Last year, my daughter Amy joined Sweet Sleep on a mission to provide beds and most importantly to show love to an orphanage in Uganda. Her experiences on that trip inspired me to join her this year with a team of 11 going to serve in an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. While I have been involved in many mission trips to poverty stricken areas in the US, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced in my first day in Uganda.
While this may be queued up as a typical American visiting a 3rd world country and talk about how bad things are, there is so much more to the story. This is not a story of deep poverty but of a richness in spirit I have never seen before. This is not a story of the destruction from decades of war and disease but of hope and resourcefulness of a strong people.
This is not a story of a group of American's saving the day in Uganda but the deep gifts of love and wisdom we gain through the amazing Ugandan people. During our bus ride to the house we are staying at in Kampala, we were able to get a glimpse of the city and it's people.
On the surface, I see people living in extreme poverty conditions - Houses built out of scraps and what we would consider trash. Heavily congested roads that when paved were full of potholes, pollution from cars with apparently little environmental regulation and people either walking or using vehicles well beyond their purpose. The people of Uganda have been through so much.
Decades of wars, millions dead from disease, and an infrastructure that is lacking in so many basic ways. Out of Uganda's 33 million people, an estimated 2-3 million are orphans. Don't just blow past that number, stop to think about what that means.
Imagine a city the size of Chicago as all orphans. Think of the challenges and logistics for taking care of 10% of your population as orphans. These statistics are so staggering that it's impossible to understand, especially if you have never come and seen it with your own eyes. When you look a little deeper, however, I see something much richer.
People who have pride in themselves and show it in how they dress and how they take care of what they have. A beautiful ballet played on the streets as cars, bikes, people, animals dance in a perfect rhythm as they co-exist on the roads without the need of stop lights or even lines in the road.
A people who are resourceful enough to take what we would consider trash and build an amazing city that the people should be very proud of. The greatest attribute of the people of Uganda is their spirit. Even with the hardship they live every day, decades of war and impact of extreme disease, they are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Smiles everywhere.
Amazing gratitude and resourcefulness in how they use what they have. The positive pride of the Ugandan people is truly inspiring. Overall, everyone took pride in how they dress. Other than our team, I didn't see anyone wearing shorts. Most men wore nice dress pants, shirts with collars and quite a few wearing full suits. Most women wore dresses or skirts with blouses.
The houses were built from sticks, clay and scraps of metal and mostly dirt floors yet were clean, well taken care of and made the best use of every resource available to them. Oddly enough, I would feel more comfortable staying in most of the houses I have seen in Uganda than in many houses I have visited in the US.
The people of Uganda take what little they have and turn it into so much. The orphanage where we will be working was truly amazing. Over the last 16 years, the founders have built a 7 acre complex in Kampala that serves over a thousand children. While the orphanage has so many basic needs, I was amazed at how well the children were taken care of with the resources they had.
We will be replacing foam mats that are used for beds in one section of the orphanage with beds and mosquito nets (to help protect from Malaria ), bibles and bed supplies. I have been so blessed and touched by the people of Uganda. While they constantly thank me for coming and helping at the orphanage, I have received so much more than I have given. More love than I have ever felt. Wisdom that is truly inspiring.
Faith in God that is beyond anything I have ever seen. This is not the story of an American coming to save the day in Uganda but the story of a people who are showing an American what it means to truly live and love. That said, the need is so great for these people. I feel a new sense of purpose in finding ways to help Uganda. With a little help, I know the strength, pride and resourcefulness of these people will magnify any small gift we can provide into amazing results. After receiving so much from them, there is no way I can sit by and do nothing as orphans sleep on the floor or worse on the streets. I encourage everyone who reads this to consider finding ways to help these amazing people. The need is so great and the people are so deserving. Our smallest contributions get multiplied in ways we will only know when we return home to our Father. Please, look into your heart and take that step to plant a mustard seed and contribute to this great cause.