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Snap-Shots from the Road

Pleasant Changes

We are in Soroti for the final two weeks of the trip, five days of Stewardship and God’s Will this week out in the village, and 4 days of Church History next week in Soroti Town.

We were on our way to Jinja early in the trip, and we had commented during this trip that the activity of the police seemed to be quite different recently. In the past we have been stopped along the road and almost any excuse was used to induce us to pay something – the speed is too high, the baggage is blocking the back window, etc. The more legitimate stops have resulted in a ticket fine that was taken care of officially later, just as in the States. Other times we have paid a small “fee” (depending on how much we valued our schedule) and were allowed to proceed. Last trip we were stopped and were allowed to proceed with smiles all around when we produced Bibles and gave them to the two officers – all of us won that round because they got Bibles and we got to hand them out. For a season I even refused to ride in the front seat because I knew they were seeing a musungu in the vehicle and stopping us just to pick our pockets (we actually never got stopped when I was hiding in the back seat).

However, recently, we have not been stopped at all. It seems there is a new police administrator at the national level and he is straightening things up, fighting corruption, and insisting that his officers behave in a more professional manner. We were enjoying this new road freedom on our way to Jinja when suddenly a policeman waved us down from the side of the road. I sighed, expecting to have to go through the games all over again. He approached the window, smiled and said, “Do you have any food? We have been here all day and no one has brought us any lunch.” Now it was about 4 pm. These poor policemen were way out in the boondocks, assigned to watch the road, and apparently were unable to arrange for food to be brought out to them. Lunch is an important meal to Ugandans – I’m sure they were very hungry.

We, by you-know-Who’s direction, I’m sure, had just stopped several miles earlier at a service station with a small grocery and loaded up with snacks, and we always have bottled water with us. We were able to share our snacks with him and give water to them. This was a joy to us – they were not stopping us for any negative purpose, but only to ask for our help. What a difference has come to Uganda!

Dragging Uganda into the 21st Century

We have had a different routine than normal several times during this trip, arriving late at a new city, or passing through Kampala with late afternoon business, which required us to find a hotel for the night while on the road. We, of course, insisted that we find something that was within our budget. So for the first time ever in Uganda, we were firing up our internet hotspot in the vehicle and going to Booking.com to find cheap deals at good hotels in these unusual-for-us circumstances. We usually are able to plan our trip to arrive in one day at our next teaching point where we will be for the next week and do not have to stay overnight along the road.

This method of booking a hotel is also very new to Ugandan hotels, who seem to just now be hopping on the bandwagon, internet-marketing-wise. We found a really interesting looking hotel on our pass through Kampala on our way to Masaka in the third week of our trip.

So we booked rooms online for a really good rate for Alfred and for us for the night. When we arrived at the hotel, Gail, our official “keeper of the exchequer,” showed our reservation on her phone to the man at the desk. He had no idea what to do. He had never seen this before, didn’t know what it was, and had to go track down the manager just to register us into the hotel. Fortunately, they figured it out and we got in after only a little bit of confusion. We were the first, apparently, who had ever booked at this hotel from the internet. We had a pleasant night there.

I’m sure they were all thinking, you just never know what those musungus will come up with next.

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL MOMS OUT THERE!!

[From Gail] Bob’s the main teacher on our travels. Sometimes there are requests for a meeting with the women of a church or area. I am happy to oblige, even though speaking to a group is not as comfortable for me as being one-on-one with someone.

This trip I had two women’s meetings scheduled in Mbale, and I was glad to go. These two groups are the women who are training in economic development in the areas of tailoring and hair-dressing. I have nothing to do with the training, but I love these women, and I am so glad to meet with them to encourage them and share what God has put on my heart. I have to admit, that the love they pour out on me every time I meet with them, every six months or so, motivates me to love them back. Some of them just won’t stop hugging me. They say, “Thank you for loving us.” How can I not love them back?

