Where to even begin... The James Place holds such a special place in my heart and has been such a place of healing, joy, and spiritual growth for me. The women and children that HEAL Ministries serve are some of the most beautiful people (inside and out) that I have ever met and have taught me what it looks like to trust Jesus fully and live out my faith in day-to-day life. Their strength comes from the Lord alone, and thanks to this incredible place and their hard work and dedication, so many of these women and children are being empowered with trades, skills, and education so that they can truly “be the change” in the Jinja community and beyond! I am so blessed to be back for 6 months this time, after such a life-changing internship I had here last summer. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the James Place, but truly it is, in many ways, the way I believe heaven will look like one day. All hands on deck and all parts of the body of Christ being used to further the kingdom of God - one diaper, one meal, one student, one laugh, one woman’s dream of opening a business, one smile, one hug at a time!
Before walking into the James Place, I had fears of being inadequate and unworthy of the job set before me, in a place where I knew no one and had been stripped of everything comfortable; but from the first step I took inside, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy – a joy that can only come from the Lord. In the book of 1 Peter it talks about how when you believe in Jesus you are filled with an INEXPRESSIBLE and GLORIOUS joy and that is so evident here at the James Place because Jesus is the center of all the work being done. The women have taught me what it looks like to serve with abundant joy and the children have taught me what it looks like to love with endless joy.
The Lord has taught me through the James Place the freedom that comes from truly finding joy in the day to day life that comes from fully surrendering and trusting in God’s plans. The James Place is building up world changers by teaching them about the pure joy found in Jesus, ultimately and radically changing their lives, which has been a JOY to watch first hand.
- Lauren Crow, Volunteer Intern
When I first came to the James Place just over four years ago, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how quickly I would fall in love with Uganda. I didn't know how deeply I would love the staff, women, and children who immediately became my family. I didn't know that there would be some extremely hard days, filled with loss and heartbreak, and that most days would be extremely beautiful, filled with joy, laughter, and fellowship. I didn't know that I would fall into the swing of missionary life, pouring my heart into those who would come for short periods of time, only having to say see you later’s too soon. I didn't know that I would soon come to call Jinja my home.
Four years later, what I do know is that Jesus has been with me every step of the way, giving me the strength, energy, and endurance to fight the good fight. I know that He is present here and that He is working in powerful, mighty ways. I know that I love the people of HEAL Ministries with everything that I am. It breaks my heart having to leave them, to leave this place, to come to America. However, I know that for such a time as this, this is what my God is calling me to do. I know that this is what is best for everyone at HEAL Ministries, even if it means that my heart breaks a little bit in the process. I know that My God is strong; my God is mighty; and there is nothing that my God cannot do.
- Betty Ross, Administration Manager and Marketing Coordinator
Below are three team members insights on their time at the James Place:
There aren’t many places where you feel at home; where you feel safe and loved. Or at least I haven’t. I felt a sense of calm wash over me the second I walked through these gates and I knew that I was welcomed.
The people here aren’t like ones I interact with every day. At home people keep their distance, keep their head down. Here, you are greeted with a smile and a warm wish that you might have a good day. Back home it seems like people want to get to know you, but the second they have to go out of their way to do so they drop their plan. Here, conversations and interactions mean something. People ask the smallest, most simple questions, not for small talk, but because they actually care. The love that binds us all together is shown here every day.
For me the James Place has opened my eyes, while also fueling me to go live the life I desire back home. It’s places like these were you learn what really matters in life. And I am more than grateful that I was able to experience the magic of the James Place.
The James Place is a haven for anyone and everyone. It is a safe place where community and love abound. Whether you are a widow, an orphan, or even visiting from another country, everyone is being healed by the power of God. Upon walking into the front gates, you instantly feel at home. You can always expect a genuine “Hello. How are you” from Dennis.
The women here are indescribable. I knew that it would be easy to love on the babies, but I was not prepared for how much I would love these women. God knew that they would be a special surprise for me. The way they care for each other is selfless, humbling, and God-like. They lift each other up and they’re there for each other when another is down.
The children are full of joy and life! They bring me back to my childlike faith and wonder. I see God in their eyes and in their smiles. Seeing them walk out of the gates with their little brother or sister on their backs makes my heart melt. They care for each other just as the women do.
I was not prepared for all of the emotions I would experience by coming here, but I know I will never be the same. I pray that God will use everything I learned from the women and children (and can’t forget Dennis, Wilbur, and Noah :) to be poured out into the lives of everyone I meet.
