Category: James


A quiet evening with James and Faith – James is drawing in his exercise book and Faith is copying words into hers.

The evening of our time together at Gail’s friend Irene’s home after audiology screening was a very sweet time. We had survived the painful episode with James, and he finally knew we were not going to leave him there alone among strangers once again. I hope he learns to trust us for our love for him, but it must be very hard for him to understand our ways and the reasons we do things, and why we keep disappearing for months and he only sees Alfred. He is a boy stuck in his own head and his own wounded heart. Time and consistency on our part will heal, I hope.

After we all came down from the shock and began to settle in for the evening, we were assigned our sleeping areas – James, Faith, and the two men – Alfred, who had accompanied us to be with James and Faith at the screening, and Godfrey, our replacement driver while Alfred and his wife wait for their baby to come – all together in the little dormitory Irene uses for the many children she helps and are now at school; and Gail and Bob in the guest bedroom in the house. Then dinner, then sitting around chatting and enjoying each other’s company – a quiet and friendly evening.

Gail repairs a tear in Faith’s dress.

During the visiting time after dinner, the door popped open and James and Faith came in with their new story books and plopped down around the table to draw. Gail spent her time sewing up a tear in one of Faith’s dresses, and I quietly worked on the computer. It was a perfect evening, a pretty little tableau of family at peace. I only noticed it in retrospect the next morning as I thought, “What a wonderful and quiet family evening that was!”

The two children fully occupied themselves, and whereas they had been busily dragging us around the market earlier in the day, investigating one wonder after another, now they were settled comfortably “around the hearth,” James copying a picture from his book with his pencil, and Faith copying words from her book with hers. This family scene lasted maybe an hour and a half, each of us comfortable in the others’ company.

James has drawn a picture that appears in his story book about Abraham. You can see he wrote the word Abraham on the picture. Should I be this proud? How far this boy has come!

James has probably never had an evening like that in an actual house. Just chew on that for a minute…

It was a measure of his trust of us that he wanted to draw in front of us and obviously wanted us to comment on his artwork (the next day he actually laid his head in my lap and went to sleep, so this little boy is gradually learning to be loved). He is becoming quite the little artist, and I’m wondering what he could do with color pencils or inks, though it might be difficult to hang onto such things in a school setting where so much is shared between the students. His lettering is still quite rough, but he was copying words from the book and adding them to his picture. One day, we hope to be able to converse in writing at least, though Gail is always gamely trying with her American “signs,” at least 50% of which are different in Uganda.

(l to r) Irene, James, Faith, Gail, Alfred, and Godfrey gathered on Irene’s small porch.

The evening was, on the one hand, a peaceful and contented family group learning to sit with each other quietly and just resting in the security of mutual support – nothing that would ever draw any attention in its simplicity and ordinariness. On the other hand, considering who these people are, and who they have been, and perhaps who they will one day be, it was a triumphant victory to be celebrated and shouted from the housetops!

Thank you, thank you, Irene. I will treasure that evening as the high point so far of my adventures with James, and now also with Faith.

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Our journey to Kampala to have the hearing of the two deaf children, James and Faith, evaluated required a long journey from Mbale. This was especially hard for them, both active and inexperienced children from the village (see Part 1) cooped up in the vehicle for hours at a time. Two sad incidents occurred among all the fun and excitement of the three day trip away from Kavule Deaf School. The first was, as I explained in Part 1 of this story, that neither child qualified for any kind of hearing devices or aids since their deafness was nearly complete according to the screening tests.

James and Faith enjoying a relaxing evening at the home of Gail’s friend Irene.

The second incident was more disturbing, and I find it difficult to write about because of both the pain of relating it and the way it affected me personally. We decided to break the trip up into sections so that the children would not get too tired being in the vehicle for such long periods, and so that we could catch up on “care” items for them – clothing, shoes, supplies, etc. Our plan, then, included a stay-over in Bugembe (near Jinja) the first night with the children staying with Alfred and Julie. Alfred related that they were up at 5:30 the next morning, standing in their bedroom demanding attention and, of course, food. Alfred, showing wisdom beyond his years, invited them to join him and Julie in their morning prayer time. He said the two of them knelt dutifully and folded their hands, even though James, for sure, has never had enough language to receive even basic spiritual training. We really don’t know what’s going on inside his head during such times, but he has become an agreeably cooperative young boy over the last two years, and we are hoping to reach his spirit anyway before we will one day have access to his mind for such concepts as God and spirituality.

