Category: James


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…

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.

We are here tonight…

Long story short so you don’t have to wait for the end of our telling of it: we have James, he is back in school, he is happy and well.

The saga of James continues. After he ran away from Alfred’s home where he was staying for the two month school holiday in December and January, it seemed the earth had swallowed him. Alfred had many leads, but always to other deaf boys. The street children in Jinja who agreed to help him could produce no meaningful leads on James in the whole time between January and February – many rumors, but no solid sightings or leads after the first few weeks.

After Gail and I arrived in Uganda toward the end of March, we pursued the only credible information that we’d had in all that time. It was reported that a deaf charcoal seller, a man who travels about the region selling charcoal for the cooking grills that every Ugandan uses, had a new deaf boy working with him as an assistant. There was a specific place in Jinja where this man stayed while in the area. Alfred repeatedly went there, and we also accompanied him, with the hope of any glimpse of James, and every time he was told by the people there that the man was there only minutes ago but he had just missed him. In Uganda this could mean hours, half a day, and so on. Alfred repeated this scenario many times, always missing the man by “minutes.”

Finally, after our second week of teaching, as I related in a previous post, an organization from Kampala named Retrak suddenly showed up at Alfred’s house in Bugembe with James. We were out completing errands in Jinja, and Alfred’s phone was not working. Unable to establish any legal claim to James with only Alfred’s wife, they waited a bit for us to return, then, unable to connect with us, they left and returned to Kampala with James in tow, a journey of 2-3 hours by vehicle. Over the last week by phone, we have reconstructed as much of story as we could.

It seems that early in January James migrated with a group of street children all the way on foot from Jinja to

First Contact – the folks from Retrak met Gail in Mukono (suburb of Kampala) and then drove her and James to meet with us in Jinja as we returned from a teaching stint.

Kampala, a walk that would have taken them five to six days unless vehicles offered them rides, which apparently often happens. We are told that this is common for these children, and James has proven it to us by his habit of constantly wandering off on adventures. When he ran from Alfred, it was clear that he had planned it because, as you know if you have read the recent posts, this was the second time he ran during this holiday, the first time to Buvuma Island and his old stomping grounds, and Alfred was attempting to watch him closely.

Now I can’t imagine what it was like for James to walk to Kampala, traveling by night, sleeping rarely, we are told, with these other street children by the side of the road, and begging as they went. Kampala, of course, is a virtual Mecca for beggars, which explains the pilgrimage James made, if he understood any of it – and perhaps it was only a grand adventure with new friends.

This story is from the Retrak people who returned James to us, not from James himself. I don’t know if we will ever get the whole truth of how he got to Kampala and why he went from him. He is still a very new communicator, and his language is mostly concrete words for things he uses and needs rather than abstract concepts like where, why, and how.

When James disappeared in January and we were despairing of ever finding him again, Gail and I went into a period of prayer and fasting toward the middle to the end of January. It was during that time that I wrote in my journal this prayer:

“This child is alone and needs an advocate who is able to walk in his shoes. Please send him an intervention, a fallen tree across his path, a landslide that turns him aside and returns him to the path of life….Draw him forth, O Lord, even as Moses was drawn forth from the Nile River that his steps might be set on a path that he could otherwise never choose for himself.” When I prayed this, I was sitting in Fort Worth, Texas, referencing more biblical ideas than anything else. But the Lord spoke to me after I wrote this last phrase that the Nile River I had just mentioned is the very same River Nile that James has lived by his entire life – the great Nile River flows out of Lake Victoria, and Jinja is known as the “source of the Nile.” James had to cross over the Nile River on the new bridge at Jinja at the very beginning of his long journey to even get to Kampala. (It seems to me that groanings which are too deep to be uttered and are spoken for us by the Spirit (Rom. 8:28) often result in truths that we cannot discern until after they have been spoken but which verify to our faith the Voice of the One speaking.)

