Joy Is Found in The Present (by Kerri)

Picture1The time in Uganda is how I wish my schedule in America was, relaxed and never rushed.  I would say that when someone tells me to be ready to go by 7:30 that they mean that here but truthfully they mean to be ready by 8:30 or 9:00.  You see, this is how I wish we lived life, completely in the present and not trying to hurry to move on to the next thing.  Getting used to their time schedule was never really hard for me but then I was surrounded by images like the one above and that is when I realized to take advantage of each moment.

Picture3I have only been here for two weeks but I have already had so many amazing experiences and opportunities.  These experiences will never be forgotten and I know there is so much more to come!  One experience reminded me of my grandmother.  I got the pleasure of meeting a 103 year old lady.  She was still walking, dancing and smiling with joy.  However, this sweet old lady did not have a mattress to sleep on.  I got to be a part of giving her a place to rest each night instead of sleeping on the dirt floor.  I just know how often my grandmother hurts but I cannot imagine the pain she would have if she had no choice other thPicture2an to sleep on the ground.  Sometimes a small amount of comfort can bring the greatest amount of joy!  This sweet lady’s eyes started glowing when we placed her mattress in her home and made her bed for her.  She then went outside where her family was sitting in a circle and another other older woman joined her.  The two women began to dance with joy and once again time stood still. 

Another experience I had with really adapting to the time here and enjoying the present was by singing and dancing to songs with the children of Kamiluk Primary School.  Just a little background info to this understanding: I was involved with leading every classes Bible Study.  Before the Bible Study began we would sing just a couple of songs and then at the end we taught them one song that went with the lesson.  Now yoPicture4u are up to date!  What I was missing through this entire experience was that the children just loved us to love on them by singing and dancing with them!  They loved that so much that they wanted to sing and dance for hours!  With song that were uplifting and glorifying to Christ!  This was brought to my attention one daPicture5y when I was so caught up in trying to check off a list instead of paying attention to the present.  So, that day we sang and danced for hours and the image of the smiles on their faces is painted in my memories forever.  I caught myself stopping to stare at what was happening because of Christ several times and I was overwhelmed with joy!

I am beyond grateful for the experiences I have had so far!!  I know that there are many more to come and I am excited to see what the Lord will do over the next 5 months that I am here!  Please pray for these children and their families, that the Lord will meet their needs!

Many Blessings

XO– Kerri McGehee (also known as KK in Uganda)

God has much bigger plans… (by Karoline)

IMG_8865 On the third day of our work in Kamailuk, I was responsible for passing out coloring sheets and markers to students who were exiting the medical clinic. As students walked in the door, I would hand them a piece of paper and some markers and direct them to a place to sit. Then a boy pushing another child in a wheel chair came through the door. I had seen the boy in the wheelchair many times and introduced myself to him. He had cerebral palsy. While I was handing a piece of paper to his friend, I showed him a coloring sheet to see if he wanted one. I highly doubted that he could color but I wanted him to feel included. He nodded yes so I got him a few markers. I had no idea how he was going to color. I pulled up a chair in front of his wheelchair and he slid halfway off of his chair and used one of his arms to prop up on. I laid the sheet of paper on his chair and placed a marker in his hand. He adjusted his arms, body, and fingers to color the detailed picture. Of course I picked the hardest design for him to color, but he remarkably colored very neatly! It was a slow process, but I was so impressed.

While he was coloring and I was handing him markers, I became angry. I asked God why He would allow this little boy to be physically impaired in such a hard place to live. Children without special needs  live a  hard life in Uganda, so I couldn’t imagine how hard his life was. To be honest I never think about children with special needs living in other areas of the world. Soon I was reminded of a scripture in the Bible that silenced my anger. The scripture reads, “As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he wIMG_8872as born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9: 1-3). This child with cerebral palsy was displaying God’s works right in front of me. He could color and write! Not only could he do that, but he could do it well. I’m not sure if that is normal for people with cerebral palsy to do, but it looked like a miracle to me. I know God has much bigger plans for that little boy. I thank God that he reminded me that everything and everyone is in His hands. I know He loves that boy much more than I do, just like He loves everyone of His children no matter their disabilities.