The subject that has been stirring in me for this trip is “Hearing the Voice of God.” I’ll be leading a day-long meeting at the end of our trip in a place called Soroti, and I’ve been preparing to share what I’ve learned over my lifetime, and what I’ve gleaned from my thoughts,  experiences and the scriptures on the subject. This topic has been in front of me intensely over the last few months as we have been praying for the return of James (see https://meadeinternational.org/2019/04/19/part-1-the-saga-of-james-continues/).

The short meetings with the women in Mbale have allowed me to give a dry run of my teaching before we arrive in Soroti next week. This has been very helpful since it aids in working out the bugs. In the first meeting in Mbale, I met with about seventeen women in a small village church building set back off the main road. The woman who trains them in tailoring is the pastor’s wife, so this place is very convenient for those two groups who have their training nearby. Both the dedicated trainers – tailoring and hair-dressing – who give this training as a free ministry to uplift the women of the area, were present at the training.

Here in Uganda, it is the height of planting season, and so much depends on the seasonal rains. However, it had not rained for months, and the expected season of rain was now overdue about a month. People in every place we have been are fearful of famine if the rains don’t begin soon. A little rain had fallen earlier that week, but it was disappointingly small. Several women who had wanted to come to the meeting were in their gardens planting their delayed crops in the damp ground. Even though the Bible study is an opportunity they look forward to, they could not afford to leave their gardens during this crucial time.

As I began my teaching, rain suddenly poured from the sky. The roof of the little church building was made of tin sheets, and I could not even hear myself talk. We had to sit silently and wait about half an hour for it to slow down, but it was a joyful silence because the rains were finally arriving. It seems like an odd thing, but everywhere we have gone recently, it has started to rain as we arrive. In one place we had to cancel our entire meeting because the students couldn’t afford to neglect their gardens when the rains were beginning. One student approached Bob and told him he was renaming him in his language from “Bob” to “Rain-Bringer.” Maybe that is God’s gift through us this trip!

As the rain finally let up, I began with a verse I’ve been meditating on, Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words give light, it gives understanding to the simple.” When I memorize a verse and then meditate on it, I can be open to hearing God speak to me as He bears witness to the scripture. I shared many things about hearing God’s voice and about determining whether it is God’s voice or my own.  Then I asked if they had any questions – that can be the best part!

One question: “What do I do when I try to be a simple (humble) person, and I am persecuted at work?”

Another question: “How do I know the dreams I am having are from God?”

Another question: “What if I never hear God’s Voice?”

Answering these difficult but heartfelt questions is the fun part for me, looking into the faces of these beautiful women, showing them that we are the same – I have the same concerns and struggles with hearing God that they do. I want to hear God as much as they want to.

The second meeting was just as encouraging, but the flavor of each meeting was totally unique. My main teaching was the God has created each of us, and each of us is different. We hear His Voice in our own way that seems very different from the person beside me. Yet we both hear Him speak to us. How marvelous is that!

I thought I had finished all my short teachings in preparation for the Soroti day-conference next week. However, another time along the way, as we were getting ready to depart from one of the many guesthouses we have stayed in, two of the girls working there approached me, very disappointed that we were leaving. They had wanted to go hear Bob’s teaching the previous days, but they had to work. I had formed a relationship with these two over the several days, and they were sad that they could not spend any time with me.

Teaching a five-day on Stewardship and God’s Will. Bob has a little chest cold, needs prayer!

I was led to sit down right then and offer them a small teaching at the table in the outdoor patio. While Bob and Alfred packed the vehicle, I told them a very short version of my story, and then I asked each of them to tell me their personal story of meeting the Lord. One of them had grown up with a severe health issue. She was healed through prayer at a young age, and she received Christ as a result. We talked about how to hear God’s Voice. It was a short encounter, but He was there speaking to the three of us. I will continue to pray for these two and hope to see them again someday.

It’s good to be prepared to share because I never know when someone will cross my path wanting to hear my story. And the more times I can share it, the better prepared I will be for the big meeting next week. God knows I need the practice and is kind to give me the opportunities.

Poor Elijah!

Teaching Hermeneutics in Masaka, Uganda.

