Betty, on the right, and the Deputy Teacher in charge of special needs. Those smiles say it all!
Abraham managed to talk me out of my sunglasses before saying his good-byes through the bus window.
New books for kids in Butangala today.
Carrie planting her eucalyptus tree.
Hmmmm, a heart? The bus ride home was long, so we found creative ways to entertain ourselves along the way!
The sugar cane trucks amaze us.
My goodness, it's chaos at the Sunset Hotel! I'm sitting here at 9:45 pm as dinner is being served and there is a buzz around the table; 10 Americans and 7 Ugandans - most of them talking at once. The wireless service is very slow so I will do my best to get this posted tonight.
We have Twizzlers and M&M's for dessert so life is good.
Another great day. This morning, Andy, Violet, Mariah, and I went to explore a school in Jinja that has facilities for kids with special needs. We are specifically looking for a school for Betty, a precious young lady in Mbulamuti that one of the team members in June has a special love for. It was such an informative trip. We were genuinely impressed with the teaching staff and the joy of the kids. We had the best time in a class of hearing-impaired kids. They signed to us and Violet (?) served as an interpreter. That's right - with no previous experience. They nabbed my camera early on and had the best time taking "snaps" of each other.
We later found out that Betty was assessed and accepted at the school. It is a boarding school so Violet and I will spend tomorrow morning purchasing all of the supplies she will need. Blessed that we have found an answer for Betty!
We picked up the team and headed to Butangala where we met with dedicated their new borehole well. We also got to plant eucalyptus trees; another item to check off the bucket list!
We met with the sponsored kids and handed out candy to everyone. After lunch we took a team picture with a beautiful backdrop. We were impressed that the church and school had taken the initiative to move to the newest piece of land and construct a better structure for the school kids.
I had asked to visit a village where we had never been so we went to Nawankompe. It was a long, bumpy ride but we always have adventures along the way. The kids at the school sang beautifully and we had a great time "interacting" after the program.
Dinner has been fun; it's our last night at the Sunset. Thankful for good health for everyone and safety along the way. Tomorrow we shop and head back to Kampala. Missing our family and friends but blessed to be here, serving in this way.
I think it was January of 2010 when I took my first trip to
Uganda. Four years later, I am astounded by what God is doing here as the Kingdom of God grows!
I can remember sitting in 8 or 9 villages, every one of them with the same situation; sitting under a canopy or broken down awning, joining in worship and baptizing long lines of children, and listening to village leaders share their hopes and dreams of having a church in their village and a better life for their children. Hundreds of
children would crowd around us – virtually none of them could attend school, they were too busy hauling water from the nearest well usually miles down the road.
Personally I was overwhelmed by it all.
So many people with so many needs. Where do you start? How do you decide where to start?
But the Spirit of God began to move in the hearts of God’s people! Everyone was thinking about what they could do!
Messiah had already chosen Nakabango and the work had begun; a well in the village so the children didn’t have to walk four to five miles a day carrying 40 pound water jugs, a sewing center so the widows of the village could make money so support the children, a carpenter shop, a temporary shelter to begin a preschool, and sponsorships….. lots of sponsorships!
Friends began to tell other friends, other churches, other pastors, other co-workers. Other villages were adopted, land was purchased, wells were built, schools were started, churches were planted, and Hearts and Hope was formed to help coordinate the growing operational needs.
This week we joined in a ceremony to break ground on a new High School and another ceremony to break ground on a new seminary. There are now 16 ordained pastors in the LCMU, compared to only one in 2010!
So many moving parts to make it all happen! And God’s Spirit is in the middle of it all.
I am amazed!
It’s Friday morning and we are back in Jinja.
We arrived back last night around 6:00 pm after spending two days in the Kamuli area. I think we were all competing for wifi signal last night so updates were difficult.
Thursday started in the village of Mbulamuti. Water’s Edge in Allen, Texas partners with the Lutheran congregation in Mbulamuti and has helped them make great improvements in the past two years. During devotions, Pastor Paul recalled preaching at a worship service in Mbulamuti in a dilapidated building where the roof was caving in around us only two years ago. Now, there is land, a borehole well, and a school that is being touted locally as a model school. The pride and joy is palpable and the 400+ students obviously enjoy being at their school.