Walking into the HEAL Ministries gates feels like waking into a small piece of heaven on the other side of the world. This place is filled with amazing people, stories, different languages, rich culture, and filled with Jesus.
What I love most about my time here is how strong and caring these women are toward one another. They are protective, resilient, smart, fierce, yet incredibly kind and nurturing. Even the small children are so good with helping care for their younger siblings. HEAL feels like experiencing what I would imagine living in a village might feel like.
The people at HEAL protect each other, help raise each others babies, laugh together, play together, play volleyball together, and worship together. They also have a quiet strength about them. Grace, for example, is one of the women here and she has a baby named Malachi. She’s so kind and gentle, but I can see that if someone tried to hurt one of her babies, she would turn into one fierce mama bear! I love how these women walk through life supporting one another.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of HEAL Ministries, and I know I will be back someday soon.
"Yet I am confident I will see the LORD's goodness while I am here in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13 I've seen His goodness in these red dirt roads, in the tea fields spreading for miles, in the spirit of thankfulness that always leads to praise, in generosity that showed me what it means to give with a cheerful heart, in servant-hearted thoughtfulness, in singing and dance that makes you laugh until you cry, in humility and vulnerability that shows a heart knelt down, in giggles and laughs you wish you could record as a forever hum in your head, in joy upon joy.
I am undeserving of the goodness I've experienced. What Uganda & these friendships have been in my life is simply the story of the cross, of grace, of drowning in love, and undeserved kindness, of being told I have worth although I know I'm not worthy. God has a way of saying I know what you are, I know your darkest parts, but I love you still, I want you still. You are not worthy but you have unimaginable worth, you are worth everything to me- I would leave the 99 for you. I would call you to this place, this land of the living, because I love you, because I want to overflow your cup. I will use you because I want you to share in my glory, and I will use them because I want you to taste an earthly love that mirrors my heavenly love for you.
Thank you the James Place, my mukwanos, my babies, and my kind Savior for 10 months of fullness.
- Shannon Rogers, Volunteer Long Term Intern
Hey guys, reporting live from Jinja. Fergie here. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve as a short term intern, long term intern, and am currently leading a team here at the James Place. The last time I was here in Jinja was three years ago and wow, how it has progressed. Walking through the gates felt like home, but I am still constantly blow away by all the positive change.
Being here a week, I have already witnessed the tangible differences HEAL is making in this community. One of my favorite changes from last time I was here is seeing how many women from the artisan program have become James Place staff members. Being able to see their commitment to this community and willingness to work hard is a testament to the morals HEAL is instilling in each woman that walks through the gates.
Another beautiful example of the power of a mother’s love is getting to see the moms and children from three years ago continuing living a sustainable, love-filled life together. The numbers are constantly increasing each day of women that enter the program and spend their days working towards providing for their family. These women have entered into a community of love and acceptance, and each one is an equally important part to the success of it. The James Place is all about cultivating relationships between women, volunteers, staff members, and the children, and it is a beautiful thing to be able to see the difference these relationships are making in the lives of people here. Jesus most certainly has laid his hand over this place.
The James Place simply exudes Jesus. People walk by these gates and know that something different is happening inside. It’s an honor to be a small, small part of it because my experiences here truly transformed the way I think, live, and love.
Morale is at an all time high.
Over and out,
- Fergie, Team Leader
“This is my home, this is my family.”
There is no better way to describe the James Place than these simple words, spoken by my friend Parvin, a young mother who works in the Artisan Department here as a master potter.
Before I came to spend time working with HEAL, I really didn’t know what they did. People would ask me why I was going to Uganda and what I would be doing there, and honestly, I really didn’t know. All I knew is that I trusted the girls who had come here before me. So I packed my bags and flew half way around the world not really knowing what to expect. Upon arriving here in Jinja, I was informed as to what exactly HEAL’s focus is—keeping families together and orphan prevention. What HEAL does to meet this focus and keep it in check is a whole different story. Not only does the James Place run a preschool, but also a child care facility. It employs over 100 women in a variety of artisanal fields, provides a 3-year sewing curriculum and business classes that give single moms the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Women are welcome to come and participate in praise and worship and a Bible Study on Fridays, and kids from all of the villages (anywhere between 300-500 weekly) gather in the play yard for Kids Club every Saturday. This place is a well-oiled machine, which, through trial and error over the past 7 years, has become a sanctuary for women and their children to come and build a better life together.
