Farida was the first child I met at Adventure Village, the orphanage of Christian Life Ministries where our team stayed, played and served for two weeks.
Farida is 13 and she and her sister, Hanifah are orphans. Orphans caused by death, poverty and abandonment.
My first few days getting to know her, we spent time jumping rope, painting toenails, blowing bubbles and singing songs.
She was very excited and proud to show me her bed
and especially her school work.
She loves school and takes pride in working hard so that she can become a doctor. If she continues to work hard and get good grades, she will have an opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious boarding schools in east Africa...an opportunity made possible through Christian Life Ministries.
One evening, as we were sitting on her porch talking about America, the girls asked me what I do for work. I told them that I am a mom, that I stay at home with my children while my husband works. Farida said "I have never known the love of a mother."
This was so hard to hear. It was really difficult to keep from grabbing her and holding her and crying with her. However I had learned through my interactions with her that she is not an emotional or touchy child, which I'm sure is a result of years of disappointment and hurt.
I took the opportunity to ask her how she had come to the orphanage. What happened to her parents? Does she remember them? She and her sister, through their limited English, told me of how their father had died when they were young. Their mother was unable to care for them due to poverty so she left them with their grandmother. I asked Farida if she remembers her mother. She smiled and said no, but that she would surely recognize her if she ever saw her because she had seen a picture. She then told me of how her grandmother wasn't able to send her to school and, upon hearing of education opportunities through Adventure Village, brought her to the orphanage.
I asked her if her grandmother ever visits or writes and she said no. Hanifah, Farida's sister, said she wants to get an education so that she can find her mother and then help other children find their parents.
As heartbreaking as this story is, these girls are healthy. They are fed three meals a day. They have access to medical attention and medication if they need it. They are getting an education. Most importantly, they are being taught scripture and about God's love. They participate in worship times. They smile with an inner joy...a joy that maybe only comes through seeing, knowing God's faithfulness in hardship and hurt. These girls are strong and courageous. I learned a lot during my time with them.
During these two weeks, I was deliberate with my words. I made sure to tell them that they are beautiful, smart, strong. I told them God loves them and that He is faithful...always. He sees them and knows their pain. I told them to study hard in school, to persevere when things are hard. I wanted to make sure that they know someone cares for them and loves them. They have God, they have their Adventure Village Family and now they have me too.
My last night there, we sat together and talked. We took pictures. We exchanged letters. When it was time to say goodbye, we hugged (which I felt was a big step for Farida) and cried (another rarity). We promised to keep in touch. I kept my desire to see them again to myself, knowing that I shouldn't make promises I may not be able to keep. Only the Lord knows when, and if, I'll ever see them again.
When I got home I was able to give my children letters that Farida and Hanifah had written to them. My children now have friends in Uganda. How great is that? God is soo good.