Tuesday (At Least, I THINK It’s Tuesday)

UGANDA TIME:  8:10 pm
OKLAHOMA TIME:  11:10 am

It’s our first full day in Africa, the day when they warned us our jet lag would be maxed out.  And they were right.  I have a million things to tell/show you, but my brain is not at full power.  Bear with me, and I’ll do my best.  (On top of the jet lag, I appear to have some sort of bug–fevery, achy, etc.–please pray this ends QUICKLY.)

First, I promised to tell you a little more about our hotel.  It’s one of the nicest ones in the country; it actually hosted Queen Elizabeth here for a summit in November.  The rooms are perfectly lovely–even air-conditioned–and they really look just like a hotel room in the U.S. (I mean, except for the mosquito netting on the beds and the Al-Jazeera on the TV).  Compassion specifically picked this place because of the reliable internet access, which has turned out to be not-so-reliable.  This many bloggers in one spot appears to be sucking all the bandwidth right out of the place.  Because of these technical issues, I’m unable to post any photos at the moment.

Which is terribly disappointing, because I cannot imagine that I even possess the language ability to tell you, without the aid of photos, the things I saw today.  Needless to say, the contrast with our gorgeous hotel was a stark one.

We began the morning by visiting Deliverance Church, a church in the heart of Kampala’s slums.  In every single one of Compassion‘s projects around the world–without exception–they fund their projects through the local church.  Compassion keeps a low profile in these projects, letting the church take a higher profile position.

They shared with us the work they did with the kids–basically an after-school type program and a weekend program, in addition to providing school fees for the 300 children (even public school costs money here).  The children eagerly showed us their Sunday school rooms and their new bathrooms.

And then, we were split into groups and taken to some of the children’s homes.  This is where it’s so hard not to be able to post pictures.  I’ll have to do my best with words.

The slums were just exactly like every picture you’ve seen of African urban poverty.  The children ran around in rags, while adults sat outside their doors, many trying to sell things, others begging.  Raw sewage ran in various open channels through the streets.  Cows and chickens roamed freely, and the open air market sold raw fish absolutely covered in flies. 

It is just exactly like I pictured a hundred times, just exactly like I’d seen in countless photos of Africa.  And yet it was profoundly different, standing there, seeing it, smelling it, holding the hands of the children who just wanted to see a "mzungu" (white person). 

I was taken to the home of Annette, a woman who fries plantains on an open pit, and she sells them to passersby.  She is a single mom of five children, one of whom (Brenda) is enrolled in the Compassion program at Deliverance church.  Annette proudly showed us her little business, and then she took us down a crooked maze of alleyways to her home. 

Her home was simply a room, about six feet by eight feet.  For her family of six.  Beds were somehow bunked along the dank stone walls, and clean clothes hung from the ceiling.  There was room for a small table, where she kept her savings in a wood box.  The room was dark and dusty, and there was the unmistakable smell of many people living in tight quarters, yet things were very tidy.  A red jute rug lay on the floor.  With the help of an interpreter, I complimented her on how neat her home was. 

I asked her if it was hard raising five children alone.  She sadly nodded.  "Yes," she said.  "It is very hard."  I asked her if our team could pray with her.  She said she would like that very much.  Anne and I took her hands, and the rest of our group did their best to crowd in the small room.  I prayed aloud, pausing for the interpreter.  And I will tell you, in all honestly, that my own words (even my words offered in prayer) felt empty.

I know that He is the God of the universe.  I do not doubt that He sees Annette, and loves her, and I don’t even doubt that suffering can exist as part of His divine plan. 

But there is so much need.  So much to be done.  Maybe He just wants to kick all of us in the pants to get off our duff and do something. 

After our meeting with Annette, we walked a few more streets and then headed back to the church.  Several of the very young children, too young for the church program, saw the mzungus gathered and ran up to touch us and gleefully grab the candies some team members handed out.  One sweet boy took a jawbreaker, took a few sucks on it, then took it out of his mouth to hold in his hand.  A few minutes later he’d pop it back in.

He was trying to make it last as long as he could.  He was probably about four years old.

And I will tell you, as I watch a little preschooler trying to savor a piece of candy, it is impossible not to think of my own children and everything they have.  It is impossible to see Annette’s tiny little home and think of my own family of six, living in a four bedroom, two-story house. 

We have so much–we all do.  I saw a new definition of poverty today, and in doing so, I saw a definition of wealth. I am wealthy.  You are wealthy. 

What are we doing with it?

76 thoughts on “Tuesday (At Least, I THINK It’s Tuesday)

  1. Suz says:

    My husband goes to Africa on a mission every year. He always says, “It’s like God is bigger there.” They make him bigger. They let him be bigger.

