by Abbott Bailey
Abbott and Elaine Baur are in Uganda on a mission trip to the Circle of Peace School, which offers primary education to some of Uganda’s poorest and most vulnerable children. It was started by Joanita Senoga and is run by her family, the Bbaales. Her sister, Marylove, who was living in the United States, returned with us and will remain at in Kampala to help run the school. Both Joanita and Marylove call St. Andrew’s Church “home.”
When Elaine and I arrived in Kampala early Tuesday morning (at 2:45 am after 24 hours of travel), we were greeted with beautiful bouquets of flowers by the whole Bbaale family who had stayed up all night to welcome us to their country and their home. Gathered in the kitchen, we took hands while Ms. Amina (the family matriarch) said a prayer of welcome and thanksgiving for our safe arrival. We sang an Alleluia! verse and promptly went to bed.
After a quick sleep (or long nap as Elaine liked to call it), we were up to meet the children, do some grocery shopping and get ourselves connected with a wireless modem so we could stay in touch with folks back home. As soon as I walked out doors for the first time in daylight, young Joshua grabbed my hand to introduce me to the children at the school. Elaine had already made the rounds with Joshua a few minutes earlier, and I was not at all surprised when I rounded the first corner to find her sitting in the courtyard with a baby in her arms. In a matter of moments, she had managed to find and embrace the one infant on the campus that morning.
Later in the day while shopping for food, Elaine and I had to convince Marylove and Maurice (one of her brothers) that we didn’t want to eat American-style food while here. Instead, we really and truly wanted to eat what they eat. So with only peanut butter and one box of microwave popcorn, we settled on Ugandan fare, and we have not been disappointed. Beans, mashed plantains, rice, green beans, spiced cabbage, sweet potatoes – it’s all been delicious! We’ve already started scheming about how to get some of it back home. Marylove tells us the Asian and Mexican markets in Richmond have the food and spices we want, but for the best plantains we have to head to Arlington.
In late afternoon, Marylove met with the teachers at the school and introduced us to them. Several of them were a little surprised to hear me introduced as a “priest,” though I suspect my casual Capri pants and t-shirt caused as much confusion as my gender.
Joanita gave Elaine and me a long list of projects to complete while here, so after a day of getting settled we immediately jumped in to our first task – videotaping interviews of the children at the school to help spread the word about the school back home. More on the contents of the interviews later, but I’ll close with a brief word from Elaine:
“These children thrive on being touched, hugged, talked to and acknowledged. They love any attention you give them. I’m fast falling in love with all of them!”
It’ true we cause quite a stir whenever we interact with them. They love having their pictures taken and will jump in our laps, take our hands, and hug us with a hint of encouragement. The look on their faces and laughter is priceless when they hear my feeble attempts at the few words of Lugandan I’ve managed to pick up. These children are bright, articulate, and eager to learn. It’s a joy to be here!