Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's Not to Love!

A little of my story here in Kamonkoli continues - when I returned to live in Uganda in July 1995, I was not really sure what the Lord was going to have me doing.  I just knew it had to do with orphans and children in general.  After seeing the faces of the children the first time I came, I could not sleep or get their images out of my heart or mind. 

I did not have running water the first six years, a vehicle the first four years, electricity has always been off and on! and I was just thankful to have camping like stoves to cook on.  I got my first refridgerator after six years and my first stove.  Somehow, when you love what you are doing, you do not really notice or miss these things much.  My heart was focused on the Lord and the work He had put before me.  I moved on the back of a bicycle for all these years or walked - good for me!  They called the bikes "boda boda" which came about during the time of Idi Amin when people wanted to get out of Uganda and were heading for the border - they would call out in their accents "Border Border" and this became boda boda.  I enjoyed riding on the back to town - it was always refreshing or cooling with the air in my face.  To shop for groceries, I would get empty boxes and fill them with the groceries and then put them on another boda boda to take back to my home in Kamonkoli (about 30 minutes on the back of the bike).

One of the first things I did was to start a Saturday Sunday School to meet with the children and teach them about the love God has for them.  It later became our AWANA Club (now around 600 children).  Finally in 1999 I founded Hines Ugandan Ministries (HUM).  Our mission - to reach out to the orphans, vulnerable children and widows with the love of Christ.  Our goal has never changed to raise of healthy, contributing adults that make a difference to the country and community to the glory of God. 

We started with nine chidlren in the sponsorship program in 1999 and by the end of the year had 51.  Now we keep a continuing 200 children sponsored.  As children finish through University or vocational studies, we add more little ones.  We have had 27 finish University and vocational through the end of last year.  This year we have another 23 finishing.  This is exciting, as most of these children are going to make a difference.

I want to share the story of one child, however, that changed me.  His name was Junior.  Junior had several brothers and two sisters.  One of his sisters, Violet, was taken in by me when she was four years old.  She is still with me today at the age of 17 years.  Junior was a younger brother to Violet.  They had lost both parents to the terrible AIDS virus, as so many of these children have, and before the mother died she was looking for places to put the children.  Their mother's name was Esther.  Esther had come to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior about three years before she died.  She wanted her kids to have the best.  She had put them in relatives homes but did not know what to do with Violet, and begged me (not really!) to take her in.  I really cried when Esther died.  Junior and the youngest son, Derrick, were taken to the capital city, Kampala, to live with an Aunt and Uncle and stayed there for three years.  When Junior was seven years old and Derrick was four they were brought back to the village and put at their Grandfather's home.  Their Grandfather is very poor with no income at all and very old.  He had no place to really put them, so they slept with the goats.  They were brought back, however, because the Uncle thought they were sick with AIDS.  When Violet learned what was happening in their lives, she came asked me to help.  I went to visit the children and discovered that they were not eating anything most of the time.  I took them for testing as the Grandfather said no one had, they just guessed.  Derrick did not have AIDS.  When the Uncle heard he sent him away to boarding school.  Unfortunately, Junior was infected and in bad shape, beyond the help of the medicine available here in Uganda.  The Grandfather kept him and starved him to death.  He felt this was more humane than to allow him to live and suffer with AIDS.  The night before Junior died I was there.  He reached out his arms to me and kept crying "don't leave me here, don't leave me here."  The Grandfather gave me no choice and would not let me interfere any further.  I never cried so hard in my life.  At 4:00 a.m. the next morning I had a knock at my door that Junior had died and they wanted to bury him that day.  The Grandfather was just going to wrap him in a sheet and through him in a hole.  I got what little money I had saved and bought a casket, had a proper grave dug and cemented as they do here, and had him burried properly.  To this day I remember the image of Junior crying out to me with his arms outstretched.  I dedicate the medical clinic we are trying to build to his memory.

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