Monday, August 5, 2013

My 25th Birthday Dream!

Where this story starts, is on a sunny day in the summer of 2012 in a war torn town in Northern Uganda. It was a day that I had been longing for, that I had been seeing in my dreams. I met hundreds of beautiful children and watched them dance traditional acholi dances and wave palm branches back and forth. I was in the presence of angels. But one little boy, in a bright Cyan blue color shirt stood out. My eyes could not stop smiling with joy every time I walked by him. I felt connected in a way I couldn't describe if I tried to, but my heart was drawn in.

First time meeting Joshua. 
Fast forward 7 months later - to February 2013, I am sitting in a brown wicker chair with Joshua and his elderly and grandmother Evalyn, and laughing and eating cassava root outside of their home. Community. Unity. Love. This is what life should be a about. The quiet moments sitting outside under the beautiful Ugandan skies, laughter tracing the leaves on the trees and joy flooding the places where our feet touched the ground. I held her withered hands that had experienced pain and sorrow and felt an empathy fill me. This beautiful and strong woman has survived a war. She has survived war lords. She has survived and seen her children be abducted and has seen not all of them return. She has many beautiful grandchildren that she can barely provide for, but she does and gives up her woven mat so they have a place to sleep. She is love to look at.

With lollipops in our hands, reuniting together and sitting in brown wicker chairs.

sitting with Joshua and Winny in the shade. 

there was a hope in his eyes that was undeniably Jesus. 

On the hour drive back to Lira from the village, my heart was trying to process everything. The dirt on his red shirt, the hope in his eyes. His grandmother who has been praying for an answer to a better life and education for her children. I was already sponsoring a girl in school, but I was confident if I called upon friends they might want to help support him.

I came back to my little room where I was staying, pulled out my laptop and posted a photo and Joshua's story on facebook, (orphan of war / child born in captivity and HIV+) -- He is much more than this identifier, but it is part of his unique story that just reinforces what he's overcome. Friends jumped at the opportunity to contribute to sending him to school. Literally with in seconds I had notifications that they would provide for him. Seeing friends respond immediately, was such an encouragement in a tangible way that moved me in such a personal way to press on. A week later, we picked little 5 year old Joshua up on a motorcycle with his few belongings and brought him to the children of peace office.

Joshua spent the next 4 days with us, and I personally cared for him. My heart grew five sizes. I had never experienced such a deep empathy for a child before. It was almost as if I was a foster mom or a big sister there to take care of him. Over the 4 days, we watched Happy Feet (he loved the dancing penguins), skyped with my friend Cameron, ate meals, took naps together, listened to music on my headphones, prayed and sang songs, and just enjoyed being in each other's presence. My new friend, and best of all he was going to go to school! I even got to go to town and buy all his school supplies, books, mattress, box and lock, malaria net. Carrying ALL of these things awkwardly in my hands throughout the town with my friend Rebecca.

My favorite moment was sitting with Joshua on a wicker zebra print couch and eating bread with nutella and banana, one of my favorite snacks! He was right by my side, and he kept staring up at me smiling and making sounds like (oh my gosh this Nutella chocolate is soo delicious) he didn't have to say anything, we were silently eating our tasty snack and smiling and living in that special moment of friendship.

skyping with my friend Cam! Joshua has a new friend
Who doesn't love dancing penguins. 

our gangsta face.

I found him stealing the nutella jar from the fridge. bless him haha 

Joshua may be called an orphan by the understanding that he has no mom or dad, but now he has a family of friends now in the states and school buddies. He is not alone. He is healing from his war torn times, because of Your Love. He is healing because he knows someone cares for him. The Lord has been watching over him and now has brought friends to his side to walk with him.

Before we took Joshua to his first day in school.

Riding with Lameck to school with all his new school supplies! 

Joshua with his new school buds! Can you find him? 

For my 25th Birthday this year in August, I wanted to use it as a platform to get Joshua's sister Winny in school. I am happy to say she is now in school with her brother! My Birthday Dream came true!! Thanks to all who supported, see you next August 5th. 

** Update as of Aug 7th - Blown away by the love and support of my friends. Thanks to 8 separate birthday donations we have enough for more than 2/3rds the year scholarship for Winnie! That means this girl is trading in her village clothes for some brand spanking new uniforms soon. Can't wait to share this story of education with you.  See photo (Winnie with the fist pump) is already so excited!

I'm so excited for this new birthday tradition of mine that invites friends to be a part of participating in a child's life with the gift of education.

This happy girl in the green is smiling because you helped her get in school! I would use a fist pump too! 

It's so awesome to me that 8 different people, young and old, are sponsoring this ONE girl. It doesn't take a lot to make a difference, even the $1 contribution gave access to this girl having an education. We can do a great amount when we start from the place of compassion.

My friends, I am blessed to know you and I am so thankful you are in my life! I cannot believe I'm 25 years old today! This year has been an AMAZING adventure to say the least. Upon reflecting what moments and days of this year meant the most to me, I realized it was a day in Lira, Uganda in late February when a little boy named Joshua, a war orphan, went to school for the first time. I met him in the village with his sister Winnie, both orphaned by the LRA and the war in Northern Uganda.

Winny (10) still is living in a hut with her elderly grandmother, but I know she would love to be in school with her brother Joshua. It would also be such a sweet encouragement to this little guy I love. So, I am calling on you my dear friends, to be a part of a collective of 25 or maybe more, that can together be a part of changing Winny's life. A one time donation of $20, can change her life forever. And a group of people, some you know, maybe some you don't know are coming together with LOVE to help give a gift of education and boarding school that will empower and transform this sweet girl's life forever.

25 x $20 = A gift of education, boarding, school supplies, and endless empowerment! 

Click to Donate to Devon's 25th Birthday Fund for War Orphan Scholarship *still have $100 to raise

I would be SO grateful, even if you contributed a dollar or two, it can add up. Working with Children of Peace Uganda, within a week this girl could be in school just for the start of her first term! Either way, thank you for supporting me in this work and being such encouraging friends. I couldn't do any of this without you and it's my joy to do life with you all!

-- Devon

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