I woke up today happy and excited, but also a little sad. Today is the last day in the village…which means fun and a celebration…but it also means its my last day with my friends and family for another year. Today is also my Ugandan birthday…my friend NBS was saying how upset he is that I am never in Uganda for my birthday…so he decided today was my Ugandan birthday and we were going to celebrate.
We headed out early, once we arrived we were escorted to church. I am so proud of Pastor Julius for starting a church in the village, and I was so excited to be able to hear him preach, but the best part was worshiping all together, as a community. Sitting there under the trees, looking into the faces of the people I love so much, God was there I could feel Him. Julius preached from the book of Luke…and told us that many times we treasure the gift but forget about the Giver…this country, this village, these people…they are a gift to me…and its all because of God.
After church we all gathered for performances, the women acted out skits about the partnership between St. Emmanuel and Project Yesu, and the sponsorship program and how it is changing their lives. The children danced and sang. Then we walked down to the playground to dedicate the pit latrine to the community. One of the local leaders was there, and spoke about the impact our work is having on the community…we cut the ribbon and handed over the keys to Patrick.
Then it was one last lunch all together….and then I got taken away by Mama Rhinet and was dressed in a beautiful yellow dress…and it was time to celebrate my birthday. It was by far THE BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER! I was led into the center by the kids carrying candles to a beautiful hut decorated especially for me, and I even had my own guards…some of my kids were standing guard with spears and all…but they were made out of paper. They had a beautiful cake for me that we cut up and served to everyone. I felt so loved and so special.
After our celebration it was time for speeches…not my favorite part but it gives me a chance to thank everyone and tell them how much they mean to me. Patrick’s speech was so sweet, I am so thankful to be working with him. The speech that meant more to me than any other was from my Baba (Ugandan father) Job…Job has been one of drivers since the very first time we came to Uganda in 2012. I will never forget when he drove me to the airport at the end of my first trip, I cried and cried, and Job did everything he could to cheer me up…and he still does to this day. He is not a public man, so speaking in front of the everyone was not common for him, and his words meant so much to me. Michelle, Josh, Kristy and Kamyia had their turn to share their thoughts after spending the week with everyone…and Josh and Kristy decided to sponsor two of my kids. It was so amazing to be there when they told the girls, and shared it with their families..pure joy.
Once the speeches were all done it was time to give out all the gifts we brought with us from the sponsors, and the gifts we bought for them from their sponsors. The kids are so excited to be given something from their sponsor, it means the world to them. But once the gifts were all handed out….the sun was beginning to set…and it was time to say “see you later!”
You would think after five trips, the “see you laters” wouldn’t bother me because I know I’ll be back, but each year it gets harder and harder and the tears just flow. I was ok until sweet Noah came and hugged me, and was bawling, thats when I lost it. There were lots of hugs, and lots of tears…some of my older girls were really having a hard time…especially Juliet and Sharon. My boys were ok because they knew they were going to spend the weekend with me…so they were running around playing.
Then it was time to load up the van…and wave good bye.
It was the team’s last night and although our eyes were sore from all the tears we went out for one last meal all together. I am going to miss this group, they were such an amazing blessing to me, and to my friends and family. Each one brought their own gifts and talents to the team, they loved big and served well.
We ended the night with one last round of UNO…its kind of our thing.
So now off to bed…Sula bulungi everyone! (Sleep well!)