Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Uganda - Canaan Children's Home

I changed my mind. I said that I was going to go day by day of the trip to share it but I'm not. I'm gonna go ministry by ministry - mostly because I can't really remember what happened on each separate day and it's easier to remember what we did at each ministry. :)


You've already heard a little bit about it and if you know me in real life you have probably heard a LOT about it. :)

Most of my team (myself included) refers to it as just Canaans or "home".

It's where my sweet Sarah lives.

And where I can't wait to visit again.

But you know that already.


Canaans is an orphanage that houses 107 children ages 2-18. It is run by Pastor (Papa) Isaac and his wife Mama Rebekah. The fact they their names are Isaac and Rebekah and they are married makes me smile. :) I would love to share Papa Isaac's story with you, but I can assure you that unless you hear it from his own mouth, you might not believe it. Our God is GOOD people. Go visit Canaans and hear it for yourself.

Ok. Moving on.

Canaans has a school - Canaan Primary CTC - and that is where the elementary school kids go and also kids from the community. It helps them bring in some income as well but mostly they rely on the kids having sponsors to help provide for them. The little kids stay at Canaans and have school there. We were awakened by the sound of the kindergarten class doing their morning exercises on more than one day. It was quite a sight to see! I don't even know how many kids are in that class (because community kids come to it too and also many of the kids are younger than kindergarten age I think) but there is a bunch of them and their head teacher, Summer, is crazy and energetic and she gets them marching and dancing all around and they do it all in unison. I love it!

The first day that we were there we just did a bunch of hanging out - jumping rope, playing soccer, doing hair (well, having ours done), and making bracelets. It was quite chaotic any time we tried to do a craft, but they loved it and had a blast. We were "chosen" by our kids and started getting to know them. I spent most of my time with Sarah (age 5ish) and Nusula (who told me she was 8 for the first half of the week and 10 for the second half).

I spent some time the first day hanging out with the Aunties (single ladies that are the dorm mommas) and playing "Monkey in the Middle" with them (and of course Sarah and Nusula). It was a blast (I'm telling you - they are nuts!!) and that time with them was very special to me. I could tell that they loved having visitors just as much as the kids did. They work very hard (each is momma to about 20-25 kids) and love very big so I can only imagine the relief they feel when a team comes in to share the burden with them.

Later on the first day, I got to deliver the washable menstrual pads that we made at our It's a Girl Thing party. Mama Rebekah and I took new panties and these pads to each of the 23 teenage girls.


I so wish that you could have been there with me!

Mama Rebekah made me put everything in a pillowcase so we could sneak over to their dorm and she had all the girls and their Auntie Sarah sit down. She made me stand in the front and told them that Mama Stephanie had brought a blessing for them. Did they want to know what it was?? Yes, they very much did want to know. :)

She let me tell them and show them and I swear you would have thought I gave them the world! There was screaming and dancing and I was instantly tackled by all of them in a huge hug! Some cried happy tears. "May God bless you Mama Stephanie! I love you so much Mama Stephanie! Thank you!" I could barely keep it together.

They each got a couple new pairs of panties and some of the pads.

And they cried with joy and gratefulness.

Oh the things we take for granted.


This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Later that night (after everyone else was in bed), Mama Rebekah, Diana, Brenda, and I went back and took them some more panties that we found in our donation stash and they reacted the same way. It was so special and something I will never forget. All throughout the week at random times one of the big girls would come up to me and just hug me out of nowhere and whisper in my ear, "Thank you Mama Steph. I love you so much."

Melt my heart.

Ok - I'll end here for today since this has gotten pretty long. More to come on Canaans. :)

Sweet Marvin

Sarah and Marvin who, bless him, had pants 2 sizes to big on the entire week so everytime you saw him his little booty was hanging out and he was trying his best to hold them up. :) We got him so pants that fit.

Nusula playing Duck, Duck, Goose

The baby dorm - 2-5 years. Those are mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling. :)

The little boys dorm. That's Auntie Esther on the left.

Jumping rope. :) The building in the background is a hospital (clinic) on the bottom and the guest dorms on the top. This is where all the girls from my team stayed (except the two that were there with their husbands).

