It Is Never The Same – Krista

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Refugee Settlement houses and gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are never the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Krista
Team Co-Leader
#ugandaexcited

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

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It Is Never The Same – Krista

1 Week Out! #Ugandaexcited

Hello friends!
We are currently one week out from leaving for Uganda!!!
We are so grateful for all of your support and encouragement!
Thank you for continuing to check in with us to see how we are doing on all fronts. – This is a huge undertaking, and we feel that; but, our trust is in God, and that this is His mission, not ours, and He will provide in all ways to His own glory!
We wanted to send you some updates, and also if you could be praying for and with us:
Prayer Needs:
1. Health and Safety – for our team, for our travel, for the workers in Uganda.
2. Protection against spiritual attack especially leading up to our departure.
3. For team leaders Amy and Krista as we lead this team and trip – all the things!
4. For all of us to see and experience Jesus in new ways.
5. Finances and fundraising – simply put, it takes money to do this!
6. Logistics – for medical supplies and equipment, for doctors and nurses to transfer over!
7. For Pastor Bob and Sue – Our on the ground contacts/coordinators/advocates/friends
8. For our team – For lives to be changed, eyes to be opened, hearts transformed, etc…
9. For this trip to be a marker moment and altar time to point back to in the lives of our team, the lives of Pastor Bob and Sue, and the South Sudanese and Ugandan people we are working with…that we will all look back on it and say…”remember what God did?”
10. Protection on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level, for everyone involved
11. The Salvation of the workers, South Sudanese, and Ugandans who do not yet know the Lord.
 
Financial Needs and Updates:
We are currently at 72%!!! God is so good!!! Which means we have just over 27 thousand left to raise, to see this through to TOTAL completion!
We know this means we will be fundraising even when we get back! So prayers over #5 anytime you think of it!!! And if you know anyone who you think may be interested in giving to this cause, would you consider sharing our fundraising link with them?

https://aoneeight.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/uganda2018

Stay Updated:
Additionally, we will be updating this blog, if possible while in Uganda so you can follow along here: https://ugandaexcited.wordpress.com/ (sign up to follow and get updates)
If we are not able to update our blog due to wifi access, etc. We will be updating and posting to Instagram (and then pushing that to Facebook), so go follow Amy and Krista if you don’t already!… Or just search #ugandaexcited on Facebook or Instagram!
Current on the Ground Plan:
At this point it is looking like we will be laying brick for internal walls, working to apply plaster, painting windows/doors, and possibly laying the cement for the sidewalk around the building… However, TIA (This is Africa) so the plan could change half a dozen times before we even get there! We will be flexible!
We keep talking about how we can’t remember a time when we’ve ever been in such a place of holy anticipation and expectantly waiting, we have this overwhelming sense that God is going to blow our minds! We joke that we keep saying “We have no idea” and that God is jokingly shaking his head and nodding…”you have no idea.”
We are so grateful for all of your support, encouragement, and love!
– A&K (and the rest of the team)
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1 Week Out! #Ugandaexcited

This is Really Happening!

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

The Maternity Ward/Urgent Care Facility is underway!

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

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

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

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

This year’s team is full of incredible people.

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

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

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The update picture we received on June 13th!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Really Happening!

Three for our Third Time in Uganda

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Three clean water wells for our third time in Uganda!

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

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

Why Uganda?

Clean water, that’s why.

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

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

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

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

What Are the Trip Details?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 411 on Money

You can donate directly here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join us on this journey!

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

Three for our Third Time in Uganda

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