Our African Adventure

August 21, 2023

{Photo description: pictured is Val, 2nd from the right, and her husband Bob with a group in Uganda}

Snapshot: Late morning, somewhere in eastern Uganda, 2016.

We sat in plastic chairs under the shade of a tree, feeling a bit awkward as we tried to decipher the ceremony taking place before us. My husband, Bob, and I had been brought here by Doug Hayes, along with several other travelers whose only mission was to meet the people served by Covenant Mercies. We were facing an older Ugandan couple, surrounded by their 7 or 8 foster grandchildren of various ages. A few local staffers from the nearby Covenant Mercies compound were there too. 

Doug encouraged the old man to talk, which he did at length, his words translated by one of the staffers. He wanted us to know about his life as a hardworking truck driver, and then he told us about the circumstances that led him and his wife, in their later years, to be raising this lively group of children. With Africa still dealing with the effects of the AIDS epidemic which had orphaned many children, this family came together in the wake of misfortune and need.

The children looked on quietly, eyeing us with untempered curiosity. We sensed their suppressed excitement to be included– it was not an ordinary day. When the grandpa said everything he wanted to, it was time for the gifts. The gifts are symbolic of their thanks to Covenant Mercies for coming alongside them to help. A large cloth bag of oranges appeared, and we peeled and ate them. There were bananas to enjoy as well. The pride of place among the gifts went to the chicken. A live chicken was brought to the circle and handed to me. I was surprised at how soft and docile a creature it was. After receiving these gifts and having our pictures taken with the family, we bid each other friendly goodbyes.

I felt undeserving to be treated like a VIP, but then I realized on that day we were standing in for all the donors, sponsors, and prayer warriors who undergird this important ministry. On that day, the partnership that truly exists between the supporters of Covenant Mercies and the folks served by it was tangible.

Besides Uganda, our itinerary also took us to Ethiopia and Zambia. Everywhere we went we met children and adults who had little of this world’s goods yet exhibited joy. Bob had a profoundly emotional response to it all, although I must admit that I felt more detached. No matter our emotional response, we were face to face with the comprehensive lack of resources which characterizes life in developing countries. We could see our own careless ingratitude in all that we take for granted everyday. 

Bob asked Doug how many children were on Covenant Mercies’ waiting list for donors to sponsor them. We were told that there were around sixty. 

The trip continued to resonate with us after we returned home, and Bob wanted to do something in response. He brought up the idea of taking on sponsorship of the sixty children. Bob always seems to love a challenge, but I’m usually much less inclined. It didn’t feel like the best time to take on a major financial commitment. We had recently sold our home of 31 years and were doing a complete renovation on a dilapidated 1940’s house. I’d been working on it for months with mounting cost overruns. We hadn’t moved in yet, were living in a temporary situation, and I felt uprooted.

Despite these misgivings, I agreed to pray about the decision. Bob was sure about proceeding but also wanted us in harmony if we were to go forward. And I have to say, the “assurance of things not seen” came as we agreed to take the next step. We decided to commit to that particular group of orphans for as long as they stay in the program.

It’s been nearly seven years now and God has provided us with the funds necessary to keep our promise to Covenant Mercies. He’s also done a work in my heart, making it a little less stony and in some measure more generous. Philippians 2:4 says,” Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

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