Wednesday, August 16, 2017

will you be my parent?

A few weeks ago we had our term-ual (what’s a word for once-a-term?) visitation day at the New Horizon Nursery and Primary Schools. (Those are the schools here at Noah’s Ark.) It is basically the equivalent of open house and parent-teacher conferences done at the same time. The teachers stay at school all morning on Saturday so parents can come with their children and see the progress they are making in school. 

Before that day, the students and teachers spend some time preparing the classrooms and all their work in a presentable manner. By the time they leave school on Friday, the classrooms are swept, each student has a pile of notebooks on his or her desk, plus a file full of midterm exams and past papers, and teachers have filled out class lists of how each student is doing in each subject and socially. 

Of course, it makes it a bit difficult when we have a compound full of children and no parents. 

That Saturday morning, as we were fishing with some of the children, I asked Abraham, “If I want to see how you are doing in school, which teacher do I need to come see today?” I knew he was in Primary 4 (fourth grade) and his teacher had been sick for the last week. I was mostly checking to see if the school had made sure there was another teacher covering for her. He said to find Tr. Annet, the head teacher (principal) and she would be in that classroom. 

Later that morning, when fishing was over and Christian and I were sitting down to a late breakfast, Abraham showed up at the door. “Auntie Katie, you said you wanted to come talk to my teacher.” 

I was taken aback, considering I had asked only to check in on the teacher, not on Abraham himself, but I was not about to refuse him. I told him I would come down in a little while, as soon as we finished our breakfast. 

When I came down to school, I found Abraham in the P.4 classroom. Tr. Annet was sitting at a desk, surrounded by at least four boys and girls from the children’s home and a couple of aunties who care for them. I was happy to see some other adults had come down to talk with the teachers, and was about to leave when Abraham motioned for me to come over. 

I came at the end of one auntie telling Abraham, “When you need help, don’t be silent. Come find me or someone else who can answer your questions. You don’t have to die alone.” 

I knew Abraham struggled in school. In fact, it is pretty common knowledge. It was so good to hear someone telling him how many people here are for him and want to support him. 

Abraham showed me his books for each subject and the exams in his file. He was ranked last in his class, which was not surprising when many of his scores were under 30 percent. We stepped outside and had a talk about not testing the teachers so much and trying to get along with them so he can learn as much as possible when they are in the classroom, then came inside and heard the same thing from Tr. Annet. Abraham promised to try not to challenge the teachers too much and I agreed to check in with him once in a while to see how he was doing in that area. 

After that, we went to see Josephine’s teacher. Josephine is four years old and in her first year of nursery school. Her work was very impressive—she hardly colored out of the lines in her big numbers one through four and Tr. Rosemary said she gets along with the other students. 

Next it was Isaac’s turn. Isaac is a seven-year-old boy who is special to me. Last year I came to his classroom every Friday to check his books and make sure he was doing the work. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. This year, however, his handwriting is legible and he almost always finishes his work! Big improvements! We looked through all of his books, spoke with his teacher, and then started to leave the school area. 

We had made it halfway across the yard when I heard someone call my name from behind. Turning around, I saw Jonah running to us from his classroom. Out of breath, but with a big smile on his face, he said, “Auntie Katie, I want you to be my parent.” 

That was when I broke a little. 

What child has to ask someone to be his parent? 

I had been “playing parent” all morning because it was fun for me. I love these children. I know it is good for them to have someone checking in on their school work. And in a selfish way, I was doing it because being a parent made me feel important. 

Growing up, my parents were there. I never had to ask them to come to my parent-teacher meetings. I never had to ask them to come to my volleyball games or dance recitals. I never had to ask them to teach me how to drive or run a chainsaw or make lentil cheesebake. I never asked my Dad to show up to my rainy softball games in his bright orange raincoat, bright yellow hardhat and bright pink umbrella with the duck on the end. I was a little bit mortified, but he was there. They were there. And I certainly never had to ask someone to be my parent. 

