“How is the weather in your country?”

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We enter the gates of a much quieter project. All the children have stayed home as they are on holiday for New Years Day. All the children have stayed home except for our sponsor children and their mothers. We exit the bus reaching out to the hands of the little ones waiting for us. Immediately, I run over to Adam’s mom to give her a huge hug. We sit and chat for awhile while others disperse around the project to play with their children. I ask about the kids and school. She tells me about the goat they bought with money I sent through Compassion for Christmas. She also tells me that the goat has had twins. What a blessing! Soon we are called in for tea and all the children and the mother’s join us. Coloring pages and markers are spread out across the table. Children are engaged in works of art while the team members and mothers are engaged in conversation. The room is filled with laughter and joy. I ask Adam’s mother to provide me with all the names and ages of her children. There are eight of them and they are all growing so quickly. Shortly, it is time to load the bus and we are on our way to home visits.

I exit the bus, and I am immediately greeted my four smiling faces and the sounds of one large goat and two baby goats. Mama Adam guides me to the front entry way and I am embraced by her eldest daughter, only one year younger than myself. This is my first time meeting her. She has long, beautiful, braided hair and she is accompanied by her daughter Gabby, who is two and has a bad cough. We sit and we catch up on all the things that we had missed out on over the last year. All the children are in school now. Their father is working as a fisherman in Jinja. The eldest daughter is a teacher. I began to share with them all the Luganda, their language, that I had learned in my last three trips. I am pleased to say, they were very impressed. Following, I present Mama Adam with a gift of a necklace as in May she gave my mother a very beautiful Jesus necklace to give to me. She presents me with fuzzy pink slippers that I will absolutely cherish. Often it feels weird, or even wrong to accept gifts from people who have so little. We have to be reminded that we must allow them to love us in the ways that they do and accept so not to offend their kind and giving hearts. The rest of the visit was followed by many polaroids and even more large hugs. We walk back to the project to finish out the day.

We say our goodbyes to the children, ensuring them that we will see them on Wednesday and load the bus for Pastor Fred’s house. When we arrive we are greeted by Pastor Fred and guided to his house. We enter a beautifully open and breezy room. It is new to all of us as it had been under renovations the last few times we have been around. Margaret, Pastor Fred’s wife, enters the room greeting each and everyone of us. This woman has the kindest heart of anyone that I have ever encountered. We say a prayer for the meal and instead of sitting to eat, Margaret stays serving us until she is asked three times to please sit and take some time to feed herself. I hope that I can grow to be like her, with a heart so full of love and a willingness to serve others first. Their granddaughter Mercy, cute as can be, enters the room and shakes the hand of each guest in the room. This is not something you commonly see in the states and most definitely surprised most of the team. We also met their daughter Grace and their son Annoke. As we finish up dinner, we say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel for our debrief session.

We share many stories that night but one of the most memorable ones was the story that Sue shared. She talked about how the father of her sponsor child fishes for a living. He has been fishing for small fish because he does not have the boat and net required to fish for large fish. This is illegal and if caught by the military, he is seriously beaten. This is something that breaks our hearts. The cost of the appropriate equipment is equivalent $3000 US dollars. If this seems like a lot of money to us, it is an enormous amount to them. He is one of the many that we will keep in our prayers.

It is always an incredible opportunity to meet with your sponsor child’s family in their home. I pray that it is something we never take advantage of and always use the time to strengthen our relationship with them. How grateful we are for their hard-work and commitment of taking such great care of the children that we love so much.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is our final day at 512.

As we weave through the streets of Entebbe, the sound of early morning chatter drifts off into the atmosphere. After only a few short minutes, the sound of the project grows louder and louder.
Children laughing, drums beating and hands clapping. Familiar faces appear at the windows. After hopping off the bus we are guided into the church.

Judy and Joanne share a short devotion with the church and it is delivered with such grace. A dance is performed for us and then it is time for lunch. We exit the doors of the church and line up to serve the children lunch. I snap a few good photos of all the children eating together. Following lunch we head back into the church.

The room is emptied leaving only the teens. They are divided by girls and boys, each group taking a seat on opposite sides of the room. This is time set aside for us to talk only with the teens and allow them to be involved in a question and answer period. The first 5 minutes are a little awkward as teens tend to be slightly more shy than the children. They weren’t willing to ask their questions out loud but they open up when we suggest that they write them down on paper. The conversation does an amazing 180 after that and we begin to receive a variety questions. They ask some simple questions but many hard questions.

The simple ones include: Who are your favorite celebrities? Do you use social media? How is the weather in your country? What is your favorite cinema? Who are your best friends?

The hard ones include: Is there HIV/AIDS in the US? Is there rape in your country? Do you celebrate Halloween? Is it right to have a boyfriend and how far should you go? How do you feel about President Trump’s behavior?

We answer the questions as best and honest as we can, infusing then with as much of Jesus’ word as possible. In the end, the girls are incredibly grateful. We pray over them and the question and answer period has come to an end.

