The following is a report detailing a trip to Uganda, Africa, by nearly two dozen people who traveled along with Healthy Communities Unlimited to participate in numerous opportunities including construction, education and medical. The trip was made possible thanks in part to a $4,000 Synod of the Trinity Mission Travel Grant. (More information on the Mission Travel Grant can be found here.) The account was written by Patricia Vagias of North Sewickley Presbyterian Church in Ellwood City, PA.
A team of 23 individuals, mostly from the western Pennsylvania area representing at least 10 different churches and several denominations, recently traveled to Hoima, Uganda, to love and serve at God’s Love and Care School as well as surrounding remote villages. The team also ministered to three different Ugandan pastors of small stick and mud churches: Reverend John of Christ Church, Pastor Andrew of the Open Door Church and Pastor Francis of the Bible Embassy Church.
Team members ranged in age from 13-74, hailing from all walks of life including middle school students, ministers, teachers, missions director, business owners, office directors and a physician. Traveling and working closely together, alike in mind and spirit, quickly forged our relationships with each other. Nightly debriefing and devotions allowed for witnessing as to how the Holy Spirit moved each day.
The team served side by side in medical outreach with a local Ugandan doctor and volunteers, participated in educational forums with school children and the three churches mentioned above, worked shoulder to shoulder with a local African construction crew and partnered with the teachers and administrators of the school/orphanage as well as the Ugandan board of directors for the school. All people involved – mission travelers and Ugandans – benefited from new and renewed friendships and Christian testimony as we each told our personal story.
Rick, a street evangelist, set the bar high for our team as he loved God and our African neighbors with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Rick started the Open Door Church and a medical outreach through that church called “the jigger ministry.” Jiggers are parasites that live in dirt and infest the feet of barefoot people. Pastor Andrew, minister of the Open Door Church, local doctor Joseph and volunteers from the church worked with our medical team to treat large numbers of people for both jiggers, ringworm, belly worms and other medical issues, specifically gangrenous wounds.
Rick and other team members shared the gospel twice in the local Hoima prison, in the remote and somewhat threatening environment of a fishing village, as well as other places along the way when the opportunity presented itself. Every single team member loved their Ugandan “neighbor” by addressing and fulfilling their need for shoes and clothes, medical care, educational issues and spiritual support. Jesus’ words were truly honored: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25: 40)
This was perhaps my 10th mission trip to Africa. I can still recall the amazement experienced on my first mission trip that God was in control and I could rely on him. Even after many trips, I love to put these verses from James into action: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves … being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” and “Faith without deeds is dead.”
There were first-time travelers on this trip whom I witnessed experiencing the full exhausting, emotional impact of their faith in action. Four of our team members elected to be baptized by immersion at the end of our trip, re-dedicating their lives to Christ. Our young medical doctor and her husband seriously began reconsidering their future plans and turned their sights to the mission field.
Each evening, we would meet to discuss the events of the day and participate in a devotional time led by various team members. The Holy Spirit’s presence was perceived daily as we loved and served those living in the poorest area that we have ever traveled. As the trip concluded, we recognized that it was truly the team who was blessed more richly than the folks to whom we reached out.