Monday, August 6, 2012

ONE

This is an amazing video that highlights the Sozo Children internship this summer. It only hits on pieces of it, and there are many more stories to tell, but here is a glimpse into the life of those that were connected with Sozo Children this summer.




one from Sozo Children on Vimeo.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fruit




FRUIT |fro͞ot| (noun) -
1) the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food.
2) the result or reward of work or activity (or faith…)

Fruit. My mouth begins to water as I think of the succulent fruit in Uganda. Pineapples growing on the hills look eager to be sliced and enjoyed. Did you know pineapples grow in small bushes that just produce one pineapple at a time? It is quite amazing, and caught me a little off guard the first time I saw it. I am not sure what I expected, but I know it was not what lay before me. Avocados grow to a monstrous size compared to what we are accustomed to in the States. Equipped with a spoon and after adding a little salt, they make the best snack. The infamous Ugandan Jackfuit hangs high in trees looking similar to a spiny tumor with no definite shape. It is an orb of juicy sticky fruit. Even though it tastes great going down, stomach problems can soon follow. All of these fruits are the best I have ever had, but none of them rival the mango. I have written before about mangos and how they grow, but the taste of a mango picked straight from the tree is heavenly.

            The story below is from one year ago almost to the day. It was one I always wanted to write about but never had a chance. One year ago we witnessed God’s work produce great fruit. Many have heard this story, but I have never written it and I thought it was time.

            The days preceding July 17th all of the children began to get excited knowing they were going to Jinja to see the Nile River. Before we got the kids from the corrupt orphanage, they remained inside the gates for years never seeing past their dirt road and chain link fence. Trips like this would be thrilling to any child… or even me… but to these children, the excitement is on another level that most of us don’t understand. There had been decisions from many of the older children to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior in their lives earlier in the summer. During one night in devotional we decided to ask the older children what they knew about baptism. They knew… and eagerly decided it was what they wanted to do when we went to Jinja. My excitement rose even more. So on July 17th, we crammed in 42 people into a 32 passenger van/bus, and headed to Jinja. We had the Birmingham team in town that week and were so tightly packed in the bus every adult had a child in their lap. After the long drive, we first unloaded at the bungee jump over the Nile River. The most entertaining was one of the Ugandan workers, Mato, bungeed and screamed the whole way down. Soon after, we saw a 5 foot monitor lizard swimming in the river just below the bungee tower. Some decided it wasn’t for them.
After, we drove to Bujagali falls. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. At this point, the Nile picks up tremendous speed crashing over rocks painting a breathtaking picture. Just downriver of the view that people travel to see, is a still quiet lagoon area where the water is shallow and safe. All of the team and children gathered together. Jon prayed for us and told everyone the meaning and importance of baptism. We eased into the chilly water. Deborah, Vanitah, Esau, Ronald, Ivan, Sharon, Waiswa, and Eddy all got baptized that day. To make it even more special to me personally, I got re-baptized as well. Davis and Emily also were re-baptized that day. I thought the day had peaked on the joy scale, but I never would have expected what was to come…

We took the children and team to a quaint restaurant in town to celebrate the day. We arrived to a large plate of chicken and chips for the children while adults began to place orders. Our plates of food arrived and it was a sight to see. We were outside underneath a long awning with over 40 people eating all around two long tables. Half way through the meal… our hearts were shattered. From the other side of the fence, the eyes of a young boy peered at me through the bushes. My curiosity studied him closely. My calloused heart and cynicism first wandered if he just wanted money to take back to someone that put him here. Maybe to buy someone alcohol or make money for his abusive father. He was maybe 9 years old. His shoes were torn and his ragged clothes hung on his protruding bones. It was easy to tell that this child was a street kid that rarely saw a meal. The restaurant managers would chase him off to guard the comfort of the guests. My comfort was being invaded. His suffering yet hopeful eyes pierced me. “Aggie… who is that boy?” one of us asked. Now the attention of a few of us was hooked on this child who hid behind the vines. It became obvious he hoped to fill his hungry stomach. “He is a homeless street child,” she said as she began to fight tears. All of us had nearly finished our food except some leftovers of some chicken and a few fries. Suzanne said, “Aggie, tell him to come here.” So she called out to him “jongu.” Our hearts broke even more when we saw his face light up realizing she was talking to him. He sat down with us at the table and began to devour the leftovers on the plate. He didn’t speak, just ate. He cleaned every bone. We didn’t speak. The silence was deafening. We gazed intently with a whirlwind of questions. A knot in my throat would not go away. A few had to leave out of fighting tears and not wanting the boy to see them cry over his pitiful situation. Two more boys with the same horrible malnourished look walked up seeing the food. Jon started buying plates of food. “Come... eat.” They ate as three more boys approached the tables. We gave them our seats and put more food in front of them. It was an afternoon lunch for us… but a feast for them. Then two of the Sozo boys, Hakim and Esau, came to the table. They are two of the oldest Sozo boys, around 12 and 14. Conversation struck up between them as the boys were finishing their food. I could see life being put back into these children with every bite. Esau and Hakim starting talking in Luganda to them. We watched and I desperately wanted to know what they were saying. I gave Aggie and look and she knew what I wanted. She began to translate. “Esau’s telling them to protect each other on the street. Don’t steal. Don’t fight.” I was overwhelmed watching fruit of God’s work being produced in front of my eyes. “He is telling the boys about his faith and what it means…” Humbled that I rarely share my faith with boldness, I felt the heart of a proud father watching one that I consider a son flourish in God’s design.

