Tonya Brown has just arrived in Uganda, her new home. This is her first blog from the Pearl of Africa. You can catch future posts here at Minus-One-More (as in minus-one-more-orphan. Her son, Christopher Reign (CR), is adopted from Guatemala.) She’ll eventually be up in Gulu with Pastor Experito and Justine.
If you haven’t met Tonya…well, you might want to! If you don’t have a trip planned to Africa, you can catch her on facebook. On March 3, she resigned from her career, just one day after she wrote this post (new normal), and prepared to move to a continent she had never even visited. (I feel like I’m writing the biography of a missionary who lived 100 years ago.)
She came to know Christ 5 years ago, and every cell in her body exudes joy in Jesus. I’ll let her do the rest of the talking…
“Mommy, I love our new home.”
Journaled July 18th after our travels and first day in Uganda.
We are here! It’s nearing 1am, and I am eager to tell you about our first day in Nkumba….. as I sit here typing nicely tucked under my mosquito net, or “caves” as CR calls them. We had relatively uneventful flights, minus the man in Chicago who exited the plane with my carry on bag instead of his. Praise God he heard his name paged and came back quickly. Also, Drea left a 50 lb. bag of aid and gifts at the Ug airport thinking she grabbed it (updated, we got the bag!). I am blessed with a child who was made to travel. CR did excellent! He slept in few hour increments on the plane and in the airports, and when not sleeping just had a great time watching his movies and eating. I love Turkish Airlines! The food was beyond good and the flights were comfortable. The Istanbul airport was awesome but it was HOT in that place. If you stop there I recommend the tortellini with goat cheese from the only pasta place in the food court. Probably the best pasta I have ever had. Truly.
|CR, on his way to Africa!|
|Istanbul Airport – The Bizarre and Ice Cream Joksters|
We arrived in Ug at 730a. When we walked outside the double doors, much to my surprise, there was no Seggy… Cara was standing there with my sponsored child, Betty! I really couldn’t believe it. I mean how many people sponsor a child half way around the world and then get to meet them?!? Betty had never been to the airport before. She was shy, but spoke English well so we were able to talk and get to know each other. Her birthday is tomorrow, although when I asked her what her birthday was she said she didn’t know. RTPs records indicate that it is tomorrow and that she will be 14. I have gifts for her and we will invite her over for dinner. Seeing her first thing was such an amazing way to be welcomed to Africa.
When I asked for Seggy, Cara said he couldn’t make it, however, he was outside waiting for us with welcoming arms. It was great to see him again! Mark, who also works with Nkumba Ministries, was there as well. We loaded all of our bags into two cars and headed to Pastor John’s in Nkumba. Seeing the photos come to life was spectacular. Uganda is amazing. I sat in the backseat with CR on my lap and Betty beside me. It was that moment I had waited for and I never want to forget it. I was reminded of the first time CR was placed in my arms in Guatemala; driving through the streets of his country taking in the sights and smells. I was in awe that this was our new home.
It was obvious that the Lord had prepared our hearts for this move. It felt like home immediately. When we arrived at Pastor’s house, CR instantly took to his three oldest children, who are 2, 3, and 5. They have an 8 month old daughter as well, that was in my arms the second her nanny put her down. The children were squealing with delight as CR shared his toys and books. It was a matter of an hour before he was using a few Luganda words and pretending to speak the language completely by using his own rendition. Pretty comical indeed. We had tea and bread and butter for breakfast and then headed out to the school.
When we pulled up all the children came running and circled around CR. It was just a few moments until they were all playing in the schoolyard together. It is Saturday so school was to end at noon for the older kids, and the primary age are out for the day. There was no shortage of children however since there are hundreds that live at the school. It was laundry day so the bushes were all covered in clothing, just like the photos. The school is so different in real life; the pics do no justice. Seggy and Cara took us around the campus. The children just flock to you and want to touch you, hold hands and be carried. We made lots of new friends today. Josie loves white people, or so I heard, and she loved me and CR. She would hold my hands around her so that I couldn’t touch anyone else, and she kept petting CR’s hair. While inside the girls dorm CR asked if he could tell me a secret. When I bent down he whispered in my ear “Mommy, I love our new home.” Only God could do something this spectacular.
We went out to lunch at a local restaurant on the main road in Nkumba. CR had an orange soda, which made him love this place all the more since he doesn’t get to drink it in the states. We ate everything local, down to the matooke smothered in a purple peanut sauce. I love peanut butter; I do not love purple peanut sauce! We made stops to Cara’s apartment and then to Mark’s new house that is nearing completion but still under construction. Pastor John’s three oldest were with us and the kids had fun playing wherever we were. When we got home I tried putting CR under the cold shower… let me interrupt, it’s sticky here, humid, and although not Phoenix, it is hot. There is orange dirt everywhere. We had been on an airplane for 2 days. My son sweats anyway, so that coupled with all of the above factors… he needed a cleaning! There is no hot water here unless boiled. When I sprayed his feet he gasped, so like any good mother I just soaked him. He cried a cry I have never heard before and then asked me why I was doing this to him. Broke my heart. So we didn’t get to the part where you actually use soap, instead I just dried him off, brushed his teeth and we laid down for a nap.
