I sat back and listened attentively to the preacher of the day who happened to be Maria, the ‘mother’ at the orphanage. She encouraged good and condemned evil while emphasising fine manners . I drifted off from time to time so I could conjure an image of my own family. I tried to remember my childhood and imagined what it would have been like growing up with over 100 siblings but more importantly I tried to envision the feelings of this selfless mother. The sole protector who fights for them, scolds them and moulds them into adults everyone shall admire. Such a task and yet it is oh so rewarding!
As she concluded, I thought I heard her say ‘mama wa’mwe Esther naye……’ (let your mother Esther also…..) The following words were a bit unclear but I could tell she was beckoning me to the front. Who? Me? An entire congregation? It didn’t help that I was sitting at the front. There was no time to compose myself and take a long walk.
I got up, took a deep breath and stood at the pulpit. Hmmm…where does one start?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is one of my favourite verses of all time, and now I had a chance to illustrate it my way. I got little Timothy to read the Luganda version and then I went on to promise these amazing children a better life and the possibility of seeing all their dreams come true. Why not? They have a long future ahead. The best part is that I genuinely believed every word I said!
Now if I had been warned about preaching prior to this visit, chances are I wouldn’t have been as articulate.Natural expressions often reflect better..of course save for the fact that I could not translate words like exaggerate and flabbergasted:-p..Okubuza buza is almost like to flabbergast, no? Anyway, some words I had to translate by adding the letter ‘a’ at the end like ‘mukama aja ku blessinga’..I know I know..blessings=’mikisa’ but am just giving an example.
My next verse to feed on was 1 Corinthians 13:13, ” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I encouraged the little ones to love one another for it is only then that they shall get rid of anger, jealousy, grudges and everything else that comes in the way of their joy and unity. At this point, there were murmurs..some caretakers even mentioned names. (mostly of kids that often got angry and showed it)This was sad. I wasn’t there to judge anyone for we are all victims..some are just easier to notice.
If you love someone,hurting them hurts you too. We used basic examples about sharing, frowning when you are mad and talking behind each other’s backs..I needed to think like a child.*very refreshing*
I encouraged them to forgive for there is no greater form of freedom after that.The pain starts to varnish once one lets go. To be honest, I went on and on till I forgot where I’d started.I would like to think that the point was driven home somewhere in my mumbo jumbo.
After about 30 minutes,( I had to check my watch after this sweat inducing experience)I was done. Maria came up and asked the children if they knew that ‘Mama Esther’ could preach. Huh! Even I was still in recovery!
Moving on. We asked the children if they had anything holding them back from the spirit. We encouraged everyone who needed some sort of deliverance to come to the front.
Slowly, they walked to the front, almost all of them did.
Maria asked the first one what his problem was
*Kazibwe (the shy one who once sent me a letter thanking me for stopping him from returning to the street) went first. He said he had been sad that his(their) goat wasn’t giving birth but it finally did. He also had a force pulling him back to the street.
*Mugisha, a teenager who is about three weeks old at the home came next. He said he did not know how to forgive and needed to be prayed for. Earlier we had had a chat. He told me some boys had come to the home one evening and pretended to be destitute(they probably were except weren’t planning to stay at God’s grace for the long haul) but escaped with some clothes. He said he would have undressed and beaten them if he had seen it happen. Clearly he needed the spirit of forgiveness.
When we got to the third one we had to stop and pray in general. Viola came to speak and just broke down. Each time she tried to articulate her thoughts tears just dropped and she wailed like there was something inside that wanted to come out but simply couldn’t.
At this point we just started to cry out to the Lord to unload the burdens everyone had within.
It was extremely emotional. Lots of the children wept as they summoned the spirit. I held Viola throughout, prayed with and for her and later just let my mind wander to the other people in my life that I knew were in need, including myself.
It is ironic that I had this experience on that particular Sunday. The week before and the ones to follow were to be some of my most difficult in relation to this project. See, no matter how noble your intentions are, there will always be people criticising every move you make and trying to milk the joy out of it. It gets more difficult when it is individuals close to you that are meant to support and understand you..but that is a story for another day. I simply needed this.
I felt at peace. I knew I was meant to be there at that exact time. My mind and soul sang a little harmony.
Before I left I asked Viola one last time what had made her cry so hard. This is what she had to say.
” My dad has very many children, 22 to be exact. None of those children ever got to P.7 and yet I am sitting for exams tomorrow. I am not the brightest or luckiest of them. I just can’t believe what I ever did to deserve this.”
I was astonished. I could barely speak for the next minute or so. I gave her a huge hug before breaking out into a small speech about God’s timing and his love for those that surrender all to him.
This was just one of those memorable days. Once again, these children, my children blessed me immensely.