Charlie and Sharon, his family's sponsored student in
Nakabango, and their kitty cat shirts.
It is funny how God works in your life. Uganda was really never a place that I thought I would go, or really wanted to go. I love living in my little world and I don’t like expanding my little circle. My wife Carrie has been to Uganda three times and loves everything about it. In my head, I always felt that if one of us was going to go it would always be her; I wanted this to be her thing. Carrie never felt the same way. She has always wanted Uganda to be something that we shared and loved together. Wow was she right.
Julie had given us a CD to listen to before we went on the trip and the first song on the CD stood out to me, Live Like That by the Sidewalk Prophets. I have this obsession with my funeral. I always ask myself - "Will anyone show up?" or "Did I really make a difference in someone’s life?", so the lyrics really hit home with me.
Sometimes I think What will people say of me
When I'm only just a memory
When I'm home where my soul belongs
Was I love When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song
I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do Points to You
If love is who I am Then this is where I'll stand
Recklessly abandoned Never holding back
I want to live like that
Am I proof That You are who you say You are T
hat grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true
People pass And even if they don't know my name
Is there evidence that I've been changed
When they see me, do they see You
I thought that if I did one thing while I was on this trip I could show the people of Uganda a little bit of Jesus through me. Little did I know that it would be the Ugandans showing me Jesus through them.
As a teacher I think that there is more to teaching than just the subject that you teach. This is why I love religion time. This is a time that I get to talk to students about life, their relationships with others, and most importantly their relationship with God.
Uganda taught me great lessons about life. My job as part of this team was to put on a soccer camp for the older kids in the villages. Most of the time this consisted of throwing a ball out and playing with the kids: that I can do.
In Nakabango they have a soccer team that is coached by Eric Waiswa. I was going to show Eric new drills and talk about soccer strategy…I was going to teach Eric something. Eric and his boys did not need my help! They were awesome! It’s funny how God works...Eric and his boys showed me a few things about life. I saw Jesus through Eric.
I coached basketball for a number of years at Messiah and many times complained about the time that it takes up, freaked out about winning and losing, yelled at kids, yelled at refs…really important stuff. I hate losing. and winning often takes precedence over everything. While I was standing by Eric, one of his players came off the field and said he could not play anymore, he was too hungry. Wow, that never came up when I was coaching. Some things get lost in translation for me, but I believe that Eric gave the kid some money for food or sent someone to get him food.
Messiah helps pay for some of the travel and tournament fees, but I believe that Eric pays for some of this out of his own pocket. Eric preaches the importance of staying in school and getting an education. Pastor Schlie talks a lot about how the trip to Uganda is like hitting the reset button on life. This was a reset moment for me. I could see Jesus in love that Eric has for those boys.
I got to meet our family's sponsored child, Sharon. As l looked at the kids during the church service I wondered which one she was! During packet handouts, my job was to put the name tags on the kids. It seemed like forever, but I was so excited when her name was called, to see her walk up and be able to introduce myself. I will never forget the smile she had while she was opening her packet. She looks great in a kitty cat shirt too. I was so thankful that we got to go back to Nakabango a second day where I got to spend more time with her
I saw Jesus in so many people. I saw Jesus in the smiles of the kids, the giggle that every kid in Uganda seems to have. I saw Jesus in the joy that the packets brought the kids. I saw Jesus in the songs and dances and welcomes in each village. I saw Jesus in the people that work for Hearts and Hope. I have to be honest, I am very jealous of the people that work for Hearts and Hope. To see the difference they are making in people’s lives, to have the relationships they have with the kids. I said it many times and will say it many more, they have a heart for kids and a heart for Jesus. To me life does not get better than that!
One final story. I met this girl named Sharifa in the first village that we visited, Kainagoga. I was helping two boys open their packets when a young lady asked me to take her picture. I took her picture, had my picture taken with her, talked and joked around with her. We played netball and she even tricked me into throwing the ball to her. When I got home I told Carrie that we had to sponsor another kid. I saw a picture of Todd and Sharifa that was posted on Facebook and a comment from Julie - she was not sponsored. Our family now sponsors her! Funny how God works!
This is my life verse - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:11
I thought I knew what God’s plan for me was. Now I hope there is more to it.
Charlie and Sharifa
Charlie doing one of the things he does best - teaching.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.