I was teaching Hermeneutics in Masaka in southwest Uganda a couple of weeks ago when the oddest question came up. Hermeneutics is the science/art of Biblical interpretation. There are specific principles of interpretation that are used to interpret the Bible properly. I have worked hard to condense this sometimes complex and abstract information down to seven clearly illustrated principles.

Usually, when I teach this subject, the students aren’t that interested until I actually begin illustrating the lesson with scripture examples where the principles can clear up confusion about the meaning. Once they see how practical this can be to them, they perk up and begin to “get into it.” With education limited for many church leaders, discovering what the Bible is actually saying can be a wild ride. They are bound by many poor interpretations that they have heard and simply repeated without ever knowing how to interpret the scripture for themselves. This produces a very authoritative passing on of bad teaching from one generation of believers to the next.

Any church leader here in Uganda who is in the front line of teaching the Bible desperately needs these guidelines. As interest catches on in the crowd, the teaching gets lively as questions start rising up, one sparking another for sometimes an hour at a time.

I was in just such a situation in Masaka. Very good questions about this scripture and that scripture were popping up like popcorn all around the sanctuary. Then a man stood up and asked why Elijah, who was faithful to God, was punished by demons at the end of his life. As always, when I am astonished by a question, I asked for the scriptural reference. Many times they can’t come up with a reference because, just like in the U.S., many people quote verses from the Bible to prove their points that aren’t even in the Bible. I once worked with a deacon whose favorite Bible verse was, “God helps those who help themselves.” I was very young at the time and it took me a while to figure out that this was from Benjamin Franklin, not the Bible. This was, in fact, where I learned to always request the verse reference.

However, getting the verse reference from the Elijah question did not clear up the confusion. It took a serious bit of investigation AND hermeneutics to solve the mystery behind the demons who punished Elijah at the end of his life. Here is the verse from 2 Kings 2:1 and 11, so you can keep up with me here:

1 And it came to pass, when the LORD was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal…

11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (NKJV)

The crux of the interpretive problem arises from the culture and the way it influenced the translation of the term whirlwind. In Ugandan culture, a whirlwind has always been considered the work of demons. In fact, I am told that when they witness a whirlwind or tornado-style wind, the parents typically tell the children that the demons of their ancestors are walking in the wind or walking across the land or even in their village. I get the impression that they don’t have truly devastating tornadoes like those that annually flatten whole communities in the U.S., but that a really big one in Uganda can perhaps destroy a house or tear a roof off.

It seems their language lacks any exact word for “tornado” or “cyclone.” Apparently, when the translators came to this passage in 2 Kings, for some reason they chose the very colorful Lugandan cultural term for a whirlwind, “wind of the demons,” to translate the Hebrew word. This mistranslation occurs in the most used Bible in Uganda, the Luganda Bible. Luganda is as close to a national language, after English, that Ugandans have. Though there are about 50 tribal languages spoken in different regions of Uganda, many can read Luganda and understand it when it is spoken. As a result, the Luganda Bible is very popular even among those who don’t speak Luganda as their first language. Up until now, I have tested this version many times and found it to be very accurate to the original languages. Up until now, that is!

When a Ugandan reads this passage in their traditionally favored Luganda Bible, they read,  “Elijah was taken up to heaven by a wind of the demons.” They, of course, find this to be extremely perplexing and disconcerting. Over the years the verse has spawned a wide range of false teachings from non-hermeneutical and wildly imaginative attempts to explain this verse. Needless to say, Ugandans tend to be less impressed by Elijah than westerners might be when reading their Bibles. They almost have the attitude of “poor Elijah!”

I went through the hermeneutics of this verse with them, showing them the Hebrew word and the accurate translation, but even then many were skeptical. After all, there it was right there in their Bibles! It is sometimes hard for them to grasp that their favorite Bible version could be wrong. The day was saved when another student stood and said he had just gotten a new Luganda translation of the Bible, and he held it up for all to see. It seems it has just recently been released. When he read 2 Kings 2:11 in his Bible, it read: “Elijah went up by a strong wind into heaven.” This mollified the crowd considerably and finally allowed us to move on to other questions, neatly making a strong point about the value of proper hermeneutics for accurate interpretation.

