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The current kitchen building with an open-air, dirt floor dining area at the left end. The building contains storage at the right and rough firepits (in need of repair) for cooking in the center.

The current kitchen building with an open-air, dirt floor dining area at the left end. The building contains storage at the right and rough firepits (in need of repair) for cooking in the center.

James is now enrolled at the Kavule Parents School for the Deaf. Its advantage over his previous school is that it is fenced and gated, so James cannot roam at will, disturbing the neighborhood as was his habit at the previous school. Additionally, the administration here is not merely a government administrator as in the former school, but is the man who founded the school many years ago as a ministry to the deaf children of Uganda.

Many of his 80+ children of all ages are rescues, meaning that they are either orphaned or rejected by their parents due to their disability.

The school does not receive fees for these particular students, but pays their expenses nonetheless. It should be apparent because of this that this school operates on a shoestring 100% of the time, with fees from the parents who send their children being used to cover all the children with or without sponsors.

The Vocational Training area, much in need of someone with vocational skills to finish the building. No vocational teacher on staff because of lack of funding.

The Vocational Training area, much in need of someone with vocational skills to finish the building. No vocational teacher on staff because of lack of funding.

On my last pass-through just before I left Uganda to visit James (April 16, 2016), I sat with Samuel, the director, and asked him to delineate the needs of his school, even though I do not have the funds to help him very much. I am now passing that list on to my readers for information and prayer.

Please compare this school and the very fine work they are doing in order to give these desperately needy children a chance in life to the American schools you are familiar with. By doing so, you will be able to keep things in perspective as you read the list. He gave me the list in Ugandan shillings, but I have translated the costs into dollars as closely as I can, considering the current exchange rate.

Read through this list so you are aware of the needs where James is now going to school. Many of you are already walking with me in this effort to redeem this lost boy. This information gives you the real picture in detail.

The needs at James' deaf school.

The needs at James’ deaf school.

Animal Crackers

Besides the people, I like the animals of Uganda too. By this time in history, the people have unfortunately killed off most of the wild animals, except for the snakes, and I have only ever seen one of those, the birds, the monkeys, and an occasional baboon. You can only find most native animals in the game preserves on the far western side in the great rift valley. So most of my interactions with animals in Uganda are confined to the domestic variety.

Ugandans regard animals as “function” not friend. The dogs are for security, the cats to control pests, the chickens, dirt-ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep and cattle for food. So when I pay any attention at all to the animals, it seems strange, I’m sure, to the Ugandans – some odd musungu behavior that is beyond them. They mostly kick them out of the way to keep them in their place or simply ignore them totally. We westerners are always trying to make relationships. I’m sure this says much about our different cultures, and perhaps the fact that some westerners make better relationships with their pets than with the people around them speaks volumes.

I am undaunted in my campaign to meet and relate to these much neglected creatures who live beside and in among the Ugandans but do not know them and are not appreciated individually. Here are some of my recent Ugandan adventures with its creatures:

A Waisana kitten for mousing, a mighty warrior lion in this little body that continually attacked my shoelaces the whole time I was there.

A Waisana kitten for mousing, a mighty warrior lion in this little body that continually attacked my shoelaces the whole time I was there. I gave her the only petting or attention she will probably ever receive in her life.

stork

The large storks watch over everything like wise old men.

 

 

 

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I saw a colony of these each night when I climbed the hill to find a cell signal to call home. One night I counted around 50 of them. Whenever I tried to get closer to get a good shot, the mothers chased them all into the forest.

These chicks are blue. They have been dyed. At first I thought it was some Easter thing, but then I learned that they dye the chicks so that the hawks cannot recognize them as food and scoop them up for dinner.

These chicks are blue. They have been dyed. At first I thought it was some Easter thing, but then I learned that they dye the chicks so that the hawks cannot recognize them as food and scoop them up for dinner.

When this little one approached me, he asked the famous storybook question, "Are you my mother?" There was no mother in sight. I gave it some attention and it wanted to stay with me forever. But I explained, "No, little one, you live on Buvuma Island. Your life will be hard. Learn to scavenge and survive. There are no vets here to care for you." He did not like it. His face says it all.