First Week Impressions (CeCe)

So our first week is about to come to an end and our projects at Kamailuk Primary School are now over.  Thanks to Embrace Uganda, the teachers at Kadacar, Koreng, and Kamailuk primary schools received gifts of appreciation for their work. The soccer game between Koreng and Kamailuk is now on and the trophy is ready to be awarded.  The awarding of the trophy and the closing ceremony will culminate the highlight of this busy day.
The morning was busy preparing the gifts for the teachers and volunteers. This was interrupted by our usual breakfast as well as our worship and devotion.  After breakfast, there was a bit of confusion about whether I would get to help to deliver mattresses or if I needed to stay behind to help finish the gift bags.  I have grown to accept whatever comes with each new day and to work wherever I am needed most. Fortunately, I didn’t have to forego one activity for another.
We took our group photo and boarded the bus for our final day of delivering mattresses. What an amazing time we had to experience the gratefulness and faith of the elderly people we blessed with mattresses,  posho and beans.  In the home of the first woman we visited (Margaret),  she blessed us with a prayer for us.
Though this is my second trip to Uganda, I have had many first time experiences in mission this week. As Pastor Michael puts it, I have come with “new eyes,” and I am looking forward to many more new experiences in the week to come. To name a few of my new experiences, they include seeing new areas of Bukedea District, sitting on the mattresses while riding on the back of the truck, helping with food preparation and doing the dishes at our guest house, learning to play new games with team members, helping out in the medical clinic, and seeing a new secondary school in the making. Now I am anxious to see what the Lord has in store for next week!

Edith’s Village (by Paige)

I got to spend the weekend with our Edith in her village which is about 7 hours from Kampala. She has such a huge heart and threw a big party for the entire village complete with a wonderful meal, music and dancing. About 250 people attended and many walked long distances. And she accomplished this extraordinary event even though the closest paved road is a 30 minute car ride away and her village has no electricity or running water. She is one amazing lady with a heart of gold! Special thanks to her best friend Addie for traveling with her and to Kasekende Hannington and Oliver for coming to celebrate with us! I love you so much sweet girl!

 

American Ugandan (by Paige)

Please forgive me for taking so long to post but we have had almost no internet access all week. This may have been the hardest week of my life. So many tears this week . . . Joyful tears, heartbroken tears, loving tears, angry tears, hopeful tears . . . But as King reminds me everyday, God’s timing is perfect. We are working to find the children that were “reintegrated” which is a feel good word the large international charitable organization responsible uses. What it means in real life is casting out children that are 11 -18 . . . Sending them to relatives they have never known to be abused yet again or left to fend for themselves. Worse yet they told terrible lies about why these children were being “reintegrated” . . . Labeling the child as the problem when it was really all about money and power. Thank you to the brave adults (also sent away) who helped me find the truth this week. We have found some of the kids who are now teenagers and young adults and their reunions with each other have just taken my breath away as they have laughed, cried and most of all praised God! Together we are on a mission to find as many as we can and then will have a great reunion at the end of the month. Most of all we will help those whose childhood was stolen build a future . . . And just as important, we must also find a way to help those that remain. Please pray for our God to move in a mighty way!!!!! Thank you to all those who have allowed me to be here!!! I love being an American Ugandan ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ www.embraceuganda.org

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Impressions (Hunter)

Today I have left home.it was very interesting to see so many people. I even saw people who looked like they were from Tibet. So many races, Creed’s, cultures and ethnicity. It is truly larger than I thought. Staring out of the airport I actually got to understand just how vast this world is. And how much the world needs Christ. Today an Asian man who worked at the hotel was telling me about refugees from Uganda at the hotel. He told me I was going the wrong way! And at first it was discouraged but instantly I was reminded of my servitude to his commission. And how this is exactly what he wants from me. I only pray that he will shield me from sin and allow I to teach his word and prosper in my spirit of which he has to offer. So that I may be able to meditate on his word. How great is he that I may serve him. The father who loves me is so  my father in Heaven. Praise be his name!

