Hearts and Hope for Uganda Trip – February 2019
This was my second trip with Hearts and Hope and my experience as a “repeat goer” was significantly different than my first trip. For starters, I took MUCH fewer photos. Although that did not keep me from having thousands of the same
pictures on my phone… thank you, Violet ;). I caught myself pausing in several moments, hoping to make my time in them stretch and the feeling to stay forever. I noticed more, breathed more, and cherished every interaction more. I loved everything about this experience and every feeling I had when I was with these people, in this place.
I was a ball of anticipation and excitement heading into the villages. Will Benjamin, my sponsored student, remember me? Will he be there? How much has Patricia changed? Is she excited about going to school? Will I recognize many faces
from last year? Will I be able to find my family’s sponsored children? My expectations were far exceeded.
Benjamin found me before I found him. He stood by my side at the front of the class in Kamuli and helped me pronounce the list of names I called for students to come get their name tag. This was a very challenging task, except for Lindsay who did it flawlessly (haha). I was amazed at the difference I saw in this young boy. We could have a conversation this year, I could tell he understood me, and he was much more outgoing. He told me I need to bring Bentley next year to meet him and said “baseball” when he opened his new Cardinals gear. At one point, he also quickly
sensed my panic and jumped in to rescue a tangled goat followed by a soft pat to the head and a big smile in my direction. He had a large group of friends and was very social with his peers. At lunch, he cleaned up his plate and everyone’s around him with no one watching or asking him to do so. His teachers and his father all reported that he was a great student, comes to school every day, and has exceptional behavior. I am unbelievably proud of him and the obvious hard work he has put in over the past two years.
And then there is Patricia. Having the opportunity to be at all involved in this girl’s story still baffles me. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for Hearts and Hope giving this special little girl a chance. Pulling up to Nakabongo, I was
very excited to see Patricia and how much she has grown. What I was not at all expecting was the greeting I got as soon as I got off the bus. I was thrilled to hear we’d be taking her for a group visit to a potential new school later that week. I
was overwhelmed with joy to see Patricia welcomed into this school full of obvious love and acceptance. We toured the school and entered classrooms where individualized and therapeutic learning took place. There was a room of beds with
mattresses and a fully functioning bathroom attached. The place was clean, bright, and decorated for children. Most of all, seeing Patricia’s face light up as we entered was priceless. She made herself right at home, especially outside on the school’s swing. I can’t wait to see her potential unlocked with specialized education and therapies that hold the key!
Lastly, meeting my family members’ and friends’ sponsored children was a highlight of my trip. I felt connected to each one of them and couldn’t wait to share with my family how their support is truly making a difference in a child’s life and future. My favorite part was watching as Violet interpreted the letters. She does so with such enthusiasm and provides opportunities for responses that I would not otherwise understand.
This team. I cannot say enough about this team. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. With each village, we got in, got packets out, pictures taken, and spent time with sponsored kids, followed by free time to play and visit to our
hearts’ content. I loved looking around during free time and seeing each team member off “doing their thing”… Sarah conversing with a teacher or parent, a group of kids teaching Kelly a Ugandan game, Kim leading the hokey pokey, cheers coming from a Netball game where Lindsay just scored for her team, Jerry scaring kids with his tiny hands, Mark connecting with a little girl with a whole lot of sass, Andy jumping into a soccer game, and Susan leading “class” in a schoolroom. Everyone had something big to contribute, had no problem taking initiative with tasks, and were right there to help if a team member needed anything. I loved watching the “newbies”: Lindsay, Susan, and Sarah. I would pay attention to the first time we rode the bus on the busy streets of Jinja, the first time we pulled into a village, and the look on their faces the first time they met their sponsored students. Watching these moments took me right back to the feelings I had two years ago when I was
introduced to this beautiful (and wild) experience. I especially treasured the time I spent with the Ugandan team members this trip. I got to know each one of them better and developed some new friendships as well. I loved talking with Maj about her journey to find the best school for Patricia. Watching how Mariah communicates with each child in the villages is inspiring and I was fascinated with our
discussion of similarities and differences in our roles in similar fields, but different countries. Spending time with Nicholas was always an adventure… whether it’s a game of soccer, learning to pick/eat Jackfruit, or spending time with his family. And Violet, everything about Violet is magical. She brings joy and laughter to everyone she encounters and meets no stranger. Not to mention the support and friendship from Tif, David, Julius, and Joel as well!
Thank you Hearts and Hope for the endless opportunities, our whole team for their friendship and commitment, Kelly’s fearless leadership, the sponsored schools for always making us feel most welcome, and my family and friends at home that continue to support me with this journey that has stolen a piece of my heart. It’s a journey I hope continues year after year!
-Jackie Kline (signing off with my best Ugandan head nod)
Sad to see this trip coming to a close.
What a spectacular week with some truly inspiring people. This team has been a blessing to me for my first mission trip as a leader. I was nervous that I couldn’t take on the task, but I quickly found out God has a way of grabbing hearts here in Uganda that has nothing to do with me. The Ugandan staff has also been immensely helpful; I couldn’t do this without each and every one of them.
Three of the team members who were not able to go on the safari left Kampala on Saturday. Before they left, we all headed to Nakabango for a couple of hours of more fun with the kids in that morning. It was great having that last little time with those wonderful souls.
We then went to Jinja to shop and eat lunch and then it was time to say our goodbyes. After hugs and tears shed we bid adieu to Jerry, Mark, and Jackie as they boarded the bus for the few hour journey to the airport.
The remaining members of the team headed to our next activity - visiting Betty!!!
With their passing, Betty lived in a small mud & thatch hut that her aunt had built for her. Betty was unable to speak, had difficulty walking and using her arms, and made meager income to feed herself by digging in people's gardens.
After Grant & his wife Tonya learned of Betty's situation, they sponsored her and she's been attending a special school that has improved her speech (she now sings!!!) and her mobility. She now attends a vocational school and is learning to sew and tailor clothing.
It’s always a pleasure to see how she is doing and it gives everyone such joy to see her big smile. Betty was thrilled with the packet from her sponsor and the other treats we had bought for her.
Afterward we went with David, our Advanced Sponsorship Coordinator, to a secondary school where five students in our program attend. It was interesting to see how different the school is at the next, higher level. The girls were all very welcoming and looked so happy. We continue to pray for our secondary students to thrive and for the program to continue to expand and grow in number.
After a long and eventful Saturday, we ate a quick dinner and headed to bed as we had to wake up early to travel to Western Uganda for our Safari. The next morning we were met at the Sunset by Twaha, our lovely safari guide, and Sandra, his coworker in training.
We had a long ride ahead of us, but were all very excited for a relaxing, fun weekend.