When this little one approached me, he asked the famous storybook question, “Are you my mother?” There was no mother in sight. I gave it some attention and it wanted to stay with me forever. But I explained, “No, little one, you live on Buvuma Island. Your life will be hard. Learn to scavenge and survive. There are no vets here to care for you.” He did not like it. His face says it all.

This little beauty, a couple of weeks old, was comfortably hunkered down in the grass near my guesthouse on Buvuma Island. She had no fear of me at all, and I scratched her ears, which she seemed to enjoy. She will learn about humans...

This little beauty, a couple of weeks old, was comfortably hunkered down in the grass near my guesthouse on Buvuma Island. She had no fear of me at all, and I scratched her ears, which she seemed to enjoy. She will learn about humans…

goat

This goat is not dead. We found him lying along the road in jut this condition. I thought it had been hit by a car. But no, my companion explained, he is asleep. He picked up the head and rubbed the neck, and the eyes flickered, the ears twitched. The dang thing WAS asleep. Perhaps it is related to the famous Tennessee Fainting Goats. We walked on and I turned around to look back. Another man had come up, since the goat was lying partway in the road, he was applying standard Ugandan animal management – he kicked it. Sure enough, the goat was now standing in the grass, though it looked a bit dazed.

Die, Snake!

Here are a couple more short stories giving insight into African culture. Enjoy!

Western Time, African Time

Each day as we drive the ten miles or so to the meeting, we pick up various ones who have requested transportation. We always agree on a time and a place so that there is no confusion, though sometimes this doesn’t work.

Training my translators. They speak Japadola here, so Alfred cannot help with the translation. He is enjoying being a student for a change.

Training my translators. They speak Japadola here, so Alfred cannot help with the translation. He is enjoying being a student for a change.

On Tuesday as we arrived at our last pick up along the road, the man was nowhere to be seen. We waited about ten minutes. Finally, being a westerner through and through, I said, “Where is the man? It is 10:30 and we agreed to meet at 10:15.”

Schovia, the young lady who was sitting in the back seat and had just called the man for about the fourth time on his cell phone and had finally succeeded in raising him, said, “This is Africa, Papa. He is showering.”

This simple story tells much about the cultural differences between the Western world and the African/Middle Eastern mindset. A musungu needs to avoid Africa if impatience is a character trait. Or perhaps they need to come here, so God can teach them the gift of patience.

The church facility where we are holding the Tororo Conference - Asignet Pentecostal Church. One of the prettiest sites I have been invited to.

The church facility where we are holding the Tororo Conference – Asignet Pentecostal Church. One of the prettiest sites I have been invited to.

Die, Snake

I am teaching a five day conference in Tororo this week. During lunch I like to catch up on the good stories of the lives of the Christians in this area. They often seem to walk at a more consciously miraculous level than we do in the West. Here is a story told by the leader of the conference, a pastor who himself has been bitten three times by snakes and has miraculously recovered each time.

During the days of the troubles (Idi Amin and after) a certain Christian knew he needed to migrate to Kenya as a refugee because the environment had become too dangerous for Christian leaders in Uganda. However, he had no money for the trip. So he prayed and asked God to deliver him.

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Gathering stories during the break.

As we was sitting in his yard shortly after that, a snake entered the yard and moved in his direction. No one knows what kind of snake it was at this late date, but Uganda has many black mambas and African cobras, both very poisonous. Of course, he was “concerned.”

As the snake drew near, by faith he suddenly cried out, “Die, snake!”

At that moment, the snake curled up and died right in front of him. Needless to say, he praised the Lord.

This story was told about the village because it was truly amazing for such a thing to happen. Another man who was visiting the village requested to meet the man, and when they met, he asked him to tell the story in person, which he gladly did, for Ugandan Christians are always giving testimony. As he finished the story, the listener was delighted and asked the man his plans and needs. He told him he needed to migrate to Kenya as a refugee but did not have the funds.

