My first return to Uganda

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! 
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From one continent to another! I do really enjoy watching moment by moment updates. 
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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.

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Eventually I will get a traffic video posted…but only a full sensory experience can really do it “justice.” 
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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.)

 

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The beautiful eucalyptus trees signature to Bbira Children’s Village:

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The stunning grassy hills signature to Suubi Children’s Village (second photo shows more of the village):

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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 🙂

 

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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!

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I just adore international worship sessions. Fun and powerful times!

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We also spent time in small groups after each large group session – invaluable quality time with these wonderful mums.

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Crying with and comforting a mum during a time of sharing:

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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!):

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“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!:

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The sac races got pretty intense…

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And the three-legged races conjured up lots of laughs!

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But I’d have to say that Charades wins for most interesting and humorous! Very fascinating to watch varying interpretations with cultural flare! 
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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.

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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!

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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.

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And now, the ones you’ve been waiting for…Baby Watoto (Kampala)!

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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!

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The bathtubs:
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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…

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Triplets saved!

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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!

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I like the bunk-cribs as non-clinical and comfortable space-savers:

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Baby Watoto at the Suubi Children’s Village – the only village with a Babies’ Home on site.

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And some more unforgettable faces:

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The End! Thanks for reading and leaving comments below!

 

July 2013 Photos

A very concentrated post from my very first international journey just 7 months ago!

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I actually enjoyed the food on Ethiopian Airlines – and it came often!

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My favorite airport.

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My first Watoto village. An incredible and intentional ministry.

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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!

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We even took breaks just to chat. Not pictured: children randomly coming to join in and cuddle.

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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.

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Such sweet, affectionate people. I was in my element for sure.

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The BEST bus drivers – George and Stephen! Good men with kind servant hearts.

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The “school cafeteria” at the Laminadera Children’s Village.

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Posho and Beans – my personal favorite.

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“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!

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Oh Baby Watoto. You’ve got my heart.

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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!

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A portion of the Laminadera Worship Center dedication service. To this day, my favorite service! Such BEAUTIFUL people.

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That’s the Worship Center on the right. Finally, plenty of space with shade!

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I just realized that you can’t see the children dancing in this photo…but they were! They love it!

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One of the best giraffe photos, captured by a teammate. Incredible to see live, in their HOME habitat!

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We also saw elephants, hippos, many antelope, lions, birds, and more. A very special treat.

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A whole LOT of incredible people 🙂

I’m hoping to have a full album up on Facebook soon.

Lots of Love,

Siara

The year of Africa!

…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.

More later… 

Seven more weeks before we leave! 🙂 

Lots of Love, 
Siara

Just 16 days left! Wanna help?

Sweet Supporters, 

I am continually in awe of your love and sacrifice – thank you! For those of you still looking to help, here are a few more things I would like to have before I fly out at 6am on July 10th! Keep in mind that I do not expect everything provided for me (nor has it been)!: 

  • Long shorts/capris/thin pants, size 14
  • Undershorts (for skirts) M/L
  • Non-drowsy Dramamine and/or other motion sickness meds
  • LED flashlight and/or headlamp
  • Excellent bug spray
  • GF Snacks
  • Camping backpack 
  • Above-ankle socks

As I’ve said, any of these things will be a luxury 🙂 

Remember how I spoke about my Mamie saying that she wanted to buy me a new dress for Africa? Turns out that she had several beautiful long skirts and tank tops that fit and will be perfect for my time with the mums! I cried thinking about just how “tickled pink” she would be to know that she had very helpful clothes in her very own closet. I hope you’re resting in peace, Mamie. ❤ 

As I collect the last few things for my first trip, funding for my second is heavy on my heart. Plane purchasing funds are due at the end of July, so I’d love to have more advocates sharing my story! All of you have given above and beyond what I could have imagined. Thank you for sticking it out with me and supporting another trip so soon! Remember that every single dollar matters and all can be tax-deductible!  

Guess where I’ll be in October…

Hello dear friends and supporters! 

Lots of news. I finally received my passport and immunizations- woohoo! And also very importantly, I am fully funded!! I am so thrilled and blessed by all of the contributions. As always, thank you for sacrificing financially, intentionally praying, committing to support in many ways, and encouraging my passion!

