A Change in Perspective (by Rachel Antoine)
Since returning from my first trip to Uganda, my perspective has changed from being slightly satisfied with life, to feeling a desperation that Christ’s Kingdom comes to earth quickly. The people I met in Uganda now feel like family and that makes their happiness my joy and their suffering my pain. When I think about them my heart beats harder, I get a little teary eyed, and most of all, I want to be with them again. Until that day comes, I will share their stories.
At the time I heard about Children’s HopeChest, I had a bad taste in my mouth for the phrase ‘short term mission trip.’ There seemed to be a re-occurrence of people who wanted to ‘do good’ for others but, due to lack of experience or information, ended up making little difference or even hurting people more than helping. Children’s HopeChest, however, had a deeper purpose compared to other organizations I had come across. Their aim is to build long lasting relationships between two communities–one stateside, such as a church or business, and the other a high orphan population, like an orphanage or village. Building these relationships are meant to allow God to bring change to both groups of people. I honestly didn’t completely believe this was possible, until I went to Uganda.
My husband, John, and I traveled with a team of people to first visit Bukedea and Ogoloi in 2012. I had been looking forward to this day for over two years—praying for the kids and their families, going through photos and videos, and wondering if we would feel as connected upon meeting each other as I did thousands of miles away. But even from day one of arriving in Bukedea, it was apparent the feelings were mutual—we were somehow family even though it was our first time seeing each other face-to-face.
I believe much of the reason it was possible to become connected so quickly was because the priority of our trip was to spend time with the kids and visiting their families. There were numerous things we did while in each village, but loving on the kids was priority. It was those kids, who made a deep impact on me. I would like to share one of their stories with you.
Thomas lives in Ogoloi with his grandma. He is HIV positive. He is incredibly quiet and shy when you meet him, yet latches onto your hand and follows close by you wherever you go, as faithful as a shadow. During my first trip in August 2012, I found myself crying for Thomas more than once. During my time with him, sometimes he would be content enough to stand by my side, smiling every now and then. At other times, however, he would shake with pain from headaches or stomach aches, crying uncontrollably. I saw him throw up the little lunch he ate one day, and then later watched a friend remove jiggers (a type of worm with eggs) from his feet. In addition, his head was covered by a fungus that led him to scratch until he bled. This boy seemed to have a mountain of hopeless hardships for someone still under ten years old.
The beauty I saw come from this suffering, was to watch the HopeChest staff in Ogoloi love and care for Thomas and his family. They visited with his grandma, and helped her however she needed around the home. Discovering that Thomas had not been taking his medicine, the staff made a care plan for him. It included having him take his medicine, with food, under their supervision each day at the CarePoint. By the time I saw him again the following August, his head was almost completely healed. The staff reported he had been getting healthier and healthier, and I was able to witness a happy Thomas, actually playing with other kids, throughout our time in Ogoloi. Though seeing Thomas’ health improve has encouraged me, the truth is, he is still HIV positive.
My perspective on God’s purpose for my life has changed from being satisfied with how things are to being compelled to pray that God empowers us to bring His Kingdom on earth. Since meeting the people in Uganda, my family circle has grown. My new family members have needs which are larger than I have encountered before. By working together, we can begin to care for many of the needs, and even build relationships that will forever change both of us. But ultimately, it is when God’s Kingdom completely comes to earth that the pain will stop and we will all celebrate together. Until then, I will be praying, and doing what I can to allow His Kingdom to reign here and now.
God wants us to partner with Him, as He makes us and others more like Himself.
There are more orphans in Bukedea and Ogoloi who still need sponsors. If you want to be part of these transformations, in both yourself and the kids of Uganda, please visit our SPONSOR A CHILD page to learn more