Sonja and I are planning our trip back to Uganda this summer. We are talking about when and how and why. And it is getting warm in California now. And so our talk about going back to Uganda mixes with the warm evenings and it makes me think about the evenings at the orphanage-and I need to have a few of those evenings at the orphanage.
Fifteen minutes after dinner. After the rice and beans have been devoured, the kids gather outside under the darkening sky to worship. Every night. Always after dinner. Simon carries out the drums, and he and Brian or Arnold start playing a beat. Then Janet or Justine decide which song to sing and the whole group eventually makes their way out to the front of the house. And soon they are all singing, moving. Rachel or Rita or Sylvia begin dancing. One of them sets the tempo for the other girls that join in the dancing. Honey is dancing on the side of the group while he holds Miracle. Justine always closes her eyes and holds her head to the sky as she sings. Little Meddy tries to dance but he is always, without fail, off beat. Zula watches her sister Aisha dance and tries to copy her steps. Apu is holding Sonja’s hand as she sways with the rhythm of the drums. I am holding Sapu in my arms and am following the dance that Rachel is leading.
Meddy comes over to me and holds my free hand until his eyes are closed. Because Meddy only lasts 10 minutes dancing. He falls asleep every night at the same time, and one of the older kids picks him up and brings him to his bed inside the house. None of these children have parents anymore. Their parents have either loved them but then died, or hated them and then left them, or have beaten them and abandoned them, or have tried to kill them and then lost them. Each of them are orphans with pasts they hope to forget one day.
But every night
Darling Jesus, Darling Jesus
O My darling Jesus you are Wonderful Lord
I love you so much, Darling Jesus
O my Darling Jesus you are Wonderful Lord
And they sing,
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, for You.
And then one of the older kids starts praying out loud and soon they are all praying out loud. Justine has her eyes pinched shut and she is shouting into the air. Zula, little Zula is waving her right hand up to the sky. William is gesturing and his voice crescendos and drops. And the sound of the children grows and grows and fills the area, and I am holding Sapu in my arms and I am a witness of all of this.
And I need to go back.