It Is Never The Same – Krista

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Refugee Settlement houses and gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are never the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Krista
Team Co-Leader
#ugandaexcited

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

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It Is Never The Same – Krista

This is Really Happening!

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

The Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility is underway!

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

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

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

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

This year’s team is full of incredible people.

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

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

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The update picture we received on June 13th!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Really Happening!

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

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 we miss you…

Disclaimer: This blog post was written by Joe our last day in Uganda, but the delay in posting was due to travels!

Today is our final day here in Uganda.

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The wells were completed and fresh water flowed. Both communities had ceremonies with local, tribal, and government officials present.

Cutting the ribbon on #TeamAmy`s well
Cutting the ribbon on #TeamAmy`s well
Getting presented with our well certificate!
Getting presented with our  clean water well certificate!

Now my thoughts are slowing turning to the life I left behind for two weeks. Here in Uganda, the pace of life is much slower, everything runs on Africa Time meaning, nothing is urgent. I now see where CP TIME (Colored People Time) originally started from. LOL….

Here in Uganda, you hear birds chirping, you see wild animals walking across your hotel lawn, knowing that you are there but aren’t afraid of you… At night, you can see the stars light up the Uganda night….. it’s absolutely beautiful.

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There`s a Water Buffalo 30ft away!

Also, here in Uganda, there’s a silence that’s so deafening at times. For a few days, I couldn’t go to sleep because it was simply too quiet. I’m use to hearing police and ambulatory sirens, gun shots, people having loud disagreements, cars on the road, trucks back firing and dogs barking, loud music blaring from someone’s vehicle, and very loud neighbors. Ah! There’s nothing like city living. LOL…..

The flight home from Dubai was delayed about twenty minutes due to wrong luggage being placed on our flight home. But its all good, after our 13 hour flight home we landed safely at Dulles right on schedule.

We went through customs, picked up our luggage and headed towards the exit for our ride home.

We hugged everyone and said our goodbyes… But you could tell within our team that thoughts about our everyday life here in america were slowly creeping back into our thoughts.

Uganda we miss you……

-Joe

Uganda we miss you…