It's hard to sum up a team. It's hard to sum up a day sometimes. Many ask me, "What is the average day like at the James Place?" There is no average. There is no normal. Each day is loaded with love and excitement, trials and problems, joys and milestones, and always...the unexpected. Each day something comes through the gate that causes us to stop what we are doing and deal with the priority at hand.
The team that we just said goodbye to is a great example of a group of people that dealt with the unexpected. They had tiring, exhausting days full of love and full of problems. There was a stomach bug that traveled through 4 of them. There was lost luggage and a lack of clothes, towels and even hot water at times. There were a few times with no power. But through it all, the team experienced a life changing adventure.
They got to see a baby being named. That was one of the joys. Joshua is the James Place assistant to Operations and he asked me, Jaja Tina, to name his baby. This is an African tradition and an honor and I took it very seriously. Because Joshua's family has given so much love to us and to the James Place, I named the baby Charity, from 1 Corinthian's 13:13.
The team got to visit different homes: one in the village with Fazirra (abandoned mom with 7 children), one in the village with a staff member, and they got to see homes in Masese that were not what they were used to seeing. Masese was hard for them - as it is for most people the first time they see it. Even then, the team shared that it was the most joyful act of worship they had experienced. The joy and love on the faces of the little ones with torn, dirty clothes melts your heart.
The team visited a private boarding school with three girls that HEAL mentors and got to learn their beautiful story of redemption. Irene, the auntee of two of them and mother of one of them, has returned to the family and now works for HEAL. It is a beautiful story of love, hope and forgiveness. It was also a tearful reunion when the three girls ran into the arms of Joshua, the James Place driver and Operations Assistant...another perfect example of family at the James Place.
They got to visit partnering organizations: Canaan Children's home, Amani Baby Cottage, Serving His Children, and Ekisa. They experienced what love looks like on many different levels at each place. They also fell in love with the 50 children in childcare at the James Place and participated in chores each day, developing a new appreciation for all the work required to run the James Place. The women's Bible study was another experience that was touching and sweet. The women showed the team true worship and shared what forgiveness looks like. They discussed hard places to forgive and then laid that down at the foot of the cross - literally.
They saw how many people needed medical care and school fees...and how each person walking through the gates felt love and family. I am often asked this question, "Would you rather 10 people give HEAL Ministries the money that they spend on a mission trip, OR would you rather the 10 people show up to serve?" Great question! Ten people usually spend an average of $3500 each to come to Uganda. That is $35,000 that would actually go a long way!
And yet, my answer is the same after years and years of leading and hosting teams. 100% of the time, my answer is..."SEND THE TEAM!" While I'm quite sure that the Lord blessed each team member more than they even realize, the blessings on this end continue. I see abandoned women and children smiling when a team member encourages them. I see a child laughing while a team member plays soccer with him. I see a woman smiling and connecting with a team member, and the team member doesn't even know that her husband just left her to be with another family and that her baby died a month ago.
I see HOPE through the eyes of the team members. I see Jesus in the skin, and I see that more than ever, our Creator was brilliant. He created us to be in relationship with each other and He created people to travel across the world to give hope and to spread encouragement to the nations.