Friday, May 20, 2011

Masaka: The Last Visit

I remember my first trip to Masaka. The view from our hotel overlooked the lush green rolling hills of the small town. It reminded me of Lynchburg, VA where I had lived for so many years. Because of that, it always felt a little bit like home and I always looked forward to visiting there. The kids in Masaka are also different. In Gulu, there’s extreme poverty but at the same time, many of the kids have received aid from NGO’s for years thus bringing an attitude of expectancy. In Kampala, there’s a lot more opportunities for the kids due to the largeness of the city. The kids are street wise. But…Masaka…it’s just different. There are kids in desperate need there but the attitude is just different. It’s refreshing.

My last trip to Masaka almost didn’t happen. Riots started in Kampala and spread to various towns through Uganda, including Masaka. In talks with my field leader, it was just not safe to go. We delayed the trip, all the while praying that things would calm down enough for me to go. It was very important to me to say goodbye to those in Masaka. In addition to my goodbye’s, I had some business to do. I was seriously concerned that I wouldn’t be able to go. At last, the riots calmed down and it was deemed safe enough for me to travel. The trip was cut down considerably. We drove down on a Saturday and would head back on Sunday morning.

My “business” in Masaka was an exciting one. My friend’s Gloria and Maria had some leftover money from their previous trip here that they wanted to go to the families of Beatrice and Madina. There was enough money that Beatrice’s mom and Madina could either start a small business or take some courses. I’ve already talked in detail about my beloved Beatrice. I was so anxious to see her again. Madina is one of the mentors for Hope Alive! in Masaka who has struggled considerably. Her husband has another wife and comes back to Madina’s home only to use and abuse her and their five children. Her health has taken a turn for the worse and a few weeks prior, we weren’t sure if she was going to make it through. By the grace of God, she was feeling much better when we arrived. Her and her children ran from their small mud house to where our car was when we pulled up. The joy of the Lord literally bursts out of her and her face was just shining.

We spent time in their home catching up. Hannah (friend and fellow WorldVenture missionary) and Wendy (visitor from States to Hope Alive!) both came with me to Masaka and it was great to introduce them to Madina and her great family. Their strength in the Lord has always left me in awe. I often wonder when I meet people who live in such circumstances if I could have the faith and strength that they do. Would I have the joy of the Lord shining through me if this was my life? I admire Madina and all that she does for her kids but mostly, for her overwhelming love for the Lord.

After we met with Madina, we headed back to the Hope Alive! site to hopefully meet up with Beatrice before Saturday club. Beatrice and her mentor, Justice, met up with us for lunch. I wanted to cry as I saw her coming toward me. We had a fun lunch together. Justice is actually the principal of Beatrice’s school. I was relieved to know that her mentor was so involved in her life. At last, someone to love and care for my girl! I didn’t realize how important that was until later that day.

After lunch, we headed over to Saturday Club where I was to teach the high school girls there. I was honored that Rose, the site director, had asked me to speak to these girls and was excited to share with them. We had a great discussion about how God sees us and how that effects how we are to live our lives for Him.

We headed to Beatrice’s home after Saturday Club. She lives with her mom far out of Masaka, down and around dirt roads in the middle of nowhere.

Sidenote: The middle of nowhere is perhaps my favorite part of Africa. I just love being out in the middle of the bush visiting families.

Justice had updated us over lunch about Beatrice’s mom. In looking for her mom to tell her that we were coming, Justice discovered that the mom had been staying with different men, leaving her small children to fend for themselves for days. My heart was broken. We got Beatrice out of her dad’s place because of how he abused and neglected her. To find out that her mom was doing the same…it was too much. I felt so helpless. Here I had come with dreams and hopes that the mom would be able to start a small business to support her family only to find out that she was neglecting and starving her children. I cried out to God, “who will love this girl!? “. I love Beatrice so deeply and am baffled at why her parents don’t seem to care for her or her brothers. God’s answer? “Me”. His love for Beatrice remains constant. HE is her Provider. He has provided sweet Justice, a mentor for Beatrice who cares for her. We had brought food for Beatrice and her family. Justice kept it at her place and cooked for the kids for the next few days as they waited for their mom to at last return. When the mom returned, she was ashamed. She hid herself for some time from Justice but eventually came to her. From what Justice says, things are going better. Beatrice’s mom is staying home and actually caring for her children. Please pray with me that if she’s not a believer, that she comes to accept Jesus as her Savior and that through that, His love will flow through her to her children. May they all experience the great love of our God.

Hugging Beatrice goodbye was surreal. My heart didn’t want to begin to contemplate that this was the last hug that we would have for a very long time. I saw Justice a few weeks later in Kampala. She told me that she had never seen Beatrice as happy as when she was with me. Oh, my sweet Beatrice…may you understand how God loves you much more than I ever could.

Goodbye to those lush green rolling hills that brought me a sense of home.
Goodbye to Rose, the most wonderful and efficient site director. You did your work for God’s glory and it was clear in all that you did.
Goodbye to Shammah, Rose’s son. Oh buddy, you know your Auntie Sarah will love you, your cute cheeks and sweet smiles forever.
Goodbye 10 Tables for your great taste of Western food in that small town.
Goodbye to all the fabulous Hope Alive! mentors. You all inspired me. Most of you are widows and a mother to so many children. Your love for Christ astounds me.
Goodbye to Madina. Your love for Christ and joy in Him humbles me.
Goodbye to all the Hope Alive! kids. You showed me that Christ can be seen even in the most difficult circumstances.
Goodbye to Shakirah. My sweet girl, you’ve had such a hard life. May you find your strength in the Lord.

And, at last…goodbye to my sweet Beatrice. Tears stream down my face as I think of you and the pain you’ve experienced in your young life. Your precious smile remains even as you search for love from your parents. My sweet girl, your Heavenly Father loves you so deeply. May you find your hope and salvation in Him.

Goodbye, Masaka. You are filled with so many that I love deeply. I look forward to returning to you some day as you hold a most special place in my heart.