[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…