The following is what seemed to be the Voice of the Lord reassuring us during that time:

  • “The covering I have provided for James through your hand is not finished or complete. Trust Me in this.”
  • “He is mine and I claim him…. Upon this declaration, I have proclaimed a warrant to the spiritual forces of wickedness which bind him, demanding the release of James….Trust Me in this.” This was a very unusual thing for me to hear. Something legal was being done for James in the spiritual realm – Gail and I rested on this word also by faith.
  • There were a series of scriptures accompanying these perceptions that seemed to have the theme of return from captivity: Eze. 39:28 says, “Then they shall know that I am their God, Who sent them into captivity but also brought them back to their own land and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore….” Yes, in context this applies to Israel. Still, this is what I wrote in my journal as I waited before the Lord, in reference to James.
  • Then I was assured, “The journey that James is on is necessary to his calling and development as My instrument. He will return when My purpose has been completed. Then My Name will be lifted up in the testimony of his life. I am the Father of the fatherless, the orphan, and the destitute.”

At the reunion after hugs. James has grown some. He is interacting with the Retrak workers with whom he has made a strong bond.

James was then begging with the street children in Kampala. The police who monitor these activities noticed that James was different – he did not know how to beg like the others, but his methods were more crafty, sneaking up, grabbing and running. Of course, this is the survivor wild-child that we met on Buvuma Island five years ago, a boy who has never been taught what property is, has never had any, and who doesn’t even know the concept of stealing as a moral issue, but only that familiar existence of hunger and survival, and the seemingly pervasive African worldview of fear and power. The police arrested him around January 15.

James is about13 years old now. The police do not generally handle such a child with punishment, so they immediately placed him with a charitable agency in Kampala that has a mission to return runaways to their families. This was Retrak. The very dedicated and fine people of this non-profit organization held James securely all this time since January, cared for him, and sought to trace his identity so that they could restore him to his people. In short, they became a focused advocate for him. But he was apparently only one of two deaf children they have ever worked with, and the clues to where he belonged were very few, and James was unable to lead them to his tangled roots or along his twisted path. We marvel at God’s protective grace and His specific answers to our prayers!

How they came to discover he was from the Jinja area is the rest of the story… (See Part 2).

JAMES IS FOUND!

We are jumping for joy, but wondering how to get to him.

We hope this is not premature, but we have just received word that James is found. We have few details as yet, but while we were out today doing errands, several members from an organization in Kampala showed up at Alfred’s house with James – apparently, he directed them to Alfred’s house. Alfred’s wife, Julie, tried to call Alfred but his phone has been malfunctioning a great deal – it is likely that at that exact moment we were either in the phone store in Jinja replacing his phone or trying to find the rumored deaf charcoal peddler who has  been seen traveling with a deaf boy of about James’ description.

This as yet mysterious organization couldn’t release James to Julie without some paperwork demonstrating that he actually belongs with us. Julie didn’t have the paperwork. Finally, unable to find Alfred, they returned to Kampala with James! So close, and yet so far! At this time, we are not sure who the organization is, but Alfred has been in touch with them by phone and will tell us the whole story tomorrow.

Earlier this week the police picked James up in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, about three hours by car from where we are and from where James ran away. Discerning that he was a special needs child and an indigent, underage beggar, they turned him over to this organization who has been trying to trace James’ background ever since. Finally, dots were connected, police alerts confirmed as being about James, and they came to Jinja to find us. Once they got to Jinja, the little rascal actually led them straight to Alfred’s house.

So we are trying to reconfigure our program to meet with them to pick him up. It is now 11 pm here, and we are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 10:30 to travel 150 km to the north to meet with over 100 pastors far out in the bush. Fortunately, by God’s hand, Gail is going at the same time tomorrow to Mukono, a close suburb of Kampala. It is probable that she will be able to meet with these people and take delivery of our little missing friend. We have not yet assessed how to shift our program this week…

I’m thinking we won’t get much sleep tonight – too much dancing around the room, praying he will not have any inclination or opportunity to run away again, hoping he has had enough, and making plans to collect him at the earliest opportunity. More later as we know the facts.

Our gratitude to everyone for your love and prayers. We’re not quite there yet, so please keep praying him into our hands.

Big Developments

Off the Grid till April 6 on Buvuma Island.

[PLEASE NOTE: We will be out of touch for the next seven days as we minister on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria where we do not have internet access due to its isolation.]

[From both Bob and Gail] – Hello from Uganda. It has been almost a year since we left here. We are so glad to be back. We are a year older and a little slower to get into the routines of adventure, but we are excitedly looking forward to these next ten weeks.

