Every time I have come to Uganda, since 2010, I have co-led a team with my pastor, Keith. Keith has always brought along his son (soon to be 13). While here, people always ask why his wife doesn’t join him…well, with two little girls at home, it is a bit challenging for Mama to travel to the other side of the world!
Well, a few months ago I got an email from my friend Kate (Keith’s wife). She said she was thinking about visiting her friends, our church’s missionaries, in Tanzania and wondered if she could also see me! Her trip dates lined up perfectly with ABIDE’s mid-term break. So, she wouldn’t see the ministry that I am directly involved in, but I would be available to travel around the country with her. Needless to say, we began planning!
Kate’s trip was full of late nights, long journeys, rain delays, and full days. Though we were very busy, and often really tired, it was great to have her here!
People from my home church in America, Village Bible Church, currently sponsor 66 different children in the Juna Amagara Ministries child sponsorship program. That’s a ton! I am really proud of them! After all, when we brought out first team in 2010, there was only one! God is certainly at work in the hearts of people to care for orphans! One of the main purposes of Kate’s time in Uganda was to visit as many of these 66 students as possible. As we met them (some I already knew, and some I was meeting for the first time), we delivered a letter and/or package from their sponsor. Most children in Uganda grow up never even receiving a simple birthday present, so to have a package of little gifts from their sponsor in America was certainly a big deal! In fact, many children (or their guardians) gave a small gift to Kate to send back to their sponsors. It was a privilege to serve as the hands, feet, and voice for so many sponsors back home who may never get the opportunity to meet their children face-to-face. Yet there was one who was excited to learn that his sponsor is coming in June–he can’t wait to meet her! The kids of all ages enjoyed seeing pictures of their sponsored families, and receiving gifts like colored pencils, notebooks, chewing gum, and more. Sponsors often ask what would be good gifts, so as Kate and I were brainstorming lists, we decided to ask a recent graduate (one of my ABIDE students) what she would appreciate most. Her answer, without a second’s hesitation, was toothpaste. How many 19 year olds do you know whose answer would be so simple? That certainly helped us keep things in perspective!
The children that VBC sponsors are not all from the same area, so it took some time to make all the deliveries. We made a stop in town, dropped a bunch at a care point in a town along our travels, and even stopped to give a letter to someone who is currently working at a gas station as we drove to the village of Kishanje. When we were staying in the village we walked to another nearby village to deliver two packages (and that evening staff members staying with us were shocked that we had walked that distance…which they have never done since they lived there), then made our way up the hill to the high school for some more deliveries. Another day we had the advantage of a van who took us into the village, where we still had to do some walking to reach our destinations. However, many students knew we were coming to visit and met us along the way. We stopped at a bench along the road and one-by-one gave the children their envelope or zip-lock bag full of treasures. At church that Sunday, we saw the evidence of a previous gift when we saw a girl wearing a Village Bible Church t-shirt…in fact it had been a gift to her brother (who we met earlier in the week) from his sponsor. So fun!
We also visited chapel for Kishanje Highlands High School (JAM’s high school), and I got to see some of the staff and students who I have come to know and love!
After leaving the village, we had a couple of days to stay at my home. A young boy, who I think is in fourth grade, and his friends in their Caring Kids Club collected pencils, sharpeners, and erasers for children in Uganda. We delivered them to the children at the JAM school on the same property where I work. It was so fun to show them the picture of the children who sent the gifts, then take their picture to send back! The kids were all so thankful for their gifts!
Mbarara also involved some visits with children: a couple at school, and three home visits. I love seeing the kids faces light up when they discover what has been sent for them. What I really love is when we get to actually visit the students’ homes and meet some family members. The gratitude is so evident and sincere. You’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child, well, I am so thankful that members of Village Bible Church are willing to be a part of that village, even from the other side of the world! Probably one of the most meaningful parts of Kate’s trip was when she accompanied 10 year-old Mathias, along with his little sister Julia, to meet his mother Emily. You see, last year Kate’s son decided to sponsor Mathias after meeting him and having some time playing with him (climbing trees and whatnot). Mathias indeed did not have a sponsor, so I helped make the connections so her son could begin helping his friend. As a 12-year-old, he has been mowing lawns, shoveling snow, taking care of neighbors’ dogs, etc. to earn the money to sponsor Mathias all on his own. Impressive! So, Kate was finally able to meet the family that was being impacted by her son’s hard work. Emily immediately had tears coming to her eyes when we arrived. It was really special to witness this bond. When Kate talked to her son that night on the phone, it seemed like he was a bit jealous of his mom’s day here in Uganda!
While in my “home town” Kate was able to meet several of the people I work with on a regular basis. But what was most special for me was getting to know the Mugasha family as they are good friends with her husband, and have become my family here. Plus we got to deliver some special gifts from Kaka (Grandma) Linda, who has come on every VBC Uganda team since 2010, and like any good grandma, likes to spoil her grandchildren! It’s great to be the messenger of love from one side of the world to the other!
When we continued our journey closer and closer to the airport, we had to make the traditional stop at the equator. I think it’s like a rule of some kind that all visitors to Uganda must get their picture taken on the line that separates the hemispheres! That evening we had supper at Reverend and Mrs. Tumuheirwe’s home. They are the ones who started Juna Amagara Ministries ten years ago. Kate has met them in the USA, but it was a nice change to visit them on their turf!
On our final day together we attacked the African craft village, finding great deals on some unique African crafts to bring home. Check them out at Sozo Market in DeKalb, Illinois; Sozo Market is a store that a friend from VBC started with the purpose of helping raise funds for ministries around the world. Juna Amagara Ministries is blessed to be one organization that has already greatly benefited from Sozo.
In the afternoon we made our final drop of gifts from sponsors. We found 10 students at their school in Kampala, and quickly had them open their letters and gifts one-by-one. Though we were unable to meet about 1/3 of the children who VBC sponsors (but we are making sure their packages get to them), we were thrilled to meet all those that we did. May God bless all those who have made the sacrifice to invest in the life of a child here in Uganda. May God receive all the glory for it!
It was great having a friend from home around for a week or so, and so fun to join her in her mission on behalf of our church. I also felt like I was escorting a celebrity most of the time since so many people know her husband and son! Eventually we prayed and hugged as she headed into the airport, just in time to make it home to Chicago for the Good Friday service that evening. Read more details and see more pictures of Kate’s time in Uganda by checking out her blog: www.villagebible.org/africa.
If you have any interest in sponsoring a child with Juna Amagara Ministries for $35 a month, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can connect you with a child who could really benefit from your love and support.