Travel || Meet Musawo Michael / by Madeline Harper

Business has been picking up speed lately. It's an absolutely beautiful thing, but I have let it slow me from sharing about my trip to Uganda. I want to do these stories justice, I want the words I use to impact you as much as these kids impacted my heart. It's my deepest desire for you to hear and feel these stories the way I did- raw and straight from the mouths of sweet friends. I've put so much pressure on the way I express these stories that I've let work be a distraction. But I cannot say enough, orphan care is something that shouldn't depend on my comfort. It isn't an easy thing to think about, but does that mean I should ignore it? These friends of mine, these amazing kids who have been put in a children's home, they deserve to have their stories shared with dignity and care. They don't deserve to be pushed to the back-burner yet again. They are children of a King and I owe it to them to tell their stories so you can have the delight of getting to know their hearts. So, it is with joy and apology on my delay, that I share with you my friend Musawo Mike. 

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I was losing bad. It was day three and the older boys were beating me at a Ugandan card game similar to Uno. Except, unlike Uno, I was getting trashed. They couldn't contain their laughter at how horrid I was at this game. All except Mike, that is. He patiently looked over at my cards then explained to me again in flawless English how to play. When I kept on losing, he chuckled and just started to play my hands for me. That was the thing about Michael that struck me first, his patience and humility. He wasn't the first kid to run up to us when we walked through the gate to the children's home. Maybe it was the fact that he was one of the oldest kids there, but this was the first time I had noticed him. After that terrible card game he took time to explain the rules until I understood (gave up). He told me he wanted to be a doctor in order to help others, a common thread among the kids. After chatting a bit he went to hang out with the other guys, but the next day sought me out again. I immediately shouted out "Doctor Mike!" and he shied away. When I picked him out to hear his story, he almost seemed embarrassed at the attention. [He got insanely embarrassed whenever I asked to take his photo then ended up being a little model!] This kid's laughter was absolutely contagious and he often times ran away from my camera or hid his face whenever he saw a photo being taken. He tried to find a way out of answering most of my questions by laughing them off, but I wouldn't be diverted that easily. I found out Mike had lived at HOPE Children's Home for almost seven years. He came early in 2008. Like so many other children, his father brought him down from Moroto, a northern part of Uganda. He has three sisters and five brothers, yet hasn't seen his mom since 2004. He paused a bit there, not wanting to tell me the hard parts of his story. I asked if he was angry to be at HOPE, he replied with a soft no and then moved on, done with speaking about a family he never saw. Mike went on to tell me that he has seen God work tremendously in his life since being at HOPE. He looked at the ground at this point, telling me he used to not be humble, but was working on it. I was floored- for a kid who shied away from attention to tell me his pride used to be an issue was shocking for me. To see the way he interacted with the younger kids, protective and helpful, I wouldn't have ever believed it. He went on to say he sees the Lord act in his ability to have an education and in the way Baba Phillip protected him and kept him safe at the children's home. At this point, Michael was getting uncomfortable from my constant questions and photos. He was starting to withdraw again so I threw out one last question. "What is your favorite Bible verse?' His response- Romans 12:1 and James 4. He then let me see a glimpse of his love of Scripture and began reciting them to me. Mike is going to make a wonderful doctor one day, with a servant's hear and a joyful smile.

Michael hit a soft spot in my heart. It was so hard to hug him goodbye. He reminds me to an uncanny degree of some of the kids I worked with in Young Life. He was goofy and wouldn't talk about himself unless you spent time getting him to open up. His friendship felt familiar, like a ton of kids I met in a Texas high school. It's crazy to think how different his situation is from theirs, yet he carries himself with a dignity and maturity that is hard to find in most eighteen year old boys. It's also incredible to think of the chances kids here get to attend college, whereas for Michael that would be a miracle. He needs a sponsor for university in Kampala so he can achieve those dreams of becoming a doctor. Join me in praying for my friend and brother Michael to be able to attend college and know his value as a child of the King.