It’s a bit of a shock when I tell students here that their versions of the Bible aren’t inspired, but only the original writings were. But with many examples of translation issues like the one mentioned here, which mystified all of us until we applied proper hermeneutics and some cultural investigation, they came to understand the value, at least partly, of becoming good students of the Bible, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Bugging Out!

I noticed the first hole in the floor of the sanctuary by flashlight, and I first thought someone had jammed a pole into the floor to support something. .

Something interesting happened while we were on Buvuma Island in early April. I almost said, “Something funny happened,” but I don’t think the people involved are going to find it very funny.

We were teaching in the church building we have been using consistently for the last three years. It is a typical pole-and-wood-slat building with tin sheets for a roof and a dirt floor. The podium portion of the room is a platform of raised dirt about 12 inches high at the front of the building. I always set up my screen, projector and computer on the podium so the students can clearly see the slides and the whiteboard.

We were there for five days, and on the third day as I was walking around on the podium, I noticed strange holes about an inch and a half in diameter in the floor of the podium on one side. I assumed someone had jammed a pole into the dirt to support something, and I didn’t give it much more thought.

Upon investigation, I noticed the termites!

Then I began to notice other holes developing, all about the same size and in the same area. When I investigated closely, the attached pictures show what I saw.

I am told that these tiny white bugs are termites. They have constructed these large holes into what must for them be super-highways, and the colony from which these highways extend upward seems to be directly under the podium of the church building. As I watched this process over the last two days we were there, I saw that the ground around the holes was gradually being built up by these tiny little creatures. This is very common in Uganda, and I have included a picture here to show what a mature termite mound looks like.

I have never observed one in the incipient stages of the colony, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the church’s podium is headed without some serious intervention. I’ve also never observed a termite mound inside a building. Science says that termites are very good for the soil; I wonder how they will be for the soil in the sanctuary…

I pointed this out to the leaders of the church since they didn’t seem to have noticed this invasion of their facility yet. They were mildly concerned, but not overwhelmingly alarmed. I guess they have a way to deal with them that I don’t know about. I asked how they planned to solve the problem, and they were non-committal. They live in a fairly primitive area, and I doubt very much that there are pest control companies available to the islands even if they could afford it.

I guess I’ll just have to wait for our next visit to find out how they will deal with this infestation right in their sanctuary.  I hope we’ll still have a building to meet in, and I hope I don’t have to share the podium with a huge termite mound.

 

More holes appeared. The soil is already beginning to build up around the holes.

Part 4 The Saga of James Takes Flight

James is a personable young boy and always has been, maybe even a bit charismatic. This was demonstrated repeatedly at Retrak. James wandered freely through their building and offices, as he always does, and everyone welcomed him. It does not seem possible, but even the CEO in his office upstairs might look up at any time to see James standing at his door. He would smile, welcome him, and try to communicate with him. The report we received testified that everyone felt “happy” when James came to visit them, and he liked to draw pictures of the people and give them as gifts. They gave James reams of paper to keep him engaged and busy. God seemed to give him favor with almost everyone from the office workers to the CEO to the cook in the kitchen (James was always hungry, it seems).

He is one of only two deaf children Retrak has had opportunity to help, and for some reason (wink, wink) the administration of Retrak prioritized connecting James to his people with a kind of urgency that was unusual since he was only one of many children they are trying to trace. We understand that the urgency was from God because we are here in Uganda only now, and we were in Jinja only right then instead of several hundred kilometers away in the north, so that all the joyous reuniting and the less joyous paperwork, probation, legal signatures, etc., could be accomplished. Location, it turns out, is not everything – timing is. It is so sweet of God to let all this happen during the short time we are here, and even the shorter time we were near Jinja, rather than hearing about it from our home in the US.