This past year has been eventful for us. Bob had shoulder surgery with a long recovery, which is why we missed our usual Fall trip in 2018 – the doctor said no way was he ready to travel to Uganda, so we had to cancel our Autumn plans; we sold our home of 26 years and moved in with our son and his family while we were looking for a house, which took us several months longer than we hoped; we finally bought a smaller house, moved in on the Tuesday before we were scheduled to leave for Uganda, spent only six days in our new home, packed for the trip while at the same time moving belongings and endless streams of boxes into the house, then got on the plane to come here. [Whew! I’m tired just writing it all down, let along having just done it!]

Our flight here was the usual 40+ hours of mostly uneventful travel, which we largely slept through. Our Ugandan assistant, Alfred, picked us up at the airport hotel on Wednesday morning, March 27, and the Ugandan odyssey began almost immediately.

Our first stop was in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, right next to the airport – it sounds close, but it takes about three hours on a good day to get there from the airport through the dense, chaotic traffic – this is why Alfred drives and we do not. Our purpose in Kampala involved something we have always tried to avoid in Uganda assiduously – going to a bunch of government offices.

We were applying for NGO status – Non-Government Organization (Non-Profit Corporation in the U.S.) – and the paperwork was in the very final stages after working diligently for three months, Alfred here in Uganda (many trips back and forth to said government offices from his home three hours away in the Jinja area), and us in the U.S. completing, editing, and emailing all the forms and documents required. During this process, Bob both learned and taught Alfred how to use Google Docs to co-write documents from 12,000 miles apart. Thank you, Evan (our son).

When we arrived, we had the forms all ready for signatures. We sat in the hot car in the middle of Kampala signing the many forms to submit, and Alfred dashed off with forms in hand. We ourselves strategically continued to avoid the actual offices in order to circumvent the “musungu effect” on the overall costs.

We are a bit in shock and awe that what we thought was going to be a long, laborious, and expensive process turned out to be a surprise as Alfred came back to the car with our certificate of NGO in his hands after only one additional back-and-forth to the car and fee. We are proud to announce that we are now registered and certified in Uganda as Lake Victoria Bible Institutes Limited, a charitable organization dedicated to teaching believers to plant new churches and training the leaders to lead their people. LVBI Ltd is a separate entity from Meade International, our non-profit U.S. organization. As M.I. we will continue to be the logistical and sending organ of the ministry, gathering the funding to carry out the mission, designing and preparing all the curriculum materials, and providing all the supplies that go into these mission endeavors. LVBI Ltd will include Ugandans in the leadership and training here on the ground where the actual teaching takes place in the village churches that are raised up. We hope and pray that many years after M.I. has faded from the scene, LVBI Ltd will continue its training mission.

A final note from Gail:

I did not have many opportunities to chat with fellow travelers until we reached Amsterdam, the half-way point. While in the restroom at the airport, I met an African woman, and we began a conversation. She told me she was from Uganda (!) but currently staying in Washington D.C. She inquired about what we were doing in Uganda, and I told her about our ministry. I asked where she was from in Uganda…“GULU!”

You may remember from our last trip a year ago that every day God whispered “Gulu” to us, first with the inner voice of the Spirit to both of us simultaneously as we were still at the airport and hardly conscious of where the city of Gulu even was. Then we would hear the word “Gulu” each day in news reports, see it in newspaper articles, or meet random friends of a friend who were from Gulu themselves. More than halfway through the trip, after more than five weeks of this incessant “Gulu-ing,” someone approached us at a meeting with an earnest invitation to bring our ministry to his area. What was his area, we asked. Of course, it was Gulu. We accepted the invitation and we are actually teaching a church-planting conference in the Gulu area in May. (For the details of this adventure, see “Ever Louder Whispers,” https://meadeinternational.org/2018/05/22/ever-louder-whispers/).

I had to laugh when this nice stranger in the airport told me she was from Gulu. I love it when God teases me! Yes, Lord, we heard Your Voice. We are going to Gulu. Meet You there!

James Update Spring 2018

We traveled back from Soroti to Jinja today, and completed errands in preparation for a five-day return to Buvuma Island tomorrow through Thrusday. Note: Off the grid.

[Note: We are off the grid for the next 5 days, on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. We are testing and graduating our first 27 graduates from the Buvuma Island Section of Lake Victoria Bible Institutes.]

[This is an update on James, the deaf child we pulled from the streets of the island in Lake Victoria and moved to the deaf school in Mbale several years ago – see the “James” thread].

