Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Title Upgrade

On a daily basis I hear my name at least fifty times. But it is not my given name of, Na-tall-ee (as they pronounce it here), it is "Teacha".

Teacha, how are you? Teacha, can I have a (fill in the blank)? Teacha, so and so is disturbing me. Teacha, when are we going to (fill in the blank)? Teacha this and Teacha that.

(Don't be confused. I am the program coordinator and have been for the past 6.5 years. But when I first joined the Lulwanda family, I taught phonics to our oldest children for 2.5 years and the name "Teacha" just stuck. Even the newest family members who came last year call me that, since they hear their older siblings using the name.)

I was recently visiting some of our secondary children at their boarding school located in Mbale town. While I was walking with one of my dear boys, Josephat, he said, "Teacha..... but should I really call you teacha because it has been a long time since you have taught us? What if I call you Mum?" I told him that that title would be my greatest honor. We continued walking and after about a minute of silence he said, "But are you really worthy of being called Mum?" I replied that that was for him to decide. But that I have tried my best to be faithful to loving him and all of the other children at LCH. Later that day he called a friend over and in his introductions, Josephat said, "This is my Mum. I think you have heard me speak of Na-talie." My heart swelled with joy over this title upgrade.

Two of my sons, James (left) and Josephat (right)

Later that week, Josephat called me and asked if I was "so busy" that Saturday? After assuring him that I wasn't too busy he said, "Teacha, if  you are really my Mum then please come to a performance at school on Saturday morning and see me direct the choir." So as a proud mama, I attended the school celebration and watched my son lead the school choir in beautiful hymns and worship songs.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

We move by grace!

I am so glad that many days in Uganda and at Lulwanda are filled with smiles and jokes shared with the children or little chuckles created by TIA moments (This Is Africa). But not everyday is like that.

We move by grace, from one day to the next. We move by grace while raising these children up. We move by grace in helping to shape hearts. We move by grace in handling disciplinary issues. We move by grace in processing the life that was for them. We move by grace in hoping for the life to come and what the future holds.

There was recently a day that moving by grace was all we had and (as always) the Father's grace was sufficient.

I will borrow the words from the blog of one of the Global Journey team members, Claire, who beautifully captured this days events.

"During the morning tour of the home and school, one of the house mothers informed Natalie, a resident missionary, that she had received a call that one of the mothers of three of the children had passed away the previous night.  After some tears and a heartfelt prayer with the teams, we continued on with our day.  After one of the children, Grace (15) had been told, we received word that there had been a mistake and that the mother was not in fact dead. 
(Input from Nat: We had been called and told that the mother had passed away in the night. We knew that the kids would be terribly upset and it was over an hour drive to get to their village, so we decided we would not tell the children until we were almost there, and that is just what happened. As the group drove up to the family home where they expected the burial to be, there were no signs of burial soon to happen. Upon asking the clan members knew nothing about a death. The group was directed to another home where they drove up and found the mother laying on a mat outside the hut, ALIVE! We had been misinformed.)
Last night, our team had the opportunity to eat with Natalie and Grace and another sweet girl, Helen.  After introducing them to chicken pot pie and devouring some chocolate cake, we began to clean up.  Noticing that Natalie and girls were in the living room area of our accommodations, I walked in to find a very somber Grace and Natalie speaking words of truth over the teen.  You must know that Grace is one of the most joyful people I have ever been blessed to meet.  Despite the news, she had kept a smile on her face for the entire day, continuing to love on the other children, hugging me often, and talking without ceasing about all that she has learned as a result of her being an avid reader.
As I sat down near Natalie and Grace, Natalie began to speak scripture over her, encouraging her to turn to God.  The missionary began to gently probe Grace to share the feelings she was experiencing.  I learned that Grace had had the opportunity to visit her mother and grandmother.  Tears began to stream down her face as she explained the condition of her mother, who was battling HIV.  She explained that she was very, very sick, and was being taken care of by Grace’s grandmother.  Grace seemed to feel guilty that she was at Luwanda with her 2 siblings, rather than caring for her mother.
Seeing such a joyful, inspirational young women suffer and be so vulnerable overwhelmed my heart, and I began to cry.  We sat there in silence for what I think was an hour.  Resting in his presence, praying over sweet Grace, crying, and just being.  This time of silence transitioned into a time of tearful worship, and the rest of the team joined the three of us, in praising the Creator of the Universe for creating sweet Grace, praying that she and her family be surrounded in peace that surpassed all understanding.  I struggle even now to write about it without tearing up.  There are no words that would be adequate to describe the beauty and the simultaneous pain of the situation.  God’s presence was so palpable in that place.  As I sit and reflect, I cannot help but think that this is how God created us to be, creatures of praise, fellowshipping with one another and serving one another and encouraging one another.  Just being with one another.  I pray that my life will be filled with moments like the one last night, that my heart would experience joy and pain and beauty and grace and in all moments praise the one and only God who created us so perfectly.
After resting in His presence for a little longer, Natalie initiated a dance party, which turned into the best dance party ever had."  - Claire, GJ 2016 team member

photo credit: Kathie H.

           (I love this sweet girl so much and have been immensely blessed by this Grace in my life!)

This post was originally written around the beginning of July. Sadly, on July 29, Egulasi's (and Clement and Emma Dee) mother passed away. I attended the burial with them, along with 4 other staff members and three other children. 

I almost lost it completely as we were driving out to the village and I started thinking of the Lord's sovereignty and goodness over all of these children's lives. Tears filled my eyes especially as I remembered how just merely a year ago I sat in a meeting and held up Emma and another little boy's photo and the social inquiry team told me to choose (in which I selected Emma, based on his age and that it was likely his last opportunity to be considered-- click here for the full story). If not for the Lord moving on this boy's behalf, I thought of how we would be driving to the village and would have found him there, having just lost the mother and in total crisis mode. If we would have just found Emma in the village that day at burial, it would not have been an easy or a quick task to work with the government to bring him in to LCH. But because of the Lord's tender mercies and love for this boy, he has been part of the LCH family for over a year and I have had the privilege to see him change so much in countenance and hope. But needing to be the strong one to be there for the children, I could only think this thought briefly before I had to shove it aside so I didn't totally lose it before we even reached the burial. 

Obviously, these children are still grieving (though I do see joy and normalcy returning). Please pray for them. Also, in a home of 119, there are many other children with emotional grief- known and unknown to us as their caregivers. Pray that the Wonderful Counselor is near and helps walk them through whatever they are going through.