My feet are back on African soil & my heart is overflowing with joy! I received such a warm “Welcome back!” from some, and a “Welcome home!” from others. If home is where the heart is, right now my home is here!
As I entered the gates of Smile, I suddenly had a swarm of kids gathered around me screaming, “You’re baccckkk!!” Throughout the day I had kids asking about the other March team members by name. This really showed me how much BFR’s visit in March had a lasting impact on them!
It’s amazing how much change has occurred in the past 9 weeks since I left here- I can really see how God is working in this ministry & blessing it abundantly. The baby home is near completion, Unicef has started a malnourishment program & provided feeding packets (the little ones already look so much healthier & lively!), & there are a couple new boarders & several new daytimers.
Baby Joseph is the newest addition to Smile- he was abandoned at birth & found a couple days later w/ his umbilical cord still attached & very infected- he is now healthy & close to 3 weeks old!
Clovis is another new addition to Smile- he is 9 yo, HIV+, had TB, & very severely malnourished. He is truly a living testimony of God’s miraculous healing- I begin each morning at Smile by bringing him a mango & with each passing day I see the life coming back to him!
I has been a blessing working with Mama Tereza and some of the widows here at Smile on some new necklace, bracelet, & cross styles.
They have loved learning the new styles & have already created such beautiful pieces.
I cherish my time spent with them- it is filled with laughter, singing, & praise! They remind me constantly how appreciative they are & how empowered they feel by BFR.
They love knowing that not only are they providing for themselves, but they also help contribute to the feeding program funds at Smile.
I have also been blessed with seeing firsthand how the BFR Kids program can truly change the life of a child. There are 2 daytime kids at Smile that are brand new to the BFR Kids program- siblings Evelyn & Kemu.
Evelyn’s BFR Kids Sponsor
My first day back at Smile I noticed that Evelyn seemed very ill- showed no emotion, severely malnourished, no appetite, diarrhea, ears were draining, couldn’t stand/walk, etc. With permission, I used some of her sponsorship funds to take her to the hospital & purchase any needed RX. While the doctor was very concerned about her malnourishment & lack of development, he said we must first address the infections & then we will focus on her gaining weight & beginning physical therapy. After some testing, the results came back positive for malaria & negative for HIV!!! With that good news, my tears flowed as if she were my own child.
Me, Evelyn and Kemu
She is now being treated for malaria, her ear infection (which the DR was concerned would lead to meningitis), an intestinal infection, and loss of appetite.
I had requested meeting these kids parents, & when we returned from the hospital, I was informed that they had discovered that their parents had abandoned them a few weeks ago & they were now living with their aunt & her two children. Furthermore, we discovered that they had been evicted from their home earlier on in the week due to not paying the past 3 months of rent, so they have all been sleeping outside the past few nights & without food. My heart ached. Luckily I was able to use their sponsorship money to not only pay off their debts so they could retrieve their belongings, but also find them a new home. So- I went house shopping in their village!
The first one I looked at was about 6×6 ft, all mud, & had leaks. The second option was approx. 10x10ft, concrete, & reliable roof & front door- it was a deluxe home for this village & so I sealed the deal! I have never seen a family so appreciative in my entire life!
The next day, I went to the market & was able to buy this family the essentials they would need to get off on good start- mattresses, oil lamp, blankets, basin, soap, charcoal grill, pots/pans, dishes, food, door lock, etc. We delivered the goods & taught the aunt how to use everything- such an incredible moment!
We are also going to work with the aunt on learning to make the Papers of Peace necklaces so she can contribute to this beautiful new home & the needs of her children. It is so amazing to see how this sponsorship has truly transformed their lives & made a fresh new start for them all! And a little update on Evelyn & Kemu…Evelyn’s favorite new accessory is her smile, which is accompanied by her laughter!
Her appetite has increased & we have been practicing standing & walking! Her personality is coming through more & more each day! Kemu has become more outgoing & he comments on how much he likes his new home & that he has enjoyed a nice dinner every night!
This week not only started off well, but it also ended on such a good note when it was decided that Ocheing- one of the most memorable boys of our previous trip- was allowed back at Smile. He had recently been kicked out due to misbehavior & was doing very poorly out on the streets. I proposed the idea that he is allowed back under the condition that he does counseling with me every morning. This idea went over well & Ocheing just about knocked me over as he jumped into my arms with gratitude! This moment brought tears to my eyes because the grace and forgiveness shown to Ocheing reminded me of the grace and forgiveness that God continues to show us daily.
I wish this blog entry could do justice to the week that I’ve experienced- but words are too inadequate. I’ve been moved to tears more times this week than ever before- and they have only been tears of joy! I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformation of lives, God’s miraculous healings, & how God’s timing is far too perfect!
After my trip to Uganda with BFR in March, I had an undeniably strong calling to return to Africa. I read Kay Warren’s book, “Say Yes to God” and she describes how God’s calling for us is not always like the picture a digital camera provides- quick & clear, but that it is more like a Polaroid picture- it’s fuzzy, unclear, and it takes time for the picture to surface. Coming into this trip, all I knew was that God wanted me here; I didn’t know the specifics or what He had in store for me. But with each day that I’ve been in Africa, my picture of God’s calling for me is become a bit more clear….
Like Britney & Lacey often say, we have one life to live & our time here is short- BeEpic!