I get the privilege of greeting each team and walking alongside them as they experience the joy of Uganda. The most exciting ones to serve with are the first timers. That is what this third, wonderful, team of 7 are. They are not only coming to Africa for the first time, they are experiencing their first mission trip. I am so humbled as I watch them serve, as I see everything through new eyes again, and as I learn daily again how wonderful our Lord is.
They experienced the two Bible studies at Masese and were forever moved. The love of the children running up to the van as they attempt to get out overwhelms them. They stated that the love they feel is a deep, sincere, tender experience that they hope to never lose. The ladies in the slum area embraced them. They shared their fears and their praises. We prayed with them, laughed with them and cried with them. The kids' club in Masese was one of the most joyful experiences they have ever had. The two translators that help me impressed them beyond imagination. I have blogged about Godfrey and Martha before. They are in their early 20's and they show up every Monday and every Wednesday to help me with translation, to help with the children and to show love and support. And, they do this for free. We pay them for their transportation but they are volunteers that are trying to make a difference in their own country. As I hear the team's excitement about all of this, I am reminded of how AWESOME our Lord is. How much HE loves us and how HE takes care of every detail if we just let HIM. Like finding two translators that not only are committed but are full of joy, full of love, full of enthusiasm and full of God's love that overflows.
They have worked at Amani Baby Cottage, Canaan Children's Home, the Jinja Crisis Pregnancy Center and in the villages. At every place, they find warmth and love. At every place, they find God. At every place, they re-learn where true JOY comes from.
At the Crisis Center, they met two young teenage girls with babies that were kicked out of their village. One, has a set of twins and another baby. The twins were going to be sacrificed by the witch doctor, and the young girl decided to flee, taking her babies with her. Today, she smiles and spreads hope to others. The other young lady is 14 years old and has a beautiful baby. When I see her innocent smile, I can only think of how this beautiful baby is raising a baby. Here, hard life begins much younger. Many young girls are raped. Many are forced (by their parents) into prostitution. Many do not know love and seek love from any male that they receive attention from causing them to end up pregnant at 13, 14, 15, etc. The beautiful young 14 year old that I have grown quite fond of was forced to bring money to her family by selling her body. I cannot imagine what age she began this if she got pregnant at 13. I cannot imagine a family that forces their child to do this. I cannot imagine the fear of a 13 year old giving birth. I cannot imagine getting pregnant and then the same family that forced me into prostitution becoming ashamed of me because I'm pregnant. But, I can now imagine that girl happy and being a good mom. I can imagine her slowly becoming confident and loving her baby. I can imagine a team coming and learning the love of Jesus through her. I can forever imagine this because I have now experienced this. I have felt the pain, the heartache and now the love and reward of being a survivor all because of new faith and hope in Christ.
A team member said this to me today: "Our team paid a total of about $30,000 to come to Uganda which includes airfare, lodging, food, shots, and everything including supplies for the ministry. Is it better for teams to spend the money to come here OR would it have been better to take all the money it took to get here, all the money on the meds and shots, and just give HEAL the $30,000 ? Would you rather receive the money or the team?"
I had a very simple answer: "I would rather the team come. I would rather my sweet 14 year old friend with a baby see the joy in your eyes when you hold her baby. I would rather give encouragement to the women of Masese by sending people to see them to show them that there is love and prayers for them across the world. I would rather see my sweet little orphans run and clap as the muzungus walk up because they are so happy to see loving arms about to embrace them. I would rather see the staff at the orphanages smile for days when I say that another team is coming to encourage them. I would rather see my Ugandan friends that help me with translation smile and receive encouragement because they know that their work is not finished. I would rather see the market ladies grin and hug me when I say that a team is coming to purchase their goods so that they can feed their families. I would rather see friends, like Fazirra, smile bigger than ever when I say that I'm bringing a team to her home because she has no family or friends that stop by. I would rather see my lame friend with a baby smile and have hope because a team cares enough to visit because she is an outcast in her own country. I would rather support my Ugandan church and see their laughter and excitement as a team gets out of the bus to worship God together. I would rather spread encouragement to my fellow missionary friends and offer service to their ministries. I would rather use God's people to spread His hope. I would rather teams come and see and experience and then return and spread awareness. I cannot put a price on the rewards of a mission team. $30,000 may have been the price tag for this team to get here, but the eternal rewards are PRICELESS!
"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" John Keith Falconer