Today we had the pleasure of visiting the village of Nalwire, partnered with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Redwood City, CA. What a magical day it was. Since the sponsorship program was just recently launched, it was the first time this village has ever received communication from their sponsors in the US. The students don’t fully understand what we meant when we said we had packets, but magical is the only word I can think of to describe the looks on these kids' faces when they saw the pictures and letters sent in from their sponsors. It was also incredible to drive up to this village and see over 70 students in nice, new uniforms and brand new shoes. It was in stark contrast to our previous visits when we usually the only clothing we would see is ripped, old and dirty. A HUGE thanks to the people of Redeemer who sponsored those kids so quickly! Your support will be such a blessing to them and it will be an equal blessing to watch these beautiful children bloom through education.
The mission team jumped in to help with the confusion of this first time process while also entertaining the HUNDREDS of other kids from the community who gathered outside the school room to watch. This is a team of energetic and extremely compassionate people and today further proved that fact. As we had many students still available for sponsorship join the sponsored ones to make a craft, the team saw the many faces of the students still in need of a support for their education. When you put a face to an issue, it all becomes so much more real. As a result of this, we ended the day with 8 of those available students being sponsored by our team! It was such a blessing to see the team members be able to meet their new students face to face that day and to introduce themselves to these special little souls they bonded with and tell them that they were going to be able to join their friends in school this year! Jodi sponsored a little girl named Phoebe and with the pastor translating for her, she asked, “what is your favorite color?” Phoebe sweetly answered “A uniform!”. Clearly she was thrilled and focused on now being able to get a nice new uniform with her sponsorship after seeing many of her friends outfitted in one. They take such pride in their education!!!
The mission team also came together again in a very special way. Since Nalwire is in the beginning stages of partnership and sponsorship, they sometimes have trouble providing us lunch with their very limited funds. The team came together and collected MORE than enough to feed us and the school staff/village leaders, with some money leftover. It was decided by the team that the leftover funds would be used to buy 4 sheets of tin roofing so the school could finish or repair the school's current roofing. Amazing how much can be accomplished when kind hearts come together!
Tomorrow we head to Mbulamuti and then we will visit the unsponsored village of Namwendwa. This is always a good opportunity to see the contrast between different levels of support and how a partnership can impact the communities we serve.
Our last full day in the villages, how bitter sweet. The activities of the day definitely made up for the sadness we felt in the trip winding down.
Nalwire is a village slightly further out east on the Kenyan border. The landscape is slightly different, as is the language. It is more underdeveloped than the other villages we have visited, so it was great for the team to witness what a village looks like before a partner makes the investments.
Nalwire is in the beginning stages of its partnership with Redeemer Lutheran Church in a Redwood City, CA. We were lucky enough to have a team of 10 from that church on our team, including the pastor Paul and his wife Beth and they were able to meet and connect with Pastor Nicholas, who cares for this growing flock in eastern Uganda.
The village had recently finished building a latrine funded by Redeemer and we had planned to dedicate it with Pastor Paul.
One might think this sounds like a silly thing to do, but it is such a blessing for this village to have a sanitary restroom. It is something that not only prevents illness, but it keeps the dignity of the people intact.
How blessed are we in the USA to not even have to think twice about where we will use the bathroom. For the people of Nalwire, this latrine was a huge blessing. We were blessed in return with the joy they shared with us in their dancing and welcoming. A local dance crew was hired and invited us to learn the dance of that region. This was a great way for the team to blend with the villagers and share in their culture.
After the welcoming speeches and entertainment we started on numerous projects with the kids. Each time we visit Nalwire, it seems the children multiply so we had to be ready for a lot of different crafts to keep large crowds of very energetic kids very busy. Luckily, the group from Redeemer did a wonderful job planning out many “stations” for kids to visit and spread out. We had a Polaroid station, face painting, arts & crafts, parachutes/bubbles, and projects for the women and the men - all at the same time! This is the benefit of such a large group, we can divide into multiple teams and interact with various groups across the community!!!
After many faces were painted, pictures taken, and crafts in hand, we were invited back to the tents to begin the latrine dedication. Lunch was catered by the women in Nakabango, which is a small business initially funded by their partner Messiah. It was delicious as always and these women truly know how to cater for a large crowd, even when it's far away from home!
It was amazing to see the Nalwire people with the team from Redeemer mingling and enjoying lunch with one another. The speeches that followed were inspiring as Pastor Paul explained to the village that their partnership is a mutually giving relationship and a true partnership. It is not merely donors from the US and recipients in Uganda, but a group of people from across the world - praying for each other and using God’s gifts to bless one another.
Such an inspiring message that aligns so well with Hearts & Hope's mission!!!
The team then proceeded to the latrine for a one of a kind ribbon cutting ceremony led by Bishop Charles Bameka. We were once again witnesses to the spiritual richness of the people of this village and the gratitude they had for the new latrine.
Time went by too quickly and it was soon time to load the bus and say our goodbyes. The team from Redeemer left with a lot of love for this village and were fired up to keep going in making this school, congregation, and community more developed and successful. The villagers left with news that a student sponsorship program will soon be implemented and the hope for a quality education of their children will soon become reality.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to have shared this experience with the people of Nalwire!!!
As Beth put it, “we are together sharing in the kingdom of heaven here on Earth” and it was a wonderful time. We are beyond excited to see how this village progresses - together with Redeemer, Hearts & Hope, and God - anything is possible!
The team heads out for safari tomorrow for some relaxation to decompress and process all they have seen this week.
There are many first time safari goers on this trip and I can’t wait to see their reaction to all the lions, elephants, giraffes and more! Prayers for a safe drive to the park are appreciated.
Thank you for those at home who supported the team with thoughts and prayers - we appreciate every one!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.