The Journey is Long!

The Journey to Uganda, and back was long, in every way, it was long.

Logistically we spent 34 hrs and 10 minutes on planes, 12 hrs and 15 minutes in airports, and 93+ hours in our beloved bus. The journey was indeed long.

Elijah, Krista, and Amy…and our luggage, heading to the office to meet up with the rest of our team!

These stats don’t even include the craziness, that was us getting to the airport. Let’s just say, when it was all said and done, it took 5 vehicles, lots of good hearted staff members, a good samaritan, Elijah lifting a vehicle, and lots of prayer!

Our flight over was 17 hours and 5 minutes, complete with 4 hours and 20 minutes of layovers, and 3 hours getting checked in and picking up luggage and going through immigration.

At IAD checked in and excited to begin our journey!
Some of the guys, doing what needs to be done to get through the long flight! This was on our layover in Brussels!

After a 23 hr journey over to Uganda, we took a “long nap” before jumping on the road to make the 12 hr drive up to Arua where we would be staying for the majority of our stay in Uganda.

That “long nap” the night before, wasn’t quite enough rest. This is on our 12 hour journey up to Arua.

Once we arrived in Arua, we had a good nights sleep, church the next day, and then we were gonna be heading out to our worksite! The one hour drive out to where we would be working every day to help with building the Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility in the Imvepi Refugee Settlement.

On the way to the work site we stopped at UNHCR to hear about what they had been doing, and their role in our project. Next we stopped by OPM, who had granted us the land rights to build. We heard from them about what they are doing to help with the South Sudanese refugees, and the gentleman we were speaking with mentioned that our 1 hour drive may actually be more like 2 hours, back some very bumpy dirt roads.

So, we hit the road, excited to get to work! And we drove, and we drove, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours….THREE HOURS!!! And finally, we were there. So, what we had heard would be a 1 hour drive to and from every day, would actually be a 3 hour drive to and from EVERY DAY!!! LOL!!! 3 Hours, to go 37 miles. Yup, 12.3 mph, back some very bumpy dirt roads. You see, the folks who had been before us, had been driving these roads in regular SUV vehicles, not a minibus with 12 people in it!! LOL!!!

Our beloved bus!

So, the journey was long. Every day the journey was long! 6+ hours, every day in our beloved bus! It was full of conversations about everything you could imagine, full of reading, listening to music, gazing out the windows at the gorgeous landscape, praying, sleeping, and bush calls…so many bush calls. We stopped at least once, each direction for a bush call. Nothing bonds you as a team, like 20 or so bush calls!

Miles and miles of bumpy dirt road.
Our long journey insured we got to see a beautiful sunset every evening.
We drove through a few refugee settlements on our way to and from everyday.
Post bush call selfie!
Another post bush call selfie with our Safari guide Sarah!

Truth be told, our journey to and from Uganda, our journey to and from Northern Uganda where we would be on mission, our journey to and from our worksite each day…was long. The journey was indeed long. But, that’s only part of the story, because this long journey started over a year ago, and it’s not yet over!

This journey started in July 2017, when Krista and I knew that we needed to turn in our application for Uganda 2018. We knew God was calling us back, but we had no idea what that was going to look like. We knew He was calling us to something more, that we wanted to do something in the north with the South Sudanese refugees, and that we’d most likely be traveling again in July…that’s all we knew, but that was enough!

Krista and I on safari in Murchison Falls 

So the journey began, and we turned in our application! Which started a 4 month journey of Krista and I working with Pastor Bob, and Sue (Mission 4 Water) our partners in Uganda to narrow down our project, where we would be working and who we would be working with. Almost 4 months to the date that we applied, our first teammate signed up to join us!  A week later, 2 more had signed up and we were officially a team!

Krista and I with Pastor Bob on his first visit to Murchison Falls!
With Carla! The first to sign up to go on this journey with us!!!
With our partners, at Harvest Time Church in Arua!

By January we were officially a team and had another sign up, and OPM granted us land rights to build our hospital!!! Let the games begin!!

So, what does it look like to go on a mission to Uganda, and to go on Mission with Krista and Amy? The journey is long, oh so long!! But, we hope it is also so fulfilling, so rewarding, and so worth it on the other side (we hope)!

We are intentional, we are focused on the individuals, while the individuals focus on the mission. The people who sign up to do this ARE OUR MISSION. That means we are going to take you through what one team member referred to as “the navy seals of missions trips.”

