by Madeline Stroder
I love Uganda. I love everything about it – the smells, the bumpy roads, the road-side markets, the villages, the schools, the small business planted in the villages, the airport, the hard-working men and women I meet, and all the sweet children we see. I love seeing a shy child mashed between too many children on one bench, and inviting him or her to come over and sit on my lap instead. I love my little conversations with Henry, Ronald, David, Maj, and Mariah on the bus about things we saw that day, about our families, life at home, or whatever we feel like. I love Violet braiding my hair in the morning after I’ve already fixed it. I love seeing a group of boys who just opened their packets from their sponsor and aren’t too cool to play with their new toy cars. I love seeing the women admire the new bracelet they made – something simple and sparkly that they will treasure. I love seeing a woman plop her baby down and sprint to get the “sweeties” we tossed to her from the bus window. I love seeing a team member sit with their sponsored child that they have been so anxious to meet, and show them pictures of their family and show them the other treasures in their packet I love Violet announcing it is time for “self-service” lunch and dining with the village leaders and a few lucky others who will get to eat meat that day . I love Patricia whacking me on the back of my legs and then picking her up for probably the fifteenth time that day – and it being totally worth it when she falls asleep on my shoulder. I love hearing a choir of precious voices singing songs about education and about Jesus that they have been practicing for us
I loved watching my cousin Crystal take selfies with as many children as possible – making each one of them feel special and bringing some fun and silliness into their day.
I loved watching my mom greeting children by name and greeting the staff and village leaders as old friends, and watching their faces light up when they see her.
I loved watching Grant see Betty for the first time in 2 years and hugging her – and not letting her go until he was back on the bus.
I loved seeing Jen’s face as she got back on the bus after we visited our first village. I knew she was hooked.
I loved listening to Scott tell the story of how 2 years ago his sponsored child was timid and mostly speechless, and now called his name and waved as we drove into the village. It is amazing to see what a huge difference sponsorship makes in the lives of children as well as their sponsor.
I loved seeing Mary play with as a many children as possible at one time and hearing the children’s big belly laughs as they played along.
I loved seeing Pastor Schlie hold Cornelius on his lap, a boy with some special needs who likely does not get held often. The smile never left his face while he was sitting with him.
However, as full as my heart is when I am there, it is also broken to pieces. The reality that the individuals in these villages face each day really hit me during this trip. In the morning or at night during dinner I would often find myself wondering what the children were doing while I was eating one of my many meals of the day or lying in my bed. Are they doing homework? Are they on their way to school or did they have to stay home to work in the gardens today? Are they sleeping on a mattress or on a woven mat? Do they have a mosquito net?
Acknowledging and experiencing this friction that is created when we begin to understand the reality these children face is what fuels us as servants of the Lord and allows us to surrender everything to God. The situation is massive and we are only a few people, but there is no doubt there is change being made in Uganda through the support that is offered and the close relationships that have been formed. It is amazing to see the change that Hearts and Hope and the many people who have traveled on a mission team before us have created in the lives of the people in Uganda. I am so blessed to have been a part of this extraordinary team and this mission, and I am looking forward to the work to come! To God be all the glory!
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.