I am not sure how to even start this. Everything is still swirling around in my head. So much love, so much happiness, so many tears, so many experiences that will for ever be embedded in my mind and my heart.
I will start off by saying this was a mission trip that has been on my heart for as long as I can remember. I have followed Julie Stroder's blog posts on these trips every time she went to Uganda and just knew this was a place that God had put in my heart to go. Julie always said that when it was time, God would get me there. In a very naive way I felt with all the pictures that Julie has posted over the years and hearing all the stories from people who had experienced this life changing journey that I was prepared for anything and everything about Uganda and this mission. Man was I so very wrong! I wasn't prepared for the love I felt for this country the minute we landed in Entebbe. I wasn't prepared for the love I have for the people, for the sounds, for the smells and everything about this amazing country called Uganda. I wasn't prepared to see first hand the shacks and huts that so many live in that don't even have windows. I wasn't prepared for their unbelievable contentment with what they have or more to point what they don't have. So many things that we take for granted both big and small.
I still can't put into words all of my feelings I have because I have never experienced anything like this before and I pray to God that He will always keep these feelings, many great and some hard , always embedded in my heart and my mind. Through all of my processing of this trip the one thing that is first and for most on my heart is the way God has blessed me through this trip. I see and feel His hands on every part of my journey on this mission trip. All glory goes to Him! Secondly I can't put into words that would express what Julie Stroder means to me and all who have been blessed to know her, work with her and most of all call her friend! Her passion to this mission and to the people there is one of the big reasons that my heart was drawn to Uganda. Tears come to my eyes every time I think of what an impact Julie , Pastor Chuck, and Hearts and Hope have made in the lives of these beautiful people as well as my own! My thanks and love to all of them. God has used them to bring not only a better life into the lives of these children and their villages but have done so without changing their culture and everything that is so beautiful about their lives. My thanks and love to all of them. I will be forever grateful and in awe of each one of you.
To pick just one or two things that really stuck with me on this trip is something I am having such a hard time doing. I still go to bed every night and wake up every morning with thoughts of the children, the families, the villages and everything else that has become such a part of me from all my experiences on this trip! Every thing that I saw and experienced was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Each one played a huge part in what made up this life changing journey! The blog posts by Grant, Jeremy, and Michelle are so on target with what I felt and experienced. Our journey's are different in some ways but exactly the same in so many ways that it is hard to not express the same feelings.
As I am sitting here writing this I keep going back through each day. Remembering the first crazy bus rides through the streets of Kampala and Jinja and those rough rides that followed on dirt roads filled with potholes that took us to our visits in the villages. Seeing the children, teachers and other villagers lining the road up to the schools waving, smiling and singing "we welcome you". Meeting my sponsor child for the first time and then the added blessing of meeting her father as well. The home visits that showed what there living conditions were truly like outside of school . Sleeping on mats laid across dirt floors with inside walls divided by tattered fabric or even clothes hanging from strings stretched from one wall to other allowing at least a small amount of privacy. The heart tugging stories we heard about of Rachael, Mirabu and Abraham along with the equally heart wrenching loss of sweet Juliet, the sponsor child that became ill and passed away while we were there. These are just a few of the incredibly sad, painful, beautiful, life changing experiences that made this first mission trip definitely not my last mission trip to Uganda with Hearts and Hope.
Being able to do Days for Girls at several villages was one of those experiences that was close to my heart. I was able to see first hand the faces of those girls when they were educated on feminine hygiene and the sustainable feminine hygiene kits that we brought with us. My Days for Girls co-leader, Michelle Arnold is a registered nurse and did a fantastic job of educating these girls (via the equally amazing Maria who works for Hearts and Hope and was able to translate) about what a period is and how it affects your body and emotions. It was amazing to watch as they heard that what they go through is what all healthy girls and women from all over the world go through and that they did not need to be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it. At the end of the session we had several questions brought up that I'm sure would never have been discussed or addressed prior to the Days for Girls program being offered to these girls. Another high light of this experience for me was to be able to actually give these girls kits that the Rolla Days for Girls and Weldon Springs Days for Girls teams put together with so much love and compassion! Many hours of hard work and prayers went into making them and as for me, to be able to see first hand the smiles and excitement that these made in the lives of these girls was worth more than anything I could imagine! We were able to hand out around 75 kits to girls in several villages! Every girl was told how much love and care went into their kits by these amazing teams back in America and that each one came with prayers and hope that these would change their lives.
The only way I can finish this is to say that if I take away only one thing from my trip with Hearts and Hope it is that every life matters. I am signed up with a blog that delivers a bible verse each day to my email and today's was from Matthew 25:37-40 that says "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" 'The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' I pray and hope that I helped at least one child there but I know for a fact that they all helped me to see life in a completely different way and that Uganda will forever more be a huge part of my life! Thank you to Julie Stroder, all the Hearts and Hope staff and to the most amazing team of friends that anyone could ask for in taking this journey with me! Love you all!