My son has been in Uganda for about three weeks now. On Saturdays, he and a friend have been going down to Ray of Hope in Namuwongo and hanging out with the kids there. They’ve been having a great time, and I’ve had several Facebook messages from kids who have spent time with him. I leave on Thursday and will arrive Friday night (UG time, afternoon US time). I hope to be able to post – there has been internet most of the time he’s been there, which is amazing! If not, I’ll catch you up when I get back.
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!
We spent the last afternoon at this beautiful beach, at the Andros Island Resort in Nicholls Town. The beer was cold, the ocean was crystal clear and cool, the weather was perfect, and the food was delicious. It was the perfect way to unwind after a week of much activity, much pouring out, much laughter and sweat and love. We talked, we walked, we sat, and, most importantly, we rested.
So what are the take-aways from the trip? Well, I’m not one to write eloquent spiritual essays, as much as I’d love to. I live my life very much like the Jews were supposed to in the Bible, seeing everything, secular and sacred, as spiritual. I go where He sends me, obey to the best of my ability, try to always listen for His voice, and be ready to do “the next thing” (TNT, in my house). So while others on our team may have wonderfully deep spiritual insights, I’ll have to pass those along to you here, and write what God’s put in my heart.
First, it was definitely a God thing to go. He put together a great team, gave my daughter great insight while she was putting the program together, and kept all of us in the palm of His hand. There was never any inkling of a feeling that we were doing anything other than what He sent us there to do. You can’t ask for more than that!
Second, it was definitely the beginning of our work in Andros, not a stand-alone event. I think we will do at least one, and possibly two, camps next year. (Yes, for those of you who know me, I did just say that!) We will definitely be starting the elderly day care in January, 2014 (or soon after). If you are interested in volunteering for any upcoming Andros adventure, contact me and I’ll put you on the mailing list for future trip information. Somewhere down the road are eggs, hospice, a guest house, and then some business things… In some order!
Third, God gave me, personally, a great gift with the make-up of the team. I was expecting — and was willing — to have a team of 9 or 10 teenagers. To have families (5 teens and 5 adults, in fact), was truly a blessing for me, and was really a sign of the great care and love God has for each of us, and how well He knows us.
Finally, Andros has incredible needs. Food. Jobs. Transportation. Decent health care. Decent schools. Hospice. Organized youth sports. Church based youth groups. Infrastructure. Home repair. Plumbing. It really boggles the mind. And we can’t do everything. No one can. But we can do something, and we’ve now made a start.
My son leaves Wednesday for an extended stay in Uganda. I join him on September 12. The needs there are even greater, but our support base and programs are in place. Leaving again so soon is a strain on my husband (and pets), but he’s got a few business things that should keep him going while I’m gone. I’d really appreciate your prayers (and financial support if you can) as we try to obey and follow Him, wherever He leads.
The kids started arriving early – we were all pretty excited! The chairs had been moved out, so Jason and some of the other staff played some games until the ball got a bit crazy. After that, the Sharpies came out and the tee shirt signing began!
After singing and worship, all the team gave their testimonies, sharing a time in their life when they didn’t think they were enough, but God brought them through and His will was accomplished. It was really great! Several of the team really didn’t want to get up in front of everyone and share, but they did, and God came through again!
One of my favorite parts of the day was next, when we had the children come outside for affirmations. We’d worked all week writing them, and each child and team member got to choose 3. Our prayer is that the verses and other words of encouragement and affirmation will continue to speak into the kids’ lives long after camp is over.
But we weren’t done yet! We got out the face painting supplies, and a surprising number wanted their faces done. With three of us being artists, we moved through them pretty fast, while the other kids learned to make paper airplanes from the pilot’s son, Nathan.
Next… water balloons! The guys found another pump near the church that we hadn’t known about, and filled about 150 water balloons. It was supposed to be an organized thing (they even formed lines!). But as soon as the first balloons started to break, it became a free-for-all. With much hilarity and fun!
Finally, it was time to hand out the tee shirts! Everyone got a Ten Eighteen shirt, and we got them organized for a group photo. I say “we,” meaning Mark, who, being an engineer, FINALLY got the kids into a line.