We first stopped at a rhino sanctuary which was a first for all of us and we had the chance to trek some rhinos. We saw a total of 5 rhinos and it was like being in Jurassic park - those things might as well be dinosaurs!!
We then continued to our lodge in Murchison, called Pakuba. We decided to switch things up this trip as we usually stay at another nearby lodge. It was totally worth the switch! The staff is very friendly and we were all pleasantly surprised at how large the rooms were and (drum roll please) each room had A/C!
Usually I have to mentally prepare for sweating myself to sleep on safari, but this was not the case! We went on our evening drive and it was great to see the first timers faces each time they saw the animals!
The next morning we woke up at 5:30 to see the sunrise on our morning game drive. Always such a peaceful time witnessing God’s creation.
We saw many lions and then helped a couple of Americans who were trekking the park alone find some lions. On the way out of the lion’s den, we got stuck on a pile of dirt while off-roading and were then saved by those very same Americans with their tow rope!!!
Great example of how being kind always comes back to you!
We finished the day with a boat ride to the bottom of the falls and then hiked our way 45 minutes uphill to the top. It was beautiful as we saw many new views of the falls from different perspectives. Also a great workout! We were also blessed with a wonderful dinner and early bed time.
Everyone woke up feeling very refreshed and ready to drive back to Entebbe after one last mini-gamedrive back to the park exit. (Our lodge was in the middle of the park, so driving anywhere would mean wildlife sightings around each corner.) In one instance, we came extremely close to an elephant, but our fearless tour guide knew how to handle the situation. However, the sight was breathtaking!
A cherry on top of a very wonderful week.
I can’t thank this team enough for their positivity and joy. How lucky am I to have been your leader this trip!
A few long flights lie ahead of the group and we pray for their safe return home.
Thank you all at home for your prayers and overall support.
Wow, what a great last full day in the villages! It was beautiful weather as the clouds were out which cooled it down a bit.
We visited Kainagoga and the children were so energetic and happy as they had been waiting a long time for us to arrive. Since we were delayed with our flights we had to push Kainagoga back to the end of the week.
They did not disappoint in making it one of the best days of the week! The kids there were so joyful and wanted to embrace us at ever opportunity. While the dancers were performing I had two toddlers on my lap just stroking my hair and face. Usually the smaller ones can be more fearful of the Mzungus, but all the children there were very ready to be loved on. Packet time was carried out like a well-oiled machine and we had very few absent students.
For free time the boys played soccer and the ladies went off and were taught more local games. One was a cat and mouse type game where a circle was formed and the children block the cat from getting out and chasing the mouse. Both cat and mouse were not surprisingly Mzungus chosen by the kids.
We then had a team member dress in her inflatable T-Rex costume and I feared for her well-being as she came up the hill to a stampede of about 150 kids running her way! She danced and kicked around the soccer ball to the sound of giggling and a few crying babies. : )
We enjoyed a nice lunch prepared by the women and then handed out donated books to the school and allowed the P5 class to read some of them out loud. It’s always wonderful to hear those voices reading!
Then we were greeted by a surprise guest in Kainagoga, Patricia!
We planned on visiting her school and I suddenly hear my name being screamed (my name is Kelly, yet she insists on calling me “Kelaya”) and there she was in Kainagoga. It was fun to interact with her at a whole different village. We then got on the bus with Patricia and her mother and visited her new school which she will be enrolled in soon. Some of the team members were involved in fundraising for her school so it was great for them to see it in person.
For dinner we went to All Friends and were joined by Rachel who is an LCU missionary and has lived here for over a year. The Bishop of the LCU also joined us and was able to connect with the team.
It was a delight to enjoy this meal with the full team as tomorrow three people depart us to go back home. Time has flown by! We will visit Nakabango again for some free time in the morning tomorrow and then shop in Jinja before our team members have to leave. Prayers for a safe journey back for them would be appreciated! They’ve had an action packed and blessing-filled time! The rest of the team leaves for safari tomorrow morning and we are looking forward to some exotic animals and a chance to unwind from the emotional highs and lows from our village visits.
On Valentine's Day we had double the fun by hitting two villages, each partnered with churches back in the US through Hearts & Hope! Luckily we were able to fit in a lot of activities in each village as they aren’t as far away from our hotel.
We first went to Butangala which had a wonderful transformation thanks to their partnership with Immanuel Lutheran in Wentzville, MO and Hearts & Hope. Thank you to Pastor Jason Auringer, Jen Ritter and the members of Immanuel for their efforts to help the people of Uganda. The people of Butangala cannot wait to see you and the team from Wentzville this June!!!
Many team members on this trip have been to Butangala before and they didn’t even recognize it. The large and beautiful new school building is such eye-candy compared to the open air thatch & stick structure that the kids used to have school in. Passing out packets to so many kids in this large space was much easier compared to squeezing the students in the previous structure.
We were greeted in usual Butangala fashion with a breathtaking music & dance performance. The students here are the most talented in their dancing and skits they perform and have won several awards in local competitions. It is always such a impressive thing to witness!!!
We handed out sponsorship packets - little packets of joy from their sponsors back in the US. Thank you to all of the sponsors for sending these and personalizing them for your student. You have no idea how much this means to these kids.
We then we did what we do best - free time!
The kids taught us how to play one of their local games called “blind." It’s basically the Ugandan version of Marco Polo, only on land. They put a blindfold on us and yell a word for the blinded person to chase after. All of us Mzungus (Ugandan for white person) lost quickly when we realized the twist that the kids would push you into the blinded person if you got too close. Lots of laughs for sure.
We also were blessed to visit the home of one of my favorite families on Earth. Not only does my sponsored child live here, but also her brother Moses - the boy with a large cyst on his neck that we were able to help with the support of the Ehlmanns. There are also a number of other sweet little babies that make up this family. It’s always gut wrenching to see the small brick structure that this whole family lives in. When I think of my girl having to sleep on the floor in there I can’t help but cry. Hopefully with some of the kids being sponsored and going to school they can break that chain and help the rest of the family in the future.
We then headed to Nakabango. Truly a special place as Messiah Lutheran has partnered with this village even before Hearts & Hope was created! Because of the long history, most of the kids here are very comfortable with us and are therefore very outgoing and playful. We ate a wonderful lunch here - the biggest spread we had so far as many villages are suffering from a sustained drought that hopefully will end soon. Please pray for rain!!!
Next we were delighted to hear a song sung by the school choir thanking Hearts & Hope and Messiah Lutheran Church for all the work they’ve done to change their lives. It warmed my heart and I'd like to say thank you to Messiah, Pastor Chuck Schlie, Julie Stroder, and all of the supporters in the US who have been involved in any number of projects and sponsorships in Nakabango. The village truly has seen amazing changes over the last 10+ years thanks to all of your efforts!!!