We watched the kids dance and enjoyed dramas that referenced everything from teen-age pregnancy to HIV/Aids prevention to caring for the sick. These kids have seen and experienced more than many adults in the US and it’s amazing the things they need to be educated about at such an early age.
We met with the sponsored students inside the main hall next. Again, the team blasted into action and made the process look easy - which it isn't! I think they pride themselves on the system they have created and it's great to see it work so well!
Afterwards, Pastor Paul and Pastor Jason lead the kids on opposite ends of the hall with the stand-up/sit-down version of Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia. They almost brought down the house! Paul also shared his fallback favorite, "My Aunt Came Back" - video is coming.
Andy walked the perimeter of the land with Henry and some of the village leaders to talk about plans for near-future expansion - a playground and school garden. It was a joy to see what can happen in a 2-year time period when people care! Thank you, Water's Edge!
We had lunch in the main hall and had the opportunity to purchase some items made by the women. Afterwards, we said our good-byes and headed to the village of Namwendwa on the other side of Kamuli.
Namwendwa has no partnership but in October, Andy, Todd, and I had requested a visit to a new village and this is where we ended up. The people were so warm and friendly and the needs so very great, we felt we had to go back. Also, the worship leader at the church is a graduate of the sponsorship program from Nakabango. Another success story!
The team enjoyed a program while Violet, Mariah, Ronald, and I attempted to organize some of the many items we have had donated recently. The team joined us as we handed out backpacks to P5 and P6 kids, and shirts and shorts to the younger ones. Of course, everyone was given candy - including the older boys watching from a distance.
We left Namwendwa around 5:00 and made it back to Jinja a little after 6:00. Discussions on the bus ranged from how much some of like Taylor Swift, to "what can we do for those people", to "what are you ordering for dinner?" I think everyone was a little bit broken by what they had seen that afternoon and it seems there is a lot of processing taking place.
A wonderful evening under the stars was a great way to end our day. Violet brought the Ludo boards so there was extreme competition at one end of the table. Hoping everyone got a great night's sleep.
Off to Butangala this morning, but the team gets a chance to sleep a little later. Violet, Andy, and I are going to investigate a school for a special needs girl from Mbulamuti today. Praying for a positive experience and a solution!
Mbulamuti - now.
Mbulamuti - two years ago.
I wanted to share a bit more about the end of our day in Nakabango on Tuesday. We had spent a physically exhausting day, especially working with the sponsorship children. As usual, there were several kids who weren’t there, and we always put their packets together in a bag so that they can be handed out when the child returns to school. I was sad to see that the packet for Richard, a boy that is sponsored by my parents, was still lying on the table.
I asked Ronald about him and he said that Richard wasn’t there, but we were going to his house as we left to see where he lived and to deliver the bedding kit he was receiving. I was so happy to hear that he was on the list created by Nakabango leadership to be a recipient of these gifts from Messiah Lutheran!
When we left, we turned off the main road and bounced along for almost 10 minutes before we stopped in front of a rectangular mud structure that had holes so large, you could see through to the other side. Ronald explained to us that this is where Richard had lived until a few weeks ago when they had relocated to a house next door that was in somewhat better shape.
We got off the bus and we were met by Richard’s grandmother. She cares for Richard and his 3 siblings and his mother, who is mentally disabled. Ronald explained that the children each had a different father and the mother was incapable of caring for the children and quite possibly, had been taken advantage of by the men. The story of one of the children’s birth is something to be shared later.
As I attempted to explain to him who these people were, I was flooded with emotions I still can’t explain entirely.
I think a huge part of it was the disparity between that family in the picture and
the one standing in front of me at that time. It was a physical hurt that I didn’t
understand and I was broken by the small gifts we were giving him that we hoped
made him feel loved and noticed.
Ronald helped me give Richard his bedding kit as the grandmother continued her “thank you’s”. James, one of the Ugandan pastors, suggested we gather around this family and pray for them. His words were beautiful to me and I know even more beautiful to God’s ears. Surely this family felt the love poured out on them that
I was again blessed by a reminder of why we do what we do – and that being here DOES make a difference.
