You know those little moments in life when everything just feels right? Those experiences and places that can’t help but conjure unbridled joy? Maybe it’s being home for Christmas after a grueling semester at school, coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or holding a new born baby for the first time. This is what The James Place feels like. It builds a piece of real estate in your heart and moves in – permanently.
This same time last year, I was preparing for my first ever trip to Uganda, and had no idea of lifelong friendships I’d develop, the women and children I’d meet that would inevitably mold me into a new person, or the heart wrenching pain I’d feel when it finally came time to say goodbye.
My very first day as an intern was Pre-School Graduation and KIDS club, which is when hundreds of kids from the surrounding villages swarm to the property for hours of games and bible study. Because it was a special day, there was no time for introductions, and there definitely wasn’t any “easing into it.” All around me were hundreds of Ugandan women, children, HEAL staff, donors and visitors. Although a bit overwhelmed by the heat and slightly jet-lagged from a grueling 38 hours of flying, I quickly learned the joy and love that exudes from this place heavily outweighs any reasons for a bad mood.
I spent the rest of June firstly as a Childcare Intern, moved on to the Art Intern, and capped off my time here filling in for one of the preschool teachers for a week (shout out to all the teachers out there - that was an experience!) My mornings began with hugs, hugs, and you guessed it, more hugs from the childcare kids and preschoolers. (Pro tip: if you ever want to know what it feels like to be loved on 24/7 by the most adorable children in the world, work here!), and days ended with excitement to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
Today, almost exactly a year later, I sit at The James Place and reflect on what I’ve lost and gained from this place. I’ve lost the doubt I had in the Lord to take care of his people, the dissatisfaction of living in America and constantly wanting more, and lastly, I’ve lost a piece of my soul that will always reside here - It will live among the kids that run along Jinja’s red dirt roads and within the homes of my friends here in Jinja.
While it’s one of the greatest pains in the world to head back to my life in the states, I’m thankful for what I’ve gained: a new appreciation and understanding for God’s love, and countless lessons of humility and knowing my place as a servant – a position that isn’t meant to be praised or applauded, because the Lord is doing the real work.
To The James Place and HEAL Ministries: thank you for opening your gates to me.