Reflections on the residential

Kiwoko_gates_into_hosp Posted by Niall Manogue on Wed, 01 Sep 2010 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook


Afaayo day 1 over, the EKISA team has been divided in two as 3 of us are with the young people (aged 13+) and the others are repeating the programme we did last week, with the younger age group.

Having worked on a programme in Northern Ireland for these young people based on the theme of Jesus having power, I really felt a strong leading to change the whole thing once I got here. We hadn’t completely finished planning the programme, and so a major change was not a problem – it just meant sitting down and writing out something new. The overwhelming responsibility of leading this particular group of young people really hit home when I spoke to Alison, who told me some of their stories and the reality of their existence.

So the theme shifted from a teaching perspective on the power of Jesus to more of a participatory learning experience, which was designed to get the young people talking, sharing and leading the direction of the sessions. The whole aim of the programme is to encourage them to feel accepted, that they belong and are loved and wanted by God. A message we all need to hear, but one which I felt really strongly needed to be told to this group of young people.

Gemma, Kirstin and I packed up the kit list and boarded the bus at about 11am this morning. After meeting most of the young people at Kiwoko Hospital. We picked up a few along the way to the Emmaus Centre – the place I am currently writing this from. This is a Christian retreat centre which really rivals what we have at home. God is good! These young people deserve to sleep in comfort having brushed their teeth and had a shower – who doesn’t?

Having met the young people this morning, I sat beside one called Bashir who seemed really down – I asked him if he was ok, he shook his head. I presumed he was feeling homesick and gave him an encouraging smile and a little shoulder hug… It was only later when we began playing games with the others that the leaders told me he was hungry – probably hadn’t eaten in a day or more as who he lives with doesn’t look after him well.

Of course hunger explained his lethargic and unenthusiastic response, but had I ever experienced a hungry child coming to one of my youth retreats? I was both amazed and really touched when lunch time came, and after eating a mountain of food on his plate, he went up for seconds – returning with another mountain of food and a huge smile on his face. What a life some of these young people lead… I am delighted to report that a full afternoon of playing football ensued shortly after accompanied by that same smile which appeared at dinner and didn’t leave till bed time.

You know writing this blog as I sit on my bed at the end of a long first day in Afaayo, do I really see these young people as HIV+ young people who have some of the hardest lives imaginable? No… tonight these young people were reading football magazines, having their nails painted, listening to music, playing uno, jenga, snap… They are not HIV+ young people – they are young people who need space to be young. Tonight they experienced it and what a blessing to be able to sit in the middle and witness the laughter and fun!

The responsibility to deliver a good programme is reduced somewhat by the expert leaders these young people have who work with them on a regular basis, but they do need to know they are accepted, that they are NOT the labels other people put on them, that they are loved by God – that they are his chosen people, that they are accepted by the Lord, that He takes great delight in them…

These are the ones Christ came for – please pray blessing on their lives with us in Uganda. They are beautiful young people who through no fault of their own live with a condition they do not understand, which has ravaged their families, and which leaves them excluded and judged by almost every other person. Is this fair? They live with unimaginable injustice, unresolved mourning and pain of lost parents – yet do they complain? No – instead they sing with passion that God is Good.

Just who is teaching who on this trip?

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