Uganda Team: Encouraged and Blessed
The following blog updates are from individual Uganda STM team members during our trip. Feel free to click on the photos below for an enlarged view too!
MONDAY (MAY 7)
Hi Lighthouse Church!
Today is day three of our trip and the first full day being involved with GSF’s various ministries. We started the morning with devotions, testimonies, and prayer with GSF staff. Afterwards the team broke off into smaller groups to begin ministry rotations. Each group was able to learn about the particular ministry group they would be helping with during the day (community development, special needs, babies home). James, Hannah, and I were in the babies home where we observed and help the house “mothers” care for baby children. GSF basically consists of multiple small houses spread out on campus to provide tailored care for groups of orphaned children (special needs boys, special needs girls, boys, girls, babies, etc.). We got to take a walk with the babies, play with them, and observe the house mothers care for the babies until it was time for the next rotation. My group then moved on to meet “Big David” and his tailoring school. The tailoring school is a certificate program that provides trade skills for the orphaned girls at GSF so they can eventually find paid work in the tailoring/alterations/clothing industry. Upon walking into the unassuming hut, we were greeted by Big David and had the opportunity to hear his testimony of coming to faith. It was encouraging to hear how he not only tries to provide knowledge of sewing and tailoring for these girls, but spiritual mentorship for the girls who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. Afterwards, we got to participate in a brief sewing demonstration and practice on a manual foot pedal sewing machine.
After lunch our group met with Corinne Iya, one of the missionary workers at GSF, to learn about their child sponsorship and scholarship program. GSF’s child sponsorship program allows potential donors to commit to giving a fixed amount every month to cover the expenses of having a orphaned child stay at GSF and be a part of their programs. The sponsorship program allows donors to cultivate a long term communication with the sponsor child as he or she grows up. This is maintained through periodic letters, photos, and prayer requests for the child if there’s a major event or crisis that arises in the child’s life. When our meeting with Corinne was finished, our group walked to one of the missionary family homes to learn about their ministry.
In the evening, our team broke off into pairs and had dinner in one of the children homes where we got to eat Ugandan food that kids would normally eat on a daily basis. Andy and I were in the special needs boys’ home where we got to play with Fazeel, Elijah, Agaba, Moses, and Caleb. Andy had a devotional planned but one of the house mothers said they already did their devotional for the day so we agreed to come back another day for dinner so we can share the devotional with them. We enjoyed breaking bread with the GSF kids and house mothers. It really gave us a glimpse of what normal life is like for the kids at GSF. So the question is, what did we eat? Posho and ground nut sauce. If you’re wondering what Posho is, it’s basically made by the maize corn that’s grown on GSF’s land. The maize is harvested and made into maize flour and then boiled until you get something that has the consistency and texture one would find in the dough of a cooked Tamale. After eating dinner we got to interact with the kids. I was particular impressed with Matthew, a kid who wasn’t able to talk but didn’t allow it to be a hurdle to communicate with us. To work around this barrier, Matthew communicated to us through writing. Andy and I got to answer his questions after he wrote them down on a piece of ruled paper. I was touched by that interaction and glad to have ended our evening through that encouraging time. Looking forward to what God has in store for us tomorrow.
TUESDAY (MAY 8)
Hi Lighthouse! Today is day 4 of our trip! In the morning we went to the weekly GSF Bible study and there we had worship and Chris shared a devotional with them on Ecclesiastes. There was a man who sat next to me and when Chris started to preach, he asked everyone to pull out their Bible and I noticed that he did not have one, so I handed mine over to him to borrow and he immediately broke into tears. That moment was really special to me because I cannot remember the last time someone was so excited to be able to read out of a Bible and it reminded me of how often we take having a Bible for granted. Later on in the afternoon, Sammy and I got to go visit a mother who lives in the village next to GSF who has a son with special needs. In Ugandan culture any time a child with special needs or any sort of disability is born, the mother is to be blamed and often times they believe that she is cursed. This creates a lot of hardship for the mothers because they are often left on their own to raise this child. It was humbling to meet her and see where she lived, she is currently in the literacy program at GSF where they are teaching her English by reading the Bible! I thought that was super neat how they use Scripture as a means to teach both a language and also share the Gospel with the Ugandans. I shared a devotional with her from Lamentations 3:21-24 and encouraged her that God is faithful despite her circumstances and that He gives us enough grace and mercy to endure each day! GSF is also currently building a house for her through their Super Adobe House program, she lives a couple miles from GSF and the walk from her house to GSF isn’t exactly the easiest. I’m thankful to see how God is using GSF to not only bless the children that are there at the children’s home, but also to bless their surrounding communities.