  2. Ami says:

    I can’t even wait for Bloglines to pick up your post; I keep checking your blog directly. I pray physical health for your body so that your heart and soul can pick up all that God wants to show you this week. Love on some black faces for us!

  3. Diane says:

    Thank you for sending us this post and for being our eyes over there.
    Lord, please let this change each of us. Let us see these things through your eyes and heart.
    We’ll be praying for your illness to go away quickly.

  4. Linda Sue says:

    Shannon – thank you for your words – we know the pictures will bring us all to sobs – since your words bring tears. We sponsor two little boys through Compassion – it is a leap of faith for us (limited income) but we are blessed beyond belief to know that Compassion is using God’s money to enrich the lives of children. Yes we are rich – clean water, more than enough food (where else in the world do most people worry about what they will eat rather than WHETHER they will eat today?) Trusting you will be healed and protected –

  5. Melanie says:

    HGTV is on in the background as I read this. I feel in some way ashamed. A room makeover show is so wasteful and unimportant compared to the reality of what people are living each and every day.
    Thank you for a wake-up call.
    I am praying that you are better soon.

  6. Fran says:

    I just cried reading about you praying with Annette. I don’t even know what the rest of your post said. May His hand work so beautifully through all of you. We can make a difference Shannon. We can and we must.
    Praying for you. Please shower them with hugs and love from TN.

  7. ukrainiac says:

    I know that it’s difficult to write about what you see — words cannot express it all! But your post really did paint a picture. And challenge our own thinking. Thank you for making the trip — guaranteed that you will never be the same. And neither will your readers! Praying for restored health for you…

  8. Susanne says:

    I’m praying for you to feel better soon, Shannon. I’m also praying for the whole team there in Uganda. May the people of Uganda see Jesus in you!

  9. Carolina Mama says:

    You did it! I got a glimpse and you did it well without the pictures. Maybe best as we visualize and are captivated by the written word. Prayers for the people, the team and your health! God Bless!

  10. hogphan says:

    Years ago I was in a revival meeting and we sang a song, which I’ve not heard since, that had a line in it that said “I’m tired of being moved, but never changed”. Your post is moving; the descriptions, your revelations, the sights and sounds you have experienced, everything about it. I pray that as we experience this through you, I’ll be changed. I’ve been moved enough for one lifetime! God Bless the work your team is doing.

  11. Marianne says:

    Tears in my eyes, like everyone else commenting on this update.
    I clicked over to Compassion’s site last night and intend to go back now and sponsor the child in the greatest need — how else is there to pick from all those sweet, too-thin faces?
    Prayers for your health and safety, and that of your team.

  12. Marianne says:

    Tears in my eyes, like everyone else commenting on this update.
    I clicked over to Compassion’s site last night and intend to go back now and sponsor the child in the greatest need — how else is there to pick from all those sweet, too-thin faces?
    Prayers for your health and safety, and that of your team.

  13. Angela (Dimplequeen) says:

    Your post brought me to tears even without the pictures. Then I popped over to Anne’s site and saw the few pictures she had and I really started to cry! God bless you for taking the time to go over. My heart longs to do the same one day.
    I am praying for you all!

  14. Amanda says:

    I think Beth Moore calls this ‘Mount Perspective’. Thank you for sharing your current view from there, Shannon. From the very least of being moved to be daily thankful to God for everything we have in our lavish lives and therefore moved to share our love, time and stuff with those around us, to being moved to reach out further than our eyes can see or our cars can drive. This can be very useful in moving the immobile.
    Inspiring, Shannon, very inspiring. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to hearing more, and keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.
    A quiet, lurky, reader. (Sincerest apologies for grammatical errors.) 🙂

  15. Cindy says:

    Compassion was brilliant, taking bloggers on this trip. Because you are so talented, such a good writer, EVEN WITHOUT PHOTOS, you have projected amazing pictures to us. Thank you for sharing it with us!
    Father, I pray that you would lift any bug or sickness right off of Shannon so that she would not miss one second of what you have in store for her. Thank you for being the father to the fatherless. I pray Annette’s children know that.

  16. Michelle-This One's for the Girls says:

    The thought of a 4 year old having enough savvy to make a jawbreaker last… that’s what got me. When I think of my own 3 year old girl and the comparison… Very powerful, Shannon. The others are right. No photos needed. But post them anyway!

  17. Susan says:

    Wow, it really is something to see how most people live with so little. In a way it makes you feel ashamed living a decadent life. Your questions is right on, what are we doing with our plenty?

  18. Christi says:

    Your words paint very vivid pictures, Shannon! Bless you and bless this mission that God has chosen for you. I picked a child at the Compassion site last night who had been waiting for over 6 months to be picked. I can now pray for him by name…how God is blessing us through you and the team! I pray that you are feeling better already, dear!

  19. fullheartandhands mama says:

    My pastor has been asking us the same question as you did at the end of your post. We are wealthy and we need to use our blessings to help others. I’ll pray that those reading, including myself, will do just that.