Immediately, this other man pulled out his wallet and gave him the money to go to Kenya as a reward for telling such a wonderful and entertaining testimony. All things truly work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

 

I have Met Uganda

Sometimes my heart seems too sensitive for the experiences I encounter in Uganda. I sit in my room at night pondering what I have seen and sometimes I weep in disbelief and sadness. Yesterday I taught the first day of a five day conference, hoping to build up the church leadership in the area of Tororo in Eastern Uganda. My subject is Stewardship, a teaching they need desperately throughout Uganda. At lunchtime, as I was exiting the building, I met an astonishing sight.

An old woman was crawling up the step to the door of the church building. She was brightly dressed in a red and white gomas that she had put on so she could attend the meeting. When I say “crawling,” I mean she was propelling herself across the ground from her home to my meeting by crawling on all fours because she is unable to walk anymore. The pastor told me she is over 100 years old and has no support – she may have outlived her children. She desired to attend the church meeting because she is a long-standing and faithful Christian. So she crawled to the meeting on her hands and knees from her home to sit under the teaching of the musungu. Today I will find out where her house is. The church sits in a field and there are no houses closer than 100 yards.

The pastor related a story about this woman. Once when she was younger, she was on her knees sifting millet, which is a common grain here. Suddenly a deadly cobra rose up before her and spread it hood. She was terrified. She was on her knees and could not move awayIMG_2979 or dodge. The Spirit must have taken over, for the story says that she grabbed the snake by the neck and bashed its head repeatedly against a stone until it was dead. I think I like this woman!

I spoke with her several times, but, of course, she speaks the local tribal language which is Japadola. I went to get the pastor to translate – even Alfred cannot help me with Japadola. He said she was asking me for something. This is normal. The people are very poor and it is common to ask a visiting white to bless them with money. What do you think this humble woman would ask me for, considering her condition?

I couldn’t believe what the pIMG_2981astor translated. She asked me for a box of matches to light her cooking fire. I am deeply humbled by such a request. She is not asking for medical expenses or support of school fees for her grandchildren. She is asking me for matches. Do you see why such a simple thing as matches might move me to tears? I told her I would pray to see what God would lead me to give her. I will discreetly give her more than matches.

Such an encounter moves me to tears. She is the developing and often struggling Ugandan Church. She is the reason I minister here. She is the reason you send me. She is Uganda.

Perhaps more can be learned about the culture of a place through short vignettes than long commentaries. My previous post began a series of short observations that delve into the cultural mindset of Uganda simply by observing what the people are doing. Here are two more of the same.

Just Over There

Ugandans are fond of expressing distance to a place with the phrase “Just over there.” I have shared about the usage of this expression in a previous post (https://meadeinternational.org/2014/11/19/just-there-only-a-little-way/). This trip we ran into a variation that is very common. We had a two day church-planting conference in Bugiri (maybe pronounced Boo-geery, or maybe Boo-jeery, depending on the speaker, all of whom seem to have a strong opinion about it when you ask how to say it). We picked up the leader in the town at the junction of the paved highway and the rough and broken dirt road that would take us to the site of the conference. As we bounced along over the deeply rutted road, our first question was, “Pastor, how far is it to the church?”

He very confidently replied, “2 kilometers.” This is about one and a quarter miles, which was good news because this particular road could be used to interrogate captured enemies. I , myself, felt like spilling my guts after only a few hundred yards – “No more, please, I’ll tell you everything!”

At 4 km Alfred looked at me knowingly and asked our passenger, sitting in the back with his wife and child, “Pastor, how far did you say it was?”

“Just 2 kilometers.”

Alfred asked him with a grin, “Pastor, are these Ugandan kilometers or Western kilometers?” No response.

I wiggled my eyebrows at Alfred to let him know I knew what was going on. The pastor wanted to encourage us, so he held staunchly to his 2 kilometers.

At 6 km Alfred asked him again, “Pastor, we are at 6 km. How much farther is it?”

“It’s just 2 kilometers. Just up there.” Mmm-hmm, and there it is.

We finally turned off the road and wended our way between some buildings, down a narrow track, and finally to the church building set back about 200 yards from the road. Our odometer reading? 10.5 km.

