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 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

Day 5: Joy in Simplicity

Part of the preparation of coming to Uganda included learning about some of the culture and of course the water situation for a typical Ugandan. When I first heard that the average Ugandan that collects water for the house was usually a seven or eight year old girl, my immediate thought was to liken it to my daughter who was seven at the time.

The journey that this young Ugandan girl would walk every day (if not several times a day) to collect water for her family is often long, dangerous, tedious, and more often than not, is taking them away from being able to go to school just to bring home unclean water. This immediately broke my heart. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of my own daughter having to do this.

My initial reaction included thoughts of sadness for the young Ugandan girls and gratitude for my own children’s fortunes. I became so thankful for the options that my family and I are afforded. Options to take medicine when sick, options to eat when hungry, options to drink when thirsty, options to worship whatever god you choose, options to get an education for free… the list goes on and on.

Now that I’m in Uganda and have spent several days around the local children I feel a part of me changing heart.

On Tuesday after our second day of digging wells, we had the opportunity to visit a local primary school and do crafts with the children. It was an afternoon I’ll remember forever. The children were so happy to see us, so surprised that we brought them markers and stickers, and just incredibly thankful. I spent much of the time taking photos and showing them to the children who have most likely not seen themselves on camera before. They LOVED it and I did too. I’ll never forget my time with them, even as short as it was.

Additionally, while driving around the local villages, I noticed that there are so many children out and about. You see them and may first feel sad because they don’t have nice clothes or a nice house or toys or (fill in the blank with what you think kids need to be happy).

But there has been something else I’ve noticed.

They seem content. They play with rocks (or sticks, leaves, trash, etc.). They have shelter (mostly). They have family. And as they say here in Uganda, they are “fine.”

The children in America would be so bored.

I now find myself thinking that if my children could experience this life, they would have such a different view about things. And maybe it’s my job to teach them that. It can be so hard in a world of “stuff” making us happy, and a “bigger is better” mentality to really get down to realizing what you need to feel like you have “enough.”

Simplicity. It’s a beautiful and under-rated thing.

So now I wonder… who am I sad for? Who really has a better life? Is one life better than another because of options? I know most would say yes to that answer and I certainly am still grateful for the options I have because that is what I know.

It’s a process. I know God broke my heart for Ugandans and I am still in the process of learning the why and how. I also feel God tugging at my heart strings more than ever to give to the needy. I think being able to provide clean water to so many is an amazing opportunity. I wish I could provide even more necessities to those without. But I don’t look at those less fortunate with pity. Only love.

~Carla Adkins
(Team #waterwarriors)

 

Day 5: Joy in Simplicity

Day 3: Exploration

As our first day of well digging came to a close, the team set out to find the previous source of water utilized by the community. After driving about 4 kilometers from our well site, asking directions along the way, we were led into this clearing (photo above) where we were told the spring resided. Almost certain there wasn’t any water nearby (because face it, you don’t see water in this photo either), we continued to follow the foot-made trail into the lush vegetation. Hidden within these bushes a shallow “stream” appeared.

I like to think that a good picture is able to stand on its own without explanation, but at first glance I don’t think anyone would be able to see how shallow this water truly is. Although the water was clear, the stream was filled by a slow trickle of water and could not have held more than 10 gallons of water (it rained just 3 days prior). Earlier that day, we were informed this has been the only source of water for over 200 families for as long as anyone had known.

In an area that looked “more affluent” at first glance, it was shocking to see this many people relying on such little water. In Uganda, the children usually set out on foot at least once daily to fetch water for their families. In this case, it means that this child would be walking a minimal distance of 8 kilometers round trip at least once daily. If the stream runs dry (which I’m sure it has) the family will just have to go without.

After seeing this I became more passionate than ever to provide this well to the community, to not only share a more abundant source of clean water but also to have a platform to connect with the people that make up this community.