 

Give a Pineapple (by Jamie)

jamieYesterday, Kaitlin and I were able to go out on a crisis call with the Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) at Bringing Hope to the Family (a Ugandan nonprofit that Embrace Uganda partners with here in Kaihura). Kaitlin and I hopped on a boda (which is a motorcycle, Uganda’s form of a taxi) and rode down to the girl’s house. The girl’s name is Irene, and she is 17 years old. Her child, Simon Peter, is currently 9 months old. Both of Irene’s parents have passed away, and she is currently living with her grandmother. The father of the child is refusing to claim that the child is his, so Irene and her grandmother are having to provide all of the caregiving and necessities for Simon Peter. The CPC worked with Irene during her pregnancy to ensure a safe and hygienic delivery and is now actively working to get her enrolled in a vocational school to learn hairdressing. In Uganda, if a girl becomes pregnant while in school whether by consensual sex or rape, she is, by law, not allowed to attend anymore and is promptly kicked out of school (I know, so infuriating.) Vocational schools provide girls a second chance at making a living for themselves after pregnancy by teaching them various trades.

It was a pleasure to be able to meet with Irene and her grandmother. Her child seemed happy and healthy, and Irene was excited at the idea of having an opportunity to further her education. As we were getting up to leave, the grandmother walked in with a bag full of mangoes for us to take home as a thank you for providing for her granddaughter. We were so touched. Then, she walked out of the kitchen with a pineapple, and it almost brought me to tears. It’s not that a pineapple is somehow a more emotional fruit than a mango, but the sacrifice of giving a pineapple shows true generosity. You see, it takes a year and a half for a pineapple to fully mature. And every pineapple plant only produces one pineapple at a time, which means that this family had been waiting a year and a half to be able to enjoy the treat of this sweet pineapple. In a country without excess, this pineapple would have brought great joy to this family. But without hesitation, the grandmother gave us this precious gift as a sign of her gratitude. And it wasn’t done with a bitter heart, it wasn’t done because she felt that she had to…she was smiling. She was overjoyed to be able to give us something that had such value to her and her family. And in that moment, I was totally overwhelmed by what it would mean to have a heart that generous.

Which led me to the question…what has happened to us, America? Why do we hold onto our possessions with clenched fists and cheat ourselves of the joy of giving? Since when is making someone smile or providing for someone’s needs less important than a weekend getaway or the newest iPhone? When did we become so backwards? In “The Irresistible Revolution”, Shane Claiborne says, “Giving is a joy, not a burden. If we can’t give our possessions away, then they possess us. If we aren’t careful, the things we own begin to own us. The way we give money and possessions power is by holding them with clenched fists. On the flip side, the way we take away their power is by holding them with open hands and giving them away winsomely. If love fuels us, then our impulse becomes sharing.”

My encouragement to you is that our possessions don’t have to possess us! When we start giving with open hands and sharing our resources with others, we won’t have to have organizations like Embrace Uganda because all will have what they need to survive. All will have access to education, clean water, medical care, and enough food to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m not convinced that God created a world without enough resources to provide for everyone, I just think that we who have excess have justified the ideology of a closed fist. And because of that, we have poverty. So I urge you, consider what the things are that you really put value in. Though you may value someone having their needs provided for, are you willing to sacrifice in order to see that need met? Are you willing to give up your pineapple?

Jamie

Remembering Treasures (by Missy)

Uganda- “Pearl of Africa”

Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Zechariah 4:6

❤”May Africa be the land and people who speak of YOU- From the riches of their poverty, to me …in the poverty of my riches.”