The Ins and Outs of Vehicle Rentals

So we are back to renting vehicles when I come to Uganda, and we have had some difficulties, which just go with the “game” here. Our first rental man agreed to a certain favorable rental rate, but by the time we returned from Buvuma Island after ten days and needed to pay for the second ten days, the price had risen – “Things changed,” we were told, apparently meaning our agreement, but “It’s okay. No problem,” which is this man’s apparent marketing litany. So we hired from a different vender and in 7 days, broke down on the side of the road 3 times.

After the second breakdown, the owner of the vehicle (or the agent who rents it – I can’t figure out which) unexpectedly showed up early the next morning with the vehicle saying he had repaired it. As we were loading our equipment into the car, he informed me that he would be going along with us to fix any little problems we might have. This was the same man who during the negotiations, when I asked him how he would handle breakdowns along the road if we should have one, told me no less than five times that there was no possibility of a breakdown along the road – it simply never happened. I believe he must have learned this negotiating technique from the Donald Trump School of Negotiation Tactics. So as he stood there, telling me he was going to accompany us all day in the car, I didn’t say it aloud, but I was thinking, “If you are confident enough to rent out the vehicle, why would you have to travel with us to fix any little problems?”

Now, I have never been offered a ride-along mechanic with any rental car in the US. Even considering the extreme type of customer care he was offering, I told him, no, he would not be traveling with us since I had a full load and was expecting to pick up several students along the road to take them to the conference. We did not have the extra room for such a thing. All the time, I was thinking, you want to rent us your car, but you have to go with us? Really?!!

This man has quite good English and he nodded and said okay when I said this wouldn’t work for me, but then he promptly went to Alfred and told him that I had agreed and that he would be driving. When the time came to disembark, and the man climbed into the driver’s seat, Alfred started to climb into the passenger seat. I asked him, “Why is this man in the driver’s seat?” Alfred gave me the confused look that told me he realized he had just been “had.” I gently suggested to the man that he was mistakenly sitting in Alfred’s seat which would make it difficult for Alfred to drive.

Finally, we drove away minus the agent spending his entire day with us to “fix any little thing.” I really think he did not believe the musungu would notice the arrangement with him driving. Very curious, indeed.

I have had a very chaotic and trying week with car breakdowns and schedule delays forcing me to flex constantly. Flexibility is a requirement of the missionary job. I have learned by experience that flexibility is defined as never insisting that God follow my orderly program, but rather choosing always to adjust as needed to His schedule and His way of doing things, even when it makes no sense to me. Refusing to be flexible in Africa is the path to an ulcer.

Because I am enjoying an unexpected day off this Friday, but am exhausted from driving 4 hours each day and working (and flexing) hard for the rest of the week, I am going to make this post simple and just list some of the idiosyncrasies of African culture which I have encountered on this trip. These things seem perfectly normal in this culture but may seem odd to a westerner, and because of that, though small and insignificant, offer insight into Africa.

The Slogan

I noticed the motto on the back of a t-shirt worn by one of the bishops I work with on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria: “An improved toilet is a family’s pride.” I asked him what it meant because I thought it was a strange thing to write on a t-shirt. He explained that in his community there was a program to help families build healthier toilets near their homes and that he had participated in it because of its importance to the health and welfare of his village. In the villages, the toilets are out-houses constructed over a hole in the ground with a concrete slab placed over the hole and then a hole chopped in the middle of the slab with a pick-axe or drill of some kind. A structure for privacy is then built around this slab.

For health reasons, the hole must be a certain depth to prevent germs from traveling up and out, but not everyone knows this, and many of these home toilets are unhealthy affairs that may spread disease to the family. Education and community support of the type offered by the program mentioned on the t-shirt provide solutions to this problem. I’m pretty sure, though, that most westerners would balk at such a slogan, which shows how far one culture has come and how far the other has yet to go.

