this week’s ‘life changer thursday’ really has my heart. when i contacted rachel and asked if she would like to write here about her time in Africa, i had NO idea how powerful her story would be, and how it would change my perspective so greatly. after seeing the incredible faces of these children, and reading stories on the HopeChest website, i decided to sponsor a child, and let me tell you, it is incredible! HopeChest has not only changed rachel’s life, and hundreds of orphans in uganda, but my life too. if you are interested in sponsoring a beautiful child, there are links at the bottom of this page to help get you started. please consider sponsoring this year. these kids are so deserving of extra love and support all year long.
When Leah asked me to write about the kids in Uganda for ‘Life Changer Thursday,’ I immediately thought how immensely these kids have changed my life. When I think about them my heart beats harder, I get a little teary eyed, and most of all, I want to be with them again. But until day comes, I will share their stories.
From the time I first met God, I have also had this strong urge to get to know people from other cultures. And when I met my husband John—the most incredible, loving, handsome man who exists— he knew that I hoped to spend a lot of time in another country at some point, but had no idea where or when that would be. When one of my friends told me about Children’s HopeChest, and the opportunity to visit Uganda on a yearly basis, John was on board and excited for our family to become part of this new adventure. Both of us went to Uganda in 2012, and I went again in 2013, both times with a team of people from the states.
I have to say, my initial opinion of missionary groups wasn’t’ great. There seemed to be a reoccurrence of people who wanted to ‘do good’ for others but, due to lack of experience or information, ended up making little difference or even hurting people more than helping. Children’s HopeChest, however, had a deeper purpose compared to other organizations I had come across. Their aim is to build long lasting relationships between two communities–one stateside, such as a church or business, and the other a high orphan population, like an orphanage or village. Building these relationships is meant to allow God to bring change to both groups of people. I honestly didn’t think this was possible, until I went to Uganda.
A soon as I got there and met the people, I kept asking myself, “How is it possible to fee like family when you’ve just met, and hardly speak the same language!?” Our teams spent the majority of each trip in two neighboring villages, Bukedea and Ogoloi, with a combined orphan population of over 300 being sponsored through Children’s HopeChest. Our main focus here was to spend time with the kids and get to know the families. There were numerous things we did while in each village, but loving on the kids is priority. I would like to share one of their stories with you:
Thomas lives in Ogoloi with his grandma. He is HIV positive. He is incredibly quiet and shy when you meet him, yet latches onto your hand and follows close by you wherever you go, as faithful as a shadow. During my first trip in August 2012, I went back to my hotel crying for Thomas more than once. During my time with him, sometimes he would be content enough to stand by my side, smiling every now and then. At other times, however, he would shake with pain from headaches or stomach aches, crying uncontrollably. I saw him throw up the little lunch he ate one day, and then later watched a friend remove jiggers (a type of worm with eggs) from his feet. In addition, his head was covered by a fungus that led him to scratch until he bled. This boy seemed to have a mountain of hopeless hardships for someone still under ten years old.
The beauty in all this filth was though, was to watch the HopeChest staff in Ogoloi love and care for him and his family. They visited with his grandma, and helped her however she needed around their home. Discovering that Thomas had not been taking his medicine, the staff made a care plan for him to take his medicine, with food, under their supervision each day. By the time I saw him again the following August, his head was almost completely healed. The staff reported he had been getting healthier and healthier, and I was able to witness a happy Thomas, actually playing with other kids.
Thomas is one of so many stories that have left me changed. The way I spend time, money, and how I value people have all been affected by my experiences in Uganda. However, it is my prayers that have been changed more than anything. Before my time in Africa, I was relatively satisfied with how things were—in my life and with the world. Since then, I have a new prayer: ‘Jesus, help us bring Your Kingdom to earth.’ God wants us to partner with Him, as He makes us and others more like Himself.
There are more orphans in Bukedea and Ogoloi who still need sponsors. If you want to be part of these transformations, in both yourself and the kids of Uganda, please visit the links below. If you have any questions for me, feel free to post on this blog or e-mail me through Leah.