How was the mission trip?
Five well-meaning words and I’m transported back to red dirt; overwhelmed with sights and smells and people whose stories have stained my heart.
It’s not that I don’t want to tell you everything. It’s that I’m not sure you’re ready for the burden of truth I feel like I would be unloading. I might have made it out without malaria, but I did come home with the blessing of the inability to “un-know.” Turns out there’s no vaccine for that.
Let me tell you a few things I can’t unknow: the infectious laughs of the women who make just enough money hand-painting pottery to afford their children’s school tuition, but not enough to move out of the slums they call home.
The weight of a little boy in my arms living in an orphanage because his Mom is sick with HIV and he has no one else to care for him.
The beautiful smile of a little girl now getting an education after being locked in a closet for the first ten years of her life because her family believed in ignorance that her special needs were a curse.
Africa has left me in a juxtaposition that my mind can’t reason its way out. As I sit here now, remnants of red dirt lingering in my just emptied suitcase, I can’t help wonder what it was all for. Why did God call me 8,000 miles away to the other side of the world, to a place so different than what I’ve known as my [temporary] home? Something tells me unpacking that question won’t be as easy as dumping out my carry-on.
One reason I am certain of was to come back and tell others. That is, after all, precisely the point of most short-term missions: to spread awareness about and advocate for the ministries serving day in and day out. So, while I take time to unpack and sort through my personal experiences in Africa, let me share about the amazing organizations I had a chance to witness.
First off, Kristina and Moses (and baby Carter) are some of the sweetest, most genuine people I’ve met. They love big on the kiddos, the communities, and the teams that come to serve. They invited us into their home for a delicious home-cooked meal just as we were all feeling the pangs of homesickness.
Obwaagazi Children’s Foundation is based in Jinja, Uganda and provides special education, therapies, medical assistance, parent education, food assistance, and community outreach for children with disabilities in Uganda. Children with disabilities in Uganda are often seen as a curse to the family and communities. These children typically lack parental love, are seen as having no future, and grow up as outcasts in the community.
Obwaagazi doesn’t just teach these kids how to read and write and do math, they teach them about their worth as sons and daughters of the one true King. The staff there are truly changing lives and doing kingdom work. The stories of these children before Obwaagazi are heartbreaking, but seeing them thriving there now was a testament to the restoration and healing that only comes through Jesus.
How to Help Obwaagazi
Funding is the biggest need at Obwaagazi and there are several ways to get involved. You have the ability to sponsor a child to help them continue to receive an education, food assistance, or physical therapy. You can sponsor a teacher to allow them to continue helping these special kiddos. Kristina and Moses also rely on sponsorships to enable them to continue serving in Uganda. Sponsor a child or team member here.
Oh, Sole Hope. This was one of my favorite days serving, but the day I took the least pictures. Partly because I was so in the moment and partly because of the sensitive nature of the experience. The mission of Sole Hope is “offering HOPE, healthier lives, and freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs, and medical relief.” Thousands of children in Uganda suffer from a crippling foot parasite called jiggers. Through education, medical care, and shoes Sole Hope aids Ugandan people in becoming jigger free.
A jigger starts out so small it is nearly invisible (think: fleas or lice). It burrows into a person’s skin and latches onto blood vessels. Within days the jigger swells to over 1000 times the size it was while continuously laying eggs. Those eggs hatch, mature, and lead to an infestation.
The results of jigger infestation are pain, itching, and infection. Children stop walking to school. Adults can’t care for their families. The elderly become captive in their homes. Worst of all, due to widespread cultural beliefs, people infested with jiggers are often shunned for the “curse” painfully visible upon their body.
How to Help Sole Hope
There are so many ways to partner with Sole Hope for sustainable change that restores health and hope. A donation of $10 means that a child in Uganda will get a pair of close toed shoes. (And, sponsoring shoes for a child today ensures the shoe makers there will have work tomorrow.) Sole Hope has many, many needs for all sorts of goods which you can order for Sole Hope through Amazon Smile and have it sent along with the next group of visitors & servants. You can also host a Care Kit (acquiring and packing items like safety pins, cotton balls, and alcohol wipes) or Shoe Party (giving old denim new life)… but act fast because only a limited number of party kits are available on the first of each month.
My favorite is the Ten for Ten where $10 covers ten toes each month. By becoming part of the $10 for TEN Tribe, you are providing the financial support to ensure individuals in Uganda have the opportunity to become & remain jigger free.
HEAL Ministries strives to empower & resource vulnerable, abandoned women & children in Christ centered holistic programs that teach sustainability & family preservation. HEAL Ministries builds relationships and aims to address the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs with the desire that vulnerable families will be holistically transformed and empowered to stay together and live sustainably within their communities.
As someone who is in the middle of my own international adoption, I’ve seen firsthand the immense need for programs like HEAL (both internationally and in America) that focus on family preservation. Due to my own personal circumstances, and also because we spent the most amount of time at HEAL (this was where we stayed- The James Place), this one needs the most emotional un-packing.
HEAL offers Bible study, English classes, childcare, preschool, Farming God’s Way, KIDS Club… as well as their sustainability initiatives in sewing, business, and artisan programs (which allow the women to learn and develop a specific skill set in either rug making, jewelry design, pottery, or leather works).
How to Help HEAL Ministries
There’s so many ways to get involved with HEAL. Want to name a goat? Done. Want to purchase some of the beautiful, hand-crafted goods from the artisans? Got ya’ covered. Education scholarships, shop Amazon wishlists, host a trunk show- there’s seriously something for everyone no matter the budget or platform.
Amani Baby Cottage
As I expected, Amani was both the toughest and most rewarding of all my time spent in Uganda. I choked back tears when one of the little ones (about Ian’s age) threw his arms around my neck the first day but I was powerless to stop them on our final day there when I had to set that same little boy down and walk away.
Amani Baby Cottage is a babies’ home that provides care for orphaned, abandoned and needy children, from newborn to 5 years. It was established in 2003 and has been the home to 400 children. Their goal and mission is to find a permanent home for all of the children through reuniting with their families or adoption.
How to Help Amani Baby Cottage
Each child at Amani needs 4 sponsors of $35 a month to provide medical, food, and daily care for that child (basically each sponsor covers one week of the month). You can also view their donation needs list and make a difference in that way. (YL friends, they need oils and diffusers!)
One thing I can’t stress enough is just how far the US dollar stretches in Uganda. I know there are a lot of organizations out there and it’s hard to know who to trust, especially when sending funds oversees, but your money will truly make a difference. I encourage you to do your own research about each of these ministries- all of which are 501(c)(3) organizations- and pray about where God is leading you to live out James 1:27.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Maybe, He is asking you to GO? Check out the missions available with Go Be Love.
So, how was my mission trip? Watch my ten days in five minutes: