Preparing for this trip with these group of girls was like planning for a family trip. Everyone was extremely laid back and it felt like we knew each other for years. We planned and prepared our hearts for this new mission the best we could with team meetings, devotionals and preparing supplies.
We did amazing diaper and formula drives with our friends at Janie Rose Boutique and Daniel Shay’s Hair Salon were BEYOND successful!
We felt so blessed to have such amazing friends with wonderful and giving customers to give to others so selflessly! We packed our bags COMPLETELY full of the diapers and formulas from all the amazing donations!
We arrived at the airport with bags jammed pack, family and friends giving tearful and heartfelt goodbyes at the airport and we waved goodbye to our team trainer, Britney, and headed through security to our gate!
We had our last American meal…
And even found surprise letters from our families in our bags…
We were feeling all excited and ready to board when it happened…… FLIGHT CANCELLATION! Insert where we are all extremely bummed!! But we dealt with the wonderful Ms. Annette of Delta who became our new best friend, and we re-booked our flight and off to the home front we went..
I joked with the girls telling them this was the boot camp for flexibility and they passed with flying colors. So we took our bags and went back home for one last night with the families.
So the next day we arrived at the airport like travel veterans.. We knew the drill.. But we went ahead and had our last “American Meal” about 167 times before getting on the final plane to the other side 🙂
After getting some pretty nice upgrades due to our delayed flight #thankyouannette #thankyoudelta and eating about 345 more times on the plane… WE MADE IT!
We checked into our living space for the next few days and decided to bunk up together when our Kenya teammate was unable to join us.
Now, let me just say bunking together was the most fun I have had in a long time. Felt like we had all known each other for a lifetime and we have never laughed so much!
Pastor Ruth, Director of Smile Africa, decided to come and greet us when we arrived after our journey from Kampala to Tororo. She sat with us and told the girls a little about herself and her organization at Smile. After a short chat she took us over to Smile and gave us a tour of the facilities.
We were moved by the stories she told us of the children she was housing and feeding,
the widows that had history of rape and neglect coming to learn trades and get counseling for the chance to start over,
and the wonderful staff that serves the ministry here at Smile. We were overwhelmed at all the children with no clothes on, parents that did not care, and how much the children latched on to you starving for attention and love. Pastor Ruth knows these kids come from the worst of the worst situations but says at least here they are safe and they have food.
We prayed for guidance on this huge mission and hoped we would be directed in the best way to serve this vast ministry. We knew Pastor Ruth was carrying quite a calling on her shoulder so we hoped to be able to dig down deep and see where we could be of most benefits.
We called it a day and headed home where we dined with another missionary visiting Smile, Stacy. We talked over how to help Smile and went to our rooms for journaling, devotionals and trying to best prepare for the next day.
We arrived the next day and immediately went to unloading the diapers and formula so generously donated from our friends and customers at Janie Rose Boutique and Daniel Shays Hair Salon.
The staff was overwhelmed and kept praising the Lord out loud! They could not believe all that was donated and we gave them instructions on how to use the formula and they immediately put it into action!A raped, handicapped mother gave birth to 2 twin orphans, Eric and Ruth, who found a home at Smile after their mother died during childbirth. The staff at Smile treat them as if they were their own and are more loved than ever. They told us little Eric gulped down that formula and loved it so much! #GodIsGood
We spent time getting to know the children at Smile. I saw as the team started to form bonds with some of the kids. Little Kristen with her gentle nature and strive to do what was right completely captured Kelly’s heart. I watched as the kids were drawn to Kelly’s gentle, patient and compassionate nature. Kelly always had at least 4 kids crawling all over her. She showed them how to be kind to each other be compassionate and those kids definitely left that day feeling loved because of her.
Our other teammate, Kirby, taught the kids games of red light/green light, duck duck goose and baseball! She got them to sit and listen to and participate in a story and I watched the kids feel encouraged and proud when they got the answers right. She was able to get the kids to not only listen to her but respect her and she taught them to respect each other. She definitely became a leader among them and made the kids feel encouraged, smart and proud of themselves.
Kirby also bonded with this sweet boy named Joseph and he NEVER left her side. He was her faithful sidekick the entire week. Even when she went inside for lunch he parked himself right by the door and waited for her to come back out. I know this little one will never forget his Kirby.
We also dug down deep with the needs of Smile Africa and they were trying to get their sponsorship program off the ground for some of the kids as well as the staff. We interviewed the staff on their job at Smile and what they loved about this ministry.
We also took pictures of the kids still needing sponsors in order to build an online profile for them in hopes to get them a sponsor. We were surprised to see the majority being young men who were in their teens with an education of only 3rd grade. We read stories of kids and their tragic journey of losing their parents and starting over at Smile in hopes of a future of promise.
We were all in awe of the boys football team not only because of their skill, but the respect they showed each other and the way they treated each other like a team on and off the field. I spent time getting to know the boys and their favorite football teams and even tried my hand at playing with them 🙂 #NotASoccerPlayer #ShouldHaveStayedOnSidelines
We made new friendships that will be forever imprinted on our hearts…
We had the opportunity to visit a small poor village where a man lost his wife in childbirth and was left with 7 children. I watched his face full of anger, fear and sadness as he told the story of his wife’s passing in his native tongue. You did not have to speak their language to understand what he was saying or feeling.
We brought his newborn son the formula, that was so generously donated, and taught them how to use and make it. I was asked to pray for the new boy and when asked his name, learned he did not have one. They said it was customary for the one praying over him the first time to name him and offered me that honor…. Ummmm you want me to name him?!!?!? *No Pressure* #HelpMeBabyJesusPickTheRightName
But I knew his name was Noah.. It meant new beginning and new life… I prayed with Noah and his father.. The whole time I just wanted to run out of there and take him home and make him feel safe and loved. But he has 6 brothers and sisters watching out for him and he is forever in my life now, that I know for sure.
Back on the mission front, we sat down and worked with sweet Martha on the new fall Papers of Peace necklaces and bracelets! This is one amazing woman and she did not know any English except to say to us, ” I am happy. God is good!” and we couldn’t agree with her more! She is a blessing!
The team stocked up on some of Martha’s beauties and made her so happy that she gave them gifts for their parents with a message to tell them they had raised such wonderful children. 🙂
On our final day we decided to climb the Tororo Rock… Now we had been staring at this…well, let’s just say what it really is… MOUNTAIN for a week and made all kinds of stories up about climbing it. Then we learned you could climb it AND in 45 minutes no less.. Impossible we thought! So we decided to try and dominate this so called rock with our new Ugandan friends and DOMINATE we did in 30 minutes! #NewUgandanRecord #MoreLikeAPebble #MightBeExaggeratingOnThePebblePart #UgandanMountainClimbers
We were so thankful to have taken this journey together and feel strongly that this team was put together by God very intentionally. We not only formed new friendships together but together we were able to dig down deep with this mission and find the real needs and start working and planting the seeds to see some real change happen.
These kids need so much and I know the time spent with this team made them feel encouraged, loved, and safe. I saw as Kirby taught them about respect and how to work together as a team and Kelly taught them to show compassion and how to love one another. This team was amazing and I know the kids and staff of Smile will never forget them.