I still have difficulty answering a question that many people have asked me about my trip to Uganda last month: What did I do while I was there?
I can list many of my actions and activities. Spending time with the young women in Ki-Mombasa that we are helping to break free from a life of poverty and prostitution. Distributing books, handmade dresses and teddy bears to the children. Speaking to several classes at a Catholic Girls School about discovering and developing their gifts from God, and about pursuing and achieving their dreams. Attending a meeting of a newly-established Rotary Club. Touring 14 acres of farmland that can provide housing, food, employment and income for many of “our girls.” Our team also established a leadership and family center, and trained leaders and facilitators.
That doesn’t include everything, but it’s still a fairly extensive list. Yet it doesn’t really get to the heart of what we are doing in Uganda, or why I am so excited about being a part of it.
We are changing a nation. And we are giving hope and a future to a new generation.
It’s difficult for me to say that out loud, and even more so to say it in print, because I know it sounds like wishful, idealistic, or delusional thinking. It’s the kind of statement one might expect from someone who doesn’t have a very firm grasp on reality – especially if you know that Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world, and has one of the youngest populations in the world.
But knowing the statistics doesn’t tell you about the high school girl who is determined to become the best lawyer in all of Africa, or the one who wants to help us in our work with the young women in Ki-Mombasa because she grew up in the slums and knows what many of the girls are going through. It doesn’t introduce you to the pastors from churches throughout the country, and of various denominations, who have joined together to help nurture and strengthen family relationships, and to help and hold each other accountable in their plans and programs. It doesn’t let you know about the talented and innovative leaders and artists who have made it their life’s work to rescue and show respect to those who are in desperate need, and to help others shine as their own gifts start to surface and they develop into the kinds of people that the world needs and looks up to.
I have met and worked with all of these people, and they prove that there is always hope for the future, no matter how dire circumstances may be. And as I begin to grasp that more fully, I realize there is a simple answer I can give whenever anyone asks me what I did in Uganda this year.
I watched miracles happening.