Grateful for that.
Our final full day was spent in Nakabango, the village that Messiah Lutheran has partnered with since 2006. We were greeted by the school kids (over 300 strong) singing outside as we arrived. Such a thrill to see that many smiling, familiar faces!
We received our official greeting from the leaders and then moved on to meet with the 145 sponsored kids. They loved the packets that their sponsoring families sent along! Thanks to those who participated. It is so much fun to watch the kids open the packets and look at the pictures sent by their sponsors.
Future's so bright, they gotta wear shades
We followed that up with some crafts provided by Water’s Edge – Allen and small gifts for the kids. Everyone got new sunglasses!!!
We walked to the site of the temporary structure that Nakabango has built for a secondary school. They started a S1 class on Monday and have 8 students registered. Their goal is to add a class each year and reach a full secondary school by 2018. I love their vision!
We saw the carpentry shop and then visited the women’s sewing center to look at some of the beads they have put together since our last visit.
I am always inspired by these women who work so hard to help provide for their families. I’m anxious for everyone to see some of the new colors!
Andy and I had some meetings next while the rest of the team handed out jump ropes, soccer balls, and
“skip-its”. Toni demonstrated the skip-it with style and grace!
In our meeting with the council we discussed beginning the process of putting the concrete floor in the primary school building as well as some plans for the future. We also talked with Alex and confirmed that we will be able to purchase the land near the church for use by the Disabled Ministry members. That put a smile on his face!
Trying to get position. Is there a yellow card on the way?!?
Next up was the much-anticipated soccer match between the Nakabango boys team and the men of Hearts & Hope. They agreed to 10-minute halves; a blessing for the older team, for sure! There were easily 300 people, mostly kids, gathered for the match and it was great fun. I’m happy to report there were no injuries to either side, but I expect to hear a few moans and groans when the guys come down the stairs in the morning. I appreciate their willingness to get out there and play – the boys loved it.
The opposing teams pose for a photo after the match
One more meeting while the rest of the team got to find some shade and just relax with the kids (one of my favorite times of the day in Nakabango!) When our meeting finished, it was time to leave, so we passed out candy in a semi-orderly fashion and got on the bus.
On the way to the hotel, we stopped at Vicar Simon Peter’s house to pray for his new baby, Christina. She is only 6 weeks old and is having breathing issued. Further tests are supposed to take place next week. She is absolutely precious and it was a privilege to be in their home.
After quick showers, we headed to the Two Friends Pizza Kitchen for dinner. Always a bittersweet evening for me – it’s great fun, but also our last evening together with our Ugandan friends.
Tomorrow we will head into Jinja to the Source Café for lunch and some shopping later. While the team shops for souvenirs, Andy, Curt, and I are going to finalize the order on backpacks and shoes for the sponsored kids tomorrow morning. Thank you to all of our sponsors for making a difference in these kids' lives. Without your support, these children would not be able to attend school and prepare themselves for a better life.
The team will be heading to the airport on Saturday night. I’m staying an extra night in Uganda, but the team will be in good hands with Andy as their leader! I know that everyone on the team is exhausted, but in a happy, fulfilled kind of way. So many stories to tell and I know we're all excited to share with our families & friends.
Thank you again to everyone for the prayers during this trip. It's always encouraging to know that people are praying for a safe and successful trip.
Looking forward to seeing everyone very soon!
Great day today, but that's not a surprise! The Missouri team spent the day in Kainagoga and Butangala. Lots of paper flowers and soccer balls!
We had the opportunity to dedicate the well in Kainagoga - what a blessing! I can't even describe how amazing these kids can sing and dance. What a blessing to see how much they love God.
The Texas team met us in Butangala today and we are now all together at the Sunset Hotel in Jinja for the night, enjoying some dinner together.
Before meeting us at Butangala, the Texas team wrapped up day three at Mbulamuti - doing crafts and handing out balloons which had a picture of the globe printed on them.