Next a group of dancers walked in, led by the tiniest dancer I’ve ever seen, who was probably 3 or 4, but she kept up with the rest of them and gave the team a good laugh. We were all impressed by this prodigy!
Packet time went smoothly and we had a small amount of free time to hang out in the cooler evening weather.
I heard many team members say that they had a wonderful day and I felt the same. We did get to see our special friend Patricia in Nakabango and she was feisty as ever - she's always so excited to see her friends from the USA!
We are going to Kainagoga tomorrow and then we are picking up Patricia and taking her to her new school that she will be enrolled in soon. Many team members helped fundraise for this school and are very emotionally invested in this girl so we are all very excited to see her future school.
Thanks for yours prayers at home for a safe & impactful trip!
They are definitely being answered, so please keep them coming!
Today we went to the village of Mbulamuti and wow, it was a hot one. We were spoiled with the first day being mostly overcast and today there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The team lathered on sunscreen and were ready to take on the day.
It was special to visit Mbulamuti (the 'm' is almost silent when pronouncing the name...) as very few team members had been there before, even repeat goers.
Mbulamuti was Hearts & Hope's first 'greenfield' village, where partners in the Dallas, TX area gathered together and partnered with Hearts & Hope to make a significant investment for the long-term. We purchased a large tract of land, installed a clean-water well situated close to the road to attract the local community, built a large school building, constructed a permanent kitchen, latrine, etc. And there still was enough space for a football/soccer field, plus space for agriculture to help feed the many children. All of this resulted in one of the highest performing schools in the area. Thanks to Waters Edge, Holy Cross, Our Savior, the Tibbetts family, the Moothart family, and all of the donors and sponsors in Texas who made this vision a reality!
When we arrived, we were greeted by many smiles and adancing and passed out packets to anxiously awaiting sponsored students. The team members knew so many students and it was a joy to watch the whole interaction.
After packets were opened it was free time and we played various relays including egg races (which the Ugandan staff enjoyed just as much as the children)! There was also a very heated game of netball with many team members and students. This is a game similar to basketball mixed with keep-away. It is usually played by the girls, but the men of our mission team had to work hard to keep up!
Source of the Nile River Cruise
The afternoon flew by and we made our way to the Nile river for a cruise to where Lake Victoria turns into the Nile (also known as "The Source of the Nile."
It’s always a relaxing ride where we get to see a lot of wildlife and other interesting sights. The team then ate dinner at a restaurant called “Forever Resort” which is a nice spot on the bank of the Nile that has much room to spread around, play pool, dance on the stage, or relax at the table and reflect on the day.
The food was delicious as always and most of the team went straight to bed after returning to the hotel. The heat, combined with all of the fun activities throughout the day, has a way of sucking out all your energy, so rest is definitely important.
Especially since tomorrow we have a two communities to visit - Butangala & Nakabang.
Wish us luck and thank you for your continued prayers!
Today we had the immense pleasure to visit the villages of Kamuli & Namwendwa. After such a long delayed travel time the team was ready to see some beautiful faces in the villages. Kamuli has been partnered with Hearts & Hope since being founded in 2011, so there are a lot of familiar faces & relationships!
Although sleep was short it was very restful for us all and the team was up early ready to hit the road. We drove the 90 minutes from Jinja (our home base) to Kamuli and the fun began. It was great to see the first-timers' faces as the children danced and sang for the group - always one of my favorite sights and sounds.
We handed out packets in what seemed like record time and had the rest of the afternoon to just play - and play we did!
My favorite activity was the attempted tug of war game that resulted with half of the “tuggers” to fall to the ground in uproarious laughter. Then they just got up and continued to pull - the game never ended! We did eventually lose the rope to a villager but I’m sure it will go to good work for someone!
Jackie Kline, now on her second trip with Hearts & Hope, was blessed with seeing her child Benjamin again. The bond between those two is priceless - they are truly family.
We handed out sweeties and had to get on the bus. It's always difficult to say farewell, but we can all confidently tell the community that we'll be back - whether it's us individuals or others representing us on some future trip.
We then headed over to another village, Namwendwa which is just a short drive from Kamuli.
Namwendwa does not currently have a partner, but Hearts & Hope was able to raise funds to purchase some land for them and install a clean water well there in 2016. The people of Namwendwa say "Thank You!" to everyone who attended Party With a Purpose in August of 2016!!!
It is always good to see the contrast between a village that has had a partnership for such a long time and one that only has the basics like Namwendwa. While they have access to clean water, the children always are dustier and in very tattered clothing as they are not provided with uniforms for their small school.
However, the smiles they give and joy they spread are no different.
We spent a few hours playing with the children. Then the women picked up a game of net ball (which is like basketball, but given the fact that we're playing on uneven dirt, dribbling is not a possibility). It's a fun game and all of us ended up laughing and having a great time together!
When we were back on the bus everyone was overwhelmed with happiness at how wonderful the day was. Dinner was spent with the usual card game tournaments and most of the team was in bed by 11pm.
On Wednesday we are headed off to Mbulamuti and can't be more excited!
Thank you at home for your prayers for this team. It has been a fantastic time so far, praise God!
The team finally arrived in Jinja after an unexpectedly long weekend of travel.
We were delayed so long in Chicago due to mechanical issues that we missed our connection in Brussels. Luckily, we were able to connect with the airline just before the we took off for Brussels to book us on the next flight out. Unfortunately, that flight meant an 11 hour layover in Brussels. We also had to split up the team which is never ideal but it was the only way to all get to Uganda by Monday.
We were rerouted through Ethiopia which was another fun adventure and finally made our way to Uganda. Despite the awkward and long journey, we were blessed to see that our bags had made it to Uganda with us! Praise the Lord!
I Thank God that this team is full of amazing people who have the best attitudes and remained positive the entire way. While everyone is extremely exhausted, we are very excited to get this Ugandan party started.
Because we are an entire day behind, we will have to adjust our schedule of village visits - but when in Uganda, flexibility is always a vital trait!
On Tuesday we visit Kamuli and the team is so thrilled to get to our first village and start seeing the kids. It's the smiles on the faces of the kids and the relationships we build with the people in each community that truly make the long journey worth every minute.
Thanks for all your prayers for a safe journey!
I am thrilled to announce that Sara Owens is the newest member of the Hearts & Hope team!!! Sara has accepted a full-time position with Hearts & Hope as the US Program Lead.