James, happy to have his picture taken when we first met him on Buvuma Island.

The second day, after the screening in Kampala, we planned to stay at the home of one of Gail’s friends in Mukono, a suburb of Kampala, and it was here that the incident happened. We had been to the market for shoes and clothes, and it was coming up on 5:30 pm when we pulled into Irene’s compound after a long, long day of many adventures in the city. I’m not certain even now what cues we mistakenly gave to James as we disembarked from the vehicle. Perhaps it was our gathering of his and Faith’s plastic bags containing their meager belongings, but not getting our own bags from the back. We began to lead the children up to greet Irene, Gail introducing Faith to her at her door, and I leading James in that direction.

I got about halfway to her door when I became aware that James was resisting me. I looked down at him, and as he stared at the house, he began a high-pitched keening from deep inside his chest, as if emanating up from his heart. I stopped and turned to him, and to my astonishment tears were running down his face – this little hard-hearted street child of two years ago who never shed a tear back then, but glared at us crossly and once even threw rocks and dirt at me when he became angry. I fell to my knees and motioned, “James, what’s wrong?” The sound of his utter despair continued to rise in volume as he stood frozen in place, refusing to make eye contact, staring ahead blankly.

The night we dropped James at his new school in Mbale after rescuing him from the islands. He has realized we are leaving him among strangers. This was a terrible moment for all three of us.

It took me, in my adult insensitivity, a minute to figure out what was happening right in front of me as this small boy was melting down. Then it came to me like a slideshow of tragic photos – the time we dropped him at his first school after rescuing him from the island and traveling across 150 km of southern Uganda in the vehicle, took him into Mbale to purchase his school supplies and new clothes and shoes, etc., the first city he had ever seen. Then we had to leave him there among strangers in a foreign place, and Alfred and I were near tears as we drove away into the evening, knowing that this was the best thing for him but that he could not understand, which was why he stood alone, glowering at us with my cap perched on his head, the poor and inadequate love offering I gave him just before I turned away from him and climbed into the car to leave him there.

Then I remembered moving him from that school to the new school at Kavule where he is now, away from the friends he had made and his first teachers ever in his life whom he had now adjusted to, and the teacher Catherine whose little family he had bonded with, and how we had again left him among strangers in a yet another foreign place, and had again driven away from him as he stood motionless and glared after us, unwilling to show anything but anger.

Of course James was reliving his abandonments, not just the “necessary” ones by us, but the time his mother left him when he was five because she couldn’t deal with his deafness on the one hand and her drunken husband on the other. Then, he relived the abandonment two years later on Buvuma Island when his father left him among the clan and disappeared almost for good, except for a brief alcoholic and abusive reunion just before we rescued him. We found him on Buvuma, virtually living by himself at age ten, without language except what gestures his bright little mind had invented to make himself understood–the boy with the scars on his back and face from the “canings” he received as early as age three when they judged him as “rebellious” because he wouldn’t obey them, only later discovering that he was deaf.

In those horrifying moments this week in Mukono, as I realized he thought we were abandoning him yet again, I replayed what I knew he had suffered, which he was telling us by the despairing sound of his grief and fear, the best a small deaf boy could do in the circumstances, echoed now by Faith who had seen by now that something was terribly wrong, and who began to cry reflexively also next to a baffled Gail and Irene. This tableau, even down to the time of day, was all too familiar to James. We had unwittingly set him up for it.

I threw my arms around James, and hugged him and began to tell him we were not leaving him, knowing that he could not hear me. I pulled back from him and gestured that we all were staying here tonight, that no one was leaving him, that “James, James, we are not leaving you. You are safe. You are safe. We love you. No one is leaving you….” But he could not hear me, and could not understand my words.

