From blog by Callie Giersberg originally postedon Saturday, June 21, 2014
a different kind of Africa
Why am I here? What are you going to do with this? How will this look in 5 years? Am I doing this right?
These are question that replay in my head during the day sometimes. I let them go around and around for a bit and then I realize that it's not from Jesus, it's the enemy-- trying to make the doubts of my mind come out. So I stop them. I stop them. I take a deep breath of the dusty- firewood burning Uganda air, I look around at the smiles of the people here and I take it in. That is one thing that I promised myself that I would do, embrace the moments here because they will be gone soon enough. No need to rush them off by the thoughts that sometimes seem to be screaming in a megaphone.
There are so many roles that come with co-leading that I wasn't sure if I could handle. I would have to pray over the entire team, I would have to get everyone into Uganda and so many other small jobs that come with the title. So of course I was nervous to begin with- I worried if I would be good at leading. I was worried if I would "be myself"-- be the one who my family sees, the one who my kiddos on Sunday morning see, be the one who my friends see or if I would be the shy one who hides behinds my insecurities. I got to the gate to meet the team, I sat down cracked a joke--- had all 9 laughing and knew immediately that the shy Callie who hides behind insecurities was gone. The flying process was just like any other........long. We landed in Uganda and there was Elisa. The leader who I had met for merely 10 minutes in Nashville at leadership training. That night we shared a room and talked about the team, about how the days ahead looked and about how excited we were to be here.
The next morning was the start of the pushing from Jesus. That morning at the table I had to lead the devotion to a table of quiet strangers who said 'please' and 'thank you' after everything that they asked to be passed at the table. I listened to them softly talk to each other and then it was my turn to do devotion and I was nervous, who wouldn't be?! I prayed, I said what I needed to say and let Elisa take the rest of the table talk. I sat back wondering how long it takes for the team to become a family.
We got on the road headed to Jinja and along the way I knew I was here - there was no denying it. I was looking out the window in awe of the beauty that Jesus was allowing me to see. We arrived at our hotel unloaded and carried on unto our first ministry. Abide Family Center- they believe that every child deserves a family so they have a social worker come in and try to keep the families together.
I remembered Elisa telling me as we were preparing for the trip that it was a different kind of trip when you lead. I didn't really give it much thought, I just imagined it being like the rest of the trips where I find that one kiddo and play with her all day, not worrying about anyone else until I heard the call to the bus. Wrong. What I got seemed just as great.
I got to watch 10 people make those connections. I got to watch 7 of which had not been to Africa make their first connections with these joyful people.
We did a photo booth for the kids and mamas. We brought Polaroid cameras and dress up things for them to have fun with.
I wanted to come to bring help, to build something, get my hands dirty, do something that I knew was helping them in someway. And then I saw her, I saw this mama who was holding her infant. She was putting on a crown and sunglasses and dressing her infant in ten necklaces. She looked at me before I snapped the picture and her straight face that told a thousand stories broke. She let out the most pure giggle I've ever heard. Her teeth were so bright, her giggle brightened the pavilion, her baby even chuckled when he heard his mama laugh. I couldn't help but not giggle at her giggle. It was like watching a transformation. I'd imagine it's how Jesus watches us transform, except way different. I felt her joy in my bones. I snapped the image and just like that I knew we were doing something.
The next couple of days were lovely. We went into the village to love on the "village kids"-- village kids here are rough. They have to be. Many of their parents have died or left them, only leaving them with their grandmother to care for them. We did VBS with the children in a huge field, pictures, made bracelets, told the story of creation and played soccer. After the rotation was done I watched as the team members held hands with kiddos, played and took pictures.
I was walking around cleaning up, gathering things and checking in on everyone. On the other side of the field I saw them testing children for malaria, we were working with a ministry called Healing Faith, which goes into villages to end malaria and tell about Jesus. I saw a little girl get tested and come back positive. She was 2, I saw another little girl whose frail body just fit perfectly in Cara's arms. Cara, her husband and their 6 children have moved here to help Jason and Kari of Healing Faith and their 5 kids. Cara's daughter is only 12 and she was sobbing over the idea of this little girl losing her life to malaria. It was so powerful to watch a 12 year old little girl from America cry over a 4 year old little girl who she couldn't ever pronounce her name.
Yesterday we went into the village again but this time to hand nets. We walked to each little hut and taught about malaria, hung the net and then got to pray for the people. When I tell you that this was one of the hardest things I've ever done - I mean just that. I was walking into a house the size of my bathroom to hand 3 nets. Two slept here, one slept there and 4 sleep over there. We walked into dark, dark clay huts where the beds were torn to shreds, what we consider trash decorated the walls and was reused to hang their few belongings. No couch, no kitchen, some didn't even have beds. But they still smiled and welcomed us in. As we were hanging one the lady who occupies the home jumped for joy. Jumped up and down, smiled, said somethings in Luganda and patted me on the back. I embraced her, shook her hand and watched her joy beam though her entire body.
Later we went to see Ja-Ja. She is the grandma of the village, most if not all of the children answer to her. She lost her son and is left raising his children. She was sitting on the ground in a yard wearing a beautifully tattered African dress, her grey hair and big smile was worth admiring. Jason, the man who started Healing Faith with his wife, sat next to her. He just sat there he told her that we were grieving with her, she smiled and shook her head. I was sitting and holding her granddaughter, who seemed to be 4. She was the best. Her face dirty, so I cleaned it with a wipe - she looked me into the eyes while I did it. She didn't say a word but none were needed. I knew what she was saying just by looking in her big brown eyes. We walked back to the buses and I watched the team say their goodbyes to their friends who stuck with them all day.
I was starting to get worried a bit about my emotions, simply because I had not cried yet and usually that's a second day thing. I watched a team member as she said goodbye to her new friend who was 12. She told the sweet little girl who lives in a village, "I will never forget you"-- I felt it. I knew in that moment why I was leading, I knew in that moment why I didn't have a kiddo hanging on me all day long. My sweet team member with a heart of gold met her Joseani. Joseani was the little girl who changed my life. She was 11 when I met her in Rwanda and she is one of the reasons why I continue to come back. Simply because that one connection can change the world. That simple sentence that my team member said to her new friend wasn't a lie. It was the truth. She will never forget her and what that looks like, she doesn't even know. But because of that one connection I had almost 3 years ago, I think of Joseani daily - I remember her hugs when I'm having a bad day and here I am back in Africa again - watching other people make those connections.
Throughout this trip I have felt Jesus allowing me to see certain moments, not just see them but feel them. Moments like the ones I shared above and some that are too precious to share. He is pushing me, molding me and teaching me to rely on Him. Fully. To answer a question from above: the team becomes a family whenever they all feel the same thing and that is the love of Jesus through a joyful smile from a person who has nothing.
I usually would love to have that moment with that child. Who is to say I won't on this trip, but watching 10 people make those connections and later getting to hear them process their emotions and me knowing what to say and getting to pray for them just like my first team leader did, is one of the most rewarding and beautiful 'jobs' I've ever had.
Join Callie on her upcoming 2015 Uganda trip.