It’s been several weeks and I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I experienced and the life lessons I learned while in Uganda. I have always had the desire to work in an orphanage in Africa, but never could commit to finding the “right” time or even afford the financial backing to go.
In 2014, I came to a crossroads where I kept reminding myself that, “I want more out of life…” By all accounts, I have an amazing family. I have great friends. I have a good job. All of which contribute to my happiness, but if I were to be completely transparent, I felt I was missing something. I think every human being at the core of their inner soul, simply desires to be loved and express love. Through this realization, I began focusing on myself, my future, my desires, my needs, my pleasures, which only added to mounting seeds of depression, discontent and entitlement. I decided I needed a little life perspective in 2015. After talking with a friend that had traveled with Visiting Orphans, I thought what better way to get life perspective then venturing approximately 10,000 miles over 30 hours to a third world country with 17 other strangers. (This is sarcasm) It may seem crazy, but it proved to be a journey of a lifetime; one that I will never forget. There were lots of laughs, dancing, flat tires in the African bush, boda rides, french fry eating monkeys, boat rides on the Nile, and numerous pranks to name some of the most enjoyable. A few of the more intimate experiences were times in which tears were shed, broken hearts were mended, physical healing occurred, teammates encouraged one another, and seeing God’s provisions in both the small and big things. Below are a few additional takeaways from my trip.
It may not look like how you want or come in the nice, clean, package you envision, but God provides. Somehow there is always a lesson to be learned while waiting for His provisions. He turned my anxious thoughts of fundraising and provided well above and beyond what I ever imagined. He provided a team of 17 unique individuals that I could share this incredible journey with. He draws me closer to Him on days when I go my own way and offers perseverance and encouragement when life gets tiresome. As scary as it is to step out in faith and surrender control, He has shown me that the return on investment can be so much greater.
We as Americans have no clue how people around the world suffer on a global scale. Several days we provided medical treatment to patients, most of which were children that suffer from jiggers. Jiggers are sand parasites that burrow into the skin of people that do not have shoes or inhabit less than impoverished living conditions. The first patient I worked with had over 115 jiggers removed from his hands and feet. Removal is done by extracting the jiggers with safety pins and razor blades. Unfortunately, anesthesia is not provided unless you consider lollipops a remedy for the pain. For more information on #zerojiggers, visit solehope.org. Another great organization we were able to work with is healingfaithuganda.org.
While in Africa, I learned the importance of living life with a sense of urgency. I have to remind myself daily that there is so much more to life than the American dream, materialism or even myself. Wherever we're at, we're called to make a difference. There is a void in the lives of children all around the world who are in desperate need of seeing positive role models, especially among men. Whether we're called to invest in friendships, minister to a stranger, buy a meal for the homeless or take a trip with Visiting Orphans, all people have some need emotionally, physically or spiritually. Anyone that would say otherwise, needs to get to know the people around them a bit better. Going to Africa, I wanted to help everyone suffering from poverty, malaria and HIV, but the reality of the situation is we cannot be everything to everyone. God has entrusted you to make a difference in your community, neighborhood, place of work, relationships, etc.
People come into our lives for seasons and likely reasons we won't know until the other side of eternity. Whether it’s a relationship of two weeks or 25 years, Africa has reminded me to be present in the here and now because we never know the impact. Some of my VO team members encouraged me in ways I will never forget. I'm also reminded of the day-to-day blessings I have with family, friends and acquaintances back home. Perhaps the highlight of my trip was getting to meet the people of Uganda-Moses, Santa, Henry, Ochino, Gersache, Muwaya, Makayla, Lawrence, Gweda, Samuel, Abraham, Roger, Matthew, Kempey, Tadio, and Denis to name a few. Never in my life have I seen such elation from simply smiling. Their desire to help others, live joyfully, and give back is inspirational.
I've heard in the past, we're all one-phone call away from our lives being flipped upside down. Life is short. We live in a broken world where struggles, trauma and hurt are inevitable. We're all living for something or someone. Everyone has a story. Mine has taught me that I don't have to be perfect. Religion filled with rules and regulations is exhausting and isn't how I define my faith. I don't have to have all the right answers because I trust in a Savior that’s greater. My prayer is that when all is said and done, my life can be one characterized by faith, joy, grace & love. Dare I end with asking, what is your purpose?