Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Travel Day Part 1

5/15 Shortly after we finished breakfast, on our first full day in Uganda, we packed up all our belongings onto the top of a small white van.There was a metal gate around the entire hotel. The exit had bars on the top and on the bottom which we had to step over, and several of us got a good laugh when we tripped on the bottom bar and landed on the ground. John however was our greatest source of entertainment. Being the tallest person on our team, he, not once but twice, smacked his head on the top.

 We were told we were going on a 4 hour drive to where we would be staying. But after the 5th hour of driving we all knew this was another case of what we had been warned about in training... the notorious,
"Africa time".

In our 6th hour of driving, sometime after 3pm, we pulled into a very Americanized resort restaurant. The menu was all our kind of food, there were a bunch of other white, English speaking customers there, and the music was all Pop 2000's music.

Pastor Fredrick's wife and 2 kids stopped in to meet us and say hello. They ate lunch with us and we played some games with the kids. His little girl has one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.

Once lunch was over, we said goodbye to the family, and loaded back up in the van.

What happened next was pretty interesting...but I will save that for tomorrow.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Like the garment of Jesus

It was about a 2 hour drive from the airport to the hotel we stayed at our first night. It was a small building, a lot like a home with 10 bedrooms. There were bug nets hanging over each bed, which was something I had not expected. Pastor Israel kept apologizing for having to have 2 people per room. He seemed to feel guilty that each of us did not get to have our own room.  He smiled and was a bit relieved once I finally told him that back at the university we all had to share a room with another person.

 Jen and I shared a room. It was so humid our first night in Uganda. We both woke up drenched in sweat and we were both extremely thirsty because of sweating out all of our liquids.

Brushing my teeth and showering was quiet the interesting task while trying to avoid getting water in my eyes or mouth. I ended up using mostly baby wipes to clean my self up.

The 9 of us met for prayer at 8 am, then at 9am we went for breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. At breakfast Pastor Israel explained the best he could about what we would be doing during our trip. Pastor Fredrick talked to us a bit about the trending religious beliefs in Uganda. He said something that was very profound to me, and rang in my ears many times through out our month in Africa.

Pastor Fredrick explained how in Africa, America is viewed as the promise land. Many if not most Africans imagine it as a place where the streets are perfect, families are perfect, everyone has jobs, the economy is perfect, and everyone is on a higher and more intimate level with God than any African. Pastor Fredrick said that when they see a white person, they automatically think that person has something more special than them, and when they find out that white person is American, Africans think of them as a type of angelic being with special powers from heaven.

Pastor Fredrick said that when we pray for people, most of those time the people were believing with their whole heart, soul, and mind, that God would touch them because it was an American praying for them. He said there was a big problem in their culture, of not believing God could use Africans to do great miracles.

When Pastor Fredrick told us all of this, I thought of the woman in the Bible who thought if she just touched Jesus' garment, then she would be healed. But when Jesus confronted her, he didn't say, "You are now well." and he didn't say, "My holy robe has made you well." Instead of saying it was her actions or his that healed her, all he said was, "Your faith has made you well."

I thought about what an honor it was, to be able to be used the same way Jesus' garment was used. That if someone had such faith that God would heal them through just touching an American, that God would use that American to inspire their faith enough to make them well.

I said a little prayer there at breakfast, "Lord, let me be your vessel. If my presence can encourage someone's faith enough to receive what they are believing for, let it be done. And help me, God, to teach the people that it is God alone, and not the American's presence that brings the supernatural."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Advice I wish I had been told before going to Africa

I will be sharing stories for all of these in future posts, so be sure to subscribe to my blog to not miss it, but here is a list I worked on while in Africa, of things I wish I had been warned about.

Advice I wish I had been told before going to Africa:
-Ask someone if funny noises you make may mean anything.

-Holding babies is wonderful, but don't wear clothes you like.

 -If you plan on going to Sunday church, pack something elegant.

-If kids start laughing in your are doing something wrong.

-No matter how hard you try, kids will not smile for the camera. They are taught to frown for the camera.

-Bring anti- fungal cream for yourself.

-Pack a flashlight, no matter what conditions you think you are going to.

-You will be called "Muzungu"....alot...

-When using "squatty potty" make sure you don't have anything in your pockets.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First steps and first breaths in Africa

It was cloudy and mildly cool when we left Tulsa. It was very cold in Amsterdam. But then, as the doors opened to the Uganda airport exit, a breeze blew through the doors.

It was very warm. I breathed in a big gulp of the air, just for sheer sake of fully embracing the moment. May, Oklahoma's summer and Uganda's winter, yet it was warmer in Uganda than Tulsa had been.

When we passed through the door, there were several people all waiting for different arrivals. The from a distance we heard, "ORU? Hello." It was Pastor Israel, our main contact.

Pastor Israel is a married man with 5 children ranging in age from 5 years to 17. He also was giving shelter to two other girls in his home.

 In his years, Pastor Israel has started around 50 churches spread all out through out Uganda. He also has a boarding school.

We were the 8th ORU team he had hosted, so he and his family were very acustomed to Americans.

