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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Our African Children

A couple of years ago, I was on a mission trip to Kampala, Uganda. We had heard about something referred to as "child head families" - where the parents are gone and the children are basically raising themselves; a child is the head of the household. A local pastor volunteered to take us out into the streets and slums one Sunday afternoon and introduce us to some AIDS widows and orphans. We met a few families that day, and also met dozens of orphans there and during a visit to an orphanage in Kampala (Uganda's capital city).

Upon my return to Texas, one group of eight (8) children stuck in my mind. They were led by the eldest, David. We had given them money when we met them and I continued to pray for them. It soon became apparent that God wanted me to do more. I discussed it with my wife and we prayed. Within a couple of months, we found ourselves arguing with God. He was telling us to adopt them!

Of course we rationalized and tried to reason with God, but He would not be deterred. He listened patiently to our excuses. They're on the other side of the world. I was unemployed at the time and we had no income. They're from a different culture. They aren't even documented in their country, so getting passports and visas would be a huge hurdle. Our list of reasons why adopting these children couldn't be possible was lengthy.

In the end, God - being the man of few words that He is, made it clear. "Do what you can to make them yours." That was simple. It was clear. We wrote it down. We looked at each other and said, "Okay, we can do that, God." So we contacted the local African pastor, told him what we felt called to do and asked him to help us find and begin something with those children. Ultimately, we were setting out on a journey to see just what it might be that we could do to make them ours. It turns out there was quite a bit.

Since November 2007, we (with a little early support from some wonderful friends) have had custody of and been the sole support for these eight children. They are AIDS orphans, from three sets of parents. Six (6) are siblings, and the other two are cousins (Bob and Moreen). One of each of their parents was a sibling to a parent of the other six.

We leased a home in Entebbe, Uganda - about 25 miles from the capital, Kampala. We furnished the house - sofas, kitchen ware, beds, etc. We've enrolled each of the kids in private, Christian schools. We've bought bicycles, suits, shoes, clothes. We've gotten medical care, AIDS tests, and lots of hair cuts. I've spent some time staying at the house with the kids. During those visits we've shopped, visited buffets, taken evening walks through the Ugandan neighborhood where they live, and prayed and worshipped together. We've hired a wonderful Christian woman to live in and be the nanny (or house mother) to the children.

I've preached sermons in their local church, and recently both preached and sang solos for the congregation. When I preach, I have one of my sons come up and read the Scripture verses that go with my lesson that morning. The kids have shown me where they used to scrounge for food in dumpsters, and where they used to sleep on the streets. We've cried together and we've shared lots of laughs. Sometimes when I'm there, the boys will just hold my hand and we'll sit quietly with each other. I think to myself, "Okay, God, I'm doing what I can to make them mine."

We're not sure where this journey will take us. But these kids are firmly planted in my heart already. When I left them last week I was surprised to find myself sobbing; I wanted to bring them home with me. Like I said, I don't know where this goes from here - and frankly I don't care. For now, I am privileged to hear them call me Dad ... and to introduce them as our African children. Allow me to present:

Our son, David.
Our daughter, Rose Mary.
Our son, Moses.
Our son, Innocent (with Moreen in the background).
Our son, William.
Our son, Christopher.
Our son, Bob.
Our daughter, Moreen.

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