While some of us are talking with the teens, the other half of us play with the children. Sue did an amazing job at leading the games. The team taught them a few games and the children taught the team a few games. It was a light and joyful experience.

The day came and went as swiftly as the wind and soon enough the day is over. We say our final goodbyes to the children of 512.

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“They are my blood family, but you are my real family.”

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This morning began like the others. It began with the sound of my alarm, a quick shower, breakfast and loading onto the bus. The rode to Kigungu seemed shorter and slightly less bumpy. While this morning seemed to blend in with previous days, little did I know that it would stand out as much as it did. Today was the last day of 2017. Today was church at 511.

The service began like most services do, with worship and slightly more dancing than an American church. As the choir/dance team sang, “What A Beautiful Name,” we had one addition to our team, Jenny White over facetime. We all laughed and waved as Mark turned his screen and her face towards us. Following worship, the congregation was asked if they wanted to share what they were thankful for in 2017. Two women approached the stage and began sharing their testimony. As they kneeled with tears streaming down their face, you could truly feel how powerfully God had moved in their lives. Another women joined them on stage, this was a face I was familiar with. I smiled and gave a quick wave and Adam’s mom smiled and gave a quick wave back. This was my first time seeing her since I had arrived in Uganda. She approached the microphone and shared about how her family had been facing some hardships but that she was very grateful for my sponsorship of Adam and my relationship with the family. As much as I tried not to cry, I couldn’t get the tears to stop. I have so much love for Adam and his family, all I want is to see them prosper. What an amazing feeling it is to hear how your sponsorship has helped them. How Compassion has helped them. This moment, on the very last day of 2017, has forever been marked in my mind. I thank God for planning it on a day that is so easy to remember.

Shortly after the testimonies we were called to the stage to give our introductions to the church. We gave our verse and spoke about how the people of Uganda had blessed us in an endless amount of ways. About how they have become our family and how our relationship with them has strengthened our relationship with our Heavenly Father. CJ stated as he pointed to us, “They are my blood family and…,” gesturing to the church, “you are my real family!” A series of laughter and cheers broke out. The Streeter family couldn’t even take offense as we knew what his heart meant. As Carley delivered the final introduction we all stepped to the front to begin the American Sign Language performance to the song “Spirit of the Living God.” There was a long awkward pause as the music had not yet been set up. Keith, our trip leader began to play some 70’s music from his phone as Lauren danced with disco-esk moves. The church was elated, screaming and shouting to cheer her on. The song came on and the church grew quiet as we began our performance. Cheers broke out as we finished. They really seemed to enjoy it. Later Chuck found out that Moses, a member of the church and project has a sister that is deaf. He wanted the video to take home for her to watch, also so that the church could perform it for us when we returned. God works in many amazing ways. Next, it was time for Jerry’s sermon. He spoke about giving thanks to God in both good and bad situations. He explained that Jesus says that the Devil is the master of lies and he will use bad situations to bring us down. It is important to continue to put our trust in God and give thanks in those bad situations. He closed with encouraging the whole church to say the Lord’s prayer in unison, Matthew 6:9-13.

As the church service ended we all stood at the doors greeting all the church members. My cheeks grew sore as I had been smiling for such a long period of time. It was a blessing to see and greet families that I have met time and time again with each visit. To check in on them and discover they have been doing. When most of the congregation had exited the church doors and started their way home, we went down to have lunch with the project staff and the children.

This day differed from other days when we left the project and 3 sponsor children came with us. In addition to that more children from the project would be meeting us at the hotel later. We were skypeing Hazel Dell today. We all gathered at the hotel preparing for each skype call and laughing, talking and interacting between each one. We had the opportunity to spend some extra special time with children that we didn’t sponsor. We all ate dinner together and laughed as Sam, one of the project children, took pictures of everyone eating. The skype calls themselves were amazing. We ran into very little issues despite being in Uganda and that is a blessing in itself.

This by far was the best way that this team could have spent their final days of 2017. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store and I know for many of us, it includes Uganda.

 

Yours Truly,

The Uganda Addicts

Please continue prayers for Barb. She will be seeing a doctor tomorrow and getting an MRI.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

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With the sound of my alarm ringing in my ears, I jump out of bed and before I know it I am seated at the breakfast table. I greet some smiling faces and some tired faces as we refuel for the day ahead. We discuss the loads of snow being dumped on Indiana during our absence and how we are grateful to be in such tropical temperatures. Once we feel that our energy levels are sustainable, we rush to the bus, load up, and are on our way.
Today is project 511 day and 511 holds a special place in our hearts. Project 511 is the home to the majority of our sponsor children. Some of us have been waiting years to meet them and today would be the day. We bounce along the unpaved rode, around the airport of Entebbe. We know this route like the back of our hands. Closing our eyes and envisioning the way there. Taking a few wrong turns, we eye each other, as we know this is not the way we “usually” take. At last, the sound of the drums beat louder and louder. We see bright colors dancing about as the young teens perform at the gates. Children wait eagerly along the fence. As we step off the bus we are impacted by the freshness and cool breeze of the Lake Victoria air. Out of the corner of my eye I spot him, my little Adam and not a second later he is in my arms. I am greeted by many other familiar faces, Latif, Joelle, Gertrude, Precious, Lawrence. What a blessing it is to feel so at home. We are guided into the church as we sit for another dance performed by the teens. They dance with such natural ability and rhythm. Following the dance and a quick message from the project leaders we are called up to the stage. Each giving our introductions and sharing a bible verse. Sharon began her introduction with, “this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I know that many of us were already feeling that way. After our introductions it was time for tea.