I am not trying to criticize Noah’s Ark or the way things are done here. This is not a criticism of Piet and Pita, for they have provided so much for the children and if it weren’t for them many of these kids would not even be alive. They simply can’t be full-time parents to two hundred children. 

I am also not saying the aunties from the children’s home and family units are doing a bad job or neglecting the children in their care, for that is not the case either. Truth be told, I don’t think I would have what it takes to be a family unit auntie and live with ten children and have my job be to be their sort-of parent. I highly respect them. 

The thing is, this is not how children are supposed to grow up. Noah’s Ark is an institutionalized family, which is an oxymoron in itself. All of the workers—aunties, uncles, missionaries, teachers, pastors—are a fraction of a parent for a fraction of the children. But in order to thrive, children need more than a fraction. It takes two parents to make one child; doesn’t that tell you something? 

Please, parents, don’t make your children ask for your guidance. Don’t make them ask for your love. Don’t make them ask for you to be a parent to them. These things are meant to be given freely and if you can do that, your children will be some of the most blessed people on earth, whether or not they realize it or can articulate it to you. 

Jonah is a wiry twelve-year-old with a broken arm and a constant smile, and I was more than happy to be his parent for half an hour that Saturday. It was an honor. But he needs more than that. We all need more than that. 


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

education & discipleship

In my last post, What will have a lasting impact?, I pondered why I am here and doing what I do and where I think the Lord is leading me within His work at Noah’s Ark. To follow up, here is what it looks like broken down: 


Education

I think it sounds a bit stupid to say I moved to Africa to become a librarian, but I spend a good deal of time running the primary and secondary school libraries on the compound. Both libraries have the simple goal of giving students the opportunity to practice reading because it is such a necessary skill in life. I have been a bookworm my whole life and love seeing children and teenagers here developing the same habits. It brings me joy to see a student come check out a book during lunch and bring it back to me completed before supper (though it does make me worry a bit about whether they actually attend class). If they are able to read well, they will be able to learn more in class and from their books, they will do better in school and doors will open up for what they can do after finishing their education at New Horizon. Even if they don’t have academic aspirations, at least if they can read well then when they read the Bible they can focus on the information without stumbling over the words. 

The remedial reading program at the primary school has the same goals. Unfortunately, because of my schedule I can only work with a handful of students per term. It only scratches the surface of all the students who need reading help, but at least it is something. If they can read, they will improve in all their subjects and they can do more self-initiated learning. 

We have a book in the library called “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” It is a true story about a boy from… oh, somewhere in Africa, though I can’t remember where now… who used scraps of rubbish and old bicycle parts to make a windmill and bring a small amount of power to his home, and then to the community. Do you know how he learned to make a windmill? He went to the library and read books!

Even the holiday program is a form of education. On the surface, it may look like a heap of games and crafts and movies, but here are some things they can learn from those: From craft projects, they develop their fine motor skills, creativity, and ability to stick with something even when it doesn’t turn out exactly how they want. From games they can learn how to be a good sport, how to play fair, and how to lose gracefully, and once they learn a game they can play it with their friends whenever they want. When the older children visit jjajjas in the village they learn more about the traditional Ugandan way of life and they have a chance to develop their sense of compassion by helping others. Of course when we go swimming they get to learn how to swim which will get them far in life if they fall in a fish pond or river. The point is, we don’t do those things so we can complete one activity and be done with it. We do them so they can learn a skill they can take with them and use in other areas of life. 


Discipleship

Before coming to Noah’s Ark, I never gave discipleship too much thought. Sometimes I did it, but since we never called it discipleship it didn’t quite click with me. 

Why should we disciple others? First off, Jesus commands it. If anyone can say “because I said so” it’s Him. Beyond that, He demonstrated that discipleship is the best way of spreading Christianity, and history has proven that. Here on the Noah’s Ark compound there is no excuse not to disciple others—when we live in such close proximity the possibilities are endless. This is how change will happen in Uganda: bring people more Jesus. 

