Here are a few details and thoughts from the last few days. I would try to write a full post, paragraph style, but that always takes longer.
- Olivia Tatlock turned one two days ago — Monday, April 16. I took a motor boda into town, got a piece of apple-cinnamon cake, and brought it back to the baby home. We took some pictures of her for her family which I’ll post when I can. We weren’t able to actually celebrate until later in the afternoon because it rained and it was difficult to get the few kids together that we wanted to join the private party, but it was fun when we did. We gathered in Baby Room One around 5:00pm and unwrapped the single piece of unfrosted cake from its tin foil. Cindi had brought a one-year birthday candle from the States with SpongeBob SquarePants on it (spelling and capitalization?), and we put it on the cake, unlit. The candle and the cake were basically the same size, but we expertly positioned it for the birthday song. Olivia, Paul Tatlock, Jay Pari, and the Gundersens were the celebrants. Judah Gundersen was initially invited, but it was a bit too much for the two of us to handle all the kids, organize the proceedings, distribute the cake fairly, keep the jealous kids outside from raiding the party, get everyone to sing the birthday song, and take pictures and video. So we asked Judah to go outside and he obediently skipped away to sit happily on the lawn. We asked Paul and Jay if they knew the birthday song. They said they did, and launched into it. I stopped them so I could get the camera ready. Then I turned the video on and started singing, urging them to contribute. They didn’t really join in. So after I was done, I asked if they wanted to sing themselves. They did (we have a short video of it that we’ve tried twice to post without success; maybe it will have to wait until I get home). When it came to “Happy Birthday, dear Olivia,” they sang, “Happy Birthday, dear Amani.” We later learned that all the kids had learned and sung the birthday song at the baby home’s recent three-year anniversary. But they sang their hearts out nonetheless, in their kids’ voices and their thick Ugandan accents, and I didn’t observe that Olivia was affected by the difference in terminology. Then all three made a disaster of the cake, certainly not understanding why they were getting it but at least starting to learn that this thing called “birthday” is awesome when it comes to the eats. After the party had concluded, I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to keep one particularly envious three-year-old from his particularly pathetic whining and his relentless attempts to sneak into Baby Room One to eat cake crumbs off the floor. It’s not that he was starving — he was just a kid who didn’t understand why he wasn’t invited, couldn’t accept the fact, and apparently knew that this mzungu had his hands tied when it came to discipline. I suppose that’s what I get for throwing a private party in a not-so-private place. Oops.
- Jay Pari talks and laughs like a smoker. It’s pretty funny. I like to tickle him because he has this raspy machine-gun-fire laugh when you get him going. A few days ago some of the ladies were discussing which tribe Jay might be from because he has a distinct look and is a bit darker. Personally, I think he looks pretty tribal, which in my opinion is pretty cool. Speaking of tribal, some of the ladies were also discussing which tribe Judah might be from. We’re going to try to find out soon, and if it sounds enough like a name that goes with “Judah Gundersen,” it may end up as one of his middle names. At this point, it’s most likely that we will name him “Judah David [something African] Gundersen.”
- I’ve thought about this a lot and will certainly compile some of those thoughts in the near future, but we found out soon after we arrived (through casual conversation with orphanage administrators) that Judah’s birth mother was twenty-three years old and has AIDS. Judah initially tested positive for HIV, but until the child is more than a year old, a positive result of this particular inexpensive test can simply mean that he has his mother’s antibodies. Apparently this was the case with Judah because he later tested negative. Besides the obvious devastation, testing positive also means that the child is unadoptable, at least internationally (I don’t know about domestically). For now, this news warrants at least two things: (1) prayer for Judah’s birth mother and father, that they would either come to know the Lord or would grow closer to Him as their trial continues and advances; (2) deep gratitude that God has been merciful to Judah in an incredible way.
- Interestingly enough, I’ve told Cindi that being in Uganda for the past few weeks hasn’t necessarily made me want to be a missionary. It’s made me want to be a leader. If you are a man serving in Christian leadership or desiring to do so in the future, I hope you’re willing to take a few sentences of encouragement from a young Christian man with unabashed dreams for the church and the world: The church worldwide desperately needs strong, compassionate, humble, faithful, bold, prepared, unashamed, theological, Spirit-controlled, risk-taking men who have integrity, faith, immovable convictions, and a work ethic that goes beyond the eight-to-five survival mentality. She doesn’t need men who cower behind personal weaknesses or stand in front of hidden sin or use personality as an excuse either for ministerial abuse or ministerial avoidance. And she doesn’t need men who have retained even a hint of their own interests and agendas or men who think theology and compassion are antithetical or men who have a stunted, American view of sacrifice. I have no idea if God will lead Cindi and me overseas in the future. It’s completely up in the air at this point from our perspective. But I do know that I want to be a man of God who steps up and not back when and where God calls. There’s too much at stake in time and in eternity to be another kind of man.
- Our current plans are for me to return to the States on Monday, April 23 as previously planned. Our postponed court date is on Wednesday, April 25, after my scheduled departure. Although both of us were at the first court date, only one potential parent is required to be there, so my absence shouldn’t be a problem. Cindi is moving her return flight back to mid-May so that she can attend the court date and await the judge’s decision and the subsequent process. She will stay in Jinja and continue spending her days with Judah at the orphanage while I finish out the semester at TMCS. We’ll take it day-by-day as May approaches. If the adoption goes through (whether after three weeks or longer), I will have to re-bond with Judah. But he would be very comfortable with Cindi, which is most important. Many other families will begin arriving in Uganda in the next few weeks, so Cindi will have some company here.
Thank you so much for your loving interest and continued prayers and encouraging comments. We are not invincible either here or in America, and the Lord always uses your words and prayers to lift us up and support us in the Spirit.