Uganda is a beautiful country. It is lush and green, yet dry and red. The red dirt gets on and in everything. You shower and scrub only to be covered once again within five minutes of being outside. It is glorious!
Everywhere you go, you hear people shouting, "Mzungu! Mzungu!" (white person) Most children you meet are ecstatic to meet you. They find your white skin funny and your long hair intriguing. They run their hands over your arm, pull at your fingers, and rub your hair. Some of the babies find you terrifying. What is this strange looking creature? Yes, there are times in Africa when a little one walks around the corner, sees your white skin, screams, cries, and runs away.
There is always a little one to hold your hand or that wants to be rocked. And they don't have to be so little either. Even the older ones just want to be held. No words, just love. A safe place to rest their head. When you have seen the things some of these children have seen, rest can be hard to find. When you look into their eyes, one can only guess the pains they have felt.
One night at Canaan's Children Home, our home for part of our stay, four of us got to hear some of their stories. Our team had brought white handkerchiefs with the intentions of doing a healing activity with some of the kids. We waited and prayed for the right time. We invited anyone 13 and older from Canaan to join our activity. These teens had been in school until 7 pm, had dinner, then worked on homework until 9 pm. What a long day! But they were so excited to be with us.
Everyone was given 2 handkerchiefs and some markers. We told them to draw or write the best day of their life and the worst day of their life. We split up into smaller groups. I had about nine boys in my group. I told them that if they wanted to share, I would treasure and honor their story. I had also drawn my best and worst days. I shared my heart with them, then felt it melt as I saw the love that swept across their faces for me. They felt my pain, and they felt my joy.
Some chose to share their story. Others weren't able to in the group, but shared with us privately later. We told them that Jesus knows what it is to have a very worst day. We told them how much God loves them. He suffered so much for us. Now, He wants all of our days. He wants our good days and our very worst days. And He promises to take our worst days and turn them into a treasure.
One of our team members had made a cross out of logs. We all took our handkerchiefs, our hurts, our sorrows and laid them at the cross. It was such a sweet moment to get to be a part of. One of the teens prayed for us at the end. What beautiful words from such a beautiful heart! My heart broke as I watched one my sweet friends leave in tears. I wondered what his worst day was. He wasn't ready to share his story, but the next night as we prepared to say goodbye, this boy who always acted more like a grown man than thirteen, laid his head on my shoulder and cried. I squeezed him tight wanting to soak up all that pain and hurt and replace it with so much love.
After our night with the teens ended, we were able to look at some of the handkerchiefs. There were many stories. Our hearts ached as we read things like, "My worst day was when I cried for help, and no one heard me." I cannot pretend to know that kind of pain.
For their best day, there were two events that seemed to come up again and again. The first, "My best day was when I came to know Christ." And the second, "My best day was when I came to Canaan's." That made my heart smile. That makes me stand in awe of a God who takes the most horrible of things and uses them to create the most beautiful of things.
I loved our time at Canaan Children's Home. It is such a place of refuge and restoration. Pastor Isaac and his wife Rebecca started the home in 1996. I promise to share their story in my next post. You will not believe the things they have faced! Their story is one that is all about God taking the MOST horrible, performing a few miracles, and creating something absolutely BEAUTIFUL.