I’m up early this morning. Jet. Lag. I can’t complain, it hasn’t been terrible. In fact, there is no better time to blog than when the family is asleep.
I flew in from Uganda on Friday night and thanks to Ambien I experienced a very solid nights sleep. The trip was astounding. It’s difficult to begin to unpack such an experience. So here’s my best shot: We ministered in two different orphanages. Our game plan was to celebrate a belated Easter with them. We taught with resurrection eggs, made a chick in a nest craft and of course, as all westerners do, gave them candy. Friends, let me tell you this, I was skeptical about using resurrection eggs in a third world country. Would it resonate with them, I wondered. Yes, yes and yes again. Resurrection eggs were a perfect fit for Uganda. The kids loved opening the egg and discovering the item inside. It helped them touch the story and understand it more deeply. We told the story of Jesus, him crucified, and the resurrection. We helped them understand that although they would hear many stories in their lifetime, the stories in the Bible are the truth. We explained salvation… and then we carefully waded into the territory of an invitation, not knowing what to expect. With heads lowered and eyes closed we saw 44 hands slip into the air to claim their salvation over the course of the week. We went to the children, took their hands and, using translators, counseled them through their decision. Then we guided them and listened as they asked God for salvation in their own language. The children ranged from 9 years to 14 years old, with most being around 12. This was comforting because we all felt they were at a great age to grasp this gift and make a true decision. After prayers and folded hands we celebrated with the kids. They made public professions in front of the other children and we took their pictures and they each signed their name in our little record keeper. Very ceremonious! There are plans for a big baptism service back in the local church in Kyotera. Wish I could hop a plane back for that!
We also held sports camps for the kids. The boys played soccer and the girls played volleyball. This was a huge outlet for the kids. They enjoyed pouring themselves into the sport for awhile and just being kids. You see, kids in Uganda live through stresses that we could never imagine. They live in fear of being taken in the night. Children are at risk for being trafficked into the slave trade, sacrificed by witch doctors or being defiled for strange cultural ignorances. The children in the orphanage have all experienced unspeakable evils in their lives and somehow they can still run to the road and greet you with a smile and waving arms. They still have a capacity for joy. They still want to experience love. It fills me with guilt to know that I went for two weeks, hugged them, played with them, taught them, gave them new shoes, all the while attaching them to me, then got on a plane and flew back to my real life. Not that I’ve forgotten them, not that I won’t be back, but that I have contributed to another loss in their life. Don’t get me wrong, short term mission trips are essential. Local staff cannot consistently provide new and educational experiences for kids. But like most once a year missionaries I’ve come to the conclusion that these trips, although exciting for the kids, are more about my growth than theirs. So go on trips, love on orphans, but don’t forget that their life goes on when you leave. They still have reality to face after the bubbles and soccer balls are packed up. They have to grow after you lead them in the sinner’s prayer. I challenge all of us to think out of the box when we take these trips. Minister to the local staff, equip them to do good work. Don’t do good and leave, teach others how to carry on the work. Without equipping there is no future.