The structured way I disciple others is through a Life Group. The teenagers on the compound (of which there are over one hundred) have the option of signing up for Life Groups, which are basically interest-based discipleship groups. Last year Christian and I started the Good Samaritans, a service group focused on helping those in need. We currently have twelve students in our group, which meets once a week at our house. Every week we have time for Bible study led by ourselves or one of the students, and then we discuss and plan which service projects we as a group want to undertake. The projects themselves usually happen on the weekends when the students are out of school. We have fed babies in the children’s home, made success cards for students taking a big test, written encouragement notes to people on the compound, made and sold food at youth events, and used the money to buy food for a local jjajja (grandfather) who is in poor health and two lame brothers who live down the road. 

How do we make disciples through that? We demonstrate how to serve in the love of Christ, both by serving our group and serving with our group. We teach them about the Bible on Tuesday nights. We get to know them—each week a different two members of our group come over for supper so we can get to know them on a more personal level. They tell us about their families, their pasts, their dreams for the future and how they came to know Christ. We pray together as a group and we pray for our group. Basically, we do bits and pieces of life together. 

Besides the teenagers, I disciple the other children in less structured ways. Again, it comes down to doing life together. When I am around the younger children, I have the opportunity to address conflict from a biblical perspective. When they see the way I live—my attitude, how I make decisions, the way I talk, how I use my time—they can see what the life of a Christ-follower should look like (I hope). They are young, but I know they pay attention, whether or not they realize it. Most of all, I try and love each one unconditionally, remembering that each one is a beloved child of God and if the God of the universe can love them well, there is no reason I cannot.

Jesus told His disciples, “You will do even greater things than these.” It sounds crazy to hear Jesus, Son of God, tell people that they will do greater things than what He has done. However, if each one had the Holy Spirit living in him, it was like twelve Jesus-es walking around doing great things! Sometimes I get discouraged by the limits of what I am able to do, but if Jesus can say “You will do even greater things than these” to His followers, then surely we can also say that to the people we are discipling. And then imagine the possibilities!

Awhile back, I was tasked with writing my own vision statement for what I am doing here. Or perhaps what I am doing with my life. At the moment, it’s the same thing. This post and the last one were simply my thought processes in figuring it out. (Apparently my thoughts require a lot of processing.) So, to sum it all up, my vision for my time at Noah’s Ark and in Uganda is this: 

to share God’s love with children in Uganda 
through education and discipleship

It will both describe and guide what I do, programmed and unprogrammed, structured and unstructured, in work and free time. What will have a lasting impact? Hands down, these kids. I get excited thinking about the potential, and I thank God that He has counted me worthy to be a part of it.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

What will have a lasting impact?



The Dilemma: 

Here’s the way I see it: We can focus on issues, or we can focus on people. We can focus on projects or we can focus on hearts. 

Both are good, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to sharing the Word of God, the people need to precede the issues and the hearts need to precede the projects. Would I like to see change in Uganda? Oh, how I would! Here are a few things I would like to see change, both here and around the world: 
  • less corrupt government
  • people being honest about themselves and one another
  • parents believing in the abilities of their children
  • no more abandoned children
  • less theft
  • people not sabotaging a place when they leave it
  • no witch doctors
  • better education
  • access to clean water for everyone
  • less poverty
  • more respect
Those are just a few. Now, I can choose one or two and try to tackle it on my own, but I can see problems with that. For example, I wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to making the government less corrupt. I know what should change, but how does a foreign white girl go about changing politics in Africa? There are so many people involved and I don’t know a single one. I could picket I suppose, or do some sort of protest, but that’s not really my style anyway. 

Some things would be possible to handle on a smaller scale. Theft, for instance. I have had children steal from me. I have known children to steal from others. I can reprimand them and punish them so they are scared of stealing again. 

Or I can discuss with them why it is wrong. 