Those who have found themselves within the walls of the James Place know that no matter their situation, they can come and be loved here. It is safe, it is home, it is family.
- Alex, Team Member
The James Place Preschool and day-care is a center where children are the first priority and above all Christ centered.
It has helped the community in the following ways:
- It has helped children to grow spiritually and morally upright.
- The James Place Preschool has brought development in the community for example since it’s affordable; many parents are able to get their children education services.
- The James Place Preschool has created employment opportunities to people in the community such as teachers, cooks, cleaners etc., and this has improved their families’ standard of living.
- It has improved the nutrition of the children because of the balanced diet given at school. The children receive breakfast, lunch and two nutritional snacks.
- Preschool has created good relationships in the community
- It has helped children grow holistically and improved the children’s self-esteem.
- It has given families hope and encouraged the community all around.
We believe we are changing the next generation of Uganda and are beginning to break the cycle of poverty.
Lead Teachers, Aisha and Rebecca
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the laws of Christ.
During my first month in Jinja, another intern and I were invited to visit Masese, a slum in East Jinja where many of the women in the James Place Programs live. As we enjoyed some amazing brown rice and beans with a friend named Betty, a woman from the pottery department, a neighbor said a quick hello as she walked home from church with her grandson. They exchanged a few quick words in Luganda as Betty gave her friend a plate of food to take home. We were blown away by her small but generous act of kindness. Even though she didn't have much, Betty shared what she had without question or complaint.
In the past six months, I've seen the staff at the James Place care for each other constantly in big and small ways. I've seen them offer a hand with cleaning, feed each other's kids, take care of friends who are sick, and spur each other on to be better mothers, friends, and workers. I've been blown away by the kids and their overwhelming love for their siblings, friends, and caretakers. I have been the recipient of so much care and generosity from people who, from a material point of view, have little to offer. I have learned what it means to "bear one another's burdens".
I am so grateful for the James Place because it provides jobs and income for women, it helps vulnerable families stay together by providing low cost childcare, and ministers to local children (among many other things). However, I believe one of the most important things the James Place provides is space. Space for true community where people love each other so much they bear each other's burdens. Space where Jesus can step in and make his power and glory known.
My prayer for this place is that Jesus continues to be ever present in the relationships between staff, interns, women and children. I pray not only that their physical needs be met but that everyone who walks through our gates would see a glimpse of God's compassion and kindness. I pray that we interns and supporters may know how gracious God is to let us be a part of his redemptive work in this world.
- Anna Mueller, Volunteer Nurse
KIDS Club happens every Saturday from 2:00-5:00pm and is open to all community children. In the morning we have normal daycare for the children that come Monday- Friday, but then at 2pm the gates are opened for all children to come in! Kids usually line up for over an hour waiting to come in and play. From 2-3:00pm the children get an hour of free play in which they are able to swing, slide, play volleyball and football (soccer), run around and just be kids! HEAL staff and interns are spread out all over the compound to play with kids and supervise. The kids love this time, as it may be the only time they get to play with toys/ swings/ slides for the week. Here, in the first picture you can see kids all over running and playing! All the people in green shirts are the HEAL staff.
Next- from 3:00-3:30pm we all gather in a large circle and have singing and dancing. This is my favorite part of KIDS club because the children absolutely light up and love to dance! There are a few teachers in the middle leading the songs and all the children join in! There are many songs that have dancing with a partner so we all grab an arm and dance around with the children.
Then, from 3:30-3:45pm we have large group time where the teachers review the story from last week, talk about the story for this week and pray. Us interns are also responsible for a skit each week so we grab some kids from our program in the morning and make up a skit pertaining to the story each week. After large group, the children break up into smaller groups based on their age. Small groups happen from 3:45-4:25pm. This is where the teachers go through the story more in depth according to the age of the group. Each group is also dismissed to wash their hands during this time because each week they get clean water and a snack. We rotate between a roll, banana and boiled egg. After the small groups, we come back together at the end to review what the children have learned, sing a song and pray before they go home. This is what large group looks like!
As each child leaves the gate they get a sweetie (lollipop) that has a verse based on the story attached to it. It is our hope the children read the scripture during the week and share it with their family. All the HEAL staff and interns also make a “tunnel of love” as the children leave and rotate saying different phrases like “Jesus loves you,” “See you next week,” “We love you so much,” and a couple Luganda sayings. Each child leaves loved, fed and knowing more about Christ.
