{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 19~How I Found Myself in Uganda ~ Part 2: The Painful Pouring Out Brings the Joyous Return

I told you last Wednesday about my first experience in Uganda. I told you that I came back changed and never wanted to be the same way I had been...

What's truly amazing is that I got to go back again, this year and that I learned even more than the first time.

This past summer I led a team...from beginning to end...coordinated (with lots of help!) all the travel arrangements, team building, fundraisers...arranged for our team of 20 and 60 pieces of luggage to travel to Uganda and all over Uganda for 2 weeks (all of the people made it...I can't say that for all of the luggage...).

And what was the icing on the cake...the cherry on top...what made this trip so incredible for me personally, was the fact that my husband and 2 oldest children were a part of our team. And I say a part of our team because they truly were. Brad was the on-the-ground leader of our team. He was the implementer of everything I had planned. We are such a great team that way. Our children, they were truly team members. They didn't cling to us...they sat next to different team members on the bus rides. They led worship. They preached. They played and loved on orphans....

It was such an amazing trip but we worked. so. hard. We prayed and put in long hours at the church in preparation for the trip. Our entire family loaded up on Sunday nights (after a full morning at church) to attend team meetings. We all participated in fundraisers. The girls sat with me and practiced crocheting while I worked my little fingers to the bone in order to have products to sell for our fundraisers. Our sights were set on Uganda and it was truly a family effort for several months before we ever left.

On the ground, my children witnessed Brad and I operating in the God-given grace that comes with missions trips. Brad and I have led teams in the past, but never with our children. I believe Caleb and Emma learned new things about us during those 2 weeks. They saw me bury my head in my hands and sob on our first night...so overwhelmed by the day's events and how I felt I had failed our team in planning a successful first day. We stood at the top of Murchison Falls, soaking wet and completely exhilarated and overwhelmed at God's awesome creation. They witnessed Brad preaching the Gospel to a village of unreached people in a remote village in northern Uganda. And they loved every minute. They cried when we left. They regularly talk about their friends over there and how they can't wait to go back.

I watched God do miracles in each and every one of our team members. We were each pushed to our limit at different times and it was amazing to see how God carried us through each moment. Many of us did what we had previously thought impossible. For me, raising the money and taking our team and accomplishing the tasks that had been given to us...all of these were things I had to give to the Lord and let Him do through me.

Our second to last night there, after a full day of work at the orphanage, we loaded the bus for our 40 minute drive to our lodging location. My heart was heavy knowing that I only had one day left with these Ugandan children who have a hold on my heart but I was also longing for home...my arms ached at times to hold my own 3 children who were awaiting our return home. I sat next to a window, feeling the breeze blow away the sticky and the sweat and the dirt of the day, and listened to the sounds.

The hum of the bus motor.
The chatter and shouts from the towns people as we drove by.
The sounds of our team.

The sounds of our team.

They were laughing and joking around.
They were talking about the children they had interacted with that day.
They were sharing photos and videos.

What I remember clearest is Angela talking about Stella. Stella, the single mom of 4. Stella, the beaded-jewelry maker. Stella, who had hauled pounds and pounds of jewelry out to the orphanage in order to make money for her children's school tuition. Angela had spent a couple of hours with Stella, listening to her story. Looking into her eyes. Validating the work she does to provide for her children. She had invested in Stella. And she was talking about what the future might hold...could we find a way to ship necklaces to the states? Could we help support Stella in a long-term way?

And it was as if time stood still. I was physically there, but in my mind's eye, in my spirit, I could see all that God was doing. The efforts of the last 8-9 months went far beyond those 2 weeks in Uganda. The change is eternal. It's everlasting. We ALL left changed. We, the 20 Americans and we the people who shared common experiences over those 2 weeks...Ugandans and Americans alike.

Farida knows me. She knows that she has someone all the way across the ocean, in America, who has her back. Who is praying for her.

Stella met with Angela, a strong white woman from America, who encouraged her and spoke words of life over her.

Godfrey played and laughed and connected with Caleb, a white boy from America, for 4 days. They both cried when they said goodbye.

These are life-connections. These interactions are why we work so hard to travel and share with people from other cultures. Because there is something about an outsider, an objective observer, telling you that you are important...that your life matters...that YOU matter...that is everlasting.

I sat on that bus, tears rolling down my face, and thanked God. I thanked Him for using me. I thanked Him for letting me see, letting me hear, letting me touch these people and sense His heart for them. I had never felt more used in my life...in a good way.

And sitting beside me was my beautiful, 9 year old Emma. Emma who loved those people like I love those people. Emma who is also forever changed because of those 2 weeks.

And I realized that ministry is just this...the investment in our family first. And then the pouring out of our family unit. God wants to use all of us, young and old, experienced and inexperienced...He takes us all. He wants us to love each other well and then pour out of that love onto others.

There is nothing else I'd rather do.

This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.

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