We are now in our last couple of hours together as a team. This marks our forty first hour traveling since we started our journey home. We woke up in Jinja, Uganda and are currently en route from Washington DC to Huntsville, via United Airlines, where we will part ways for the first time in two weeks. We have seen our fill of chicken and yellow rice on about 34 total hours airtime aboard Ethiopian Airlines flights (coming and going) . We have been through security time after time, even receiving a frisk or two. We have laughed together and we have cried together; we have danced, and we have prayed together over food and over God's Word. We have offered a part of our hearts to each other over these two weeks encouraging and sharing things that run deeper than the superficial. A few of us came together strangers on the day of departure and are returning home friends. I am certain this is not of our own doing, but rather, it is the hands of God that knit our hearts together, founding these new friendships in our love for Him and the cleansing blood that we each depend upon so deeply.
So why have we been traveling? Why have we had this opportunity to know and love? We have been privileged to join hands with Children's HopeChest in loving the children of Nyada village in east Africa. Nyada is an area that has known struggle and hardship in the past few decades. They have seen family members murdered, sons and brothers forced to take up arms with rebel groups, livestock stolen by a nearby tribe, the loss of life due to HIV, malaria, hepatitis, etc. They know poverty and drought. However, through HopeChest, God is turning the tide and instilling hope in this village for their future. In a place where free, government-funded education doesn't exist, children and parents suffering from poverty do not get to dream about things they could be or jobs they would like to have. They must accept that they will work the land and raise their family within walking distance from the rest of their family. They may be able to afford only an elementary level education, and for many, that's all they get. But!, God has used this organization to offer hope to the Nyada community. With sponsorships comes a chance at becoming a nurse, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, a driver, and even the president of Uganda. School fees are paid and school uniforms are bought. The children no longer worry that they will have to finish schooling at the upper elementary level. They can hope, and they can dream. Children are growing physically as a result of the meals given to them through sponsorship, and the community members are becoming increasingly involved as they witness the heart of the organization truly wanting for their good. They are acquiring new skills and training to improve their way of life. This village has changed and it is felt from young to old. They were ravished by disease and war. Some parents were left to raise their children alone, and some children left without either parent. The HopeChest organization stepped into this area about 6 years ago, and things have since been improving. I have heard many, from the village and from home, express thankfulness for the changes they have seen take place in these past years.
When I think on our time in the village this week I like to think in what moments did I get a glimpse of God? When did He reveal part of His heart or His character? In this week, in those people and our team, I saw love, forgiveness, forbearance, grace, patience.
God is loving, and so are our friends in Nyada. The welcome we received was far beyond what expectations could have imagined. There was dancing and singing, hugging and jumping, shouting and rejoicing. A language barrier could not keep hidden the love they intended on showing us at our arrival.
I saw forgiveness embodied by the Atesos as part of the Karimojong tribe joined the party. The two groups have a violent past. The Karimojong group went through a period of time in which they thought all the cattle belonged to them by divine right, so they came down out of the mountains and stole from the Nyada villagers. The Karimojong who were present during our visit sang a song expressing their apologies and begging forgiveness for their deeds. The two groups now live at peace and in friendship.
From the Ugandans we worked closely with I was made aware of my tendency towards impatience. The culture is one where day-to-day life moves along at a much slower pace than the American life I live. I found myself challenged by their patience with the plans and activities, and also the patience they had with one another. They were never in a hurry. I want to be more like that. I want to find contentment in my present moments rather than trying to rush to the next thing. I've grown to admire the patience they possess.
Traveling with people you do not really know, and living with them in close quarters for some time, requires some sacrifice at times. From the team I received grace and forbearance. I enjoyed our time together and look back with fondness at the times we shared our testimonies atop the terrace in the Amuria guesthouse, following those times with songs of worship. Thank you to each of them for the care they took in dealing with each other and with the children we got to love.
We enjoyed our last day in the village a few days ago, and it was quite the celebration. We got to have a meal with and share in the joy of the community of Nyada. Their happiness was shown in their dancing and reciprocated in our joining. While dancing with the children my mind considered how we may dance together before the Lord in eternity and how even the freedom I felt in those moments will be perfected before Him. I am blessed. I have seen the heart of God and have been able to be a part of something great in joining hands with this special organization wanting to empower places like Nyada.
Ituritete Edeke!! (Praise God!!)