As we finish tea, it is time to play with the children. The project has organized games for us to play. First is aerobics and second is musical chairs. Aerobics is a series of moves that the project does to exercise with the children. As we jump, twist and move from side to side, aerobics turns into us mostly just dancing with the children. The project is filled with shrieking giggles and an abundance of joy. Following aerobics we watched as the little ones danced around a circle of chairs. One getting bumped out in each round but not taking it to harshly. Then it was our turn. My sister Carley, brother CJ and I entered the circle ready to ruthless attempts at bumping others out of the circle. This plan failed for me when I was the first one out. It failed for CJ when he was the second one out. It worked for Carley when her and John, Mark and Judy’s previous sponsor child, danced around the last chair and as she bumped him out of the seat as he tried to take her place. These were some of my most favorite activities played in Uganda. Soon enough, we were called to lunch.

Lunchtime at 511 is one my most treasured times as the team gets to eat with their sponsor child. Adam followed me into the room and I sat him on double stacked chairs. The rest of the team and their children joined shortly after. We begin our one on one conversations, asking about their families, school and the project. Lillian, our trip leader enters, and the room grows silent as she asks us if we knew the young teen boy standing next to her. With confused and stumped faces no one answers. Sue then chimes, “IS THAT FRANCIS?!” Lillian can’t help but laugh and Sue rushes over to hug him. She had sponsored him a year ago and this was her first time meeting him. Seeing a sponsor meet their sponsor child for the first time brings us great joy.

After lunch, it is time for the puppet show. As we are setting up, a slide show made from previous trips is playing as the children watch. It warms your heart seeing them light up and shout or laugh each time their picture or a picture of a friend is flashed across the screen. The best part is when the video has a clip or us waving goodbye on the bus and all the children in the room wave back. The puppet show is an absolute hit including the song and dance that is performed at the very end. All the children stand up to join in. After the puppet show, the day just seems to get ahead of us. It is a chaotic blur of coloring, playing, racing, laughing and sponsor skype videos.

It was an incredible day at 511 and how blessed we are to be able to return again.

 

The Uganda Addicts

Please continue your prayers for Barb.

“Whatever you have, you need to blend with love.”

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Rising out of bed to nature’s music of exotic bird calls and the warmth of the Ugandan air, you can’t help but smile knowing you have awakened in the place that you call home. Arriving home means that you will soon embrace your family, loved ones that you have dearly missed during your absence. Our Team, can’t help but be overjoyed knowing this fact as we awaken in this country that our God has allowed us to call home. Our home in Uganda.

Quickly, I throw off my sheets, put on my long, flowing skirt, scarf down my breakfast and hop on the bus hoping that everyone is just as eager to start our journey to the project. As we wave goodbye to the hotel staff and the bus pulls away, the countdown begins as we await to see those bright shining smiles once again. The road is bumpy but it fades into the background as we gaze out into the streets of Uganda. We see men on their boda bodas (motorcyles), families tending to their livestock and men and women walking the streets on their way to work. At last, we see the gates but it is really the laughter and the shouts of God’s most innocent ones that alert us that we have finally arrived. Stepping off the bus is stepping into a sea of children who just want to be loved, embraced, or simply high-fived. As you open your arms, you see a smile sweep across their face as they approach for a grand, big hug. Looking up, you see that each and every person from the team is surrounded. A grin on each face, so big, there’s no chance that it wouldn’t brighten your day.

We enter the church filled with people from the project, church and community. A young boy shares a message about God’s love. He explains how it is not enough to know God’s will but that we are also called to act. God’s will is love and therefore we are called to love one another. Following the message, Luis states, “Whatever you have, you must blend with love.” This statement rings in my heart as I remember that in past trips we have experienced that these people who have very little, blend what they have with love, as they are still willing to give.

The next part of the day is filled with home visits and evangelism visits. Sharon, Barb, Mark and Judy begin their visits bringing along Sue, Lauren, Jerry, LeAnn and Julie. The rest of us, CJ, Carley, Chuck, Joanne and myself go out with the church to spread the word of Jesus in the community. I visit the home of Shirat, a compassion child who’s mother is Muslim. I am able to share my verse that Judy had us prepare prior to our trip. “But how can they call on him, unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him, if they have not heard of him? And how can they hear of him, unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:13-14. A story about Jesus and his salvation is shared with the mother and some children in the community that showed up out of curiosity. We pray over them and make our way back to the project. The rest of the day at the project is filled with laughter, lots of photos and the teachings of a game I used to play back in the states as a child, “slide.” Following we load the bus and assure all the children we’ll be back on Tuesday. The only way of unlatching their tiny grips.