How did the actual connecting of James back to us happen? As hard as they searched for clues, interviewed him with deaf interpreters, and sought for any hint of where James was from, they had nothing after two months. Then, around April 11 or so, James was sitting one evening near one of the administrators with whom he had formed a special bond. The man was on his computer, looking at some pictures of Uganda. Suddenly, James leaped up and began pointing and gesturing at the screen. He was looking at a picture of the new bridge that has been built at Jinja and which is quite distinctive and beautiful. It seemed they had their first clue from James.

James saw a picture of the new Jinja Bridge similar to this one, and suddenly, they had their first clue to where he came from.

They formed a search party, and with James to guide them, they headed off in a vehicle toward Jinja. When they reached the bridge several hours later, James began to gesture excitedly indicating that he would lead them. They came to the first roundabout, which is just after the bridge, and James gestured to follow the road to the north. Unfortunately, that wasn’t it. After several other false forays at other roundabouts, they finally reached Bugembe. I am reminded of the children’s book, Are You My Mother? where the baby bird asks everyone he sees that question until finally, he finds his actual mother.

After several more false leads, with rising doubt among the Retrak people that this was going to work out, they finally arrived in Bugembe, which sits beyond Jinja to the East. James became animated again, indicating that now they should just follow him, and he led them away from the highway, down into the twisted dirt lanes that hide behind the row of stores, shops and markets along the main road. They went here, then there, turning right, then left. Then James wanted out of the vehicle, and they were chasing after him on foot – up onto the porch of a storefront, around the side into a long, dark and narrow alleyway and along a narrower ledge to the back of the building – oh, where is he taking us now? They doubted James severely at this point and even videoed the circuitous route they were following.

They arrived at a fence and a door. James boldly pushed the door open and proceeded with confidence that none of the rest of the group felt into a small courtyard surrounded by small apartments, and covered with domestic cooking fires with pots boiling on the coals. James arrived at the very farthest point back into this courtyard, and he stood knocking on a door with them crowded behind him in the narrow passage. Alfred’s wife finally opened the door and her face showed shock when she saw James and these men on her threshold. The rest of the story you know.

So we returned James to his school in Mbale the same day we received him from the probation officer nearly a week after the above events took place. All the way I sat in the back seat with James, and Gail in the front seat so I could have some time with James. We still cannot talk with each other, and I get the impression that he sometimes wonders why I am so thick that I cannot understand his many gestures. I know that somehow, I have to pick up Ugandan sign language. But all that aside, I would periodically nudge or bump him with my elbow or shoulder, and he would companionably bump me back. He reached up once and affectionately rubbed my bald head quite a bit as if to make sure it was really me. He held my hand for a long time as we rode along quiet and content.

We communicated. Oh yes, we communicated. We did, father to son.

 

We are continually plagued by internet problems this trip so that we are often out of touch or blocked from sending. I’m hoping this post will be able to go out today.

The story of James continues with a listing of some of the strange and wonderful things that happened to him and that eventually led him back to us. We are telling you these things so you can see the same God we have seen at work here.

The police turned James over to the organization Retrak (www.retrak.org) because they have the mission of reconnecting runaway children with their families. They received James in mid- to late January, so all the time we were praying and calling out to God, He had already answered our prayer about giving James an advocate to protect him and keep him safe. Every day until we heard that they had James on April 13, we would pray,  “Lord, today would be a good day for James to come home.” The tenor of what we heard from God during all this time was quiet comfort and assurance, “I have him, he is Mine. He is safe.”Little did we understand this as we agonized and continually pushed our negative imaginations away.

I am told that Retrak began with the vision of one man, a visiting photographer, whose heart was captured by all the street children he observed on his travels, children who slept on the streets and under bushes and who begged for their food. The Retrak website is worth your time as it shows how God gives a burden, then raises up a ministry to meet that burden, using normal people with extraordinary love and faith. What has resulted over the years is an organization that has grown from an apartment that ministered to street children to a multi-national ministry that gathers these lost children into classrooms to put them into an educational mindset while they trace their families, dormitories where they can sleep safely, kitchens and dining areas to feed them, offices where the retracing task is carried out, etc. And according to their website they are in all of Africa and even South America. We plan to visit their office in Kampala at some point in the future to get the whole picture. It is also telling that the workers of Retrak have bonded so strongly to this little deaf boy that when it was time to deliver him to Jinja, he insisted that three of them accompany him, and they did! Three men did not need to accompany one small boy to get the job done – they came out of love, and maybe curiosity to see about these strange “white parents.”