            This memory sticks with me because it shows fruit. Seeing Esau and Hakim be baptized and then turn around and share their faith with words of wisdom to these boys impressed me so much. Seeds were planted in these boy’s lives starting a few years ago and now their fruit is teaching us!
           
This is why Sozo exists. This is the reason I believe God placed us in Uganda to share life with Esau and his brothers and sisters. He wanted His children to have a chance. Not for just their sake, but for the sake of others, and for the sake of the name of Jesus. The fruit of this long-term ministry project seems slow to produce, and sometimes it is difficult, but it is obvious God is at work. This was evidence of it. Being raised by their culture, in their culture, these boys are pouring back into their culture. They are developing into leaders. They can talk to these street kids because they were once in the same situation. Hope can be communicated. Advice can be given. Love can be shared between them that we would never be able to do like they did.
           
The summer is coming to a close. I wish I would have blogged more, but the days are so constantly on go, I rarely have time to sit down and blog. When I find time for stillness, my mind is either fried, or I want to sleep, or be in God’s Word. God is doing great work here. I have so many more stories to tell. Over the month of August, I am going to try to tell them on this page. Keep updated.

Fruit is continuing to be produced. Sometimes in the places I expect the least. That is often how God works



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Consuming Air

As I lay here on the verge of sleep I can hear the edge of Kampala begin to wake up. Dogs muffled barks are in the distance as African crickets begin to fill the night with music. The night here contains some peace that I know nowhere else, besides possibly Smith Lake. But for some reason there is stillness to the night. Time slows down.

Anyways, the past few weeks have had a strange element of time attached to them. One moment the days seem to creep by, and then the next they have flown so fast I am losing track of the weeks.

Just last week Sozo got a little younger. Vanessa is the newest member to the Sozo family and she just turned four years old. She is Vivian and Victoria’s little sister (who are in house 1) and a few of us drove out deep in the village to get her. Daudi knew the situation was bad. Not long ago, their mother had another baby who was two months old. The baby girl was left outside and was later found dead covered with thousands of ants. I know that is a disturbing image, but it is the truth that I can’t tear my mind away from. The grandmother begged us to take Vanessa because she knew that Vanessa’s mother could not care for her. Now we have Vanessa, who is extremely sweet. The maternal side of all the girls is emerging as they care for her. Night number one her sister Victoria read her stories as she fell asleep in her new home.

Childlike faith is something I pray for often and feel like I seldom grasp. Even though I rarely see it in myself, this week I have seen it. He would probably hate me sharing this story but since I am pretty sure he won’t be accessing my blog anytime soon AND it brings glory to God, I am going to share it;

