Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tis better to give than to receive...

(stay tuned--just reminding myself of something I want to write about next time)

I'm sorry--finally an update!

I think I owe everyone who reads this an apology for my lack of posts. I know that I'm OK, but I forget that all of you don't necessarily know where I am or how I'm doing. Therefore, I'm sorry for not posting in quite a long time.

I am now safely back in Washington and am adjusting to life back in the States. I've been so busy since I left Africa (traveling to Spain, London, and now home) that I really haven't had too much time to just reflect on my experience...until tonight. My flatmate, Erin, and I sat down to discuss my trip a bit. The conversation turned to discussing missionary work, why we do it, locations, needs, personal growth, faith, etc...haha we got onto numerous topics. I have so much swirling around (or as Anthony would say--"marinating") in my head right now that I can't even figure out what to write...I guess what it boils down to is I have a hard time rationalizing raising thousands of dollars to take a group of teens (or adults!) on a short-term mission to Africa when just donating that money to a trusted non-profit would go so far...but on the other hand, it is so hard to really impact people and help them have life-changing experiences without them experiencing them firsthand. Hmmmm....

Honestly, at times I just wanted to cry tonight as Erin and I talked and watched some of the videos I took of kids singing, dancing, and praying in Uganda and Kenya. The people who live and work at Loving One by One's orphanage feel like my family. I look at each of their faces and I can hear their voices, I know their personalities, and some of their stories. A big part of me feels like I've abandoned them; although, I'm comforted by my belief that God will never abandon them and deep in their hearts they know that He is all they truly need. Why isn't that good enough for me? Oh my gosh, I get it! A light bulb just went off...that's just it...they don't "need" me...I'm fun to have around and I teach them and play with them and pray and dance and love them but they don't NEED me...they get that. They know God is all they need...I'm just the cherry on top! (and I say "I" for ease of communicating my thoughts but "I" could be replaced with any person in their lives). As I look around my room at all my belongings, it kind of makes me want to throw up. BUT not sick enough to get rid of it all. WHY? Why do I still have a desire and an attachment to "stuff"???

A few more thoughts and then I have to go to of the unexpected outcomes of my trip has been all the awesome conversations I've had with people regarding mission work, poverty, hunger, family issues, faith, and the list goes on...and I'm not talking about flippant conversations...I've had several extensive conversations surrounding these issues. God has opened so many doors and I have a feeling that many more will be opened in the next few months. These issues can be so overwhelming, and I've definitely determined that they are some pretty complex issues that no amount of foreign aid will "fix"... BUT a man I met waiting in line at Gatwick airport in London had one idea for breaking down stereotypes and unifying the human race (among other issues as well) and that is to travel! Seems simple doesn't it? He made the point that if more people traveled, we would have more of a grasp of other cultures and an awareness of issues in other parts of the world. Once someone has traveled to a new place, they will more than likely have some kind of attachment to it and then be willing to defend it...ok, I know I'm not communicating very well what I'm meaning so feel free to converse with me about it! To summarize, it's like the ripple effect...person travels to a country...that alone will boost the country's economy which in turn could provide more jobs which would mean more money which could lead to more food on the table and with a full belly it has been proven that kids do better in school which can lead to them having more opportunities in higher education, better jobs...and the effect goes on and on. And to think all of that could happen solely based on people traveling to "third world" or "developing" countries...

OK I'm exhausted...

Many people have been wondering about pictures. I plan on posting more thoughts/reflections/stories from my travels this summer and adding pictures!!! So keep checking back. Some pictures should be up within a week.

Re-reading my post I just realized how big of a hypocrite I sound like...I start by saying I have issues with all the money spent to travel to a place like Uganda for a short term mission trip (don't get me wrong- I was grateful to get to go to Uganda and serve God this summer and I still believe that's where He wanted me and would love to go back but I don't necessarily think it's cost effective for someone to go just for a week or something along those lines), and then I end with insisting that people travel more. I didn't mean to contradict myself...more of what I'm really trying to say is that in some cases I think it's more critical to donate directly to a cause but as a long-term "solution" I suggest that everyone in the world travels more...Hope that makes more sense!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Good-bye Uganda / Hello Kenya

Staying at the Home for 3 days was the perfect way to complete my time in Uganda. It was so wonderful staying with the kids and the mommas. I also got to teach there. One day second grade and the next 1/2 day 2nd and 1/2 day 1st. That was fun! Teaching is very different here...a lot of recitation and rote learning. But kids are the same everywhere!

I left Saturday morning, and I was on the verge of tears most of Friday night. Everyone got up bright and early Saturday morning to send me off. LOTS of hugs and a few letters. :)

I didn't have any problems traveling to Kenya by myself. I arrived in Mombasa in the afternoon. My brother, Adam, and his friend, Robert, were there to pick me up. My brother's new place is fantastic! Two bedrooms, two baths, sitting area, and kitchen. It's only about a 10 minute walk from the beach. Walking along the beach Sunday afternoon I actually felt like I was back in Australia. It has been nice just relaxing for a couple days after always being "on the go" in Uganda. We're in the city today using the internet and doing a little sightseeing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last week in Uganda...

