Friday, February 24, 2012

My BIG Mistake turned into a Bigger Blessing

(from February 2, 2012)  By the way, I know I am WAY behind, but I'm working on catching up....slowly.

Well, you remember Alice helping me make popcorn and roasting peanuts for the prison ladies for Christmas?  When I told Alice who it was for, she said, “Oh, I heard on the radio that they are asking people to bring food and clothes to the prisoners and not forget them.  D***** (a German company here that I’m protecting, because it’s not their fault) is collecting clothes for the prisoners, so you can drop whatever you have off with them.”

I was so excited, because I knew the ladies wanted a new outfit for Christmas…that is usually the one thing people get for Christmas (if they get a gift).  I had collected 15 dresses for the ladies (and I was way short), and on my last trip before leaving town, I told the ladies I had tried, but I didn’t get enough, but I assured them that D***** was bringing them clothes.

They were SO excited!

Crazy excited!

I went to D***** and took the dresses.  As I chatted with the lady there, she explained that the clothes were going to another prison outside of Arua.



I wasn’t returning to the prison to be able to tell them, and I didn’t like that it looked like I lied.

I just prayed.

We spent Christmas in Mityana with some friends, and I mentioned this ordeal to my friend.  She told me that a visiting church had come with too many T-shirts last June, and after handing out all they needed to, they gave the rest to her…over 100 of them!!!

She gladly gave me 70!  (I got more than I needed because the experience at Christmas with the popcorn let me know, you never know how many will be there).

I felt so blessed. 

We left those shirts in Kampala, while we flew to Kenya. 

In Kenya, at the Student Camp, the volunteers from Florida informed us that someone who used to work for NASCAR had sent over 150 shirts of different sizes for all the kids to choose from.  Each student took 1 or 2 and some for siblings.  My family took 1 or 2 each, and they offered me ALL the little kids T-shirts and sleepwear if I knew anyone that could use them!


I took all 15 kids’ outfits/T-shirts, and I was hoping that with these, in addition to the other adult T-shirts, I could hopefully make up for my error and bless those women.

But the blessing wasn’t over.  The last day before camp was over, the volunteers started giving EVERYTHING away.  They didn’t want to take anything back that they had come with.  One of those “things” was 52 toothbrushes they had brought that had been leftover from one of their women’s retreats in Florida.  (By the way, the same lady who gave me her Kindle, was the same one who gave me the toothbrushes).

I took them with the hopes that I could locate a few more toothbrushes to add up to a full number for the prison.

Fast-forward to the end of January….our first week back to the prison…

The ladies asked about the clothes and told me that no one had come.  So I explained what had happened (but I didn’t tell them I had anything for them).

Fast-forward again to February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day).

Florence called and said she was suffering with malaria, and she would rather not translate today.  I didn’t want to push her, but I couldn’t stand it.  I really wanted to make things right.

I had saved the story for today about God being a provider, because I thought we could teach the verses in Matthew about how He provides for the birds of the air and how He clothes the flowers so beautifully, right before we "provided" them with some clothes, as a blessing.  I wanted to tell them how He would clothe them even more so than the flowers.  And I was going to bring out the clothes at that point, but even without Florence going, I couldn't wait.

Kylie and I went through our home supplies and found only 3 more toothbrushes in kits they give you when you fly overseas.  We went with only 55 toothbrushes with the idea that we would hold them back if it wasn’t enough for everyone to have one.

So, I hired two bodas.  One carried me and one of the Fusion girls, Abbie, and one carried Kylie and a BIG box of adult T-shirts from Mityana and tooth brushes and kids’ clothes from Florida (and Kenya).

For some reason, all 5 guards were there today at one time, and they already had the ladies in a “fall in” position (sitting in 4 columns on papyrus mats on the ground).

I asked how many ladies were there, and I was told…..55!!

God is so amazing (and in the details)!

I didn’t leave the items with the guards to be passed out, because I’ve been told that things don’t always get to the ladies when the guards get them first, if you know what I mean.

I greeted the ladies and told them about Florence, and then I told them why I had come. 

When I mentioned the shirts, they smiled really big, but when I mentioned the toothbrushes, they all screamed, about 20 jumped up off the mats and started dancing around in a circle, and me….?

I felt like I was Oprah and I had just given these ladies keys to their own vehicles!

I don’t know if they were more excited about the toothbrushes or if the delayed excitement on the t-shirts was because it took time to translate to each other what I had said about them.

And they screamed and danced some more when I said I brought clothes for the children.

I had 15 outfits and there were 12 children!

Abbie helped pass out the baby clothes.  Sweet Kylie passed out the toothbrushes, was ONE short at the end, and was SO concerned about one of the ladies who took two.  I assured her that she was collecting for a sick lady lying down inside, but Kylie was distraught.  She thought this lady had denied someone the privilege of getting a toothbrush.

After a little searching, we found the lost one back in the box. 

I handed out the shirts, and the women thanked me profusely!  Some immediately put it on over their prison uniform.

Let me stop here and tell you about this shirt.

1)    It’s white.  No one here wears white because everything is so dirty, it’s hard to keep white things clean.
2)    It has the name of a junior high school from Arkansas on the front in black letters.  It is not a specially, designed shirt, by any means.
3)    The back is covered with ads from businesses in Arkansas who supported whatever this T-shirt represented.
4)    They all got the exact SAME one!

They were so thankful for THIS!  They truly acted like those women on Oprah who had been given a car (minus the tears, because most of the time, these ladies don’t cry)!  Would you have jumped up, screamed, and danced over this?  Would I?  I think not.

I received hearty handshakes, big hugs, and blessings poured over me like never before.  I’m praying that this act of love (on several peoples’ parts) will bring more women into Bible study next week.

Anyway, I should have had 15 shirts left over…10 after I gave the 5 guards one.  And I should have had 3 kids outfits left over….


One guard, who was on her way out, grabbed 4 of my extras, and pulled one more out of another guard’s hands.  Then she took all the remaining children’s clothes.

In the South, we would say, “Bless her heart.”  (Because we’re really trying hard not to “bless her OUT.”)

Anyway, I gave the “robbed” guard another shirt and rode home with 5.

When we reached home, I asked my boda driver, Jack, if he would like one for he and his wife each to have.  He said, “I think I need four.”


One left…

and here comes a man walking up to me outside my gate with a t-shirt that is barely hanging on his shoulders because of the huge holes in it.  It would have been a rag in my house.

He said, “Are you selling shirts?”

I said, “No, but this one is for you.”

I tossed it to him, and he walked away smiling.


Cara said...

You are the Ugandan Oprah! ;) I love it that the ladies had a dance party around you. :D

Nancy said...

Things like this made it uncomfortable for me to go to the mall when I came home from Uganda. But eventually I got back to "normal". Thanks for the reminder of how much we are blessed and how much excess we have above our needs and how we need to bless others.
Hopefully the mission team that is coming your way from Istrouma will have full suitcases.

Alison said...

Oh my goodness, Kathryn. I have tears in my eyes. I just take so many of our blessing for granted. The fact that these women were rejoicing and dancing over a white t-shirt and a toothbrush is so humbling. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing how God is using you in the lives of these women! They are truly seeing His love through you!

Laura said...

Please tell me you stood in the middle of the women pointing and yelling "YOU get a toothbrush... and YOU get a toothbrush... YOU ALLLLL get toothbrushes!!!" in true Oprah style.