410 Days of Lifelong Lessons

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410 days. 13 months. A little over a year of my life and I will never be the same. This time at HEAL Ministries and in Uganda has taught me so many things. I grew in ways I never thought I would and learned life lessons from the people I got to work alongside every day. As I prepare to go home, these are a couple things I always want to hold onto. 

Coming to Africa for the third time, I knew that the African culture favored relationships over tasks, but I got to experience that in a whole new way this time around. When I first came to the James Place, I would greet groups of people such as the child care workers, the jewelry artisans, the kitchen, etc… with a general “good morning everyone and how was your night?” I quickly learned how important it is to greet each individual person and say their names. This can seem like a silly thing and definitely takes more time to do but what a sweet lesson to be learned. Each person is shown that they are important, seen, loved and known. 

It is also vital to greet someone and ask how they are before launching into what needs to be done or what is ahead. The relationship over whatever task needs to be completed is always placed first. This is a lesson I never want to forget and something that the people at the James Place embody. In America, it can become easy to be success driven and just look at the things that need to be completed while overlooking the people in our lives that truly make the difference and make the tasks meaningful. 

Patience and giving up control is another life lesson that I saw lived out by my sweet friends. Whether it is patience with us, the interns, as they teach us how to cook, wring out clothes, roll beads, pound pottery, etc. They never get upset when something is not done completely right the first time. Whether we have not rolled the beads tight enough or messed up one of their baskets while we are learning, these women meet us with a laugh and a smile – just happy that we gave it a shot. They give out so much grace and are just so thrilled to include us in their lives. 

It is hard to put into words what these 410 days, 13 months have meant to me. I have learned more than I could ever put into words, and I will be processing this time spent in Uganda for the years to come. People are always more important than whatever goal we are trying to accomplish. I have learned it’s not about saving the day or changing the world but rather showing up for the same people everyday to show them that they’re worth it

- Sarah Aschfort, Long-term Medical Intern