The journey includes meetings (8 team meetings that are MANDATORY), fundraising (everyone MUST fundraise for their trip), house party’s, 6k race, book reports, health updates and reminders, group text messages (ohhhhh the group messages), prayer partners, fasting, group dinners or brunches, and generally just getting to know each other well before we go on mission together.

At our 4th Annual Race for Hope! Look at these beautiful people!

The journey on ground includes, personal devotion time, leading devotions, encouraging one another, physical labor, sharing your story, meltdowns, hard conversations, so many “remember when’s”, growing, stretching, crying, and so much laughter. It’s all about living in community, the way that we were called to.

In the end, we pray this journey ends with you changed forever, stronger, more confident, closer to God…and with a whole band of new lifelong friends.

So this journey, like every years journey was long. The difference, this journey isn’t over. Our hospital is still under construction, we are still fundraising and still getting updates from all of our partners on the ground!

ACTUALLY!!! HUGE UPDATE!!! Our hospital is now fully funded!  We have reached our fundraising goal! God is amazing! So this part of the journey is nearing an end! We now have the money to send over, so that the amazing team can finish this maternity ward!

These are the most recent pics of the maternity ward:

And the amazing guys who are working so hard to make this possible:

If you’d still like to donate, you can still do that! Any money raised from now through September 8th will go to Mission 4 Water to support the work they are doing every day! They will be the organization that we continue to partner with in 2019! You can donate here!

So, we miss these beautiful faces and this incredible, long journey that we went on with each of them.

The beautiful girls!
The crazy boys!

However, we’ve only just begun with next years journey…and the ongoing journey to Uganda! We will be returning to Uganda in 2019 to dig wells, and we will continue to return, until God says otherwise!

What an amazing, long journey!! Can’t wait for the next!

Our team sitting on, and in front of 521 bricks, each representing someone who was moved to partner with us, to donate, and to make this possible! I love these people so much!
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The Journey is Long!

It Is Never The Same – Krista

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Refugee Settlement houses and gardens

For the third year in a row, I have co-lead the Uganda Mission team with Amy, and together we are sent out via my church in partnership with local NGO’s and Ugandan people. We have never been the same since we started doing this together.

The mission and projects each year are never the same.
The teams are never the same.
The process to prepare is never the same.
The ways in which God works in each of our lives is never the same.
Uganda is never the same.
Amy and I are never the same.
Our community of supporters are never the same.

It is just never the same year in and year out.

It truly takes us a full year to plan the project, prepare the team, fundraise, go on the trip, and debrief afterwards. Whether we take 6 people or 13 with us, it is intense and we make no apologies because it is worth every bit of it once we are there in country or on the other side.

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The entrance to the reception and processing center for the refugees.

One hilarious moment in Uganda this year, I was lightly chiding two team members for not knowing something that had been communicated several times to them. Without losing a beat, one of them responded with, “To be fair, you send us a lot of information.” – I busted up laughing and proceeded to extend some more grace and patience as I re-explained what they needed to know. The reality is, for months upon months we DO share loads of information. We have meetings, send countless e-mails, they read books and give reports to the team, and hundreds upon hundreds (upon thousands?) of text messages (#willtimeverseethis?).. It IS so much information.

Our information spans from health needs, like shots and malaria medicine, to getting visa’s, what type of physical condition they should be working towards, what proper hydration looks like…
We have endless documents that have been slowly created over the years that tell them what should be packed, tips and trainings on fundraising, how to answer questions, and personal growth challenges like fasting, praying, and leading a team devotional.
Which doesn’t even include the on-the-ground preparation information so they can better understand the project and culture once we are there!

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Our team at the 4th Annual Race for Hope 6k Run/Walk an Cookout in June.

We never lose sight of the fact that our team is made up of the entire spectrum of personalities, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, fears, anxieties, backgrounds, and cultures. Some team members have been every year with us repeating, and others have never in their life considered doing anything like this! – So, we are strategic and intentional about teaching everyone, encouraging people to try new things, and sometimes we just ask them to trust our process without first understanding.

Amy and I say every year, “The Uganda mission is what our team’s mission is, but the people we take with us, they are the OUR mission.” We do everything we can to pick, cultivate, train, prepare, pour into, support, encourage, and lead the people who come with us. It is intense, and we spend a lot of hours talking through and strategizing how to best lead each person and the team as a whole. We spend so much time praying for and over each person, which includes processing through scripture we feel is uniquely for each one of them, and then we give them a journal with a few of our prayers and the scripture we have been praying for them.