School term finished last week so most of the kids are back home on school break with their family members. For the kids who do not have any family members, they stay at GSF so we took the children out to a park where they enjoyed Rolex (rolled Chapati bread with eggs) and we played a few games with them. Each of us were paired up with a child and we got to hang out with them throughout the afternoon and build better relationships with them. Many of these children hold a special place in my heart, their selfless example of how they care for one another exemplifies Christ’s love and encourages me in my love for those around me. It is evident to see God’s fingerprint all over this ministry and in Uganda!
We are about halfway through the trip and our hearts are so full from being able to serve alongside all these missionaries, interact with the children, and the local Ugandans!
Until all has heard,
WEDNESDAY (MAY 9)
Hello Lighthouse Family! Greetings from Uganda! We’ve been Uganda for five days now and it’s been quite a blessed experience thus far! Refreshed from an evening of musical worship and devotion at one of the missionary’s home the night before, today we went off to the nearby city of Jinja town for a time of exploring and fellowship!
The afternoon consisted of a boat ride to the city on the Nile river (which I was not a fan of LOL), lunch at a local café, and exploring the main street for some souvenirs. It was a nice break from a busy week at GSF.
For the evening, our team was divided up to different missionary homes for child care. This was to support the missionaries by relieving them for an evening off. Joycelyn and I were assigned to care of an awesome single mother by the name of Claudia. With roots from Colombia, the Lord called her to Uganda almost 20 years ago and has been with GSF since! She is currently the longest tenured missionary at GSF. She has three adopted daughters (two of which are going to head to the states for their first year of university in the fall!) and fosters four youngers kids. It was fun opportunity to prepare and share a meal with them while she had the night off.
Kim Wong if you’re reading this, the Arango daughters say hi! And that they miss you very much!
God’s kingdom and His family is so wide. It’s amazing that the gospel can reach people of all cultures/backgrounds and unite us all together into the one family. And meeting the Arango family (and frankly, everyone else at GSF!) is a testimony to that. Our bonds go deeper than ones of this world, which makes new friendship feel like ones that has existed forever. Bonding with the Arango family, talking about Christ, encouraging the daughters in their faith as they head to college is a simple reflection of how Christ unites us. And this joy Joycelyn and I got to experience with them tonight only motivates us to share about Christ even more! So that others can be invited into this family and share in this same joy. This joy of saving grace!
THURSDAY (MAY 10)
I asked Brian Chang two weeks before the trip if I could pay my way out of going to GSF. I was so nervous to leave LA and fly internationally for the first time but I am SO thankful that Brian wouldn’t let me.
Today we broke up into smaller groups to serve in different ministries within GSF. The group I was in helped with GSF’s special needs walk! We took the kids with special needs on a walk through GSF and the sugar cane fields! It was such a sweet time enjoying all the greenery with the kids and getting to talk to the aunties!
Later this afternoon, Hannah, Sammy, and I went to the MK (missionary kids’) school to share about East Asian culture. Hannah talked about culture in Korea and Japan and showed the kids how to write their names in Korean and Japanese and I taught them origami! (Funny story: the MK teacher asked me to write “hi” and “bye” in Japanese on the board but I told her I wasn’t sure if I would spell it correctly. She said “it’s ok, the students wouldn’t know either!” Ha!)
We ended the night by breaking up into pairs/one trio and having dinner at the children’s homes! Hannah, Christin, and I went to the girls’ house and had posho with beans (which is the staple food in Uganda) for the first time! Christin shared a short devotional and we got to know the girls and the aunties in the house. One of the girls taught us how to sing Jesus Loves Me in Luganda!
I loved spending time in Uganda! (I really, really want to go back!) I loved learning about the culture and learning the language, but most of all, I loved the people! I was so encouraged by the missionaries, the aunties, and the special needs staff. I’m so thankful for that God allowed me to go on this trip to not only serve Him but to also see His faithfulness and care for me constantly throughout the trip.
And thank you, Lighthouse Fam for all the love and support you have shown us this trip!! :’)
Webale! (Thank you!)
We got to spend time with the kids with special needs. It’s truly a blessing to see how the aunties (caretakers) love on the kids. You can really see how they have been filled with Christ’s love as they continually pour out into these children’s lives. Many of the aunties had asked specifically for prayer that God would provide them with rest, energy and strength so they could continue to care for the children. We got to take the kids to the playground which made them so happy. They loved having visitors to play with and the joy was very evident. Having to leave these kids is probably one of the most heartbreaking things about this trip. I’ve grown a bit attached to them. God has used these kids to grow my heart for others.
