It was the last day we had in Uganda as a mission and with our new family. We started the day with a later-than-normal breakfast and some prayer time. After prayer time, Maggie gathered us all outside of the house for a debrief of the mission trip. She was very appreciative of the job that was done and the gospel that was shared. She reiterated that God is amazing, and He did amazing things the past 10 days.
The Golden Heart team members went around and shared their experiences from this last week. The men got emotional while sharing their experiences, which tells me that they truly enjoyed our time together. Going around as a team and serving Jesus develops a special bond within people. Our teams are from two different worlds; we have different colored skin; there is even a slight language barrier, but we still were able to share love and joy with one another in the name of Jesus. Amazing.
When it was Mission Uganda’s turn to share our experiences, we got emotional. We saw poverty overcome by joy. We saw horrible living conditions and schools overcome by hope in Jesus. Our perspectives about life and what’s important has changed. Our hearts have been changed. My daughter’s principal at her school told me that you leave Africa, but Africa never leaves you. So true.
Not all people are called to mission work, but I was. What’s funny is, I used to question overseas mission work when we have so much work to do at home, but my perspective has changed. I was called, and I had a choice to answer the call or not. I wanted to be obedient to what God was calling me to do and because I was, He blessed me so much on this trip. My hope is that I served Him well, glorifying Him. I know the rest of the team did an outstanding job, and I’m sure God is smiling at what they did.
After our emotional discussion, I got a visit today from Yunia Nabatanzi and her aunt. I was wrong in an earlier blog about her first name, they write the names down in reverse order over here. Yunia gave me a hug, and I think she was excited to see everyone. I was very excited to see her. It was an emotional time for me. Even the other mission team members were emotional about it. The first thing she told me, was that she was hungry. That breaks my heart. Tricia and I have made the decision to pay for a boarding school for her, to get her a quality education. My hope is that she’ll never have to say she’s hungry again. I also trust that Dennis and Maggie will be a positive influence on her walk with Christ since their office is so close. This is also the same boarding school where Bryce Engbers’ kids go.
Yunia’s aunt grabbed my hand and bowed to the ground in thankfulness for what we were doing. Bowing is how their village shows thanks. She was happy and thankful for what was happening. I’m sure it’s a financial relief for their family, as there are other kids and family living in the home. Yunia is 12, and at her age, she should be in P-7, but because she wasn’t placed in school due to unknown circumstances, she is only in P-4. Please pray for her transition to her new school to go smoothly.
Nuper had a surprise, his adopted Ugandan daughter Maria, showed up to visit him. Let the emotions roll again…geeze-o it was a crazy happy morning. Maria and Yunia sang a song for us. It was so beautiful. I asked Yunia if she had a Bible, she said she did not. I gave her mine that I had brought with me on the trip. I also gave her pictures of my family for her to remember us by. I told her to work hard and study hard and that she was going to do great things. I then asked her if it would be okay if I could be her American Daddy, she smiled big and nodded. I told her she had an American mommy and sisters and a brother. She was happy, I was happy. We said our goodbyes, and some of the Golden Heart team and Yunia and Maria left the house. I miss her already, but I also miss my family back home in Iowa.
You know what I don’t miss? That fluffy white stuff called snow.
We loaded up the bus, said our goodbyes to Jennifer and Susan and headed to Entebbe Airport. We stopped for lunch at the Cafe Java in Kampala and had some good old fashioned American food. Quite a few of us had pizza. We had an emotional goodbye at the airport and thanked each other for a job well done. And indeed it was.
I said in an earlier blog that I would introduce you to the Golden Heart Team and I want to honor that. There were many people involved, but here are a few that I got to know.
- Maggie—The leader of the group that leads with integrity and love. She is loved and respected wherever she goes. I’ve heard her called the Mother Theresa of her area, and I think that’s a good comparison. First and foremost she cares about her relationship with God and out of that she loves people. Mission Uganda would not be possible without her and her husband.