“I would rather be with little & have a settled heart than be with much and have an unsettled heart” –Ronald (A young man working at Agape that was rising in secular music-but chose to return to church music and to be praise & worship leader at Agape Children’s Home in Bukerere near Kampala, Uganda.) He leads us in morning singing at our devotion time.

He sings and strums on his guitar “My hope is built on nothing less than JESUS blood & righteousness.”

Every morning brings unusual joy to these children. They show exuberance for living “one more day” as if it were an unexpected gift. They sing songs thanking God for giving them breath for THIS day.

Miriam walks alone to school. She holds a piece of torn bread. She gets one cup of porridge every morning for breakfast. Homework is up to her each evening.   Her mother left her with a daddy who beat her severely. Scars are proof. She now lives at Agape Children’s Village in Bukerere, Uganda wearing a contagious and resilient smile as God’s grace gift.

At Koreng School the children surround us in groups reaching hands out and waiting for us to take their hand. When we reach out, they bow in respect and say “My name is______” in a crisp British accent. Their English is broken but they sure want to communicate and I do too! (My MS accent is disasterously pitiful juxtaposed to rich English tones.) Beautiful ebony faces glow and eyes white as the moon reach out to lock for communication. No words are necessary as long as I hold the gaze to connect and simply nod a “Yes! I see your beautiful self!” Then the heightened eyebrows and breaking out of a white smile is the language we speak. True communication. Respect in holding each other in desire to know and love.

Doreen keeps finding me and taking my hand as if she knows how desperately I need a steady guide through this unknown cultural experience. I want to love these and learn from them. The 650 school children rushing to greet with exuberant welcome is overwhelmingly beautiful. Doreen is quiet with deep eyes. Is there sadness? Contentment? Mature knowing? Young promise wise beyond years probably brought by harsh circumstances. When a teacher asks her to take care of a need I can tell she is noted as responsible. How do I love her in just a few visits within a week? How can I offer encouragement and tell her I see much potential? And what are her chances? Oh God! I can only ask that You protect and bless her life. Would you set her free with your promises? Above all give her hope and a close walk with You.

And on our final Friday, after the soccer tournament and after the 3 hour closing ceremony which includes a village meeting of sorts-with leaders giving reports of progress and future plans, asking parents to get involved, sharing plans from the PTA, all wanting progress for these relational ones in great need. The bond is strong and unity prevails as they depend on each other for the basics of life. The projector abruptly stops several times during the presentation. The electricity rigged can’t seem to handle the demand in this primitive structure. Determination prevails. It seems what we have here is comradery and community of spirit coming together-African brothers and sisters and American brothers and sisters. A commitment of two different cultures melding together with the powerful love of God. And then, our leader -“Mama Dot” speaks. With poise and conviction she begins to thank the gathered group for letting us love them telling them how all the gifts we bring will tear, get lost, lose their newness and joy. She goes on to tell of the gift we bring that is forever, never losing its joy. It is the powerful love of God. With clarity she tells the way of God reaching to us all. I bow in honor of her gift. So proud of my cousin! So moved.

As the sun sets in the African sky, the jam-packed open brick structure is spilling out-sweaty with joyous pitch black darkness. Only the light of white eyes from the little ones to the elders stay fixed on speakers bringing hope. I am blown away by the focused attention spans of the children. No movement. Eyes fixed. Nothing to do, but BE present in this moment together with no light, no air, no adult prodding-just longing for hope. Speeches still going. No one moves until the last dance and drumbeat. And it’s time for our team to say final good-byes in the dark and head to the van. I’m thankful the dark covers my tears as we walk away. Somehow in the mass a hand finds mine. It’s Doreen. We have exchanged notes earlier in the day. I hug her and tell her how I have come to love her in the short time. She puts her head close to my side and in her quiet rich voice says, “I’m going to miss you.” And she wipes an eye. I know I’m leaving a piece of my heart right here at Koreng School in Uganda, Africa.

