How do you explain a life-changing experience to someone who wasn’t there? Words always seem to fall short as one seeks to communicate the blessings of fellow shipping with brothers and sisters in Christ who are half a world away, the pain of seeing extreme poverty and malnourished children, and the pride in seeing a diverse group of teenagers who go beyond themselves to honor Christ and serve those around them. I had the opportunity, along with Noelle Haynie and Greg Boyer, to lead the recent team to Uganda. It was a joy to see our students serving the people of Uganda both at Hope Christian School and throughout the towns.
One event that sticks out in my mind was before our students even made it to Hope. As the students were enjoying some games one night in the hotel, there were several kids who just sat and watched them. Instead of staying in their own world and hanging out with their friends, several of our students began playing with the children, talking to them, learning their names, and coloring some of our VBS coloring pages with them. The students weren’t just waiting for the service opportunities that had been set up for them, but instead they were looking for ministry opportunities in the place where God had them at that moment.
The kids also did a tremendous job painting the main hall and a dormitory at the school, worshiping with their African brothers and sisters in Christ, running a VBS for the orphans at the school, and stretching fencing around the girls dormitories at the high school. Each task was tackled with a gusto that reflected a God that was bigger than the discomfort in their arms, the hot temperatures, or the language barrier. Time and again, our friends in Uganda mentioned what a testimony it was to see the kids sacrificing to come to Uganda and then working so hard throughout their time there. Throughout it all, I believe that God was glorified as people recognized that it was our unity in Christ that caused us to love and serve one another.
One unique opportunity that presented itself was when Miss Haynie decided to bring some yarn and needles to teach crochet to some of the older girls. When she pulled those items out and began teaching the girls, they became so excited! The ladies at the school kept thanking Noelle over and over again. They spent all day crocheting hats, handbags, and scarfs. The superintendent of the school declared that Miss Haynie had taught the girls a lifelong skill with which they could now earn a living! Although this was only a small part of our trip, it showed great area of need that could be met during future trips.
Despite a few challenges such as a fractured heel for Greg Boyer and an unwanted visit at our hotel from an overzealous immigration official, the trip was a blessing to both the Ugandans and the students from Faith.
One of the most poignant moments of our trip was when our group noticed that at one of the many roadside stands was selling beautifully-made caskets. It was not the quality of the caskets that caught our eye, but the fact that about 75% of the caskets were child sized. It hit our group hard as we came face-to-face with the enormity of the physical and spiritual need in the country of Uganda. It was uncomfortable, and it hurt to think that the consequences of the poverty in the country was being felt even by those who were most innocent. It helped our teens to focus on sharing the gospel through both word and deed during the short time that we were there.
We were continuously humbled by the gratefulness of the Ugandans for even our smallest deeds. Their hospitality, their love for brothers and sisters in Christ, and their joy in Christ even during hard times was a tremendous testimony to each of us. Our continuous prayer during our devotional time together was that we would not be focused on our own personal growth or what we could get out of the trip, but that we would be focused on serving the people of Uganda for the glory of God.