As I look back on my time in Uganda, I don’t really know what to talk about first. The Lord has revealed several things to me this week—one being that He is the Creator of BEAUTIFUL things! Starting with the five hour drive from Entebbe to Mbale, I saw more green fields and red dirt roads than I ever have. The whole team was exhausted from our two days of travel, but we couldn’t sleep because we were so busy taking in the view. It’s almost certainly the prettiest place I’ve ever been. When we made it to Natalie’s house (the missionary we stayed with), we were welcomed with beef stew and mashed potatoes-yum! Then we headed to bed underneath mosquito nets.
This week’s work was at Lulwanda Children’s Home. We teamed up with an awesome group of adults, led by Mike and Mary Thrasher, from Texas that make a trip to Lulwanda every summer. This summer the Thrasher team held a conference for teachers all around the Mbale area, so our job was to spend time with all of the kids while their teachers were learning. The first day of this, I was reminded that God has a sense of humor when He placed Jackie, Victoria and me with the preschool classes. I tried to read my class a story and ask questions and they just stared at me. Then when any of us pulled out paper to draw on or any toys to play with, all forty-four kids swarmed to us chanting, “Even me teacha, even me!” If one child got something first, we would also hear, “Teacha, teacha- this one don wan to shaya.” Let’s just say there were a few overwhelming moments while trying to work with these kids, BUT the joys of working with them far outweighed any small costs. I prayed one day that the Lord would give me His compassion to for these kids, and that night at dinner He definitely answered my prayer. Natalie shared with us that the only way these kids have known before coming to the orphanage is fighting for what they get. Their whole mindset up until then was in survival of the fittest mode; they weren’t guaranteed to get something by waiting their turn like I always was as a kid. This made me realize how blessed I have been all of my life to have the certainty of shelter, food, water, and care from loved ones. How arrogant of me to expect a five year-old who has never known this certainty to understand it…
As the week went on and I got to know the kids more personally, they completely stole my heart. I learned what made certain ones laugh, and how to love each one individually, which was all from the Lord. One day, a lady that works at the orphanage told me that her son, who was in my class, talked about “Teacha Anna” at night with her, and she said he had me in his heart. Those are the types of rewards that are obviously worth any petty cost of mine. I realized on a whole new level then what an honor and privilege it is to get to be a part of God’s kingdom work. I am so unworthy of that.
We also learned a lot about spiritual warfare in Uganda. I’ll explain more of this in person, but we learned how real it really is, and how deceived so many people of the world really are. If you want, please watch the documentary called Furious Love. We watched that and learned a lot about what was going on around us. It’s also been good preparation for France, because the people here are so lost too. They have everything they need materialistically, but don’t realize that they don’t have what they actually need, which is Jesus. Please be in prayer for both of these places (Uganda and France) and the spiritual warfare that takes place. We take comfort in knowing that the Lord is stronger and has already ultimately won the battle, and we know that we belong to Him. The battle for our attention and efforts is real though, and we always need to be on our guard and praying for one another.
Another huge part of the Uganda stop for me was getting to know the missionaries already serving there. Meeting the Thrasher team and Natalie and her roommates and friends was SO cool! Natalie is from Texas, and her two roommates are from England so we heard wonderful accents and heard awesome testimonies of God’s faithfulness through them all week. Staying at Natalie’s actually felt like being back in America in many ways. She had running water and electricity, we watched a couple movies, played card games, and ate mostly American food for dinner every night, sitting around the table and talking about our days. It really made our team seem more like a family in that way. We separated out and worked all during the day, then came home in the evening and had team time as we learned from and served the missionaries we stayed with. Memories from those evening time are some of my favorite ever.
I’m so thankful we got to have those sweet times, but it did make saying bye to Curt extremely hard. (Curt was one of our two leaders on the trip. He’s a youth pastor and teacher back in Texas and had other responsibilities for this summer so he did three of the five countries.) He was such a champ in leading us girls around three countries with no other guys. We all know it takes a very special person to that, and we’ve seen in so many ways how the Lord particularly and perfectly placed Curt with us for the time that He did. Although we miss Curt terribly already, we do have an awesome new leader named Paul. He’s a youth pastor from Iowa and has done a lot of mission work in over thirty countries. Our friend Ryan, who went on Global Journey last year, also surprised us at the airport the other day and will be with us for the rest of the trip this summer. We’ve already had several good laughs and great lessons together, and I’m really excited to see how the Lord uses this specific team for His specific purposes over the next three weeks!
I learned so much in Uganda, but I guess the biggest lesson I’m learning coming away is that my life is not my life. I know that sounds weird so I’ll explain. I’ve heard all of my life that God should be the center of my life, but the last day in Uganda during my prayer time, the Lord really let that become a reality to me. I guess I thought that He was at the center of my life, but He showed me certain areas that I still tried to claim as my own. I still tried to make certain decisions on my own, trying to weigh in my comfort as a deciding factor when really that’s not important in the grand scheme of things. If you remember, I asked at the beginning of this trip for you to pray that I would not waste time trying to decide whether to follow what the Holy Spirit tells me to do in situations, but that I would recognize that by being a follower of Christ, I am already surrendered to saying yes to Him no matter what. He definitely has answered that prayer at the end of our time in Uganda, and is still working that out in me here in France. I am so thankful the Lord got a hold of me about this in the middle of the trip, because I know He is preparing me for situations I’ll encounter on this trip and back at home.
Thank you all so much for keeping up with me on my journey this summer. I pray that as you bless me with your prayer and encouragement, the Lord will also bless you by teaching you through my experiences. I also pray you are encouraged by knowing that your prayer and support for me on this trip is paying off in the greatest way. Through this trip, the Lord is changing my life. He is an amazing God who is capable of SO much! Y’all are such a blessing to me! Thank you for everything.