Not many little girls in the United States grow up hearing words like "Uganda" and "Nakabango" frequently in their homes. I feel so fortunate that this was the case for me. At Messiah, I have constantly and consistently been surrounded by loving people who are dedicated to going wherever God tells them to go. The first time I went to Uganda, I thought that I had a clear idea of what to expect. And to be completely honest, a lot of what I had heard about this country was true. Children surrounding you and wanting to be near you, even if you don't have anything to offer them besides a weak, "how are you?". (The answer is "I am fine" by the way).
Despite all these preconceived notions, of course there were so many surprises. One thing that struck me was the strong relationships that I saw between family members. Each individual person, no matter how old or how young, seemed to be doing whatever they could to support their family. It really stops a person in their tracks, to think about what a blessing God has granted us, when he gives us our families and friends. The bond between siblings, or between parents and their children, is simply international.
If I thought that I had high expectations for my first trip to Uganda, they doubled in size for my second trip. This time, I had spent an entire year with this African country in the back of my mind, to the point where I would be wondering where the "matooke" is at lunch. I will be forever grateful to Hearts and Hope and to Messiah for giving me the opportunity to come back. During my second trip, I had my own personal mission to accomplish. I was going to attempt to capture, through video, as much of this unpredictable and incomprehensible country as possible. I am currently in the process of taking hours and hours of footage and cutting it down to a few five minute videos. It feels a lot like writing a blog post, a futile attempt to grasp a weeks worth of thoughts and emotions and break them down into a couple of easy to read paragraphs.
It also reminds me of when I first came back from Uganda, and my friends, who had never heard of Hearts and Hope, would ask about my trip. I had no idea how to tell them about all the things I had seen and heard without going into a full on sermon about it! I know that it will be impossible for me to create videos that will literally make a person feel like they've been to Africa. Still, I firmly believe that there are few things more captivating than a Ugandan child's face. They make my job so easy.
For the past few years, I have struggled with this concept- God's plans are always better then my plans. I had the opportunity to meet my sponsored child on my most recent trip. Lovisa is a beautiful and intelligent young girl. Meeting her in person was so touching, but the moment when my heart broke was when I met her aunt. The woman was old enough to be her grandmother, and when I was introduced she explained to me that Lovisa didn't have any parents, and she was the one taking care of the child and her family. She then sincerely thanked me for paying the Lovisa's school fees. It struck me so hard, because of how easy it was for me to help this family. God has given me such an abundance of wealth that at such a young age I can change the life of this girl and her family. Wow. I want to empathize again the importance of everything that is done at Hearts and Hope, and everything that could not be done without God's interference. I can't pretend that I could help Lovisa by myself. It required the work of the Hearts and Hope staff, a group of people who commit their lives to connecting the countries of the United States and Uganda together. And it takes the passion of every person at every church who donates their time and their money towards attempting to improve the lives of people they've never met. This is a passion that can only come from God. God's plans are always better then my plans, and I wait with anticipation to see what he has in store next in Uganda.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.