When it comes down to it, most things are heart issues. Look at that list again—if everyone obeyed Jesus’ commands (without focusing specifically on any of those issues), how many would no longer be issues? No more theft. No more corruption. More respect. No more abandoned children. People being honest. It is my belief that once people’s hearts are changed, they will address the issues themselves. After all, someday the youth and children are going to be running the nation. If they learn how to follow Christ while they are young, then when they become old and enter government they have a solid foundation on which to stand. 


The Question: 

With that in mind, I ask myself: What will have a lasting impact? 

Years ago I got together with a friend at a coffee shop and spent a good portion of the conversation telling her why I wanted to go to Africa and how much poverty there broke my heart. After my friend left, a woman from the next table over tapped me on the shoulder. She said she had been eavesdropping (finally, someone who admits it) and wanted to tell me about a program she had heard of, or maybe one she was involved in. It involved providing food for starving Africans, which sounded great! 

As soon as she left I got out my laptop and looked up the program. On the one hand, it had a compelling and impressive video illustrating the amount of food given to refugees or people in need in different parts of the world. It had statistics about the number of people who die each day from starvation and how many airplanes they could fill (because numbers on their own never mean much to us). And it said lots of good things about the food packets given out daily in these places. 

Now, I am all for keeping people alive, and I know food is a necessary part of that. But this “solution” was only a band-aid. If you feed them today, chances are you will have to feed them tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. What is the saying? “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

There are a lot of relief organizations that do a lot of good things. The problem with those, however, is that they address problems that already exist. What if we were to be proactive and try to attack these problems at the root so they fall out of existence altogether? 

Like I said, it’s a heart issue. 

Jesus was a smart guy. Sure, he fed masses of people at a time, but even then it wasn’t about the food. It was about Him. It was about what He was doing and what He could do. The food was merely an illustration of that. It was never His goal. 

Jesus, God-on-earth, spent three years pouring into not the whole world, and not an entire nation—twelve people. I know families here that are bigger than that. He did not make campaigns and hold protests (unless you count turning the tables in the temple, but I would call that more of a fit of righteous passion), He did not start food banks and He did not become king or president so He could change the world from the top down. 

Jesus ate with sinners. He healed blind men sitting by the side of the road. He taught the truth. And He spent most of His time educating and discipling a select few. Twelve, to be exact. A select twelve. 

Jesus taught them how to do life by doing life with them. 

Maybe you have seen those charts that show if you make two disciples, and they each make two more, and they make two more (so on and so forth), how quickly disciples can multiply. The chart makes a big, beautiful pyramid. And maybe you know someone (or maybe you are someone) who looks at that and says, “Yeah, but not everyone is going to make more disciples. The numbers will never add up like that. You can’t expect people to do so much.” While that is sometimes true, I ask you to look at Christianity. Jesus taught twelve. There are a lot more than twelve Christ followers in the world today. Something in that system worked. Jesus figured out how to have a lasting impact. 


The Point: 

This post began as an attempt to flesh out a personal vision statement for my ministry here, so let me finally get to the point with which I intended to start: education and discipleship. 

I have been here for over two years and been thrown into (and volunteered for maybe one or two) lots of different roles: librarian, reading tutor, head of the holiday program, cantata organizer, small-ish-part-time youth leader, disciple-maker, art teacher, dance teacher, guitar teacher. Some I like, some I don’t, some I am still doing and some I am not. Some days it is rewarding and some days I fail to see the point. Honestly, I think it’s like a lot of normal jobs. 

As I was trying to come up with a succinct way to say all that, I realized everything I do falls into one of two categories: education or discipleship. That doesn’t mean everything I do takes place in a school or a church. It does mean every craft, dance class, reading student and cantata performance is a method through which I get to teach and/or disciple the next generation so that (hopefully) someday they can tackle those bigger issues we all wish we could solve. 

(Keep an eye out for my next post to see what that looks like on a practical level.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

what of the cross?

Today the cross
  is a symbol
to be
         worn on necklaces
            tattooed on ankles
               stuck on bumpers.
It stands for “Jesus”
or sometimes just “church”
(meaning the building and service, of course)

But what of the cross? 
the real cross
the bloody cross…
Jesus’ cross? 