Yet, no matter how much we prepare ahead of the trip each year, there is just something about actually going that opens the eyes of everyone we take with us; and that is what gives my intense physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion overwhelming joy. I love getting to lead the team each year. I am always amazed that God let’s me do this with Amy, but I am also deeply honored that the team of people follow me, especially the ones who return year after year. I am not perfect, and I am not exempt from the inevitable in-country meltdown, or the post-trip emotional chaos that is returning home. Yet, I am always amazed and grateful that the team trusts us and chooses vulnerability.

We are never the same.

Amy and I are never the same, our team is never the same, and Uganda is never the same.

To date, through our missions teams across the last four years, and because of the hundreds upon hundreds of people who have financially supported us, we have funded, and in some cases built 15 clean water wells and one Maternity Ward/Urgent Care facility in Uganda. That means that, somewhere in the vicinity of 5,200 people now have clean water, and an un-countable number of people have improved access to healthcare. Ugandans and South Sudanese men, women and children across generations are healthier in tangible ways because of the years of work we put into this trip, and because of the support we get from so many people around the world and in Uganda!

But, no matter how much work we do, how many amazing things we get to build, or the people we partner with; each year I am more convinced that it is Amy, myself and our team that are changed forever. We go to love, support, encourage and help, but we are the ones who are changed, honored, and blessed because of the experience. It is humbling in ways that really are hard to articulate.

No matter how many years I do this, the challenge comes in accurately putting into words what has happened. How do I share well all that God did, the world views that shifted, the sparks of life and new vision, passions that were ignited or discovered for the first time, new relationships that were formed, injustices that were witnessed, and so much self-discovery?… How do I learn and share so that other’s get to also learn?

I don’t know. I still stumble and babble my way through sharing with anyone who asks with no more eloquence than I did years ago. Each year is unique and different, and I am never the same, but my struggle to share it all well stays the same.

Because Amy and I know intimately the struggle with returning home, the difficulty in process and sharing what happened, on one of the last couple of nights we are in Uganda, we do a re-entry training preparing to come home. Over the years we have cultivated this training, added to it, and made it much more comprehensive than when we first started…. But, even still, sharing examples, questions to help process, creating timelines, and giving tips on how to accurately navigate the emotions and relationships we encounter when we get home; it doesn’t remove the struggle. No matter what we do to prepare the team, in some ways, it feels a little traumatic to return home to the busy chaos of our schedules. Uganda removes so many distractions simply by lack of power/wifi/cell service etc.. There’s just less competition for our attention, but also we build into our days so much more time for God, and life back home just doesn’t lend to the same cadence.

Each year, I think it will be better and easier to return home after Uganda.
Without fail, every time, it is not better or easier, but instead it is uniquely challenging, and really emotional and difficult in new ways. I think the only thing I get better at, is giving myself the space to navigate jet lag and self-care so that I am able to begin to process…  But, even my process looks different each year.

One week out, I have only really just begun to process all that God did in and through me this year in Uganda. So, unfortunately if you ask me how Uganda was, it’s really anyone’s guess what will come out of my mouth… You might get a funny story, a ridiculous situation, or intense feelings… My responses are never the same!

So, now what?

Well, we are still in need of some funds to complete the Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility for the Imvepi Refugee Settlement! It is SO CLOSE to being fully funded and completed!!…

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Nikita and Elijah giving the medical donations from their companies to the doctor and nurses that run the current tent health centers.
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Our team literally standing on the foundation of our 521 supporters! (as of the day this picture was taken)
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My brother and I sharing in the joy and excitement of our supporters and the progress made on this project!

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But also, we already had to submit our application for 2019! Insane.

We don’t yet have our project nailed down for what we will be doing next year, but we are already starting to get that going and working with our on the ground NGO’s and contacts to figure out what next year’s project will be.

So, stay tuned as we continue to post blogs from different people on our team this year. They will be sharing thoughts, pictures, lessons learned, and who knows what else!

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My prayer brick installed in one of the walls. Psalm 147:3.

Thank you for following along with our journey.
Thank you for supporting us financially, with prayers, and for caring about what we care about!

I am full of so much gratitude and love for you all!

