North America, Africa · 4 Days · 11 Moments · May 2018

Heather's journi to Uganda

13 May 2018

South Sudanese refugee camps! Thousands of thousands have moved into Uganda seeking safety.. each camp holds 5200 people centered around one well. They build little huts to make a village and do their best to provide for themselves. They have no access to a town or other help unless it is brought to them. Not only are they located 60 miles away from civilization on a terrible pot hole dirt road (ask me about the terrifying drive back home we had in the pitch black, pouring rain!)- but there is also strict regulation in and out of the camp.. no entry or exit. The kids ran wild with very little clothes and a lot of disease and parasitic infection. They loved to see us though and had so much fun playing tag! (Also ask me about the babies though— they cry at the sight of our scary white faces 😂😂)
In addition to Christine’s house and the new village that they are building, they also have a church, a clinic, a farm, a preschool, elementary school, and multiple vocational schools (for sewing and woodworking), they do a lot of outreach in local villages and refugee camps. All of this started in 2002 with a sports outreach program from Tennessee. What started with week long camps, grew and grew and grew into the huge ministry that they have today. They are constantly looking to improve and expand in more ways. While Americans come for missions trips every few months and help to send funds and resources their way, everything is run and managed by locals.
Continuing with the story from the last girl... she woke up in the morning covered in blood. When she went home, she told her parents what had happened, but they were ashamed of her and blamed her for going to the soccer game. she was kept inside for months. Her sisters and parents would not speak to her. Her neighbor, who knows of Christine’s house, was able to get her sent to this program, where she is seeking healing. All of these girls were between 14 and 17. Many were pregnant. They sobbed as they told their stories. We were able to pray over each of them and tell them that they are loved. We took them through a trauma lesson, where we tried to demonstrate that they were not bad, but bad things had happened to them. We were able to bring them clothes, bras, and underwear. They have only spent one month in the program, but many were already telling us about the joy and forgiveness they had found in christ. Some were even smiling and dancing.

12 May 2018

We spent much of the day with the girls, listening to their stories and praying over them. One of the girls was a maid at a rich person’s house and was repeatedly raped by the man of the house. When she became pregnant, the wife found out and abused her. she was forced to confess to her parents and was sent away. Another girl was raped at boarding school on the way to get water for her classmates. 3 boys stood watch while another raped her in a bush. When she returned to school the following year, she had to do an entrance physical, where they found her (and 8 other girls!) to be pregnant. They sent them all back home, where they had to tell their parents.. she was also sent away in disgrace. The last story I will share was a girl that was sent to the market to get food. She met with her friends to go to a soccer game instead... on the way home, late at night, multiple men attacked them, strangling her and threatening to kill her. She was raped by multiple men.
The Farm is mostly sustainable. They grow and raise their own food and teach rural villages to do the same. Much of their outreach is now expanding into refugee and village communities to demonstrate how to grow corn, wheat, and other such food items — the hope is to eventually establish relationships strong enough to build churches in those areas.
The women in the recovery program are also taught sustainable trades, like sewing, basket making, knitting, etc. These are some of the beautiful things that they have made and sell in order to contribute to their living costs. The baby above is one week old! This first baby born out of the ten girls that are pregnant. They call her princess and she is adorable!!! All of the girls help to care for her.
We arrived at the farm and were given a short orientation that night. They are working to build a new village for the girls from Christine’s house to return to after they finish with the 9 month recovery program. We helped to build huts for the future transitional village. The plan is that the girls would return home for 1-2 months to demonstrate their recovery and help to evangelize according to what they have learned. Depending on their experience, they will have the option to stay in their home village or come back to this newly made community. Many of the families and villages exile the girls that have been raped and abused and do not welcome them back in, which is why the village is so necessary. 4 years of girls (almost 70 girls, and 30ish babies) have graduated from the program.

11 May 2018

We woke up early the next morning (covered in sweat!!!) and ate a good but interesting breakfast cooked by the Airbnb hosts. None of us got sick from it so that was a bonus! We loaded up the bus again with the fearless Joseph and began our next travel day — a 6 hour drive to Gulu (from Kampala). Patrick, the doctor, came with us to begin his journey that morning as well! the drive was a nice way to ease into the mission and to see the incredible differences that Africa holds. It is BEAUTIFUL, but also very impoverished and behind in many ways. Our bus full of whites was a subject of many stares and I began to feel very aware and self conscious of my blaring white skin.

10 May 2018

We loaded all of the bags into a bus that we learned would be ours for the remainder of our trip, along with the fearless Joseph, who drove us from point A to point B each and everyday! The Airbnb was large and beautiful, although the weather was much more hot and humid than expected and mosquitos were visible in plenty. Luckily all of the beds had nets and we found our sleeping places for the night. I slept with mallery and Jessica in a main room off of the living room.
After a long semester and a hard week of finals, we got our bags all packed and headed off for Uganda! the plane rides were long but good (two 10 hour flights)! Lots of delicious food was served and I was able to sleep more than I had planned. I watched multiple movies and episodes of the Big Bang theory, but mostly just ate and slept. After a stressful semester, it was everything that I could have ever wanted. (And Becca was able to get us seated all together- BIG YAY!). After 24 hours and a lot of confusing time change, we arrived in the Entebbe airport and waited an excruciatingly long time in the immigration line and talked individually with very scary and grumpy workers. Despite their mean faces, we all made it through and none of our bags were lost! Only a small amount of our medical supplies was confiscated (apparently you cannot bring any expired supplies.. even if it is gloves and gauze), but everything else moved easily by and we were greeted by Patrick, the founder of RUHU

9 May 2018

We started off with a crazy graduation weekend for Jeremy and a night in a beautiful Airbnb in Santa Ana, where the stress was high and the last minute packing was intense! With over 20 bags and one van, it was a struggle to fit everything in.. but with will and determination, we did it! Our fears of taking multiple trips or an Uber were abolished as we squeezed the last bag into the car only minutes after our planned departure time. Getting the bags through the airport was another struggle and involved relays of bag carrying, accidentally stolen luggage carts, and some very annoyed European airline workers. Eventually everyone lightened up, however, and they even let us take a few bags that were well over the weight limit. We hoped and prayed that all the struggle was worth it and we felt relief when we were finally all on the plane! Mallery, Lupe, Kasey, and ... met us at LAX, while Jessica met us in Amsterdam (many of our first times in Europe!!!!)