I took him to the back of the car and opened up the gate and pulled out our suitcase and our personal bags to show him we were staying here with him. Slowly, he began to respond, hugging me back, letting me hold him as the stiffness bled out of his little frame.

James knows abandonment.

James will see abandonment for many years to come where there is none in the unthinking actions of the people around him. This wound is deep and flows through the roots of his little being like a river of pain, not understood, misunderstood, owned personally, and turned into personal beliefs not about deeply flawed parents and weak and selfish clan leaders who did not acknowledge his personhood and value, but beliefs about James, himself, and his tiny broken identity – “ALONE,” “WORTHY ONLY OF ABANDONMENT,” “THROWN AWAY.”

I want to reach into this child’s shattered heart and piece it back together. In my own selfish way, I want to bring him home with me and nurture him back to life, even though I know that he needs to stay in his culture and be African. In place of the sewage of the world he has known, I want to give him the river of life flowing out of him. I don’t want to wait years until he can understand and receive – I want it NOW.

I also know abandonment, and remember it well, a small boy crying on the floor of the backseat of our car as we returned from the father and son Cub Scout banquet, which I attended with my mother. According to the Book, all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I know that’s why James came into the hall where I was teaching three years ago on Buvuma Island, and I know that my heart which has been mostly healed read his pain without knowing his story – it had a familiar ring. I know what I’m supposed to do. I pray for the years and the means to do it.

And yes, before you remind me, I know only Christ can ever be the river that heals James, but maybe I can be the hand that leads him there.

Picking up James and Faith from the director’s office before she knew she was coming with us – hence the sad look.

What an exhausting and interesting three days we have just finished. Exhausting because we are just a tad on the other side of the hill and have spent this time in the presence of the exuberant James and Faith, 12 and 8 years old respectively, and interesting because, you guessed it, ….James and Faith. These two deaf children have rarely been out of the village, and certainly never to a city as large as Kampala. We have learned some Ugandan sign language though. We can now say in perfect deaf Ugandan, “BUY ME THIS, NO BUY ME THIS, NO, WAIT, THIS, THIS AND THIS.”

In addition to these valuable insights, we have never, either one of us, ever witnessed a faster switch from, “This is the exact thing I want,” to receiving it, losing all interest in it, and demanding some other shiny or bright-colored object. At one point James insisted on receiving a “math set” which is a small metal box with a compass, etc. for math studies.  At his level he doesn’t have math (he is far behind his age group – see previous posts for his history) and doesn’t even know what math is, but knows a pretty box when he sees it. In fairness, it must have been astonishing to these children to witness the lavish excess that is available to any shopper in the city. We sought the fairer prices in the local outdoor market rather than in the stores, hoping that it might be a more familiar environment to them, but it seemed to me a bad case of Disneyland-itis for both of them even there.

A thoughtful James as he contemplates one of his drawings – he has become quite the artist.

Our values clashed horrendously as Gail and I sought quality shoes and clothes that might actually last them through our next visit in April, while they sought Minnie Mouse T’s with holes, or football shorts with small tears or split seams; we sought sneakers that would endure the hard labor of their rowdy recesses while they sought the used and recycled sneakers, painted with black spray-paint to hide the flaws, paint which will probably come off in the first sprinkle of rain the rainy season of which we are right now in!! I picked a wonderfully masculine pair of “air-” somethings in near-perfect condition and with cool spiffy colors for James, which any American kid would lo-o-ove  to have on their feet, but James would have nothing to do with them, gesturing emphatically by scissoring his hands back and forth and then a firm, double thumbs down – no, he had to have the old black spray-painted cast-offs across the street where they couldn’t even find a pair that fit him. I’m not going to admit to you who won that scrappy little brawl.

I can totally visualize him traipsing into class next Monday, leaving black-paint-run-off footprints behind him as it drizzles outside just about the same time as I am warming up my “Parenting” Conference in Soroti. (Note to my own children and grandchildren: No eye-rolling!). We managed to get them outfitted for the rest of this term, but I fear we will be back at it next trip. We returned them late today to their deaf school in Kavule outside of Mbale after some car-problem delays and an array of errands as we passed through Jinja on our return trip. Long day, tired old couple…’nuff said.

