This year our team has taken on the incredible task of working with local Ugandans to build a Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility for a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda!
Previously, our team has gone to Uganda to provide clean water (which is a huge issue throughout Uganda) and Mission4Water continues to do amazing work! They have taken some time to go back and re-visit wells to service them, and in some cases needing to entirely fix them! So, due to the nature and time it takes to plan these trips, we have decided for this year to shift the focus to a new project!
To help us identify needs and navigate logistics far ahead of our mid-summer arrival, we are working with Bob N. an amazing local Ugandan (who is also connected to Mission4Water)! Bob invests all of his time in helping shift the culture of Uganda, focusing on leadership development and community care trainings. He wrote a book you can get here and learn more about what he’s doing here and also watch this video.
Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility for a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda!
This is the floor plan for the building that we’ve decided to go with. It is much smaller than our original goal, but since it is already pre-approved by the government it means significantly less red-tape to jump through (which is worth it)!
Imvepi Refugee Settlement
(On the far West side of the image)
The current plan is to build in zone 2 of the Imvepi Refugee Settlement.
Imvepi is largely comprised of South Sudanese refugees; and this particular zone has a greater chance of being around for quite some time over the original hope of building in a different zone with greater need (but less chance of being around for as long). – So after lots of discussion about where to place the Maternity Ward, the long-term impact of zone 2 just couldn’t be dismissed in part due to the larger native community that would be also impacted, and better served currently as well as once the South Sudanese are able to return home safely.
Watch the video above to see the (likely) location for our building! The two semi-permanent structures (tents) currently serve as the health facility and double as offices for food distribution to another zone.
The current plan is to be in country for 14 days in the middle of summer. – The exact dates are still to be determined, and largely depend on trying to get the least expensive flight prices for our team in order to save travel costs that can then be applied to the project!
However, we will send funds ahead of our arrival so that they can lay the foundation, begin preparing with brick making on site, ship all materials, and of course tackle the very real need for water here as well. – You can’t make bricks without water, nor can you pour concrete!
Team leaders Amy and Krista have a passion for building a community. – Specifically in rallying people together with common goals, and creating a way for people to learn, grow, and be a part of something that can change the world for the better.
Why this project?
After lots of discussions, Amy and Krista felt it was important to both highlight the work, and give a voice to the refugee crisis that is happening in Uganda. There is incredible work that is already happening, but the South Sudanese refugees (along with lots of other people from places like DRC, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Rawanda and others) that are fleeing to Uganda, and largely being overlooked due to other refugee crises around the world.
So, the big question that we asked ourselves was, “What practical way can two people, leading a small team, backed by supporters impact and improve the lives of refugees?”
Lots of back and forth discussions with Bob N. and it was finally settled on the very tangible need for the refugee women to have a place to safely deliver their babies. Currently women are delivering children on the floors of their tents, which is dirty, dusty or muddy depending on the time of year… OR they are walking crazy distances to get medical care.
We decided that at the very least, we could rally people and companies to support us in literally saving the lives of innocent children, and providing medical care for those who have already experienced extreme trauma.
How can you help?
There are four main ways to help and support our team!
- Support us financially* or join one of our events!
- Follow along with our blog and on social media via the hashtag #ugandaexcited
- Learn and Share about the refugee crisis in Uganda
- Pray and send our team encouragement to uganda[at]aoneeight.org
Thank you to our family, friends, and the companies for the amazing support and encouragement already!
~Amy, Krista, and the Uganda team!
*Any donations received above our fundraising goal will be donated to the local NGO’s we are working with to ensure proper care and support for the community.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
Rocks, clay as hard as rocks, more rock, bending and breaking tools.
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.
So much discouragement, insecurity, fear, pain, physical illness; more than I can accurately explain in a blog post.
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.
(Team leader for #WaterWarriors)
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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