What I Learned From a Trip to Uganda
I had always dreamed of traveling to Africa. For years I heard amazing stories from people who had visited the continent. And, quite frankly, who didn’t love The Lion King? So I was immediately on board when an opportunity arose for my husband, Sam, and me to travel with a small team of others to work alongside Helping Hands Foreign Missions in Uganda for a week. Within an hour of finding out about the trip, our round trip flights were booked to Entebbe.
It’s probably a good thing we booked our tickets so quickly, because it didn’t give me any time to talk myself out of going (which was definitely a possibility once I learned our plumbing would be a hole in the ground and we would be tenting for a portion of the trip. Let’s just say, growing up my family’s idea of “camping” was staying in my Uncle’s RV in the driveway…)
But I am so glad I didn’t change my mind as the trip was an unforgettable experience. Below are just a few of the things God showed me while I was in the beautiful nation of Uganda–
- You don’t need lots of stuff to have joy. We spent most of our time in rural areas and we witnessed extreme poverty. Most of the families we saw lived in small mud huts. The children ran around barefoot, many of them in tattered clothing. But despite their hardships, those children had joy. They smiled and laughed readily. And they were quick to show love, even to a girl from America they didn’t know.
- God can use bad experiences for good. On our first day in Uganda we met a teenage boy named Isaac. His father left when he was young and his mother struggled to provide for him. When he was three he was severely burned by boiling water and no one (except his mother) expected him to survive. But God healed him. He now lives and studies at the Helping Hands school. Rather than harboring bitterness about the hardships he endured, he says he is grateful because God carried him through every trial. Now he desires to become a missionary and share the Gospel with others enduring trials who have no hope.
- One person (or family) can make a huge difference in someone’s life. We had the opportunity to visit a young boy’s hut to inform him and his hard-working mother that he had been sponsored by a family in America through the Helping Hands sponsorship program. Because of a family living 8,000 miles away, that child will now receive the food, education, school supplies, and clothing he needs to become a healthy and productive adult.
- Even small actions make a difference. In the rural areas we visited, pedestrians, bicycles, and the occasional motorcycle make up most of the traffic on the red dirt roads. So our fifteen-passenger van full of Americans and our gear was quite a spectacle. Everywhere we went, a mob of village children would run alongside our van, calling out greetings, waving and smiling. So we waved and smiled back. This was met with even bigger grins and lots of giggling. I was amazed by how something as small as looking someone in the eye and waving or giving a high five could bring so much joy.
- There is still so much need in this world. We witnessed the incredible work Helping Hands missionaries and others are doing in Uganda. Thousands of children are being fed, receiving an education and medical care, and hearing the Gospel because of them. But I was also amazed by how great the needs still are. Many children still cannot afford to eat. Countless children don’t go to school because their parents can’t afford tuition. Many of them suffer from preventable illness because of malnutrition and lack of access to medical care.
Perhaps God is calling you to help meet those needs, whether through prayer, sponsoring a child, or taking a mission trip.
By Carrie Blackaby