I’ve been home from Africa for over a week now, and I think I am finally starting to get back to “life as normal” after a week’s transition back to the States. We experienced and learned so much that when people say, “I want to hear all about your trip!” I have found myself at a loss for words. Where do I start? How do I pick “the highlights?” As I thought about where to start, I think this is a good place.
I went to Uganda to love people.
This is actually no different from how I try to live my every day in Hoboken and New York City. This is at the core of our church – how do we practically and tangibly show the love of God to people, so that they might come to know Him? I struggled a bit with guilt about this trip, knowing there are plenty of points of pause when it comes to short-term missions. I know that some of these kind of trips can end up doing more harm than good if you try to swoop in and change things in a week. But I also know that valuing people is a philosophy I hold, my local church holds, and that directly impacts our community. Our church constantly asks: if we closed our doors tomorrow, would the city know? As I prepared for this trip, I thought about the incredible things God is doing through His people here in Hoboken. I thought about how we’ve been Jesus to people during Sandy recovery. I thought about how the need for a mentorship program in Hoboken led a friend of mine to starting one. I am grateful to be a part of a community that doesn’t just believe that this way of living, of outlandish love and service, is something reserved for mission trips. It is embodied here on the Hudson, in our own backyard.
I went to Uganda to broaden my Horizons.
This trip provided a great reason to travel. I’ve visited quite a bit of the US and its territories. I’ve been to Canada. I got to experience Mexico twice. Nick and I fell in love with Costa Rica on our honeymoon. But I had never crossed an ocean, and have always wanted to see what is going on in other parts of the world. My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived in Africa for over a decade, and I heard lots of stories and saw home video clips during that time. I’ve supported organizations like The Mocha Club for years because I wanted to connect with Africa and the work people are doing there in a personal way. But until now, still Africa remained somewhat of a concept to me. While sending a few lattes’ worth of money per month is great, this trip offered the opportunity to experience the people and the country for myself. I wanted to put faces with names, I wanted to shake people’s hands, and hear their stories. Determined to go as a listener, I didn’t want to impose my agenda and assumptions onto others, but offering smiles and a listening ear.
I went to Uganda because I was invited.
This is the most simple reason, but probably the most important. When Bob came to speak at my church last fall, his stories of whimsy and the adventurous way he lives his life in the name of Jesus stirred up those things in me. Bob challenges your ideas of what’s “normal” and that applies to living out and spreading the gospel of Jesus. When Bob visited and told us to come to Uganda, it was truly without agenda, and a genuine invitation. He wanted us to not think about it too hard, just come along for the journey, and practice “becoming love.” Other team members on the trip have some awesome stories about what brought them to Uganda, and how God made it clear they should go, but for me, this trip was a “Love Does” thing. Bob loves God, I love God, and Bob invited me to love others. It was that simple. So I took him up on the wild offer, and thus far, it is proving to be one of the best leaps of faith I ever have taken.
So when people ask about the trip, the short answer is: It was incredible. We experienced such heartache and joy and sniffed out “the scent of Jesus” (as Bob would say). There is far too much to share in just one post, so I’m going to do my best to unpack it all here on the blog over the next month!
If you have gone on mission or service trips, what was your motivation? Did you find your pre-trip reasons changing while you were there?