Every child that God sends to Retrak is taken to the doctor and evaluated. They discovered that James had two rotten teeth in the back of his mouth. He must have been in terrible pain. James was so frightened and unwilling for the dentist to treat him that they had to put him out, remove the teeth, then reawaken him. When he came back to himself, they told us that immediately he smiled because the pain was gone.

They also took him to have his hearing evaluated, just as we had done. He saw a nurse in the speech and language department of the large government hospital in Kampala. They found that he did have some hearing, as we had discovered, but they were not as negative about his prognosis for future speech as the other people had been with us. The therapist had modeled some sounds to him, and he was able clearly to mimic some of her suggestions. In fact, we even caught him saying, clearly enough for us to understand him, “Hallelujah, Amen,” which is something Ugandans say frequently. Now I haven’t told you the interesting part of this.

When Gail was visiting Irene, her friend in Mukono, a nearby suburb to Kampala, a friend of Irene’s dropped by to visit. Gail had actually met her the last time she was there a year ago, so it was a warm time of greeting. This woman was from Gulu, and now worked at the government hospital in Kampala. This woman is not only a nurse, but she works in the speech and language department. Are you sensing where this is going? She mentioned to Gail that she knew this organization Retrak, and that just recently they had brought her a deaf boy for evaluation in the hospital. I think you’ve got it. This friend of a friend, from Gulu, saw our boy James safe and secure before we ever did! Now God has a tremendous sense of humor, I think. This is another way He said to us, “Be at peace. He is Mine. I have had him all this time.”

Part 4 to follow…

Resurrection Day

 

 

 

 

We attended Easter services at a large church in Jinja to see how the other half lives. Surprise, for the first time ever we were served the Lord’s Supper in Uganda. Most churches are so small that they can’t afford to buy the elements for regular observance. We had a wonderful worship time, then loaded the car for our next teaching point in Tororo.

 

 

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY! HE IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Thursday, after official business was finished, we made the round trip to Mbale and back to deliver James to school – about 4-5 hours driving.

In our telling of the story of this small boy’s misadventures, there are many things which most readers can read between the lines. Some of these things will be guesswork, some experience with life, and some will be familiar themes from our own lives which we project onto this tale. I am choosing to leave them between the lines, to tell you the facts as I heard of them and then experienced them. I will leave you to your own conclusions as to why he runs, how he got so far from home, what God was accomplishing by literally herding his “freedom” down a specific and focused funnel into the arms of a powerful advocating organization that knows Uganda and its people and their cultural needs better than we do.

Here, in brief, are the remainder of the facts of the story:

  • When the police picked him off the street, they placed him legally into the custody of Retrak Uganda. This meant that Retrak could not release him to anyone else’s custody without legal authorizations from the ranking government officials in that area, which in this case included both Jinja and its suburb Bugembe.
    • The result of this was that even if we could have been present when they appeared at Alfred’s home last Saturday, we would not have received custody of James then. They were only trying to establish the relationship connections, which is one of their priority missions with runaways. When they knocked on the door, they had no idea what they would find because James was leading them down alleys and around unfamiliar corners, and he could not tell them, but could only

      Alfred with James, the deaf boy, in the early days on Buvuma Island when we first met him.

      show them. We, Gail and I, and then separately Alfred, had to appear before certain officials, be interviewed even by Retrak to determine if we were suitable and safe for James, if James had a true relationship with us, etc.