I see so much value in KIDS Club. These kids are taught about Jesus every single week. The teachers do a great job at making the lessons age appropriate and fun for the kids to learn from. They also see joy and loved lived out by our staff and interns each week. KIDS Club may be a highlight for some of these kids each week, and that is an honor that we do not take lightly. This is also a time for kids to just be kids. Children here have so much responsibility at home and are usually forced to grow up very quickly, but for these three hours each week all they have to do is have fun and learn about Jesus! I am so thankful that HEAL Ministries continues to pour into the children in surroundings villages and it is just one of the reasons I love being a part of the team here in Jinja!
- Brooke Pearson, Volunteer Nurse
The James Place. When I begin to imagine how to describe what this place embodies, two words come to mind. The first word is joy, a joy that I have never seen before, a joy that I didn't know could be attained, a joy that fills every human being that ever steps foot onto this compound. When you experience women and children that come from nothing, you begin to further understand what it means to have true joy; to have a joy that is not controlled by success or circumstances but a joy that is affected by one thing. Jesus. Their joyful spirits are not rooted in their image but rather rooted in the joyfulness of being alive, having another living breathing day on this earth. That is true joy.
The second characteristic that screams out to me when I think of the James Place is love. Try and imagine this for a minute. You are twenty years old, in a completely foreign country, definitely jet-lagged, and wondering why God called you here. You wake up your first morning in Uganda and you head over to a place you've been picturing and imagining for weeks. You step onto the red tinted dirt and immediately are flooded with beautiful children. These children immediately love you without any conditions. They love you because you're a new friend to play with, or because you have long blonde hair that they can learn to braid, or because you will push them on the swing for an hour, or give them kisses in the morning when you arrive. These kids love you without any conditions and it doesn't stop with the children. It weaves its way throughout the entire community of the James Place, through every staff member and every child I have experienced; what the Bible describes as unconditional love. A love that meets you where you're at, a love that doesn’t expect anything from you, a love without conditions.
A place that captures your heart within seconds. A place that sees a need and meets it. A place that embodies Jesus through the joy and love given and received day in and day out. The James Place is a special place.
- Gracie Benward, Volunteer Intern
On February 12th we will go from a preschool of 26 to 75. This means 49 more faces that will learn English, 49 more students we get to say “kiss your brain” to, and 49 more hearts who will not only be taught how to read, write, and count, but who will, more importantly, be taught about the love and grace of Jesus. Not only will they receive an education while in the gates of the James Place, but every student who graduates from the James Place Preschool has a shot at a successful higher education! Preschool in Uganda is equivalent to kindergarten in America.
In this past week alone, we have done over 100 interviews with children looking to join our school. Most of these children have come to KIDS Club weekly for years, live in our neighboring villages like Ripon and the Works, and come from single-parent households who cannot afford the government schools. The majority of those we interviewed know little to no English. Our team of teachers has worked hard to hear each person’s story and choose the children who are in the greatest need. The hardest part is knowing that some who are in the greatest need will still not receive a spot.
Not only will the James Place Preschool be at a large discount compared to government schools, but it will have a teacher to student ratio of 1:8. In Uganda, most classrooms have between 90 to 100 students and only 1 or 2 teachers. Our teachers are working to create a curriculum specific to each learning level and individualized to each student.
We believe that children who might not have a chance of education elsewhere should be given a chance in the gates of the James Place. Education is the key to so much in Uganda, but more than anything we believe a Christ-centered education is the key to success. We pray that these small hands grow to be Christian leaders in their community. We hope that they grow to be teachers, mothers, fathers, doctors, and lawyers who lead their nation with the love of Christ. We hope that more than building success on this earth, they will use their lives to build the kingdom of God.
- Shannon Rogers & Courtney Flick, Preschool Interns
I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off of the plane in the Entebbe airport. This would be my first trip to Uganda, my first time with HEAL Ministries, and I was relying solely on my faith and trust in the Lord to calm my nerves that night. Arriving at the James Place, I was met with far more love and grace than a college student from Arkansas could ever be worthy of and could ever hope to repay.
I began serving in the preschool, and my heart melted each time I heard a child call me "Teacher Kaylee." I cherished each lightbulb moment that occurred; even though they called me teacher, I was constantly learning new things from them. We must serve a big, sovereign God if He could allow our paths to cross here at the James Place, blessing me with the opportunity to know and grow with these children for a time. I feel the Lord's presence so strongly on these grounds and in the classroom at the James Place, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be Teacher Kaylee for the past two months. God is so good!