-Krista
Team Co-Leader
#ugandaexcited

Ps. Apologies if there are parts of this that ramble or don’t make sense…Still struggle bus emotions and thoughts so, this is what you get! 😉

It Is Never The Same – Krista

1 Week Out! #Ugandaexcited

Hello friends!
We are currently one week out from leaving for Uganda!!!
We are so grateful for all of your support and encouragement!
Thank you for continuing to check in with us to see how we are doing on all fronts. – This is a huge undertaking, and we feel that; but, our trust is in God, and that this is His mission, not ours, and He will provide in all ways to His own glory!
We wanted to send you some updates, and also if you could be praying for and with us:
Prayer Needs:
1. Health and Safety – for our team, for our travel, for the workers in Uganda.
2. Protection against spiritual attack especially leading up to our departure.
3. For team leaders Amy and Krista as we lead this team and trip – all the things!
4. For all of us to see and experience Jesus in new ways.
5. Finances and fundraising – simply put, it takes money to do this!
6. Logistics – for medical supplies and equipment, for doctors and nurses to transfer over!
7. For Pastor Bob and Sue – Our on the ground contacts/coordinators/advocates/friends
8. For our team – For lives to be changed, eyes to be opened, hearts transformed, etc…
9. For this trip to be a marker moment and altar time to point back to in the lives of our team, the lives of Pastor Bob and Sue, and the South Sudanese and Ugandan people we are working with…that we will all look back on it and say…”remember what God did?”
10. Protection on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level, for everyone involved
11. The Salvation of the workers, South Sudanese, and Ugandans who do not yet know the Lord.
 
Financial Needs and Updates:
We are currently at 72%!!! God is so good!!! Which means we have just over 27 thousand left to raise, to see this through to TOTAL completion!
We know this means we will be fundraising even when we get back! So prayers over #5 anytime you think of it!!! And if you know anyone who you think may be interested in giving to this cause, would you consider sharing our fundraising link with them?

https://aoneeight.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/uganda2018

Stay Updated:
Additionally, we will be updating this blog, if possible while in Uganda so you can follow along here: https://ugandaexcited.wordpress.com/ (sign up to follow and get updates)
If we are not able to update our blog due to wifi access, etc. We will be updating and posting to Instagram (and then pushing that to Facebook), so go follow Amy and Krista if you don’t already!… Or just search #ugandaexcited on Facebook or Instagram!
Current on the Ground Plan:
At this point it is looking like we will be laying brick for internal walls, working to apply plaster, painting windows/doors, and possibly laying the cement for the sidewalk around the building… However, TIA (This is Africa) so the plan could change half a dozen times before we even get there! We will be flexible!
We keep talking about how we can’t remember a time when we’ve ever been in such a place of holy anticipation and expectantly waiting, we have this overwhelming sense that God is going to blow our minds! We joke that we keep saying “We have no idea” and that God is jokingly shaking his head and nodding…”you have no idea.”
We are so grateful for all of your support, encouragement, and love!
– A&K (and the rest of the team)
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1 Week Out! #Ugandaexcited

This is Really Happening!

Amy keeps laughing and marveling at the fact that, “This is really happening!”

The Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility is underway!

Long before we ever get to Uganda, and for a decent while afterwards work is happening! Stateside we are fundraising, and still need funds (please donate here), in Uganda is the real hard work of clearing land, laying stone, mixing and pouring concrete, and laying bricks!… And that’s just so far!

We are amazed at all that the Lord is doing, it is actually quite overwhelming to stop and look at the timing of everything. Every single time we needed to send money ahead so that work could start, continue or materials could be ordered we miraculously, by the blessing of the Lord had the money donated that week. He is going before us literally to start this project before we get there, and by prompting literally (on last count) 462 individual people to donate money to support our project and team!

SO! With that as the backdrop… Three weeks out from today, we will be LANDING in Entebbe Uganda, aiming to get a few hours of sleep, and then make the long drive up to Arua in the far North West area of Uganda.IMG_6773

The preparation for this type of project and trip takes a full year of planning, preparation, work and of course fundraising. – At the beginning of the planning process, it always feels a bit like getting ready to hike the largest mountain, navigate crazy terrain, traverse waterfalls, and often doing it all blindly in prayer and faith while leading a team of people behind us!

This year’s team is full of incredible people.

I (Krista) always say that getting to know, love, and then sharing the full year of learning and experiences of a project like this is my favorite part. We are a unique group and so full of varying personalities and perspectives, but, it has been so fun to see the constant within the team to be encourage and support first, followed by lots of laughter, prayer, and so much love.

At this point, it looks as though when we get there in three weeks, we will be joining the construction team in laying brick on the interior walls, mixing and pouring concrete/cement for the outside sidewalk area around the building, and likely plastering walls. It is always a unique experience to learn the Ugandan way to do these things (especially if we have never done anything like this stateside!). One of our big goals as a team though is not to push our American timelines or methods, but instead learn… learn, support, and work hard!.. But, also we want to build relationships with those we are working with.

