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! 😉

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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 15: Reflecting on Uganda

 

I have been trying to come up with words to reflect and summarize our time in Uganda. I have a torrential waterfall, much like Murchison Falls overflowing with feelings that flood through me every time I try to share.

How do you summarize or share something that wasn’t just life changing for you personally, but also for 14 other people?

On one hand, it is simple to say, “It was amazing!”
Another, possibly more accurate description would be, “It was incredibly hard from every possible aspect, but God showed up in equal measure.”

Before we left in July, I had been praying for everyone on our team for months.

When I started praying in December, it was more generic, “Lord, be with ____ today.” And then, as I got to know them better, my prayers became specific and nuanced. But, about six weeks out, I started praying that our Lord would give each of us a greater awakening of who He is, who we are because of Him, and that we would have a greater awareness and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

In hindsight, I probably should have been a bit more specific, and in the future I will probably be more intentional about the words I choose. I absolutely feel like all of my prayers were answered, but in a way that meant the trip was incredibly difficult, and yet, through it all God was faithful, and he showed up with gentle but incredible force.

For years I have maintained that trouble, persecution, trials, difficulties often act as a greenhouse for God to show up. – Uganda was no different.

Every day we had a new challenge, some interpersonal, others health related, some were directly connected to why we were there, and then others blindsided us and needed some massive amounts of prayer for wisdom. Each unique problem felt like we were presented with the option to take the blue pill or red pill… Choose stress, frustration, and giving into the emotions or instead, press in to God, through prayer and petition, and rely on one another even more. – Spiritual warfare at its finest.

There was not a day that went by that I did not find myself both thanking God for showing up and surrounding us as a team and individuals, extending extra grace and tangibly sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and encourage us.. But, also overwhelmed with the gravity of some of the situations we had to face.

Never in my life have I been so aware of spiritual attacks, and equally as aware of the presence of the Lord surrounding both myself and others.

Some of the things we faced are simply not meant to be shared in a public setting with people we cannot have a conversation with; other challenges are not mine to share.

However, to help give you a glimpse:

Challenge:
Right at the beginning we had busted out a back window of the rented vehicle. – In Uganda the difficulty is actually replacing it with authentic car glass that will shatter correctly.

God’s Grace:
We had raised extra money and took it as an “emergency fund” and were able to replace the window within 6 hours with little to no stress because of the donations we had received.

Challenge:
After four days of drilling, and an absent local community, one well was caught in the middle of a community dispute about the location. There was beginning to be pressure on the team to abandon the well location and start over. – If we had to do this, the only well that had hit water at that point would not have been able to be completed in the time we had.

God’s Grace:
A community meeting was called after dark at the well site on the fourth day, and the Holy Spirit showed up. The women of the community rose in defense of the well location, and fought for their needs and ultimately won.

Challenge:
One site’s auger bit got stuck at 16ft, causing the team to have to dig a 6ft in diameter pit by hand with pickaxes that broke on the regular down to unstick the auger bit. (***Update, the pit ended up having to go to a total of 31ft, then they started auguring again, hit water at 40ft, and completed the well depth at 55ft! – The third well is now complete 3 weeks after we left!)

God’s Grace:
The community rallied and men joined in daily to help with the efforts. It was one of the most beautiful examples of people literally fighting for a need they have, but also creating space for the team to bond with their community. The Holy Spirit also seemed to extend extra grace to that team, giving them confidence, so much fun and laughter, and peace about the ever increasing realization that they would not be able to complete the well, but that it would be completed after we left.

Challenge:
Rocks, clay as hard as rocks, more rock, bending and breaking tools.

God’s Grace:
Because of the donations that were sent and the abundance of support we received prior to leaving, we were able to replace everything that broke. And, eventually, slowly, little by little we were able to hand drill and chisel beyond each level of soil or rock.

Challenge:
So much discouragement, insecurity, fear, pain, physical illness; more than I can accurately explain in a blog post.

God’s Grace:
Every single time, before we encountered any issues or problems, someone lead a devotional in the morning that tied directly to what we needed to hear, or someone shared a word or passage of scripture that resonated and sustained us through.

And, these are just the things that we dealt with as a team; this does not include the individual problems, challenges, or struggles we faced and prayed through.

So, reflecting on the trip hasn’t been simple or linear either. As I have begun to work intentionally at creating more space for my own process, I began reading through my journal and prayers. I had already forgotten, or simply have no recollection of praying for some of the things I prayed to our Lord for!

A few nights ago, I was asked how I was feeling, at first I sidestepped with my usual answer of giving a few valid, but not the total picture answers. Soon though as they pressed gently, I began to ramble through my feelings of being overwhelmed, still trying to find space and time to process, and then found myself in tears as I ended my ramble with, “I just miss Uganda”.

I miss the organization we work with, the work we did, and the people there. I also miss the simplicity of focus I needed to have. In Uganda, I only had a handful of things I needed to manage and focus on, in my normal everyday life the focus is in the hundreds daily.