- Kaylee Hamilton, Volunteer Short Term Intern
When I pause to think about my time at the James Place, when I think of the memories I've gained, the lessons I've learned, and the people I've met; the word that seems to come to mind most often is generosity. When most think of generosity, they think of it in terms of money or material items, but this summer I've seen the depth of variety that the word can actually hold. I've seen generous community being given by and received between staff, children, and women in the program... they truly just do life together, all the messy, joyful, true, and raw moments of life. No one who enters the gates of the James Place has to do life alone because everyone here is ready and willing to give their time, energy, and love to make sure that person knows how loved and special they are. It's evident that the environment of generosity that I have witnessed here comes from the Father of giving; His spirit is sown throughout each aspect of the programs here. I'm so very thankful to have experienced each moment of generosity this summer. Every joyful hug from a sweet child, every sweet story of how God has changed their life from a woman, every opportunity to learn from my sweet friends in the social work department, every home I've been welcomed into; I've seen the generous grace, love, & mercy of the Lord.
- Breanna Popham, Volunteer Short Term Intern
Many things come into my mind when I think about a way to wrap up my experience here in Uganda in just one paragraph, but one word that comes to mind is love. It is all around me. It is in the "Good mornings" I yell out to Fortunate and Dennis after a morning run, it is in washing diapers at chores times, making necklaces in jewelry even with a language barrier that is so real, and it is even in the love I have for rice and beans that I never knew was possible. I am eternally thankful for this time. I feel like God knew what He was doing when he placed me here for this month when some things in my life are so unknown at home with college decisions. He gave me something steady, He gave me people who loved me for just me.
The love is around me when the kid's faces light up at us carrying them to nap time or reading stories at story time. Every day I have sweet baby Jacob grabbing my hand at 5:00 for story time and it fills my heart. I know it is overused to say "these kids have shaped me more than I have them" but I can't think of anything more true. Even when the days seem repetitive, a special moment touches my heart each day in the kids smiles even if it's with a simple dance party with a beat being made from the tub we keep toys in. These children are a light in my life.
A reason I signed up for this internship is that I wanted to be around the children and how I am oh so thankful for them, but it is so amazingly interesting how the women have shaped my time here heavily throughout chore time. In chore time we interns are often washing diapers, socks, wash clothes, toys or uniforms and it is FUN. The first day I did chores I was not happy at all to have to do them every day, but oh how that has changed I love chores. I never understand the Lugandan they are speaking back and forth to each other, but I do understand the laughs they share. We see the women laughing all with each other and it makes me smiles just to see them smile. Chores have also been a time for me to get to really sit and get to know the women better, so without chore time I think I would have missed many relationships that have changed my time here. Even if it is rinsing the toys while Sylvia cleans, I am happy to just be sitting with her. I never imagined chore time being an integral part of my time here, but it blessed me to be able to bond with these women in childcare even when I'm scrubbing away at dirty socks.
- Anne Fawcett, Volunteer Short Term Intern
While interning at HEAL, I have learned so much and have made so many memories once again. I taught in the baby class this summer alongside of some amazing teachers who are now some of my closest friends. It was a joy to watch the children grow and learn day in and day out. Whether it be Hanani pointing out that she knew the color blue, or Reyon being able to count all the way to 10 confidently- these kids were constantly giving me joy. In the morning hearing them say "good morning Teacha Lauren" makes my day, and it honestly gets cuter and cuter every time. I have learned to love big always because life is short, always invest in relationships and take those scary leaps of faith because God is there every step of the way. The women, children, and other interns show me this every day. Benja running around giving all of the interns hugs, the women sitting us down to wash our feet, and the interns' constant love. These two months have shown me a lot about Jesus and who he is. I will be forever thankful for the experience to work at such an amazing ministry!
- Love Teacha Lauren, Volunteer Short Term Intern
Before my time here in Uganda, anytime I was telling friends or family about this internship, they would say something along the lines of "Oh, that is going to be such a great mission trip." At that time, not knowing exactly what purpose I'd be serving here, I did not think anything of it. But as my month is now coming to a close, I realize that I am by no means a "missionary" here. A missionary is defined as "a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country." But I did not come to the James Place as a Christian preaching the good news of Christ to a bunch of women and children who have never heard it. The beauty of HEAL Ministries is that the power of and love for God already radiates from the staff. I am blessed to have the opportunity to come alongside and aid in the work that is already so successfully being done without me. HEAL Ministries emphasizes the importance of loving and serving well, which, not by coincidence I'm sure, is something I read about last night.