L to R - Henry (age 17), Faith, Enoch (age 10?), me and Sarah, and Nusula is hiding behind me.

This is what happened when I let David (13) disappear with my camera for two hours. :)

He wants to be a photographer (among other things). He took this one too. And my favorite picture of me kissing Sarah. :)
This is Bridgette, Brenda, Sarah, and me and little Sarah at the end of day one at Canaans. Bridgette and Sarah were singing for us. Bridgette can SING! Sarah fell asleep on me.

Sorry the next couple of pictures are blurry - David had set me camera to "manual" and I didn't realize it. :( Here are the girls excited about their "blessings." Mama Rebekah and Auntie Sarah are in the front. :)

They wanted me in the picture with them so Mama Rebekah took my camera. She never even looked in the eye-hole - she just held it up and snapped away! She's crazy!!

This is when we went back later that night. Again, Mama Rebekah had my camera:) I kinda love this one. We laughed so hard because they seriously were so crazy excited. :) Diana, Brenda, and me.

I have so many pictures just from Canaans that it is hard to narrow them down. There will be more with the next post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What a weekend!

So this is week two of participating in Ann's Multitudes on Monday - One Thousand Gifts link-up and already I am behind. If you've been here long this probably comes as no surprise. :)

This weekend was stark.raving.crazy for us. Friday and Saturday we had a yard sale. Saturday was National Cupcake Kids day to raise money for SixtyFeet and since we were already having a yard sale I decided to go ahead and throw in 100 cupcakes as well. :) Sarah and the boys made half the cupcakes, I iced them all, and then we sat at our little table with all of our posters and took donations for them. Actually, Sarah and I say there while the boys played inside. They weren't as excited as we were. About noon the wind was so bad that I closed up shop for the cupcakes and decided to take the rest to our church's Cornhole tournament that night. But before I could do that I had to take Silas to Bella's birthday party at the park.

Sunday was normal with a long band practice for our Good Friday Night of Worship thrown in and an extra long small group time.


Crazy weekend.

But it was so good and fun. :)

We ended up raising nearly $300 for SixtyFeet - a ministry to imprisoned children in Uganda. :)

I'm so thankful for friends and strangers that choose to be generous.

35. the possibility of dreams coming true
36. 85 degree weather
37. a husband that is an encourager
38. piles of laundry folded and put away by Justin
39. relational ministry
40. a husband who gets up to "check" when things go bump in the night
41. gifts from friends - particularly pralines from Savannah, GA
42. patches of clover in the backyard - good for searching for the 4-leaf variety
43. happy childhood memories
44. having my feet "cleaned" by Silas
45. crossing things of my to-do list
46. that He bought the Kingdom for us
47. a fiercely loyal husband who's always in my corner
48. how running helps release tension
49. TobyMac on my running playlist
50. Cupcakes for Africa and generous people
51. Palm Sunday and the truth of "hosanna"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

My DD (grandmother) made these sandwiches for me a couple of years ago and they are now one of my family's favorite meals. I don't know about you, but lunches around here are pretty low-key - except on some Sundays. These sandwiches are great for a special lunch or for dinner (which is when we usually have them). Last night I served them with a salad and some fruit (and of course we devoured them before I remembered that I wanted to take a picture).

Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

12 dinner rolls (I use Hostess or Hawaiian King)
sliced deli ham
sliced Swiss cheese (you can use any kind, but Swiss is our favorite)
1 stick butter
1 TBSP onion flakes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp. poppy seeds (optional - I leave these out)

Preheat oven to 350. Place bottom half of rolls in a 9x13 glass casserole dish. Layer with ham and cheese (I usually load it down with lots of ham and at least a good slice of cheese). Add tops to the rolls. Melt butter and then mix in the remaining ingredients. Spoon/pour over rolls making sure each one gets some of the sauce. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20-30 minutes.


These are so super easy and quick and they taste like something you would get at a fancy deli - not just a regular hot sandwich. The secret is in the sauce. :)

Quick, easy, and yummy meals work for me!

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

There are more Uganda posts on the way. I promise. Thank you for your patience with me as I sort through emotions and try to find words.