Then there are the Primary-7 boys who have also captured my heart! When we shared the Noah’s Ark story and had them act it out, they received it like a gift! Not with typical 7th grade awkward cocky ways. Just thankful for “Muzungu” visitors who’ve come to share. After the story & songs we asked if they had songs for us. Moses stepped to the front to lead. All joined in strong and loud in a song to God. The melody and rhythm mesmerizing…”We pray to You…” Team leaders glanced & nodded in “wow.” Afterwards I made connections with Moses and his friend Paul.

The next day we asked Moses & Paul to share the song and dance with our team at morning “tea time.” As we’re about to leave on Friday night-there’s Paul with that adorable 7th grade-still innocent- smile. He gives a melancholy question mark smile of “Will you remember me? Is there hope for me?” Another hard good bye from a new friend. Oh God…another deep cry for hope for a child. Please let our visit encourage him to get his education and grow beyond circumstances.

There’s Winnie. And Mary. Mercy. Aaron. Lucy. Joyce. Rose. Sylvia. Margaret. Joyce. Brenda. Victor….(so many more)…And the silent tiny girl whose name I never knew-the one with the oversized dress that slipped off one shoulder as she walked around in a sad daze. And all those names and faces I cannot for the life of me remember. God bless the children of Koreng, Uganda. There is great need among deep sadness, but riches in their desperateness for You. They teach me what You desire from us.

Missy

My First Mission Trip Ever! (by Cece)

I am so grateful to have served on the 2016 Embrace Uganda team – my first mission trip ever!  There was so much that the team accomplished while we were there.  I shared in a separate blog many of the wonderful things that we did during the first week while we were in Koreng and Kumi.  And the second week was very eventful as well.  On our way to Bukerere, we stopped at a park at the source of the Nile River. The boat ride was an experience beyond my dreams! I never imagined that I would have that chance. So I can’t even call it a dream come true. That brief stop was one of the most memorable parts of my journey. And what a wonderful group of people to share the experience with.

We arrived at Agape Children’s Village (ACV), an orphanage positioned very high in Bukerere (a parish in Kampala), on Saturday night to the sound of cheers and drums. We were greeted by many of the children at ACV who gave us hugs and introduced themselves (names that it would take me the rest of the week to remember – and still won’t remember them all). ACV is where I met the woman the children call Momma Grace, who had cooked a delicious meal for us. The only unwelcomed guests that night were the cockroaches that shared the latrine (outhouse) with us where we had to relieve ourselves before dinner.

On Sunday morning, I got to see what a beautiful view we would see each day that we stayed at ACV. I was pleased to know that despite the pain that brought the children there, they daily have the opportunity to see the beauty that God has created and has allowed them to grow up in and to begin to heal from their suffering. From this mountain, we were able to see so many miles in the distance that it feels as if you are seeing all of Uganda. ACV is one of the most picturesque places that I have ever visited.

Our week included Sunday morning worship service in the church at ACV, morning devotions in the Garden Sanctuary, evening devotions led by the children at ACV, and Bible study with a women’s group on Wednesday. Momma Grace made sure that we had breakfast lunch and dinner every day and that our sleeping quarters had whatever we needed. Our projects included sharing stories, songs and games with the children at the school, feeding the pre-school children porridge for lunch, providing supplies for the children and teachers, sharing messages during the devotions with the children, painting one of the classrooms at the school, two movie nights and just spending time with the children after school and on their one holiday off from school that week. Coloring doodle art in our cottage kept many of them busy everyday.

Sunday also included a visit from ACV young adults that have gone off “to university.” They came back to say “thank you” the Embrace Uganda (EU) for what EU has done to give them the opportunity to continue their education. It was great learning that some of them have chosen to major or work in Accounting. This gave me an opportunity to share some of my wisdom about the Accounting profession and about my work in the field.