When they were handing out the balloons, the children didn't quite understand what they were receiving or what to do with them. However, once the afternoon break came, they all flooded the courtyard, blew up their balloons, and had a blast with them. The smiles of joy on their faces were overwhelming. It is a universal truth that a balloon in the hands of a child is a joy to observe, regardless of where they live.
Kids enjoying the clean water
The greatest highlight for the team was the chance to spend so much time with the children, getting to watch them celebrate the opening of their school, and see them open the packets from their sponsors. There is a joy in watching the children enjoy the many gifts that were shared with them. We often underestimatehow important the communication between the sponsor and the student can be - it's a key aspect of developing the relationship and it's the foundation of the sponsorship program.
The Texas team ended their time in Mbulamuti by giving the newly hired teachers stickers, paper, and a gift to thank them for their service to the children and the families at the school. It is amazing to see a school start with over 300 students on day one. Thanks to the sponsors and donors who helped make this a reality. In addition to preparing future leaders in each of these villages, the schools also provide income for the teachers and support staff, benefiting the larger community.
Hearts & Hope is certainly improving children's lives today throughout Uganda, but it's also changing peoples' futures and eternities. God is doing a mighty work here!
Looking forward to our day in Nakabango tomorrow!
There was no internet at the hotel in Kamuli on Tuesday so we have much to tell you tonight!
Andy Wiggins, Curt Moothart, and Paul Schult open the new school
We spent Tuesday in Mbulamuti. It began with the Water's Edge portion of the team presenting goats to six families. After that, we proceeded to the first home to assist in building a goat pen. It was hot, but satisfying work!
The afternoon was spent dedicating the new school in Mbulamuti. What a celebration it was! Hundreds of people attended, including local and military dignitaries.
The Marching Band!
My personal favorite moment was the marching band that came down the road with a banner in the front and kids following along behind.
Tents were set up for shade from the hot Ugandan sun and the afternoon was spent celebrating the new Hearts & Hope Nursery and Primary School. The people are so excited about the partnership with Water's Edge and the fact that they have over 380 kids registered for the new school year!
The day concluded with lots of dancing and the distribution of over 1,000 glow sticks.
In the evening we continued the celebration with a cake that Charles and friends bought for us. Chocolate is good wherever you go, but it especially good after our wonderful day in Mbulamuti.
On Wednesday morning, we began with a devotion lead by Bryce and then took some team pictures in our new t-shirts.
While we all spent the previous day together in Mbulamuti, Wednesday meant that it was time for us to split into two teams, with the Waters Edge team headed back to Mbulamuti to deepen the relationships that are forming there while the Missouri team heads to Kamuli to deliver sponsorship packets and spend some time with the children & leaders there.
I haven't heard from the Water's Edge team today but I can only assume they had another fantastic day in Mbulamuti. Their plans included lots of crafts and presenting packets to over 100 sponsorship kids.
The Missouri team had a great day in Kamuli. We handed out packets to 110 sponsorship kids and taught them some new songs until the candy arrived. It was so fun to go into the song archives for new ideas to teach the kids!
Soccer balls and beach balls filled the air as the guys headed out to play with the kids while Toni, Violet, Maj, Mariah, and I made paper flowers with the women of the village. It was so much fun! Great pictures to follow soon, I hope.
After a long day in Kamuli, the Missouri team headed back to our hotel in Jinja. Some claim the trip is a 4 hour ride, but it's only takes about 2 hours. :-)
After getting back to the Sunset Hotel along the banks of the Nile, we ordered up some "starters' for the evening - beef samosas, garlic naan, and chef's buttons.
Meanwhile, the Texas team is spending the night in Kamuli and we will all reunite on Thursday.
Family and friends - please know that everyone is happy, healthy, and serving God in amazing ways! Hoping to be able to post pictures soon.
Thanks for all of the prayers!
Five members of the twelve-member team headed to Uganda on Saturday were commissioned at Messiah Lutheran Church in Weldon Spring, Missouri this past Sunday. The team is comprised of people from North Carolina, Texas, and Missouri.
The team members from Texas held a poker tournament fundraiser and a sponsorship drive this past weekend that was wildly successful! Thanks to all who contributed to this effort. Because of you, kids' lives in Uganda are being changed!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.