His assistant was Pastor Fredrick. Pastor Fredrick is also married with 2 children. He told us he was born Catholic but converted to Born-again Christianity 22 years prior after attending one of Pastor Israel's open air crusades.

Pastor Fredrick seemed very quiet and reserved at first. But in the days to come he would turn out to be one of the most hilarious Ugandans I would meet.

The airport exit had a covering overhead, and as we stepped out from beneath it, I was left in awe and wonder and the brilliance of all the clusters of stars.
Right in the middle of the sky Isaiah pointed out a formation of stars famous for looking like a cross. It was a life changing sight. Never have I seen a sky so beautifully drowning with twinkling stars.

I knew in that moment, Africa was every bit as wonderful as I had imagined it would be.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I made it...I really made it!

The turbulence was strong. I held onto my plane seat arm rest with thoughts of nervousness on my mind. But then there was a loud thud. The plane touched down and in that moment it really hit me, "Oh my gosh, I'm actually in Africa."

I had dreamed about it since I was a small child. I talked about it constantly growing up. I planned and fund-raised for it for 8 months, I had traveled to it for 23 hours, and that thud marked success; I was now in Africa.
As we walked towards customs, every Ugandan watched our every move. When we reached the customs line, we were disappointed to see the line wrapped around the building. We had been traveling for so long, and it was now 10:30 at night. The last thing any of us wanted to do was wait in line all nightt.

Just then a very giggly policed uniformed man approached us. I don't know about the rest of my team, but he brightened my evening. Every other word was a giggle. My mind could not resist comparing him to Rafiki in Lion King.
The officer asked us if we already had out visas. We told him we did, and then he opened the line and lead us to an empty area, where two women read our visas, used a electronic contraption to take our fingerprints, and then we were free to leave the airport.

I could feel a knot in my stomach, filled with anticipation and excitement as we approached the exit. This was it. Even though it was late at night, my eyes were about to see Africa in person for the first time!

Sorry Mom!!

We arrived in Amsterdam mid-day. It was Mother's Day. Traveling through the airport I saw there was a box to drop off mail. I went into a bookstore and grabbed a cute postcard.

I figured since I could not call or email my mom to say Happy Mother's Day, I could at least mail her an Amsterdam postcard.

I had to show my boarding pass and passport in order to buy anything, after it was bought I also had to get postage; so it took a while to get that taken care of. After I bought it, our group all went to eat pizza. There I sat and wrote a long message to my mom.

Once my message was written, addressed correctly, and postage applied, I glanced over the postcard proudly.That pride though, quickly turned to shock, as I realized one of the images was of a red light district sex shop. Yes, I was about to send my mom a post card with street window strippers, after just a month before doing a paper on how the red light district was swarming with human trafficking.

Chris was sitting next to me, and looked over as he heard me gasp, breathing in all the air in the room as I did. He spotted it without me saying anything, and laughed out loud, "Aren't you sending that to your mom?"

Chris suggested we could color dresses on the women. When I didn't have any luck, he gave it a try. He did better than I did, but still the ink just rubbed off. In the midst of drawing dresses, Chris pointed out several more inappropriate images on the postcard.

I was mortified,but so glad that I had seen it before I mailed it! I debated throwing it out and getting a new one, but I had sunk about $7 into that small piece of trash.

So instead of throwing it out, I improvised by making my own drawings on the card:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013



 We left campus  early that morning. It was cold and cloudy in Tulsa. Our plane was Minnesota bound. We knew as we boarded the plane, that we would have to rush through the Minneapolis airport because we only had a 30 minute layover before our international flight.

Our flight landed in Minnesota just as we heard the final boarding call for our flight to Amsterdam. The flight attendant on our previous flight had shown us a map of the airport and warned we would have to run to the gate because it was all the way on the other side of the airport.
Our group went as fast as we could with all our belongings. There was our Uganda team of 8(Isaiah had to take a later flight), and 2 other ORU teams adding up to about 30 people headed for the Amsterdam flight, so we assumed that they would certainly hold the plane for that many people.

But we heard the announcement that the gate was closing for the flight. Rashad, Mariah, and Jen handed us there stuff, then went zooming through to get to the gate. We all picked up our pace a bit. When the rest of us got to the gate, Mariah told us we were lucky they ran ahead, because the plane was about to leave without us.
There were three columns of seats across the plane. I was in the middle seat of the middle column; the absolute furthest seat from the window. So I did not see any of the scenery along the 9 hour flight, therefore I knitted and listened to music instead.

We arrived in  Amsterdam, and 2 hours later Isaiah joined us. We all enjoyed pizza, and several hours of layover. Some saw there was a McDonald's and wanted to order some. I thought a nice fudge sundae sounded good. When I looked at the menu, what cost only $1 in America, cost $3.20 in Amsterdam. So I decided that was one junk food I could live without.

Once we boarded the plane for Rwanda, we had to go through the extensive security again. A man said I had to throw away my knitting, which I had been working on for a year. I just about cried when he said that, but I tried to stay calm and asked for his supervisor, whom said I was alright keeping it.
John wasn't as fortunate as me though. He was told he had to throw out is contact solution. He told them, "But it was ok with American security."
The woman just leaned in and said with a cold tone, "In case you haven't realized, this isn't America."