I also found out that my maternal Grandma Helen “Mamie,” passed away yesterday. She was SO excited for my Africa trip and was telling many other people, posting my support letter, and working with someone to help me with clothes. In one of our last conversations, she said, “I’m gonna buy you a beautiful new dress next month!” ❤ My heart hurts because I miss her deeply. But I can also find comfort and joy knowing that she is so excited to be in Heaven. She will always be in my heart and maybe even with me in Africa. 

Not only am I fully funded, but was given $300 over what I needed! So, I already 10% of the funding for my second trip to Uganda in October! I know, I haven’t even gone the first time and I’m already signing up for trip #2! But I understand my passion for this ministry. 

I will post details about both trips and their connection soon! For now, please continue to SHARE my story! I would love to have your help in this way as I prepare for the July trip! Half of the funds will be due not long after I return, so please spread the word! I’m also taking new and unique fundraising ideas – let me hear ’em! 

Trip #2 – Uganda, Africa – October 8th-18th, 2013 – $3,000
Donate online: http://gethope.net/global-hope/give “Siara Mims Uganda October”
Mail donations here:
Siara Mims
2054-422 Kildaire Farm Road
Cary, NC 27518-6614

Lots of Love!, 

Siara

Exciting News!

On Sunday afternoon, our team had their monthly Uganda meeting. This one, though, was FULL of great changes and a fantastic guest! Our special guest was Pastor Doug Stride, who recently moved with his family back to the States after serving with Watoto for over 7 years! He shared a very small portion of his story while helping us understand and prepare for the Ugandan culture. His passion for the ministry is contagious. Pastor Doug now serves at Hope Community Church as the Executive Pastor for Expansion and Outreach! We are blessed to have him and his family. What a treat to have a person with first-hand knowledge of the ministry we are serving all the way in Uganda! 

I found his Watoto farewell video here.

You may remember that the purpose of my team’s trip to Uganda was to build staff housing for the Watoto Childcare Ministry. I mentioned in a prior blog post that I am not a builder, BUT I am ready to serve and recognize the importance of housing for this intentional ministry that cares for the hurting women and children of Uganda. Not only will we spend our time building, but now, we get to love on the mums and children of the Watoto villages!!! Previously, we would have little time to visit. Now, we have DAYS dedicated to hanging out with these beautiful people. If you know me, you can only imagine how I danced and applauded the news! We will have a Field Day and a separate Carnival with Crafts Day for the children; additionally, the women on our team will have the wonderful opportunity to love and pamper the Watoto Mums who care for these children! (Women -many of whom have lost work, husbands, children, family- are given a home with up to 8 children who have similar stories of loss and pain. Women and children who have lost their families are given families and those children are raised as future leaders of Uganda.)

The April Uganda team just got back from a trip where the men spent time building and the women ministered to and pampered the Mums. It was such a hit with the villages that they’ve made our trip a hybrid of that! How WONDERFUL! I’ve borrowed pictures from the Global Hope blog to give you an idea of what we’ll be doing. 

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The beautiful team of 17 from Hope Community Church in Uganda April 2-12, 2013

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Part of the team working hard building for Watoto! 

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The other part ministering to the women of the Watoto village.

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And also spending much needed time pampering these Mums with manicures & pedicures! Most ministry groups come for the children and don’t spend much time with the mums. Our team of godly ladies spent quality time listening, sharing God’s Word, and simply loving on the women. They were able to truly relax and that was exciting for the team to see.

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Of course, they did spend time loving on the children, too! This is Kimberly Baker, loving on a Watoto Baby! 

Following this team’s journey, hearing their stories, seeing their pictures…every moment makes my future journey so REAL! My passion and excitement for this trip continues to grow. THANK YOU, “April Team,” for doing a fantastic job and loving on the “July Team” as we prepare to go! 

FUNDRAISING UPDATE!: 
I am at $1,545 of $3,000! I am so blessed and excited to have crossed the 50% line!! THANK YOU, SUPPORTERS! My deadline to have a minimum of $2,200 is Mon. May 20th. Without this amount, I cannot purchase my ticket in time to go. Thank you for helping me reach my goals! Donate online here. Or, send checks made payable to Hope Community Church with “Siara Mims, Uganda, July” on the memo line here: 
Siara Mims
2054-422 Kildaire Farm Road
Cary, NC 27518-6614

I will be hosting another fundraising party in May in addition to a hosting a yard sale! You can help by donating items, time, or shopping! 

Thank you, from the bottom of my soul, for every single penny, encouraging word, and help along the way. I am honored to have you join my journey! 

Lots of Love, 
Siara