A blog of photographs from my second time serving the Watoto ministry in Uganda, Africa! October 2013.
We spent many hours in this giant plane…so worth it!
From one continent to another! I do really enjoy watching moment by moment updates.
There isn’t a “good” segue, but here is a collection of about town photos. I encourage you to remove pity from your repertoire; instead, try to view these photos as God might – full of people and places that He cares about. Places where life is happening just as it would around the world. While many of us have known a different lifestyle and culture, this is what many Ugandans are familiar with. Pity serves them no purpose, let us be moved to take action to help them move forward instead.
Eventually I will get a traffic video posted…but only a full sensory experience can really do it “justice.”
And now, on to Watoto! If you want to learn more about this organization that has and is continuing to change Uganda for the better, please visit their website: http://www.watoto.com
(Do forgive that these are not in chronological order, but hopefully they will make sense anyway.)
The beautiful eucalyptus trees signature to Bbira Children’s Village:
The stunning grassy hills signature to Suubi Children’s Village (second photo shows more of the village):
Pampering stations all set up – we simply gave 3-step hand massages, but the women were incredibly grateful! They held their hands up saying they wouldn’t be using them for the rest of the day – their big kids would handle the cooking and cleaning for that afternoon 🙂
I “taught” most of the large group sessions, though I’d say it was more of an encouragement session than that of teaching. These women know the Bible and cherish it – they also live in sacrificial love and kindness as we are called. I am confident that our team learned more from these mums than we “taught” them!
I just adore international worship sessions. Fun and powerful times!
We also spent time in small groups after each large group session – invaluable quality time with these wonderful mums.
Crying with and comforting a mum during a time of sharing:
We spent plenty of time connecting via team-building games! Bringing cultures together this way makes for a very FUN time and learning experience. The Human Knot (as it stayed!):
“Cross the River”: Players move to one side of a designated area – the river – and one at a time, each person receives a “stone” (brown felt square) that they can step on to cross the river. They must stay on the stones or the crocodiles may catch them! Unfortunately, we don’t have “enough” stones for each crosser, so they’ll have to work together to find a solution! Here, they are praying!:
The sac races got pretty intense…
And the three-legged races conjured up lots of laughs!
But I’d have to say that Charades wins for most interesting and humorous! Very fascinating to watch varying interpretations with cultural flare!
Our gift to each mum was a framed photo of herself. Mirrors are few and far between. As are self-portraits – this was a simple gift that brought a different glimmer of confidence! The children and mums all loved looking at the photographs.
In a mum’s home – photo one is personalized decor and photo two is the living space in one of the Watoto homes. They take such good care of their things. And as you may have gathered, they are an incredibly grateful, fun, and loving bunch!
On to our excursion! We went on a boat down the Nile River & Lake Victoria, then drove quad-bikes (4-wheelers) through Jinja. We rode through the mud, the bush, along the River, and even through town. Although we acknowledged the battle between being grateful for this experience and feeling like time on mission should be spent elsewhere, we chose to soak up the experience. The money spent went into the local community — and I just don’t know when I’ll be quad-biking in Africa again! Truly an indescribable and incredibly FUN excursion.
And now, the ones you’ve been waiting for…Baby Watoto (Kampala)!
The group sitting under the trees is where I ended up after the tour. A beautiful group of special needs toddlers with two WONDERFUL mums!
And the sign above them! The animal names are in reference to different age groups (rooms). I have no idea why anyone would ever WANT to bathe more than 5 babies at a time, but the sign is there for a reason…
I loved spending time with Doreen (L, rear) & Lucy (R, front) learning about their lives as Watoto mums. It was easy to see how much they love these sweet children (and why!) that had been given up, abandoned, abused, neglected, or otherwise less-than-cared for before Watoto. So many heartbreaking stories that have developed into beautiful survivor stories!
I like the bunk-cribs as non-clinical and comfortable space-savers:
Baby Watoto at the Suubi Children’s Village – the only village with a Babies’ Home on site.
And some more unforgettable faces:
The End! Thanks for reading and leaving comments below!
A very concentrated post from my very first international journey just 7 months ago!
I actually enjoyed the food on Ethiopian Airlines – and it came often!
My favorite airport.
My first Watoto village. An incredible and intentional ministry.
Kids of ALL ages just adored playing with the parachute! We played a variety of games. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard so much giggling!
We even took breaks just to chat. Not pictured: children randomly coming to join in and cuddle.
A portion of our unplanned foot washing ceremony. Probably the ministry time that meant the most to our team and the mums. They were floored that we would want to wash their feet.
Such sweet, affectionate people. I was in my element for sure.
The BEST bus drivers – George and Stephen! Good men with kind servant hearts.
The “school cafeteria” at the Laminadera Children’s Village.
Posho and Beans – my personal favorite.
“My kids”! This is the family (mum and two youngest siblings not pictured) that three of my teammates and I had Sunday lunch with and I visited them at school every day after that. They showed me their classrooms, favorite Scriptures, and we would share stories. They would even share their lunch with me!
Oh Baby Watoto. You’ve got my heart.
