For two weeks in March, a 25-person group that included five members of North Sewickley Presbyterian Church in Ellwood City, PA, traveled to Uganda, East Africa, to continue working with the God’s Love and Care School, a Christian school/orphanage. The trip was organized through Healthy Communities Unlimited in Harmony, PA, and made possible thanks in part to a Synod of the Trinity Mission Travel Grant. What follows is a recap of this year’s trip as written by Patricia Vagias of North Sewickley Church.
Over the course of the past six years since this school was selected to receive a water well (2014) and Healthy Communities Unlimited-Uganda was created, many close relationships have formed with approximately four ministers who have planted “bush” churches as well as the retired Bishop of the Anglican Church in Hoima, Uganda. These connections have proved vital to the outreach work in this area as mission teams meet with the congregations to worship together, educate and provide medical outreach.
I personally have met many Ugandans who have found employment as a result of our visiting mission teams including hotel personnel, people in charge of transportation, drivers, well drillers, school administrators, teachers, cooks, nurses, etc. All these people now have viable jobs and incomes to support their families – the ripple effect is huge. The results are tangible and so evident to me even with my limited exposure of only two mission trips. This is a huge boom to social righteousness as well as the survival of families and, of course, our team constantly upholds monogamy and family planning so all children can receive medical care and education.
As for social righteousness, I find nothing more satisfying as teaching the components of the female reproductive system to girls and women of all ages, providing them an understanding of how the body functions, how to protect themselves from the ravages of early pregnancy, incest, unmarried sex and polygamy. Our team also provides and instructs in the proper use of reusable feminine hygiene kits. These allow women to continue going to school and work when otherwise they would be relinquished to sitting on leaves for one-quarter of their reproductive life.
Our educational team also taught sewing to 85 village women to whom we provided kits for “market bags” as well as the necessary basics like thread, needles, seam rippers, etc. We taught young girls sewing via a simpler project of making gospel bracelets using fabric and buttons.
Unfortunately, our planned medical trip to a village of Congo refugees was thwarted by a recent upheaval in which the village was burned and men imprisoned by a wealthy tycoon who took the land for sugar cane planting. Although we visited the people at another village where they have found sanctuary, we were not permitted to treat as the “tycoon” wants the people to suffer and was also afraid that we might give them money. Currently this situation is being tried in Uganda court. We left the medical supplies with our Uganda doctor, and he planned to return without us.
Although my purpose on this team was educational, vocational (sewing) and medical, there were other sub-teams involved in teaching men/boys the responsibilities of a man of God:
- administrative duties such as photographing all students and collecting biographies for the Sponsorship program
- building and repair projects including gutters and the collection of rain water plumbed into huge cisterns, the creation of chicken nesting boxes, repair of student and teacher desks, layout of the kindergarten building, erection of three flagpoles (the Ugandan government requires three different flags, but clean water is optional!).
- We also had people involved in recreation, fitting of shoe-that-grows, instruction and employment of the RoboTutor and expansion of the library.
- Finally on the last day, there was a powerful prayer walk around the school led by Barbara Paff of NSPC that included 150 people (villagers, team members, teachers and students). No area of the grounds was overlooked including the piggery, chicken coop, kitchen, library, etc! This prayerful time was followed by an exuberant song and dance party!!
- I could go on, but most exciting is the story of the water wells!!
North Sewickley Presbyterian Church raised the funds to plant a water well at a school that will serve the needs of at least 2,000 people, currently drawing water from a seasonal swamp, located downhill about a half mile from the school. The children and staff of this ramshackle place exuberantly welcomed us with song, dance, bananas and pineapple. We arrived on the day that water was hit – good water, abundant water. Living water!! Praise God.
We also visited and worshipped with a church/school where a well was planted by Christ Church at Grove Farm (Pittsburgh area). And finally, while interviewing/assessing an extremely remote village where two people had recently died of typhoid, a couple in our group agreed to personally fund a well! This well and many others in Uganda were made possible by an organization called CEED, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the drilling of water wells, by African Teams, in the most destitute areas.
It is absolutely humbling and glorious to see firsthand how mission work inspires people to do good things in the name of Christ!
My understanding of the Gospel was enhanced, fortified and renewed, as we interacted with Christian people and organizations whose entire mission and focus is to live and share the Word in all phases of life. In this poverty-stricken country, where basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter are not guaranteed, the Lord is their strength and joy. Mission work is such a blessing to those who go to serve, for in serving, we are the ones who are deeply blessed by the spiritual strength of these people and the realization that God is in control – even with the Covid-19 altering trip logistics!
If I could take this trip to the next level, I would work to complete the infrastructure of God’s Love and Care School/Orphanage, including the completion of the nursery/kindergarten building. The Vocational School component would be completed, including the remodeling of old buildings for this purpose, hiring of staff, acquisition of sewing machines, carpentry tools, etc . This will allow the P-7 (14 years old) students who graduate the opportunity to acquire skills to provide them with a viable career.
The ultimate goal of Healthy Communities Unlimited and its African counterpart, Healthy Communities Limited, is to achieve independence from U.S. dollars by 2026. Long-range plans include: completion of the infrastructure of God’s Love and Care School/Orphanage, including the nursery/kindergarten building that began on this trip and completion of the vocational school component, including the remodeling of old buildings for this purpose, hiring of staff, acquisition of sewing machines, carpentry tools, etc . This will allow the P-7 (14 years old) students who graduate the opportunity to acquire skills to provide them with a viable career.
Other areas on the agenda include:
- The sponsor-a-student program, with sponsorships for all teachers, staff and students.
- More enhanced medical care and attention to health and hygiene to help contain the spread of jiggers and ringworm.
- Enhanced lodging for the teachers and their families who (almost all) live on the premises in 10×10 rooms equipped only with bed and table.