Friday, October 23, 2009


A big bullet point for me on my trip to Uganda was: relationships. It brought a renewed meaning to the phrase “Love your neighbor as yourself”. That phrase has always begged the question amongst the most well versed of theologians “Who is my neighbor?” The Bible answers quite clearly that we are all each other’s neighbor (Luke 10:29-37), no matter what we look like or where we come from or what we’ve done, where we’re going or what our circumstances are. We are ALL each other’s neighbor.

The thing I love about relationships is that we all have a story. Every single one of us has a story that can be told of the things in our lives that have molded us and made us into who we are, what we are and where we are, for better or for worse. This is a common thread that binds us all no matter of our race, religion, or creed. When we take the time to sit down and hear someone’s story, we find out that we’re not so different after all. We are able to see value in people regardless of their social standing. Some of my best friends are people that might seem quite different from me, but because we know each other’s story, we have a tight bond that binds our hearts together, even though people would look as us and think that we were mis-matched.

One of the highlights of my trip to Uganda was forming relationships with the people that I came into contact with every day. Our host Patrick and his wife Sarah are wonderful people and I cherished the time we had together talking about our respective lives. Patrick and Sarah recently had a four-month-old daughter die. And whereas I have no personal experience with this, I do know about the trials of having sick children and how those experiences have helped to mold me and make me into the person that I am. I can truly say that I love Patrick and Sarah and add them to my list of dear ones. I miss them and can’t wait to see them again.

Also, I was privileged enough to get to know the staff at the guesthouse where we stayed. Florence is such a beautiful person inside and out and she worked so hard to make us feel at home, and we did! She has a passion for hospitality, just like me! That binds us as sisters. David and Eddie, our drivers, also hold dear spots in my heart as they shared some heart-wrenching stuff with our team. I don’t see these people as mere happen-stance in my life, but as Divine appointments whose stories continue to shape me and mold me into who God is making me to be. I am so thankful to have met these wonderful brothers and sisters in Uganda and my heart aches to see them again!

I think, and I will challenge you, to step out of your comfort-zone and ask someone their story, you will be delightfully surprised at the bonds that form in your heart. If you want somewhere to start, ask me my story. It would be my honor to share it with you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poem by my team-mate (written while we were in Uganda)

Mercy by Malinda Hayes

(Note by Kirsten: Malinda is 18 years old and she wrote this poem after we visited Mercy Orphanage. She is an extraordinary young woman with a God-given vision!)

Images that haunt
Deceit that taunts

Abandonment and shame
Dished out to the lame

Monsters as men tell lies
That lead children to die

Their stomachs go unfed
While they are tortured in their beds

Untreated malaria and worms
Should make the Church do more than squirm

Action should be taken
Because God's plan is in the makin'

Although there may be violence
God will no longer let there be silence

Because of the terror that moves through night
The Church should surely fight!

We will fight with all our might
And follow Jesus's everlasting light

Those who do not walk God's path
Will finally experience His wrath

For giving up just one meal on the table
Or maybe just your basic cable

A child's physical needs can be bought
And education can be taught

We may send money to the poor
But Christ commands us to do more

In Christ's suffering we are supposed to share
So take the time to say a prayer

Jesus gave us the Great Commission
So why has the church made such a great omission?

Love one another, as I have loved you
That is all he has asked us to do

Jesus paid the ultimate cost
Now it is up to us to help the lost

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Oh Africa

I’m writing this as I am flying over the Atlantic Ocean, just about four hours from touching down in USA. I am filled with many emotions, most of which I am unable to put into words at this time, although I’m praying that my God will give me the words when I’m at a loss.

I know the first thing you will all want to know is “How was your trip?”. If you ask me this, know that I am working on a short answer but have not come up with it yet. So far this answer would sound like “My trip was amazing, it was Awesome, I was in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I saw evil face to face, it was devastating, horrific, marvelous, and life changing”.

I’ve tried to narrow it down into four collective categories that were most impressed upon me. The first category includes being in Africa itself. Seeing the sights: The spectacular view of Lake Victoria from our guest house. Traveling by wooden fishing boats across the lake day after day. Much to the amusement of one of my teammates my common recitation was “Hey, I’m sailing on Lake Victoria. Can you believe that I’m on Lake Victoria!” We had fun exchanging this fun but awestruck banter.

The people of Uganda were so beautiful for the most part. They were kind and hospitable and very appreciative of our presence. We also made big spectacles of ourselves and people, mostly children, waved and called out to us “mzungu! Mzungu!”, which translates as “white person! White person!” They smiled and waved and wanted us to touch and hug them. A local mother told us that when we paid attention to her children, that we made them feel special. While we thought it was cute and it made us smile from ear to ear, the deeper heart-felt feeling for me was sadness. I could not hug them all and tell them how special they each were; there were just not enough hours in the day.

