I have told the following story verbally to many people who talk to me about my experiences in Uganda. I thought it was about time that I put it in writing. My only concern it that it will be too long. I have to break it up into two parts. So, here’s Part I.
My two friends and I arrived in Kampala on a Saturday afternoon in February, 2013. It was my first trip and we were staying at a ‘guesthouse’ at the top of a steep hill. At the base of that hill was a ‘babies home,’ an orphanage, caring for about 50 children ranging in age from newborn to 5 years old. We went down in the late afternoon/early evening to volunteer watching the children and assist the paid staff with some of their duties.
I was out in the courtyard with three children who were 3 or 4 years old, hanging all over me of course. I saw two Caucasian women watching about six children over in the corner of the yard and decided to walk over and find out why they were there. As I approached, one of them said, “Hey! Are you Mike Rush?” You can imagine my confusion, surprise and utter shock as I cautiously responded, “Why yes…yes, I am. Who are you and how do you know me?” I didn’t realize that my ‘world travels’ had been published anywhere; complete with photos of me!
It turns out it was Ashley, a fellow colleague working in the same field of social work as me, who had seen me at meetings we both attend. Since social work is not populated by many male workers, usually everyone knows who the few men are that attend meetings. Though I had seen Ashley before, I didn’t recognize her.
Ashley was there because she was adopting a Ugandan child from this orphanage and she was spending time playing/bonding with the child. She was finishing up her stay in Uganda and was hoping to leave soon. I was only going to be there today and tomorrow and then I was moving on to another city. We spent some time talking and watching children, and she agreed to talk more once she returned to Ohio. We have had that conversation since. I admire her so much for stepping forward to care for a Ugandan child with special needs.
Here’s my point. It was my first trip to an African country where I was hoping to explore the possibilities of launching an international adoption program. While those who know me might say I am a self-assured individual confident in my professional abilities, I was struggling with some uncertainty about what I was doing in Africa. I was unsure to say the least and was looking for some type of confirmation; some sign that this venture would lead to other possibilities for the agency. I’m not an actuary, but what do you think the odds are that I would travel halfway across the globe to an African orphanage and run into another person from Ohio at the very same orphanage who works in the same field of endeavor; who is adopting internationally; who knows and recognizes me; and who was there on one of the two days I visited the same city, even the same orphanage? Are they 500,000 to 1? One Million to one? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in what are called ‘divine appointments,’ where God intervenes in our lives and puts us together with people to get a point/message across or to direct our paths. I already had some of those ‘appointments’ that led me to take this initial trip to Africa. I perceived this one as a step of confirmation for me. It told me I was moving in the right direction. It happens a lot to me as I try to walk through my life by my faith in God. Some people can fault me for it; some may think I’m crazy. Some may call it living “one day at a time;” others might call it “everything happens for a reason.” I’m sure you’ve heard different takes on it.
Here I am sixteen months later, taking forward steps toward a vision to help children from another country have a better life. It’s already changed a bit from the original kernel of an idea.
But this is the end of Part I…there was the next day at the same orphanage and yet more to share.