For most of the past year, I had been volunteering at the CHAI Centre for New Immigrants, where I met Alan Wiebe. One fateful day in March, he told me about an upcoming mission trip he was leading to Uganda. You may or may not know, but I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, even before I had any inkling of desire to go to Japan. I’ve always considered my first “mission call” was to go to Africa. So when he invited me to go, I jumped at the chance, he sent me the application form, and with a few hesitations, I filled it out and was accepted to join the team. We were eleven on the team to Uganda: Alan and Brenda (the leaders), Toni and Rob, Preston, Coralee, Debbie, Katherine, Gail, Tymin, and myself. An eclectic bunch were we, who didn’t even know each other until the first meeting (and I was the only one from another church!)
We met a handful of times before we departed Canadian soil to “plan” our activities and decide who could bring what, etc. But as we quickly learned, one must be flexible in Africa. Just two weeks before we left, we learned that the property of the church we planned to build in a village was already marked for government use, so we ended up going to an entirely different district — although the mission to build a church and do children’s ministry was the same.
We left Canada on July 29 and returned on August 12th. Those are actually the only dates I am sure of: no watch or phone were the leading factors to the detriment of my ability to keep track of time. Also, I was having so much fun, and working so hard (haha who am I kidding? I was just working). It took about 36 hours to actually get to Uganda, and about 48 to return to Canada (I think… again, hazy on the times..). We spent eight days working in the village, helping to build the church (really we just moved bricks) and do children’s ministry, hand out mosquito nets (we distributed 750 to the community around the church) and hold a medical clinic (which served 386 children from the community around the church). We also spent a couple days in Kampala: we visited a few orphanages, went to a tourist market (ugh, tourists), saw the sights, were accosted by guys selling things as we crawled through Kampala’s traffic (one guy was selling knockoff sunglasses, and had a pair exactly like the ones I was wearing. it was so funny, he was trying to sell to Tymin, and said “you can look like sister”, pointing to me). Gosh, Uganda is so dirty! I remarked to Ivan. Even though there was dirt everywhere (even on the savages skin! wow, they were dark!), it was — unless it was garbage dirt — beautiful, red dirt. Then immediately upon speaking those words, I saw a sign on a building: “See Dirt Differently”, and now Ivan is always joking to me to see dirt differently. whatever, it’s funny to us. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this so late at night, I’m pretty tired, and just typing whatever comes into my mind. So I’ll take a break here and continue tomorrow after work.
We knew we were going to Uganda, and those in charge of the decision were looking into what village we’d go to. We were told such-and-such a place, but in true African fashion, as mentioned before, that changed, and we ended up serving the Lord in a small trading centre, Kalagi. Samuel and his wife (Mama!) and children moved there seven years ago and started Christ Our Vision Community Church.
The main purpose, we were told, of the mission, was to help build a church for the local believers. That struck us all as amusing, because there were three men and 8 women on the team. “Why would God put 8 women on an 11-man team for a construction job?” Toni asked one day. We all laughed, and realized it was because there were hundreds of children in Kalagi who needed to be cared for. We had set aside one day for children’s ministry, and at least 100 kids showed up in the morning, and by the time we had finished our activities and were heading home, a couple more hundred had arrived! We quickly lost track of the groups, but it didn’t matter anymore: the kids were happy, we loved loving them, and everyone had a fantastic time! There was not one complaint among the team, we were so thankful that we could be a part of God’s great work in Kalagi, Uganda.
And there was more to it than just having fun and blessing the kids with a little, plastic diamond (representing how God cherishes them as we cherish a little diamond) and some stickers. One the last two days we were in Kalagi, we decided to have a medical clinic. Some doctors came in from the city, Coralee is a nurse, and one of our translators, Rogers, was studying to be a doctor, and Toni is a dentist’s assistant. We set up the clinic in the half finished church (Preston was even helping with construction while we were doctoring these children! Oh, Africa!), and the kids went through a couple stations: 1) Registration: record name, height, weight; 2)Spiritual Care: receive a gift (wordless gospel bracelet or stickers) and prayer; 3) Doctor Visit; 4) Dental Check (Toni brought 200 toothbrushes and little packs of toothpaste, which she ran out of after the first day, so we just didn’t have this station on the second day); and 5) Pharmacy, where they received medicine the doctor prescribed. At first, I was stationed at the registration, taking the height and weight while Brenda recorded it. But Katherine, who was at spiritual care, was reeling from the emotions of praying for each child, she was very sensitive. So she asked me if we could switch, and then for the rest of the medical clinic, I was praying for the children. And my friend Faqim, who previously called me his muzungu mother (muzungu means “white person”, or “whitey”, as I like to say!), came and sat with me. He fell asleep, and I sat there with him for over an hour! Oh, Faqim! When we first showed up to the church, everyone was waving with huge grins on their faces. And there was one little, pantsless boy shyly smiling at the muzungus. He disappeared for a while, then came back with heavy sweat pants on! Then at the welcome speech made by Pastor Samuel, he sat with me, and became my African boy:)
All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and I am so very glad I could be a part of it.