Formica

I wanted to purchase a piece of Formica for an experiment with a better projector surface (which ultimately was a complete failure, by the way – live and learn). Alfred and I shopped for it in the building district. We pulled into the district and immediately were accosted by several young men who saw the musungu and assumed that money was to be had. They insisted not only on directing us to the proper shop, but also accompanying us. By the time we had filtered through several shops and finally found one that had a piece of white Formica, the pair of us had instead become a caravan. I was greatly amused because by the time I paid for my Formica, it required the services of 7 men, standing by eagerly, and 1 woman, who ran the shop and actually sold me the product. I’m not sure how the men thought they were going to profit from the sale (perhaps the woman gave them a kick-back), but Alfred and I, who are capable adult shoppers, and did not require or request the escort, quickly took our Formica and escaped, though I did “tip” the seeming leader of the band just before we drove away.

Alfred’s Leg

At our conferences I am always amazed at how much rice and beans the people can put away in a short time at lunch. While I eat one conservative helping, those around me pile their plates full to the brim and overflowing and then proceed to gobble it all down. It is a running joke with Alfred that he has a hollow leg which he must fill along with his stomach at every meal. This week, during one such lunch, Alfred leaned over to me and said in all seriousness, “My appetite is gone after eating only three plates.” I think he is beginning to catch the dry western sense of humor because he did not so much as smile, but there was a bit of a twinkle in his eye.

The stubborn door from the outside.

The stubborn door from the outside.

The Man, The Brick And The Door

At the church-planting conference early this week, we had a door near where I was teaching that needed to be closed, but it had no latch and was really just some rough boards nailed together with some tin sheeting and held crookedly in place on bent hinges. It continually kept flying open. Finally, one of the leaders sitting nearby got a brick and leaned it against the bottom of the door, but the gap between the bottom of the door and the ground was about the same size as the brick. The effect of this was that the top of the brick barely touched the bottom of the door so that it would lean there holding the door closed until the first breeze, then give up the battle and fall back into the room, the door then flying open again. I watched this leader repeat the exercise of closing the door and tipping the edge of the brick against the door exactly five times, each time the door flying back open after only a few minutes. All this time I was trying to teach the lesson.

The door from the inside; Notice my equipment box holding it at the bottom!

The door from the inside; Notice my equipment box holding it at the bottom!

Finally, on the theory that if you repeat the same thing over and over in exactly the same way, eventually something will change, he was carefully tipping the apparently useless brick for the sixth time. It’s possible that he hoped by patiently repeating the exercise, the door might finally be humbled into staying closed, or perhaps the brick might at last be encouraged to “stand up and act like a brick and do its #!!% job.”

I confess – I couldn’t stand it anymore. All this drama with the door was going on right next to and in the middle of my teaching, and each time the scene was repeated, all the students’ eyes slowly drifted to the tense contest being played out between the man, the brick and the door. So I pushed one of my half empty equipment boxes up against the door to keep it closed. Apparently, this either cowed the door or inspired the brick because the door stopped flying open. The man, now bereft of his job, instead of sitting down to enjoy the class, wandered off to find some other project, but at least he was not doing it right behind me. Later, I heard that his name was Sisyphus, but I may have misunderstood that.

No Difficulties for James

[This is Part 2 – See previous post “Difficulties for James” for the full story.]

James shows me and Catherine his "signs" vocabulary notebook.

James shows me and Catherine his “signs” vocabulary notebook.

When I stepped from the car and stood surveying the schoolyard of the Kivale Parents School for the Deaf, I heard a high-pitched squeal and turned to see a young smiling boy in an orange uniform shirt racing from one of the classrooms across the grass toward me. James literally threw himself at me, hugging me and laughing. This is the first time James has greeted me in such an enthusiastic manner. He has always been happy to see me but has been more reserved in the past. I think finally he is realizing that I will always come back for him and not just abandon him as almost every other adult in his life has. Now he has Alfred, Catherine, his teacher and “Mom” from the former Deaf school, and me. This must be a veritable family population explosion for him in just nine months. He is now slowly adding these loving leaders at the sJames 1chool also.

Let me share about the director, Samuel. He wasn’t able to be at the school to meet us. Instead, we met him in the hospital in Mbale before we came out to the school. He is being treated for ulcers, but when I walked in to his small treatment room, he was shivering uncontrollably and in the throes of malaria, the ubiquitous disease in Uganda. Between his chattering teeth he greeted me and insisted on talking about James. After talking between intermittent treatment by the nurses and the doctor, I prayed for him. His wife then accompanied us to the school.