The nightly devotions with the children is another experience that I will take home with me as a favorite part of my trip. The songs they sang and the joy and conviction with which they sang them, while accompanied by African drums and an occasional guitar are forever impressed upon my memory. The testimonies given by the children were an unexpected witness of the grace that God has given them and testifies of the greatness that He has placed in our youth, but rarely get to see. I am just grateful that I had the opportunity to witness it.

One of the most precious gifts that I received on my journey were the numerous children that I have inherited – youths and young adults. I will forever cherish the experience of being referred to as Auntie or Mama Cece. There are so many young people that I met while in Uganda that I am reluctant to start listing names. But each of them have left an impression on my heart that I pray the Lord will use to continue to mold me into the best me that I can possibly be.

Thank you Dorothy and EU for one of the greatest experiences of my life! I pray blessings of love, grace and peace forever upon your missions, your work and the team that I have grown to love as family and the teams past and future.

Cece

New Friendships (by Jessica)

This trip with Embrace Uganda has blessed me with such sweet friendships – not only with team members but with the kids and adults we have been working with as well. This is a video of my new friend Sylvia. She is in P7 at Koreng Primary School and will be going to Secondary School next year. During our first work day at the school, I had a lot of down time between teaching the bible story and lunch to spend with the kids. I started talking to Sylvia and some of the other girls in P7 about their lives in Uganda and mine in America. Sylvia and I become very close right from the start. She speaks English very well and was really excited to practice with me so we never ran out of things to talk about. It was such a blessing to see the joy that Embrace Uganda brought her during this week. Sylvia is a boarding student at Koreng PS so she sleeps at the school in a room with 19 other girls. Emily’s ministry Sweet Dreams presented the boarding students with new mattresses. The girls were jumping and cheering they were so excited. Sylvia had been asking me about the mattresses and who would be receiving them, so it was so sweet to see how appreciative she was. Sylvia also received medicine from the medical clinic and was so happy that she would start feeling better soon. We were both very sad to say goodbye to each other since we have no way of communicating or knowing if we will ever meet again. But Sylvia then mentioned something to me that I will never forget – She told me that she will tell God what she wants to say to me and then God will tell me. I don’t know if I will see Sylvia again anytime soon, but I do know that we will continue our friendship in Heaven. I love this song that she sang to me because it so perfectly represents our friendship. What a great thing to look forward to when we can see all of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ again one day in Heaven. I am so blessed by Sylvia’s friendship and look forward to the new ones that will form during the rest of the trip.

 

First Question

Our Embrace Ugandan team has now completed the first full and wonderful week of our trip. As I reflect on many experiences I’m haunted by the first question I was asked. It came from a Koreng Primary student with bright eager eyes. “How is America?” After hearing every principal pray before our introduction programs, being honored with respect from children as they would bow to shake our hands, watching children cover their eyes in awe while praying, my answer came from a despondent spirit. “How is America?” This beautiful Ugandan country had riches in their state of poverty. America has much poverty in our riches. Throughout week one we watched children show responsibility by waking early to sweep the paths, chopping vegetables for lunch, brushing teeth (without an adult near), and by getting themselves up and getting dressed without any help. School children sat on the hard ground in our closing ceremony for three hours listening to community leaders give reports of statistics and updates. The young eyes on the front row were intent on every speaker paying close attention to every word spoken. We sat in the brick open-air space until after dark when the program was complete. Children then walked home alone in the pitch black dark to their huts hidden in lone paths. No entitlement. Not much food. No running water- except for well water that has required a long walk carrying heavy cans. No electricity. And no complaining. Dorothy reminded us of the quote, “If there’s something you need, come to us and we’ll show you how to live without it.”

So “How is America?” We’ve a lot to learn from these Ugandan little ones who are pure in heart humbly dependent on God. This week we celebrate our nation’s birthday and we pray God Bless America.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14

Jessica