Days at projects are followed by a debrief session. This allows the team to get together and discuss their day from their own perspective and what they experienced. Often enough we learn the things that brought them great joy and the things that broke their heart. As we gather behind the hotel awaiting to hear each story, monkeys from the neighboring zoo walking curiously about. Sharon tells us of the home of her sponsor child and the new chickens they had purchased with her generous donations given at Christmas. She is completely inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit as they had built homes that could be rented out to anyone who need them. This brought her joy. My mom, Joanne, also went on an evangelism visit to four separate homes. She explains how most of the women that she had met were educated and yet continue to live in such poor conditions. Finding a job is difficult, in addition to this, corruption results in the hiring of unqualified candidates. This broke her heart. Mark shared how his conversation with Pastor John opened his eyes to the fact that Uganda is degree driven and yet their is no proper training included in the retrieval of that degree, rendering the degree practically useless. This broke his heart.

How informative this day has been regarding the struggles of the people of Uganda. Although some things broke our heart, many things brought us joy.

The Uganda Addicts

 

Before I sign off I ask for you prayers for Barbara Cain. She has sustained a back injury and she has been down ever since. We ask for your prayers of quick healing.

 

So…when do we leave next?

Now I can’t speak for everyone else but I would be lying if I said  returning to the chaotic hustle and bustle of our everyday lives was easy. Some of us experienced motion sickness on the way back, others have had a hard time readjusting to the time difference and I know a lot of us came home under the weather. I could say that is the reason it has taken me so long to fill you in on the last few days but honestly it’s so easy to get sucked back into what we call normal without taking actual time to reflect. Once we do, we realize how incredibly, significantly much we will cherish each memory that we had made in our beloved country.

UG 512
On our third to last full day in Uganda we visited project UG 512 in Entebbe. We were greeted with less faces than last year, most were in school, but they were still very eager faces awaiting to reunite with their mzungu friends. We entered the church and the church greeted us, giving introductions to the new leaders and most of all the new stand-in pastor, Pastor John. We each gave our introductions and then the young boys and girls performed a dance for us. I couldn’t help but notice that Alan and Sharon’s little boy had some moves !!! It was so energizing seeing how much they enjoyed performing. Following the introductions and the dances we moved to the newly-renovated classrooms for tea. The classrooms were still being built when we visited the year before but we entered something completely different as we stepped through those entryways. Light gray painted walls with white painted trees, beautiful pastel accents, dolls sitting on shelves on the walls smiling back at you. We were entering into a quaint little tea party. It filled me with memories of my childhood, it was warm, a wonderful place to teach children. Our team and the elders had a chance to chat until it was time to begin our VBS session. We started with the puppet show which the kids really enjoyed and ended with the passing out of the sponsor gifts and general gifts. It felt great to see our little friends at UG 512 but we were short on time that day and we wanted to be sure we were investing a great deal of time into the teens. It was essential for them to know that God loves them so much he piggy backed us all the way from across the sea to share his love for them. This time, I was in a group with Sue, Melanie and I as leaders. This group was a little quieter than our previous group at UG 511 but I think we handled it well as very chatty, open people ourselves. We got to experience these girls open up to us and ask really important thought-provoking questions. They asked about lust, raising a child, back-stabbing among friends and I know each of us leaders, with God’s help, did the best we could to answer them. We ended our day at UG 512 with lots of hugs and headed back to the bus to make our way to the hotel for a rest period. It was Pastor John’s house for dinner.

Pastor John’s house
We pulled up to a security guarded compound, which most of us were eager to see what was inside. This was one of the nicest houses we had been to in Uganda thus far. We filed into Pastor John’s house and sat among his couches and chairs in an elongated circle. Pastor John greeted everyone and welcomed us to his home. He then began to describe the Ugandan culture. How many times,they would sit around the fire for dinner, much like we were sitting around his living room, and they would share old tales and legends. He began to do the same. He told us many stories, some funny, some that required figuring out the moral of the story and some tales that explained cultural phenomenons. The night proceeded that way. Each of the elders standing up and sharing stories from the different parts of Uganda they were from. It was an incredible way to just be totally immersed in their culture, not only that but they made us feel like family. We were their  out of country, out of continent relatives.

The Uganda Relatives
The Uganda Enthusiasts
The Uganda Survivalists
The Uganda Warriors
The Uganda Addicts

 

“There is no unemployment in the kingdom of God.”

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I know I have left you all hanging on by just a thread and so I will do my best to update you on what has been happening the last couple of days.

