As I opened the envelope, I knew exactly what was inside it, notes from kids at Jireh, folded up, just the way they would be if they had handed me the note in person. I pulled them out one at a time, holding them in the palm of my hand. Each letter folded perfectly into a palm sized bundle that's easy to hold onto. They have a touch of Uganda on them, they even come complete with a little bit of red Ugandan dirt discoloring the edges of the bundles. Babra's letter was so thick it even required tape to hold it shut.
The kids at Jireh will steal your heart. You can't forget them, and they definitely will not forget you. I've gotten woken up at 5:30 in the morning with calls from a Ugandan cellphone. I have a guess who is on the other end--its teenagers at Jireh who've somehow convinced one of the visiting missionaries to spend a dollar on them and let them borrow their cellphone to call America.
As much as I don't generally appreciate calls that early in the morning, when you hear the delight in the voice of the kids to actually get to talk to you--even if only for a minute or two before their air-time expires--its priceless, and worth every ounce of lost sleep.
And then there's the letters. I just about always expect one from Babra--she took a liking to me from the moment I arrived at Jireh. At the going away party for our team, she was having her friends deliever me little folded notes--her way of offering a hand of friendship. And ever since, she really was my friend, with the closeness of a sister. You think you come to minister to them, but so many times she was ministering to me with a word that could have been straight from God or a shoulder to cry on.
"If only Uganda were a little closer..." I daydream, wishing I could just pop in on weekends to visit. Why does Uganda have to be so far away and so expensive to visit?
Even the ones that you wouldn't necessarily think would remember you, some of them will surprise you. This letter was from one of my S1 students last summer--I was in their classroom often, teaching bible lessons and helping them practice their English. There were a number of them, and I couldn't always keep all their names straight, but they always enjoyed stories about God's impact on my life and how funny and different America is from where they live.
The question isn't really "will I go back", the question is when... And unlike the last time, next time I will remember to bring a photo album to show them when they ask if I have any pictures of my family....