Faith in her Minnie Mouse T and her new dress underneath it. They both were desperately in need of new clothing and were down to basic school uniforms as their only remaining options.

Two sadder notes among all the hilarity of both children gesturing wildly and pointing from the middle of the rear car seat where they were firmly strapped in between Gail and me. Riotous gesturing broke out every time we passed anything remotely edible, any roadside shop with any kind of object that could be construed to be round like a soccer ball, or anything even distantly police-related (don’t understand that one, but I hope we are not unknowingly harboring a midget criminal hiding out from the law at the deaf school–I don’t think so, though: James is a very convincing twelve year old boy).

Sad note number one: The reason for our long trip of three days. We took the two children into the Kampala Audiology and Speech Center for a screening of their hearing levels, which neither child had ever had. Alfred and I had discovered that James could actually hear some higher range sounds when we were backing up the vehicle one time on Buvuma Island, and it was making that beeping noise – James was sitting there in the back seat saying very clearly, “Beep beep beep beep” right along with the car. We were, of course, stunned, and began to test him, and sure enough, there was some hearing there in the very high, loud range, which made us all hopeful that he might be a candidate for a hearing aid or implant device. I sat in the session with him and was encouraged to see him raise his hand repeatedly as the doctor played a variety of sounds into his headphones for his ears, and also through two different bone resonance tests. His tests, however, were negative for significant hearing of any kind. The doctor, who was extremely kind and professionally efficient by the way, told us that the best we could ever expect with a hearing aid is the possibility that he might be able to hear a loud car horn on the street or something of that nature.

James mugging with Faith in front of the Kampala Audiology and Speech Office in Kampala.

Faith was tested next and Gail sat in on that session. Faith also raised her hand repeatedly, but the doctor explained that all they were “hearing” were the vibrations from the sounds, not the sounds themselves, and even I could tell that when the same sound was applied at a lesser volume, James could not hear it. Unfortunately, Faith also could not be helped by a hearing aid. She told us that both children were now too old to develop speech because that part of the brain had atrophied from lack of usage, which our friend Michelle in the States had also told us would probably be the case.

Returning them to the Kavule School for the Deaf at the end of the journey. We sit and chat with the Director of the School, Samuel.

We were saddened by this news, but not surprised. The doctor strongly encouraged us to keep them in school, telling us that it would change both their lives if they had sign language and an education, and that this was the best gift we could give them.

Thank you all for praying for these two children, as I know many of you knew we were taking them in for screening. It is comforting to know that we have been led to the right track with James, and, now that Faith is also onboard, that she can also be redeemed from the very serious suffering that disabilities cause in Uganda’s poverty-laden society.

There is still a long road ahead of them – this adventure has again shown us what bright and eager children they both are. And, I must add, it was truly comforting to see how happy they were to return to the school and their safe, enclosed environment that they now consider their home, surrounded by their friends who have also become their family.

Part 2  and the second “sad note” in our next post.

James and a New Ripple

[For those of you who are new followers, you can catch up on the James stories under the menu “James.”]

The “James” followers among you may be wondering about James and his progress at the deaf school. We picked him up from the Kavule School for the Deaf about 3 weeks ago. The children were released two weeks early for their usual holiday which would normally be through the month of May. However, the drought-induced famine in Uganda has caused many food shortages, and one of these was at the school – they simply couldn’t feed the children, so they sent them home in April, two weeks earlier than the normal end of term.

As the Lord would have it, we happened to be in the area and could pick him up and transfer him to his holiday home, the family who have virtually adopted him since his arrival in this region 18 months ago. He stays with Catherine, a teacher whom he bonded with when he first arrived, and it is obvious that he considers her and her 3 sons to be his family. He is always overjoyed to see them.

