Ten years since I’ve been in Africa

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It’s been ten years since I’ve been in Africa. TEN YEARS!  Jacob and I both went in June 2004. I actually can’t believe that it has been that long since we went on our trip to help build part of an orphanage for the Watoto Child Care Ministries. So much life has been lived in those years, but the memories are still clear in my mind and I am grateful Jacob and I took up the opportunity to go on mission together when we did.

 

A very young Bec ( I was 20) at one of the Watoto Sites.
A very young Bec ( I was 20) at one of the Watoto Sites.

Back in 2004, Jacob and I were both working full time, saving our money to buy our first home so that we could set ourselves up for when we got married. The engagement ring had been paid off and had been put away for safe keeping in our family safe. We were young, but eager to spend the rest of our lives with each other. But we hadn’t quite saved enough money for a house deposit and Jacob fussed about the perfect time to ask for my hand in marriage.

Anyway, that same year our church had the Watoto Children’s choir come to sing and share their stories and vision of educating orphaned children in Uganda to become their country’s next leaders. The way Watoto worked was they would buy blocks of land and build houses set up in villages. Each home would house a foster mum and up to 8 orphaned children and the children would be educated so that they could work and stop the poverty cycle that exists in Uganda. Jacob and I were both touched by the stories and the work that was being done to help the orphans. We were motivated to get involved in some way. That day we sponsored two children through Compassion Australia whom we still support today. My sponsor child is Joseph who lives in Tanzania and Jacob’s is a boy named Armstrong who lives in Uganda.

 

Two of the orphans that became part of the Watoto Program. This was their school uniform.
Two of the orphans that became part of the Watoto Program. This was their school uniform.

An offering was given at the service to support the work Watoto did in Uganda. The amount of the offering came to around $12,000 which would provide the materials to build a house. All that was needed was a team to go over and build it. Jacob and I had more than enough in savings to cover the $2500 (each) trip so we volunteered to be a part of the team.

Two weeks before we left to go to Uganda, Jacob proposed to me. It was a great time in both of our lives. Sadly I couldn’t wear my engagement ring to Uganda and so it was promptly placed back in the safe for our return.

When we landed at the airport in Uganda, there was a miscommunication with our arrival date. The Watoto people weren’t expecting us to arrive until the following day. New arrangements had to be made about our accommodation. I remember vividly lying on the concrete floor outside the airport with the rest of the team waiting for a bus to pick us up to take us to our accommodation. When in Africa, the people run on African time. There was no rush. I think we may have waited for a couple of hours. I yearned for sleep after such a long haul flight over.

 

A typical street in Uganda during the day
A typical street in Uganda during the day

Once our mini bus arrived, it was an hour trip to the guest house where we were staying. The road was bumpy and I remember driving past men and some women carrying baskets on their shoulders. It was so dark due to no street lights (I think it was nearing midnight) and the smell was distinct. It’s one of the things that is poignant in my mind and whenever I smell a woodfire, it almost takes me back to my experience of being in Africa.

When our team arrived at the guest house, there was a guard with a gun at the gate. There were shards of glass that lined along the tops of the fences on adjacent properties to stop trespassers from getting into them. Our guest house was properly gated but I still remember feeling nervous, but then reminded myself that I was with Jacob and I had a God that was with our team every step of the way.

 

Our guest house where we stayed for the duration of our trip
Our guest house where we stayed for the duration of our trip

 

 

The gate into our guest house accommodation
The gate into our guest house accommodation

Thankful to arrive at the guest house, I just wanted to go in and get into bed. Before we could, our team leader grouped the women to one side and explained that there weren’t enough beds for all of us to sleep in and two women would have to share a bed. I didn’t know the other women well enough to share a bed with them (there were half a dozen of us) and I was the youngest on the trip. I was frustrated as each of the older women refused to share a bed with anyone. It came down to me and another girl who was a couple of years older than me and was the most gracious girl on the trip. She looked at me and said ‘I don’t mind sharing a bed with Bec’. I sighed inwardly and thought go with it. We were on mission and there were African kids sleeping on the ground. I could manage to share a bed with someone else.

Well what do you know, that act of selflessness (well not really but I’m going to call it that) was the best decision that could have been made because the bed that we had to share was a KING size and had it’s own ensuite. The rest of the women had to sleep in single bunk style beds and share a communal bathroom in the guest house. Of course we allowed the others to use our ensuite to help with the bathroom situation but it was nice having a bathroom to ourselves.

We couldn’t go to bed straight away as a meal had been prepared for us in the dining area. My eyeballs were hanging out of my head and I was really tired. The team piled into the dining room where we were greeted with a brown soup. I was scared to eat it. I do not know to this day what was in that soup as I couldn’t decipher the ingredients but it was edible and none of us wanted to be rude by not eating it.

We got to bed soon after the meal was finished. I was excited about the week ahead and couldn’t wait to see Uganda during the day. Little did I know that back in Brisbane my family was about to be ripped apart and that they would be spiritually attacked while I was on the other side of the world.

I didn’t realize how big a post my African trip would take so I have broken it down into smaller posts for your convenience. Stay tuned for the next post.

Have you ever been to Africa or a third world country? I’m linking up with With Some Grace for Flog Your Blog Friday.