I'm reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp right now. I started reading it on the plane to Africa and I'm still reading it in my free moments. It's good and I don't want to rush through it. Her language is very poetical and so I am going slow so as not to miss any deep truth.

The book is about many things, mostly the deep joy that comes from intentionally giving thanks, and like many others who have read the book, I am making my own list of things I am grateful for - both big and little.

On Mondays I will be sharing my list and linking up to her blog and a community of other bloggers who are listing their thanks. Care to join us?

I'm behind on linking up so my list is longer than most today.

1. airplanes that defy gravity and get you safely across the world
2. a little boy happy to see his Momma
3. teammates that feel like family
4. the warm embrace of a husband in love
5. drinkable water
6. hot baths that revive the bones
7. a yard filled with birds of all sorts
8. sunshine
9. conversations worth having
10. a warm rice sock on an aching back
11. a cozy and comfy bed
12. a tiny baby growing in the belly of a dear friend
13. the Sabbath
14. music that speaks to the soul
15. groggy morning kisses from a pajama-clad little boy
16. the Word made flesh
17. Galatians
18. hot tamales found stashed in the freezer ready to be thawed for dinner
19. surprise bags of coffee and hot chocolate left by my Momma
20. facebook and the connection to loved ones far away
21. Silas' mohawk hair
22. happy little tags on Lusianne teabags
23. chipmunks
24. coffee, sweet and creamy
25. the scent of Justin beside me in the sleep stillness of morning
26. a birdbath full of splashing bluebirds
27. the gift of a little extra income via Moonpie Designs - even when I'm feeling lazy
28. plane tickets to Louisiana purchased by loving parents
29. my naked-bottomed little boy
30. hearing the voices of far-off friends on a conference call
31. days full of togetherness with my boys
32. dreams growing inside my heart
33. a roof over Sarah's head and food in her belly - even if it's just beans and posho
34. Ugandan meals shared stateside with friends and family

Friday, April 8, 2011

She stole my heart.

It's true what they say - that the kids choose you, you don't choose them. The moment my foot touched the ground at Canaan's there were little arms wrapped tightly around my leg. There were many others too, but these particular arms never let go. As I tried to move away from the bus so that the people behind me could get off, I noticed that the arms hadn't let go. There were so many people touching me and hugging me at first that it was hard to tell what limbs belonged to which person. :) But when I stepped back from the crowd, the arms were still there. I looked down and she looked up and in that moment our hearts were forever entwined.

I don't say that lightly.

For as long as I live I will know that part of me is on the other side of the world.

Her name is Sarah.

They aren't sure exactly how old she is, but we guess around 4 or 5.

I love her.

Really, truly, love her.

She has only one dimple on her left cheek and it goes in for miles. :)

Her eyes are big and full of life and when they light up my heart grows three sizes.

She found me instantly and we were inseparable if I was at Canaan's.

Her smile will stop you in your tracks.

The hardest part about being home is knowing that she is there. So far away.

But I will see her again. I WILL see her again.

This is not the post I had planned to write today. I began by trying to tell about our first day at Canaan, but this is what came out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Uganda Day 1

I have been putting off writing anything about my trip for 2 weeks now. It's not because I don't want to share with you - it's because I know that I do not have words to adequately describe the experience or Uganda and her people. But I have to share, so I'll do my best. The only way I can think to even begin is just to go day by day of the trip and see how it goes. So...HERE WE GO!

I was a wreck for two days before we left over leaving Silas so I had Justin take him to my in-laws house on Friday afternoon so I could say goodbye to him at home and not have to try to keep my composure in a public place. Justin came back after dropping him off and we loaded up my two 48.8lb bags (whew!) and my carry-ons and headed to Outback for a little date. It was fun and a good way to send me off - nothing super sad or rushed - just a fun dinner out. After
dinner he dropped me at a hotel near the airport where I met up with Kimberly, Faith, and Anne. I could have stayed at home that night but since my flight was at 6am and I had to be there at 4am I didn't want to have a rushed, emotional goodbye in the airport.

