the face among many other faces that stared up at me begging for me to hold her, to pick her up, to love her. The morning we got to Return Ministries was the first official day of our trip. We had spend 2 days traveling, unpacking, shuffling donations and it was time to "charge the kids" and to LOVE BIG.
I'll never forget that first morning getting out of the van. Having about 300 kids all sitting down in their chairs - singing, clapping, waiting for our arrival. We didn't know our team very well at this point, but after that day we were like family. I just remember looking around and seeing my team members come to life. Seeing big grown police officer Brady having 3 kids climbing all over him, sweet 16 year old Josh loving and holding onto a baby like it was his own, grown men's faces just lit up with love and affection for these children.
The songs and dances they did for us were priceless. Almost everywhere we went in Uganda the children greeted us with a song. And about all of them had songs about welcoming the visitors. They were so thankful that we were there. in the flesh. not only loving them from half a world away but loving them right where they were. and we loved them!
I just looked back at my journal entry (those were pretty scarce on the trip) from this day and I said that I cried off & on all day because I realized that all the children want and need is LOVE. They long to be held, loved, looked at, smiled at, picked up, LOVED. We were challenged to LOVE big on this trip and this was our first opportunity.
What we did with the kids was nothing out of the ordinary. We sang & taught them a dance (well, Chloe and I tried), we did some crafts, painted their faces (which turned into them painting our bodies), made balloon animals, served them lunch, played with them, danced with them and simply loved them. For us, it was nothing out of the ordinary - but for them, it meant the world - that a group of people would come to visit them! to love them! to give them our full & devoted attention!
I have to say one thing: they sure know how to dance in Uganda! I'll try to post a little video foryall to see the dancing. and don't worry that everyone on our team got to try our hand at the traditional dance. :)
We all made many new friends this day. The names are written in my well worn journal: Angela, Jeremiah, Sophia, Olivia, Emmy, Asher, Ester, Shadrack. Their faces are etched on my heart. After spending all day with these beautiful children & Pastor Samuel and his family - it was time to leave. I can't forget the feeling and the sight of going back around the bus to get in and seeing many of my team members (myself included) just crying our eyes out. How were we supposed to do this? How can we get so attached to these precious children and leave them? And how we were supposed to do this every day for the next 2 weeks?
I keep having to hold on to the hope that being there, actually being there, brought them hope and joy. A hope that only the love of Christ can bring. A hope that comes from fulfilling the scripture when it says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans..." If you want to experience this sort of love, and be able to give this sort of love to these children: check out the Visiting Orphans website. There are so many trips to Uganda that you can sign up for! I pray that you take seriously the command in the bible (James 1:27) and know that you can make a serious difference in the lives of these children and in the Kingdom of God.
If you are moved by the work that Return Ministries is doing, check out their website to see how you can help. http://www.returnministriesuganda.org/
There are many opportunities to give a one time gift, to sponsor a child ($35/month) or donate to their new building fund. Pastor Samuel & his family are salt of the earth kind of people and we are so blessed to have been able to serve with them even for just one day in Uganda. Praying that their ministry continues to bless the children of Uganda!
(more of my images from Return can be found on my facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100145100808703.2455493.9202063&type=1)