Reporting to the Executive Director, Sara will have overall responsibility for implementation and execution of our vision in Uganda. Sara will work closely with our Ugandan staff to manage our sponsorship program, oversee the performance of Hearts & Hope schools, manage various projects in Uganda, manage relationships with our US partners, and ensure we are delivering the maximum impact and benefit to those we serve.
Sara is a passionate supporter of our mission in Uganda and has had extensive experience in international missions. Throughout the years, Sara has lived and served in Greece, Haiti, Mexico, the Netherlands, New York City and Los Angeles. Whether working at creating jobs in a local dump, welcoming boats of refugees on island shores, working with communities to rebuild after a natural disaster, or volunteering with vulnerable American populations, Sara is constantly seeking the best for the communities she involves herself in. Central to each of these missions was the relationships she built with the people in each community - and she's thrilled that she'll continue to do that in Uganda!
Previously, Sara was Director of Missions at Middletree Church in St. Louis, MO, where she coordinated projects and partnerships on a local, national, and international level. Sara graduated magna cum laude from University of Missouri, Saint Louis, earning a Bachelor of Science in Social Work with a minor in Psychology and Trauma Studies. Her educational background and experience in the field will serve as an excellent foundation for working with Hearts & Hope as the US Program Lead.
Here's Sara sharing her thoughts on why she decided to answer the call to join Hearts & Hope:
"While I have been faced with my fair share of difficult decisions, accepting a job with Hearts & Hope was not one of them. I love that Hearts & Hope works to see children healthy, educated, and prospering, all while providing the people of Uganda with opportunities to further develop their own communities. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside the amazing Ugandan staff as well as the generous US partners that are striving to bring such a beautiful vision to life."
We are so thrilled to have Sara join our team! Sara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
These past 10 or so days have been quite a blur. I feel like I have not had enough time and yet feel as though I have been here much longer than 10 days. Time in Uganda is unique and I’ve loved every second of the time I have spent here. This is a summary of the last few days of our trip:
Saturday- this was another meeting heavy day. We broke into smaller groups to discuss more specific topics with the staff in order to collect data, organize thoughts and plan ideas for the future. The day went by quickly and we headed to ‘All Friends’ restaurant for dinner, which is always delicious and a needed change of environment.
Sunday- Nalwire, our last village day, so bittersweet. The route to Nalwire has been improved as far as newer roads being finished. This meant instead of 3 hours, we arrived in a quick 90 minutes, meaning more time with the kiddos- always a great thing. We celebrated church with the people of Nalwire with Bishop Charles and some LCU members and then had a quick meeting with the school village leaders. We don’t yet have a sponsorship program in this village so the meeting was brief. We passed out T-shirt’s and flip flops to what seemed like a never ending line of children and then it was playtime! Some played soccer, others threw around footballs and frisbees, but many kids just stood around and talked to us. Their English is good enough to have basic conversations so that was fun to interact in that way. The questions asked the most by these kids were “What is your name?” and “how are you?”. They tried to teach me some of the phrases in their local language which mostly ended in uproarious laughter at my pronunciation. The day ended with a chicken given to me by one special little girl in that village who I’ve bonded with over the past trips. Although I was terrified of holding this chicken I couldn’t help but graciously accept this gift.
Monday- this was shopping day. We had quite the list of items to buy at “the most sweetest deal” and this task could not have been accomplished without the help of our Ugandan staff. They always know how to barter to the lowest price and I am most appreciative as those store owners sure know how to work the Mzungus out of serious schillings! We ate lunch at the Source Cafe in Jinja and hopped on the bus for a long, traffic filled ride back to Entebbe and onward to the airport.
This trip has been very successful and we are so thankful to you all at home who supported us and prayed for a safe journey. We have 2 more flights ahead of us before we arrive home and continue to support the great work being done in Uganda. Again, thank you for the prayers, I give thanks to God for his protection and blessings, and I give thanks to the beautiful people of Uganda.
Thursday and Friday were as fun as they were long and hot! We hit 2 villages on Thursday, Kamuli and Mbulamuti, and 3 on Friday, Butangala, Nakabango and Kainagoga. Todd and Andy along with our Hearts & Hope staff met with some of the village leaders while myself, Toni, Maj, Mariah and Violet had the (better) task of entertaining the children while getting pictures for the Christmas card.
This part also included seeing our own sponsored children and giving them a small gift which is always a very special time. My favorite part of the meetings we joined had to be when Nicholas told the village leaders that we would not need lunch if we visit multiple villages in one day or “we will die, our stomachs will burst”. If you were to see how high these plates are piled by Ugandans, you would know he is not lying!
Another special moment from these days was while we loaded the bus from Kamuli heading to Mbulamuti, I was told there was someone who had something for me. My sponsored child Jessica got on the bus and handed me a handmade cross necklace and a very used little teddy bear. She had run home to grab these so she could give me something before we left. Such an incredibly touching moment, this little girl, who does not have much at all, gave me 2 of her treasures. Priceless little love offerings, and I am very grateful to her and God for giving me such an amazing child to sponsor.
We had a lot of fun taking pictures for the Christmas card as Violet basically had a laughing competition to see who could make the final cut. Seeing how laughter is very contagious, the task of picking the best smile was not an easy one!
After all the meetings and tasks were accomplished we headed back to the lovely Sunset Hotel for dinner where our nightly heated tournament of Uno ensued with the US and Ugandan staff. Which was always a fun ending to long full days!
Today we had the pleasure to go and see 2 very special ladies, Betty and Patricia. Both have some type of disability but their personalities and overall presence supersede any mental or physical maladies they might have. If anyone has ever hugged Betty or held Patricia you know exactly what I mean.
Betty’s school was first, we saw her classrooms and was told by her teacher that she is doing very well and always asks questions if she doesn’t understand in order to learn better. She is learning how to sow and showed us a pattern she has sown for a skirt which will be finished soon. It’s great to see her thriving!
We then went to Nakabango to pick up Patricia and her mother. We could see her from afar jumping and clapping all dressed and ready to go!
The whole bus ride was filled with her shouting “soda!” At every sight of one and frequently yelling my name to wave at me from the front of the bus. When we arrived at her possible school it was amazing to see her mother so happy and Patricia running around so visibly excited. We were told about the curriculum and therapies that they offer and toured the property. The headmaster then had a good conversation with her mother starting with the question “what do you expect from us?” And “how do you want us to help Patricia?”. You could see in her mother’s eyes that she had been waiting for someone to ask her this question for quite a long time.
After the visit we returned to the bus and gave Patricia a few gifts. One of which was a very large bottle of soda. Her face erupted in laughter and happiness. She didn’t fail to carry it off the bus and show it off to her siblings and friends. It was such a wonderful break from the meetings to see these girls and reinforce the mission and reason we are here.
