A mission trip to a foreign land teaches lifelong lessons.
In March of 2017, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kicuna Village, Uganda, on a mission trip. During the three weeks I was there, my life completely changed. I learned a lot about myself and how we live in the United States, compared to the way that people live in Uganda. One of the biggest things that stood out to me was the genuine love that I experienced in the relationships that I made. When the natives ask how you are doing, they always make sure you are doing well. If you answer that something is wrong, they will do anything they can to help you.
My dad and I, along with 13 other people, traveled to Uganda through an organization called Christ Aid International. There were three projects that we wanted to finish during the 17 day adventure. A group of us repainted the entire exterior and interior of Christ Aid Primary School, the elementary school that was established through the program. Most of the children who are enrolled in the school are “Ahadi Kids,” children who have sponsors in the United States who pay for their schooling, books, and uniforms, among other things. We also added a sanitation system to the school, which required the construction of a new building. It was then turned into a bathroom for the students, constructed with bricks made of dirt and water. The school now has the only running water and working toilets in the entire village. The last project was putting a solar energy system on the roof of the school, which would allow the school to have electricity for lights, as well as the ability to plug in and use computers. Seeing how people reacted when they saw the toilets and electricity working really showed me how much we take for granted, and it gave me a new sense of thankfulness for all of the blessings we sometimes forget we have.
Although it was absolutely amazing to be able to help the school in so many ways, if you asked anyone who has ever been on a mission trip, they will likely tell you that the most powerful thing about them is the relationships that are developed. One of the things that stood out to me was the grandmothers. Christ Aid has a grandma program that builds houses for grandmas and their grandchildren that live with them. HIV/AIDS has taken out most of the second generation population, leaving the grandmothers to take care of their grandchildren which generally number from 4-10. Families in these villages live in huts made out of dirt and bamboo, and sleep on the hard ground. The houses that Christ Aid builds, through donations and grandma sponsors, are made out of brick which is more sturdy and much safer, which is why the team of Ugandans that build the houses is called “Shelters in the Storm.” We were able to dedicate a few houses while we were there, and man, the grandmas like to party! Their friends traveled for miles to come and celebrate the new houses, even if they hadn’t gotten one yet. Dancing and singing in celebration was one of the most powerful relationship builders throughout the whole trip.
Many people would describe me as having a passion for children, and the children I met in Uganda were remarkable. The most memorable moment of my entire trip included a little boy named Stephen. He was about four years old at the time, and he has two younger brothers who would always come say hello to us when we were at the school. They weren’t old enough to be in the school yet, but they lived just down the street, and made a point to come see us whenever they heard our van pull up. One day after church we were all standing outside talking to and meeting new people. My dad pulled me aside to give me some popcorn that he had brought and we began giving it to all the kids who had gathered around us. My dad gave Stephen some, and I saw his eyes light up. Popcorn is an everyday snack for some of us, but it was an absolute treat for them, and just seeing his eyes light up was phenomenal to witness. I continued handing out the popcorn I had and I felt a tapping on my leg. I looked down to see it was Stephen. I bent down and asked him what he had, and he grabbed my hand and gave me his popcorn. After seeing how excited he was to be given his treat, him sharing it with me was such a humbling moment. He didn’t have to share his treat with me, but he did and it showed me the true generosity and love that even the little children have in such a hurting village. It was a wake up call to me, and reminded me of the importance of genuine relationships, when it is often easy to get trapped in superficial connections with people.
Coming back from this trip was hard for me, and adapting back to the ways of the United States was a struggle. I almost felt like I was returning to foreign land. It has been over a year since this trip, but some of the things I learned will never go away. Even though sometimes it seems nearly impossible, I strive to show the love that Stephen showed me, the compassion and sacrifice that the grandmas show, and the pureness that every Ugandan I met possesses.