Day 7/8–Canaan Children’s Home

As I mentioned yesterday, during the latter half of our trip we were based at Canaan Children’s Home. It was from Canaan’s that we would then go out to the remaining ministries we had left to serve at. Even though we spent many half days and all of our free time with the children at Canaan’s, I’ll give you an overview of what our time at Canaan’s was all about.

Canaan Children’s Home (www.canaanchildrenshome.org) is a Christian orphanage in Jinja that provides shelter, food, and education to the over 100 children that live there. They are run based off of sponsorships of the children, a list of which you can see on their website. Many of the children at Canaan’s are orphans, however some have varying family circumstances that couldn’t maintain their care. Amazingly, the children at Canaan’s are not up for adoption because their goal is to raise up Godly men and women to become leaders within the country of Uganda. Canaan’s is run by an amazing man, Pastor Isaac, and because I seriously would not be able to do his story justice, please go to their website and read his testimony and about how Canaan’s came to be.

The short story is that God is an incredibly faithful and mighty God.

Me with Pastor Isaac

Day 7 of our trip was a Sunday and so of course, began with church. Canaan’s has a church on their grounds (Buziika Full Gospel Church–not partial mind you) that is the main church for the area. It was packed, to say the least, and for those of you who’ve been to Africa you totally understand why after church and lunch our entire team crashed for a two hour nap. Prior to the crashing, our team had the awesome opportunity to lead the Sunday School for the church–yes, the whole church, from the littles all the way up to the bigs. I was a part of five team members who got to talk about trust with the High school-aged kids. We shared the Matthew 14 story with them about Jesus walking on the water and how trust is a hard and scary thing.

Can you say trust falls off of desks and can you guess who was the demo person? It went really well considering.

The church service that Pastor Isaac led was very moving, but I especially loved the time of worship at the beginning of the service. Man oh man do we Americans have much to learn about releasing inhibitions before the Lord and being even more undignified than this (2 Samuel 6) and truly celebrating before the Lord.

Clearly, a nap was in line.

The Canaan’s property includes several things other than the community church. It holds a few dormitories for the children (ranging from five to eighteen year olds), a kitchen, Pastor Isaac and Mama Rebecca’s home (she is just about the sweetest thing ever!), two school rooms, a clinic that is open to the community, another dorm where we stayed, and an administration building among other things. Canaan’s also has a Primary school located about a quarter mile from their grounds along with farmland and pasture land with a few animals. Even though Canaan’s is very well established, especially compared to the other ministries we visited, they still have daily needs.

Our time at Canaan’s was spent playing and interacting with the children before and after their schooling. Several people on our team made very strong attachments with some of the children there.

These two, Moses and Pauline, were glued to my hip the entire week and would literally fight other kids off me because I was their Muzungu (white person/foreigner).

There were also a few days (Day 8 and others) where our team got the chance to spend a few afternoons at Canaan’s Primary School. This school is run by Canaan’s and the children who live at Canaan’s go there, but it’s also open to the community. This is a huge ministry to the community as a large portion of the people are Muslim. It holds “grades” 1-7 with the youngest class having over 100 students in it. And yes, just one teacher.

Those days were awesome because we would have to impromptu come up with songs with motions or skits or entire hour “lesson plans” for the kids as we were given charge over their classrooms. Yes, my team was great at being flexible!

But probably my most favorite thing about our time at the Primary school was my interaction with this sweet, sweet little boy. Kamya.

Kamya is a very soft-spoken boy in P4 (grade) whose English was very good so we were able to talk quite a bit. He loved seeing the pictures on my camera of different people and things in Uganda. He also loved looking at a photo album of my family I had taken with me. Unfortunately, Kamya was also probably the most malnourished child I saw on the trip. His wrists were probably the thickness of my two fingers and his school uniform socks slouched at his ankles with nothing to grab hold of. I don’t know what his situation was, I just knew that this boy instantly had a special place in my heart and that I wanted to make sure he knew he was loved.

So when, in typical Ugandan fashion, the kids would fight over a chance to hold your hand, pushing off the weaker ones to get to you, I did my own wrestling. I made sure that at any cost, sweet Kamya got to hold my hand.

Not because I’m so great or anything, even though yes, my skin did look pretty alien to them with the blue veins showing through–but because a simple loving gesture and kind word speaks volumes to these children. Words that fall on parched earth desperate for the nourishment. Things they may have never heard before. Things they may never hear again.

In Lugandan (one of the 42 languages spoken in Uganda), I learned only a few phrases and said them every chance I got. Thank you. And, I love you so much.

I love you so much.

And when a sweet, sweet boy asks you for water and maybe a little bit of food and your hands are empty, your heart rips right in two and how to stop the aching? The aching that’s more than just about food, but of what I have and what he has not. The love I know, from so many places, and the love he (maybe) does not. The security and trust I know, and he doesn’t. The comfort and stillness, and he doesn’t. The education, opportunities, and always the chances to improve my circumstances. He doesn’t. Because he was born there and I was born here.

How is any of this right or even fair?

And when he writes you a letter and gives you a picture of himself asking that you please, please come back, the ripping of the heart won’t stop. And if mending it means forgetting this sweet child and aching and fighting for the wholeness of his one life, I never want it to mend.

What do you do when reality stares you in the face. Do you open your arms and accept it, loving and cherishing it through your words and actions? Do you shun it and distance yourself? Or worse yet, do you witness it, forget, and feign indifference? Do you see it, and pretend that it isn’t there staring right back at you asking you to please do something and please love me in the meantime.

Please, please love me. Please, please care. And let that motivate you to action, even if that action affects only my one small life.

Because even one life, just one life, is worth it.

Sign in the Canaan Courtyard

Canaan’s as our home base was a blessing in so many ways. Getting a big bear hug from the most loving Mama Rebecca every day helped fill the pieces of home I craved most. Children always excited and anticipating whatever you could muster up to give them from yourself told you it all mattered. The endless laughter, games, and joy-spilling hearts were blessing upon blessing upon blessing. We went there to serve until on E and we did, but we were filled beyond measure in the process. And truly, it was harder than I ever imagined to say goodbye to all those dear faces and hearts.

Hearts that knew joy. And hearts yearning for the love we could give and the only Love worth pointing them towards.

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