It would be an understatement to say that it has been a long and exhausting week but the blessings we have received undoubtedly out weighs the troubles we have endured. Yesterday was our project day at UG511. It was nice to have a day of unplanned activities which gave us time to interact in the way that they presented themselves to us. When we arrived, we were met at the gates with lots of smiling children. We exited the bus and immediately got pulled to different places within the project. After about 15 min we decided it was time to bring out the kites. UG511 is right next to Lake Victoria. The breeze from the lake made it the perfect place to fly a kite. I wish you could have seen the kind of excitement these bestowed in the children. It was like they were seeing Superman soar through the skies. My sister Carley’s sponsor child who almost never smiles, was giggling and grinning from ear to ear. Moments later we were called in the church as the children had prepared a song and dance for us. Following their dance, a boy about 10-12 years old, gave us a sermon. Future preacher of Uganda I tell you because we were all very impressed. We had a little bit longer to play before it was time for lunch. I know most of us praise God we had time to refuel before what was to come. The project had planned what they called, “The Uganda Olympics,” a series of games that we were going to compete in. It was going to be three Ugandans against, 3 Mzungus. We only ended up competing in one game but we can all agree that it was more than enough. The games was to carry water in our hands from one side of the yard to the other and pour it into as glass bottle. Cj, my mom Joanne and I were the first to compete. My mom won but only because when the bottles were moved closer her got confused with mine. I let her have her glory in that victory but that is the truth I swear. To close the day we gave all the children their sponsor gifts and those that did not get a gift from their sponsor received a gift bag that we had prepared for them. Next was home visits, something I know we had all been waiting for.

About 20 of us loaded the bus to make our way around the village, anxiously waiting to see our second families. My brother CJ and I made two stops. The first stop was to my sister’s sponsor child’s, Elijah’s home. We were welcomed by his mother, his siblings, neighboring children and adults. She welcomed us into her home and expressed how happy she was to have us there. Elijah showed us his school work and we were able to show him a video my sister had recorded for him, while having the translator translate. Compassion children cherish their sponsors and any communication they are able to have with them. That is why it is important to write. We prayed over their family and then it was time to say our goodbyes, (actually our see you soons). Next stop was my little Adam’s house and I couldn’t be more excited to hug his mother. I met her outside the home with a big warm hug. After entering the house we began catching up on what I had missed out on for the last year. Last year they had asked that I would pray her husband would get a job close to home. I was so incredibly happy to hear that he had gotten a job selling fish but it it very far away from home. I will continue to pray he finds one close to home as I know how much he loves his family. Adam’s mother was able to start a business with some of the money I had sent Adam as a family gift. Their eldest daughter recently had a baby so Adam’s parents are now grandparents. I was able to meet 4 out of 6 of Adam’s siblings and I also got to check out Adam’s progress in school. I am a very proud sponsor, his grades were all A’s and B’s 🙂 Saying, “see you soon,” is always the hardest part but I know I will be back to see them again. We were headed back to the hotel to have dinner with some graduate’s from Compassion’s LDP, Leadership Development Program

A very groggy, ill and exhausted team of 17 shuffled our way into the dining room. We love our Ugandan children but boy did they know how to drain us of our energy. Still while trying to remain enthusiastic, we greeted our LDP guests. We had no idea of the kind of blessing they were going to be to us. Pastor Amis opened the dinner with a speech. He announced his retirement, something he described in one of the most amusing ways, he said, ” I’m not retiring, I’m refireing.” He continued, “There is no unemployment in the kingdom of God.” Each shared with us an individually emotional and inspiring testimony. Each an incredible success story. None of these kids had an easy childhood growing up in poverty. Some having a father they never knew, parents who passed away early, and families who just didn’t have the means to care for them properly. When they entered into the Compassion program and were sponsored, they described it as one of the greatest miracles that a person in their community could ask for. Each one of them has been reborn and the passion they have for Christ was almost tangible. When the time came, they applied to the LDP program which is a program that has about 600-1000 applicants but only 100 are accepted. The accepted applicants have tuition, board and the leadership program’s expenses paid for by their LDP sponsor’s. Pauline is actually sponsored by Hazel Dell Christian and she will be graduating from the university in January. It was amazing to hear them say they were going to be the change their nation’s needs, the generation that’s going to make a difference. I know we could all see that was fact. These leaders are going to change the world.

After hearing something like that,

you no longer have to pretend to be enthusiastic.

Sincerely,

The Uganda Enthusiasts
The Uganda Survivalists
The Uganda Warriors
The Uganda Addicts

Where the Wild Things Are

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I apologize for the late blog post. We had a very long day yesterday as well as a very long day today. I have been excused from a group meeting tonight so that I can fill you in.

Yesterday a very groggy group rose for breakfast. When we finished we loaded the bus for another long drive to UG459. It was the day we would be hosting a VBS day for all of the children. Because it was a work day the bus ride took about 3 hours instead of 2. When we arrived we received the same overwhelmingly exciting welcome as we had the day before. After the greeting the day gets a little chaotic so I hope you can keep up, I know we struggled to. We first performed some worship songs for the children. Some, they didn’t quite grasp and others they seemed to enjoy. Following we played around and then it was time for lunch. Members of the team had the opportunity of serving the meal to the children. When everyone finished eating. We made a trek up to the church for the puppet show which was an absolute hit. I couldn’t help but smile every time the children screamed and cheered every time a new character appeared above the black curtain. Following the puppet show it was an absolute free for all. Children chasing you around, children grabbing you and pulling you from place to place. We intended on having crafts and games, none of which got accomplished. A game of volleyball quickly became a mosh pit. We shut that down as soon as we realized there would be more injuries than children actually having a good time. When the time came to distribute gifts… well, we were 41 gifts short. Jenny made a quick decision to dip into the games bag and 41 gifts were created. We like to think is was God’s reenactment of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Mostly because at the same time the chaos was occurring, he bestowed the blessing of a double rainbow outside. By the end of the day the team was frazzled, stressed and exhausted. All before we entered the bus for a ride nearly 4 hours long. What we learned was that no matter how hard we try we are never in control, God is. No part of that day discouraged us from wanting to return to our lovely friends in Mityana. In the end…

