I had read quite a bit about an organization called Sixty Feet that has gone into these 'remand homes' and greatly improved the living conditions. What we saw was difficult to experience, but you could definitely tell that Sixty Feet's efforts had made an impact.
The facility we visited is referred to as "M" and it houses over 100 children ages 7-18. Most of them are boys who are predominantly over the age of 12. Many are there either awaiting trial or because they have been convicted of an offense. The others are there simply because they were 'lost' or wandering the streets with no where to call home.
Sixty Feet has done a remarkable work, bringing running water to the bathrooms, providing cleaning supplies and working beside the kids to encourage them to take pride in maintaining their own living spaces. They also bring in medical personnel to check all the kids and give them the basic care that they would otherwise not receive. As Sixty Feet works to clean their living environment they are also teaching them about a God who can 'clean' the dirtiness of their lives and make them a new creation.
Our visit was a first for Visiting Orphans and was intended to allow the group to assess how to best partner with Sixty Feet to effectively minister to these kids during future visits by other VO teams. We came away encouraged that the Lord was opening a door of opportunity. The staff at this facility has a real heart for these kids and are open to outside help as they have such limited funds and resources. These kids are hungry for HOPE... the HOPE of Jesus. They live in a physical prison of concrete and bars, but their spirits are free to learn and grow.
After visiting with a few of the kids in the courtyard we were taken through an area where the solitary cells were located and then on to the main holding facilities. These were large dormitories which were barred off into three sections with a main common area. The staff assembled the kids in the common area. It was in this room where they greeted us and sang a number of songs. The most touching included a phrase that kept repeating over and over but with a slight variation with each verse . . . "Lord, let your LOVE come down on us . . . Lord, let your POWER come down on us . . . Lord, let your FORGIVENESS come down on us. As I sat in this large room these kids call home with bars in every direction and my back against a cold, hard wall . . . I could no longer hold back the tears. While these kids were physically imprisoned, the simple truth of their song spoke of spiritual freedom. Knowing that you are loved and that the only power you need is to be forgiven. We enjoy physical freedom but many times remain spiritually imprisoned. The Bible says, "then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32.
How many of us KNOW the TRUTH... yet still allow ourselves to live in bondage to so many things?
anger, bitterness, fear, doubt, control, overcommitment, temptations and the list goes on and on. How many times do I find myself letting so many circumstances 'imprison' me ... instead of living in the FREEDOM that comes from walking in the TRUTH... in the LIGHT of God's WORD?
As I listened to these kids go into a chorus of prayer... each earnestly talking to the Lord... arms and faces raised... I was touch by their prayers. He is their ONLY hope. He is ALL they have to cling to. Many do not have a home to go back to... and they NEED to know that they are LOVED.
While we were visiting with some of the children in the courtyard we were introduced to this 12 year old girl. A year ago she had been sent to live with a family in Kampala to work for her keep (her mother was too ill and her grandmother was too poor to care for her). While running an errand she had become 'lost' and was found wandering the streets. Not knowing the area or the family well the officers had no other options than to bring her to the remand home. She has been at "M" for so long, simply because there were no funds available to pay for the fuel and time for someone to take her back to her home village and look for her family. A member from our team donated the needed funds (about $150 to rent a car and pay for gas) to allow Moses, Sixty Feet's director in Uganda, to travel to find her family five hours away into northern Uganda. While there he was able to work out a way for her to be re-united with her Aunt. We just received an email from Moses where he shared that on a second trip he was able to transport her to her family and she is NO LONGER living in the prison.
As I mentioned before, Sixty Feet brings in medical staff each week to provide routine medical check ups and treatment. But some situations require more extensive medical care. Sixty Feet was providing the needed funds for this boy to have a much needed surgery to remove a painful tumor. Our team was able to pray over him before he left. There are SO many NEEDS but SO little FUNDS to take care of them. Sixty Feet is doing an amazing work with these children.
I am SO excited that Visiting Orphans is now partnering with Sixty Feet and will be sending teams in to work in the 'remand homes' starting this Spring! Hopefully, our team that is going the end of June will also be able to spend a day at a 'remand home'.
We only have a few openings left on the June trip . . . come and join us!! Please PRAY for these children . . . the harvest is plentiful . . . I have seen it!!