Wednesday was not too eventful with children but very important nonetheless. We had the official MOU meeting and signing between the LCU and hearts & hope which strengthens the partnership and should improve the running of our schools and expansion of our programs in the future. That night we had a banquet to celebrate the MOU and to say thank you to a few Hearts & Hope employees who are moving on. It was great to get together in this way to end such an important day!
The past few days here have been very long and full of important engagments. Unfortunately our blog editing website in combination with the spotty internet have been a roadblock with posting these blogs. Luckily, Todd found a go around and I can continue to share the journey.
We arrived to Jinja Sunday morning and went straight to the village of Kainagoga to celebrate church with the congregation and Bishop Charles. It was very refreshing to see and interact with the children, even for such a short time. It gave us the energy we needed on short sleep to prepare for the staff meetings in the coming days.
After Lunch in Jinja we had a long meeting with Nicholas who heads the Hearts & Hope staff in Uganda and then was informed we were trying a new place for dinner. It was Andy's birthday and what a fun celebration we had! We were joined by our staff, Bishop Charles and our good friend Violet, who is always the life of the party.
The restaurant was right on the bank of the Nile and had a wonderful view of the brand new bridge recently finished in Jinja. There was even a DJ who entertained us with music that ranged from Miley Cyrus to Nursery rhymes! After dinner we had a mini pool competition and I can say playing pool while listening to "Old Macdonald had a Farm" is definitely a first. They brought out a delicious cake for Andy and the owner of the restaurant politely informed us that they were closing and we headed back for our first night's sleep.
Monday was mostly filled with long staff group meetings and individual staff meetings to discuss big changes ahead and voice concerns. We are heading out of the hotel and into the villages in the coming days so we will have more pictures of cute kids to come! Thank you for your prayers for our safety and we appreciate continuing prayers for the remainder of out trip.
As I lay in this bed at Hotel Africana with about 3 hours of sleep ahead of me (and zero sleep behind me) I cannot help but reflect on this journey so far....:
Our flights were very rushed due to a delay during the first leg which meant we were rushing to board before the gate closed on every flight that followed. Luckily, we made our flights and landed safe and sound in Entebbe. Although our bodies made it, our baggage did not. So we are left with what we packed in our carry-ons, which for me meant....nothing. I at least had deodorant and a good attitude so those count for something!
During the baggage delay fiasco we met a woman named Dallas. She was so nervous her hands were shaking as it was her first trip to Uganda, she was traveling alone, and she could not get a hold of her friends. With the help of the team and Bishop Charles she was able to get her phone working with Uganda's network and we invited her on our bus to ride with and to stay at the hotel in Kampala where she can call her friend the next day. To say she was thankful is an understatement.
Through this I learned that no matter the situation in life, God always takes care of us. We just have to find Him, whether that’s in the friendly face of a stranger or the reassurance that Charles’s wife will loan this bum a skirt for church tomorrow ; ). Worrying is just the enemy’s way of putting doubt in our hearts against our good, good Father.
Tomorrow (actually in just a couple hours) we head to Jinja for the beginning of this leadership trip and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this team under the watchful eye of our Lord.
As we sit at the airport I can’t help but ask myself this question which has been floating around my brain for the past couple months. If you told me one year ago that I would be working for Hearts & Hope I would have laughed in your face saying things like “never” and “only in my dreams”. However, God sure does love to take our “nevers” and turn them into “realities”. I’ve just been pinching myself the whole time anyway.
Hearts & Hope is thrilled to announce that we have a new member of our team - Kelly Turntine! Kelly has accepted a full-time position with Hearts & Hope as the US Business Development & Marketing Lead.
Reporting to the Executive Director, Kelly will have overall responsibility for marketing and business development to support the mission of Hearts & Hope. In this role, Kelly will be focused on leading our mission trips to Uganda and developing, implementing, and coordinating all aspects of fundraising and identifying new partners in the US.
Kelly is a passionate supporter of our mission in Uganda and many of you may have already met her on one of our mission trips or at one of our events where she has worked as a volunteer.
Kelly first got involved with Hearts & Hope in 2015 when she sponsored two students, one in Butangala and the other in Kainagoga, and then joined us on a mission trip in June of 2016. Since then, Kelly has been moved to sponsor five students in all - 2 in Kamuli, 1 in Butangala, 1 in Kainagoga, and 1 in Nakabango! She has also joined us on numerous mission trips since 2016. Most recently, Kelly volunteered in Uganda this summer with another organization. Kelly lived there for 2 months, helping teachers in a primary school and also used her free time to venture into the slums of Kampala to help the poor families living there.
Kelly is a registered nurse and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. Her experience serving others, dealing with people of all backgrounds, and dealing with sensitive situations will serve her well. After Kelly's first mission trip with Hearts & Hope, she shifted from full-time to contract-based nursing in order to provide her with the flexibility to travel to Uganda. Her experience traveling and living in Uganda will also give her a unique perspective to share with everyone she meets. But most importantly, her contagious love, excitement, and passion for the kids of Uganda will help us to further our mission in Uganda.
Here's Kelly sharing why she fell in love with Uganda and decided to answer the call to join Hearts & Hope:
"I've always known there was immense poverty in the world, fundamental needs that were not being met - education being at the top of the list. When I first traveled to Uganda with Hearts & Hope I actually saw this need with my own eyes and a seed was planted in my soul. A seed of love, passion, and yearning to help these fellow brothers and sisters. I am humbled and overjoyed to have the opportunity to be a part of the organization that introduced me to the people of Uganda. With the help of friends, sponsors, and donors I will strive to educate more students, inspire more minds, and change more lives. I thank you all in advance for your kind welcome and support."
We are so thrilled to have Kelly join our team! Kelly had already committed to help as a volunteer with our Party With a Purpose event, so if you're joining us on Saturday, 8/25 you'll have the chance to meet her in person!
Executive Director & Co-Founder
This was my 6th trip to Uganda. Each time I go I leave there with a full heart. Full of love, full of sadness, full of hope, full of awe..full of so many feelings. But, this trip will hold a special place in my heart. On this trip I got to see our work, our trips, our love, and how it has made a real difference. I have never doubted that by traveling there and spending time with the kids and ladies that it is time well spent and that we are truly being the hands and feet of God, but this time I have 100% clarity on the mission.
To explain this, I have to go back to my very first trip to Uganda. On this trip, there was a day nearing the end that we went to the town of Jinja and had lunch in a little cafe and did some souvenir shopping. As I sat at the table eating lunch, I saw Pastor Schlie go sit on some steps on the side of the store next door. Next thing I know, he is talking to a “street” kid. This little boy had a smile from ear to ear as he tried to overcome the language barrier and communicate with this funny Mzungu.