We survived!

In complete disregard to yesterday, the majority of our team had a good nights rest. We know God loves our team because we were able to rise a little later this morning. We met for breakfast and it was time to discuss how the day was going to go. We were learning the newest plan, Plan C but its Uganda which means we knew to be flexible. We would be hosting VBS for the young ones in the morning and a Teen Conference in the afternoon. But first, we got to go shopping for our families and soon enough we were entering the gates to home once again UG511. The women of the project had prepared a traditional dance for us. They performed as we all sat under a tent looking out across the beautiful lake Victoria with the most refreshing breeze blowing across the project grounds. UG511 can truly feel like a paradise. The women invited us to join us in there traditional dance and I can definitely tell you that I didn’t get my moves from my mother and most certainly not from my brother. Even my little boy Adam knew how to shake it. After the dance it was time for tea. I finished early and decided to join the young girls jump roping outside. Soon enough it was time for the puppet show. In the least boastful way possible I think I make a pretty good puppeteer. Although the children didn’t share as much enthusiasm as UG459 they seemed to truly love the show. we sang a closing song and then passed out Burger King crowns to all of the children to show them that they are God’s princes and princesses. Having the opportunity to crown God’s very own royalty doesn’t come around very often. It will be impossible to wipe their cheesy smiles from our memory. When the crowning ceremony finally ended it was time to refuel and have some lunch. When I finished, I looked for ways I could help in order to keep the program moving. Also because my Mom was Facilitator of the day and I didn’t want to receive a lecture later that day if i wasn’t helping as much as possible. I walked up to the top of the hill and into Deliverance Church. I found all teens of the project helping to gather the materials needed for craft, also while making ones of their own. Minutes later felt a tug on my skirt. Little Adam had followed me up the hill with his lunch and I couldn’t have been more honored he took his lunch to-go for me. “Nange,” the children called out meaning “even me,” in order to solicit help or show off their new ribbon wand. We were able this time to organize somewhat of a rotation. Once the children finished their craft they were instructed to exit the church for games. The sight I saw exiting the church was one of the best ones I have seen yet. 100’s of crowned little ones chasing 1 wild one, CJ. Games closed out our day with the little children and the rest of the day was planned to be devoted to the teens. In previous years they had felt excluded from our interest and our love and we wanted to show them that this was truly not the case.

The teen conference opened up with a skit performed by my Dad, Chuck, and my brother, CJ. I sat in the front conversing with the teens, some shy and I was able to convince I wasn’t going to bite. It was the fist time in the trip someone guessed at least in the ball park of my age and they were spot on. “22,  I can see it,” they explained. I have to admit, it was a real confidence booster since I had been getting age 10 throughout the trip. One of the boys sitting next to me explained how difficult it was to understand us sometimes although they speak very good English. It’s the equivalent to what we hear when they speak to us in English, a very thick accent. The translator took away a little bit of the humor from the skit but they were still able to make them laugh a few times. The skit was about how God knows us.He knew us before we were conceived, before we were born, what is in our minds, everything. We never have to be ashamed because God loves us unconditionally. Sharon helped to reiterate the skit and then we split into small groups.
Sue Cheung and I were partnered together and I think we made a great team. The girls were handed a piece of card stock and asked to write their name and decorate it in a way that described who they were. Sue shared some of the her commitments that she had written on hers. When I shared how a project used each letter of my name to describe me, the girls wanted us to do the same for each of them. They exclaimed, “wow,” every time Sue and I used words like amazing, wonderful, and incredible to describe them. These children don’t know how special and beautiful they are. We discussed things like they’re future professions: Journalist, Doctor, Lawyer, Nurse, Hostess, Teacher. Their chores: mopping, washing dishes, carrying water, washing their brothers and sisters. The most disturbing thing to hear was that their biggest fear was of the “night dancers” in their village, warlocks to enter or surround their house at night to cast spells on them. Not only this but we learned yesterday that UG 459 has a problem with child disappearances. The witchcraft worshipers sometime use children as human sacrifices. Some of the children, boys and girls, had pierced ears as a way of preventing this because it makes them no longer “pure.” Some babies would disappear from the hospital when the mother’s are asleep from giving birth.We ask for your prayers for these people’s safety and security.