The roads were dusty and dirty and a good majority of the people didn’t wear shoes. The average person in Uganda exists on a little over a dollar per day, all inclusive. We walked down dirt roads that seemed little more than paths to us, where most homes were shacks made of tin or home-made bricks. Cows grazing in front of homes was a prevalent sight, as well as crossing the roads with chickens and goats, right in the middle of town. It was hard not to be shocked that people existed this way in such a depraved community. More shocking still was the JOY that radiated from the people. Joy in a world that we would consider helpless and devoid of any happy emotions. I cannot describe the joyful “vibes” from the people as they lived their lives in the midst of their most uncertain circumstances. I learned a lot from watching them.

One of my favorite things about Africa was the music. Throughout the villages and the mundane tasks of life, I usually heard the beating of drums and voices lifted in melodic harmonies. Coupled with the enchanting sounds of the African birds, the drums and melodies were heaven to the ears. It never ceased to amaze me to see, hear, smell, and touch all of these things and people.

The one thing I can assuredly say about Africa is that I fell in love with it and cannot wait to return.

My Thoughts on Africa

Hi Everyone,

I guess it is Sunday, (9-27) although I seem like I’m in a time warp. Our flight from Charlotte was smooth even though we took off a few minutes late. The plane from Detroit to Amsterdam was crowded and over booked but we all made it on.

Interestingly, when we went through the gate in Detroit there were a whole bunch of armed police were crowded around the entrance to the breezeway pulling people over and checking their carry-on bags. As I was passing by, a guy on a walkie radioed that there was baggage that was not be allowed on the flight. I’m assuming the same people whose checked baggage was flagged were the same people not being allowed to get on board the plane until their carry-ons were thoroughly searched. I thanked God for His divine intervention of protecting our plane.

Once we got to Amsterdam we power-walked to our terminal and had to go through security again, which was a pain but we were thankful that our baggage was checked clear through to Entebbe so we didn’t have to go through customs.

Now I sit on our flight to Uganda, hopeful and expectant to witness God’s work and abundant miracles. I forgot to mention that I slept for most of the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam (thanks to the makers of Ambien) and so on this flight I have a lot of awake time and am enjoying chatting with Sarah.

I love you all and will write more when we land!

Today is Monday, 9-27, at about 10:45pm. It has been a crazy and wonderful day. I am happy to report that all of our baggage and supplies arrived safely in Uganda. Thank you Lord! We were so exhausted by the time we got back to the guest house last night and still had to inventory all of the stuff we brought, whether it be medical or shoes or craft supplies, etc. I think we all got less than five hours of sleep but were excited (yet sluggish) to start our day.

We were treated to a delicious breakfast prepared by the local ladies who work here at the guest house. Eating fresh-from-the tree plantains offered a delight to the palate, as well as eating the veggies cooked in a philo-like dough and all the other array of delectable offerings. Also, the coffee did not disappoint; the flavor of the beans grown right here on African soil was exquisite.

My wake-up was complete with a spectacular view of Lake Victoria (the Nile’s source) and the scenery around it. I snapped a few pictures of these huge crane-like birds. These things make bald eagles look like canaries. They were breathtaking and majestic creatures. Uganda is a beautiful county, but by and large I was taken aback by such a stark contrast of beauty and ashes. Birds of paradise, a most beautiful bloom, and palms fronds that were the biggest I’ve seen, both the foreground of high bordered walls topped with barbed wire. A sanctuary inside a prison; this prison where it’s inhabitants are trapped in their current ways and life styles that only seem part of a vicious circle of pain, suffering, and destruction. To take it all in, the sounds, the smells, the traffic, the in-value of human life, it seems pretty far fetched to find hope in this place.

After traveling through the city over bumpy dirt roads filled with numerous pedestrians, cows, chickens, mopeds, vans, and busses and observing a people who seem to go about their same hopeless routines with little chance of every get out of their grip, our vans pulled up in front of Mercy Orphanage. It was here that I saw a glimmer of hope, a spirit of courage, and a faith that was pure and immeasurable in some of the kids who live here.

One young man (maybe 16 yrs old) blew me away when he stood up in front of the whole group and proclaimed that when they did not have food, Jesus was their food.

When they did not have clothes, Jesus was their clothes. When they had no shoes that Jesus was their shoes. He said “Jesus is our father, the Father to the fatherless, the mother to the motherless, yet we do not have physical things, it is because of Jesus that we live”

To have been in this place, which to me seemed hopeless, to hold kids who had not eaten in two weeks, to talk to them, to listen to them and their child-like faith really put my heart in a new place. As for today, I will never be the same. I can’t wait for tomorrow because although I came here to be a blessing, I have been tremendously blessed.