~ Rashida Jones
(Team #RestingSmilingFace)

Day 3: Exploration

Why?

DSC_0008

Thomas, one of our team members, gave a devotional this morning, where we spent some time diving into scripture, and pondering over the questions of why. Why are we here, why short term missions, why Uganda? Which led me to thinking more, about all of the why’s, why this mission, why water, etc?

There’s no easy, or one size fits all answer. There are some similarities in why we are here, and why we chose this mission, for sure. As Thomas pointed out this morning, I think the greatest and most common reason is because we were called to, and we are called to love people. And, in this mission we get to help love on people, not merely through helping them obtain access to clean water for the first time, but also by interacting with them at our site everyday, through the field day that we will have, the craft project at the primary school, through coming beside our partners, Mission 4 Water, and supporting them and building them up.

Mark 12:28-31

28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

But I also LOVE the fact, that for each of us, it is also personal, and unique. I love when we have group events, and I get to hear the people on our team explain their why, and I feel like the more times they have to answer that…the more buy in they have, personally! It also fills me with excitement, knowing that for the next 14 days, they will be blogging about their experiences here! I can’t wait to read them all, and to be able to see this trip through their eyes and their experience! (make sure you click the button to follow our blog, so you can get updates as they post)

For the team leaders, Krista, Sally and I, the rest of our team, the other twelve people who signed on to go on this adventure with us – are a big part of our why. THEY are our mission in large part! But, even for the three of us, the why is unique. Maybe it’s a passion for the Ugandan people, the cause of clean water, the ability to leave something tangible behind, or a combination of these things!

No matter the reason, God has called 15 people to this team, for very unique reasons, and in very different ways. And because of that, it also fills me with excitement knowing that He is also going to do something unique in each of us. This trip, though we are all doing the same things, will be so different for each of us! I have grown to love and admire them all so much, and feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this journey for all of them. And I can’t wait to see the way God shows up for each of them.

Which leads me to another part of the why – community! Through the preparation leading up to this trip, I have become friends with everyone on this team. And I love that this trip, is only going to strengthen the friendships that have already begun to form. Nothing bonds you more than 24/7 together for 16 straight days: giving everything you have to give physically, doing devotions together every morning, sharing our testimonies and stories every evening, praying for and with each other, laughing and playing, all the conversations, etc. As different as we all are, we have one thing that is a common thread throughout: our love for God, and our desire to do what He has called us to do.

Sue, our dear friend and the Director for Mission 4 Water, told us a story this morning that really resonated with me:

Some starfish had washed up on the shore. A little boy picked one up and threw it back in, then another, and another. His mom, looked up and down the shore and saw thousands washed up. She looked at her son and said “there are thousands, what is the point? You can’t save them all.” The boy replied, “no mom, but I know I can make a difference for this one, and this one” as he tossed two more back in.

It was such a great reminder of the why. Not because we can help Mission 4 Water bring clean water to every person, or even every person in Uganda. But we can come along beside them and help them make a difference in the life of a few hundred Ugandans, one well at a time!

A few years ago, I was at Catalyst in Atlanta, and heard Andy Stanley talk, and he said something very similar that has always stuck with me, and it became something I have tried to live out. He said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Because if we all did for one what we wish we could do for everyone, it might change the world. But certainly, it would change one person’s world. It may even change your world.” I think that perspective helps us keep from feeling paralyzed by the fact that we can’t give to everyone, we can’t change everyone’s reality. But one by one, we can help make a difference.

“Do for ONE what you wish you could do for EVERYONE.” — Andy Stanley

In many ways our why, in this mission, is simple. We want to help provide clean water for some Ugandans, we want to support Mission 4 Water in the work they are doing everyday, and we want this trip to be a marker in the lives of the people doing it with us!

So, let me take you on a bit of a pictorial journey, so you have a better understanding!

In these pictures you see a water source where a neighboring village was fetching water. The water is not safe or clean. The second picture is of the most recent well dug by mission for water, providing clean, safe water!