But, if I’m being honest, what I miss most is our team’s daily togetherness and intentionality to love well. It isn’t easy, nor is it glamorous for 15 people to live and do intimate community together (especially in Africa); actually, it’s really hard and it pushes you and requires you to grow in ways you never expect! However, there is also an element of “rightness” to choosing to live and love others intentionally in a true and very real community of believers.

Since getting back three weeks ago, there is a great deal of spiritual warfare still taking place for many on our team and for the organization we work with in Uganda. Please continue to keep all of us in your prayers as the Lord is still on the move.

(click the images and scroll through)

Thank you for your support, for your encouragement, prayers, money, and for loving our team so well for the last 8 months as we have prepared and then gone to Uganda to provide clean water to three communities! We cherish you and your support more than we can communicate to you.

Thank you for sending us to Uganda for 16 days that changed our lives forever.

~Krista
(Team leader for #WaterWarriors)

 

 

Day 15: Reflecting on Uganda

Day 10: First Mate’s Log – Stardate 2017.07.16

First Mate’s Log – Stardate 2017.07.16 – Sunday (Read this in the voice of Commander Riker from Star Trek!)

We are currently on the 10th day of our 16 day mission to Uganda. The cooperative mission with the local villagers for the provision of three community wells continues with only minor setbacks for two of the three wells. We are on track to finish two of them by the time we leave, while the third will require continued work after we have to return to Starbase NCC. We remain confident that the third well will eventually be completed, and each team remains in high spirits. The community buy-in that our teams are seeing at each site continues to strengthen, and we believe that the wells we are putting in place will be sustained for generations to come. Team Amy (Water Hitters) has a significant, but achievable, amount of work to arrive at well completion, while Team Krista (Water Warriors) has remained on pace throughout the well boring process and may be able to take it easier going forward. Team Sally (RSF) ended the work shift yesterday, after being assigned double shifts, with a substantial, though not nearly deep enough, hole in the ground as they continue to dig out the jammed auger. But for today, the entire group is taking a Sabbath day.

This is our story:

We travelled today to the one of Watoto Church’s Children’s Villages. Watoto Church, where Sue attends here in Uganda, is doing some pretty incredible work taking care of orphans and children that are in desperate need of care. They have three villages that are set up around Uganda, caring for more than 3,500 children. Watoto makes it very clear, both in word and in deed, that these villages are not orphanages; they are not adopting these children out, and are believing for them to be raised up as the future leaders of Uganda. The particular location we visited was called Kasubi Village, and the facilities they had there were simply awesome. They have approximately 200 acres of land on top of a mountain about an hour and a half from Entebbe. They care for nearly 1,300 children there, from newborns and infants all the way through high school and into college or technical school. We will post some pictures, though they won’t do justice to the vision of what Watoto has there. If we are being honest with ourselves, the kids there are being given more opportunities than many Ugandan children. They are allowed not just to survive, but also to truly thrive there! For example, they don’t live in dormitories; rather, they live in houses in groups of eight, with a housemother living in each home and taking care of them. They get schooling all the way through high school, and even have opportunities to travel or do mission work outside of Uganda on occasion! Finally, they have opportunities to be involved with Watoto church, as they have a service there on campus on Sunday mornings.

We got a chance to visit their baby facility, where they take in abandoned infants, restore them back to health (both physical and emotional) and prepare them to be able to either transition back to their families, assuming they can be tracked down, or transition into a house there on campus at the age of two. I think I speak for everyone when I say how impressed I was with the whole operation. They have thought out what they do so well, and they take child psychology and development into account at every step in the work that they do there. Those babies are so well loved! We had the chance to play with them for a bit near the end, and they were so full of joy and life. We kept joking that we should check each other’s backpacks to make sure nobody decided to take one home!

After the baby facility, we split up and were invited into several homes there to have lunch. We were prepared an incredible Ugandan feast [the equivalent of a Thanksgiving day feast] and shared it in their homes. Again, we had opportunities to talk with the children there, who ranged in age from two years old to high school aged. All of the kids were very well spoken for their ages, and those who were old enough talked about their experiences there and the opportunities it afforded them. Some even were interested in hearing our dreams for the future, and what it was like in America. We were impressed that their basic needs were so well taken care of that there was room for self-actualization and future visioning. Side note: we discovered it was difficult to explain the concept of seasons to someone who lived in a tropical environment! All in all, it was a great experience. We all definitely felt humbled by the level of hospitality that the people at Kasubi Village showed us.

I think the thing that stood out to me most today was the chance to see, and come along side for a day, the church being the church here in Uganda. By that, I mean several things:

1) The sermon series that Watoto is in the middle of is “Culture Revolution”, and has been so powerful each time we have attended. They are serious in taking on the aspects of Ugandan culture that don’t align with scripture, and doing so in a bold way. The sermons we heard probably should be preached in the US as well; though the context of the issues is different here than in the states, the root issues don’t seem to differ a whole lot. I wish that American churches be so bold as to acknowledge the places where our culture doesn’t align with scripture and take on the things that go unsaid (more than just the culture wars that have been perpetuated since the middle of the last century…).

