TRAVEL || Elpis Ministries Children's Home / by Madeline Harper

Hey friends, I'm thrilled to begin sharing some of my photographs and findings with you from my recent trip to Iganga, Uganda! Over the course of the upcoming weeks I'll be introducing you to some of the kids at Elpis Ministries Children’s Home, known in Uganda as H.O.P.E. Children’s Home. I recently spent five days at this orphanage with The Archibald Project, documenting stories and life there. I was absolutely blown away by the level of love, directed care, and personal investment each child receives at this little slice of heaven inside a Ugandan village. H.O.P.E. Children's Home is dramatically changing lives; the kids who reside there are taken from the streets or less than ideal living situations and brought into community where they can meet Jesus and have a phenomenal father figure, Phil. 

We were meant to walk streets of gold with a Father who loves, teaches, gifts, invests, and guides us in perfect relationship. But sin entered this world and broke it in every way imaginable. People were left in poverty, bellies go to bed hungry at night, man kills man unflinchingly, and children are left abandoned and given up on. It was not meant to be this way. Families were created to fight loneliness, encourage in love, and pursue the Creator together. But this world has fallen oh so far from the perfect Eden. And we are all left with a scar. We have traces upon us where the darkness has bruised and marked and entered our world. This perfect relationship morphed from reality to unobtainable fairytale with the bite of an apple. Left of this side are those we see today- the broken and hungry, the angry and impoverished, the proud and tyrannical, the fearful and orphaned. We were meant to walk streets of gold, hand in hand with the Creator. Sometimes on this side it can be so easy to lose heart. There are day when you walk into a Ugandan orphanage where one hundred and thirty kids reside and your heart crumbles. You see the sins of parents shattering the lives of innocent children. You watch a kid tell you without blinking that their father left, their brothers died and that their mother couldn’t be bothered to care for them any more. You hear a child debase themselves into just another mouth to feed. You see a hundred more kids that you will never know, walking the streets alone, hungry, and forgotten by the world. It’s easy to fall down the steep descent of despair and wallow in streams of what if’s and what isn’t. 

But there is a light that shines brighter, my dear friends. There are memories that don’t cancel out the tragic, but place a healing balm over them. Those nights are ones where 130 children greet you with a hug. One hundred and thirty pairs of arms wrap around you with a yelled greeting of “JEBALE” and a giggle. Those arms then raise to the sky as a hymn of praise is shouted up in welcoming new visitors. Those same children in the same breath after telling you they were left for another to parent them, then speak words of unhindered friendship and gratitude for schooling. These kids all speak of a new family gained at Elpis Ministry’s children’s home. They talk of plans to be a nurse, to study hard for exams, to travel the world one day. These children bring you in and teach you Losongo, their native language. They break down barriers and bring you straight into their heart like it’s never been wounded. They rejoice in new friendships. They visit their parents who are still living and don’t hold a single grudge. Most importantly, they shout the phrase “Yesu Akswenda” on repeat- Jesus loves you. There is no self-pity, no wallowing in the rage that would be first instinct to many of us. There is acceptance there. There is healing. There is compassion for others, curiosity about goodness in life, praise for daily blessings, and a love of Christ. 

This is the children’s home I was fortunate enough to visit in Uganda. One full of redemption and hope. One full of life and rejoicing. Over the next couple weeks I will share testimonies from the other side of the globe. You will have the chance to meet the kids who have a permanent place in my heart. You can hear their ambitions, see how far they have come, and get to know them as more than “orphan” but as a real kid with a story. I cannot wait to share these powerful souls with you. Stay tuned for more stories and pictures of my incredibly full and eye opening time in Uganda!

To learn more about The Archibald Project, a non-profit organization that advocates orphan care through social media and story telling, check out their website. To learn more about Elpis Ministries, founder Phil Jones, and this beautiful children's home, see their linked website.