On October 16, 2011, Jonathan Winfree and myself flew from Orlando, FL towards our final destination of Mbale, Uganda. Our flight took us from Orlando to New York to Dubai to Ethiopia to Uganda. Once we made it to Uganda, we stayed in a hotel in the capital city of Kampala. This was our last evening of air conditioning for the next 10 days. On Wednesday morning, we took a small van on a 5 hour trip to the second largest city in Uganda, which is Mbale. Mbale is where we were going to team up with the staff and volunteers of JENGA. JENGA focuses on providing the essentials of life such as water, sanitation, health and education to the most needy communities and targets women, children and orphans. JENGA also aims to witness to the truth about Jesus Christ in a culturally sensitive manner. During our time in Mbale, we visited the poorest communities to work beside JENGA as they fulfill the calling they have on their lives to demonstrate God’s love.
Clean and uncontaminated water is hard to come by in Uganda and JENGA has several projects that they are working on to help with the problem of unclean water. We were able to see the water project in Mooni. This project aims to bring safe drinking water to the residents of Mooni. JENGA has also been building and supplying rainwater jars that help collect clean water. Another way JENGA is helping with the problem of unclean water is they are providing boreholes that give access to free uncontaminated water for the residents of these slums.
We were also able to see the goat project which specifically works to help widows and orphans in the slum communities. The way this program works is that JENGA provides a widow or orphan with a goat that has been bred and then teaches the Ugandan how to care for and manage their goat. The first female goat is then given back to JENGA so that they can breed and then give away that goat to another person in need.
JENGA recently started a new program that allows Ugandans to harvest crops and then store them in a “community” building. This building is structurally sound and is monitored to make sure there is no stealing or infestation. When times get tough and there is more demand than supply, these storage buildings have crops available at fair prices to help those in need.
One of the main reasons for me going on this trip was to see how the Diaz Family Foundation’s support was affecting the people of Uganda. As we strive to live up to our mission statement by “glorifying God by helping orphans and disadvantaged youth”, the Children’s Bible Clubs are a specific area of need that this foundation hopes to affect. There are close to 1600 children that meet on a weekly basis to learn and play together. The clubs meet on Saturdays and the Saturday that we went around to the Bible Clubs, it was raining. We were still able to see a large number of children come together to sing and dance and praise God. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. These children just love the Lord. Despite their circumstances, they are so grateful and excited about what God is doing in their lives. It was so refreshing to experience their hearts for worship and it inspired me to keep my life simple and to not get caught up in some of the circumstances that life has dealt you.
Along the same lines of the Bible Clubs, we went to a church service in a slum outside of Mbale on Sunday that recently had their church torn down so that a dirt road could go where the church was. Half the church was torn down on the Tuesday that we arrived in Uganda and we met in a little office space that was still standing. It was quite humbling to sit in a room that was probably 10’ x 12’ while others were sitting ouside in the hot sun and to worship beside them. Their church was just torn down 5 days ago and to hear them praise God and to give Him thanks just helped put things a little more into perspective. I am not so sure I would have responded the same way they did.
One afternoon, we travelled to a local hospital and had the chance to pray for and encourage some of the patients and their families. Without getting into too much detail, this was heartbreaking for me. I am so thankful for my health and for my families health and to know that if there was something wrong, we would get the attention that we need. It is not the same in Uganda. Malnutrition and disease affect so many people’s lives and unfortunately, it is just accepted. I am not sure if I will ever be able to understand this.
Another opportunity we had with JENGA is their involvement in church ministry. JENGA tries to promote unity among churches to positively affect these local communities. Jonathan has been to Uganda 7 times now and each time he goes back, he is involved in meeting with pastors and church leaders to help teach and develop these pastors. It was really neat to see the response to Jonathan as these pastors received new material and ideas to help unify the believers in these slums.
In conclusion, our trip to Uganda was just what I needed. I don’t want to sound selfish, but it is awesome to know that I serve a God that specifically cares about me. He cares about the big things in my life as well as the little things. He planned this trip for me so that I could experience his sovereignty. With my little mind, I sometimes tend to put God in a box and don’t allow him do the things he has for me. I focus on me and what I feel is best for me, but this trip has allowed me to put God back in the driver’s seat and know that where he is taking me is best for me but even better for Him. I would encourage everyone to be available for what God has for you. I really didn’t think there was any way I could go on this trip, but then again, I was only thinking about me. Please check out JENGA’s website at www.jengauganda.org and read more about what they are doing in Uganda. They are doing amazing things and I am thankful for the brief time I was able to work alongside of them in Uganda. I would like to thank MattE and Leslee and the other members of foundation as well as all of you that kept Jonathan and myself in your prayers and for those of you that helped out financially. This foundation has an amazing vision and the right attitude to help those in need locally and throughout the world. I hope you like the video and the pictures from the trip and I hope you are inspired to not only listen to what God has for you but to be able to act on His calling for your lives.