Pastors Christopher and Grace of the Lwantama church have built a school for the community. It is still a work in progress. There are currently 350 students in grades Primary 1 through Primary 5 with 11 teachers.
Christopher showed us around the campus. A new building for grades 5-7 is currently under construction. Due to need a portion of the 5-7 grade building was erected for the 5th graders. The roof needs redone to be proper but it is usable right now.
On the hill behind the school they are purchasing an additional plot of land to put in dormitories. Parents from far away have been asking to send their students and the school is desiring to build a dormitory that will provide housing for 200 students.
Yesu Akwagala is a phrase in Lugandan (the name of the primary language here) meaning: Jesus Loves you.
Today I went was honored to speak at the Lwantama Evangelical Pentecostal Church near Cachity (I am sure that is spelled wrong, but it sounds correct!). Katie, Yelena, and Caroline went with me. Katie also spoke while Yelena and Caroline played and did crafts with the kids. We drove two hours down red dirt roads.
My topic was "God has a plan for you". On the way to Uganda I expected to find a lot more filth and squalor, however what I found has been anything but. There are areas where sewage run through the streets, and there are ghetto areas with small tight packed houses, but Uganda is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and they are happy. But not all is perfect.
Disease and sickness are still rampant here. We were participating in a youth conference and this evening one of the speakers spoke on the importance of remaining a virgin until marriage. Heavily emphasized were sexually transmitted diseases.
Surviving here is hard. Ugandans do many different things and work long hours each day to make enough money to afford food and a home. If a Ugandan is not producing something of value they can be shunned by their family and community.
This leaves the people feeling like nobody loves them, wondering what their place is in the world. I came to encourage them that God has a plan for their lives.
Katie followed up with a story of God's relentless love in her life through her conversion experience and two ladies were saved. One had been attending church every week for 6 years! The people went ballistic! The celebration was intense. The band came to the stage, people were yelling and screaming, and everyone mobbed the ladies with hugs.
I am laying here in bed at 5 am (6 pm Seattle time) mulling over the happenings of yesterday. Yesterday was our first physical interaction with any of the kids. They were irresistible and not touching them was not an option. The very idea of touching these children used to terrify me.
The general rule of thumb here is that all kids have some sort of health issue, a skin disease, fever, disease, AIDs, etc. You are simply supposed to assume it.
Up until a few years ago the idea of visiting Africa set my skin crawling and my American sense of cleanliness scurrying in the other direction. Many friends have come to Africa on missions trips and I was always happy to financially support them and enjoyed the stories of lives changed but I never wanted to go.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. Uganda had been on my heart for a couple years and I had been supporting families through the excellent World Vision organization, but I felt a change coming. God started putting the Bible verses from Matthew 25:36, 40:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
[The Jesus replied], "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.
This kick started a change in my thinking and in my heart. It is hard to trust in something you cannot see or physically quantify but I decided to see where this was going and signed up for a mission trip to build houses in a poverty stricken community that was living in tiny dirt huts with a trench coming out of the side for sewage which spilled into the middle of the street. The over all trip was cancelled. I signed up again the next year, and the next, and the next. Each time the trip had a different goal, was through a different organization, and all failed. But I did not give up hope.
I did not understand why I had this passion burning in my heart for Uganda but the path to Uganda seemed blocked. I held on to the promise in Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Fast forward again to today. I am in Uganda! I am not building houses like I originally anticipated but rather I am with a team bringing joy and cuddles to the children here. Those same children that a mere 5 years ago I was terrified of touching I am gladly embracing, wrestling with, dancing with, and holding today.
When I look back over the past 5 years I see periods where I was being equipped for this journey. Sure I could have come 5 years ago, but I would have worn a hazmat suit and not interacted with the Ugandans. In a couple hours I am driving down a dusty bumpy road for 2 hours to a church where I (and Katie, the beard girl) am going to be standing in front of hundreds of people who I do not know, in a culture I have no idea about, and a language nowhere near anything I am familiar with and tell them the story of my journey to Uganda and how God calls us to Sit, Rest, and Wait on Him while he prepares and equips us. Speaking in front of people is also not something I would have been able to do 5 years ago. In the past couple years I went from no public speaking experience to now I am an international speaker at tech conferences.
I was being trained and equipped for this journey and now I am here feeling overwhelmed by the grace and foresight of God and thankful of the Sit, Rest, Wait theme He has put over my life.
Now to go out and love me some more filthy disease ridden but oh so beautiful and precious Ugandan children!
Today was National Women's Day in Uganda. It is similar to an expanded Mother's Day in the U.S.A.
The team went to a nearby church where a dinner was setup for the women. Unlike in the United States men are always invited to women's events. It was great to celebrate together.
We will be putting on a three day event for kids this week and we also spent time going into the community inviting kids and their parents to the event. The living conditions here vary greatly, from neat rows of nice houses to ramshackle arrangements of shipping containers with four foot wide paths between them and sewege running down the middle. The community I went to today was the latter. Looking through the eyes of an American this place is filthy and disgusting in many ways. The people here are happy though.
Reflecting on what I saw today makes me grateful for what I have in America. Things like steady electricity (and Internet!), running water, and toilets are something so taken for granted that the only time I really pay attention to them is when the are not working and inconveniencing me. Here it is a daily reality and the people take it in stride.
A lot of kids followed us back to the church and we played with them for hours. I have read books of missionaries living in Uganda and a common thread is how cute the kids are. I did not understand it until today. The kids are precious. They do not talk much, but they sure do love playing and having someone just hold them.
Some photos from the day. The rest will be posted in full resolution after the trip.