You Are Safe Here – Uganda children’s home

by Breana, YWAM Madison Staff, DTS ’11 Graduate
Soroti, Uganda 

Breana holds a sleepy girl in Jinja, Uganda

I had no idea my heart would experience such a break when I first heard we would be going to the Amecet Home. I knew we would meet children and babies who have HIV/AIDS, I expected very much to be able to go into the home, see what it meant to truly love on these precious children, maybe help make the kids smile and laugh. I did not expect to cry.

And that is what I did–tonight while putting one very sad little girl to bed, I cried with her.

She came to the home late this afternoon; they believe she is around 6 or 7 years old. The moment I saw her from across the yard, I knew I was going to befriend this little girl. My team and I were told that from the police station to the home, she seemed to transition well. As soon as I heard this, I knew it was going to be a long night for her.

I arrived at the home this evening to start my night shift with one of the girls on my team. It didn’t take long after dinner for the new little girl to wander to the screen door and begin to cry. She was speaking in her language but there was one word I knew, “papa.” She was asking to go home to her papa.

The sad reality to this little girl’s story is that she was not able to go home. Her parents were in the middle of a legal situation and it was not possible for her to be with them. The staff here at the home tried to console her, giving her a glass of milk, taking her hand, showing her around the home, trying to make her feel welcome and a little at home. Nothing seemed to help this poor little girl understand why she is here at all and not at home with her family. I was holding a baby, finally soothed with his bottle. I watched as fear and sadness quickly overtook the little girl.

Something inside of me instantly sympathized with the girl…she felt alone, abandoned, afraid…I knew all of those feelings very well. The little girl standing before me reminded me of myself at some points in my life.

Still holding the baby, I walked over to her and held out my hand as tears streamed down her face. She took my hand and we went to sit on the couch. Over and over she kept saying she wanted to go home to her papa. At first, all I could do is sit close to her and put my free arm around her. As quickly as I knew earlier in the day that the little girl and I would become friends, I knew I needed to somehow open both of my arms to her. I passed my friend the baby I was holding and replaced my arms and lap with the little girl. I held her tight and she held on tighter. She still cried, she still said she wanted to go home to her papa…and I still held on to her, telling her softly, “it’s ok.” I repeated these words to her over and over again.

After what felt like a very long time, it was time for her to go to bed. I couldn’t leave her alone to cry by herself in an unfamiliar room. I knew that scenario well, too. I volunteered to take her to her bed and wait with her until she fell asleep. She knew where we were going and as I carried her to her room, her arms wrapped around my neck, she held on tighter and cried harder.

I placed her in her bed, sat on the edge of the bed, and tucked her mosquito net in around us. She lay there, staring up at me, tears covering her cheeks, one hand still tightly attached to the collar of my t-shirt. She sat up abruptly, once again crying and asking to go home to her papa. My heart broke into what felt like a thousand pieces as I realized I had no words of comfort that she would understand during those moments. The only thing I thought she would understand was if I told her yes…yes, she could go home and see her papa. I couldn’t tell her that because I knew it may not be true.

At that point, we both were crying as a result of our very sad hearts. I asked God for some words to help calm her confused heart. The word “safe,” came into my mind. I gently cradled both sides of her face in my hands and told her, “It’s ok, you are safe here.”

She laid back down, I laid next to her and reassured her over and over again that she is safe here all while she continued to hold on to the collar of my shirt. She stopped crying and fell asleep very quickly. As I slipped out from under her mosquito net to tend to the other children still awake in the living room, I thanked God for providing me with those reassuring words.