60 Birthdays!

Greetings from Kabale, Uganda where we are still recovering from a HUGE birthday celebration for 60 MCM children! On Saturday July 5 several guardians from the village whose children are in the MCM program came to Ivan’s home early to prepare a BOATLOAD of food. The agenda included worship and prayer, a question and answer time with “Ma Michele and Uncle Ivan”, a Bible study from Pastor Mutabazi, a big dinner for everyone (with soda!), cutting of the cake, more singing, dispersing and opening cards and gifts, then playtime!

Children began to arrive at noon, a full hour early. Again, “African Time” which some of you may assume means people are always late but actually it means people come when they can and that may be early. In full American fashion, my heart began to pump furiously as panic ensued that the guests were arriving and I was not even close to being ready. Ivan however welcomed the children warmly and started them to work blowing up balloons and tying bits of string around them to hang around the house. They were delighted! It was as if this activity in itself was a party! Realizing I could even be a full hour late and everything would still be fine was such a relief – I love Africa!

Soon most of the children were there, older boys bringing benches up the road from our supporting church along with dishes to feed the multitudes. No silverware, we eat with our hands, thank you. I finished the last of the birthday cards for the children that do not have sponsors and came out of the bedroom to singing and praying. At one point, to get a photo, I walked outside the house around to the back entrance and could hear the children’s voices lifted by the breezes and carried down the mountian. Honestly, it was like angels, their voices harmonizing in praise! Some of the older children volunteered to sing solos or duets…one girl even preached a bit! What a wonderful way to begin a birthday party!

Our Senior Pastor, Elisam Mutabazi from Deliverance Church gave the Bible Study message. Ivan translated for me and it was also wonderful! He spoke about being humble. How Jesus was most humble, even as a child in the temple asking questions. Not too proud to show His need for teaching and how the blessing of understanding accompanies humility. Jesus also lifted others above Himself. He had a servant’s heart. Then specific examples of how MCM children would also be blessed by being humble as well as a blessing to others. The kids were listening, I was encouraged and all were blessed by this very humble, godly man.

To our surprise the next item on our agenda was well received and probably lasted a good 30 minutes. We had an “Ask Anything” time where Ivan and I fielded questions from the children about MCM. Some of the questions were funny, “Ma Michele, how old are you?” This is now the second time I have been publically asked this question. Good thing I told them the truth last February. I may not have remembered and grown younger. Some questions were serious, “Will I ever get a photo of my sponsor?” Some were surprising, “Will my sponsor come to visit me?” Some were deep, “My school doesn’t teach us about Jesus every day, I want to learn about Jesus every day.” And some were sad, “Can I have shoes (pens, pencils, notebooks, sweater, even an English Bible) for school?” Of course Ivan initially provided these items in the past but it is up to the children to alert him with new needs. They needed to hear he was there for them not only for material needs but also in case someone tried to abuse or hurt them or even to pray for them. Ivan is so good with these little ones – a real child advocate!

After the “Ask Anything” time more prayers then food was served from the youngest to the oldest with our lovely hard working ladies serving from the dining room table. A big thrill of course is getting a soda with their meal. It never ceases to amaze me how much these little ones can eat! They will finish these huge bowls and sometimes return for more and still have room for cake! Birthday cake, complete with candles (and fireworks!) was served next. This year we chose the children whose birthdays were closest to July 5 to cut the cake together while everyone sang. Notice Joshua on the far left smiling but guarding? Yes, that is because Uncle Ivan was about to spray everyone with soda again like last party.

At the end of the day we passed out gifts for every child. You may notice I titled this “60 Birthdays” but only 52 children are on the MCM program. God always makes room for more. By His grace with our large bale of clothes we ended up with 120 wrapped gifts, a minimum of 2 for each child along with candy and best of all their first ever birthday cards from their sponsors! What a blessing and a joy to me to be the one to represent the sponsors and give out those gifts!

After the opening and the playing and the enjoying one another the children left Ivan’s home about 6:00 pm. We needed them to leave because we wanted them to be able to walk home in the light but I believe they would have stayed much longer based on the laughter and running going on. Not to mention the sugar-buzz from soda, cake and candy! For the wonderful village women who prepared the meal however, the work continued until 9:30 at night when every last dish had been washed, the floors re-wetted and re-swept, the food given away and the benches returned to church. So thankful for their amazing hard work, strength, love for children, love for the Lord and complete lack of complaining. They have humble servant’s hearts one and all! Last but of course not least, rather “most” is our MCM Executive Director Ivan without whom none of this would be possible at all. From an entire day of grocery shopping at the market Friday, to making sure all the children knew about the party, to organizing the helpers and the Bible Study to purchasing and sorting the bale of clothes to cleaning the house and serving the soda to fetching 14 geri cans of water for cleanup…and, and, and… this man is remarkable and a great blessing to all the children and to me most of all!

To be honest, sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the growing needs for these children MCM has promised to meet. Last visit in February MCM had a total of 34 children we were responsible for: 24 sponsored, 10 not sponsored. Today, five months later we have a total of 52 children, 39 sponsored and 13 without. These numbers do not include the 45 children on the MCM “Waiting List” nor the countless children Ivan has had to turn away and request guardians return next year. The need here is great. Yet when I look at the fact that in July 2013 we had only 6 sponsored children and in only one year 33 more children have been chosen by sponsors I am really in awe at the faithful provision and pouring out of grace by God!

Thank you once again for all your generosity to these little village children for their very FIRST Birthday Party!! Praising God from whom all blessings flow!