DSC_0009
clean, safe water!

Today, we got to go and visit the sites of ALL THREE of the wells that we are going to be digging, as well as the current water source for two of those wells. Definitely helps to solidify why you are here!

This is the current water source for the people who will be using both Team Krista, and Team Amy’s wells.

DSC_0016
current water source

This is Team Krista (The Water Warriors), standing at the future site of their well:

DSC_0021
Left to Right: Sunday, Miles, Ryan, Krista, Carla, Diana

And Team Amy (The Water Hitters), at the future site of their well:

DSC_0026
Left to Right: Joe, Sue, Debbie, Amy, Ami, Eric

And team Sally, (RSF (Resting Smiling Face)), at the future site of their well:

DSC_0028
Left to Right: Chris, Sally, Joy, Rashida, Thomas, Liam

We start digging our wells on Monday! Everyone is so excited to get started, especially after seeing all of our sites today. The competition is on, as we all strive to hit water first! But, at the end of the day…we all want everyone to succeed. We can’t wait to update you on our progress, and to update the pictures above with three complete wells on those sites!

Thank you all for your support of what we are doing, for your encouragement, and for ultimately becoming part of our why!

#ugandaexcited #onmissioneveryday #waterislife #threeforthethird #waterwarriors #teamkrista #waterhitters #teamamy #rsf #teamsally

Why?

Final Checklist Preparations

I love a good checklist.
A checklist for preparing and packing for Uganda.
A checklist for work activities.
A checklist for wedding planning.
A checklist for the grocery store or weekend tasks.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” rings true in a culture that demands each of us to be efficient multi-taskers. Plus as an ENTJ, my love of checklists and crossing items off my checklists is inherent to every part of my being. (Did I mention that my “J” score is really high?) The first time I went on a mission trip back in 2010, I prepared the only way I knew how, I took vigorous notes at team meetings and following the packing list completely—even adding some of my own items that I thought I needed. My checklist was my security blanket. When I moved overseas more than 2 years ago, I made checklists months in advance. I visualized and strategically planned out what items I needed in my luggage, what items could be in a shipment, and how much I needed of each item until I could order them on Amazon.

People have asked me how my trip preparation is going. Asked if I feel stressed or overwhelmed. My answer is the same, I’m good. I feel no real stress. While, some stress has snuck in, it’s been more so related to wedding planning and not Uganda preparation, like what does a capital G and Q look like in cursive. Luckily, my workload at work has slowed down to manageable level—otherwise my answer may not be the same. Although it probably would. I have been on multiple mission trips and traveled to a lot of places overseas. I have never been to Africa, so I know that it will bring its own challenges, but responding to unknowns while traveling has almost become a known to me. I feel confident in my ability to prepare, and I have full confidence that God will show up and show off because that is who He is and what He does.

But as I was packing yesterday and finishing addressing my wedding invitations, I still felt no nervousness, no real stress—except for those stupid cursive letters I don’t use regularly. However, something hit me today as I was finishing items on my checklist, God told me to stop and to pause because He had a message for me. I realized that my Uganda trip had become a “checklist item” on my wedding planning checklist. While Uganda preparation had its own checklist, it had somehow found its way on to a different checklist. My wedding list centered on things to do before and after Uganda. Uganda had also somehow made it on to my travel checklist—my first country in Africa and my international travel for 2017. My confidence in my ability to prepare for a trip and my trust in God almost acted as blinders to what God was doing and showing to me right now. I’ve been working for the last few years on relinquishing control to God, and in a lot ways I have made progress. And, that amazing trust in God to do His works is a direct bi-product of that. But, God is always pushing us to learn new things about His nature.

