(Reflections on my recent visit to Uganda)
Several times in a lifetime we have an experience that changes us forever. I mean, really changes us. Introduces us to new ideas, problems, or issues in the world that we can never again NOT know. We can pretend that encounter didnt happen, but really, we know it did.
Personally, I had the opportunity to join a mission trip with my church to help at a children's camp for orphaned and needy children in Uganda. The organization we partner with is called Buyamba Uganda, and these people are the real deal. Talk about a group of people who LOVE GOD and LOVE KIDS!? Their passion for Jesus and wanting each child to know Him well is incredible! I was fortunate enough during this visit to get to have real educational conversations with several of the family members who work full time for Buyamba, which their father started, and their genuine passion for helping these children change the course of their futures is unlike any I have encountered before. Talk about a family who practices what they preach!! The Dongo family, who's father started Buyamba Uganda, is a living example of what it looks like to take the word of God to heart and act it out. I can only pray that one day the Lord will help me to take Him and His word as seriously as they do. Thank you, Dongo's, for being a living and active example to me of living like Jesus.
If I am honest, one of the things I was most nervous about coming into this trip was being perceived as the "rich" white people coming in to save the kids and meet all their needs as an American saw their needs. I think so often I have seen or heard about mission work gone wrong, and was fearful of being seen in that way. Therefore in the lead up to our departure, I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would give me eyes to see His children as He sees them, not as I would see them, and I am so grateful He answered that prayer 1000x over. While these children have next to nothing materially, maybe a change of clothes and some other basic items, most of which they can carry with them in a backpack or plastic bag, they have a JOY I have never seen in an American child. It was something you truly have to see to believe.
These kiddos lived in the village near camp, and I found them carrying water back to their home from the creek down the hill. They laughed and laughed at this white girl with her camera! But when I asked if I could take their photo, they were giddy and smiled huge! :) (In other news, what kind of neck muscles would you have to have to carry that much weight on your head!!??)
This is me and a sweet girl called Praise, who was glued to me all week.
I fell in love with that sweet face.
These are photos of my class for the week. The bottom is Diana, one of my amazing
facilitators who helped with the crowd control and translation! She is the best!
With that said, one of the things I found most refreshing while we were in Uganda was this. I asked several different leaders at Buyamba what THEY SAW their children's greatest need as being. As an American, it would have been so easy to look at the material things and believe what the kids need is clothes and toys and/or other misc items... However, I was slightly surprised and extremely delighted to hear 1 of them say LOVE, and the other 2 of them say EDUCATION. Neither of which is a material possession. The gal that told me love explained that because most of the children come from broken homes, the parent or guardian they do have is working long hours for next to NO pay and simply doesnt have the time to love on and encourage the littles in their care. Therefore, the kids are rarely held and hugged and loved on. This was apparent during our visit as so many of the kids just wanted to be touching you all the time. Hugging, holding your hand, sitting on your lap, etc. The other 2 who said education talked about the hope that education gives a child. Education to them means that while things are extremely hard in the present, they have a hope that things can change in the future. Many of the leaders and facilitators who either work for or volunteer with Buyamba today are children who once attended God Cares school as children thanks to the sponsorship of a family in the states. The stories these adults told about what they have overcome was hard to stomach at times... broken homes, parents addicted to one substance or another, siblings who died due to neglect or mistreatment, parents or guardians who literally were unable to put food on the table for days on end, and the examples go on and on and on... And yet, thanks to the work of Buyamba, and the education they received at God Cares school, they have been able to change the course of their lives. Many are now attending college, and they are giving back at the same organization that made such a life changing impact for them. It is a cycle of hope that brings me to tears. And its an organization that is worthy of our prayers, our time, and our financial support. The quote below seems to sum up my thoughts exactly.
“I am blown away that my God, who could do this all by Himself,
would choose to let me be a little part of it.”
- Katie Davis, Amazima Ministries
You see, I have been convicted for quite a while that in the Bible God does not "suggest" we take care of the orphans in the world... He commands it. (James 1:27) Yes, that can look differently for different people, but I do believe that if we claim to know Jesus, it is our responsibility to care for those he cares about, and more than that, to do something about it.
My hope is that in sharing this experience with so many of my friends and family, that we will be able to get 10 children sponsored as a result of all I learned. The list of children waiting to be sponsored is endless... For $35/month you can send a child to school, build a relationship with them, send them letters, emails, photos, and even if you would like one day go and visit them! To most Americans, we waste more than $35/month on non-sense most months. This $35 could change the life and course of a real little person and their family forever. Now that I have seen the children, looked into their eyes, and am forever changed as a result of this experience, I am asking you from the bottom of my heart to consider joining me in supporting the work of Buyamba and the children they love so well. As a student at God Cares, the students are taught education as well as discipline when necessary. They are given Godly role models to look up to who love them and lead them well, and who are also willing to discipline and disciple when needed... It truly is an organization where ministry is done well.
And please hear my heart. I dont want you to feel sorry or bad for the children in Uganda that need help. The God of the universe loves them far more than I/we ever can, and He WILL provide for them with or without us... so we dont need to feel sorry for them, but we GET to be apart of a solution that can make things better for them! And that is what I am hoping for in sharing my experience with all of you. Its such an exciting prospect!! I hope you will prayerfully consider joining me in it.
You can learn more about Buyamba at http://www.ugandabuyamba.com/
Below are more photos from my trip. Photos of real life taken with my very own phone. Thanks to the many of you who supported me financially thru this journey. I pray you will continue to pray for and partner with the work happening in Uganda. It is definitely God's work.
I feel like I write about my trip for days, but for now I will leave it at this. I will write more soon.
Stella and Shadrach... 2 of my loves from the week!! Stella was such a joy and encouragement to me as she translated loads and explained many cultural difference to me with grace! <3
This little girl was carrying her things across camp. I asked her if I could take her photo, b/c who doesnt carry their bag on their head??? :) Precious!
Here is the play ground at camp. The kids were all over this thing every chance they got!
A view from our bus as we drove towards camp.
Just some boys walking their goats. :)
The primary school! Grateful to God that this place exists.
The view from the top floor of the school.
One of the walls in the schools classroom.
My new friend Thanks Dongo, who's family is on the front lines
doing God's work loving the children of Uganda.