I miscalculated . . . badly. On the flight from LAX to Amsterdam, I had gotten my four hours of pharmaceutical sleep at the time when Ugandans were sleeping. But on the flight from Amsterdam to Entebbe, Uganda, in a moment of weakness and stupidity, I took a nap for a couple hours. Unfortunately, this meant that when I could finally get to bed on Friday night at about 1:00 a.m., I was unable to sleep. At all. I tried twice, but each time just laid there. Finally, I gave up and just caught up on e-mail and some other work.
Over breakfast, we had a heartbreaking meeting with a couple who had been in Uganda for the better part of a year and had been granted legal guardianship (a step toward adoption) over a little boy, but had been unsuccessful in their attempts to do the same for a little girl. They had been foster parents for both kids for several months and both kids clearly considered them to be their parents. Please pray for them as they try to complete the difficult adoption process.
We also met with a couple Ugandan officials (I am being purposely vague), one of whose children had attended the excellent prep school that I am hoping to get Henry admitted to early next year. She graciously offered her assistance in the upcoming admissions process, but cautioned that Henry would have to score very high on the national exams to even be considered.
We also met the bravest boy in the world. Having previously heard about him, it took all I had not to just pick him up and hug him. To protect his identity, I will refer to him simply as Hero. I had a chance to sit with Hero (who just turned nine) and to help him cut up his breakfast before he ate. He made a paper airplane out of a napkin, and borrowed my pen and started writing and solving math problems on the napkin. When interacting with Hero, one would have no idea that about a year ago he had defied all odds and had somehow stumbled out of a field bloodied and disorientated after having been kidnapped and ritually carved up by a witch doctor. Not only did he survive, but he stared the witch doctor in the eye at the trial and identified him as his assailant. That witch doctor was convicted, representing the first time in Ugandan history that anyone had been convicted under the trafficking in body parts statutes. Bob Goff and his Restore team orchestrated the trial. Later this week, Hero will fly with Bob back to the United States for a series of reconstructive surgeries over the course of about six months.
After breakfast, we packed up and set out on the five-hour drive north to Gulu where Henry was in the midst of the next-to-last day of the national exams. I was in the car with John Niemeyer, Bob Goff, and Darla Anderson. We talked about Niemeyer’s law school plans (perhaps this next fall at Pepperdine?), Darla’s life at Pixar (fascinating), Bob’s hopes and dreams for Restore International’s work in Uganda (expansive), and Henry’s plight so far and his hopes and dreams for the future. After we crossed the Nile, which serves as a de facto dividing line between the North and the South in Uganda (Kony and the LRA rebels never made it south of the Nile), we stopped to feed the baboons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oZWuaHZOVY.
Upon arriving in Gulu, we checked into the hotel and then set off for the Restore Leadership Academy, which is about fifteen minutes outside of Gulu. The students all know Bob and love it when he comes to the school because that means something big is going to happen. Last time he came, he brought huge tarps and a skateboard and the kids learned to “tarp surf.” Last time Bob’s law partner Danny DeWalt came to Restore, he lugged with him two “portable” basketball hoops and introduced the kids to a new sport. Niemeyer bought the kids some jerseys and the big year-end game was scheduled for Saturday night. After we arrived, the game got going.
Before we arrived, Niemeyer had called Henry and learned that he and Joseph were actually in Gulu getting his parents settled at their hotel. Their father had been to Gulu only once, when he dropped off the boys for school in June of 2010. But their mother had never been to Gulu. About twenty minutes after we arrived at Restore, Henry and Joseph arrived in a taxi. I had positioned myself behind Niemeyer’s car so they couldn’t see me as they walked up. I had also given my Flip camera to Hunter so he could capture the reunion. As hoped, they were quite surprised http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ujndtJe7U. They told me that their families and friends had been asking them for several weeks whether Mr. Jim was coming to for graduation, but he had told them what I had told him – that I couldn’t leave work in the middle of the semester to come. (Thanks Dean Tacha and Dean Perrin for the Hall Pass).
The three of us talked for the next half hour, but there wasn’t a ton of new things that had happened since we had spoken by phone earlier that week. Henry did tell me, however, that he felt very good about how the three-week long national exams were going and that his last day of exams was this coming Monday. When it started raining a bit harder than the light sprinkle we had been experiencing, our group set off back to the hotel. Henry told me that he wasn’t going to call and tell his parents that I came because he wanted to surprise them in the morning.
Back at the hotel, I skyped with Joline and the kids for a few minutes, but was starting to show narcoleptic tendencies, so I went to bed at around 8:00 p.m. Tomorrow is graduation day, and Bob’s motto has always been “Go big, or go home.” It should be a full day of action and whimsy.