On the plane to Rwanda, we met three other groups who were all coincidentally from Tulsa.None of us were connected, but of all places, we met in Amsterdam! We had a 1 hour layover in Rwanda. There we got to talking to a US military man, who was being sent to train Ugandan military how to fight forces that were stealing children, taking them to Somalia, and making them child soldiers there.The man was a father of two, married, and also grew up in Tulsa.
After an hour layover, the plane took off again. At that point we were Uganda bound... We had taken 3 hours to fly to Minneapolis, 9 hours to Amsterdam, 9 hours to Rwanda...after 21 hours of flying, we were only two more hours away from Uganda.
But I will save that for another post.

Heavenly Encounters

I plan to write again later tonight when I have more time, but here is a fun copy and paste story from my facebook:

This June I had the chance to travel through Uganda Africa. On one of my first days there, I met a little boy, dressed in ripped and dirty clothes. I noticed his big bright smile at first, but soon he blended in with the rest of the smiling... children's faces. As music began to play, I danced along, and had all the children dancing with me. The little boy who's smile I had noticed earlier, approached and held both of my hands. After a few seconds I freed one of my hands and encouraged all the kids to hold hands and dance. It only lasted a minute before they all let go and danced freely again. But this boy kept coming back, wanting both of my hands, and to have my eyes focused on him. I kept feeling guilty, that I was focusing on this one boy and not the whole group, and thus did not keep my eyes on him.
The day came to an end and our translators urged that it was time to leave the village. The boy came up to me one last time, holding both of my hands and looking as if pleading for me to give him just a few minutes of my attention. I held both of his hands, and stared intently into his eyes one last time. As I did, I was consumed with the feeling I was looking into the eyes of some one great, and wished that I had done it sooner. For a solid several minutes I stood there staring into his eyes, and he stared back, neither of us looking at anyone else. Finally the leaders came and said one last time that it was time to leave.
The little boy broke his stare first. He laughed out loud as he smiled and hugged me, then waved goodbye to me.

The next morning, as I sat with another person from my team, looking through photos from that day, I saw I had a photo with the boy. My teammate was the first to notice something on the boy's shirt. I zoomed in on my camera, and there I saw it. Some thought it was a necklace, some thought it was a picture I had edited, some thought it was a reflection. But I could not find any way to explain, the bright glowing cross on the boy's shirt. The sun was in the wrong place, he was not wearing any jewelry, and I did not add the figure. In that moment I was left wondering, had I just had a divine experience?

Maybe there are angels among us. What if angels are not what we imagined at all? Instead of a magnificent being from another realm, perhaps angels are there to give us a glimpse of heaven's glory. Think about a teacher, who all year long spent 6 hours a day in a small room with twenty students. By the end of the year that teacher thinks they have the kids all figured out. There are the future millionaires, the future criminals, and the future average joes. But how often are that teacher's assumptions wrong? Often twenty years after those students leave that classroom, you find out one of them has blown every one's expectations. And then that teacher will say, "I can't believe they were the one to do all this!"

If the teacher had known that, that one student would have been the one to grow up and be the most phenomenal, the teacher most likely would have devoted more attention and devotion to the student.
Just as the teacher could not fully foresee who would do what in the future, we also do not always realize who is standing beside us.
I for one have learned from this experience, that the next time a person is asking for just a short amount of my time, my time is worth it, because, I never know who I may be giving that moment to.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


This first full week of being back in the US of A has been quite the interesting time. When I first stepped off the plane I found my mother and brother waiting there to greet me. It ended up being by God's grace that they were there and staying in a hotel, because I found out my summer financial aid had gotten messed up at school, and for several days I had no where to stay. So I ended up staying at the hotel with them while I tried to get everything sorted out.
It's been super hot this last week, and we've had torrential rains. To say the least, Tulsa weather is WEIRD!

I have finally started to get back into the groove. It's been strange getting back onto an American diet, and college sleep schedule. Mom and I went for a walk every morning around 7 am while she was here. Mom and Nick left for home and dropped me off at work 5 am Sunday morning, at which point I still was not moved into the college dorms.
But alas by Sunday evening, I was moved into a room at school, and Monday morning I continued my morning walk routine and later in the day I started classes again.

Now that I have crossed off all of the firsts for being home, first shower, first meal, first sleep, first day of work, and first day of school, I figured it was time for me to start my first entries detailing my trip. It's late at night, so tomorrow the blogging shall begin!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Another greeting from Uganda! We had a few more days of preaching in churches and in the streets, as well as going and meeting with people in there homes to preach the gospel. It has been the experience of a lifetime. I got to eat grasshoppers for the first time too!
Today we drove all day to a new village. We stopped a a shop where I bought myself a cool walking stick. Only once I bought it some of the locals informed me I had just bought a weapon, and they revealed the top pulled off to a blade. Made me even more proud of my purchase.
Saw a flock of wild monkeys today too!!
We are in an internet cafe right now, with litttle time to write as usual. Tues and Weds are our last day of preaching, then Thurs and Friday we will spend in a safari. The trip is ending so soon!!