James spent two days with us this trip while we were in his area in Mbale. He stayed overnight with us in the hotel, sleeping in Alfred’s room since the two of them seem to have a close bond. This little boy who has evidenced so much anger and rejection at times in the last several years seems now to be a well-adjusted and happy child. The attention he gets from the other children and the teachers and directors at the school seem to be doing him a lot of good.

We had a little scare with him over the Christmas holiday when he was put with the family that normally kept him on the holidays. Up till then the mother of this little family had done a good job, since she is professionally a teacher of the deaf and understands their issues. However, she did not inform us that she was planning to enter schooling during this holiday and left him at her village under the care of others who were not familiar with his need for a tight rein (he has been on his own for many years without discipline and tended to wander freely on the island, getting into mischief without any language or communication abilities that might have otherwise transferred some social skills to a normally hearing child). Those who were then left in charge of him at the village failed to understand these needs and as a result failed to monitor his behaviors, only becoming alarmed and angry when he reverted to his old behaviors of wandering through people’s homes at will when no one was guiding him.

James sketched me as I preached, and no, those are not elf ears, those are my glasses. This from a boy who never touched a pencil and paper, I think, until two years ago.

This produced an unpleasant and unnecessarily “physical” confrontation, and Alfred actually had to go rescue him over the holiday and return him to the school. Now, unfortunately, the school is the only option for him during the holiday breaks in the school year. So he was glad to get “off-campus” for a day or two and see the big city of Mbale with us. Also, we enjoyed having him along. He is obedient and kind, always sharing the things we give him with other children. We had a wonderful time with him with no troubles of any kind, all former signs of willfulness being gone, it seems.

He has a serious interest in drawing, so we brought him some colored pencils. He spent his time sketching various things and seems to have the eye for a detail of an artist (of course, time will tell). During our Sunday morning church service, he sketched such things as the preacher – me – and Gail’s journal and Bible sitting on the table (an odd choice for a small child to even notice, let alone sketch in his book), the clock on the back wall, etc. Like I said, he seems to have an “eye.”

When we parted ways and Alfred drove off with him to go back to school, there was none of the previous sadness or acting out at our departure. I think he knows now that we will return and that we are not abandoning him – see https://meadeinternational.org/2017/10/21/the-grand-adventure-or-to-oz-and-back-with-james-and-faith-part-2/ for the painful telling of that part of the adventure. Oh, how I look forward to the day when James can talk to us fluently enough to have real relational conversation!

Somehow James has picked up the Ugandan custom of glaring dolefully at the camera when being photographed.

We did not get to visit with Faith this trip, our second deaf child at Kavule Parents School for the Deaf. It was school holiday break, and she was home with her family in Soroti, just as it should be. Still, we missed seeing her. All school reports are that she is doing well, though she needed a new blanket, which we have provided.

On that note though, we did run across another ten year old deaf girl living with her mother who has had no schooling up to now. She does not share the crisis condition in which we found James because her mother, though very poor, cares well for her. But the mother has no resources to put her into school. As a result of this, the child is growing up with no formal language but “family signs,” no education of any kind, and very little interaction with the world outside her home – a “back-yard child.” This is the time to get her into schooling or soon she will be beyond the ability to adapt to such changes in a healthy manner.

Unless Alfred can make him laugh…

So Gail and I are again praying about adding to our small brood of school-children we are overseeing with school fees, though with deaf children the needs are a bit more involved since they must board at the school. The mother has requested our help and has now shown that she is sincere by visiting the school and meeting with the director. But, she says, she cannot afford the fees. So we are seeking a sponsor. In a short time, this lovely child will be like the older deaf children even at the school who simply have never been able to develop the brain “wiring” to be educated. They are able to socially interact well, but their future is very limited because they were rescued and brought to the school too late to be able to adapt to the schoolroom environment. If we can go forward with this girl now, she has a good chance to learn language and be educated, as has been proven by James, who was virtually a street child when we brought him.

James shares a rare “night-out” for dinner with his adoptive family in Mbale.

This would amount to about $35.00 per month in her case, considering the positive ability of the family to share in some of the more basic expenses and to keep her on the holidays. If anyone is interested in rescuing this life (yes, I am reaching now for the heart strings, but I am telling you the truth), we would love to discuss this further with you by email or phone. Please contact us through the comments section of this website. As usual, Meade International will oversee the schooling for the sponsor, giving regular reports, and our local representative, Pastor Alfred, will be physically present as needed to monitor the situation.

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.