I’ve traveled internationally on several occasions, but this trip put new meaning to international travel! On the way over, we traveled for forty-two hours before we reached our destination. We left Saturday, May 26th and got to Mbira, Uganda at 3:00 am on Monday, May 28th. Uganda is eight hours ahead of Nashville time, so needless to say it took our body clock awhile to catch up!
After arriving at the Mbira orphanage, you can only imagine how tired we were, but there was work to do before we slept! It took about an hour to get our cots set up and our living quarters in order before we were able to lay down for some rest. The following is a day-by-day journal of what we experienced:
Spent the day getting acclimated. We slept in Monday morning and had an orientation that afternoon with Tony Applegate, the missionary who was our host for the week. We ate all of our evening meals with the Applegates. After dinner each evening, the ladies went to the girl’s home for devotions, and the guys went to the boy’s home. We all sat on the floor with a small lantern in the middle that provided light. My favorite part of devotion was hearing them sing! I could listen to them all night.
We had the world’s longest VBS at Mbira. It lasted seven hours and was such a fun day! There was laughter and smiles everywhere. We did crafts, recreation and worship. The girls were extremely competitive! They also picked up the games faster!
We loaded into two vans and went off-roading! The goal was to visit ten Jajas, the name affectionately given to widows. At each stop we gave them bags with sugar and soap. The joy and excitement on their faces was worth the effort. Some shouted, some danced but all were thrilled with the gift. Jajas are outcasts in that society and consequently for them to receive anything was huge. We literally drove through fields to get to their homes and they were scattered all over. There’s no finding them on GPS! It’s pretty difficult to follow directions that say go to the tree and turn left but there is no road to follow! This was perhaps one of my favorite days. Because they are seen as a burden, whenever they receive anything, many times family members become jealous. One story of a Jaja we visited broke my heart. About three weeks prior to our visit the church had reached out to this Jaja, her family members became jealous and set fire to her home. She was in the home when the fire began and had to be pulled out. She survived but had burns on her body. Most houses were small with mud on the outside and straw on the roof. The floors were dirt. At each home we stopped at, they wanted to give us gifts for coming. Seriously? They had nothing but didn’t want us to leave without giving us something. At each home we delivered the gift and prayed over the Jaja. This was a sweet, humbling experience for all of us.
In the afternoon we came back and had church. There was singing and testifying. It was quite an eye-opener to hear stories from these orphans of how they got to the orphanage. I’m so thankful that we as a church can help give to a place that is making a difference in the lives of these children.
We traveled to Kyotera (pronounced “chotera”) to do VBS at another orphanage. Tony Applegate, our host, shared how dark the city of Kyotera is and the orphanage is a light. We repeated our Tuesday schedule, but it was not as long. The children were very receptive and accepted us immediately. It is so encouraging to see all that God is doing.
We went on a safari! This was such a fun and relaxing day. Mburo Game Park was filled with all kinds of animals you don’t see in these here parts! Warthogs, all kinds of deer, monkeys…apes and spider monkeys, beautiful birds, then we went on a boat and saw many hippos, a baby croc and lots of birds. After spending several hours on safari we headed back and ate in Mikasa at a Dutch restaurant. It was very nice. Dinner was shish kabobs, beef and chicken all cooked on the grill. Great guacamole and fries! All were tired but happy at the end of the day!
We were up early. The guys stayed at the orphanage and worked clearing brush while the girls went to the baby orphanage in Misaka. We delivered diapers, wipes and formula that Long Hollow had so generously donated. The morning was spent loving on and playing with precious babies ranging in age from 3 weeks to 5 years. We gifted the women caring for the children with Freeset bags filled with a
Bible, t-shirts and other goodies. To say they LOVED their bags is a HUGE understatement! They all put on their Long Hollow t-shirts and their bags on their shoulders and strutted around so proud! It was such a joy to bless them. They do a great job caring for those children.
When we left the orphanage, we went shopping in Misaka. All of us ended up buying African dresses that we wore on Sunday. The women loved it! Saturday afternoon was spent playing with the kids. Four women in the village had made some baskets and mats, etc. they brought them for us to shop! So we all have returned with African handiwork!
