When it was first mentioned that we needed to put down into words a meaningful experience about our mission trips to Uganda, I thought it would be the simplest thing in the world since Uganda and its people have come to mean so very much to me. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you choose to look at it), I found it much more difficult than I imagined. You see, there are so many meaningful memories, so many ways that the Lord has touched my heart through the children – and through the people and Pastors that we have come into contact with, and so many ways in which He has taught me more about Him through my experiences with them.
When I look back at the different trips, there have been several instances in which the Lord has allowed me to see His Works in action. During one trip in particular, we were ministering in a village deep in the mountains. When I say “deep in the mountains,” I simply mean that we had to drive for what seemed like forever to get there each day and it felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere. We used to joke that if we were dropped off, that we would be wandering around trying to find civilization for the remainder of our lives.
Upon arriving in the village each day, Pastor Danny and Pastor Phillip would begin the Pastor’s Conference and Sandy and I would begin working with the children in the village. We found that there wasn’t a place set aside for us to work with them, so the children led us to a field. We had to hike through some pretty rough terrain on the mountain (or so it seemed to me and Sandy – not so much for the children) to arrive at the field. Once there, we would sit with the children and tell them stories dealing with Creation to the Cross, which ultimately ended in the Gospel message. One thing that struck me and Sandy both, was when the teacher from the school across the street came over to retrieve his students. He did not want them playing with the children in the village. The children whose families were too poor to pay for them to attend school. You see, in Uganda, education is not a right – it is a privilege. It was disturbing to be witness to that kind of a stigma being put on the children, but we have found it in each village we have been in.
In the late afternoons, the Crusade would begin. It is always an awesome thing to witness: the large number of people that come out, the dancing, singing and praising the Lord, the preaching and the lives getting saved. Each afternoon, though, we saw a girl standing off in a corner watching. She was on crudely made crutches and always alone. She was shy, not accepting to being approached and appeared to be an outcast. I had snapped a picture of her and thought of her often after I returned home.
During our next trip to Uganda, Pastor Simon told us he wanted to take us to that village for a quick visit. Upon arrival, we saw that the temporary shelter that had been made with tarps was now a building, complete with a roof. Pastor Simon told us that after our visit six months earlier, that the parents and people of the village had gotten together and raised enough money to build a school for the children in the village!!
When we entered the school, we saw a building full of children in their school uniforms anxious to greet us. These were the same children who six months earlier were being separated from other children who attended a school!! As each of us came forward to speak, we were overwhelmed by the sight of the children. When it came to my time, I asked them if the remembered me. They shouted, “Kim!!!”, which was something that brought me to tears (of course, I realized that me and Sandy were probably the only white women these children had ever laid eyes on). What really touched me and meant the most to me at that moment was when I looked around at the children singing to us, I saw that same girl who was always standing on the outside of all the activity crawl to the middle of the children in a school uniform! She sat up and started clapping, smiling and singing right along with them. She was one of them, no longer an outcast and different.
It was because of the Lord working in the hearts of the people and the parents of the village that we were allowed to be witnesses to such a wonderful blessing. It was because they allowed the Lord to work in their hearts that they built a Christian school for their children. For their future.
I will always remember that time as one of the biggest blessings the Lord has given me, one of the many times He has shown me His Mercy and His Compassion on His people.
It is sad, though, that this is not the norm in Uganda. Not every village responds by taking their children under their wing in this way. Many of the children are not able to attend because they are beset by illnesses, because they have to work on the family property or quite often simply because they are weak from hunger. These children are in need of medical attention, food (along with ways to grow crops) and an education.
Each trip back we have been witness to many advances in these areas, but there is still so much more we can do. Simply by sponsoring a child to go to school, we give them an opportunity to get a Christian education, to enjoy at least one hot meal a day and to know that they are loved, wanted and important. I am so very thankful for the young boy, Caleb, that my husband and I are able to sponsor. The smile on his healthy young face each time I see it (a picture of me and him is on my refrigerator, so I see him quite often) brings a smile to my own face!! Sponsorship of a child like the young girl who was once an outcast can make an eternal difference in that child’s life. Who knows, that child may one day grow up to be the Ugandan version of Billy Graham.
This is just one of many experiences I have had. I could go on and on. Maybe next time I will ramble on about the school which we visited that had over 200 children, all from parental support and how six months later we were able to teach the Creation to the Cross message and over 50 of those children came forward for salvation!! That is a story worth telling and one that will take another couple of pages to write.
For now, I just have to close by saying that the children and the people of Uganda are forever in my heart and I have been blessed beyond measure that the Lord has allowed me to play a small part in their lives.