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The update picture we received on June 13th!

We believe it would be a waste of time to go, build a beautiful Ugandan Hospital for the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in zone 2, and not to walk away with friends and stories to share from these incredible people.

This is really happening! We have no idea all that the Lord is going to do in and through us on this trip in just a few short weeks, but, we are full of holy anticipation and excitement.

So, at this point, we are getting a lot of questions somewhere along the lines of:
How can you support us?

Here is our short answer:
1. Prayers – For travel, health, safety, the Ugandan workers, our team, finances, the refugees, Pastor Bob and Sue (our on the ground contacts/partners/planners and friends), the team leaders (Amy and Krista), our team’s spiritual formation, and against spiritual attacks.

2. Finances. We still need about $26,000 to cover the last couple of phases of construction. (Our team’s expenses are fully covered, and the first two phases are mostly covered).

3. Send us encouragement. – Seriously, commenting on our social media posts, asking questions, write us notes.. whatever it is, the physical presence and engagement of those we love is HUGE.

4. Follow along with our journey! – We love all that the Lord is doing in each one of us, in Uganda long before we ever get there, and there is a building excitement and anticipation of what will happen while we’re there (and after we get home)! Follow along and be a part of what is happening!

Thank you to every single person who has donated,
shown up, encouraged, and prayed for us on this journey!

We aren’t even at the mountaintop high and God’s faithfulness is beginning to overwhelm us!

So much love and gratitude,
-Krista
(Team Leader)

This is Really Happening!

Let’s Build a Hospital

This year our team has taken on the incredible task of working with local Ugandans to  build a Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility for a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda!

Background Info:

Previously, our team has gone to Uganda to provide clean water (which is a huge issue throughout Uganda) and Mission4Water continues to do amazing work! They have taken some time to go back and re-visit wells to service them, and in some cases needing to entirely fix them! So, due to the nature and time it takes to plan these trips, we have decided for this year to shift the focus to a new project!

To help us identify needs and navigate logistics far ahead of our mid-summer arrival, we are working with Bob N. an amazing local Ugandan (who is also connected to Mission4Water)! Bob invests all of his time in helping shift the culture of Uganda, focusing on leadership development and community care trainings. He wrote a book you can get here and learn more about what he’s doing here and also watch this video.

What?

Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility for a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda!

Floor Plans
Maternity Ward Floor Plans

This is the floor plan for the building that we’ve decided to go with. It is much smaller than our original goal, but since it is already pre-approved by the government it means significantly less red-tape to jump through (which is worth it)!

Where?

Imvepi Refugee Settlement 
(On the far West side of the image)

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Image taken from link.

The current plan is to build in zone 2 of the Imvepi Refugee Settlement.

Imvepi is largely comprised of South Sudanese refugees; and this particular zone has a greater chance of being around for quite some time over the original hope of building in a different zone with greater need (but less chance of being around for as long). – So after lots of discussion about where to place the Maternity Ward, the long-term impact of zone 2 just couldn’t be dismissed in part due to the larger native community that would be also impacted, and better served currently as well as once the South Sudanese are able to return home safely.

UNHCR information on the South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda

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Click to watch the Future Site Video!

Watch the video above to see the (likely) location for our building! The two semi-permanent structures (tents) currently serve as the health facility and double as offices for food distribution to another zone.

When?

The current plan is to be in country for 14 days in the middle of summer. – The exact dates are still to be determined, and largely depend on trying to get the least expensive flight prices for our team in order to save travel costs that can then be applied to the project!

However, we will send funds ahead of our arrival so that they can lay the foundation, begin preparing with brick making on site, ship all materials, and of course tackle the very real need for water here as well. – You can’t make bricks without water, nor can you pour concrete!

Why?

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2017, Entebbe Uganda. Celebration dinner after providing 3 clean water wells with Mission4Water.

Team leaders Amy and Krista have a passion for building a community. – Specifically in rallying people together with common goals, and creating a way for people to learn, grow, and be a part of something that can change the world for the better.

Why this project?

After lots of discussions, Amy and Krista felt it was important to both highlight the work, and give a voice to the refugee crisis that is happening in Uganda. There is incredible work that is already happening, but the South Sudanese refugees (along with lots of other people from places like DRC, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Rawanda and others) that are fleeing to Uganda, and largely being overlooked due to other refugee crises around the world.