I was up early praying for our ladies meeting after church. The girls were all out washing their clothes and tidying up their room. At 8:30, I see a lady arrive pushing a bike with her son. Church didn’t start until 10:30. The Long Hollow team slept in and took it easy for a little while. At 10:30 we arrived at church. The service didn’t get started right at 10:30. There was no countdown clock! However, when a crowd arrived the singing began. Young and old alike were together for the singing. Have I said yet what a blessing the singing was? We sang for quite awhile. The girls sang a song as did the boys and then an adult ensemble! It was beautiful! Pastor JJ preached and did a great job of speaking in English and Lugandan so that we could keep up. The message was from Matt 6, God cares and God is good. God always answers prayers but it is not always in our timing. He talked about the faith of Elijah. The service was a good 3 hrs!
After service the women went to eat lunch together. We went to the Applegate’s for a delicious meal of baked spaghetti. We met back at the church after lunch for the women of Mbira and LH to share together. There were about thirty-five African women and ten of us. There were all ages. Some widowed, some with babies, some single. Oh how i wish i could have heard the stories of every one of those women. We had a great time together. It was the first time I have spoken with a translator and that was interesting!
The women don’t go by their first names but rather their firstborn! So the pastor’s wife was Mama Leighton. I would be known as Mama Jordan since my firstborn is Jordan. It was definitely a learning experience! We played charades, sang together and I shared from Luke 6. After I finished, we took prayer requests and prayed for them. Then we gave them snacks. All received bubble gum after the game and it was a hoot to see how much was spit on the ground!! We also gave them trail mix. Some loved it so much they put it in their pockets to take home!
As the women left, several of them strapped babies on their back. I asked Christy Applegate how far they would walk and she said at least an hour. Amazing what they do to come to church.
The rest of the afternoon was spent taking pictures and playing with the kids. We slowly but surely started packing.
Sunday night after we dinner, we went to visit with the girls and gave the dolls that one of our women’s classes had made. They loved them!
- The love I had for them immediately!
- The joy of hearing them singing. I could listen all day!
- The weather. Although we were right on the equator, the weather was so pleasant. Not the scorching heat that I expected!
- The living conditions. We had been told to expect the worst and hope for a little better! There was no running water or indoor plumbing but we did have a roof over our heads! We were all pleasantly surprised with the living conditions!
- The discipline of the kids. They were up with the roosters every morning, literally. So was I! The only problem was the roosters started crowing before daylight! Momma Maria had them sweeping, hauling water and getting their house clean. On Sunday morning, although church didn’t start until 10:30, they were up washing their clothes and laying them out on the grass to dry.
- The visit with Jajas (widows). We visited 9 and delivered each of them a bag with soap and sugar. You would have thought we had given them a million dollars!!
God is so big and powerful. It is such a blessing to GO and see His creation both things and people. What a creative God we serve! The African people are beautiful people. However, one of the things that struck me there as it has in Haiti is that if a woman lives to an older age, you can bet she has lived a hard life. Women are devalued and become nothing more than property. My heart breaks for these women to know Jesus and have fellowship with one another but they don’t just get in the car and drive to church. However, they can teach us a lot about faith. I always return from a trip not necessarily feeling sorry for those we leave but more so for those of us in America who have more than we need and take so much for granted. God reminds me of the verse that says “to whom much has been given, much is required.”
Lord, what does that mean for me? What does it look like? I think part of what it means is not forgetting that there is a great big world out there they we can’t even conceive if we’ve never been. People are people created in God’s image no matter where they reside. And in the mass of humanity, he knows us all by name. No one is more important than another and God loves us all unconditionally. He sent Jesus to die for those people who live in the bush in Uganda as much as He sent Him to die for me.
I left part of my heart in Africa. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. Would you stop for a minute and pray for Pastor JJ and his wife, Harriet who pastor the church and run the orphanage? Pray for the missionaries who serve alongside them. Ask God to keep them healthy and encouraged as they continue to do kingdom work.