I woke up nearing dinner time. Pastor and his wife had arrived home and we sat talking for a while. CR could not be woken up despite my multiple attempts. Dinner was served. Beef and fish are different here. I enjoyed the sauce that they cooked them in, and over rice it was good. The sweet potatoes are great, and the “Irish”, or russet type potatoes boiled and then fried to crisp the outside, are delightful. Matooke is the diet of champions… I hope to become a champion… it’s not easy for me to eat…. yet! The power went out smack dab in the midst of dinner, to which Pastor so calmly said/prayed “Jesus.. oh, God”. The boys were quick to grab candles and get them lighted. Fun fact, Ugangan cell phones come with a built in flashlight. I found out the use at dinner. It was awesome! And convenient!
After dinner our hosts so graciously boiled water for us to bathe. I took my very first sponge bath with bucket water. Today it was much more appealing than standing under a freezing cold shower. Round 2 of bathing for CR was much better! He didn’t eat anything for dinner, and I didn’t force it. I figure when he gets hungry, he will eat. He was just so exhausted.
Tomorrow is church. I can’t believe we are here. After all the time on my face before God seeking his purpose for my life, after all the preparation, after flying around the globe.. we are here. We are home.
|Pastor’s children: Caleb, Caiphus and Carissa with CR|
|First night in his “cave”.. 🙂|
Drea had her camera at the school so I didn’t bring mine. I am excited about showing you Nkumba Christian School and May College (High School), as well as introducing you to some of the kids. Photos to come! Also, a friend of mine posted these words to her blog written by Vince Giordano from Children’s HopeChest. It is so good, and so close to my heart, that I wanted to share with you.
Those of us who spend our time focusing on the poor, the oppressed and those who serve them are sometimes confronted with grim realities. The fact is that there are too many problems out there…there are too many children that need help…there are too many women and children who are stuck in sex-trafficking and too many people starving. So, you read a book or you adopted a child or you went on a trip and you were overwhelmed with poverty and injustice. You never imagined that things were so bad. You couldn’t believe how cheap it was to solve individual problems – medicines for less than $10, mosquito nets for $5, school fees that are less than your monthly starbucks budget. You thought to yourself – I have to do something – I am GOING to do something.
You return to America or you finish your book and your mission begins. You start telling your spouse or your best friends. This is unbelievable – we have to do something now. We have to act. Some of them seem interested but most of them try to wait it out hoping you will get over this latest obsession. But you know in your heart this is not an obsession… It is a new awareness that the kingdom of God has to extend out from you and reach the least of these. You keep going.
Your friends initially tolerate you and then some just quietly phase you out, but you are undeterred initially. You press on KNOWING people will want to make a difference. You start reading the Bible with fresh eyes and asking yourself why you had never seen that or read that before? Why did I not hear this in church? You listen to sermons with fresh ears and you hear the repetitive beating of a drum that seems to resound with a self-centered rhythm. It isn’t supposed to be all about me is it God? Why are we only focused on making our great lives even better when kids are starving, when young children are being prepared for sexual exploitation every two minutes? I guess that will all just go away if I can truly develop the purpose driven life, right? Or if I just keeping doing more Bible studies with my accountability group?
For some of us, the hard reality is that we simply need to move on from some of our old ways and old friends into the fullness of the gospel. The true religion that we know He is calling us to. You won’t be popular, but quite frankly neither was Jesus among the religious crowd. You may find yourself testing the patience of some of your closest friends who would just rather plan their next big vacation and not hear about the sexual exploitation of children or starving kids or children who are alone and without love or hope. That stuff is just too hard and depressing and doesn’t fit with the trajectory of my life that God is making so pleasant and easy.
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that everything we do will have an eternal impact in the lives of individuals and it matters. Your small choices can make a big difference in the lives of the hurting. The bad news is that you will not be popular, it will not be easy, you will lose friends, people will tire of you constantly beating the drum for the cause of justice. People will avoid you and criticize you and tell you to lighten up. But, I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to be a louder voice than you have ever been. I want to challenge you to scream for those who have no voice. I want to challenge you to ask God to use you in places and in ways that others don’t want to. I want to challenge you to fight against the apathy that plagues our churches and society. I challenge you to be His hands and feet to the least of these. I challenge you to allow your life to be a seed – which falls to ground and dies and in so doing it produces much fruit. I challenge you to swim against the current of our church culture that seeks to find comfort in a personal gospel and personal salvation, and passionately pursue God with a reckless abandon for those that are helpless. I pray that we would have the spirit of a warrior that has counted the cost and said with boldness – Lord I give you my life today – ALL of me – spend me extravagantly on the poor and the oppressed.