What makes me think my sin
is to black to be hung on Your
             torture device? 
What makes me think my problems
are too heavy to be added to 
            the weight of the world? 
What makes me think my failures 
are something special to me
and haven’t already been added
by another person
              at another time, 
                    in another place? 
What makes me think I should
hold on to anything
          when You died for everything 
             I don’t want to hold onto? 
Through forgiveness, You gave us the freedom 
to forgive, 
so what makes me think I cannot
forgive myself? 

I don’t rejoice in the cross because
it is a shining beacon
of hope and life. 
It is not shining.
It is bloody
                      splintered
                      heavy
                      dirty.

I rejoice in the cross because
there I can leave the worst parts of me,
the pride
                          anger
                          self-deprecation 
                          ugliness
                          selfishness
                          gossip
                            greed

and then I can turn around
and walk away

free

for Christ.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

around the world


With 200 children on the compound, and close to 150 of them in the holiday program, it is hard to find ways to travel. That is why this holiday (May 6-28), we visited many countries—most without leaving the compound at all. 

Our theme for the three weeks was Around the World, so every activity came from a different country. From some we played games, some we did crafts, and some we even learned dances and went on outings. It was an affordable way to teach the primary children about different cultures and travel. 


At the beginning of the holiday, each child made his or her own passport. They wrote in their name, birthday, country of origin (or country they wish they were from), favorite food, favorite color, and had to draw a picture of themselves. There was also a box for their signature, so when they asked what that was I told them to write their name as fast as possible. They were illegible as any true signature. 


The children had to remember to bring their passport to every activity so they could get a stamp from that country. It was good practice in being responsible for something of their own, since most of what they have they share with everyone. And practice they need—out of 21 first grade students, only three still had their passports at the end. Good enough they aren’t really traveling yet. 


Here are some of the places we visited and things we did on our journey: 

Games in Pakistan

I knew almost nothing about Pakistan before coming across some children’s games from there. Now, I still know almost nothing about Pakistan, but the games are fun. In “Oonch, neech,” we play tag on a playground or big climbing structure. One person is it, and gets to decide whether the safe zone is oonch (up, or on the structure) or neech (down, or on the ground). Every time “it” shouts a different safe zone, the others have to try to get to that zone before they are tagged. 

Movie in Germany

Well, we watched Tangled. Which is about Rapunzel. Which is a German fairytale.

Craft in Holland

I know Holland itself is not a country, but that’s what the children here, along with most of the rest of the world, call the Netherlands. So we made windmills! Christian led this craft, for obvious reasons, and played Dutch music while they worked. I also learned how to make pepernoten, a Dutch treat that is only supposed to be eaten in December and resembles a small gingerbread cookie. 


Malaria in Kenya & Tanzania

Don’t worry, we didn’t give them malaria, as many of the children suspected when they saw this activity on the timetable. We used it as a time to teach them more about the disease and how to prevent it. In the end, they made malaria prevention posters about why it is important to use a mosquito net. 

Swimming in Honduras

Apparently in Honduras people can swim with dolphins, so what better place to visit than a swimming pool there? Of course, we had to pretend to be the dolphins ourselves, but the kids were quite good at it. 


Craft in South Africa

The younger children made paper hens because South Africa is either the biggest chicken exporter in the world or has the most chicken farmers or something like that. A lot of people have a lot of hens. 

Dancing in Mexico

Possibly the most fun I had during the holiday was teaching first graders how to do the Mexican Hat Dance and Macarena. 

Pig Roasting in Argentina

While in Argentina they roast a whole pig at a go, we didn’t take it quite that far. I was told at the beginning of the holiday that we have way too many piglets at the farm and we were welcome to eat some if we wanted. I wasn’t so crazy about eating a baby pig, but I really wanted to learn how to slaughter one! Unfortunately, the slaughtering happened while I was busy with another program, so we will have to do pig roasting again next holiday, I think. 

