Do you want to go to Uganda?
I had just started my third month at Bright Hope as Operations Manager when I was asked that question. And there was no question in my mind that I wanted to go. The trip was planned to accompany a team of U.S. pastors from one of our Ally churches. They were traveling to meet with some of our Ugandan partner church leaders. My role in this trip was to meet our Bright Hope field team, the partner pastors and to observe and encourage the communities we visited.
As I sat on the plane during our 22 hour trip, my thoughts were all about how I was going to bless the people I would meet. After all, I was representing the very ministry that was bringing them help and hope. As we travelled, I reviewed my Bible notes from the men’s Bible studies I had attended and prayed that I would be a blessing to the team and to those we visited.
When our plane touched down in Uganda we were met by the driver taking us to our living quarters.
It was excitingly strange looking out the window as we drove on the opposite side of the road. Along with that, we were all tightly seated in an SUV that had all of our luggage tied on the roof.
It was evening when we arrived.
It was very warm with a pleasant breeze that smelled very much like the gorilla house at Lincoln Park Zoo back home. I later found out that the fragrance was from a particular bush that grew throughout the country. It was clear that I was in a different place – very much like a fish out of water.
After a night’s rest, our trip continued to visit several of our partner churches. Some of the churches had planned celebrations, such as a soccer tournament and bicycle race. All had meals for us to share but the main activities were to meet with pastors and the church community.
It was during one of our visits into the community that I met Gramma Ida.
I’m not sure how old she was, since many have no birth records, but she was caring for five children under the age of 7. Two of these children were her own grandchildren, born to her son and his wife who were both now dead, and three were children who were orphaned.
Ida welcomed us into her home.
A grass hut with a dirt floor that might have measured ten feet across and eight feet deep. This is where she lived with these five children. Ida made sure we all had either a piece of rug or a bucket to sit on and apologized for not having a customary coffee bean for us to tuck between our cheek and gum.
As we visited, aided by an interpreter, we talked about daily life, church life and hopes for the future. I showed her pictures of my family and we discussed and laughed about the way children grow up. During our conversation Ida asked if she could keep the picture of my wife Debbie and me. She took the picture and placed it upright on a shelving unit and told me she would be praying for my family. As we finished our visit, I thanked her, we prayed and wished each other well.
I thought I was going to be the one doing the blessing?
Throughout this time, I was so intent on being the one who would bring a special smile to someone. However, Gramma Ida was the one that gave me the blessing. I looked at her as if she was the poorest of the poor yet she, in many ways, is much richer than I am.
Maybe you’ve had an experience like that?
For example, you might have given to a water well project and feel blessed when you look at pictures of people enjoying a drink from that well. Perhaps it was a school project and to see the kids all sitting in the classroom warms your heart. These situations make it hard to interpret whether you were the blessing or the one being blessed. It’s at those moments when we are humbled by the interaction that we change a little within. God has blessed both sides. Your giving and your actions have changed someone. In turn you have learned to appreciate how blessed you are and change in the process.
That day I visited with Gramma Ida changed me.
If I had not accepted the offer to travel to Uganda, I would have missed the opportunities to see another land. Missed opportunities to pray with fellow believers in Africa. However, most importantly, I would have missed the blessing.