As we closed out the session with the girls we asked if they had any questions they could write them on a note card and give them to us when we see them today. We handed out gift bag that contained a notebook, a headband and . Sometimes the girls will have to miss school because they don’t have the proper products for their cycle. They were very grateful and said they would have questions about them today. It was so amazing to see these girls open up.

Although these past few days were long, they have been nothing but rewarding.

Not only did we conquer these last two days, we survived!

Sincerely ,

The Uganda Survivalists
The Uganda Warriors
The Uganda Addicts

“It’s not a mission trip, it’s a family reunion.”

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It’s safe to say you are eager to begin your day when you wake up before your alarm even sounds. My subconscious was even aware that today was the day I would be seeing my sponsor child. With 2 hours to spare before breakfast, I decided it was as good a day as any to explore the hotel grounds. I watched a breathtaking sunrise overlooking beautiful Lake Victoria. As I returned to the hotel for breakfast a hotel employee stopped to chat with me. He shared that he himself used to be a Compassion child and when the time came he aged out. How amazing it was to hear that he still visits the projects to this day. “When the Christmas colors are out,” is how he explained. He returns to preach, mentor and play with the children. This just goes to show one of the many ways Compassion is making an impact in the lives of the people. At breakfast Mark Taylor announced that today was the day most of us would be seeing our sponsor children. “Big deal,” Jenny White scoffed, causing one of the biggest uproars of laughter. It took every ounce of her to keep a straight face, knowing that seeing your sponsor child for the first time after a long absence is the equivalent to being 5 years old on Christmas day and your parents telling you to wait to come downstairs. Outright torture. Considering the whole team was bubbling at breakfast like a squad of preschoolers. It was by far the most lively breakfast I have experienced yet. We know what Kigungu means to us, Kigungu means we get to go home.

Entering the village brought tears, excitement, and if I’m honest, impatience. Upon arriving at the gates of Deliverance Church I think God truly helped us refrain from pushing each other off the bus. We couldn’t spare one more minute for the chance to hug our brothers and sisters from across the sea. As I made my way towards the back of the church, a little one caught my eye. If only I could put into words what it feels like to hug your sponsor child for the first time when you have waited so long to see them. You get a piece of yourself back, you are whole. And yes, for someone who hates to cry… I sobbed. Worship was as powerful as ever. The people of Uganda don’t have flashy lights or expensive sound equipment. They have what God has equipped them with. Their voice, their dance, their passion. It’s intoxicating. Every part of it is a celebration of our all magnificent God. I know we will crave their type of worship when we return to the states, it is something that is hard to forget. I will admit that we dodged the embarrassment of trying to mimic their rhythm and movement on stage this year. We weren’t so lucky the previous year. Our team was invited up on stage to give our introductions. The church was so welcoming and warm, cheering and clapping for us. I know even the newbies felt right at home and this meant Kigungu has done what it always does, gotten them hooked.

Bob Rennier and Alan Dyck gave the sermon today at the service. They shared with us a beautiful sermon about God’s promises. How having the faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Today was a day of blessing because we were able to gather together with our brothers and sisters of Christ. Following the church service the congregation was encouraged to talk to us and get to know us. We met so many wonderful people and it was such an honor that God gave this opportunity to us to greet, hug and love them. Shortly after, it was time for lunch with Pastor Fred and the elders. Adam, my sponsor child, went to town on his food. After enjoying another delicious lunch it was time to gather in fellowship of Hazel Dell and Deliverance Church. Pastor Fred shared the history behind Deliverance, as well as his personal history with the church. Mark and Judy shared their history of discovering the ministry and their partnership with Deliverance. Through these stories we realized that Deliverance Church and Hazel Dell Church weren’t just sister churches, they were twins! Incredible how much they have in common. It was amazing to see how God has revealed his plan for our churches but this story is still being written. We know there is much more to come. We have become such a close knit family that we discussed it no longer feels like a mission trip, it feels like… “a family reunion,” my little brother CJ added. Jackie and Derrick of Compassion helped to explain how important our visits are to the children. When he asks the children if their sponsor has visited them, nearly all of them raise their hand. They think that we are all their sponsors. Some people ask why we don’t just send the money we use for our trips to Uganda. I think Derrick worded it beautifully when he said that a check cannot express the love and compassion that we have for these children. It cannot embrace them or tell them “I love you,” or “You are beautiful.” A check doesn’t build a relationship, fellowship does. This is why we go and this is why we keep coming back. Not without “our sponsors,” we explained to the staff. We are supported by our friends, family, churches, co-workers. It takes a village to get us back to Uganda and we are eternally grateful. Not only do we love our brothers and sisters across the sea, but so does each and every person that supports us from home.

When we returned to our hotel we had our debrief session. It is a discussion our team has about our day. What brought us joy, what breaks our heart. A time to unwind and unload. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the day. We get to sit and listen to how the Holy Spirit has made His appearance for the day and moved through each of the team members. Jenny White shared how a young Muslim girl she had been praying for over the years has been born again. Praise God!! When she explained how she is a “worrier”, the Holy Spirit made it so that we all heard “warrior”. Jenny White is a warrior. A warrior of prayer, a warrior of the gospel, an active warrior in God’s holy war. I guess you could say we all are.

