Why Uganda?

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Recently I was asked what my ultimate goal was in traveling to Uganda, what I hoped to accomplish while I was honest. And to be honest it’s really quite simple. But before I tell you let me tell you a little about Uganda.

Uganda is home to 2.7 million orphans – more than anywhere else in the entire world. The reason there are so many isn’t entirely because they have no parents. The reason there are so many orphans is mostly due to the fact that 85% of women in Uganda are abandoned. They’re abandoned by their husbands which is “shameful” to their families. In turn this leads their families to abandon them. On top of that most businesses will not hire women with children because they are considered unreliable. There are no babysitters or childcare here and if you have no family there is nowhere to watch your kids. The result: no income. With nowhere to turn, after having been abandoned by everyone they love, the widows then abandon their children.

When the director of missions for HEAL ministries came here in 2012 she thought she was coming to start an orphanage. But during that first year she realized that it wasn’t an orphanage that Uganda needed. Uganda needed something that was going to help the abandoned women – help them find a job or start a sustainable business. She wanted to empower the women, she wanted to give them hope, she wanted to help them. So she started going into the slum and teaching a bible study twice a week under a big tree. She taught the women about Jesus Christ and his redeeming love. She listened to their troubles and shed light into their life.

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Before long she opened the James Place which was founded on James 1:27 “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the widows and orphans in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by this world.” Which now has developed into the most beautiful place. When you walk through the gates the first thing you will notice is all the children running around. Currently, the James Place provides free childcare to 50 children. But it’s more than just childcare. Did you know about 40% of children in Uganda are malnourished? HEAL combats that by feeding the children 2 healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. They give them a bath everyday to not only keep them clean but also HEALTHY! And if a woman has her child in childcare she has to have a full time job. On top of all that all the childcare workers are abandoned women themselves who HEAL has cared for.

If you walk to the back of the property you’ll find the women. HEAL offers both English and Business classes free of charge. English is the official language for Uganda and in order to find a good sustainable job you must be able to speak it. The Business Class teaches women how to run a successful business. The first Business Class that graduated came up with the business plan for making rugs. Rug making is another program that HEAL sponsors. HEAL provides the ladies with all the material they need and then helps them sell their rugs! Did you know 1 rug sold can pay rent for a whole month, a semester of school fees, or a month of groceries? These rugs are providing for them. They’re keeping their family together. Jewelry, pottery, sewing, and farming classes are also taught at the James Place. And Friday all they Ladies come together to have a bible study.

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So now to the question, what is my ultimate goal? Really, it’s quite simple: to love and help wherever I see the need. If I’m being honest there’s not a ton I can do in just 2 months. I’m not going to change the world. These ladies have faced years of brokenness and I cant come over here and just fix everything. But fixing was never my intention or goal – which I’m thankful for because these ladies here don’t need me to fix them. They just want and need what every human desires: acceptance and love. Here, love can take on many different forms. “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. The feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That’s what love looks like” according to St. Augustine. And ultimately that is my goal, to love as unconditionally as humanly possible.

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A Different Aroma

As I walked into the bunk room I found this laying on my bed. It was the warmest welcome and such a comfort to read as the rain came down.

As I walked into the bunk room I found this laying on my bed. It was the warmest welcome and such a comfort to read as the rain came down.

We are here! Our team has finally arrived in Uganda a mere 28 hours after we left Nashville. There were quite a few delays along the way but we have made it. It is about 11:30 pm Ugandan time but I’m not too tired. I’m excited and full of life. Yes, I’ll admit I’m a little exhausted but being on African soil sparks a fire in my veins. I am ready!

Unfortunately, our bags were not as ready as we were when we left. We just found out that 13 of our 22 bags had not made it the airport in Africa; and, 11 of them are still chilling on the tarmac in Nashville, including both of mine. I’m not really upset, but more puzzled that 11 bags were sitting on the tarmac in Nashville for 28 hours and no one bothered to check them through or try to get them to their destination. Did people just walk past them and disregard them? I can’t think of a reasonable explanation for it, but it’s already becoming a distant (no pun intended) thought. I don’t have any time to think about that, just time to rejoice that I’m in Uganda!

It’s about 1:30am and we finally board our bus to head to Jinja. Entebbe, the city we just flew into is about 3 hours away from Jinja so we still have quite a long road ahead of us. I decide to sit in the back with the 3 fresh high school graduates. We chit chat about life things, like getting pregnant and giving birth – I mean naturally, what else would we talk about? However, I’m starting to get tired so I nestle in my window seat and stare out the window.

It’s dark out, so I can’t see too much, but what I notice are all the different smells. As we leave the airport the smell of sulfur fills my nostrils. If you’re not sure what sulfur smells like, it’s similar to the stingiest fart smell in the world. But it’s not too long until the smell of fresh clean air takes over. The fresh air is followed by smells of gasoline, burning rubber, campfire, cinnamon, bar-b-que, gunpowder (you know, the way it smells after fireworks), cotton candy, bamboo and alas the jungle, the sweet sweet jungle. I am intrigued by all the different scents; all the different smells of Africa. An hour has passed since we left the airport, and it just began to pour down rain so we shut the windows. I rest my head against the cool glass and listen to the pitter patter of rain.

We arrive at the James Place a few hours later. Fortunately, the rain let up just long enough to get our bags inside and then it came pouring down again. The rain is a nice little blessing because it provides a light cool breeze through the windows in our room. There’s something about the sound of rain that’s so relaxing. It’s like “real life spa” music. The lightening provides a flash, which illuminates the room and is followed by the low growl of thunder a few seconds later. The heart of the storm must not be too close. It’s 5 minutes after 5am. I close my eyes to doze off to sleep. As I lay down I think about my sister. We’ve never been away from each other for more than a month and the thought of being away from her for two months makes me already miss her. But these next couple of months are going to change our lives and (hopefully) only for the good. I thank God for my many blessings and let the sound of the rain drift me to my dreams.

 

* To learn about more about HEAL Ministries visit http://www.HEAL-ministries.org or follow them on Instagram or Twitter (@HEALministries).