Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A St James Family reflect on their recent trip to Uganda

Family photo As 2009 was Janet’s 50th birthday we wanted to do something special as a family to mark the year. We’d been fascinated by the stories brought back from previous Love Africa trips. In particular the idea that the visits were very much a two-way exchange was intriguing. The chance to come alongside fellow Christians in the Love Africa projects putting their faith into action seemed too good an opportunity to miss. When we heard about the Drewett family going to Uganda we were particularly inspired to give our children the opportunity to see life from a different perspective; outside of the cosy Gerrards Cross bubble.

The plan for our trip involved visiting the Tumaine orphanage at Children at TumaineKakira; Mubarak (our sponsored child in Mawagala); Kiswa school in Kampala which is twinned with the Gerrards Cross CE School; and a number of ACET/Tearfund/Love Africa projects in the North of Uganda. We also participated in a build project with the Watoto church. In all, a very full, exhausting but fantastic three week schedule.

Family with Ugandan children The highlights of the trip were undoubtedly the children we met; they were so full of life, joy, fun and music. The whole family was captivated. Spending a few days with the Gillespie family at Tumaine running a PromiseLand style activity day was just wonderful. All of our family have been involved in PromiseLand in various ways, so for us to come together as a family to share that experience with the children at Tumaine was deeply satisfying and moving.

We also felt very moved and privileged to experience the love and affection that is felt towards the whole of the St James congregation for the support that the Love Africa mission has given and the difference it has made. To witness first hand the encouragement this gives to the community at Tumaine was a real blessing. The welcome that the children sang for us on our arrival was so beautiful it took our breath away.

We were amazed by Watoto and the scale of their work in Uganda.At Watoto With a congregation of more than 20,000, their mission to look after widows and orphans is on an unprecedented scale. It is incredible to see what God can do if we will only trust in Him. For us and our children to come alongside Christians making this sort of a difference in their community was awe inspiring. So too though were the ACET projects in war torn Gulu, where small communities are

Gulu, Uganda
putting lives back together. These projects are at the other end of the scale from Watoto; a few small, poor churches working together for the first time to look after the poorest of the poor in their own community. A real inspiration again for making Christianity relevant to our own community.

Prior to the trip our teenage daughters frequently asked, “Why don’t we just send the money, do we really have to go to Africa?” (In truth a couple of weeks in a nice villa with a pool would have been more their idea of a good holiday!)

Before we went that was a difficult question to answer convincingly. After our return, it was no longer an issue. To connect face to face was encouraging for the people we met and a privilege for us. A step that allowed God to work deeper in the hearts of both sides. To steal a lovely phrase from Sue Gillespie: “we came back with empty suitcases but very full hearts”. All in all it was a wonderful way to mark Janet’s birthday.