A Day Without Running Water

Before venturing halfway around the world, I’ve never gone without running water. On a day-to-day basis I just don’t think about water because I have the privilege to assume all the water I drink is clean and never lift a finger to collect water. In the United States, our water is not only easily accessible and clean- it also protects our teeth through water fluoridation. During the first couple days I spent in Uganda, my thoughts on water changed and considerably increased.

Waking up in Uganda, I’d stretch and wearily navigate an exit rout from underneath the mosquito net covering my bed. As I drudged over to my suitcase I grabbed my towel and headed off to take a shower. I knew that the water we used came from a well about 1.5 miles from where we were staying, so I don’t have good reason to explain my surprise of what taking a shower entailed. Opening the wooden gate-like door to the outdoor shower, I peered in to find two jugs of water (one hot and one cold) and a plastic bowl. The shower procedure, I soon learned, was to pour various amounts of the hot and could water into this bowl and dump the water on your self. I never appreciated modern technology that makes running water possible so much until my own hands had to take its place.

After I finished my shower, I set off to complete my next task of brushing my teeth. In addition to water being difficult to access, the water we were able to collect was not clean. I had the luxury of bottled water though, and so I brushed my teeth using that. Using bottled water made me aware of just how much water I can live off of, which surprised me even more than the shower procedure.

Over the course of a half hour that first morning in Uganda, I learned more about my daily consumption of water than all the statics that have been quoted to me. Water is important and clean water is even more important. In many ways, God is like water. He brings life to everything he touches, uplifting us with his grace and love. Sometimes we don’t notice how much the Lord is working in our lives, the ways He is changing our hearts and His beautiful creations because we are caught up in the daily grind. All too often I take the Lord for granted, unaware that it is He who “refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

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The Pearl of Africa

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Everything in Uganda seems to be a little bit larger than what I am used to. The bugs are bigger, the grass is higher, and the peoples hearts are so much larger than I’ve ever experienced. Before we even arrived at Josephs’ Home to begin our mission work, virtually the whole town had gathered to greet us. As our dirty and exhausted 16-passenger van pulled in, a swarm of children, teenagers, and adults alike embraced us the minute we opened the side door. By the time I made it to the room I was staying in, I probably hugged over three dozen perfect strangers. This was the first time in my life that I’ve been welcomed into an area with endless, sincere smiles filled with joy and gratitude just for showing up.

A man named Joseph, as you might have guessed, started the ministry that Olive Branch Ministries has taken over since his passing in 2009. Josephs’ Home originally started off as an orphanage of sorts, providing housing and care to needy and neglected children in the rural village, Zzeba. Pastor Joseph valued education highly and did everything he could to give children access to education, even attempting to start his own school. Olive Branch Ministries continues his legacy in caring for and providing the school fees for nearly 37 children, preschool – university students. Each student has either a sponsor or a pen pal that they can look up to and confide in, providing critical emotional support for children as they venture into an entirely new world.

The overwhelming love that the Josephs’ Home community continued to be revealed that Sunday when our team was invited to attend a local church service. The energy and enthusiasm that this community has for God is beyond words. I grew up going to a contemporary church, thinking that they way we were praising God was radical. All of the sudden, everyone was shouting, dancing, and shattering my preconceived notions of the “right” way to worship. There was no silence, only the loud and bold pursuit of relationship with God. There came a point in the service where the team was invited up to share with the congregation a short message about who we were, why we came, etc. As butterflies collected in my stomach right before I got up to speak, I found the answer I had been searching for nearly all summer. I rose from my seat, walked to the center of the room, and delivered to the crowd a short introduction ending with “I have been thinking a lot about how what I can teach you, I now know that I’ve come here to learn.”

It is interesting to consider how spiritually rich this community clearly is when they are physically living in poverty. The United States by contrast, and more severely in the Northeast, seems to have the opposite problem. In a society with all the luxury of modern technology and a reasonably high standard of living, churches are becoming less and less prevalent. This begs the question, who is really suffering?

The Prospect of Uganda

I leave for Uganda in about 6 weeks to work with Olive Branch Ministries. I will be embarking on this journey for a number of reasons that the Lord has been revealing to me. In reflecting on why I am going, what I hope to achieve, and the skills that I bring to the table I have come to see this opportunity to not only grow in my own faith, but enjoy in seeing my family develop their faith as well.

For years, my extended family has been involved in Olive Branch Ministries and hearing about their travels to Uganda initially sparked my interest in tagging along. Traveling to Panama this past January with Global Bridges gave me a taste of a new culture and fueled my curious spirit to expand my horizons even further. God has certainly given me a passion for learning and I learn best through experiences. I trust that this mission trip will be an excellent opportunity to learn not only about a different culture, but also gain a deeper understanding of how the Lord is working in this area of Uganda. I am not going to Uganda to tour Africa, I am going to Uganda to connect with people, develop lasting relationships, and above all let the spirit guide me so that I may spread the love of God to unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar land.

After having the privilege to go to Panama City Beach also this past semester and engage in spiritual conversations with strangers on the beach with UMass Campus Crusade for Christ, I now understand the importance of stepping out in faith to let the Lord lead me. Being a “good” evangelist doesn’t entail converting the most people, following God and trusting in Him makes for a successful evangelist. Only God has the power to change hearts, we are simply vessels at the mercy of His almighty wind. While in Africa, I will not spend time worrying about checking items off my endless to do list. I will focus less on what I am doing and more on whom I am doing it for. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”

I have been praying an awful lot about what unique qualities I bring to the table. Not why do I want to go, but why should I? Perhaps this wont be entirely clear until I get to Uganda, or even after I leave, but none the less this is important to think about. God has a plan for me in Uganda and its my job to follow his guidance, trusting Him and giving up control.