  20. Erin says:

    “Maybe He just wants to kick all of us in the pants to get off our duff and do something.”
    These words of yours is exactly the thoughts I have had lately. I have been following all of the Compassion Bloggers this week and you are all in my prayers. the rest of us back here in the US need to get things in order and stop putting ourselves first. God has much work we are needed for. Thank you for doing what you are!

  21. Bonnie says:

    That’s why you are there – to show us that it’s really as bad as the pictures that we’ve all seen in the magazines but never really believed. Somehow when we’re here in comfort, it’s hard to imagine what happens in countries around the world. Your words are powerful – don’t worry about the pictures. May you be a blessing to those you meet over there, and may we all learn and be touched here as we read your stories.

  22. Kelly says:

    I’ve been praying, I have the church praying, and our school prayer group praying – especially for good health for you all so you can get the message out. I talked to your Dad today. He sounded blessed to be helping out. All is good. Can’t wait to hear more.

  23. Amy says:

    The words in your post are more powerful than 1000 pictures. Thank you for sharing, and may God bless you during this life changing trip.

  24. Ranelle says:

    I felt the same way when we went to China to complete the adoption of our middle child. Families lived in what we would consider to be sheds, and we stayed in hotels with people whose only job was to open the doors so we wouldn’t have to. It was an eye opener, to say the least.

  25. Someone Being Me says:

    I hope you get to feeling better very soon. I can’t wait to see your pictures. I wish we all could take a trip to Africa if for no other reason than to gain perspective. It is always easier to ignore a problem when you haven’t seen it with your own eyes. It sounds like an incredible opportunity. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  26. Janet T. says:

    Hi! I just found your blog through “THe Happy Geek” blog. I will definitely be following along. We are heading to Uganda in April or May to adopt two little ones from an orphanage there, so your posts mean so much to me. THanks!

  27. Jen says:

    Shannon – what a blessing to be there. I am so glad you’re able to share your perspective with us. I know how hard it was/is for me to sum up my mission trip to South Africa. How could anyone forget seeing kids absolutely mesmerized by balloons – BALLOONS! My kids have tons sitting in a drawer! One of the biggest moments I had was seeing a soccer team of TEENAGE boys get their first-ever jerseys. My boys will probably have their first jerseys by the time they’re five. Such a contrast. I pray all that read your blog will be moved.
    Any chance you could post links to the blogs of your travel partners? I’m curious to take in all I can.

  28. MamaToo says:

    You write: “I saw a new definition of poverty today, and in doing so, I saw a definition of wealth…”
    Indeed, you did, and we are wealthy. In your story, however, I also saw a definition of wealth in Annette. She shows us what to do with the wealth one is given. She meets a weary traveler, and leaves her work to show attention to the other person. She opens her home to a bunch of strangers on a moment’s notice. She allows people who don’t even speak her language (never mind belong to her particular church) to see her heart and pray for her.
    We may have things, but Annette has an abundance of humility – oh that we could all receive that! We may have stuff, but she is deeply connected with the Provider. The imagery of beatitudes is ringing loudly through your story.
    May your trip & writings continue to be filled with grace and covered by God in all details! Thank you for continuing to write through this journey.

  29. Shalee says:

    God has been pulling at my heart on this very subject. The stretching hurts, but it is for a very good thing.
    Pictures… I can’t wait to see your pictures of your travels and those who have touched your heart.

  30. Karen C says:

    Thank you for stepping out and being part of this ministry. You and Sophie have inspired our family to sponsor a girl from Uganda. Looking at all those little faces, it was hard to decide who to choose. But in the end, we chose 7 year-old Josephine Ikee, who was born on our angel’s due date. We look forward to receiving her information and improving her life through sponsorship.
    Keepin you all in prayer.

  31. Hestial says:

    This entry was so moving, even without any pictures. I’m looking forward to reading about and seeing more of your journey.
    Keeping all of you in my thoughts!

  32. Melanie B. says:

    Your post has made pictures in our minds… no need for other pictures. God has this country and its people in His hands. Keep loving them with the love of the Lord. His hand is on you as you love His people for Him!

  33. Kim says:

    It was a little disconcerting and took a while to get used to the Ugandan children yelling “Hey mzungu!” as we walked or drove anywhere. FYI, the traditional greeting in Luganda (the tribal language spoken in the area around Kampala) is “oliotia”.

  34. Holly Smith says:

    Mmm, I am praying for you, Shannon. For your health, for your heart to not burst and for our BIG God to use each one of you mightily in a palpible way. It only takes one person willing to be the Hands of Jesus to these blessed and precious ones for a tidal wave of love and help to come. Praying that this journey creates that kind of tidal wave…for those precious, dear children and their hurting and hard-working families.

