This is my last blog post in the UGANDA SERIES: my experiences/adventures/overall takeaway of traveling to Gulu, Uganda on a mission trip to Abaana’s Hope. Click here to read the other articles!
Every day, my mission trip to Uganda changes me in a different way. Every time I share my story with others, I am reminded of yet another way that God’s love continually changes my life.
If you have stuck with me and you’ve read the other 4 posts about my trip, thank you. I hope that my journey has inspired you in some way; whether that means you embarking on your own mission trip, or you being more aware of your privilege, of God’s love, or of His beautiful purpose for you.
Here are some of my overall takeaways of going to Africa.
1. A language barrier cannot hold back love
When I first arrived at Abaana’s Hope, I was worried about the language barrier between me and the Acholi children. I’ve been working with kids in the U.S. for almost five years, and I didn’t know how I was going to relate to the African children without speaking the same language. What I learned was that you don’t need language to tell others that you love them… you show them with your actions. This has taught me so much about how much my actions really matter when I’m trying to share the love of God, and that love is always the answer.
2. The people and their culture
Being in a third world country showed me so much about culture and kindness. I truly think that everyone should go to a third world country at some point in their lives, it is such a valuable experience. These people, who have absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs, are some of the happiest, kindest people I’ve ever met. Going to a third world country is so eye-opening because it helps you to see how materialistic and money-driven our country is. I witnessed this in so many ways — from watching Acholi women weep over receiving something as simple as a homemade apron and pot holders, to young children cheering about receiving their very own pair of flip flops and a shirt that isn’t covered in holes.
3. I live a lavish life full of WANTS & not NEEDS.
I have always seen myself as having a lot of nice things, but I never realized how much I actually have until I went to Africa.
I didn’t realize that so many people struggle to get fresh food and water daily. I didn’t comprehend that every night when I go to bed on my mattress with fresh sheets, that there are thousands of children sleeping on dirt floors without a pillow or blanket. Yet us as Americans spend hundreds on the newest smartphone, prancing around holding our $5 almond milk lattes and complaining about “having nothing to wear,” while standing in front of a closet full of clothes.
Please don’t think that I’m trying to condemn you, or that I’m trying to condemn America. I write this with a heavy heart because, I too, do the same thing. I get so caught up in the materials I have that I forget what really matters.
When I was in Uganda, I had a young child ask me if I could show him a picture of a strawberry, because he had never seen one before. I was shocked that I had never considered that someone could live their whole life not knowing what a something as simple as a strawberry looked and tasted like.
We live in a place where we have freedom. I had no idea how much I took that for granted until I went to a place where that doesn’t exist. If there is a crime, we know to call the police. If we get hurt, we know we can go to the hospital to receive treatment. If there is damage to our house or our car, we have insurance to help cover the costs. Imagine a life where none of that exists.
4. Love is about giving and not gaining.
This is one of the biggest differences I found between American and Ugandan people. In the U.S., we often love other people looking to gain something. Sometimes, without realizing it, we look to gain happiness, joy, attention, another person, money, or power from love. In Uganda, the Acholi people look at love as something that they can GIVE. They look at loving others as laying down their lives for them and not expecting anything in return. They don’t look to gain something from being kind; they love others because God first loved them (1 John 4:19).
5. One people, loving One God.
Going to another country and seeing people who live totally different lives, yet love God the same, is so powerful. Culture, skin color, sexuality, and gender don’t change who our God is and how we love Him.
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions of the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.1 Corinthians 1:10
We are meant to be united in thought and purpose:
thought: to know who God is and who we are
purpose: God tells us that our purpose in life is to love. To love Him, to love others, and to love ourselves.
What is the point of going on a mission trip?
Before I went on my trip, so many people told me that I was going to experience the people’s culture, and then I was going to change them. I think that that’s the farthest thing from the truth. I went to Africa, I experienced their culture, and it changed ME.
Going on mission trips isn’t to preach the Word of God to people, it’s not to shove it down their throats and force them to think the way you do.
Instead, I invite you to go on a mission trip to meet the people, experience their culture, and then let it change the way that you think.