I had lost sight of preparing my heart and my Spirit to serve. I had lost sight of the true goal of a mission—to learn more about the things that break God’s heart and how our heart should be breaking for the same things. The people getting access to clean water were just numbers to me. Just an item on my “to do” list that in my mind read “Dig three wells. Help 100s of people. Check.” Each of those people are worth more than a number on my checklist. They are people loved by God, and I should feel completely honored to get to know them, even if I never physically meet them. I still have a few items to check off my list, but my focus is now on preparing my heart and my Spirit and not on successfully completing that checklist. Focused on each individual who God will bless through these clean water wells.

Yes, God can still move through checklists, but God loves to move in the stillness. We just have to make sure we put our pens down, find stillness, and then listen.

~Ami

Final Checklist Preparations

Three for our Third Time in Uganda

DSC_0775

Three clean water wells for our third time in Uganda!

We are kicking off preparations for our third trip to Uganda!

As preparations begin, we are meeting with people to give more information, sending lots of e-mails answering questions, and plans are flying! After all, social media posts, sponsorship letters, and fundraising for our 2017 Uganda Mission team is already underway!

Why Uganda?

Clean water, that’s why.

DSC_0495

The average Ugandan walks 6k a day for water that isn’t even clean.

The bulk of the responsibility goes to young children or girls, and the watering holes are typically unsafe and/or unclean. Contaminated water can cause a wide variety of illnesses, many of which are easily treatable. But, some of which if they go untreated can cause death. However, because many in Uganda cannot afford the medication, let alone the hospital bill, the contaminated water can pose a real threat. Learn more about water illnesses here.

  • Each clean water well that Mission4Water digs serves on average 350 people.
  • Each well costs around $4,000.
  • Each well costs about $12 PER PERSON it serves to provide clean, safe drinking water for the rest of their life!

However, since this year we will be in the Entebbe region (just outside of Kampala), there’s a good chance the wells will service a larger population. – Making the per person cost much lower, but the overall cost about the same.

What Are the Trip Details?

For our third year (in a row), we are sending a group of 15 people to Uganda for two weeks in July to partner with Mission4Water.org to dig THREE clean water wells!

img_7199

 

In previous years we have dug two at a time and left additional money for them to dig wells after we are gone! But, this year, we have been able to work out the logistics to add a third clean water well while we are there!

Our goal is to raise enough funds to dig three wells, and provide them the money for an additional two after we leave!

Why are we stoked? Because after the completion of this year’s trip, this particular mission will have helped Mission4 Water dig 15 clean water wells!.. EACH serving around 350 people, meaning over 5,200 people will have clean water in Uganda after the 2017 trip! A drop in the bucket begins to add up!

As the leaders, we are SO excited to be returning to Sue, Sunday, and “the Boys” (the six full-time drillers) that we can hardly stand it! As a team, we have six people returning from last year’s trip, and are stoked to add an additional nine people to the team! Making this trip a fun generational experience since each year has had people from the previous trips.

This year we will be splitting into three groups during the workday hours to hand auger (drill), dig, prepare PVC piping and filters, lay cement, and pump in order to get three working clean water wells!

The entire process takes anywhere from 7-10 days depending on how deep the holes need to be dug, which depends on the time of year (rainy or dry season), and of course the type of ground we are digging through. – Last year one of the teams could not get past a couple feet of sandstone, ultimately having to abandon the hole and start over!

After the wells are finished and commissioned, the team will head up to Murchison Falls for two days of rest, a safari, and debriefing before returning to the US.

The 411 on Money

You can donate directly here.

Each person that goes on the trip will need to raise funds to cover their expenses during the two week trip which will be $2,950.

As a team, the additional $4,000 per well is not included in the per-person cost of the trip. – So, ultimately we dig as many wells as we have funds to cover.

Last year, with the help and support of local organizations, companies, restaurants, individuals (friends, family, and strangers), a ton of legwork on the part of our team, and the Fairfax JDC doing a learning project and fundraising event, we raised $43,125, significantly over our goal! With this money we were able to send 10 individuals, dig two wells, and send money for additional wells! Miraculously we were able to raise literally THOUSANDS of dollars to change the lives of people on the other side of the world for the rest of their lives.

