Over this past school break (our Christmas break and the Ugandan school year break) we had many kids coming and going on our compound. We got to know the group quite well and made great efforts to get to know their parents, if possible. We were also able to often include them in our family devotions. It made for a busy couple months, but a good couple months. Once the school year started, though, it became clear that we needed more structure to the time. First kids began bringing their school friends so that we couldn't keep up with getting to know them and then a few began to try to skip school trying to use our compound as a place to hang out...not good!
So our friends gave us a great idea of hanging a red sign and a green sign on our gate. When it's red, the kids can't come in. When it's green, they are welcome. It has worked beautifully.
Now, the kids and I pick a couple hours a week to open our gate and let our little friends come play. We also decided to become much more intentional about the time. Each of our kids pick an activity to take outside and do with some kids. We bring out crayons and coloring sheets, the football (soccer ball), a jump rope, and books to read. We also work on literacy. Many of our coloring sheets are geared towards practicing phonics and I also try to sit down with any kids who want help learning to read. I was amazed the first day we did this how many fourth grade kids could neither identify the name nor tell me the sound of the letter A. And on some days we are still able to do devotions with all the group. We usually have between 20 and 30 kids come.
This ministry is hard. I'm not going to lie. I've already seen that Satan hates it. The first school day we decided to be very intentional about our time with the kids, was the worst school day we have had all year. The kids can be rough...especially when they first start coming. We've already seen that after a few times of coming and being accepted and loved on, some of the worst (some of the kids that when you meet them on their first day and say in your un-sanctified state, "I don't like that kid.") have become so sweet and respectful. Here is one of them...
His name is Junior and he is one of the poorest of the poor. He was so stubborn the first few times! But wow has he changed! He's the sweetest little guy now! And some of the kids...well they are still stubborn...but for those, we've had a chance now to sit and listen about what their home life is like...and well...as much as my flesh is annoyed by stubborn kids...the Spirit continues to remind me of the need to love the un-lovable and to love them as I love myself.
We also had one afternoon where we were sitting around coloring and chatting and some heads poked into the gate...having obviously never been here before. Immediately, all of the kids at the table said, "oh mama Dianna...please don't let those ones in...they steal our pencils at school and beat us." I started to head to the gate to talk to them...completely unsure of what to say, when more kids from the other side of the yard came running with all their might to tell me the same thing and beg me not to let them in. Now, having heard it from two separate groups, I felt confident that the report was true. So I greeted them and said, "These ones tell me that you have been stealing their pencils and beating them." The kids, who were quite a bit bigger, hung their heads...not offering excuses. "So...if you give back their pencils and greet them at school tomorrow nicely (a common gesture here of reconciliation), then you may come in and play next time." The next time came around and when I walked out I saw them sitting at the table coloring. I inquired to all of the kids, if the terms had been met and they all readily agreed that they had and they played nicely together the rest of the time. We all found it quite humorous as we gathered around the supper table that night.
This is also a difficult ministry because on the days that we open our gate, our schedule feels like "go, go, go" We have to be up in time in order to eat breakfast on time in order to start and therefore finish school on time, so that we can clean up in time to open the gate in time, so that the kids have a decent amount of time to play (1 to 1 and a half hours) before we have to send them home so that we can eat supper on time and still go to bed on time...whew! (Maybe that's why this blog has been so unusually silent these days? haha!) But again...the Holy Spirit presses in and says, "Will you not give up a few afternoons to let me do some kingdom work?"
Please pray for these afternoons...that God would use them in mighty ways to breath life and Holy Spirit warmth into the dry dusty hearts of many and use these dear ones to make his kingdom a strong and mighty kingdom...it's worth the couple hours of my time...and worth a few minutes of your time on your knees.