So, the big question that we asked ourselves was, “What practical way can two people, leading a small team, backed by supporters impact and improve the lives of refugees?”

Lots of back and forth discussions with Bob N. and it was finally settled on the very tangible need for the refugee women to have a place to safely deliver their babies. Currently women are delivering children on the floors of their tents, which is dirty, dusty or muddy depending on the time of year… OR they are walking crazy distances to get medical care.

We decided that at the very least, we could rally people and companies to support us in literally saving the lives of innocent children, and providing medical care for those who have already experienced extreme trauma.

How can you help?

There are four main ways to help and support our team!

  1. Support us financially* or join one of our events!
  2. Follow along with our blog and on social media via the hashtag #ugandaexcited
  3. Learn and Share about the refugee crisis in Uganda
  4. Pray and send our team encouragement to uganda[at]aoneeight.org

Thank you to our family, friends, and the companies for the amazing support and encouragement already!

Thank you!

~Amy, Krista, and the Uganda team!

*Any donations received above our fundraising goal will be donated to the local NGO’s we are working with to ensure proper care and support for the community.

Let’s Build a Hospital

Day 11: T.I.A.

In Uganda there is a common phrase: “this is Africa,” which is lovingly referred to by its acronym T.I.A. and seeks to encapsulate the notion that time is flexible and not to stress when things don’t go as planned. It’s a concept that strikingly contrasts the following common Western point of view: if you are on time, you are actually late because time is money and money is the bottom line.

Yet, what I have come to realize, and what I often fail to remember, is that schedules are human made, selfishly created to keep our agendas in line. As a type A personality, I rely on it as an organizational tool, but often it becomes a mental framework that we trap ourselves within, convincing ourselves that it’s necessary to craft and order our days and is something we must live by.

Admittedly, this is often the initial mental landscape I found myself fall back into each of the days we went to our digging site and only made inches of progress instead of reaching the next phase of construction that was laid out by our schedule.

For context, our work site (lovingly referred to as Team RSF) ran into a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Our auger bit got lodged in a layer of rock somewhere between 15 and 18 feet beneath the surface, and despite our team’s, a car and many Ugandan’s best efforts to pull it out, we had to switch to plan b and hand dig a 6-foot wide pit.

  

On our last day of scheduled “work”, we were still chipping away at the hard rock and earth, which did not correctly correlate to our hopes and paper schedules, which listed that we should be cutting the ribbon allowing entrance to our wells, signifying that they are officially open. On this day, we had hoped we would be guests at a huge celebratory ceremony with singing and dancing, speeches of all lengths and gratitude to God for the work we had done.

While that was not the scene that unfolded for Team RSF, there was a sense of peace and a feeling that this was more than OK. I can’t deny that I was not a little disheartened, feeling like we didn’t finish our commitment to this community and all of our supporters back home, but I got a dose of reality in remembering that it’s not about our timing, or really timing at all. Often we get so preoccupied by following a particular path or timeline, expecting it to go as we had planned, however life experiences and this most recent instance, reminds me that true joy and true love knows no bounds, no space-time continuum. We are called to love. We are called to serve. We are called to care. Everything else? That’s icing on top.

Would I have liked things to turn out differently? Of course! But I truly think that many of the moments we experienced—dancing, laughing, shoveling side by side in this pit (often bumping bootys :D)—fostered greater laughter, relationships, camaraderie, respect for and understanding of each other than would have happened if things had gone according to our timeline. Because only two people could be in the pit at one time, the down time gave us the opportunity to seek friendship with each other and those in the community, to reflect, to serve in creative ways such as having dance parties and yoga class with the kids. My takeaway is that this path was not better or worse, but that all paths in this journey we call life are worthy and purposeful.

The well at Team RSF’s site did eventually get finished … about 3 weeks and 40 feet into the earth later :). Ultimately, the fact that this community is now able to enjoy water is all that matters, regardless of when it happened.

This was my third year returning to Uganda to work with Mission4Water and I’m so grateful for another unique year and experience. I’m beyond grateful for each of the other 14 people on our team who supported me and Team RSF during this journey. I only hope that as the team and I return to the US and reintegrate into living our lives that can so easily become polluted with insignificant things, that we remember to be present in each moment, to give thanks for all we have. I often fall victim of trying to control and create my own destiny, but the truth of the matter is, each day is a destiny, each moment.