This “street” kid was Abraham. He also had a buddy - Ashraf. These two boys became a part of our hearts that day (especially Pastor Schlie and the Bishop in Uganda - Pastor Bameka.) Over the next few years, we started working with them, putting them in school, boarding them and trying to get them off the street. It was not always easy. Growing up on the streets lends itself to many bad habits that are hard to break. But we never gave up on them. They had many people praying and supporting them.
Fast forward to this trip. I sat in a village in a dilapidated structure that they call church/school. If you have never been to church in Uganda, well, you need to settle in. The services are long and hot. So, I sat there singing and enjoying the service when I realized it was time for Baptisms. This is something they do a lot when they know there will be a mission team in the service. I watched the babies being brought to the front and then I saw him, one of our “street” boys going up to be baptized. As if that was not enough, there were confirmations after that and both boys were also confirmed. I can tell you that I bawled like a baby at this.
To see full circle how far these boys have come made my heart so full of joy! Their names are now written in the book of life. I will someday walk with them down streets of gold, praising the same Heavenly Father. THESE BOYS ARE GOING TO HEAVEN!! Two boys who were living on the streets in cardboard boxes just stood before me declaring my God as their God. If mission teams accomplish nothing else in Uganda (which I know won’t be the case) we have been the hands and feet of God to these two boys. We have loved them and many more. God led them to us and allowed us to be part of their lives.
So, this trip was special. I still tear up when I picture those boys coming forward. My mind flashes back to that day years ago. God is Good. He knew these boys needed Pastor Schlie and Pastor Bameka in their lives. I thank God that he let me be a witness to what good we can be. He let me know that being his hands and feet really does make a difference. I will forever be grateful for him allowing me to travel to Uganda
People in my generation often travel to "find themselves." We talk about living our truth, discovering our passions, and spiritual awakening as if Instagramming ourselves in Bali for a week will really profoundly change us on some unknowable level. Admittedly, I can be one of those people - endlessly fascinated with "getting to know myself" through Myers Briggs tests, self help books, and adventure. But Uganda was a different type of travel - that, for once, wasn't about me.
I had done a lot of work in the weeks and months prior to our trip prayerfully considering what God was calling me to do and how He could impact the lives of others through me. During that time, I was at a crossroads in my life - personally, professionally, and spiritually. So I prayed for Him to reveal His presence, to show me who I truly was and who He wanted me to be. Even though I was excited for our trip, I wasn't really sure what role I'd play in Uganda. I worried about the fact that I don't consider myself a kid person. I don't have the overwhelming urge to pinch babies cheeks like some of my friends do, and my mothering instinct has definitely not kicked in yet, considering sometimes I forget to feed my cat. I also identify as an introvert - I love people, but I need my alone time to recharge and gain energy for my day. Knowing alone time is fairly sparse in Uganda, I was concerned about how I'd handle all of that togetherness.
When we arrived in our first village in Kainagoga, as kids tugged on my arms in a dusty field in the hot sun, my first feeling was pure panic. My introvert and not-a-kid-person identities were in full alert mode, and I had a sudden longing to find a shady spot where I could take a few deep breaths, alone.
And then, as many of God's answers do, His response to my prayer came simply. I looked into the face of the girl that was clinging to my pointer finger and smiling shyly at me, and I felt a sense of divine peace. I knew in that moment that holding the hand of a little girl in an oversized, dirty t-shirt was all that mattered - because my identity is not this amorphous thing that I must seek to discover. If I want to know who I am, I just have to look to Christ - and strive to be his hands and feet alive in this world today.
So for the rest of the week, I just gave it to Him. I trusted Him to reveal how He wanted to me to spend my time with those kids, and not worry about the "roles" I was playing or the carefully crafted plans that I needed to execute. I set aside my control-freak identity and grabbed a parachute to play made-up games with 100 kids in a field. I laid down my alone-time and privacy-seeking persona to intentionally seek out community. I found myself, the professed not-a-kid-person, sitting in the dirt holding a baby named Geoffrey and not caring that I was imminently going to be peed on.
Our God is a God of disrupting plans. Of breaking down preconceived notions and biases and self doubt, and building all things new. Of asking us to set aside our quest for personal fulfillment and self identity, and instead look to him, our Creator.
Sometimes you just have to grab a parachute, smile, and say "let's go" to a 100 screaming Ugandan children. Sometimes you just have to look to God, say "you've got this," and keep forging ahead into beautiful chaos.
In Uganda, I didn't find myself - but when I looked, I found Him. And that's more than I could ever ask for.
I expected to just ‘watch’ and ‘see’ a lot of thinks in Uganda with Hearts & Hope. Prior to leaving on our trip, I selfishly did not want to get too connected to what I was doing or experiencing because I did not want to be overly impacted.
When we arrived at our first village school, I was amazed by what should be obvious, children are children no matter where in the world you are. They are funny, shy, happy, and sad. I was humbled by how happy they were to see someone come to visit them. Before long it became clear that these children had true joy and their needs were as simple as those of all children; they just wanted to spend time with someone, hold someone’s hand, play and laugh with someone.
I was humbled by how much the adults that made up the villages and schools gave their visitors. They gave us food that they could not afford to give away, and they gave it to us abundantly and with smiles. The greetings we received and the activities we participated in at the schools and villages allow you to understand how important we all can be to each other, if we listen to what God has put in our hearts, and allow ourselves to be.
One morning, prior to us leaving for a village, one of our team members provided a devotional based on a book she had read. In the book a mother described one of her children that played with their trash. While the mother felt it was indeed trash, the child found it to be something different and found joy in playing and creating with it. Later that afternoon, we visited the home of a young boy (Moses). Moses had a goiter removed from his neck during the course of 2017, benefiting from people listening to God and doing His work through Hearts & Hope. As we walked toward Moses’ house we saw the following that he had made:
I believe that God, our Father, works everything together for the good of His children and pays incredible attention to all details. Our visit with the children and people of Uganda allowed us to pay attention to some details. It allowed us to understand that God’s love, generosity, loving kindness and hope are manifest in each of us. It is a choice that we all make, every day, to reveal God’s love to each other.
This is my third trip to Uganda which has quickly become my happy place. The place I go to in my mind when I'm feeling sad, mad, or just plain bored. It constantly grounds me and enables me to appreciate my abundant blessings. The past few trip posts I've written were full of examples of the many ways Uganda has made me a better person and enriched my life. last time I even mustered up the creativity to form these feelings into a poem.
