When I was a kid, I always loved the Vacation Bible School week in the summer. I would earn points for bringing friends, make fun crafts, memorize Scripture, bring coins for competition between boys and girls raising money for the missionary, play games outside, eat snacks…
Well this past week I was back in VBS, but this time in a role I had NEVER expected to have when I was a kid…I was the missionary of the week!
My friend Kate (remember when she visited me in Uganda last April?) helped me put together the plan for sharing with the 400 or so kids everyday. We had a good time working together on something that we are both passionate about: What God is doing in Uganda with Juna Amagara Ministries.
Monday we focused on simple things about Uganda as a country, and what life can be like there. Uganda is about the same size as Illinois and Indiana combined, but with twice the population. The Ugandan flag has black, yellow, and red stripes with the Crested Crane (the national bird) in the center. Black represents the color of the people, yellow the beautiful sunshine in the country, and red the brotherhood that people sense among one another. One unique thing about Uganda is that the equator cuts through it…with an actual line on the ground! It’s always a fun stop, especially for people who are visiting for the first time. Many people in the remote villages don’t have electricity or running water. In fact, people–including young children–often have a daily chore of fetching water. This task can often be more than an hour walk, one way. When they are little children start with jugs, called jerry cans, that hold three liters of water (a little less than a gallon). After a little while, they graduate to 20 liter jerry cans (about five gallons). Some kids got to try lifting a five-gallon water bottle, and couldn’t imagine carrying them up mountains on their head like the Ugandans do!
Tuesday we taught the children a little bit more about what Uganda is like. We talked about and saw pictures of animals that are wild in Uganda, but here in America we can only see in zoos: elephants, baboons, lions, giraffes, hippos, zebras, and more! It was also interesting to see what kinds of food are common in this East African country: pineapple, passion fruit, fish, pumpkin, g-nuts (as in ground-nuts, or peanuts), etc. Bananas grow in many areas of the country, and are called matoke. One of the staple foods is cooking unripe matoke as a starch, similar to mashed potatoes. We saw pictures of the different stages of the process. Some of us got a chance to balance baskets on our heads like Ugandan ladies do…though they weren’t full of fruit and veggies! Additionally, we learned about different ways people travel in Uganda, including me taking bodas to town a regular basis.
Wednesday we saw pictures of Juna Amagara schools and their students. We discussed how many children are boarding students, meaning they live at school most of the year. School is different from American schools in various ways, such as students rarely have textbooks, but have to copy everything from the chalkboard instead, in order to prepare for intense exams–even in preschool! But something is the same with all children…they like to play! Since many children don’t have lots of toys, they get resourceful using the banana fibers (from the trunks of dead matoke trees). We saw a picture of my friend making a doll for her daughter out of banana fibers. The most common toy made from this natural resource is a soccer ball!
Thursday Kate was able to share all about something that has become really special to her: The children of Uganda! JAM’s main ministry is child sponsorship. In 2010, my church had one family sponsoring 1 child. Now, four years later, we are sponsoring somewhere around 90 children! Praise God! It’s so exciting to see people become passionate about making a difference in lives of children on the other side of the world! Kate was able to meet several of these children, and deliver letters and gifts from their sponsors. The best part of Kate’s time to share at VBS was when we showed the picture of a kid in Uganda, then pointed out a child sitting on the gym floor whose family is sponsoring that kid on the screen. Their faces would light up! Some VBS kids even got to see their Ugandan brother or sister holding a picture of them & their family, which was sent in a letter. It was a really special day! Throughout the week we had a sponsorship table set up with 15 faces who are waiting for sponsors…Seven of them were picked up by families who want to support them! Check out JAM’s website if you want to sponsor a child.
Finally, on Friday I shared about my job in Uganda. Though I really love the children that Juna Amagara works with, that is not my main focus. I was able to tell the children about the ABIDE program, and the students I work with. The kids saw pictures of my students, who I’ve become so proud of. I spent the past year teaching my students many things, from interpreting the Bible to handcrafts like jewelry making. All week VBS kids and parents had the opportunity to buy jewelry, headbands, and hair clips that my students have learned to make. I was also able to share that I am praying that God provides the support that I need in order to return to my job with ABIDE in January of 2015. If you want more information, check out my Donate page or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday & Sunday (when children performed songs that they have learned throughout the week) we also brought in some special crafts from Uganda, through Sozo Market in DeKalb. God blew me away with how much He blessed our efforts to raise support for JAM. Not to mention, the children brought in offerings all week for JAM too! I am so thankful for Village Bible Church, and all the support for what God is doing in Uganda through Juna Amagara Ministries.
During the week I had some great encouragement from various people…
I’ve known you for a long time, but I don’t really know you…Yet it is so clear that you belong in Uganda. When you talk about it, I can tell that you are content. You are really happy there!
As an elder team, we often discuss whether or not short-term missions are really worth it. But the relationship we have developed with the ministry in Uganda proves that it definitely is!
-Elder & Crew Leader
I know you are focused on teaching the kids, but I want you to know that you are having an impact on the leaders as well. My daughter is a Crew Leader this week, and she has been enjoying your sessions. Yesterday she was telling me that she is thinking about being a missionary when she grows up!
All week I’ve heard your presentations about Uganda while working in the kitchen. After hearing it a few times, I think I picked up most of it! I often pray for Africa, and specifically Uganda.
I’ve been a part of many Vacation Bible Schools over the years, and this was the best missionary focus I’ve ever seen! You did a great job. The kids really learned about Uganda, and we leaders did too! It was really neat how you could point out a child in the crowd and show them the picture of who they sponsor.
-Crew Leader & Long-time Church Member
It was a fun and encouraging week. The growing impact and involvement that Village Bible Church is having with Juna Amagara Ministries is largely because of the opportunities we have to really develop relationships between people here in America and people in Uganda. I love being able to be a part of those growing relationships! Let me know if you want to get more involved yourself!