On Wednesday, mid way through our week in Bukigai, I wrote this in my journal:
"I just can't stop smiling whenever I go out, especially around the kids. I smile the whole time because these people bring me so much joy. I love their bright white smiles against their beautiful black, smooth skin. Their giggles fill my heart. Their fascination with us and our strange ways and appearance is now normal and enjoyable."
Not only were the surrounding hills and expansive skies beautiful, the people were even more stunning. Their bright eyes and warm handshakes welcomed us. Their hearts to serve was unlike anything I have encountered. And when we complimented them on their hospitality, we discovered they didn't know any different. It was the Ugandan way.
The main goal of this trip was to build relationships and start a long-term partnership with the local churches in Eastern Uganda, especially in the town of Bukigai. Normally, something as intangible as "building relationships" would be hard for me because it's not easily measured. However, the relationships we started were so real and authentic and tangible, you could almost touch it.
Each one of my team members set out to love those around them. And that is exactly what we did. We went into the experience with open hearts, expecting our lives and souls to be transformed. Of course, when you are willing, God shows up. We were all forever altered by our short time in Bukigai, mostly because of the people we met, loved and encouraged.
Some of the most memorable people for me was Pastor Fred and his family. Fred was incredibly kind with a compassionate heart. He was constantly serving us behind the scenes without any recognition or complaint. He is one of the lead pastors in Bukigai and has an amazing family. His wife Sarah is a quiet spirit with a loving heart. She helped me and others clean our laundry, gently showing us the way. They also have three, precious daughters who were an unexpected blessing.
The middle daughter was four years old. Her name was joy and boy did she live up to her name. I didn't even know how it started but every time she would see me, she would run up to me with her radiant smile and hug me. All she knew how to say in English was "I'm fine" (which is common), but that didn't stop me from loving her to pieces. My heart aches just thinking about her!
Their youngest daughter was named Faith. Similar to most Ugandan babies, she was unsure of me. She would allow me to hold her, but didn't express any emotion, which was very different from the older giggling, smiling children. She would simply stare at me with her big brown eyes. But every time I saw her, I would hold and cuddle her. By the end of the week, she smiled with me, and I even got her to repeat my name!
The oldest daughter was Gift, and it was precious to watch her care for her sisters. She was also full of life and joy. It was an honor to love on this family for a week. I miss them dearly!!
This family is just one of the many that we encountered. The people of the village felt privileged that we would come to visit them. But over and over we told them how incredibly blessed we were by them and their faith. I think it is really cool how God created a loving relationship to be symbiotic. All of us, Ugandan and American alike, were fulfilled by our time together.
More to come soon!
You are loved,