We are stoked to see how 2017 turns out! We believe that this year will be reflective of the excitement building within the people joining the team, and we have no doubts that this year we will continue to increase the support that we received last year!

  1. We will have our third annual Race for H2Ope 6k Run/Walk in May. – Previously raising $10-15k each year!
  2. We will have another silent auction and house party! – Providing community, laughter, goodies, and of course an amazing support base for our team!
  3. We are a creative bunch, so numerous additional fun events will be planned and coming!

Be sure to keep a lookout for ways to join our community of supporters, meet new people, learn more about Uganda, and of course support an amazing organization with Mission4Water!

Join us on this journey!

Come to our events, follow this blog and our updates on social media, pray for the team, and please consider supporting us financially! Together, we can each be a drop (or two) in the bucket to make a tangible difference in the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of people in 2017!

Three for our Third Time in Uganda

Seven Months to Tomorrow

IMG_1848  IMG_7156

Seven months ago ten people committed to go on a mission trip to build two wells in Uganda. We all chose the trip because we had a desire to leave a tangible thing behind when we left the country. But, at the time the goal was an abstract. Today that abstract goal became a reality.

Over the past week we have worked alongside the drillers of Mission4Water digging down over 20ft with a hand auger into the Ugandan soil, baling dirty water and silt, mixing African concrete (no easy task), cutting PVC pipe with hacksaws, assembling a pump with pipe wrenches, and then lastly pumping and pumping and pumping until water finally ran clear.

Each member of our team took turns pumping water as the metal pipe handles of the well grew cold with the water coming up from beneath the surface of the earth. And with each downward motion water spilled onto the concrete we poured and ran off into the pyrite laden, sweet potato filled, Ugandan soil. The sense of accomplishment in achieving the purpose of our trip filled us each with joy.

Our team is diverse.

We come from different backgrounds, we cover a gamut of ages, and we each have a different story of how God has brought us to this point in our lives. However, we each share the common emotion of experiencing God working through us. God shaped the hands we each have used to construct the two wells that will bring life giving water to the villagers of Rukungiri District, Uganda. God also shaped the hearts that answered the calling to come to a foreign land and express the love of God to a foreign people.

Tomorrow, we will pray God’s blessings over the wells and over the villagers that will use the wells.IMG_7153

Tomorrow, we will witness on the faces of those villagers, the confirmation and fulfillment of God’s purpose and calling that brought each of us here to Uganda.

– Rachel

Seven Months to Tomorrow

Rest

July 31, 2016

It’s fascinating that God built rest into the Ten Commandments. These were the rules the Israelites were going to need to leave slavery behind and live well for generations to come and it included a day off. When Jesus walked the Earth many, many years later He promised rest to anyone in need. After a week of drilling and bailing and climbing hills and navigating down tricky slopes, with all of our aches and pains rest is exactly what the whole team needed. Because it was Sunday, we took the day off from work to go to church and participate in a culture dance.

Upon arriving at church, the church’s women’s group invited us to chai tea, g-nuts, bananas and biscuits prior to service at a small home adjacent to the church building. In total there was probably 17 of us sitting around the cozy living room. We occupied all available space. In Uganda it is common for a living room to have a many couches, because of the hospitable nature of the Ugandan culture. As we sat and ate, enjoying the richness of the chai and the coolness of the morning it began to rain. Church it seemed would have to wait. Many people in Uganda do not go outside if it is raining. So instead of starting the service with full knowledge that many would not attend, the service instead would be delayed for the rain; kinda like in baseball. The raindrops hit the tin roof one by one. We sat and listened. At first I think I laughed at the concept of delaying the service, but it made perfect sense. Our guide this week Sue said of Sunday, that it was “God’s day” anyhow, so whatever time He wanted the service to start it would. Nonetheless the rain created a wonderful chorus as a backdrop to the tea and company. There is nowhere to go and nothing else to do but enjoy our time and wait. It was in this moment it struck the team what rest really is.

