“Jina lako?” “What is your name?” I repeated this Swahili phrase 33 times today as I met the boys and girls in the Ihungu Remand Home in Masindi (about 3 – 4 hours from Kampala, depending on traffic). Because these teen prisoners have come from different parts of Uganda and speak a variety of languages, Swahili is the language that most of them have in common. My task was to write down their name with a marker on a piece of paper that they could hold up as a name tag of sorts, while I took their photo. One by one, they were released from the custody (prison dorm) so I could meet them. Most of them knelt down in front of me as a sign of respect for authority. I would shake their hand and encourage them to stand up so they could help me write their name (both African and Christian name) on the paper. It was a challenge to spell names like Atugondeza and Owachgiu. I tried to get them to smile for their photo, but some wouldn’t (I guess I would find it hard to smile if I were locked up). Then, one by one, they would walk over to the tree under which Jim was waiting to interview them. Today his task was to get basic information about them (name, age, date of arrest, charges, date of arrival at Ihungu, etc.). In late June, Jim and a team of Pepperdine law students and lawyers, and Ugandan lawyers will come back to prepare their cases to go before the judge. Some of these teenagers have only been waiting there a week, but others have been waiting two years to see a judge. Ugandan law says that juveniles must not wait more than six months after arrest to see a judge, so these kids have been waiting too long already.
It was surreal to see Henry translating for Jim as he interviewed the prisoners. It was a little over two years ago that Henry was doing the same translating for Jim with different group of prisoners at Ihungu, but at that time Henry was also a prisoner. Praise God that justice was served and Henry was found innocent of the charges that initially put him in Ihungu, where he waited almost two years. For almost two years now, he has been a free young man and has been able to continue his secondary studies in preparation for medical school. Henry will be a fantastic doctor. He will show his patients the same compassion he showed the prisoners he helped. Today he was so encouraging to them and prayed a beautiful prayer for them before we left Ihungu.
Out in Namutamba (a town a couple of hours from Kampala), school children were being asked the same question I asked, “What is your name” but in Luganda it is “Erinnya lyo ggwe ani?” The Gregston family and Jessica are staying in Namutamba, doing health screenings for three days. The doctors saw over 200 kids today, so Jessica was kept busy, working in the pharmacy. She has found that medical mission work is what she loves.
Back in Kampala, Joshua and Jennifer were spending the day with Lindsey and Eden Doyle at our apartment, playing and swimming. Today was Eden’s last day in Uganda, before heading to the U.S. tonight for the first time to meet the rest of her new family. Eden’s adoption has been a very long process, with many ups and downs. You can read the Doyle family’s blog at: www.doyleadoption.wordpress.com. We have been blessed by this family and by getting to know Eden. Jim and I returned home tonight from Masindi just in time to say goodbye. Before Lindsey and Eden got into the car to take them to the airport, our family gathered around them and I prayed for them. My heart overflowed with joyful tears as we praised God for Eden and for her new family. Eden is such a blessing. But when she was born, her uncle named her Pichan (which means cursed). It is hard to believe that someone would give a baby that name, but later the nurses caring for her gave her the new name Eden Hannah (which means delight and grace) and God has given her a new family who loves her and knows that she is God’s blessing to them. Incidentally, Eden was born in Masindi, the town where Jim and I spent our day.
As I sit at my computer, after everyone else has gone to bed, I am trying to wrap my brain around today. But I can’t. God has done “immeasureably more than we could ask or imagine.” He just blows me away. He rescued Henry. He rescued Eden. He rescued our family. He has given us new names. Henry’s name has changed from “prisoner” to “future doctor.” Eden’s name has changed from “cursed” to “delight.” I do not know our new names yet, but I know we have been changed.