I’ve put off writing this post for a while. When Chelsea first told me and my teammates that we were welcome to write a guest blog for Atin based on our time volunteering there, I jumped at the chance. I love to blog! In fact, when she asked me, I had three blogs! But what I didn’t consider was at the time that she asked I was living in Uganda enjoying every aspect of what my life looked like as a Christian missionary in Lira. Since coming back to the U.S. “life” has taken over and this blog became just another thing to do on an ever increasing typical America “To Do” list. Then one Sunday at church my pastor said something that when I heard it, I instantly thought of Chelsea and all of the staff at Atin. He said, “Children of God are defined by the love of God,” and thus ended my procrastination and writer’s block and renewed a desire for me to share with you some of the love I saw behind the green gate of Atin Afrika.
My team and I came to Uganda with a non-profit Christian missions organization based out of Atlanta, GA. There were 13 of us in total, and by the time we had to leave Uganda, I can honestly say on their behalf that Atin is one of our favorite places on this earth and the kids and staff will be in our hearts forever. The first time I walked through that little door of the compound’s gate, I was swarmed by many little bald heads and Ugandan voices calling, “Auntie! Auntie!”. Some of the kids I had seen on the streets in the first couple of months I was in Lira. Now the sadness and pain I had seen behind their eyes on the streets was slightly diminished and replaced by a little glimmer of what I came to know was hope.
You see, the kids at Atin are no longer simply defined by their station of being a “street” kid, instead as they jump on the trampoline, play with the pet monkey, and draw shadow chalk figures on the concrete, they are just kids. They are kids like any others you might find living in suburban America. Sure they’re bald, their play clothes are a little more than gently used, and their bare feet don’t seem to mind the rough ground, but they are in an environment now that they’ve never known before. A safe environment with food and shelter that offers them, with a little work, an opportunity for a brighter future than the one they were headed for on the streets.
If you’ve kept up with Atin for any length of time then much of what I’m telling you in not new. But for this middle class American citizen who has always had a sneaking suspicion that there is more to this life than 9-5, 2.5, and a white picket fence, living four months in northern Uganda was no picnic. At the point where I found myself banging my head on the nearest brick wall because the programs I had seen meant to help street children were inefficient and content with their inefficiency, I stumbled across Chelsea Peters in a cafe. Back to the words of my pastor, Chelsea Peters is living a life that displays the love that God put inside of us. That day in the cafe, it wasn’t Chelsea the person that resonated with me, but it was her life in Uganda. Simply put, the real world is out there and Chelsea had obviously found it in Lira amongst a bunch of children that most of the world turns a blind eye to.
Thank you to Chelsea, Morris, Grace, and all of the staff at Atin that welcomed my team with open arms. I’m glad we could spend the little time we did with you. I’m so glad we could learn from you. Mostly, I’m so happy to have had that time with those precious little ones. I hope that one day soon our paths will cross again. Until they do, you are all in my prayers!
Obanga mi gum,