My evaluation of James after about 18 months of schooling? We were presented with his grade report and had an opportunity to see some of his work. Remember, this boy had no formal language at age ten, having been deaf since birth, abandoned by his mother at five and his father at seven, misunderstood and barely cared for by his clan on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. He had never sat in a classroom when we found him. Now he is beginning to write sentences, his sign language has advanced to approximately 2nd grade level, and his grades in most subjects are strong and improving. He sits willingly through all his classes now and participates in class. He is liked and respected by his classmates.

This boy, now about twelve (of course, we have no way to tell his real age), is a different boy from the one we “rescued.” He runs to greet us with warm hugs. He smiles and laughs, and he even is beginning to warm up to Gail who is a bit behind the curve with him since she was not yet with me full-time when Alfred and I met James. His teacher tells us that he is learning so rapidly that he will be transformed (her word) by next Christmas. The headmaster continues to tell us that he will be a leader among the students in time.

One new ripple in the James saga: Due to the generosity of a new sponsor, we have rescued another deaf child. Her name is Faith (not her real name). She is seven and is a special friend of James. He watches out for her in a big brotherly way, and they are close friends. We have been aware of her for several visits now, but had learned late last year that her family was unable to continue paying her school fees, so she had been returned to her family in a town about 1.5 hours away without plans at that time to continue to send her to school.

Alfred with James and Faith.

However, her family returned Faith to the school because they know it is not good for her to stay home without any education among family members who can’t communicate with her except with gestures, even though they love her. Her mother died of AIDS two years ago, and so she is cared for by her disabled grandparents and her grandaunt. Though she returned to the school, the family could not pay the fees, so the school has been “absorbing” her costs as they do with many of the deaf children they take in.

Even as we arrived to pick up James and found Faith there at the school, the headmaster told us that the family requested that they please try to find some alternative to sending her home since they could not feed her because of the famine – they already have many other children to feed. At our request Catherine agreed to keep Faith also for this holiday, and we agreed to transport her, but we could not do so without “official authorization” from the family in writing, signed by a government official. As it turned out, our next week of scheduled teaching was in the same town where the family lived. We were able to meet her grandparents and the other children at their homestead outside the town and collect the signed document we needed. So now they know us and we know them, and all that is very good.

After our week of teaching, we returned to the school for Faith. She was very glad to see us – she was the last deaf child remaining at the school, the other students all having left for holiday, and I’m sure she was feeling alone and abandoned. We moved her to Catherine’s where she reunited with James. At first she was timid around the new “family,” and sad to have to say good-bye to us – we knew all of this swirl of activity, being picked up by musungus, driven in a car, dropped at some stranger’s home instead of at her own family, etc., had to be overwhelming to her, especially since we were unable to explain it to her – what confusion would go through the mind of a small deaf girl who has been bounced around quite a bit in the last two years? However, we have also learned to trust Catherine and her family.

Our trust was borne out when we had a brief opportunity the next morning to stop by to check on her and drop off some replacement shoes for both James and Faith. She was happily playing when we arrived, and she smiled and greeted us, and was perfectly adjusted, it seemed to us, to her new surroundings. Instead of being sad and sullen when we departed this time, as she had the day before, she hugged us and waved good-bye happily when it was time to leave.

So Faith is now part of the Meade International family through the gifts of her sponsor, and she will have an opportunity to flourish in the light instead of wilt in the shadows of Ugandan society, which is the fate of so many African deaf children.

(Please pray for Kavule Deaf School. The headmaster has shared with me that they are facing repeated food shortages for the foreseeable future. They need sponsors for unpaid students and help with their food budget. Hopefully, the food prices will come back down as the rains return, but this will take time. If you desire to help in some way, please contact us through the Comments section, or directly at bob@meadeinternational.org).

Our James

Report of Fall 2016 Trip:

James runs after the new football we brought for the school.

James runs after the new football we brought for the school. (UPDATE: I forgot to tell you he is the one in the orange shirt in my original post.)

