Last time we drove the “four hours” between Kampala and Mbarara it was an eight hour nightmare through a lunar landscape of potholes like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. This time the road has been rebuilt and the surface was a dream…. The highway is an artery of life for the many who eke out a harsh subsistence living along its hard shoulders. Buses hurtle down the road and when they stop they are crowded with merchants selling produce and drinks to passengers through the windows.
Vegetables, charcoal, fruit, tourist products, and even dried or fresh fish are in the hands of those waving for attention. Every town (and there are many) use the highway as their main road and small shops and stalls, mechanical services, and dress shops spill out onto the dusty fringe – always bustling with life. Men lounge on small motorbikes, children as young as three walk in clusters home from school (all have uniforms) mere inches from the relentless traffic.
Maybe photographs are better than words…..
Micah and I had embarked on the journey to visit Pat and the boys of her orphanage. There are about twenty four boys who have either been street kids or whose parents cannot support them. Pat started the project 17 years ago and has substantially financed the work with help from sponsors who faithfully contribute as well.
The project is housed in a secured compound located in the slum area of Mbarara where the boys live in small dormitories of five or six. Very basic by our standards in the West but a significant improvement to what most of them would have been accustomed to.
We arrived around 4 pm before the boys had returned from school. They have a long day that begins at 7am and only ends around 5 pm after they have completed chores.”We’ll be winding down the project by 2019,” Pat said. “I’m getting old and we cannot sustain the project forever so we won’t be bringing any new boys in – which is hard – as the need’s so great.”
Pat seemed in a good frame of mind and showed me her humble quarters exclaiming, “It’s so freeing to live like this… I have all I need.” We wandered around and all looked much as I remembered from my last visit 8 years ago.
I was introduced to Paula the new accountant and administrator, and William the cook who was working under challenging conditions while the kitchen was being upgraded with new stoves (wood fire).
Herbert has been helping Pat for three years and is a graduate Social Worker – a soft-spoken pleasant man with a wife and two children – very committed to the project. All the staff are qualified and I was impressed with them and thrilled to see the support around Pat and the Project. Their salary is standard in Uganda – $200 or less per month. Yes, that’s not a typing error.
When the boys gradually trickled in they came up and introduced themselves with a handshake and big smiles. Later we were treated to a great supper in the crowded dining area. This time it seems like an older average age and much bigger statures. I didn’t recognize any of them but the most moving moment was meeting a towering Daniel (he has another name I can’t pronounce or recall) at supper. He had come into my room the last night of my previous visit as a slight little guy with a problem with his leg and kidney issues. We talked and I prayed and later learned that the kidney was, and has remained, healed. But the leg is a crippling problem still unresolved. So yesterday I laid hands on him and prayed for a miracle of healing there as well. “I never thought I’d see you again, do you remember me?” I asked. “Yes I do,” Daniel replied with a smile as he looked down at me, “I didn’t think I’d see you either.”
After a feast of a supper Micah and I said our farewells and retreated to our hotel. This morning over breakfast we chatted with Nick who has been at Pat’s side since she arrived seventeen years ago. He’s shown great concern and support over the years and it was helpful to get his perspective on the past and the future – and also express appreciation to him for his faithfulness.
Please pray for this team and that they will be of one mind as they care for the boys and plan for the sadly eventual closing. God has used them powerfully to touch and change the lives of young men who had no chance without a helping hand. And pray for wisdom and courage for Pat as she moves forward with them; who knows, there may be a few more miracles and detours along the way before all’s said and done! 🙂