As many of you know, I departed Uganda for a few months to spend the holidays in Texas with my family, to visit friends, and to do some personal fundraising for me to continue in my ministry in Uganda.
It was a bittersweet time preparing to leave, as my heart was very excited to be reunited with my family I haven't seen in 2 years, it was also sad knowing that the children at LCH are soon getting a long school holiday (my favorite time because the kids are out of school and available to have fun with). Also, God has allowed me to establish a wonderful life in Uganda that I now call home.
To my surprise, the week I departed held a few special moments that I will treasure forever.
On Tuesday night, I stayed at LCH a little later just to have some more time with the kiddos- or so I thought. As I pulled into my gate in town I saw an extra car that looked familiar. Then I saw the all the lights in the sitting/dining room go out. A little suspicious :) Upon entering the house, with only the twinkle of christmas lights and candles lighting the way, I saw a few sets of legs sticking out from a beautifully set table. At that point, all of my closest friends in Mbale jumped up, shouting "Surprise!"
Since I will be in Texas for my 30th birthday, my sweet housemate Tiffany didn't want this milestone birthday to pass by uncelebrated. (Thanks Tiff- you are really so wonderful!)
|Don't worry- you didn't miss my real birthday. I will officially leave my twenties on January 7th.|
My heart was beyond blessed as I sat around the table, black and white skin sprinkled throughout, sharing a meal together. My heart was blessed in seeing the faces of the people God has brought into my life who have loved me, taught me, challenged me, and enriched my life since being in Uganda. And my heart was blessed as we danced and laughed throughout the evening.
The next day was my last day at LCH (for this year). It had been announced at the previous week's staff meeting that we were to have a "Fun Day" to send me off. But I didn't think much about it as the days drew closer. Usually I am the one to plan activities like this, so that morning I thought to myself, "I wonder if the Fun Day is really happening? If they have planned something, they have done a good job keeping it a secret."
When I got to work, I was told that things are happening but I don't need to get involved in them unless I am instructed to. Later at lunch, Jerad came into my office instructing, "Nat, we need you to leave the office now and go to the library until further notice." So, off I went.
I was later collected by 2 staff and 2 kids who blindfolded me and tied my hands together behind my back and led me to the Main Hall. Everything was quiet, too quiet when you know that there should be noises of about 200 children around. I was led inside and as my blindfold was removed EVERYONE started singing Happy Birthday which was followed by a remix of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and (of course) dancing!
The Main Hall was decorated with balloons that hung overhead and spelled out the word "LOVE", Christmas trees, and a bear shaped cake. It was in all its African glory and it was WONDERFUL!!
The afternoon proceeded with dance presentations from the little ones, a game where you try to pick up a box with your teeth (that gets cut down smaller each round), a skit about me and my life at LCH, another episode of wearing the blindfold and finding/removing sweeties from the tree, and a special interview and song from one of the puppies. (I will also add that the puppy was wearing a baby onesie and seeing a dog in clothes and "singing" had everyone out of their seats and laughing. Remember this is Uganda and dog are just scavengers, not pets - so the idea of putting any sort of clothes on an animal is completely foreign to them.)
At the end of it all, beautiful words of love and appreciation were spoken over me. I even received some special cards and gifts to bring home to my family. And then the traditional "cutting of the cake."
It was such a fun and special day. Maybe one of the best celebrations that we have had yet. And throughout it all, the only thing I could think was, "Thank you, Lord! I am more than blessed!"