We had a good camp setting, all seated around the campfire while we sang songs and told stories. We cut the pork into small pieces to roast on sticks and the children had their fill. I taught them some songs my family used to sing by the fire growing up and recited Where’s My Teddy? because I’m not good at making up stories of my own, especially ones that rhyme. It was a greasy, enjoyable evening. 


Craft in China

Auntie Naigaga (a Peace Corps volunteer who also has an English name which is Maren) spent a year living in China when she was a teenager, so she shared some of her knowledge and experiences with us. We learned a Chinese song about two tigers, one with no ears and one with no tail, and then colored posters that said “Welcome to Uganda” in Chinese characters. They were beautiful! 

Games in Canada

Our Canadian volunteer was excited to share some of her childhood culture with our children, especially lots of songs she sang as a kid. I will admit when she said they were going to first paint Union Jack, I imagined a fat little fur trapper and was disappointed when I found out it was only a flag, but I got over it. We played British Bulldog, a tag game. Interestingly, the children had the hardest time remembering and saying the word “British.” When they were supposed to shout to initiate the game, we heard a lot of “bush!” and “bishel!” and things like that. 



Craft in Russia

Naigaga has also lived in Russia, so we decorated the very long words for “hello” and “welcome.” 

Games in Australia

I loved reading through Australian aborigine children’s games because most of them are based off training for hunting or other real-life scenarios but have strayed so far from the original that they hardly resemble anymore. For example, when people hunt they have to be able to throw a spear at a moving object. Children used to practice that by throwing sticks at pieces of wood floating down the river. We further adapted it to where the children threw tennis balls through a rolling truck tire. 

Food in Guatemala

As it turns out, the staple foods in Guatemala are very similar to the ones in Uganda. The children learned about nutrition: the food groups, portion sizes, and the effects of different foods on the body and brain. 

Taekwon-do in Korea

It was only one Korea when Taekwon-do started. We took some children for an outing to Kampala to visit a studio where there is real Taekwon-do training. We only had one lesson, but it was a fun and challenging start. Between the self-defense moves, strength training and Chinese “relaxation” (as our instructor called some of the ab and thigh exercises), plus a few hours in a bus, we were all a little sore the next day. The boys are telling stories of how they are going to catch thieves on the compound now. 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Easter


Easter is not just a one-day celebration here at Noah’s Ark; this time, the festivities lasted a full five days, as we had both our normal Easter programs and some fun additions thanks to a generous supporter and friend to the organization. Here is what our long weekend in April looked like: 

Thursday

10:00 a.m. ::  Easter Carols

The New Horizon schools put on Easter and Christmas carols every year as a chance to share the Bible stories with parents and people from the community. Each class gives a presentation with its own part of the story conveyed through dance, drama, songs, and poems. This year Christian and I were called upon to play music for the nursery school’s portion of carols. For a couple of weeks prior to carols, we visited the nursery school everyday to practice their song and try playing background music while they acted out the Easter story. Those little kids were pretty good actors! We then got to accompany them in the performance, which is always fun. 



After carols in the morning, the students had lunch and then school broke off for the long weekend. 

Friday

9:00 a.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

There is a businessman from Kampala who has fallen in love with Noah’s Ark and the children and loves to bless them. As an Easter treat, he sent three bouncy castles to us for four days. We set them up at the primary school and the children were down there as often as possible in their free time. Even the toddlers, who usually stay at home, were allowed to come down and bounce in the smallest one while the older kids enjoyed the huge slides in the bigger castles. I also went down a few times—purely for the children, of course. 


5:00 p.m.  ::  Walk with the Cross

Traditionally, on Good Friday everyone on the compound from primary school up take part in a walk with the cross. This year we started near the children’s home, where Pastor Adrian told us the beginning of the crucifixion story. After hearing that, the older children carried three crosses in front of the rest of us while the marching band played as we walked. 