This time however, I'm going to explain the ways Uganda has made my life worse. First of all, it has opened my eyes to the true meaning of poverty, the haunting suffering that doesn't only exist in newspaper articles and TV commercials and the suffering that doesn't just happen to the "bad guys" of the world. It happens to kids, babies even, and truly God-fearing people who seem to never stop trying to better their lives. Uganda has given me a face, many beautiful faces in fact, that now represent this issue personally. This has forced me to ask questions to God that maybe I don't want him to answer. The obvious question being 'why?'. I find myself asking God, Why do you allow all this poverty, war, and suffering to happen in this world to such innocence? Can't you do something?
Perhaps He is responding to me with the same question.
He says, "Kelly, I have given you the answer, you.... you are my body, you are my hands and you are my feet." God created us to help and care for one another and maybe the realization that we as a human race aren't doing our job is just too uncomfortable an answer for me to accept.
The second way Uganda has made my life worse is because it has ruined many major holidays...
Halloween, for example. I can no longer take my nieces and nephews trick or treating without seeing the faces of my kids in Uganda and wondering how much fun they would be having, if only...
Watching kids gets bellyaches because they ate too many Reeses and wondering how many empty bellies are aching from no dinner on the other side of the world.
I can no longer handle aspects of American Christmas when I recall that Santa Claus, jewelry or the newest iPhone have nothing to do with the birth of Christ and this consumerist waste of resources could be doing so much good for others.
You see, Uganda has in some sense ruined me, but through the ruins I am slowing being rebuilt. Rebuilt into a human being who will be and will do better for the world and for my brothers and sisters at home and abroad. Thank you, Uganda, for being the key to my soul's renovation.
On our last day at the Sunset, I’m eating a full breakfast of cheese pizza, watermelon, and toast, while watching a nature documentary with our four servers. We’ll miss this place!
We fit a lot into a relatively short amount of time in Butangala yesterday. Butangala is a partner village of Hearts and Hope, but doesn’t yet have a permanent structure - so our packet-giving-out system was tested! We were still able to give out the packets in record time, and to spend some time with the kids helping them open them and read their letters from their sponsors.
Butangala has an amazing dance, singing, and drama program, and we loved watching the kids perform for us! Richard, who is now a member of the Hearts and Hope staff, used to be the headmaster at this school - he’s credited with the success of the fine arts programs. We watched several dances and songs, as well as a poem about health and the importance of handwashing. This warmed our hearts, since we recently installed a new hand washing station near the latrine in Butangala.
Julie was also able to announce that Butangala’s partner congregation, Immanuel Wentzville, had raised enough funds to being construction on a semi-permanent structure in the village. As you can imagine, this was met with much celebration!
We had a good amount of free time for playing with the kids yesterday, which is always a blessing. More than any other village, this one includes many children who do not go to school - so we loved giving them some special attention and love while playing with the parachute and frisbees, and doing three-legged races.
Since this was our last sponsored village, we had lots of supplies left over from our activities - so we used some of them to draw pictures with the women of the village. They are some of the most hardworking and loving people in the world, and they always appreciate when we can spend some time with them. The village sponsorship assistant of Butangala helped us pass out paper and markers to draw pictures of their homes. We let them choose if they would like us to take them with them or give them to us, so we received some beautiful artwork that we assured them will be displayed prominently in the US!
In this village, we were able to do two home visits to sponsored kids’ homes. Often, this is a heartbreaking but important part of our village visits that helps us understand more about the daily lives of the students. We visited Bataganya Moses’ and Nangobi Prossy’s home, as well as Nambi Angela’s. Their guardians and parents were proud to greet us and show us their homes, kitchens, latrines, and gardens. We were also presented with a jackfruit, which has proven to be a polarizing taste among the team!
From Butangala, we headed to the Hearts and Hope soccer match! A crowd of kiddos surrounded us while we sat near the pitch, and we gave them hugs and covered them with shiny stickers while we watched the game. It's amazing how much it means to kids to receive some undivided attention and be able to sit on a lap for just an hour.
Today, we’ll stop by Kainagoga for an hour or two before heading back to Kampala. The week has simultaneously gone very fast and very slow. We’re grateful to be able to have some time in the next few days to decompress and reflect on what we’ve seen and experienced.
Jessica Stroder ~ Mission Team Member
Good morning from our last full day at the Sunset! We got to visit two villages yesterday, both in the Kamuli district.
Pastor Schlie offered a devotion to start the day, and shared a verse from Romans 8: The resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Dad?” This was a sentiment we carried throughout the afternoon - asking God to guide us in what he wants us to see, do, and experience, and feel, in constant conversation with him. What a powerful reminder of why we’re here and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
First up yesterday was the village of Kamuli, a community that we’ve partnered with for several years now. We were so impressed with the dancing program we received in their school building! Terry, Rooney, Kelly, and Toni were even selected to join along - what a treat.
Next, we handed out sponsor packets, bags, and picture frames for the activity. Violet did a countdown to when the kids were allowed to open their packets, and there were nothing but smiles as they pulled out their letters, cards, and toys from their sponsors.
One thing that warms our hearts is seeing kids share what they received with their friends. Often, we’ll see students look through photos from their sponsors, and then pass them around so everyone else can take a look. Two girls in the back row of the school enjoyed coating each other’s faces with the stickers from their packets. These small gestures are just one example of the relational and community nature of the people of Uganda.
At dinner, we asked Mariah and Violet more about the huge, warm welcomes we receive from each village. They said children are taught that they must be hospitable and kind to everyone, even strangers, and are taught good manners and how to greet visitors warmly from a young age. They found it hard to believe that in the US, if we have guests in our homes, they typically only stay for a few days - and sometimes we’re ready for them to leave sooner! In Uganda, if you visit your relatives or friends, it’s rude to only stay for an hour - you must stay the whole day, and they would prefer if you stayed for a month! When it comes to kindness, friendship, and community, we are seeing that we have a lot to learn from the people of Uganda.
As the day went on, we also enjoyed spending some time with a few of the secondary school students. We distributed small notecards for them to write a message to their sponsors on, and they took this task very seriously. Several of the students took out their letters from their sponsors to make sure they answered each question thoroughly.
We did a few crafts with the kids, and after lunch, presented some library books and new Kamuli school shirts to the staff. Lunch in the village was absolutely delicious - homemade potato chips were a favorite among the team! We wrapped up a little earlier than usual to head to our next village in Namwemwe.
This village doesn’t have an official partner, but does have a borehole well that was purchased through Party with a Purpose in 2016. The well was dedicated last year, and many team members noticed the marked improvement in the health of the children because they now receive clean water.
We fit a lot into the hour and a half we were able to spend with the people of Namwendwa! We loved holding the many little babies of the village while the head pastor offered a devotion, and the choir sang a welcome song. About the time we started painting faces, a storm hit - which clearly showed the community’s need for a more permanent structure. It was mass chaos as the team, the women, men, children, and even chickens of the village huddled together, dodging the rain coming in from the sides and through holes in the roof.