Samuel has only one leg, and if I remember correctly, came to Christ through his injury. As he recovered from the loss of his leg many years ago, he encountered a population group that he had never met before personally – the handicapped. Poor and often neglected, they struggle against the cruelties of both their handicaps and a society that is ill-equipped to help them. His heart led him into ministry to this needy group, so he began to seek the Lord about which of the handicapped in Uganda was the most needy. Finally, the Lord showed him the deaf community, who most frequently as children are put into the back yards by parents who have no idea how to help them or even communicate with them; they are left to themselves without language, and ultimately while begging as adults may be picked up by some criminal element or another, and most often end up in prison for crimes they don’t fully comprehend. This was the path James had been on back on the island.

Trade school - When I asked, Samson said they have a saw and a plane; they might also have a hammer.

Trade school – When I asked, Samson said they have a saw and a plane; they might also have a hammer.

He dedicated his life to lifting these neglected children up out of ignorance, poverty, and abuse, and he started a school to do just that. He is a man of vision and deep love for these children. His school trains about 80 children from the elementary levels up through secondary. As with many pastors I have encountered in Uganda, quite a few of the children at the school are not placed by their parents or paid for with fees, but are “rescued” by Samuel and his staff and kept at the school as a ministry.

The school has a large compound, two dormitory/classroom buildings, a building that houses the teachers, and several other structures, all built around a good-sized field used for games and exercise. Lacking a dining hall, the kitchen area is very primitive and high on their list for improvement when funds are available. Their trade school building is a small open tin-roof pavilion with one table, one saw, one plane, and maybe a hammer. They have several cows, some chickens, and a few pigs, which the children are inordinately proud of and insisted on showing me.

Kitchen and Dining Hall (open area on left end).

Kitchen and Dining Hall (open area on left end).

Their classroom space competes with their dorm space, so in some classrooms they divide the room and have a class on each end. The noise does not distract them.

Alfred spent some time alone with James while I was investigating the kitchen to see if I can help in the improvements program – James was busily devouring the meal that Catherine had brought him. Alfred is getting good at reading James’ signs or at least his meaning. James told him that the former school was bad, and he listed the things that he didn’t like, right down to the uniforms. He also said the this school is very good and that he is very happy here.

During most of my walkabout, I was escorted by the children, a great mob of the younger ones, James on one side gripping my arm as if to demonstrate that “He is mine,” and a tiny little scrap of a girl clinging to my other hand. As we walked, I asked Samson, the 72 year old assistant director, how James was doing. He said he is now sitting in class, he is learning his signs quickly, and has entered into the life of the community here. I witnessed several lively exchanges in signs between them. In both schools, I have noticed that the deaf children are unusually generous and loving to one another as if any attention they receive at all is evidence to them that they are wanted and valuable. They seem to demonstrate that caring value readily to one another. It’s quite touching.

Notice the face. He knows we are saying good-bye.

Notice the face. He knows we are saying good-bye, yet he’s smiling and happy – another first!

Finally, it came time to leave. James has always struggled with this moment. You may remember the last time, he finally favored us with a small, glum, wave, the first sign that he was adjusting to our coming and going…and to his staying behind. This time was noticeably different – he was smiling, waving happily – he knows we will be back and he will be okay.

The beautiful tiny scrap of a girl, though, stood in her tattered dress in the front row of the children… her large brown eyes were brimming with tears. Oh, my goodness! What have I gotten myself into?

Hugs around - notice that the scrap of a girl has slipped into the space vacated by James. Love transforms, I think...

Hugs around – notice that the scrap of a girl has slipped into the space vacated by James. Love transforms, I think…

Difficulties for James

My wife Gail’s report after the November 2015 visit with James, the ten-year old deaf boy we rescued from Buvuma island (for other stories about James, type “James” in the search bar at the top of my website page):

The next day was “James” day. I was so excited to finally meet James and see how he was doing after only 4 months of school.

