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

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

Day 2: What I Learned from Skipping Meals

As we prepared our hearts and minds for our trip to Uganda, each member of our team was challenged to fast for nearly 24 hours. This would be my first attempt at intentionally refraining from eating food for an extended period of time. I was skeptical. How would it feel? How might I grow from this experience, if at all? Nonetheless, I tried it. And I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I need to be even more grateful for access to food and abundance. My hunger was voluntary. But in many places of the world, hunger and limited access to food are involuntary experiences. To get a sense of what this means, consider the Global Food Security Index. Uganda, for example, ranks 81 out of the 113 countries in the study (http://bit.ly/2tZw5P5). That means that in terms of affordability, availability, and quality and safety, Uganda experiences daunting – but not insurmountable – challenges when it comes to food security. The United States in comparison – yes, you guessed it – ranks at the top of the index. My fast, albeit temporary, enabled me to empathize with others who experience the real challenge of food insecurity.
  • I deepened my capacity for patience and self-control. This was the most important lesson for me. Consciously denying yourself something you depend on – something as fundamental as food – builds these important character traits. This fast shook me out of the slumber of my daily routine and focused my attention on the physical experience of hunger, while resisting the urge to eat.

If you haven’t tried to fast, I encourage you to try it out. Your experience may be different from mine. But I’m certain you’ll learn lessons that can improve your character and your experience with those around you.

By Ryan De Souza
(Team #WaterWarriors)

Day 2: What I Learned from Skipping Meals

Why?

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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!

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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.

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current water source

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

Uganda Preparation and The Team

Missing one team member!

We are a mere three weeks away from leaving for Uganda to dig three clean water wells for 16 days!

Before each person joined our team, we prepared them for how much would be involved in getting ready for our mission in Uganda. Often joking about “owning” their life for the first 7 months of 2017 (haha but really)!..

  • We have had meetings all year,
  • We have read and given reports on a collected book list,
  • We have been intentional in creating space for people to invest in what we are doing.
  • We have been creative in our fundraising and storytelling.
  • We have been getting shots and visas,
  • Attempting to teach our bodies to drink the appropriate amount of water each day,
  • And of course, preparing our minds and hearts for what is to come.

As the leaders, our goal is to prepare without over educating, so, we have shared movies, articles, and passed on stories and information via friends from Uganda to help everyone get an accurate picture of what is to come.

We do not want to go to Uganda feeling like the work we put into our three wells has saved the country in our short time there. Instead, our goal is to be three little drops in the bucket of support that works to lift up the people of Uganda a bit more.

We are a unique and diverse group of people, men and women, different ages and ethnicities, spanning feelers and thinkers, extroverts and introverts (and somewhere in between). We are believers, followers, and lovers of Jesus of varying lengths. I am not sure there is a more diverse group of people to have gone on mission together before (ok maybe slight exaggeration!)

 

Everyone on our team has stepped out and purposefully sought after unique things in the preparation for this year, it has been so fun to watch everyone’s journey and faith change!

Missing our third leader Sally.

As the leaders of this mission team, we have set up expectations to help our team push themselves beyond what is even listed above. Everyone will take a turn leading a team devotional, they will get the chance to share their story with everyone, as well as write a blog post while we are in Uganda so that the myriad of viewpoints will be captured for you to follow along!.. And that isn’t even counting their official team roles! (First Aid, Prayer, Encouragement etc..etc..)

What can you do to support us?

Pray for all 15 of our team members, all 6 Ugandan drillers, and Sue and Sunday:

  1. We need to hit water three times!
  2. Health is always something to be taken seriously in prayer while in another country!
  3. That we each are able to create space to be fully present mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to experience what God has for us.
  4. Pray for our friends, family, and housemates that remain behind carrying on normal life while we are gone.
  5. For the communities that these clean water wells are going into, that it would be a blessing, but also a community building and rallying force for them!
  6. That the clean water would save lives, and create space for girls to go to school.

At this point ALL the money that is donated will be given to Mission4Water to continue to dig clean water wells long after we leave on July 21st!

Every year I am blown away by how quickly time goes. I always think I am prepared, but somewhere between “it’s so far away” and every day life, the trip sneaks up on me and then suddenly is right around the corner!

If you want more information about what we are doing, read this post, but also peruse through our blog or search #ugandaexcited on Facebook and Instagram!

Blessings,
~Krista (and the leadership trio)

Uganda Preparation and The Team

Seven Months to Tomorrow

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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.

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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…

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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