  • They appeared on Saturday a week ago, then returned with James to Kampala, which precipitated a series of phone calls back and forth between each of us and Retrak attempting to sort all this out, determine the procedure that would be followed, etc. By Sunday night, we had realized that it was not a simple matter of them handing him back to us, but a process of application, evaluation, and approval by Retrak and by government authorities. James is now in “the system.”
  • Retrak, in fulfilling its mission to reconnect runaways with their clans and families, will in short order be visiting, evaluating, and counseling as needed:
    • the deaf school staff where James is currently boarding,
    • Alfred’s family as the primary caregiver during the holidays,
    • James’ clan members (uncles and grandmother) on Buvuma Island,
    • Perhaps James’ father, who has a history of alcoholism, neglect, and abuse with James, and, we recently heard, is now perhaps under arrest in the islands for some infraction of the law,
    • And even perhaps, James’ mother, who we now hear from Alfred and the uncles on the island, is not dead as we were originally told but remarried and living in Mbale, where James’ school is located (unverified).
  • James is on two years probation for running away. One of the officials that we met with on Thursday was the Chief Probation Officer in Jinja who talked with all of us, the three personnel from Retrak, Alfred, who was required to fill out a multi-page form of personal information about who he is and what his relationship with James is, Gail and I briefly as part of the group, and James himself. The officer, after interviewing us and reviewing the case, announced to the group that now, “James is mine!” Then he instructed Alfred that he would have to report monthly to him for two years on behalf of James.
  • Because we had obligations in Kawango, a town way out in the bush about 150 km north of Jinja, to teach a group of leaders for the week (over 155 were in attendance), and because it was apparent that we would not simply be picking James up from Retrak on Monday, Alfred and I sadly made our way north without resolving the matter, while Gail went to minister with her friend Irene in Mukono (a suburb of Kampala), and we waited in anticipation all week long for the details to be ironed out.
  • Finally, through many phone calls, it was agreed that Retrak, with James, would pick Gail up on Thursday and drive to meet us in Jinja, where they had appointments with the Probation Office in Jinja and later that day with the local magistrate in Bugembe, who had to stamp the papers before James could be released into our custody again. Friday was Good Friday, and so everything had to be finished by Thursday as offices were closed for the holiday on Friday.
    • I informed my host that we had to cut the meeting short by one day in Kawango to take care of an emergency. The stage was now set – all that was required was patience and some endurance – it was a hard week with this reunion with James dangling over us.
  • Last year with James.

    Everyone agreed that James should be immediately returned to the school on Thursday. Originally, Retrak had assigned one of their people to go with us and to begin the investigation of the school that very day. However, another child in their care was very sick back in Kampala and had to be transported to her home area hospital, so their personnel was scattered and their vehicles already in use for that emergency. We don’t much understand what all that was about, but it meant that we would be taking James back to school by ourselves, and it meant that God was whispering to us again through circumstances that He was in the middle of all this and that we could relax and trust Him – the place they were taking the sick child was far to the north, a place called Gulu (See https://meadeinternational.org/2018/05/22/ever-louder-whispers/).

On Thursday, we converged from different directions on the parking lot of the Probation Department in Jinja. When the three Retrak employees emerged from the vehicle, I tried to greet them politely, but I only had eyes for James. I didn’t know how he was going to react to seeing me again after a year and all these escapades. When he saw me, I opened my arms, and he smiled joyfully and rushed to embrace me. We hugged and hugged as if there were no others standing witness. I learned later from the social worker from Retrak that this was a crucial moment for all of us – he needed to see that we were truly bonded to James and not just some well-meaning foreigners. James’ hugs and my tears told the story to him, and he relaxed and knew that he was witnessing something real and amazing – it was for him perhaps one of the moments of restoration that they have dedicated their lives to achieve for these children.

They told us that they had taken James to a deaf church to try and interview him to find out who he was and where he was from. James declared with not the slightest hesitation that his parents were white. They couldn’t believe him and chided him that this was impossible because his skin was black, but James never backed off – his parents were white! None of this made any sense to them until that moment in the parking lot.

 

James’ white parents delivered James to school on Thursday where he is now safe and happy to be back home. We arrived back at our guesthouse late that night after one of the longest and sweetest days in our memory.

Part 3 will finish the tale, filling in some of the significant details.