After our time with the kids, we participated in the feeding program. Many of the elderly and the kids of the surrounding villages come to GSF to eat porridge and hear God’s Word. One of the grandmas we met, walks for three hours with her grandson on her back just to get to GSF. I got to carry her grandson for a while. He was such a happy child and I will definitely remember him. One of the ministries GSF has is building houses for some of elderly in the surrounding villages out of cement mixed with dirt. This is referred to as “super adobe.” We saw the grandma and her grandson on the way to the super adobe house. She needed a ride home so we picked her up. She was able to see the new house before we took her home. She was so appreciative and was celebrating as she walked into the nearly completed home. It’s nothing big or fancy, but this woman was so grateful. One thing we can learn from her is to be more thankful for what we do have. We have so much in comparison to the Ugandans, yet they seem to appreciate even the little things a lot more than we do.
All in all, I’m not ready to leave. I wish I could stay in Uganda longer and I do hope to come back one day.
FRIDAY (MAY 11)
Hi church family!
It seems like our time in Uganda flew by so fast! Today, we packed up and said our goodbyes. We had a debrief meeting with a few of the missionaries and had the chance to reflect on God’s faithfulness and work throughout the week. Before the meeting, Hannah and I were able to say goodbye to our new friends at the tailoring school. Throughout the week, Hannah and I had the chance to build up our friendships with those at the tailoring school and we consider each other family now! It’s so neat that we had the chance to meet with the missionaries, people at GSF, and so many others, and to know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!
Going into the trip, I personally had so many fears and worries in several aspects of my life. The night before leaving for Uganda, I questioned whether or not God was truly calling me to go to. But looking back at the trip, I know that God sovereignly placed me where I needed to be. Being in a new environment, God was able to loosen my grip on my own comforts, He constantly showed me that He is greater than any of my fears, and He was able to show His grace and love through the people and GSF and the Ugandans. I’m so thankful for all of the friendships that were made, people that impacted my life and faith, and ultimately, our God who has reminded me that He is faithful, gracious, trustworthy, and so loving.
I am so encouraged by and thankful for you all! Thank you for praying for us, supporting us financially, and sending us off. It really encouraged me to know that our church family was covering us in prayer the whole time! Webale (thank you!) for partnering with us in sharing Christ’s love to the people in Uganda! All glory be to Christ!
Mulimutya! (How are you all?)
The last day in Uganda had come and I was not ready to say bye. A week is too short to be at GSF. There are so many different types of ministries that you get to see and the time you get to spend with the children, workers, and missionaries feels very limited with just 5 full days. Throughout the week Sammy and I had the privilege to learn how to make a skirt (picture below) from Big David and the women at the tailoring school. It was such a sweet time being able to spend time with them and even though it was short, Sammy and I felt like part of a family and we always felt so encouraged after visiting them. We said our last goodbyes this morning and it was very bittersweet. On the way to our last meal/meeting with the missionaries, Jenna and I said our last goodbyes to Anisha (second picture below), a girl in the house we were visiting throughout the week. Anisha is an amazing singer and can play the drums very well so we would always ask her to sing. This time when we asked her for the last time, she had a song prepared for us and it went like, “Now it’s time for us to say goodbye for just a while. Until that day we’ll meet again together to become with God. We will be friends forever, Jesus and you and me. We’ll join our hearts together, together to become with God”. WHAT! Jenna and I were not expecting her to sing a goodbye song and it really touched our hearts.
At the last meeting with some of the missionaries, we reflected about the week together. We shared our reasoning behind coming to the trip, highlights, and challenges of the trip. There were many highlights for me on this trip. One of the larger highlights was the importance of relationships and the culture built around that. It’s polite to greet everyone you pass by and many times those greetings become longer conversations regardless of where you’re going or who you’re with. Everyone is focused on what they are doing at the moment and is not worried about plans for later in the day. Although this was slightly difficult to adjust to as some plans on the schedule get pushed back, I loved how flexible and understanding everyone was with spontaneous changes that would happen. Another highlight that I want to add is how awesome the missionaries are. They were all so selfless and the way that Christ was shining through them was evidently shown through their actions. One challenge that I shared was that since we were there only for a week, it seemed like we were being introduced to so many different ministries at GSF but were not able to be more involved in specific ones. Sammy and I did get more involved at the tailoring school, but there were many more that I wanted to go back to build on some relationships. I understand that it was a short-term mission trip but it was way too short!
At GSF you see what it really looks like to live for the needs of others and to serve with them was an absolute privilege. It is crazy how much God is at work at GSF and how much of his glory is being shown everyday. I would feel so blessed and happy after being a part of whatever happened that day. We came to serve but we received so much more than we could possible give. Praise God! God has taught me so much through this trip and it is something that I would recommend EVERYONE going to. I’m so thankful for everyone at GSF and those who supported us through finances, prayer, and encouragement.