Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Dreams Made Possible

Ddembe Joy ... 14 years of age
The low hanging limb of our shade tree was occupied by more children than I could count.  They laughed.  They giggled.  They looked cautiously at the white guy seated a few feet from them.  They swung back and forth, unconscious of the serious matter being considered.

A young mother sat in the red dust common to Uganda, responding to questions from the government official.  It was a sudden transition from reunion to interview.

Her daughter, Joy, was being assessed.  Did the circumstances warrant approval for Joy to leave her biological family behind to become part of a Children's Home?  Would Joy have the same options to see her dreams come true if she remained with the mother and siblings she loved so much?

Joy's future rested in the judgment of the government's representative.

Joyful reunion with her mother
When the long white van climbed slowly into the open space next to the house, curious looks greeted it from all directions.  It was not until Joy's mother realized that the vehicle contained her firstborn that she came running to hug her daughter, whom she had not seen in over a year.

Happiness faded quickly as the Probation Officer began to gather biological details from Joy's mother and write them in his book.

Unconcerned with the process, Joy approached me from behind and whispered in my ear, "Do you want to see where my father is buried?"

Joy took my hand and walked behind the house where we found her father's grave nestled among coffee bushes.  Two other graves occupied space not far from his.

It is obvious that God's creation and redemption of human beings reveal that every person matters.  However, not all of his created human beings treat them as though they do.

Joy was only seven years old when her father passed.  Half of her life had now been lived without the presence, provision, and influence of a dad.  And, her mother was struggling to provide for the siblings still at home.

Though I could read the name on the tombstone, I asked Joy what was her father's name ... since I couldn't pronounce it.  She quietly pronounced it.  After a few moments of reverent silence, I realized the sky of Joy's heart had opened up and a slight rain was falling on her cheeks.  She rested her head on my shoulder, which gave her permission to release reserved emotions on my chest.

Talking with Joy's eternal Father
As she lifted her dress to wipe her eyes and nose on it, I softly inquired, "Who is going to be your father now?"  Without hesitation, Joy responded, "God."

The only sensible response was for me to begin talking to Joy's Father on her behalf.  My words to God did not represent all the desire I had in my heart.  Joy's circumstances are not unique.  They are common.  So many girls in this nation of Uganda embrace the lie that the best future they can hope for is a man who will marry them.  They don't know how to read because survival didn't include school fees.

Just before Joy had whispered in my ear, I asked her mother, "Would you like Joy to come back home and live with you?"

Her response was cautious and measured.  Quietly and pragmatically she replied, "Yes, I would love to have my daughter with me.  But, it is better for her to go with you.  If she remains here, she will not go to school."

Just a few years ago, it would have been a given that Joy could leave her biological family to become a part of an orphanage or children's home.  But Uganda has recently drafted guidelines for the Ministry of Gender that emphasize the importance of having these children with their immediate or extended families if at all possible.  The reason for the assessment this afternoon was to evaluate the best option for Joy within those guidelines.

This was only the first day for me to accompany the Probation Officer.  Joy was the fourth child, out of 26 that were on our list, we were assessing so far.  Next Generation Ministries had applied for and been granted government approval to found a children's home for these children God brought into our lives.  The process of determining whom among them would be granted permission to be a part of the home had serious implications for each child.

Joy's two brothers ... where they sleep every night
As Joy and I continued our circle around her mother's house, she told me, "My brothers and sister didn't go to school last year.  Some days the only thing they have to eat is jack fruit."

It was unspoken, but I realized if the Probation Officer's report recommended that Joy be returned to her mother's home, she would not be attending school this year and would some days be resigned to find jack fruit from one of the trees on her mother's land just to physically survive.

As it stands, NGM has been given permission to enroll all of the children that are being assessed in school for their first term.  This was an encouraging indication of the future for these amazing children.

Planning to increase Joy's options
School begins on February 5, 2018.  When Joy was informed that we had decided she should enroll in Fountain of Hope High School she screamed.  Joy had been praying fervently that God would speak to us and make this very offer to her.

130 million girls, worldwide, do not have access to education.  NGM is going to reduce that figure in a week by at least ten.

The pensive photos of Joy included in this blog are not typical of her countenance.  They were taken on the day of her assessment.  I believe they reflect the concern she had for her future.

Next Generation Ministries wants to increase the options for as many young people as possible.  Especially for girls.  Though Ann Voskamp's blog was taken from her experience in Rwanda, our neighbor, it accurately parallels the experiences of thousands of girls in Uganda.  You can read Ann's blog here.

Joy actually shares my passion for the vulnerable of Uganda
NGM is committed to extracting Joy, and others like her, from the historical life of ruined dreams.  We want some of those dreams to come true.  We cannot look the other way.  We have to do what we can with whom we have opportunity.

With a conviction that God IS Joy's Father, I am convinced that He wants me to have His heart toward her.  I believe that NGM must be His representative in expressing that heart in doing what we can to detour Joy's life from the common path of girls who don't attend school.

Given the current government climate of the United States, these young African girls have no possibility of immigrating there to increase there options.  But, NGM has been placed here, in their environment, to do what America is not willing to do.  Will you come alongside us and help us?

Next Generation Ministries is now accepting tax deductible donations for Renew Children's Home.  Donate online in the DONATE window in the upper right hand corner of this blog.  Or, mail your check to NGM, 29940 South Dhooghe Rd., Colton, OR 97017.  Note that your donation is for Renew Children's Home.

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