When I first started Ten Eighteen back in late 2008, I didn’t know that I’d ever go anywhere. My thought on the organization was that it would be a way to raise money for two missionary friends who were already serving overseas. But, as so often happens, God had different plans! Once I made the first step of obedience to start the 501(c)3, I made the 2nd step of renting a building for Ray of Hope in Kampala. Once that was done, my kids and I all had a strong sense that we were supposed to visit Uganda. Once we did that, we all knew that it would be an ongoing thing.
The question is why? I mean, traveling to Uganda is time-consuming and expensive. I’m away from my husband for three or more weeks at a time, spending four days traveling, paying for airfare and guest houses and transportation. Why can’t I just stay at home and raise money, then wire it over there? That’s $50 per wire, which is a lot cheaper than a $1700 plane ticket. Right?
Well, here’s the short answer.
As I look back, Ten Eighteen actually came to life about seven years before late 2008. I had been drawing and painting distressed people for some time, with no real idea why except that they had interesting, character-filled faces. A few years later, during worship at church, God showed me the real reason: He had been showing me His forgotten people. Not that HE had forgotten them, but we (the West) had. He was introducing me.
Once I went to Uganda the first time, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Ten Eighteen was going to be about relationships. It would be easier to make it about money. It would be easier to just send the money, communicate by email, and go on my merry way. But God.
God is about relationship. Many nonprofits, especially those overseas, are about doing the stuff. Now don’t get me wrong – the stuff needs to be done. Buildings need to be built, wells need to be dug, orphans need to be supported, vaccines and mosquito nets need to be purchased. School fees and rents and micro-business loans or grants need to be financed. All that stuff is vital, and we do some of it. But in the midst of doing the practical stuff, sometimes the people get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes organizations don’t even ask the people what they need. I’ve even read an account of a short term team that painted a house… without asking permission of the residents! They were just doing the stuff.
There’s more to it, though, at least for Ten Eighteen. For us, it’s about knowing those who we’re helping. It’s about hugs and laughter and shared tears and true problem solving. The kind of problem solving that solves the problem the people actually have, not the ones I might think they have. (Believe it or not, that’s not always how it works!) For us, it’s about seeing the same people time and time again, knowing their families, knowing their situations, knowing their needs. It’s about sharing a meal and catching up and chatting on Facebook. It’s about time more than money. For those of us in the First World, time is something much more valuable than money, and something we tend to be a lot more miserly about. Write a check? Yep, you bet. Take three weeks of my life to walk around the slums? Ummm… here’s a check.
Uganda, because it is two days of travel away and it does involve some things like building a building and financing school fees, is a lot about money. Ten Eighteen doesn’t pay our travel expenses, but it does pay 75 kids’ school fees, elderly women’s rents, feeds 30 street kids dinner nightly, pay for two social workers’ salaries, has funded over 40 micro-business grants, is building a primary school, sponsors four orphans, and pays all the fuel expenses for Hospice Jinja. That adds up, although not to as much as you think. We also have a party with all of our Namuwongo/Ray of Hope/basketball camp kids each time we’re there. That gives us a chance to give out friendship bracelets, share a meal, catch up with what everyone is doing, and just love on each other.
So that’s why I’m going back for my 8th trip. I have friends – family, really – in Uganda. They are not forgotten. My job is to show them that, and to introduce you to them. I leave on September 12, and would love your prayers for safe travel and a good trip. I’d also love your financial support to help us with the things we’re doing there. Any amount helps – you can feed a family for $5 a week. You can sponsor a child’s school fees for between $90-300 a year (depending on grade). You can help us with the fuel for hospice, without which hundreds of patients can’t be seen, can’t be given morphine, can’t be brought hope. You can fund a micro-business grant for a single mother in the slums. As little as $25 can get them started.
I’m not a great fundraiser. I don’t like to ask for money, and I’m much happier sharing stories and photos of my friends there with you. But we do need help, and so I’m asking for it. You can donate at GoFundMe or on our website. Know that 100% of your donations go to those in need in Uganda and now in Andros. (You can see what’s coming up there here.) Thanks in advance, and God bless!