Post War Uganda Part 2: Let the Journey Begin
Day of Departure
Just one year later, after prayer and reading more about the region we were going to, the team for Uganda was affirmed. We gathered for the 3 months directly preceding the trip to discuss what the focus for this years trip was to be.
Tom, once again the leader, had been in contact with Jay and knew the project needs. I studied the list and asked some of my suppliers to donate tools for concrete work, which they were eager to do. I talked about the mission almost every day, I am sure some of them were happy to see me finally reach my dream.
I was at the end of a project to build a new county courthouse and detention center, so the timing of the trip was perfect. I figured that was all part of the picture, and when I returned, they would put me at the newest start-up, and I was right.
All the shots, malaria medication, mosquito netting, and water treatment pills were packed. We assembled on Thursday morning August 11, 1988, fueled by the necessary coffee (no Starbucks back then unfortunately) after a mostly sleepless night.
Our fearless leader, Tom thought it best that we get minimal sleep to start adjusting the the day time difference. It's always difficult for me to sleep the night before a trip anyway, since I find myself mentally running through a list of what I might and shouldn't forget.
We packed the extra items into each suitcase at the church, amazed at how everything fit perfectly into the luggage we carried. Clothing was minimal, it was a hot climate and were going to be working. Afterwards, we joined for prayer outside, and piled into the vans and cars assigned to transport us and our luggage to LAX.
Bill (a friend of mine) had agreed to take Jerry on a last minute run to the French Embassy to get a visa now required for visitors exiting any flight, and we were transferring in Paris. It turned out to be essential, as our plane was disabled and delayed for quite some time the next day.
As the two of them left for the office in Los Angeles, we prayed for safety and favor with the officials, and the the timeing would be perfect for all. Bill and Jerry's return came just 15 minutes before we boarded the plane. Of course that was long before the days of metal detectors, but we still had to go through all the scrutiny every international passenger did, so Jerry just barely made it.
Standing in the line for check-in was both crowded and amusing as our friends and family patiently assisted us in labeling and moving our pile of luggage ahead as the line advanced. Tom's suggestion that we put similar yarn on every piece of luggage. I chuckled as I extracted a huge ball of yarn from my suitcase, remarking how precisely God provides for our every need. It had been a gift from my friend Jacqui (who handspins wool) the day before, she wanted to give something to our trip and it was all she had. I'm not sure that's what she had in mind, but it worked. It definitely made identifying our huge collection of luggage easier.
As we made our way through the queue, I remember thinking how grateful I was that we wouldn't have to worry about our luggage all the way through to Entebbe, where it would be presumbly waiting ahead of our arrival. What was remarkable was American Airlines decision to not charge us at all for the extra 5 pieces of luggage or the construction equipment which included a bull float wrapped in a large collection of Fed Ex boxes which had been all I had available at the construction site. Honestly, when I asked for the donation, I never even thought about the reality of transporting it so many miles.
I thought about my faithful friend Bill, who had made the sacrifice of getting up at 4:00 am to help us transport everything and everyone, including my daughter Nicole, who would be staying with one of our team member's family for the duration of the trip. He had a huge heart and always helped the single moms in our group, even though he barely had enough money to raise his own boys who were left behind by their mom. We all were a family, as real Christians should be, and we shared the load that single parenting sometimes can be.
As the anxiety of the realization that we were about to separate from each other, I decided to occupy myself by getting her and their son Jay some breakfast while we waited the hour and a half for the plane to board. My heart was racing, and Cheryl, Jim's wife was quick to take the children along as she realized the emotions were deep and rising.
Nicole, who was very excited about her adventure would be following in my footsteps just a few years later and the year following, going to Russian, and Zimbabwe with Teen Missions for the entire summer. Prior to this it was usually her that was leaving to visit extended family in Chicago for the summer, not me. It was a tough moment for both of us, and I held on tight for that last hug and the tears began to fall, both mine and several others, Time to go!
(for more of the story: Post-War Uganda Part 3).