“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” James 1:17
This past Christmas, I unwrapped one of the best gifts my husband and children gave me. They strategized the ‘revealing’ perfectly and made sure I opened this very large box last. When it came time to open it, my son handed me the gift while my daughter grabbed my phone to record my reaction. A little uneasy and nervous, I slowly unwrapped the box and thought to myself, “ How am I going to show my excitement and thankfulness if I get another kitchen appliance or pair of slippers?” No matter what, I knew my children and husband were giddy with excitement and anticipation. I opened the box and pulled out a gray stuffed elephant along with a few notes written by my children. My son -- then a 4th grader, age 9 -- wrote:
We have heard you several times say you want to go to a place called Uganda on a mission trip. We got this present for you as we hope you see an elephant when you go on this trip!
We will miss you a lot, but we know this will be a life-changing experience, not just for you, but for the families you will help. This note is to encourage you to go on this trip. But before you decide, there are two things we want you to remember: 1) Take pictures...LOTS of pictures. And...2) Have fun helping kids and spread God’s love. Because we love you!
Wow! My family ‘gets it!’ I couldn’t believe I would have the opportunity to share the love of Jesus to so many in need; in ways unimaginable, but I would also be able to meet Fazila, the sweet girl our family sponsors. I saw Jesus’ love in the eyes of my family that Christmas morning. It truly was a ‘good gift from above.’
In Uganda, gifts were presented daily as our team visited villages and worked together with the Hearts and Hope staff. I was overwhelmed with emotions (and goosebumps) by our welcomes in the villages. Big smiles, loud cheering and laughing, and beautiful songs and dances were presented to us. What did we do to deserve any of this? We got off the bus and joined in on the celebration. I couldn’t help but wonder if God was showing me a small glimpse of what our time in heaven will be like when we’re rejoicing together! I looked around at God’s people and thanked Him for giving me this warm and heartfelt welcome. I saw Jesus’ love in the eyes of His children each day. It truly was a ‘good gift from above.’
"Fazila." Julie and the Hearts and Hope staff began to call out names of sponsored children in the Kainagoga village. Fazila’s name was called and I watched her quietly make her way to the front to get her picture taken and pick up her package from us. She did not know I was there and I was excited to introduce myself. I sat down next to her and we exchanged smiles. She was very shy. As Fazila began to open our family’s sponsorship package, Violet, our Ugandan friend and guide, made her way over to help translate our letters and anything else I wanted to say. The moment I’ll cherish most was when Fazila got to hear and read how much our family LOVES and PRAYS for her everyday. She covered her eyes to hold back the tears and said, “Thank you.” As I looked around the room at the rest of the children opening their packets, I witnessed Jesus’ care through the many who pray for and sponsor these children. It simply was another ‘good gift from above.’
I continue to reflect on the many ways I can share God’s gifts. Not all villages have sponsors or clean water. Not all children are in good health or have decent clothing. Not all communities have adequate structures for their church or school. The gift that I saw present though, was hope. Hope in a God who loves them in ways we might not understand. Hope in a community who trusts in Him and works together to strive to become better and stronger. And for a team who constantly puts its faith into action. Because of this, I see the hope of a loving God as ‘a good gift from above.’
The trip to Uganda with Hearts and Hope showed me that, in truth, the good gifts from above are the ones that are most unexpected. Whether opening a present, or being welcomed with great energy and love while entering a village, or bringing joy to someone thousands of miles from our home, what God gives with these gifts cannot be described monetarily … or even with words. They’re simply good gifts from above. And for that, I am ever thankful.