  35. Diana says:

    Shannon, thanks for being there and being willing to share the sights, the smells, the word pictures. I cried as I read your post…I agree with the others, the pictures are not needed but we can’t wait to see them anyway! You will continue to be in my prayers.

  36. Mommy Cracked says:

    It’s so good to get another update. I’m praying the Lord will quickly shoo away this nasty fevery/achey bug so you can be in top health to do His work. And you are so right…we are all so wealthy. Your post is a sobering reminder I know I needed to hear about not being caught up in material things.

  37. Mommy Cracked says:

    It’s so good to get another update. I’m praying the Lord will quickly shoo away this nasty fevery/achey bug so you can be in top health to do His work. And you are so right…we are all so wealthy. Your post is a sobering reminder I know I needed to hear about not being caught up in material things.

  38. mimi2six says:

    You made me feel like I was there. I can hear your heart, and I’m blessed by it. This is truly going to be a life-changing trip for you and your team members…..and for your readers and family. We love you.

  39. PJ says:

    Bless you!! I needed a reminder. I haven’t been in Haiti in three years!! And Africa is even deeper in poverty. God help us to reach out.

  40. A Juggling Mum says:

    What an experience you are having, thank you so much for sharing it with us. You have bought a tear to my eye and I look forward to hearing more from you.
    Rachel xxx

  41. TransitionGirl says:

    I remember when I went to Myanmar and went to the slums on a mission trip. The kids had almost nothing, but they were happy. Imagine that! They were the most contented and joyous kids I’ve seen and were happy just to spend a few minutes with some weird Chinese people (mainly me). Oh, and they loved being models for my camera. Just goes to show that material things and money does NOT mean happiness and contentedness.

  42. Pam says:

    I am so thankful that the Lord let me find your site one short week ago….My former pastor and his wife and 4 children left everything in the States 9 years ago to minister to the people of Northern Thailand….Jesus died for all…..God Bless you for you obedience. Pam, South Bend

  43. Jen @ JenuineJen says:

    Shannon, this was an excellent post. I am excited to read more about your journey as you continue on it. You do have a wonderful way with words. I could picture what you were describing.
    My husband lost his job last year and things have been tight for us financially for several months. Even as things seem bleak in our personal center of the universe, he and I know that we have so much to be thankful for (both family and friends and possessions). Your post really drives that point home to me tonight.
    Thank you for sharing. More importantly, thank you for having a servant heart. May God continue to bless your mission trip.

  44. Tabitha says:

    I can not express how much it means to be seeing through your words. Thank you. I read your blog and Boomama every day and the fact that both of you are on this trip is amazing.
    I have been reading everyone’s blog so I can see through everyone else’s eyes also.
    I can’t think. I am amazed and therefore need to be quiet while I am still trying to process what you’ve shown me.
    Thank you.

  45. Chelsea says:

    I just got my packet in the mail from Compassion. I chose a six-year-old boy named David (same as my son) from Uganda, and he has the most adorable little smile. I wish I could sponsor all the kids on that website — maybe others will be inspired to sponsor a child after reading your posts. I can’t wait to see your pictures.

  46. Gego says:

    When the blessings of our country SMACK you in your face, it stings. Instead of how blessed we are, perhaps all of us should proclaim what can I do?
    Money isn’t the answer, though it helps. Missionaries help, but not totally for all the folks.
    Check out Heifer International. They supply cows, sheep, bunnies, and other farm animals. They send folks to teach others how to care for these animals and support their families.
    WOW! how powerful would it be for Compassion to link with Heifer?
    I hope you get some sleep, precious Mom of the Grandest Four ever birthed. You are muchly loved and missed and envied. love and hugs, Gego

  47. Carolyn says:

    I am not wowed by this post – I expected to be able to see through your spirit-filled words as if I were there with you. I am running to the computer each morning to read about your journey – it is so exciting and powerful! We are praying you feel the Great Physician’s healing powers very, very soon. Love from across the street and around the world – Carolyn

  48. holly says:

    My master closet is larger than her whole home. That is incredible that so many live in it! We are so spoiled in America and numb to reality. Praying for you and health.

  49. lisa (lost pezhead) says:

    oh, it sounds like this will be such an incredible experience. i hope you feel better soon. i guess it’s really true when people say there is no real poverty in America. there is help & aid around every corner in our country for the needy. it makes me feel like i should do more volunteer work, just in my own town. can’t wait to see your pics.

  50. GiBee says:

    Your words have conjured vivid images in my mind, and tears in my eyes my dear friend… continue listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and writing your thoughts down for us!

  51. Jen says:

    I am praying you are feeling better by now. You have done a great job of creating mental pictures for me…I am keeping you all in my prayers! I can imagine it really does provide a stark contrast to our lives here in America and the wealth we really do possess!

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