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.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.