Galatians 5:13 says "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” I have seen this verse enacted before me time and time again over the last three and half weeks. As much as I adore the tears that turn to giggles in seconds, the little red dirt stained hands grasping for mine as I walk to the bathroom, the rice and bean covered cheeks during lunch, or the broken English conversations held over rolling paper beads or painting giraffes, one time of day I enjoy the most is chore time. I typically am not one to look forward to chores at home, but interestingly enough, I have grown to cherish the time here. While it can be a time of tired hands from ringing out wash cloths, sore cheeks from laughter, or confusion from a completely different language (still knowing they are talking about me), working alongside these women is one of the most practical examples of serving one another humbly in love. Not only have I learned about the women and some of their stories, but I have seen how in their service, they do not stop at the minimum. After finishing her task, Sarah will sit with Hellen and help her wash uniforms or diapers, and Moreen will wash my shoes and feet though she has already scrubbed sixty washcloths. Not many of Jesus's actions show greater service and humility than when he washes his disciples' feet, and I cannot help but feel humbled and inspired when these women do the same for me. I pray that I will be able to live with this kind of "love through humble service" mindset throughout the rest of my life.
- Avery Ferguson, Summer Volunteer Short Term Intern
It has been a wonderful summer full of short-term interns and we thought you would enjoy hearing from a few about their experience!
“Coming back to the James Place has been everything I ever dreamed of and much, much more. There is something so special about this place. It’s hard to describe; one simply must experience the joy and beauty of this ministry to fully understand. However, in my opinion, one of the best ways to capture what the James Place is all about is to watch the ladies washing each other's feet. Yes--- the ladies wash each other's feet. Sounds weird, right? The other day, two of the ladies called me out during chores and sat me down. They told me they were going to wash my feet. I refused at first, but then it hit me. They were not doing that because they had to, they were doing it because they wanted to. How humbling is that?! These friends of mine got down on the ground and washed my feet for me because they wanted to. The women wash people’s feet with humility and grace. The same humility and servant-hood Jesus had when washing the disciples’ feet. Painting a perfect picture of what it means to be a daughter of Christ and to serve His people, the women of HEAL simply amaze me. They taught me how to love better, smile more, be more kind, and how to have more fun. They taught me what loving Jesus really looks like. It looks like serving the people He loves, whether you want to or not, simply because He loves them. The women and children of the James Place have given me a lifetime of love, memories, and laughter that I will never forget. This place radiates joy, and the Holy Spirit is SO evident here. The abundance of love here is overwhelming, but that is the way it should be. Love should be overwhelming. God’s love is overwhelming. I simply want to say “thank you” to these people for loving me. Thank you for showing me what being a follower of Jesus looks like.”
- Caroline Ambrose, Volunteer Intern
“When you sign up to go to Uganda, you are signing up to have your life turned around completely. Aside from the time change, sleeping under a mosquito net, far too many bathroom visits, and insane roads, you can also expect to find your heart by the immense love and immense poverty. Because this is my second time working with HEAL, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect during my month here, but it seems that I had forgotten just how wonderful the people are. Working as a preschool teacher can be infuriating, but I adore all of my kids (even the troublemakers) and I could not have asked for better people to teach beside and learn from. I have become especially close with Joanne, who has shown me what it looks like to work hard, love hard, and make the most of every day. We joke about our favorite pop songs from the 2000s, and yet we can also talk about life and school and family. I am inspired by the way that she puts her all into everything she does, even if that is as simple as leading a song to a small group of children. Jo has taught me how to laugh in any situation, and that pouring out love to these children is far more important than I may realize. These are the kind of experiences that seem almost too good to be true. I mean, how can a person love so deeply? You cannot expect to leave Uganda without leaving a piece of your heart here with it. And you will be inspired to live a more meaningful and loving life each and every day.”
- Georgia Slattery, Volunteer Intern
“What I've come to know through the past two months spent at HEAL is that Jesus created us to have intentional, bold, and full relationships. Relationships that are more than just superficial conversations but complete with radical love. Despite language barriers, I saw ladies, interns, and children alike create blossoming friendships all thanks to the foundation The Lord has given us. One of my favorite relationships I made this summer was with a childcare employee, Moreen. Through long talks while pushing kids on the swings, we took the time to care and understand each other. My sweet friend invited me to her home where her hospitality and kindness went through the roof as she showed me true Ugandan culture. Moreen, along with the rest of the ladies at the James Place, manifest love and truth in the way Jesus made us to. As the kids at the James Place would say "Hallelujah, AMEN" and praise be to God for this summer!”
