Over the last several years I have been asked in some shape or form, why I would want to travel to Uganda? I feel the biggest hang up for most people is the fact that we have so many people right here in our backyard that need help…why travel thousands of miles to help someone in a foreign country. Here is why….
First of all, it’s a God-thing. The stories that I’ve heard just from the team members I’ve traveled with is proof that God really does bless those who choose to go…money appears at the right time to pay for expenses, opportunities open up that allows the time for others to go….things just fall in to place. Some of us dreamed of mission trips like this, others were touched by God to overcome their comfort zones to serve in His name….regardless of how we were called. It happened.
Here’s how it happened for me…..
One random day I told a friend about my cousin, the Mission Director for an organization called Hearts & Hope. Then I showed him a picture of my sponsored child with my cousin delivering her sponsor packet. This man had sponsored children through other organizations but always had doubts as to where his money was actually going. He looked at the picture and within a week he and his wife offered to sponsor me to go see Grace (My first sponsored child). This particular person is not even a Christian…in fact he is Muslim….but he saw the passion I had to make this journey and felt moved to provide the financing that would allow me to fulfil a dream to serve.
My first was trip was as expected…overwhelming. It seemed as if everywhere I looked there was a need. I had questions…I wanted to provide solutions….the entrepreneur side of me immediately wanted to help these communities succeed…I held kids, hugged women, and listened to leaders reports of accomplishments, but mostly of challenges each village was experiencing. Despite the challenges there was so much love for God. The smile of a Ugandan child was forever impressed on my heart. True faith showed in their eyes that Jesus loves even the least of these…
Upon returning home it was harder than expected to speak to anyone about what I experienced. I answered as many questions as I could but until you’ve seen it with your own eyes, it’s just words.
Due to my continued sponsorship by my friend, I was allowed to tag along with the Board the next year in the fall. This trip was what changed it all for me. The shell shock lessened, and allowed me to then connect with the local Hearts & Hope staff. I learned so much about their culture and their appreciation for what this organization is doing for their communities. I heard their challenges with being the “boots on the ground” and saw first-hand the unique gifts God had given each of them in order to form this successful team. I find it amazing that the staff seems to know every kid, their siblings and their family situation without pulling out a laptop, tablet or smart phone. The relationships are real, and the needs are many. I was impressed with the level of commitment each member exhibits and the grace they display even with their own challenges.
The most recent trip was special in a whole different way…After several trips to see Grace…this time upon pulling into the Kamuli school, she met the bus at the road. I was sitting in the front seat and I heard her call my name. It was one of the most joyful feelings I had ever experienced. In the past she had sat with me but did not speak….she allowed me to take pictures with her, but was incredibly shy (or maybe a little sassyJ). Hearing her call my name melted my heart. I finally felt we connected on a whole different level. Throughout the day she kept me in her eye sight as we did crafts and played with the kids. Upon leaving she followed the bus down the drive and then blew me a kiss. As a sponsor I can tell you that while it took 3 years and several thousands of miles traveled…that moment is irreplaceable.
I was blessed to see other returning team members experience similar emotions with their sponsored children…which was even more emotional for all of us. It’s moments like this that make it all worth the trip. I don’t remember the heat, the chaos, the poverty…I remember the smiles on those kids faces and the faith that our presence, while seemingly small, makes a difference.
Our family sponsors another child in Butangala. I was surprised to find out that he lives just across the road from the school. It was an honor to be able to visit his home and meet his extended family. The biggest moment for me at this point was seeing some of the things I had sent to him in his “bed” area….I immediately noticed a blow up globe that I had sent the year before…It was hung from the ceiling above his bed. It was reassurance that every packet sent really does matter to these children.
I look forward to the future trips, God willing, to see my new friends and sponsored children. I pray that Uganda continues to be a yearly adventure for myself and others that have the opportunity and feel God pushing them to go. It will forever change your life.