We found him well and happy and learning to learn. I tried to use some of my American Sign Language, but he didn’t understand me. I did talk to the teacher of the deaf at the school, who is deaf, and she and I could communicate some. There were many differences and many similarities of signs.   I am very rusty at “reading” signs and better at sending them out! Still, it was quite exciting!!

James finally came in from playing and was a little shy with us, but soon warmed up to Alfred and Bob.  For me, the highlight was when James got out his school composition books and began to show Bob how many things he can name by sight and sign.  What a marvelous difference from this boy who had no language at all. It was beautiful to see!

Alfred with James, the deaf boy.

Alfred with James, when we first met him.

The goodbye was difficult for all of us. We did finally get a small wave, no smile, from James as we pulled away. A tearful moment for all of us.

I have now seen for myself the hope of reclaiming this small life. There is still much work to be done in his spirit and his learning. There is still a lot of wildness and anger and frustration. But the work has begun and we will continue to love James and watch him grow.  It is a wonderful assignment from God!

In the time between then and now, James did not do well at the school. He could not sit in class for more than a few minutes, but would jump up and go out to play. Mind you, this ten-year old has never sat in a classroom before in his life, couldn’t understand the signs of the teacher or the lessons, and so, got bored quickly and couldn’t see the point of it. Additionally, the administrator of the school seemed to dislike James, perhaps because a musungu had placed him there and she was jealous – this attitude is fairly common – or perhaps because he is a wild and uncontrollable child.

She limited his food at meals compared with the other children, denied him the use of the bed that she insisted I buy for him, giving it instead to another child, making James sleep on his mattress on the floor – this is not as bad as it sounds since most of the children sleep in that manner and there are only two beds for the twenty or more in the dorm room. When I visited, she made a big show of pointing out “James’ good bed,” but behind her a teacher was looking at me and shaking her head, later telling me the truth. In most regards, she was generally unpleasant to him.

James was certainly a handful – he wandered incessantly, traveling widely around the neighborhood, occasionally rummaging in people’s houses and returning to show Catherine, the one teacher who mothers him and with whom he has formed a solid bond, the sunglasses he “found,” or the flashlight, or the scarf. How do you explain stealing to a boy with no language, no parental guidance most of his life, and no “morality” as we would know it? Catherine disciplined him, which he has only accepted from her, but who knows what gets through to his young and confused thoughts? For all these things, the neighbors have complained, and so the administrator has reacted to the “problem” rather than the desperately needy child before her, even though she is a professional teacher, trained to handle such cases.

It became necessary for us to move James to a new school. Finally, after some research, we found a school near Mbale, where he currently is, but on the other side of the city. It is a school with only deaf students, no mix of hearing and deaf children as in the first school. This school has another huge benefit over the other one – it is inside an enclosed compound. At this school, James will not be able to wander the

countryside at will, for the only way in and out is a gate with a guard.

Arrangements were made and Alfred moved James in February to the Kavule Parents School for Deaf. This school has a large compound with about 80 students from primary through secondary. I asked the administrator, about whom I will report more later, how he would handle such a wild child as James. He explained to me that because deaf children are outcasts in Uganda, their parents not knowing how to deal with them, most who arrive have been kept at home, developing few disciplines, no language, ranging widely through their neighborhoods and getting in all manner of trouble. James is no different, he explained. So I repeated my “test question” – How will you handle this difficult child. He gave me perhaps the perfect answer: “We will be friends with him.”

James with Catherine (red dress) and us.

James with Catherine (red dress) and us.

And so it has been. I arrived yesterday at the compound for my first visit with James since his traumatic second move, a move away from Catherine, the only one he has bonded with other than Alfred and me. Catherine was with us – she insisted on coming with us and brought James some of his favorite food.

I stepped out of the vehicle and walked around to survey the large compound. As I stood by the car, I heard a high-pitched squeal. I turned to see a small boy in an orange uniform shirt charging from one of the classrooms. He raced across the grass, threw his arms around me, laughing and smiling, and, I can hardly type the words through blurry eyes, actually hugged me and hugged me and hugged me.

If, after these many trips to Uganda, with all the teaching and training and church-planting, this one life is all that is touched, it will be enough for me.

[More on James next blog entry.]