One of our NHUM staff members, Carly Winterstein, shares her recent experience bringing a team to Uganda in February 2018.
Each trip to Uganda has been so different for me. I do have to say though that this one may have topped all the others. We had a large team, yet there was such unity and servant-hearts across the whole group. The “God-moments” were numerous and the blessings beyond count.
As I am processing all that God did and taught me among this beloved group of brothers and sisters in Christ, I am going to write several blog posts. This first one will focus on our first stop, Kobwin Children’s Center.
Our first day in Uganda was hard. We had traveled for 2 days on airplanes, so we were tired waking up early that first morning to head to Kobwin Children’s Center. The drive would be a minimum of 8 hours.
At one of our last team meetings, our team leader, Steve told us his pastor once said, “Blessed are the flexible for they will not break”. We remembered this on our first day as we were stuck in Kampala traffic for 3 hours only moving 3-4 km. Our trip ended up being a total of 12.5 hours to our destination. Things were not going as planned. We had to lay down our desires and trust the Lord.
We arrived to Kumi District in the dark. We were so disoriented and tired that we missed a couple turns and had to ask many people which way to go. Eventually, by the grace of God, we rolled into Kobwin with a most welcoming gathering. We were greeted with hugs, handshakes, smiling faces, and a delicious feast.
The challenges continued into the night, though, as a wedding party from the village was heard from our bedroom. The team didn’t get much sleep that night, and we were stretched to the max of exhaustion; but then the sun rose. And what a beautiful sunrise. The light revealed God’s amazing creation. The rocks and the sunrise makes a landscape I have never experienced in my life. It literally left me in awe of how amazing our Lord is.
That morning one of our team members shared about the light and the darkness. It was so fitting. We drove into Kobwin confused, tired, anxious, and then the light shone forth in the morning and the awe of God’s creation just put us at peace. This is so true in life itself. When we are walking in darkness it is so easy to stumble, grow afraid, anxious, and begin to waiver in our trust. But, when we walk in truth and light, God makes our paths straight. We no longer stumble, but rely on the One we can completely trust because He is loving, gracious, merciful, perfect, and is our forever reigning King.
After devotions, we walked to church. The whole first hour was worship and prayer. The local Ateso people at Kobwin Community Church made a joyful noise to the Lord with their traditional music. I could feel the Spirit of God during worship that morning and the tears flowed. There is nothing like worshiping with brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, together in unity and diversity.
That evening as we sat down to dinner and our driver, *Ahad, wanted to share with our group that he has never felt so loved and included by a team. This was humbling and convicting to me. Ahad, a Ugandan Muslim man, had driven many Christian groups before. I am thankful that the Lord used our group to be a witness to him, but I am also saddened that this is the first time he has felt so loved and included. There wasn’t a dry eye at the table as he shared and it was because we truly love and care for him. The next day the men on the team spent several hours talking about Christ under the mango tree with Ahad. I quote one team member, “If we leave this trip and all we accomplished was leading our driver to Christ, it was worth it”.
The next day was going to be a full day, both with work assignments and emotions. I worked on organizing the photography of 53 children and Ugandan missionaries in need of sponsors throughout the day with my photographer teammate and now friend, Tara. I marveled and whispered thanks to God as I witnessed Uncle Charles so easily bring radiant smiles to the children’s faces. These are children coming from situations of desperate need. They are orphaned and have suffered more than we can imagine. Yet, they are so precious and so evidently touched by the ministry of those serving at Kobwin.
Mid-day we toured the community distribution points for the Kobwin Water Project, which will bring clean water to over 7,000 people. Last year when they had a drought, this area’s wells literally dried up and they dug a hole in the ground where they used filthy muddy water as their only source.
One of the distribution points we visited is a government school. We were the first “muzungus” (white people) to visit and the school has been around since 1937. There are over 1,000 children attending this primary school. Some classes have over 100 students, 3-5 per desk, and only 1 teacher per class. They go the entire day without water and food. The day we visited, I would guess it reached 100 degrees. One of the teachers explained that by the afternoon “the children are gone.” They can’t focus any longer because of their hunger and thirst. They said if they were to provide food then they would have to raise school fees making schooling too expensive for too many of the students.
The tears were flowing and my heart was breaking. I was grieving for these children who did nothing to deserve this lot in life, but also so thankful that soon they will have water to quench their thirst. I started taking selfies with the kids and they gathered around me smiling and giggling. I hope you can see how precious the kids are from these pictures.
After our time of touring, we returned to Kobwin Children’s Center and I witnessed a stark contrast as I observed the Kobwin classrooms. The children there were attentively cared for and so evidently loved. At Kobwin there are about 20 children to a teacher and they receive truth on a daily basis. I saw the difference before my very eyes. It makes me thankful for the work God is doing and also moves me to pray for more to experience love like this.
The day ended with a sunset meal and hike to the top of the boulders. We listened to the family group having devotions, singing praises to God amidst the amazing natural beauty that surrounded us. If I could sum up the Kobwin experience, I would say that God revealed His light in the darkness. He is working in the darkest places and He cares for the least of these. Every child is precious in His sight.
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Matthew 10:13-15
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12
*Ahad is a pseudonym to protect privacy