Good morning from our last full day at the Sunset! We got to visit two villages yesterday, both in the Kamuli district.
Pastor Schlie offered a devotion to start the day, and shared a verse from Romans 8: The resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Dad?” This was a sentiment we carried throughout the afternoon - asking God to guide us in what he wants us to see, do, and experience, and feel, in constant conversation with him. What a powerful reminder of why we’re here and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
First up yesterday was the village of Kamuli, a community that we’ve partnered with for several years now. We were so impressed with the dancing program we received in their school building! Terry, Rooney, Kelly, and Toni were even selected to join along - what a treat.
Next, we handed out sponsor packets, bags, and picture frames for the activity. Violet did a countdown to when the kids were allowed to open their packets, and there were nothing but smiles as they pulled out their letters, cards, and toys from their sponsors.
One thing that warms our hearts is seeing kids share what they received with their friends. Often, we’ll see students look through photos from their sponsors, and then pass them around so everyone else can take a look. Two girls in the back row of the school enjoyed coating each other’s faces with the stickers from their packets. These small gestures are just one example of the relational and community nature of the people of Uganda.
At dinner, we asked Mariah and Violet more about the huge, warm welcomes we receive from each village. They said children are taught that they must be hospitable and kind to everyone, even strangers, and are taught good manners and how to greet visitors warmly from a young age. They found it hard to believe that in the US, if we have guests in our homes, they typically only stay for a few days - and sometimes we’re ready for them to leave sooner! In Uganda, if you visit your relatives or friends, it’s rude to only stay for an hour - you must stay the whole day, and they would prefer if you stayed for a month! When it comes to kindness, friendship, and community, we are seeing that we have a lot to learn from the people of Uganda.
As the day went on, we also enjoyed spending some time with a few of the secondary school students. We distributed small notecards for them to write a message to their sponsors on, and they took this task very seriously. Several of the students took out their letters from their sponsors to make sure they answered each question thoroughly.
We did a few crafts with the kids, and after lunch, presented some library books and new Kamuli school shirts to the staff. Lunch in the village was absolutely delicious - homemade potato chips were a favorite among the team! We wrapped up a little earlier than usual to head to our next village in Namwemwe.
This village doesn’t have an official partner, but does have a borehole well that was purchased through Party with a Purpose in 2016. The well was dedicated last year, and many team members noticed the marked improvement in the health of the children because they now receive clean water.
We fit a lot into the hour and a half we were able to spend with the people of Namwendwa! We loved holding the many little babies of the village while the head pastor offered a devotion, and the choir sang a welcome song. About the time we started painting faces, a storm hit - which clearly showed the community’s need for a more permanent structure. It was mass chaos as the team, the women, men, children, and even chickens of the village huddled together, dodging the rain coming in from the sides and through holes in the roof.
Despite the rain, face painting was still a success, and we went through the faces of about 100 kids in a record-breaking 20 minutes. Some of the kids are a bit confused about what we are doing and why we’re painting suns on their foreheads - but the fun for many of them is just getting some undivided attention for a while.
We presented some tote bags to the women, and purchased some crafts from them before heading back to the Sunset to clean up. We loved getting to head to the All Friends Restaurant for dinner. The food was delicious - but the star of the show was really NIcholas’ baby boy, Austin.
We can’t believe it’s our last night at the Sunset tonight after Butangala! We’re looking forward to the day, but it’s bittersweet knowing it’s our last village.
Jessica Stroder - mission team member
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.