We often seek success or the achievement of self-serving goals thinking and hoping that once we get there, we will find happiness. Recently I heard a counter perspective: happiness in the aforementioned scenario is virtually unattainable because we often set a new stretch goal once we reach the initial goal and thus we never reach happiness because the success is not attained, but a constantly moving target. Instead, the counter perspective argues that we should find contentment and happiness where we are and in doing so, it will redefine and shape our version of success.

So, now that I’m back in the US, for me, T.I.A. doesn’t stand for “this is Africa” anymore; it stands for “this is adventure.” It stands for “this is alive.” It stands for “this is all in.” I’m constantly seeking to throw my schedule out of the window (or out of a 15 foot hole :D) and remember what’s important in the big picture: to find happiness and appreciation for where I am now, to love and be a light in my community, to get out of my own head and my own way, and know and trust that He is good and He up there orchestrating the rest.

– Sally
(#RSF Team Leader)

Day 11: T.I.A.

Day 13: Transitioning to Change

Once a Mission 4 Water well is completed, you just see the finished product. You see the beautiful blue bucket and blue pump system. You see the total feet dug to clean water. You see the drawings we tried really hard to create of our NCC logo and the Washington, DC flag. And most importantly, you see crystal clear water that is now clean for the community members to drink. But what you don’t see if all of the work that went into. You don’t see the layers and heaps of dirt that were removed. You don’t see the bent poles and auger bits (or the stuck auger bit). You don’t see the blistered hands and ripped gloves. You don’t see the rock pieces, sandstone, quartz, and crazy hard dirt that were drilled, chiseled, and shoveled through. You don’t see the piping that was cut and sealed together. You don’t see the mound of tiny pebbles that now fill the drilled out. You don’t see the hand mixed cement that is made stronger by mixing in shovel-full after shovel-full of quartz. What can only be observed now is purely surface level because everything beneath the surface (the process of making a well) has now been covered up.

  
At the end of our trip, we had some decompression time that allowed us to see some of the beautiful terrain and animals that Uganda has to offer and allowed us to process what had happened to each of us individually and as a group from the day we signed up for the trip to Day 13 of our time in Uganda. What people see when they look at our pictures from the day or what people saw when they saw us touring Uganda was all surface level—a group of muzungus just wanting to see some elephants and giraffes. What they don’t see is all of the internal reflection, analyzing, overanalyzing, frustration, happiness, sadness, confusion, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of emotion processing that was occurring beneath the surface.

The “Surface Level” of the Day
On this day, we had a crazy packed day to do so many fun things in Murchison Falls National Park—including a safari, relaxing at the pool time, a great team buffet lunch, a Nile river cruise, hiking up a crazy difficult trail to get to the top of Murchison Falls—the waterfall that basically powers the Nile River. We all woke up dark and early to prepare ourselves for the day by gathering our backpacks of all the items we may need that day, getting our bag breakfast, and making some coffee to go so that we could head down to the Nile River, board a ferry, and go see some animals. There are some countries in Africa that you travel to where you must go on a safari. Everyone you know expects you to go on a safari; you expect to go on safari; and it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t go on safari. So we on safari! After seeing white rhinos the day before, we were all on the lookout for the other 4 of the Big 5—lion, elephants, rhinos, jaguars, and hippos. (Yes Rashida, I’m not sure how giraffes didn’t make the Big 5, but I’m sure they are in the Top 10.) We successfully spotted the elephants, hippos, and lions, but the elusive jaguar did not make an appearance. At one point we came across a pack of elephants that were right next to the street, and we were able to just stop and observe them while they just hung out and then eventually cross the street right behind our bus! The beauty of all of the animals combined with the landscape truly shows you how wonderful of an artist God truly is.

After the safari, we headed to a hotel to hang out at the pool and relax for a little bit, and then have a nice all team lunch together before heading out on our next adventure to boat down the Nile River to Murchison Falls. While boating along down the river in a boat I probably would have preferred to be a little bigger initially once I saw my first clutter of hippos 10 feet out that was larger than our boat, we saw so many hippos, cape buffalos (which I kept calling water buffalos), and numerous species of birds including the kingfisher diving into the water near our boat to catch some fish. No crocodiles, but I’m sure a number of people on our team were more than ok with that. As we made our way closer to Murchison Falls, we began to hear the roar of the falls, and of course, our anticipation only grew. Once we got closer to the waterfall, we pulled over to a boat dock, and we would have to hike the rest of the way. Following the trail up to the falls, our view of the falls was blocked by trees/rocks/terrains…you know, nature, but every once in awhile we would get a peek to show us how much progress we had made and how powerful this waterfall was going to be. Around 45 minutes later, we ALL finally made it to the top, and this waterfall did not disappoint. I’m sure you have seen pictures posted by other team members but no picture or video or boomerang we took could ever do this place justice. The water drops, crashes, swirls, and flips through several different rock drop offs and formations. Plus safety standards are different in other countries so you can get seriously close to the edge—causing to you to feel even smaller and insignificant next to the strength, power, and might of this waterfall. We eventually made our way back down the trail and to the boat to finish our boat ride back to where we started our day.