2) Watoto is walking the walk in taking care of the sick, the vulnerable, and the orphans through the work they do. They are on the forefront of the aid being given to refugees from neighboring countries, being the good Samaritans for those in desperate need. They are taking personal responsibility for raising up the next generation and providing opportunities for them where there were none before. And they are serious about loving others where they are at. That is what the church is supposed to be about. They are not sequestered within their own walls, and they make it a point to love first, rather than judge. They meet the needs of those around them. This is definitely a concept that I will take home with me.

3) I am honored and humbled to get to be a part of what the church is doing here in Uganda. God is clearly already at work here, moving in powerful ways and touching lives. So we don’t come here as saviors or evangelists or experts. Rather, we get to come and jump in along side what is being done, as learners and brothers/sisters in Christ. As important as the wells are to this trip (the primary reason we are here), I would also posit that our interaction and encouragement of the Mission 4 Water team, the driller boys, the communities we interact with, and the churches that invite us in to see what they are doing is just as important. Every one of those groups has been encouraged and blessed by our presence, not because we are somehow awesome or amazing, but because we are part of the same body, and our job is to lift each other up. That is what we, as the body of Christ, should be all about!

My prayer for the remaining time we have here is to soak in God’s presence, and to watch with open eyes for the work He is doing through His church. May we all truly be the church, both here and in the future at home, by loving God and caring for others.

– Thomas Herdon
(Team #RestingSmilingFace or #RSF)

Day 10: First Mate’s Log – Stardate 2017.07.16

Day 9: The Time We Have

On day six (Saturday) of digging our wells, the Water Warriors mixed and set the cement pad, giving shape to what the well will look like after completion. The Water Hitters continued digging further into, and under, the water table, ensuring the longevity of their life giving construct. Last but not least, Team RSF continued their journey to the center of the earth… well, at least as far down as their stuck auger bit. The Water Warriors reached a stopping point after the morning shift, and the other two teams made the decision to work a ‘two-a-day’ and work in the afternoon.

I had a bit of time in the afternoon to reflect on what we were doing here in Uganda, and how we got here. One thought that came to mind is the relativity of our time in Uganda. A few numbers to support this thought are as follows:

1 hour:

The time that it took to give and listen to a sermon at National Community Church last fall, calling those who would step out to serve God in places not called home. After hearing the testimony of nearly all my teammates, I feel that the general consensus amongst us all, and the thread that connects us, who are for the most part a group of strangers, is the unspoken need and desire to serve our fellow humans.

6 months:

For the sake of a nice round number (I can be precise when I need to be, but prefer neatness for my point), approximately the amount of time that was spent in the mental, physical, and spiritual preparation for this journey. I can personally tell you that this time went by in a heartbeat! I was celebrating Christmas in Omaha and woke up the next morning to get on a plane for Uganda the next day… okay a gross exaggeration, but I get some literary leniency to make my points right?

I use this to show that Uganda was not the only thing on my mind at this time. I would like to say it was my number one priority, but I would be lying. Things like work, social life, church, proposing for, and attempting to help plan, a wedding, are a few of the things that were competing for my time. I’m sure a similar story can be echoed by my fellow teammates and the saying ‘life happens’ could be used an ingloriously high number of times over the course of those six months.

16 days:

Okay, now we can’t get away from it. The pictures that have been living in our head for the past six months are real, in our face, screaming at the top of their lungs: ‘Here it is! Here is why you came to serve! Now go and do it!’ We are all precision focused, determined to drill and find water, develop a well, create community with the local peoples, and become better people ourselves; and that is what we are doing! Morning devotions lead by various team members, the testimonies of each of our team members, visits to the poor, visits to schools, interaction with the local community, and of course attending church.

22 hours:

This is the amount of time that it will take our team to depart Uganda, have a few layovers, and proceed back to Washington, D.C. This is the amount of time that we will have to go back to I-95 traffic, politics, news, work (for paying earthly bills, because believe me, we have done a bit of work here!), and the 100 mph pace of our lives back home. I try not to look too far forward while here, focusing on each day, task, and interaction as it comes, but it is hard to overlook the fact that I will be back to the ‘1st World’ soon. Do me a favor and pray for all of our transitions back!

Now for the number/time (in a generalized sense) to compare to the ones above:

Life(time):

What we are doing is providing an essential resource for a community for the rest of their lives, and the entire lives of those to come!

I know this is a dramatic comparison, but it is real, I’ve seen the looks of happiness and anticipation for this gift on those receiving it! So the next time I spend five minutes in a Starbucks line, or 45 minutes in 495 traffic, I can always think back to the fact that I decided to wisely spend some of my time in Uganda; that I could help others for a lifetime; that we can all do it; and relatively, it doesn’t cost us much.

-Miles Schaefer
(Team #WaterWarriors)

Day 9: The Time We Have