We marched around the compound together, making stops along the way to hear more of the story and reflect on what this day is about. It is supposed to be a somber, meditative walk, but with so many children who don’t understand the meanings of somber and meditative it is always a bit more lively than intentioned. We ended at the church, where Piet gave a short talk and then everyone dispersed for supper. 


Saturday

9:00 a.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

One day was not enough!


11:00 a.m.  ::  Egg Painting

I’m not sure if we do this because it is a Ugandan tradition or a Dutch one, but the children have fun all the same. This was the only part of which I was in charge this year, which was nice. We opened up two classrooms at the primary school and very nicely set out watercolors, paintbrushes, newspapers and water, which of course only stayed nice until the first group came in. 


We called in one class at a time to paint their hard-boiled eggs. The watercolors don’t work as well as real dye, but with over one hundred children painting we went with what most easily fit the bill. Amazingly, it only took about an hour for them to paint all three hundred eggs, and a few of them even looked nice! 


2:00 p.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

Because what else would they do in the afternoon?


Sunday

9:00 a.m.  ::  Sunday School

Every Sunday morning the children from the home and family units, from toddlers up to P.7 (the oldest primary class), have Sunday school. They start as a big group with praise and worship and an introduction to the lesson for that day, and then they break into smaller groups by age for a more in-depth lesson and age-appropriate activity. Aunties and uncles from the compound volunteer to teach different classes, as well as some teenagers who are growing in their roles as leaders. It takes a dedicated group of servants to regularly teach the Bible to that many children, and Christian has been planning and overseeing all of Sunday school for a couple of years now. 

11:00 a.m.  ::  Easter Egg Hunt

After Sunday school, the children return home and we lock them inside so they can’t find the eggs on the playground. Of course, an entire wall of the living room in the home is windows so locking them up doesn’t completely help, but it’s better than nothing. 

Starting from the toddlers, we bring out one group of children at a time. They get to wander around the playground and find two eggs, bring them back to the tray and go inside. Some of the young ones need a lot of help managing that. Actually, they were hidden so well this year I think I found only one egg before a child did. It was sad. 


The found eggs are counted to make sure we don’t lose too many outside, and some are re-hidden to make sure all the kids get to find something. After that, everyone gets to eat one with lunch. 

2:00 p.m.  ::  Church

Our church services are always held in the afternoon, partly because Sunday school is in the morning and we want the older children to be able to attend church as well. The kids get to come to church when they turn six years old; everyone under six takes a nap in the afternoon. We start with praise and worship led by one of three groups: adults, teenagers, or children. After that comes testimony time, where anyone can come up and share a short story about what God has done in their life in the past week. This gets a bit misconstrued by the children, who like to come up and thank God that everyone is dressed nicely every single week, but it is also cute to hear them thank God for swimming and that we are all still alive. We often have presentations of songs or dances by groups of people, and then Pastor John gives a message. (Pastor John is also the pastor of another church down the road. He is not at Noah’s Ark during the week, so Pastor Adrian, our youth pastor, is known as the campus pastor as well. Sometimes they take turns giving the Sunday sermon, but most of that responsibility lies with Pastor John. I have learned a lot from him.)

4:00 p.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

How did they go most of the day without them? 


6:00 p.m.  ::  Barbecue 

Four times a year the children and some staff have an outdoor barbecue together: Christmas, Easter, and Piet and Pita’s birthdays. There is a good mix of Ugandan and western food: hamburgers, sausages, chapatis, coleslaw, and soda. We set out over a hundred chairs in the playground and get to mingle with kids of all ages as we eat and laugh and accidentally make a mess. We now have five dogs (“we” meaning Noah’s Ark, not me and Christian) who very much enjoyed an outdoor meal with kids who drop things. 




Monday

9:00 a.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

Easter was over, but the castles remained. 


11:00 a.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

Because half the morning is never enough. 


2:00 p.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

They were starting to get tired…


4:00 p.m.  ::  Bouncy Castles

Almost done…


Tuesday

7:30 a.m.  ::  Back to school!