It is Saturday afternoon at Ranch on Jesus. Inside the dining hall boys and girls are gathered around tables stringing necklaces. After receiving some “interesting” creations from the kids on Wednesday, we decided to bring some sample necklaces from the market for them to copy. We don’t want to squelch their creativity…just curb it in a more appealing direction.
Of course, not all jewelry is universally appealing. Fourteen year old Phionah had no issue telling us what she thought about the necklace we gave her to copy.
“It’s ugly,” she frowned dramatically.
The necklace we wanted her to imitate was a random assortment of small colorful beads.
“Why is it ugly?” I laugh.
“There is no pattern.” She sighed dramatically. (Phionah is by nature very dramatic.)
I didn’t think it would do much good to point out that the necklaces she made for us on Wednesday didn’t have much of a pattern either. At any rate, they are learning.
I am currently sitting on a bench under the large tree at the center of the compound. Vivian is snoozing next to me in her stroller. Her bare feet are the color of the dirt beneath us. I have found it completely impossible to keep her even remotely clean here…even when she is indoors.
Today it is hot and dusty, but there is a small breeze streaming up our way from the lake. Just behind me Maurice, Kenneth and Ashiraf are doing the weekly washing. All of the children’s clothing, bed sheets, etc. are washed by hand in small plastic basins. It is truly an exhausting and tedious task. Even watching them my arms grow tired. When they have washed, rinsed and wrung an item they lay it flat to dry in the grass. The compound yard is currently a maze of blue, yellow and white garments.
Next door the Seventh Day Adventist Church is making an “Effort.” This is their term for a revival or crusade. They are well into the second week of the three week long event. The noise projected from the loudspeakers over our fence is constant. A variety of music and speaking-all in Lugandan- is projected for the entire neighborhood to hear. Every now and then I understand a word or phrase, but for the most part it is unintelligible noise to my ears.
Ernest has just run down to tell me that he has finished coloring on his canvas bag. Ernest is seven. He has always been a “show and tell” boy. He is hungry for approval and always wants me to see what he creates. I left the littlest of the children unsupervised with permanent markers up in the dining hall. I really have no idea what state I will find them in when I return. (The children or the markers.) But I am sure their canvas bags will be more than colorful.
The way the children have kept…or failed to keep…their canvas bags have been telling of their natures. The majority of the girls have kept theirs fairly pristine. The twins, Joel and Joshua, have done likewise. Although they are only eight, they are very responsible and careful boys for the most part. I wish I could say the same for some of the other boys, but many of them have managed to ruin their bags in less than two weeks. Ibrahim’s bag looks like he threw it in the dirt and ran over it with a land cruiser. Even now he is trying to wash it with Nomi (detergent) in one of the basins. Granted with all the dust and dirt in Uganda it is truly challenging to keep things clean. Still, it seems that a good many of our lads didn’t make much of an effort.
Vivian is awake now. She didn’t sleep for long. She never does in the stroller. Mark Kamara has just run through the front gate of the compound and is now strolling her back inside. I can remember clearly when Mark was even younger than Vivian. Now he is one of my many babysitters. Time keeps flying by. The children who seemed so young only a year ago now look practically grown. In very little time Vivian will be as tall as me and all the children here at Ranch will be adults with families of their own.
I look forward to attending their weddings, visiting their homes and watching as all that we tried to instill in them as boys and girls, Lord willing, becomes the truth and hope they seek to instill in their own offspring. I treasure my Saturday afternoon at Ranch on Jesus watching the will of God practiced in the simplest (and most complicated) of ways-setting the solitary in a home. (Psalm 68:6) I make it my prayer that because of what little we have done at Ranch for these few there will be fewer solitary little ones in Uganda’s future. But for now and for these children, I remain thankful for this home.