Uganda: Final Impressions
Uganda. A world away from everything familiar to me, yet during my short visit, I experienced several realities I long for in life: simplicity of faith, complete dependency on God, and honest smiles from friends and strangers alike. The warmth and kindness of Ugandans disarmed my inhibitions and shyness.
A handshake, greeting, and hug set the tone for many wonderful relationships with people who displayed a sincere sense of peace and gratitude. Sharing a common faith in Jesus, we bonded quickly, and I found myself surrounded by caring and affectionate brothers and sisters-so sweet and genuine. Our conversations and prayers celebrated our triumphant Lord and the many blessings He rained downed on us during these brief and beautiful moments. Everyone went out of their way to make us comfortable and welcome.
The Ugandan people I met both young and old will have a place in my heart for the rest of my days. Their unwavering faith, loving hearts, and purity of worship never failed to inspire me and assure me of God’s presence every minute of our journey. Hats off to the fantastic Ugandan chefs who served us during the trip; they renewed my love for Italian food.What equally amazed me was the unique qualities of my fellow team members. Twenty-one individuals of various ages and differing backgrounds exhibited their gifts and talents to fulfill the goals of our two-week trip across the East African nation.
The nurses reflected the tenderness and care of our Savior, while our leaders and guides worked hard to keep us safe, well and happy. The prayers and songs of our worship team paved our way through remote regions, bustling cities, and towns on our sturdy little Chinese bus, which attracted both friendly waves and puzzling gazes.
The racers of Le Mans pale compared to our drivers who expertly navigated through the free-for-all traffic of motorcycle taxi drivers, herds of cows, dare-devil goats and speeding freight trucks. I marveled at their prowess behind the wheel whether over mud trails or dusty paved roads crisscrossing the nation. The highway was lined with small shops and open markets, a vein of commerce that never slumbers.
One of our drivers, Frank, had a heart for nature, and we shared our mutual interest in local reptiles. He described his encounters with pythons and monitors, while I told him about the footage on YouTube showing how Steve Irwin caught black mambas and puff adders.
Exploring this beautiful country yielded many firsts for me—star-filled nights with fruit bats dashing tree to tree and rather-large orange-headed lizards defending their corner of sidewalks and walls.The most profound experience happened at a hospital we were visiting in Soroti. A man named Charles looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want to know Jesus.” To be completely honest, in my 30 years of being a born-again Christian, I was dumbfounded by his simple appeal. I have been a counselor at Harvest Crusades for many years and still have never faced such a sincere and pure request.Decades of encountering dead, unbelieving and hostile hearts have jaded me. It took a trip to Africa to witness hungry souls making clear and natural decisions to choose the Light over the darkness. Thankfully, my friend Dan Benson led him through the sinner’s prayer while I excitedly searched for a Bible to give Charles.
At the UN refugee camp, I met people who sorely missed their homes in South Sudan yet showed resilience to survive and build a future for their children. Their existence centered around a small hut, running water, a small plot of land for growing sweet potatoes, and the clothes on their backs.
The men, women and children never complained or looked back in anger down the long road they walked miles from the border. They welcomed us with worship songs in beautiful harmony, thankful for the afternoon shower and the escape from the civil war and famine in their homeland.
The wildlife that filled me with wonder as a child flourished in front of me while riding an open-hatch van at the Murchison Falls National Park. Elephants, baboons, antelopes, monkeys, giraffes and lions went about their day across the Savanna. The boat ride on the Nile River brought me face to face with hippos and legendary Nile crocodiles.
As the sun began to set and the sea of stars appeared, I realized my dream of traveling to Africa had become a reality. Departing from Entebbe Airport, I knew at that moment, a piece of my heart has stayed behind in Uganda.