See you later, Uganda!

As I am sitting down to write this blog post, I have exactly 4 days left in Uganda before I head to the airport in Entebbe and begin my journey home. I’d be lying if I said writing that doesn’t bring tears to my eyes…Yesterday was my last group outreach and the following days will be full of packing and goodbyes (…more like ‘see you later’s). Since my last blog post, so much has happened; the days have been flying by unbelievably fast! Construction for the dormitory has officially begun and things are running smoothly. We also had a visitor come and join the family these past two weeks! Our fundraising coordinator in the United States, Emily Rusch, decided to come and stay for three weeks to visit the teenage mothers and see how the construction project is going! She will be flying out with me on the 22nd. We have been trying to visit all of the groups that we serve these past two weeks, so it has been a whirlwind of motions.

To say that I am lacking words for this last post would be an understatement. How could I possibly begin to put into words all that I have experienced these past 6 months? The deep faith, trust, and overwhelming joy I have seen and begun to know myself are things that I’ve found difficult to explain to family and friends back home, let alone write down in a blog post. Though it is inevitable that we will be misunderstood by many, there is much to be said for those who give their lives to Christ. Fred and Stella have given their lives to Christ in a very radical way. They gave up so much to start the ministry of Smile Again Families Uganda, and the Lord is blessing the work of their hands. He is never outdone in generosity. Their sacrifices and strong trust in the Lord are what make this organization unique. It has truly been an honor to serve alongside people with such caring, beautiful hearts. I am humbled each and every day that the Lord chose to call me to be a part of such a wonderful ministry.

            As I have been saying goodbyes to the mothers we serve these past couple of weeks, I have been struck by their desire to love and to give despite all that has happened to them. I have heard many of their stories, and my heart has broken for them. However, I have also seen their resiliency and it brings me so much hope. Something beautiful happens when you bring a group of women together who share similar experiences and wounds… (which is exactly what Smile Again does.) They begin to realize that they are not alone in this life, and as they share themselves and their stories with one another, they begin to heal. As they heal and find freedom from their past wounds, their eyes begin to open to the possibilities this life has to offer. I have surely seen the Glory of God in this process these past 6 months. Though we may not be supplying these women with physical things each time we meet, we are sharing dreams, building healthy relationships, sharing Christ, and bringing hope. Hope is a powerful weapon to wield. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that hope is “a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation” and “affords us joy even under trial” (CCC 1820). We may not be able to protect these teenage mothers from all trials, but we can bring them the joy of Christ and walk with them towards the glory of salvation.

As I am preparing to leave, I am already dreaming about the next time I will come back to work with Smile Again Families. Watching the foundation of the dormitory being built these past two weeks has brought me so much joy. I know that this is just the beginning of an organization that is going to change so many lives. The work that began humbly in 2017 is now being brought to great fruition. Last week, Fred, Stella, Emily, and I sat down to talk about long term goals of the organization. We put aside the factor of money and discussed what Fred and Stella would love to be able to provide for these teenage mothers in the future if the sky was the limit. We know that the Lord blesses the desires of our hearts if they are in accord with His will, so for now we lay all of these hopes and dreams down at His feet. I am confident that someday I will look back to my first volunteer experience and be amazed at all the Lord has done through Smile Again Families Uganda. I already have witnessed so much goodness, and I know that there is much more to come.

Though I feel unprepared to leave this beautiful country, family, and organization, I know that the Lord calls us to move. I think of Peter wanting to build tents at the site of the transfiguration. Yet, if they had never left the mountain, they would not have been able to tell others about seeing the Glory of God. Upon returning home, I hope to be able to share with so many the ways I have seen the heart of Jesus beating right in front of my eyes. His Glory has been revealed to me many times, and I know that I am not called to keep it all to myself. My time serving with Smile Again Families Uganda has blessed me in so many ways, and I will be forever grateful for this experience. Thank you for following along with me these past 6 months! Please continue to support this beautiful organization; you are making such a large difference.

For now, that is all that I have. (But don’t forget to check out the photos at the end and see exactly what we’ve been up to these past few weeks! TL;DR ~ a staff Lenten recollection, clothing donations for the mothers and children, and filming for our documentary!!)

May the Lord bless you all abundantly!

 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, not the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

A group of teenage mothers and their children excited about the clothing donations brought by Emily Rusch 🙂

Father Henry preparing for mass at our staff Lenten Recollection!

The camera crew preparing a teenage mother and her grandmother to share their story for our documentary! We are so excited to see the finished product and cannot wait to share it with all of you!

We made time to hear some of the teenage mother’s stories in Kabuwoko and to pray with them individually! It was such a beautiful experience for both us and them 🙂

Joan, one of our teenage mothers who now owns her own hair salon! She has become a friend throughout these months and goodbye was difficult!

The mothers have such beautiful hearts… As I was saying my goodbyes, many of them brought different gifts to say thank you. My heart was so touched! Leaving will be so, so hard… but I promised them all they would see me again 🙂

 

Smile Again Families Uganda, thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of such a beautiful mission.

 

Until next time, Uganda!

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