- Dennis—Maggie’s husband. Dennis spent some time in America working at Disney World. He was called back to Uganda by God to help change lives in the name of Christ. Dennis is a a hard-working man and built the Golden Heart office and Engbers home with the help of Mesach and Noah. He is a man of many talents that has a big heart for kids.
- Tonny—Tonny is Maggie’s secretary at the Golden Heart Foundation. He is given tasks to do and is a very trusted individual. Tonny helps Golden Heart operate on a daily basis. I called Tonny a fashionista because of his fashionable clothes he was always wearing.
- Mesach—Mesach and I became buddies on this trip. He was in charge of the bulls because he knows cattle. He would be up at the office at 5 AM every morning tending the cattle. He was also the one pulling and tugging the stubborn bovines onto the field. Towards the end of the trip, we would have some sort of exercise challenge. He’s really a nice guy that you can tell loves other people.
- Noah—The man that is respected everywhere he goes. Noah is the vice-president of what we’ll call Veterans Affairs for the Mukono District. He is called in for security issues in the area as well. Everyone knows him. Noah was always watching in the shadows, making sure we were safe. He also broke out of his shell during our skit.
- Josephat—The greatest driver in all of Uganda. This guy would take us down roads and into remote places I would never think about driving into. He also kept a lookout on our property on the bus during these events.
- William—William played an important role of promoting the Gospel and praising God for all that he did to make the soccer tournament and school visits work. William is a preacher.
- Benjamin—Benjamin was the camera man. He was always recording and taking pictures of what we were doing.
- Betty—An amazing cook that kept our bellies full the entire trip. It’s going to be weird not eating like a champ every day.
- Susan—Susan is Maggie’s naughty younger sister. She hides Nuper’s shoes, she scares people and laughs about it, and she is always “fine” when you ask her how she’s doing. Never super, or great, or wonderful, just fine. In all seriousness, she did an amazing job taking care of cleaning, laundry, and taking care of New Dawn.
- Jennifer—The shy girl that cleaned and cared for New Dawn. She was taken in by Maggie and Dennis, but I don’t know the story.
- Robert—A farmer by trade. Robert organized the entire soccer tournament and did an amazing job.
- Aaron—Hauled the porridge bags every day at the schools.
- Wasua—Truck driver that slept next to the stage and equipment every night and drove the porridge to the schools.
- Meredith—Net ball referee that was in complete control of the game. We never had an issue with the girls.
- Miracle—Soccer tournament DJ.
There really were so many moving parts to this whole week, and our mission team just showed up. Maggie, Dennis, and the Golden Heart Foundation was very well organized, professional, and God-honoring. It was a privilege and an honor to serve with them.
I wrote in an earlier blog that my wife asked me, “what is God inviting you to notice?” I think the answer is this. I need to be better about loving others and sharing with others. The Bible gives us the commandment to love, and to go out and make disciples. We are to go to the ends of the earth to share the gospel and make disciples. Some are called locally, some are called globally.
Where is God calling you?
Out of the thousands of people we shared the gospel with, what if only one person got it? what if only one had their life dramatically changed? Is it worth it? The answer is, absolutely! Because that one person could bring thousands or even millions to know Jesus. They could be the next Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. We don’t know, but we’re called to share.
As I sit in the airport and reflect on the past 10 days, I know my bucket is full.
We provided for kids with no food, by giving them porridge. We handed out math sets so P-7 kids could take the standard test with appropriate tools. We handed out soccer balls to bless the kids. We gave several kids an opportunity at a new life and a quality education. And we preached the Gospel to share the good news.
God took some ground in the Mukono Distric of Uganda, Africa these past 10 days, and I am blessed and thankful to have been called to it. Many of you have given and prayed as well, you were essential to this mission. Thank you. Please continue to pray for the mission team as we return to our homes. Pray that our changed hearts will come back and change others. Thank you.