This last Saturday we were able to visit James, our little twelve year old deaf boy that we have placed in a deaf school in Mbale (See previous posts under the menu “James”). It was encouraging to see the children who were playing on the football field run to get James as soon as the car came into view along the little dirt road leading from the main highway. They have come to recognize the car and know it is us even though we only show up once every four months or so. I don’t think they get that many visitors. As last time, James greeted both Alfred and me with a big hug.

a-james-and-bed

James bounces on his new mattress. His was torn and so we brought a new one for him at the headmaster’s request. That’s Hope in the foreground.

His school report? The wild boy is finally settling into classes and staying through the class periods. He is beginning to write. The headmaster says he has changed greatly in the last few months. He has relaxed and become one of the group. One day, the director tells us, he will be a leader in the school. I would say that he tells all the visiting parents that except I have seen the same quality in James – he is a natural leader; other children easily follow him, and he has that independent style of interacting that shows he knows it without being arrogant – it is just the way he carries himself.

The little girl, Hope, who seems always to be near James, was also overjoyed to see us. She seems to have adopted us as significant “somethings.” Who can tell, really, what is going on inside her. We can’t talk to her in any depth, though Gail has sign language and made a valiant effort to spend time with her and love on her. We have to be careful, though. The last trip, I was a little too friendly to Hope and James became immediately jealous. The very least thing we want to do in our visits is create problems between James and the other children. So Gail made a point to separate with Hope and get to know her a little. This is no problem for James because he doesn’t really know Gail, and he seems to have no idea what to do with her. His relationship has always been with Alfred and me. When we first brought Gail to the school, he was sort of polite, but very stand-offish; this trip he was “tolerant” of Gail, but that’s all he was ready to give.

“Hope” is the name the school has given this sweet little girl. She is a bottomless pit of need for love. We just wanted to scoop her up and tell her she is loved, but of course, that was not possible because all the children are equally needy. She is very responsive to hugs, though. She was rescued from a village where no one wanted her because of her deafness. I don’t think anyone knows her real name, and she certainly doesn’t, since she has been deaf since birth, we assume.

We also brought the teacher, Catherine, whom James bonded with so well at the first school to visit with him. She prepared some special food for him, and they shared it with Hope, the two of them sitting in the Headmaster’s area eating and making signs at each other all through their lunch. Perhaps, having been abandoned by his own mother at five, he can only handle one adult female relationship at a time, and to be honest, the musungu woman may just be too much at this time.

The little girl in the black dress at the very center had never seen and musungu before and was horrified and worried that we had been in some terrible accident. We allow them to rub our skin to see that we were not in pain.

The little girl in the black dress at the very center had never seen and musungu before and was horrified and worried that we had been in some terrible accident. We allow them to rub our skin to see that we were not in pain.

 

We forget that what we see when we travel around, meeting so many different Ugandans, is not necessarily what the children see. One of the little girls brought us to this reality very quickly, and showed us even why the small babies often react to us with fear and crying when they see us (see Gail’s earlier post). We were standing with a group of them, talking through Gail’s interpretation. By the horrified and agonized expression of sympathy and compassion on this child’s face, and her frantic signs, we realized she thought we had both been in some terrible accident where our skin had been removed, and this white skin was what was left from the injuries. She was afraid we were in great pain; she was almost in tears. It was touching, and we realized that this child had no experience at all with musungus.

Hope and James waving good-bye. James is smiling...Hope not so much.

Hope and James waving good-bye. James is smiling…Hope not so much.

We tried to explain our differences to the children, but the concept of, “No, we were born this way, we are just different,” was pretty hard to get across. So we allowed them to touch the skin of our arms, and rub it to see that we were not in pain or injured. This girl was amazed to touch our skin and see that it was healthy. When I took off my hat to show that I even had this weird white stuff on my head, they all insisted on rubbing my head to make sure I was not in pain.

When we left, both Hope and James waved, James smiling and Hope with that look that made us want to turn the vehicle around and stay forever just to prevent her experiencing more abandonment. But they are happy children. They are safe. And we are satisfied for now. But since James is partially hearing, we must figure out when and how to transport him to Kampala and have his hearing tested. We are praying about this important piece that has yet to fit into the puzzle of our James.

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.

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.]