After this past weekend getting away from our home base here at Kasana Children Center, the word that keeps coming to mind is that I feel so ALIVE! I love Kasana and the children we are getting to know and invest in. I love the people and the culture and that having a baby makes me everyone’s friend automatically because all the people here love babies. I love Uganda and that God has made this our home for now. I also didn’t realize how tired I was and how much I needed to get away for just a few days and enjoy my family and have a change of pace. Living in a different culture, having someone in your home most days and homeschooling your kids can really take it out of you!
We were invited to a friend’s wedding up north in Kobwin (the other New Hope children’s site for former child soldiers) and it was really important to us that we be there. His name is Augustine and he was a classmate of ours from 2011, when we went through the Institute here at New Hope. We love Augustine (actually, we grew to love all of our Ugandan class mates.) I had forgotten that Tobyn had nicknamed him “Little Augustine” until Augustine reminded us. I realized then just how much it meant to him to see us all there and how much he had grown to love Tobyn for that nick name. He is a small frame, but it didn’t bother him at all that Tobyn called him that…it was true! It was so neat (and tiresome because Ugandan weddings last for hours and are so LOUD!!) to meet his bride, Agnes, and to experience the culture in a different way. Weddings here are drawn out and involve loud music, lots of dancing and food…and more dancing and more very loud music! Did you know Ugandans love their music LOUD!?!
We drove over 900 kilometers (550 miles) round trip. Taylor got to reunite with his buddy Tom and we were able to catch up with Tom’s family who were also classmates from 2011. Tom’s parents (David and Christine) are family parents at Kobwin and have 27 children under their care, including their own. It was a New Hope reunion in Kobwin! The landscape in Kobwin is very different from where we’re at. There are large rocks everywhere to climb and the boys took every opportunity to climb them! It’s also hotter and drier up north, but it’s still the rainy season so we weren’t too hot. The kids there are very free. We enjoyed dance parties in the Banda at the family group, tea and mendazis (Ugandan donuts), solar lanterns and headlamps, sunsets and rainstorms, a drive to the lake and had fun watching the lizards zip across the rocks. Kobwin is amazing. The families dance harder, sing louder and live so fully. I think it’s because the kids have also experienced things no person should ever have to experience that once they know freedom in Christ, they embrace it and cling tightly to it. Even I was able to let go a bit more than normal and enjoy dancing with the people. It really is a special place and we made many new friends. It was hard to say good-bye, but Auntie Christine reminded me that the Lord directs our steps and we will pray that he will unite us again in His perfect time. Kobwin and the people of Kobwin were such a gift to my family!
As a side note, one of the boys from Kobwin is having surgery on his leg and will be staying a few days at Kasana. He is 8 and nicknamed “Oboy” and I know he would appreciate your prayers for a successful surgery and good healing. He’s a sweet-natured young man and I’m glad we met him and can keep him some company while he recovers here.
After our 11 hour journey to Kobwin on Friday, we left Sunday morning for our journey back home. This time we planned an overnighter in Mbale to break up the trip a bit. It was a good call since Trig is so young. We drove up a mountain side near Mt. Elgon and hiked up to see Sipi Falls. I had no idea what to expect and was surprised to find that Sipi Falls was a treasure to me and my family. We hired a guide from a local lodge and hiked out in the rain to find the upper falls.
Troy had to go back with Trigger and Tobyn since the rains were so hard (they were using a banana leaf for an umbrella!) and the trail so slippery, but I pressed on with the two older boys. I loved that I was making memories with my boys and I felt so ALIVE as the rain poured and we got muddier and muddier as we walked closer to the falls. At one spot, our guide explained that the waters from the falls were rushing underneath the ground under our feet. We made it and the power of the water was incredible. I was thrilled, the boys were thrilled and we were there ALIVE and in wonder at this place we discovered. The beauty was breath-taking! I will never forget that day! We hiked back, tried our best to not get mud all over the car (an epic fail…seriously…how do you keep the red soil of Uganda from leaving a mark?) and headed off for the lower and largest of the falls. On our way down the rainy, muddy, washed out road we narrowly missed sliding into the ditch. The wet clay like soil here is a lost cause for traction. I’m pretty sure angels were on that side of the car pushing us around the corner! Thank you Jesus! We parked and walked down the steps, so much easier than the previous trail, and stood at the lookout for the falls. Again, breathtaking! Such power surging out of the rocks! We saw caves where people originally from Ethiopia who moved to Western Kenya and then on to Uganda first dwelled before learning to make huts as homes. So much history in the land we were viewing.
We then set off for the lodge for lunch and after that the boys hiked to the middle and smallest falls. I sat on a bench with Trigger and watched them set off. My view was amazing as I looked down on the river and up the lush green valley to the falls. Still higher up I could see a local man herding his cattle on the mountain top with ominous rain clouds floating overhead. All I could think was the old hymn, “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…How great Thou art…” Sitting there, feeding my baby, looking on to such beauty…I was ALIVE! I was so blessed to take it all in and think how many people get to see places like this in their lifetime? Even the people who live here don’t realize the beauty that lies in their own homeland! It’s not that they don’t want to, but many are born and raised in the same community. Wherever they begin life is also often where their life ends. Thank you Lord for the treasure of Sipi Falls that our family was able to live in for some time in our lives!
Leaving Sipi Falls, we drove down the mountain side, still in awe of our day. We drove in to Mbale and stayed at a hotel where we got to swim in the pool and take LONG, HOT showers and the boys had their first LONG, WARM bath! Oh the simple pleasures in life! I think we really got clean for the first time since we’ve come! It’s funny that every place we stayed on our journey we all wished we could stay just ONE MORE NIGHT! We wished for one more night in Kobwin with people we loved…one more night in Mbale to take in the beauty…maybe we could stay a night in Jinja on our way through there…one more night!! But we needed to head home.
So, we left Monday morning for home and we made good time. We are home safe and sound. We are refreshed. We feel ALIVE. We are ready to dig in and make the most of our time here at New Hope’s Kasana Children Center. We were missed and welcomed home and we missed those people God has placed in our lives here. While we had an amazing journey, God’s beauty is most definitely here too and it’s so good to be home!
We would like to thank those who have contributed to our work here in Uganda. With your help and the mighty Alaska PFD we now can get around better here. This Toyota Regius (diesel, 4×4) has proven itself this weekend. These would be a hit in the USA. We thought a car would be out of our reach but God has provided some wheels.
(thank you very much)