Yesterday our friend Mugabe invited the guys to join him in a part of his ministry. Once a week Mugabe plays football (soccer) with a group of street kids, and believe me, this is no easy task. Their favorite thing to do is play football and most of them have played their whole lives. A few of them had a pair of soccer cleats, but most played in old beat up sandals or bare feet. Mugabe and five of us muzungos (white people) arrived at the dirt field expecting to be schooled by a group of tough footballers. Lucky for us, they were not interested in a slaughter. The muzungos were split up between the two teams and as we began to play, we quickly realized how out of shape we were. We all gave it our best shot and in the end, I think we did pretty good for a group of inexperienced muzungos.
If I had not been told, I would never have guessed that most of these kids have grown up sleeping on the streets of Kampala (the capital city of Uganda). Around 50,000 kids sleep on the streets of Kampala every night. At any time the police are free to pick them up and put them in jail. They looked like a normal group of teenagers, fooling around and joking, getting ready to play a pick-up game of football. They showed no sign that they were uncivilized in any way, or that they had no home or parents to go back to.
I was very encouraged by the fact that Mugabe, having grown up on the streets himself, spends most of his time hanging out with and helping these kids. Mugabe was lucky enough to eventually be sponsored and graduate the Ugandan equivalent of high school. He now has a passion and ministry in getting to know the street kids and figuring out a program that will sustainably help them.
According to Shane, the director of CLD, many NGOs and church short term mission groups come in and give large groups of street kids food or things like sandals and clothes. Not only is this not sustainable, but most of the kids will go and sell the things that they receive to buy something called paraffin that they sniff to get high. In the end, this kind of helping can end up hurting more than it helps. Mugabe’s mission is to figure out a program that will truly help these kids while bringing them Jesus. I was glad to be able to experience Mugabe’s ministry and learn about what helping the poor really looks like.