IMG_1521

At home in the US a “day of rest” usually means a day to do all the things you did not have time to do during the week. For me it often looks like meal prepping, or laundry and a trip to home depot. But it is never this kind of rest. I cannot remember the last time my day of rest included a nice cup of warm tea with a friend or even a full day quietly reflecting in God’s presence. According to Strong’s Bible dictionary, one Greek word used for rest is “anapauo.” Which means, “to give intermission from labor, to give rest, to refresh.” Which for me means, “ quit working (and worrying), relax and rejuvenate. That definition was so appropriate for us on the mission, but also appropriate for life. At my old church in NY, I could only imagine what kind of chaos would unleash if church were delayed an hour for any reason, let alone for rain. Here in Uganda, we were aching and a little sore but anxious to get back to drilling. We knew we only had a few days of work remaining. I bet if we were asked to work through Sunday, we would have without hesitation. We were ready to keep going. What we missed and often miss is that it is the rest that allows us to keep going. God built it into His fabric of ideal living because He knew we need it for idea living.

Sunday morning, we listened to the rain, admired the mountainside, chatted with new friends and experienced the peace that happens when you allow yourself to truly rest. The rain lasted over an hour. At that evening reflections, many described being restored in those moments in the cozy living room.

It is difficult, if not impossible to find rest running around with a to-do list. Oftentimes our lists and schedules leave us thirsty instead of revived. There is never enough time in the day to get it all done. I may be speaking for myself here, but there is hardly a moment when I feel that every single demand has been met perfectly. What I am learning here in Rukingiri is a local phrase which is “it is fine.” Sometimes you just have to let the rain fall and wait, it is fine. Sometimes life does not go according to plan, it is fine. Take time to enjoy life. God may be speaking to you in an unexpected delay of a rain shower. Learn to say, it is fine.

~ Althea

Rest

Reflections

Uganda, Day 9 

Notes from the field: Morale is high. Food stores are holding out well (the harvest on Sunday was exceptionally abundant). Power and water are intermittent… Progress continues on the wells. Completion is in sight…

IMG_1591
The food we bought at the Church auction!

Onto reflections:

In all seriousness our time in Uganda has been enjoyable. While many people may not see digging wells half way across the globe as a vacation, or as something that would be refreshing, I think that many of us are finding this to be true while we are here. – I think that this is due to 4 distinct factors, all of which are working together to make our time here like no other.

