“Dad, don’t go” was the point that brought me to tears as I gave Seth a big, big hug good bye as he would call it. We had spent the night in Minneapolis as a family and the morning at the Mall Of America. Thomas the train was a big hit and the rides for the little kids were also much fun for Seth. However, it became clear that Seth completely and fully understood what was about to happen in the afternoon. After weeks of listening to adults talk about it and some prep for the last two days by mom and dad he was not looking forward to dad flying on a plane without him to Africa.Yes, the life of a worker for a charitable organization on another continent is not always exciting. Saying goodbye to Sarah, Seth and Jodie for another five week stint apart was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was not a happy camper as I got on the plane, but a tall well dressed black man got my attention. I waited towards the end of the boarding line and as I sauntered down the aisle in the plane I saw that my seat was beside this man I had spotted earlier. I knew immediately by his features that he was Sudanese and as we greeted each other his poor English supported this idea. Once off the plane we bumped into another tall well dressed man from Sudan. We were all going to Kampala and I suddenly became their leader in the Amsterdam airport as we found our new boarding gate for Uganda. Once settled we chatted a bit more about each others past and all of a sudden my almost six week departure from my family did not look so bad. Both of these men had been in refugee camps and had been separated from their families. In fact one of the men was part of the infamous “Lost boys of Sudan” that walked hundreds of miles and saw many of their countrymen die along the way. Both men had received permanent resident status in the USA through the United Nations. However they were in the process of trying to reunite their families with them as they were currently resettled in Uganda. One of the men had not seen his daughter of nearly two years and the other man had not been back in East Africa for about seven years. He was very excited to see his wife, boy of 8 and his daughter of 15. All of a sudden I realized once again that there are many people who have it much harder than I do and that even though I miss my family very much I can be thankful that we are together most of the time. It has become very clear that a passport from a peaceful nation like Canada or the United States would be one of their greatest privileges ever. I also realized that my children will be doubly blessed to have a passport from both countries at some point in the future. As I got off the plane in Uganda and said goodbye to my two new friends I made up my mind to once again give all I had for the boys and girls at the school who have very little compared to Seth or Jodie. I was back to school the next day where I received a warm welcome from the staff and students. With a hard working staff and excellent leadership while I was gone I found the school in great shape. The days were busy as we had a grade seven farewell party. As the 30 students came up at the party one at a time I was amazed at how grown up they became and how they have matured. The many varied problems that we dealt with as a result of their very difficult backgrounds had improved or disappeared in many cases.In particular I was touched by one student from Rwanda who has worked through many issues, particularly anger. As an example, earlier in the year he was upset by some discipline that was handed out and as a result he stated clearly that he did not want to help wash my car anymore or even look at it. Through much continued love from the wonderful team of staff at school this young man began to change. When I handed him his gift as he came up at the end of the year party, I knew his hug was real and genuine. The last night before the grade seven students left this young boy stopped in my office as I was working late. He presented me with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received…a car. He had spent the past week building a model car or perhaps I should say his BMW out of pieces of metal, sticks, broken sandals, elastics and broken pens. The car was amazing with a suspension system and a driving shaft that moved the front tires. I was at a loss for words, but managed to thank him, hid some tears or at least tried and we chatted for a little while. Later I learned that on his bus ride home, this orphan who had lost both parents and never new his dad displayed his new attitude. He gave some of his little money with a beggar at the border crossing ‘and best yet his anger problem due to the loss of his parents had become manageable and perhaps even a thing of the past. Yes, I miss my family and I will be extremely excited to wrap my arms around Sarah, hold my new little baby once again and have Seth run into my arms at the airport. As hard as it was to be separated for six weeks I know that I was a dad to one boy and many other young people who needed a dad. Like one of the adults who shared in devotions the other day it is better to make the years count than to count them. As Christmas approaches and many of us are blessed with so much let’s try and make a difference to so many others who may be hurting weather they are in Canada, United States or Africa.
God bless and Merry Christmas from the Williams family