- Madeline Timmons, Volunteer Intern
I have learned it’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. It is about people and moments and making sure you are really living each and every one of them. I have had so many beautiful moments here and I know there are so many more to come.
I wrote that in my journal a few days ago after four of the interns that became my family, left. I was sad to see them go because when you live with 14 other girls in close proximity it’s pretty easy to start viewing them as family. The relationships I have formed here feed my soul and even in one short month, they have become so important to me. The interns, men, women, and children that fill the gates of the James Place are the heart and soul of this place and the reason that Jesus’ presence is felt here each and every day.
When I was accepted and started planning to become an intern for HEAL I was not entirely sure what to expect. All I knew about this organization was taken from pictures I had scanned on social media and what I had learned from their website. The pictures and the website were filled with smiling faces and what appeared to be a place that was overflowing with the love of Jesus. When I arrived, I was met with those smiling faces and hearts full of Jesus, but I was also met with so much more.
It’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. And that is so true. Every second of my days are filled with them and fueled by them. I wake up at 7am every morning and get ready for the day in the bedroom I share with 5 other girls and a bathroom I share with around 13 other girls. We get ready for the day together while a few prepare breakfast together and get it set up for everyone else. There are lots of good morning’s and how did you sleep? ’s and is it time for breakfast? ‘s and should we make an extra thing of coffee? ‘s. There are conversations during breakfast and someone sharing a devotion and kids walking past us to go potty and change for preschool. There are women walking past, waving to us and smiling while talking amongst themselves. See? So much relationship and community and togetherness already and its only 8:15 in the morning.
After breakfast we all go off to our areas of work for the day, which would be childcare for me unless it’s Wednesday in which case I would go to Social Work. When I walk down to the children they are all sitting on a tarp with the childcare workers and usually I plop down next to a staff member named AJ, give her a smile, she asks me how I slept or how I was and I ask her, and some sassy words are usually exchanged because that’s just how AJ is- sweet, sassy and a whole lot of attitude (and her daughter is pretty much an exact replica, its hilarious). And while I am still getting situated on the tarp a child will plop them-self down on my lap and I open my arms to another sweet angel, Benja, and he gives me the best hug ever. And then its potty time during which I grab a child’s hand (or two) and begin the journey up to the bathroom.
After potty time the children play on the playground and so I switch between playing with them and talking to the women. I ask Maureen (another staff member) how she is doing, sit with AJ at the sandbox, maybe learn some words in Luganda, maybe slip away for a quick visit with Parvin, Grace and Teresa in pottery and exchange pleasantries with everyone I pass along the way. There is so much more that I am forgetting, but you get the picture. I am constantly surrounded by women and children and interns and so there is always something to be said and more to listen to, lots of experiences to share and to be had…laughter, loud voices and crying babies are pretty much constant sounds that fill the air at the James Place, it’s pretty wonderful. The women and men on the compound are not only co-workers, they are friends and family. They support each other and they love each other. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” At the James Place, they live life together, share together, learn together, grow together and as a result they have gone so far, together.
They build relationships with each other, but they also welcome relationship with us. They share their wisdom with us and invite us to their homes, they ask about our stories and then share their own, they call us friends and tell us they love us and when we leave they are sure they will see us again, if not here on earth, definitely in our forever home. When we are gone for the day they welcome us back and ask where we’ve been. And each time I walk in the gate I hear from Dennis or one of the guards, “welcome back” or “you are welcome”. It is something I never get tired of hearing, and that is good because it is something you hear fairly often in this country:)
Each day the staff eats lunch together while all of the interns also eat together, usually crammed into a space that really is not big enough to hold 16 adults. During bath time staff from all different areas come together to wash the kids and carry them to nap time. The childcare workers and laundry staff all do chores together after bath time and usually the childcare interns help out. This past week I helped Maureen wash and rinse hand towels and afterwards she washed my shoes and feet just because she likes to.
I have had so many beautiful moments here, one month straight of them. I am excited and thankful for five more filled with a whole lot of different types of moments, mostly beautiful ones though.
- Paige Linton, Volunteer Intern
The James Place is a beautiful, eclectic campus tucked away just a few blocks from Main Street in Jinja, Uganda. When you walk through the gate you step into a deceptively large playground pulled right out of every child's dream. Continuing along the path, you pass a swing bench and breakfast shack, a poetry kiln and wheels, sewing room, administrative building, and house for nap time and baby class of preschool. Next, there’s an open shelter where the jewelry design women and the widows work during the day, a laundry house, and an outdoor kitchen. The interns and the Director of HEAL live smack dab in the middle, in a two-story house that doubles as the preschool space for our older kids.
