If you had asked me 4 years ago where I, a Wisconsin farm girl, would be today, I would never have said Las Vegas. I probably wouldn’t have imaged spending 4 years on Bend, Oregon either. I would have told you I had no idea where I’d be, but I hoped to be connected to Uganda.
Here I am, the last place I expected, and yet exactly where I want to be: packing for Uganda. I can only say how blessed and thankful I am – and excited! I am so grateful to my amazing husband, Andrew, who not only agreed to let me travel to Africa without him for 3 weeks, but was the voice that got this whole thing started…literally – he kept telling people I was going, before anything had been planned. He said if he started telling people I was going – I’d have to go. I love that man.
I always start thinking a lot before big trips. I keep thinking about the kids I’ve built relationships with over the past 3 years – Prisca, a quiet, smiley girl with the cutest dimples who loves to hold your hand and just be around you. Betty, my Betty. She was the youngest kid at Otino Waa during my first trip, she was so little and precious, I fell in love with little Betty and she’s now one of the kids Andrew and I get to call “ours.” Emmanuel, the tiniest 5 year old I’ve ever seen with large eyes filled with sadness, fear, hope and when I saw him last – questions of what this new place called Otino Waa was all about. He had just arrived then. I imagine now, a year and a half later, he’ll be one of the playful, confident kids with a joyful face and a sense of belonging. Then there are Harriet and Sharon, twins who love unconditionally. They love you as soon as you meet them and all they ask is to be loved in return. They glow when given a hug or a smile. I could go on and on, Edith, the singer and worship leader; Serina, her younger sister with bright, happy eyes; Patricia, so full of wisdom and grace despite the evil things that happened to her in the past; Winnie, quiet and gentle; Robina, a singer and dancer; Andrew, full of mischief as all little boys should be; – I just love these kids!
I’m excited to meet the new children that arrived at Otino Waa just a few weeks ago. Most of them are very young, don’t know English yet, and their eyes look so much older then their years. After some time at Otino Waa, something strange and amazing happens – kids get younger. Of course they get older and are growing – but the troubles, seriousness, tragedy and adult responsibilities they arrived with seem to fade away and they get to be kids again.
This isn’t the first time I feel like my heart will be in 2 places, divided by the Atlantic, missing my family, but so glad to be with my Otino Waa family. I also get to visit my Ugandan “parents” Immaculate and Godfrey. I love that every time I get a message or text from them they call me daughter. I get to see my little sister, Praise Amanda, and meet the new baby boy! Other friends in Jinja have gotten married since I was there last and are starting their own families. It’s amazing to see the growth that happens in just a year!
Betty and Prisca
Sweet Sharon, one of the twins