And this is just a Reader’s digest version of the details of our day because trying to fit everything we did and saw that day would make this more than just part of a blog post, and probably multiple blog posts.

The “Below the Surface Level” of the Day
I’m sure you all are thinking something along the lines of “This sounds amazing!” or “I can’t believe you fit that in to one day…” But after months of preparation, 12 amazing and challenging days in Uganda, and the realization that we only had one full day left in country before we began our journey back to Washington, DC, there was so much more happening below the surface. So many questions circling through our heads “How is this trip almost over?” “How am I feeling?” “How do I explain what all happened on the trip?” “What did I learn from the trip?” “What are my good memories?” “What were my more challenging memories?” “How do I go back to the States?” “How do I go back to my normal life?” “How do I take the lessons learned in Uganda and apply them to my everyday life back in America?” “How do I be intentional with my time, with my thoughts, with my friends in America like I was with them in Uganda?” “How do I go from having a clear purpose of digging wells to feeling pulled in all directions when I get back?” “How do I have so many questions?” “What questions or things haven’t I thought about yet?” “How do I prepare for this transition?” Are you stressed and overwhelmed yet processing through all those questions yet? Because we were.

One of the benefits of going on a mission trip is removing the daily distractions that exist in America that can take away from how we live out our faith, how much time we have for devotional, and how often we take time to pray and thank God for everything He has done for us or to discuss the challenges we are facing with Him. We are distracted Christian in America and living intentionally for others is one of the most difficult things that we will face in our daily lives as Christians. When we are on mission, we were intentional with loving Ugandans as God loved them. We are intentional with starting each day with personal and group devotionals to start our days focused on God. We were intentional with serving Ugandans and our teammates. We were intentional with sharing our testimonies and building our friendship at a deeper, more vulnerable level. We were intentional with praying to celebrate our victories and praying to ask for God’s help in our challenges. Every part of our days were designed to be intentional so that we lived the life that God calls us to because that is what a mission is. But as we begin to ponder all of the questions building beneath the surface, our first task will be to find answers to those questions. The second task will be to figure out how to live out those answers. You know…something like putting the whole “a little less talk and a lot more action” concept in to practice.

How do you participant in an amazing mission trip, and then go back to the States the same person but also a different person? The decompression time on the back-end of a trip allows us to have a better transition from Uganda to America because the things we experienced—the poverty, the simplicity of life, and the struggles for water, just to name a few—will not always make sense in an American context. In David Platt’s book “Radical,” he talks about how the American dream and American culture can, in some instances, be a direct contradiction to the Christian dream and Kingdom culture. Given the spiritual focus on God that occurs on mission trips, I began to wonder if decompression isn’t necessarily about reverting and transitioning back to the ways of America. I wonder if it’s more about transitioning to something better—transitioning to a more holistic viewpoint of what it really means to be a Christian in America. Transitioning to a life where we now know the abundances we have been blessed with may not always a good thing. Transitioning to a life where my priority is more on starting my day off with devotional time and pray so that I can be better in tune with God’s voice rather than hitting the snooze numerous times or spending 20 minutes just picking out an outfit. Transitioning to a life where thanking God for all of my blessings is an ever present understanding and an active dialogue with Him instead of accepting my blessings as a given. Transitioning to a life where I’m no longer accepting of small talk with the community around me but am now desiring to know people at a deeper level—at a level where we can come together and see each other as Christ sees us. Transitioning to a life where being intentional with my friendships takes priority over my social media based intentionality.

What if we challenged ourselves to be fully changed by our trip? What if we challenged ourselves to live intentionally in America? What if we challenged ourselves to bring mission to our everyday lives because our mission is not just a mission trip? First and foremost, it’s about being on mission every day in our work, in our families, in our community. So maybe rather than just transitioning from Uganda to America, we transition by bringing Uganda to America.

~ Ami (#WaterHitters)

Day 13: Transitioning to Change