Despite the rain, face painting was still a success, and we went through the faces of about 100 kids in a record-breaking 20 minutes. Some of the kids are a bit confused about what we are doing and why we’re painting suns on their foreheads - but the fun for many of them is just getting some undivided attention for a while.
We presented some tote bags to the women, and purchased some crafts from them before heading back to the Sunset to clean up. We loved getting to head to the All Friends Restaurant for dinner. The food was delicious - but the star of the show was really NIcholas’ baby boy, Austin.
We can’t believe it’s our last night at the Sunset tonight after Butangala! We’re looking forward to the day, but it’s bittersweet knowing it’s our last village.
Jessica Stroder - mission team member
Good morning from Uganda! What a great day in Nakabango. This is always such a special day, especially for the members of the team from Messiah.
Each morning of our trip, we set aside time with the team to reflect on what we’ve seen and experienced, and to hear a devotion to help set our minds and hearts for the day. Julie shared a moment from the day before that can only be described as a “God thing.” Before breakfast on Sunday morning, Jessica was chatting with another mission team that was staying at the Sunset. They shared that part of the work they were doing was handing out Days for Girls kits, which provide washable supplies for women so that they can still go to school while they’re menstruating. This is an organization that Hearts and Hope has also been involved in - we handed out several kits to women on our February trip, and Layet Dorothy in Nakabango is a trained educator for the program.
Julie asked them about their work with Days for Girls later on in breakfast, and they shared that they’d been praying for guidance because they were almost out of kits. It so happens that Hearts and Hope had 70 kits stored in their office, just waiting for an opportunity to be distributed. We’re bringing the kits to the team later today. Suffice it to say that there were many hugs, tears, and thanks to God for this small miracle.
Our day in Nakabango began, as usual, with a wonderful welcome from the kids and women of the village. We received a tour of the community, which included the school and church buildings and various income-driving projects like a piggery, carpentry shop, and the catering company. The caterers were inspiring to many of us - they were able to purchase new plates and new uniforms with money they’ve raised from their work. This self-sustaining model, where income is used to make their business better, is something we hope to replicate with other projects.
A little girl named Patricia is always a constant on our trips to Uganda. Patricia has a developmental disability that makes her very small, even though she is twelve, and has a hard time expressing herself verbally. Most of the time we’re in the Nakabango, her feet barely touch the ground because of all the time she spends in the arms of team members. The best way to describe Patricia is “a hoot,” and we loved spending time with her.
Programming, including songs, speeches, and poems, followed our tour. One of our favorite parts was the poem that the school choir recited about education. “Education, education, education. I am a policeman because of education. I am a doctor because of education. Education is the key to success.” School leaders presented a report of how the Nakabango Primary School students performed in 2017 - twenty-two of the twenty-three students who sat for their PLE entrance exams (to allow them into secondary school) were admitted, which is a huge deal! How exciting to see how far we’ve progressed since sponsoring Nakabango ten years ago.
Three other mission team members join us today - Pastor Chuck Schlie, Rooney, and his wife Terry. They jumped right in, and we’re thrilled to have their gifts and see our team finally completed! Abraham, Dan, and Timothy Mark also joined us, and they’re always a huge help at organizing the kids and keeping the peace.
Packets and crafts with the sponsored kids were next on the agenda. The team loves getting to sit with their sponsored kids and friends’ sponsored kids while they open their packets of small toys, letters, and photos. There are many secondary school kids that are sponsored in Nakabango, so it was a blessing to see them and talk to them about the gratitude they feel for their sponsors at home.
One inspiring part of the day was reading with the P4 (fourth grade level) children in the library. We presented some books to them, and let them select a book to read to us. The team was really impressed with the high level of reading skill, and the kids enjoyed being able to show off their knowledge.
At this point, the team feels that we could write a book about the fine art of face painting and giving out candy - we have it down to a science! We also closed out the day with the parachute, a presentation of soccer balls, and lots of hugs. We’re thankful for the time we were able to spend with the people of Nakabango yesterday, and are looking forward to two more villages today!
We had an excellent Super Bowl party in Nairika yesterday! :) This was our first time in this village. It’s always a good perspective to see unsponsored villages and witness the work that’s still to be done in most of Uganda. Violet joined us today, so it was wonderful to be able to catch up with her and watch her at work in the village!
The kiddos in Nairika were super smart. Many were a bit apprehensive about the team until they warmed up to us, but once they did, it was nothing but love. As is typical, our numbers grew throughout the day. When we showed up there were around 25 kids - within a matter of an hour, there were close to 200. We had a great time playing games like duck, duck, goose and doing the hokey pokey, while showing a little bit of extra love to kids who lingered on the perimeters.
Every member of the team fell in love with the sweetest baby in the world named Geoffrey. His sister - who must have been around 8, and hardly bigger than he was - was carrying him around, and we were happy to hold him for her for a while. What a joy to be able to show God’s love to the littlest of his kingdom.
After a few hours of playing, we headed into their structure for the worship service. Most of the service, including the hymns, were in Lugandan. Karen was the star of the show when it came to pronouncing and singing the songs - Violet said that she could have been Ugandan! Pastor Schult preached, and Bishop Charles translated the sermon, the baptisms, and the confirmations. Speeches followed, where many of the community leaders urged the congregation to stay strong in the faith. It was clear that a more permanent structure for worship and classrooms were needed in order to serve the growing community effectively - and this was confirmed by these leaders.
One of the most powerful parts of the service was seeing the six baptisms and twenty-six confirmations from the congregation - including Ashraf’s baptism, and Dan and Abraham’s confirmation. These three boys have been connected with Hearts and Hope for several years now, after living on the streets in Kampala. Julie served as Ashraf’s sponsor, which included choosing his Christian name on the fly. She chose “Timothy Mark” - and Ashraf has already changed his name to Timothy Mark Stroder on Facebook!
We had about an hour for activities after the service and speeches, which included a lightning round of face painting, bracelet making, and coloring. Lunch is always a necessary part of our visits to villages, as this is a way the communities like to show their thanks and appreciation. We were all proud of newly-confirmed Abraham for offering our prayer in flawless English. If you would have told us Abraham would be praying over our meal a few years ago, we may not have believed you!
After that, we had some time to say goodbye to the kids and give some new clothing to the little ones that were most in need. A presentation of soccer balls to the headmaster of the school was met with much excitement!
Dan, Timothy Mark, and Abraham accompanied us back to the Sunset for a meal and entertained us with some dancing - what a treat! God was clearly at work in Nairika. We’re looking forward to a full day at Nakabango today!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.