No two days have looked remotely the same. Two days a week I work in the social workers’ office. We sort and organize files, interview hopeful parents and employees, and check in on women in the program to see how their life situations are progressing. Sometimes we visit the homes of children in our programs to see what their living situation looks like. The other days I have been switching back and forth between our childcare program and all of our artisan trades. I spent a day in pottery burnishing and waxing the designs our potters had made (with them quickly correcting my mistakes). The next day I was in the sewing room, organizing their workspace so that the seamstresses could be more efficient in their work. One afternoon I sat in jewelry design, stringing beads with our women as they taught me words in Luganda. In between, I pushed children on swings and carried them to nap time.
What I’ve been learning over the past two weeks is that I was not called here to do things for people, I was called to be here with them. In all honesty, there is nothing I can do that they aren’t already doing for themselves. I am not a skilled potter, and I don’t have a degree in social work. I don’t want there to be any misconceptions - I am here learning beside incredible, talented women. I am blessed to get to hear their stories, and honored that they would teach me their trade. In return, I do what I am needed. I’m learning and building relationships.
The James Place is a physical representation of the body of Christ. Many parts, one body, each working together to glorify God through their own strengths. I came not knowing what I would do, and I am here being humbled with the lesson that sometimes God is calling us to just be, in suffering and laughter, and, most importantly, in love.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
-Colleen Gill, Volunteern Intern
I believe that the most important kind of love to give and receive in this lifetime is unconditional love—the ability to love a person wholeheartedly, no matter the circumstances or their flaws. My first impression of the James Place is exactly that: everyone involved in this organization pours their heart and soul into each day and loves one another unconditionally.
When I first chose to answer my call to serve in Africa I was not sure what to expect—I wasn’t familiar with Ugandan culture and I didn’t personally know any of the other volunteers I would be serving alongside. I had seen pictures of the James Place from social media posts online and once I arrived I was finally able to put the photos from my memory into context—like pieces in a puzzle. It was incredible to see all of these photos come to life, to feel the red dirt beneath my feet. I was now able to see in person the treehouse built by hand that the children absolutely adore, the roof they added over the sandbox that shares shade and so many giggles, and the gate for the goats donated by a generous donor.
From my first full day with HEAL Ministries I knew there was something special going on here. I never dreamed that I would be able to experience God’s work in a way that was so pure and genuine. It has been beautiful to see God working through everyone who enters the gates of the James Place.
One of my favorite things I’ve witnessed in my time here is the love the children have for each other. Images flash in my mind of two boys walking with their arms around each other, kids hooking arms and dancing and singing with each other during circle time, or girls skipping across the volleyball court holding hands with smiles from ear to ear. All of these images warm my heart in a way I didn’t know was possible.
My second full day at the James Place was a Saturday when we host KIDS Club in the afternoon. We had about 400 kids from the community pour into our gates to spend the day playing with each other and learning about God. We have kids who are a variety of different ages and many of them come with their younger siblings. Last Saturday the kids were fed nutritious hardboiled eggs and clean water. As they were sitting eating their snack and learning about Abraham, I saw one boy was handed a cup of water. Although it was 85 degrees out and he had spent the last hour and a half running around playing, before he took a single sip of water he held the cup up to his baby brother’s mouth so he could have the first sip. When the eggs were handed out he did the same thing—he made sure his brother ate first and he even helped him break the egg into small enough pieces for his brother to eat. I was amazed at how a boy, no older than the age of five, had learned to love so selflessly. As I spent more time at the James Place and the people involved with this organization it didn’t take long for me to find my answer.
Kids learn from observing—the behaviors they observe from the people around them are the behaviors they will try to imitate. Since they spend a majority of their time with the women of the James Place, it is the behavior of these women that the children will try to copy the most. In the days that followed KIDS Club, I realized that it wasn’t only the children who loved in such a pure and selfless manner but it was the women who loved in these ways as well. Each staff member of the James Place takes the time to learn every child’s name and their little personalities. Every day they are fed and bathed with care. The women show these children so much love and affection that this is the way the children have learned to treat each other too.
I feel so honored and blessed to have been given the opportunity to witness and receive this kind of love in my time at the James Place and I’m looking forward to learning from these women and children how to better love unconditionally.