There are no adequate words to describe the experience of snuggling, calming, feeding, bathing, changing, loving on these babies. Certainly one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had. I am so thankful for Watoto – many of these babies had been left for dead, or worse, but they have been rescued and restored. They are on their way to a permanent family to be raised to become leaders of Uganda!
A portion of the Laminadera Worship Center dedication service. To this day, my favorite service! Such BEAUTIFUL people.
That’s the Worship Center on the right. Finally, plenty of space with shade!
I just realized that you can’t see the children dancing in this photo…but they were! They love it!
One of the best giraffe photos, captured by a teammate. Incredible to see live, in their HOME habitat!
We also saw elephants, hippos, many antelope, lions, birds, and more. A very special treat.
A whole LOT of incredible people 🙂
I’m hoping to have a full album up on Facebook soon.
in sending THANK YOUS, sharing my adventures via writing and photos, keeping you updated on what is to come…I sincerely apologize. I think of these things often and natural to my human state, I become overwhelmed. Your patience and continued support are incredibly valuable.
For now, you should know that my third out-of-the-Country trip is planned for February 22nd – March 1st, 2014. I will be traveling to Pétionville, Haiti, to partner with Agape Church. Our team will be providing a number of services and fostering many relationships as we host community outreach events, labor via cleaning & construction, and remain open to the needs of this ministry. Agape Church is in the beginning stages and is modeled after Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda. Having experienced the life-changing ministry of Watoto, I knew that I wanted to be a small part this.
Many of you know that from February – September, 2013, over $5,000 was raised for my time spent in Africa. Many thanks to GOD and to all of YOU: your big sacrifices of time, money, and other donations; your consistent sharing of my story; your faithful prayers and love. THANK YOU.
This trip to Haiti is a dramatic decrease in travel time and expense! Just a two hour flight from Miami and $1,500 total – it could almost fool you to be a walk in the park! I’ve found this is my most challenging goal yet. Largely due to the timeline – funds due in under 8 weeks and it will be my 3rd trip in a year. Please understand that I have no interest in being a “short-term missions junkie.” I absolutely do not consider these trips to be vacation or my opportunity to see the world. I say YES to these trips because I am passionate about what is or will be happening there. I say YES to these trips so that I can talk about these incredible ministries in a more personal way. I say YES to these trips to stretch and challenge myself – physically, emotionally, spiritually. You can be part of it, too.
Thanks for standing with me in all sorts of different and equally important ways.
My immediate need is the $100 deposit. The next will be an additional $700 by January 6th. Finally, the full balance of $1,500 is due February 10th. Every. Single. Dollar. Matters.
Always, I know. I am often gifted with moments of grief for these people – strangers, friends, acquaintances, family. Recent times have had many of these moments. Families suffering with all-consuming addictions, devastating suicides, unbelievable financial strain, sudden losses (and “anniversaries”) of beloved people and animals, crushing abuse of all kinds…so much more. Overwhelming is an understatement. Please remember to hug your loved ones, go the extra mile for a stranger, give grace to those who fail you…a small gesture could make all of the difference. Holidays aren’t always happy for everyone. Thanks for listening to my heart.
[Originally written for and shared on my Facebook page on 8 December 2013]
…well, the year of thinking about, planning for, obsessing over, and visiting Africa!
It all “began” in January, when the Watoto Children’s Choir visited Hope again and I fell deeper in love with the ministry. I joked about moving to Africa and was told about an opportunity to visit. I applied a couple weeks after in February. The next 5 months were spent raising $3,000, collecting supplies, meetings, and most importantly, preparing my spirit. Then we left! More on those details later… 😉
In the midst of digesting the beautiful experience of traveling to Uganda and ministering alongside the Watoto ministry, I am preparing to visit again – just three months after returning! I made this choice not long before leaving in July because I knew I would want to return and wanted to get a head start on fundraising!
In an attempt to dissuade cookie-cutter expectations, I’ve wanted to avoid comparing my two 2013 trips to Uganda. However, it seems to naturally happen, so I’d like to go ahead and communicate the surface similarities and differences. Over the next few weeks, I will delve into more of the individual experiences – stay tuned!
July 10-20, 2013 33 people – various life stages – families, couples, highschoolers and more! Jam-packed trip: visits to Watoto Church Central (South Ug.), Suubi Village (including sustainability project; S), Bbira Village (S), Kampala Market (S), Baby Watoto Gulu (North Ug.), Living Hope (N); Worship Center Dedications service (N), traditional lunch with a Laminadera family (N), 2 afternoons with the children of Laminadera (N), Watoto Church Gulu service (N), 3 days of building and Mums ministry & pampering in the Laminadera Village (N), crossing the Nile River by bus then ferry, and experiencing a real African safari. Lots of time spent on planes and buses, since we traveled up and down the country! No boda bodas (bikes/motorcycles) this time!
October 8-18, 2013 10 women, similar life stages. We will be focusing on the Watoto villages in South Uganda, ministering to and pampering the mums in the Suubi & Bbira villages – 3 days at each. Additionally, we’ll attend an evening service at Watoto Central Church, visit Living Hope & Baby Watoto, including Bullrush (preemie baby home!) and other things we’re still ironing out.