  1. The pace of life here is so different from what we experience in DC. Pretty much the entire time here, we haven’t really felt rushed. While there have been times that it was time to get back so that lunch wouldn’t grow cold, it just doesn’t feel like the end of the world if we get there when we get there. Things here just seem to happen when they happen. For example, there have been nights when dinner wasn’t ready until after 8pm, while other times it was ready at 7pm on the dot. In the States, if we had dinner reservations for a particular time, we would be pretty upset if we had to wait another hour for our food (been there, done that, got the t-shirt), but here in Uganda, it really was not a big deal that it took a bit longer for dinner to be ready. While we have a start to the morning each day (7:30 for group prayer), it is late enough in the morning that we can all get up pretty much when we want to. For myself, it has been an amazing to experience to watch the sunrise on the rooftop each morning. There is something particularly powerful about seeing a sunrise from a high place. It is like seeing God speak in a fresh way for the first time that day.
    Regardless of how we spend each morning, the point is that our mornings generally are not hurried. While I’m certain that this is not the case for some Ugandans, I think that for many, the pace of life is a bit slower. I guess that because even basic things can take longer to do here (household chores, purchasing goods, etc.), it is just a part of life that things go more slowly here.
  2. Along the same lines, life here in Uganda is more flexible. Schedules are subject to change, and they do regularly in ways that normally make Westerners like us uncomfortable. For example, our daily schedule has been pretty dramatically altered on the fly each day for the past 3 days. Church yesterday took significantly longer than anticipated (wrapping up the food auction took a long time!). We ran over so late that we had to reschedule our visit to see a group of Ugandan dancers, and even then, we arrived after they had started. While this may have stressed out our leadership, it hasn’t bothered me in the least. It just seems natural here to go with the flow. I’ve noticed that most Ugandans that we have met are much more comfortable with ambiguity than we are in the West. We often hear phrases like, “On my way, coming” when someone asks them on the phone where they are at. This phrase can mean 3 completely different things, and there are no context clues that give an indication as to which one it is: It can mean that the person has not yet left their home, or it can mean that they are actually on their way to their destination, or it can mean they are somewhere else completely different. The answer is ambiguous, but many of the Ugandans are comfortable with that. Our Engineer, Sunday, often says goodbye by saying “See you when you see me.” Rather than a more explicit good-bye like “See you later”, this phrase exemplifies a comfort with not knowing what the future holds. All these examples point to a flexibility in time, purpose, and planning that is refreshingly alien to my western mindset.
  3. This trip would not be the same if it were not for the amazing group of people that compose this team, composed of Americans and Ugandans. A trip to dig wells in Uganda could honestly be miserable with the wrong mix of people, personalities, or attitudes. But that is definitely not the case here. The people on this team exhibit a multitude of diversities (ethnic, education, family background, Christian walks, outlooks, and spirits) that all somehow compliment one another. I chalk that coincidence up to a) God’s provenance, and b) our unity of spirit. Still, I’m amazed that for each weakness that one member has, another has strength in that same place. Where there is a gap in knowledge for one, another has wisdom and insight into the matter. And where someone needs guidance or an answer to a prayer, someone else has a word that provides the encouragement that they needed. We really are blessed with an amazing team that, 99% of the time, is truly operating as a unit. Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” I can say with all sincerity that we have been living that out during out time here.
    We talked about it early in the week, but our time on this short term mission trip really is the closest thing we can get to living like the early church did in Acts. (Specifically Acts 2: 42-47). Our modern lives don’t often give us these kinds of opportunities, because how we live day to day is so different now. But in the mission field, we have that chance to live fully in community, living close to one another, gathering together daily to share meals, to share with one another as is needed, to give back to the community, and to bring glory to God. All these would not be possible if we were not on the same page. So just to reiterate, our team here is amazing, and that makes all the difference.
  1. Finally, all of these other factors lead to a greater ability to spend time with God each day. While we all make an effort to do so at home, even the best of us can be hit or miss with our personal time with Jesus. Out here, because the pace of life is different, because life is a bit more flexible, and because we are spurring one another on, we are all likely getting more time with God than we normally would. And it is amazing! I think one thing that is surprising is how much God has to say when you are on a short-term mission trip. But in reality, God is trying to get our attention all the time. Jesus said specifically that He would send the Holy Spirit, and be with us until the end of the age. So we know that He never left us. What is different out here is that we are doing a better job of listening. Through our daily devotionals, through our own personal quiet times, and through the sharing of testimonies with one another, we have all heard God speak to us in ways that are uplifting, life affirming, and encouraging. Getting time with God each day hasn’t meant that each day was perfect. But it has meant that we learned more, were more open to new experiences, and grew more than we otherwise would have. Being in God’s presence each day not only opens your eyes to the problems that others experience here each day, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to the joy that they have despite their circumstances!

For these reasons, I think we can all say that our time in Uganda so far has been refreshing. It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been challenging, or at times hard work. Rather, what it means is that it has been fulfilling, it has been affirming, and that it has been worth it. Even when one of us is having a sub-par day, I don’t believe anyone regrets their decision to spend their vacation days coming to Uganda to dig a well. Our time here has been an enjoyable adventure, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

– Thomas

Reflections