Today, we went back to the school LOBO started. There are 65 children in grades 1-4. We joined them for chapel this morning, and then we broke up into groups of 3 and each group spent 20 minutes in each "classroom." The first graders have their own room but the other 3 grades share one giant room with wood dividers. This was very distracting because it got very loud! I asked one of the teachers about it, and she said that it is very hard to teach because you can hear everything that is going on in the other 2 grades. My group told a little bit about each person and we showed them on a world map where we are from. Then we taught them how to play "Heads up, 7-up." The seemed to enjoy it once they got the hang of it.

I'm not really feeling well right now...think it's just a cold or maybe a sinus infection. I'm really tired too. I was up late learning African dances with some of the guest house staff and some team members. Haha bet you wish you could see video of that! Don't you worry, we took some video of it! I haven't even mentioned them yet, but there are 4 people in their 20s that work at the guest house we're staying at. They are so much fun! Three of them can speak English fairly well and the fourth one just smiles alot! We always ask them to teach us more Luganda (the language here). Oh and we ask them to dance for us too!

I get to stay at the Home (LOBO's orphanage) for 3 extra days, but the rest of the team leaves bright and early Wednesday morning. Therefore, they had to say goodbye to the kids last night. I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO relieved that I didn't have to say goodbye and that I get to spend a couple days with them. Shafiga was crying, and I kept telling her I'll be back Wednesday. She wouldn't let go of me until I promised that I would be back Wednesday. Agghhh! It's a catch-22 because I know I'm going to get even more attached when I stay with them for 3 days! I don't know how I'm going to leave them...

Y'know the slum I wrote about in my last post? We're going back there tomorrow to hold a medical clinic. I received a last minute donation right before I left and that is going to pay for the 3 doctors for the clinic. God is so awesome to provide us with enough money to bring some medical care to this desperate area. I don't think I can say it enough...THANK YOU for supporting me and the Ugandans on this mission trip. Thank God for bringing me to Uganda this summer to serve Him.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

God bless.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slum (wed. 24/6/09)

Yesterday was by far the most difficult day for me. We went to a pre-school in a slum. The British founder of the school took us out into the slum to introduce us to the families of some of the children. You know the commercials where the little child is standing there all dirty with shacks crumbling behind him saying "for only a dollar a day..."? Well, that's exactly what it was like. Smelling it, seeing it, touching it, hearing it...that is their reality. It was so difficult to experience...and to think that the beautiful little children in the pre-school LIVE there...

(outta time, but I'll try and come back to this)

The Nile (Tues. 23/6/09)

I'm running out of time (internet cafe), and I've only been giving highlights! We really jam our days so full of stuff! The need is so great here, but it is very tiring.

We took the kids from the Home to the Nile River today... a little fieldtrip for them. Of course Shafiga was my partner. Right when she got on the bus, she sat in my lap and opened the small pocket of her little backpack. She handed me a letter she had written me on a scrap of paper she had found around the house. "Auntie, I spelled your name right. Auntie, I spelled your name right!" She was so proud that she had written "Ant Brita" on the letter (haha got my name right but missing the "u" in aunt!). Now remember this is a 1st grader...she wrote me a whole letter about my name, that she loved me, and asking me if I loved her and God. My eyes started tearing up, and now they are again just typing this! Director Sherry said she had to have done it on her own because they have paper at the Home, but it was written on the back of some packaging directions. That letter means so much to me. I told her I do love her and God. She is my little angel. I thank God for her. Oh and I was asking Sherry for more of her story, and when she originally came to the orphanage she was Muslim. Now she is a proud Christian and she literally glows when she gets to share her faith with others.

The Island (Mon. 22/6/09)

Today was quite the adventure! We went to a part of town that rarely has mzungus (white people) to get on a boat to go across Lake Victoria (second largest lake in the world...following Lake Superior--extra tidbit of knowledge :)). Now imagine a giant wooden rowboat with a little motor on the back...that's what we put 20 people in to cross the lake! Just before getting to the island we have to go through a narrow channel...probably about two feet of water on either side of the boat. Well, when we got to where we could see land, there was an abandoned boat across our path! Ken had to get out of our boat and onto that boat to move it out of our way. Haha so another boat FULL of wood decided that it didn't want to wait so it starts coming toward us right as we get the boat moved. We're all saying there is no way that both boats can fit and it was a looong way back to the open water and he was not backing down. So we just moved over as far as we could and the boat made it through!! We were all ducking because it had all this wood hanging over the side. So we survived that but our next form of transportation was riding boda bodas. These are little mopeds that travel at crazy speeds--very popular form of transportation in the city too. Debra (one of the teammates) and I got on the back of this lil boda boda for our 6 minute ride up to the school. I loved it, but most of the team members were terrified. All of the kids we passed along the way were so excited to see us...they were jumping all around and waving. The school sits on a hill, so when our boda boda came into the clearing and up the hill we were greeted by hundreds of kids screaming and running full speed down the hill at us...the warmest welcome I have ever received! This school was by far the poorest we've seen. The classrooms literally had one chalkboard and benches for the kids to sit on. That was literally it. I even saw some garbage smooshed together to make a football (soccer ball). One classroom had a few desks but that was it. The kindergarten class was held outside under a tree with a 4x2 chalkboard at the front and a couple wooden benches to sit on. We played with the kids, sang and danced with them, gave them de-worming pills, gave them each one toy, a sweet (piece of candy), and a biscuit (sweet crackers). They were so grateful--a lot of them knelt down at us to say thank you.