Post War Uganda, East Africa, Part 1 - Capturing the Vision
It was early 1987, and I was at a table in a restaurant with a few newly acquired friends, when I heard the word Uganda mentioned several different times. "What are you guys talking about", I inquired quickly in an attempt to join the conversation as i took my seat with my teenage daughter Nicole."We are going on a missions trip," one of them, Tom, responded, "it's about six months away."
My response being the adventurous person I am? "Oh, I want to go!" Tom looked startled. "Who says they want to go to Uganda, just like that?" he replied. "Do you have any idea what is going on over there?" "No, I don't," I said with a half-embarassed voice. Of course I didn't, honestly, I didn't even know where any country was situated in Africa.
I did remember that in history, the names of African countries always seemed to be changing, as did the government and leadership. At that point, I shut my mouth and listened intently to the ensuing conversation, and when I left, understood so much more. I continued to be enlightened over the next few Sunday afternoon meals I was privileged to share with my friends.
Most of them, I learned later, were part of the team which had been meeting regularly to plan things. I vowed to pray for those who were going on the trip. Tom later explained that the preparation took quite a bit of time, as did gathering up the funds and supplies for such a large endeavor, and I probably wasn't ready. I didn't ask again about joining them, he seemed to know what he was doing, and looking back, he was right. The timing had to be right, and I needed to be prepared in too many ways to mention before I would be ready.
As the months advanced, I began to be excited for all of them. I took a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement and I learned so many different ways of looking at and understanding the different cultures and faith beliefs in the context of my own faith. It was most definitely eye-opening and life changing.
I drove some of the team members to the airport, and did any other last minute errands they needed done. I collected supplies, and contributed to those who were in financial need to relieve the burden on them. I had a considerable amount of debt myself at the time as a single mom, but I was determined to live at the level of faith that they did that all their needs would be supplied if they were supposed to go. Little did I know that I needed to do all this so I would be ready to support Tom's leadership in the trip I would be taking to Uganda just one year later.
I prayed for the team as they departed, and during their journey. I eagerly awaited their return, and joined my friend Elaine, as they returned to Los Angeles at the end of their trip. I hosted a dinner for them in my relatively small apartment, and they shared their pictures and their stories excitedly as they prepared and for other sharing they would be doing in the future.
As they expounded on the daily events, the conditions and the travels, I absorbed every detail. The missionaries who they had assisted on their trip came back to the US shortly afterward, and I felt like I had known them forever. We were connected, I assumed, through prayer and later realized that God often prepares hearts in advance so that people can work together flawlessly to accomplish things that need to get done.
I wanted them to stay forever and tell me more, but they had to return to the work once they had visited people and churches in search of support and to update them on what had been done in the village that they were constructing to house the war orphans. They numbered in the thousands, the survivors. For most of them, both parents had been killed, and they were on their own.
It was out of love and God's leading that Jay and Vicky Dangers and their 3 children were there. They had work to do, and lots of it. They were the children of missionaries, so they knew it wasn't going to be easy. They chose to do it anyway. It was a dangerous time, the travel was difficult, the roads poor, and the distances long. Supplies were difficult to obtain, sometimes halting construction for months on end.
All for the vision of Love Uganda, created to rebuild the disenfranchised into communities of families who would connect to maintain and preserve the precious culture and heritage of the Ugandan people. There were others who came, from Northern Ireland, Westmont College, and Germany and Scotland, and England. It was a beautiful thing, and I was about to be a part of its fulfillment, sooner than I realized. I was already there in my heart.
They were tireless, working among the people they were committed to reach and care for. Soon I would be privileged to work alongside of them, and learn what real sacrifice meant. One of their children was acutely allergic to mosquitoes, and had deep scars from the ravages of bacteria. They faced the reality of malaria, yellow fever and all kinds of contamination from the scores of dead bodies left in the wake of Idi Ammin and Milton Obote's brutal regimes. There is still debate on which was worse. I had so much more to learn, and although I was a quick study, had no idea what I was in for.
(Continue to Post-War Uganda Part 2).