And it’s always empowering to know,

we are fighting for the winning side.

Sincerely,

The Uganda Warriors
The Uganda Addicts

“Feels good to be home again.”

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After three flights, 19 hours in the air, and 2 hours spent in baggage claim the Hazel Dell team of 16 has finally made it back to Uganda! Our only complication was that Brandy, our team member from NC made it to Uganda but her bags did not, along with one of my second bags. We expect that the bags will arrive at the hotel tomorrow. Praise God !! If we have been taught anything about Uganda, it’s to be flexible and trust that God will always provide. Following arriving at the hotel a little after 1am there was only 1 thing left for the team to do, jump right into bed! And that’s exactly what we did, (maybe after a few of us ordered room service). A few short hours later it was time for breakfast and climb aboard the bus to make the drive to our newest project UG459. None of us could have anticipated the greeting that we had waiting for us.

Not long before we reach the project entrance we hear the sound of drums, laughter chanting and singing. We climb off the bus to see 100’s of faces smiling back at us. While some children danced, others held the signs they created to welcome us. Each team member walked down an aisle lined with children on either side, stopping to hug and high-five as many children that were in our reach. Some of us couldn’t help but get teary eyed, meanwhile smiling so hard I know our cheeks were sore after. I imagine it’s how a home team feels when they enter their stadium before a big game but being welcomed back to Uganda is 100x better. We were directed to sit in front as the children performed and danced to a few more songs. It was breathtaking watching them sing a song of worship in their own language with closed eyes lifted to the sky. They truly love praising their Lord and Savior. After introductions were made, Seraphine, the project director, showed us around the project. She takes pride in what she does and truly cares about the progress they are making. Following our tour, it was time for the wonderful lunch the women had prepared for us.

Playtime is the best time. Each of us most likely had 5 children on each arm. Bob Rennier played soccer, Cj Streeter got dragged from place to place by the children, some of us spent the time just hugging and loving on the children. I’d say that Chuck Fannin was the most popular attraction considering he had about 10 children gathered around petting his hair. When it was time for home visits we received a number of disappointed faces, but we assured the children we would be returning on Monday. My family had the pleasure of joining Melanie Lynch on her home visit to her sponsor child, Favor’s, home. His family, as well as his neighbors gave us a very warm welcome and invited us into their home. They expressed that they were very happy to have us and that they had been waiting for us since Friday. Favor has one brother and one sister. To our surprise his sister and her friends had prepared a dance and song for us. The video we will have to share later so that you may get the full affect of how incredibly adorable and well performed it was. We exchanged some questions and then we prayed over their home and their family. As we waited for the bus we played with bubbles, experimented with the filters on snapchat and my mom Joanne Streeter shared pictures and videos of her dog Shockley and the comfort dog ministry she is involved in back home. We’ll never get used to watching the children run behind the bus waving us goodbye.

On the ride back from UG459 our team shared stories from our day, (some of us slept). We ate dinner at what I would like to think is our favorite restaurant in all of Entebbe, Cafe Java. We then returned to the hotel. We await church at project UG511 tomorrow, where most of us sponsor our children. We will having trouble sleeping tonight knowing we will get to see the faces we have waited a year to see or maybe much longer. Lifting up our thanks and praises to God every chance we get for this amazing opportunity to return to our home or visit for the first time.

Yes, we are addicted to Uganda.

At least we admit it.

Sincerely,

The Uganda Addicts

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go

I have procrastinated for an entire month writing this final post for our 2015 Uganda Mission Trip. Maybe because writing is not my spiritual gift, but more likely because writing the final blog officially brings our trip to a close. Don’t get me wrong. All of us are thankful to be home safely with our families, but we are changed. It doesn’t matter whether this was our first trip or sixth; our lives will never be the same. We all left part of ourselves in Uganda, and it’s a little difficult to let go.

It may be hard to let go, but I feel God prompting me to share about our final day in Uganda. We visited a new child development center, UG429, where there are over 140 children waiting to be sponsored through Compassion. Our team was able to meet the Compassion staff, tour the center and meet the children and their caregivers. The Compassion staff gave us the honor of standing in the middle of the children and praying over them. As we touched their heads and shoulders we lifted each one up in prayer asking God to bless them and provide a sponsor for them. It was humbling to stand among these precious children who are longing to have the basic necessities of life, who are longing to be loved. That day our team was filled with a passion and calling to help find sponsors for each child.

The sponsorship packets for these children will be available at the Compassion Experience August 21st-24th. We invite you to join us in praying for these precious children and their families. We ask God to bless each one of these children with a sponsor and to bless each sponsor through their child.

I’ll close with this: Is God asking you to sponsor one of these amazing children? Is He calling you to be the answer to a child’s prayer? Our team and many others can testify; it is pure joy to help change a child’s story, to help release them from poverty in Jesus’ name!

Thank you for sharing in this journey with us! Until next year…