The other night Esau, the oldest Sozo boy in house 1, came to me as I was spooning rice and beans onto my dinner plate and he invited me to eat with him and a few of the boys. Greatly accepting the invitation, I walked outside and sat on the concrete with my back against the outdoor kitchen. We ate in silence. Next to me was a boiling pot of an unknown concoction. The smell was truly one of the worst. In Uganda you don’t just find dog food at the convenience store… instead they put all the leftover food and spare bones, add some dead minnows, and boil it to feed the dogs. I could barely eat my rice and beans because every bite I took somehow tasted like the boiling bones and fish. Esau noticed my face and moved it. Good man. Anyways, we began to talk a little about our favorite things in life and they began to quote their favorite Bible verses. The other boys walked off to do the dishes and Esau and I sat with each other just us two for the first time in a while. He looked at me with genuine eyes and began to speak words that simultaneously broke my heart and filled it with joy.
            In his broken Ugandan English he said, “Every time… I remember the days we were at Mercy Home… I know how great God is.” His unprovoked words struck me in a way I didn’t expect. Instead of digging for more I remained silent and let him say words it sounded like he had held in for a long time. “When I was there my mind didn’t work properly… but now I am in Sozo my mind works properly and now… I know God.” I can’t describe what I felt but I could tell his heart was pouring through his words. He continued, ”I know others that don’t know Him… and I promise… I will tell them.”
            I have never had children, but for that moment I could understand a father’s proud moment of a child that finally understands who God is.



Did you know that in the entire gospel of John, John’s name is never mentioned? Whenever a story arises that involves John he does not refer to himself as himself, he merely states a fact he knows, “the one Jesus loves.” That strikes some as arrogant, but it strikes me as great humility. I don’t believe John is trying to elevate himself over the other disciples by saying he is loved most, but I think he is attempting to practice Jesus’ display of humility by writing for the sake of Jesus and not the name of John. I pray for that purity in heart mixed with Esau’s childlike faith.

I hold a firm belief that as soon as I fully truly surrender to Christ, God has been penning the pages of my life scripting an incredibly divine story of many miracles pointing to His greatness. I know He knows that His amount of writing sometimes overwhelms me. Usually, when a new chapter opens the preceding one closes. Somehow that doesn’t seem to be happening. Open doors after open doors grow the plate of excitement and responsibility. It seems as if God is writing a dialogue of many separate stories that will one day come into beautiful harmony. I see the pieces slowly coming together. Many individuals, visions, a school, land, and story after story with miraculous twists and turns. Only God could orchestrate this all. The symphony is building and every small piece has to play a part. I often try to figure it out and end up with a headache no further down the road than where I started. I’m again humbled at how small I am and how little I understand. I guess that is where trust comes in that this Book keeps talking about.

Today is the two-year mark from the bombing we experienced in Kampala that claimed many lives. I remember back and am thankful for the night that God spared my life. For what reason… I still don’t know, but what I do know is that my work is not yet finished. The last pages in my life are still unwritten, and every breath I take is for a reason. Due to that traumatic experience, I have seen the fragility of life and I will now live every breath as if it truly has purpose, not merely consuming air. 


To read the blog post I wrote two years ago, click here - July 11 Kampala Bombing

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Returning

Alright…. I’m trying to come back. I haven’t blogged in a long time and I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but truthfully, I miss writing. So, I am going to write. Writing is a loose term since really this is just pressing play on my stream of consciousness. Literature scholars would either be bored or offended, but this isn’t for them.

Since I haven't written in such a long time, I wanted to post this last letter I sent out. Forgive me if it didn't arrive in your mailbox if you wanted it to, but sometimes I hesitate to send out mailers because I am afraid it comes across as me pleading for another check. Even though I always need support, that is not the case. I also want to keep updated and need desperately need the prayer support from a thick web around me and the others that I work along side. Below is the letter that gives a general update of what has been going on in my life over the past year since I have started seminary and updates of what is going on in Sozo Children. 

This is the largest I could get this file on this page, but if you can't read it and want to, please email me at allen@sozochildren.org and I can email a file that is easier to read. Thanks! 




In January, I went to Uganda with a small team and we found a great piece of land. We now don't think it is the exact property God has for us, but the pursuit is in full force. Next step is obtaining land and beginning building projects. In the meantime, there is no telling how many children God will put in our care. We are willing vessels simply desiring to be used for His glory. 

In March, My mother, sister, and two aunts came to experience what God is doing as well. They came to pour their lives into these children, and when they least expected it, God poured His heart even more into them. That is the beautiful design of how God works. When we spend our lives on behalf of others, he fills our lives more than we ever spent. Not that we would do it for that reason, but when our motives are pure, God is able to do extraordinary things, blessing ALL his children.

I know this is not much of a blog, but I thought a slow start back in would be best.