I wish I had taken a picture of all of the bags in our hotel room! We each had 2 huge checked bags and then 2 carry-ons as well. We could barely move in our room! We went to bed around 10:30pm but NONE of us slept a wink. We were basically just laying there dreaming of Africa
and waiting for 3:30am to roll around so we could get up. :)

We got two cabs to take us to the airport and we got there right at 4am. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, the United Airlines employees don't come in to work until 4:30am so we had to stand in line with all of our luggage for 30 minutes before they were even open. Thankfully though we were near the front of the line so we didn't have to wait long once 4:30am rolled around. We checked our bags (PRAISE THE LORD all of them were 48 and 49lbs!!) and headed to security where we ran into Tabatha Coffey. We made it through security fairly quickly and with just a little bit of stress and made it to our gate.

We flew from Atlanta to Dulles in Washington, DC and it was there that I met my incredible team for the first time.

Y'all. I seriously cannot tell you how much I love every single person that was on this Visiting Orphans team. It was so apparent, even from our first conference call, that God was hand-picking each of us for this team. Every person gave selflessly of themselves and stepped up when needed the whole time. It was such a blessing to be a part of the whole. My heart has been aching since I have been home for these people.

Our first group picture (minus Jeff) in the Dulles airport - we didn't even know each other!!

We boarded our plane in DC and traveled about 13ish hours to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The flight was great (well, as great as a flight that long can be) but I didn't sleep for even a nanosecond. I watched lots of movies and walked around and met lots of interesting people.

Everyone keeps asking me if I saw any ___(insert stereotypical African animal here)___, and I can honestly say that I saw a monkey within 2 minutes of being off the plane in Addis. While we were riding the airport van to our next terminal a monkey ran across the tarmac in front of the
bus. It was in some kind of trouble because there was a rather large bird that was chasing it and kept swooping down to peck at it. I just had to laugh!

We still had one more flight before we got to our final destination of Uganda, but everyone was so happy to be off of the plane and so excited to be in Africa at all that we couldn't even rest in the Addis airport - we just chatted it up while we waiting for boarding to start for our final plane.

When we finally landed in Entebbe, Uganda (I don't even remember what time it was - early afternoon maybe??) we had to get out visas and then gather all of our luggage (32 BIG bags).

***Side story*** When I went to get my Visa the agent asked me how long I was staying in
Uganda and I said 12 days. She looked me over real good and said, "I give you for 3 months. I think you will love Uganda." Made my day! :)

Here we are gathering bags in Entebbe

Once we got all of our bags it was time to load them on the bus and head to Jinja. Julius and Abus (drivers for Canaan's) were there to greet us and help us load everything.

Me and Shelby - first picture in Uganda! We were soooo tired and dirty but happy to be there!

The trip to Jinja was supposed to take about 2 1/2 hours (HA!) but instead it took us 5. We stopped at a petrol station before we left Kampala and we saw this tree filled with Grey-Crested Cranes in the middle of the city. Those cranes are the national bird of Uganda and they are everywhere.

We finally made it to Jinja and the Kingfisher Resort on Lake Victoria that would be our home for the night and following morning. Absolutely gorgeous!

We had a wonderful meal as a team at the outdoor restaurant and then everyone headed to bed. I don't think any of us needed to be rocked to sleep that night (or any other night in Uganda for that matter)!

The next morning I woke up to a gorgeous day and I was refreshed and ready to head to Canaan's and love on some kids! But first we had breakfast at Kingfisher and then we got to take a beautiful boat ride to the source of the Nile River.

Some of the team in the 2nd boat

My feet in the Nile River :)

This is the actual Source. The Nile is fed by both Lake Victoria and underground springs that bubble up and cause the water to look as if it is boiling.

Someone a long time ago erected a concrete tower thingy on a little island at the source. We got to visit the island and of course I had to climb on top of the little a dress. :)

With Bret, Diana, and Simon - LOOK AT US! WHERE AT THE SOURCE OF THE NILE! ;)

After our boat ride it was time to sort all of our donations (almost all 32 bags were for donations) before we could head out to Canaan Children's Home. I wish I had more pictures of this. We had clothes, markers, crafts, glue, glitter, shoes, books, pull-ups, and sports equipment out the wazoo! It was so exciting!

Once we got everything sorted we loaded the bus to head to Canaan's - our home...