And then… the Andros version of the color run! The kids LOVED the holi powder, and it was a great finale to our camp. Daryl and Tyler led a huddle at the end, and then it was the time we’d all been dreading… The time to say goodbye. It was hard… But I know we’ll be back, maybe even for 2 camps, next year. I’m thinking, maybe, one in Mastic Point and one in Nicholls Town. We’ll see what God says as we get closer, and if we can get enough volunteers. For now it’s on the back burner, and makes saying goodbye a little easier…
There was a huge storm in the night, but that cooled it off somewhat. (Mrs. Murphy nodded when I said it was better, and said, “Yes, it was cool!” Okay no… it wasn’t COOL. But it was probably 8-10 degrees cooler, and that was a lot better!) We had 40 kids, between those that came early and those that joined along the way, and we ran four full, separate stations. Cross the ocean was pretty chaotic, but otherwise it went really, really well. The kids were starting to really get into the songs and motions (digging holes, scattering seeds, stomping the devil’s face, and, the favorite, leaning forward and backward) and worship. Many were making huge progress in the sports, too. Mark, our basketball coach, was really surprised at the lack of experience with any organized sports, but they began to get better at following directions – although they were still unable to form a line! We had a group of 16-18 year olds join us, and that made for some fun soccer and basketball scrimmages. We’re keeping the little guys inside in the afternoons, which is going better. And they are all really starting to grab onto the theme and feel comfortable with us. Overall, a great day! Back at the ranch, we had another great dinner with Mrs. Murphy and made 76 more PB&J sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.
The last day of stations! Wow! How did the week go so fast?? The kids were really great, although everyone is a little tired by this point, including our team. We introduced Project Friendship to the older kids, and many took thread home to make bracelets for Uganda. While we did more of the same today, we really enjoyed seeing the growth of the kids and especially in their comfort level with the us. There is a lot more laughter and joking around, and everyone participates in the stations now. The singing is great, and there is a LOT of leaning, digging, stomping and scattering of seeds. In short – it’s a blast!
It was also overcast all day, so a lot more pleasant in temperature. I spent the afternoon inside with the 4-6 year olds, and they defeated me. Totally. I ran out of ideas and was bribing them with candy. What can I say? It was the best I could do!
Tomorrow is a half day of all fun stuff. We’re all tired, but really excited about the last day, most especially about the holi powder “run.” (It’s what they use in the Color Run.) We can’t believe it’s our last dinner with Mrs. Murphy… How did it go by so fast?? After a group photo, we headed back to make more PB&J sandwiches for our lunch. I know I’m sleeping really well by this point!
Day 1 of camp! We arrived at 7:30, to make sure that we could get everything set up. We had a meeting at breakfast, just trying to get our priorities in order. I shared what I journaled earlier in the morning: that we were to be God’s hands and feet, eyes and ears, heart and tongue. We were to reflect His glory for the kids to see, to model our theme of “Are you enough?” Everyone was in a great frame of mind!
Turned out the basketball court is about 1/4 mile away, but since there’s NO traffic (the few cars there are swerve all over the road to avoid potholes, but at least they can’t go fast!), walking isn’t a problem. Soccer is at the primary school in between the church and basketball court. We pull the van up to the basketball hoop to replace the net, the check out the soccer “field” (a field of mown grass that will be our field for the week). We unload everything, get our supplies organized, and prepare a registration area. Pastor Barr has to pick up most of the kids, so we wait…
We only had a dozen kids on day 1. Pastor Barr was very upset, but we weren’t — God had the kids there who needed to be there, and it was a great group. We added a few as the day went on, and kids who didn’t want to participate in things in the morning were loosening up by the afternoon. It poured rain in the morning and was overcast until lunch time, which was great as it stayed cooler (not cool, but cool-ER!). We weren’t supposed to have kids under 7… We had 6 that were 6 and under. Those younger kids were supposed to leave at noon… They didn’t leave until 3:30. So we had to make adjustments to the stations and schedule. We all played Cross the Ocean after lunch and that was a huge hit!
The day went really well! We were all well pleased when we got back to Mrs. Beneby’s. And, of course, dinner at Murphy’s was great.
I’m from Central Florida. I know hot. But I’ve never, ever been as hot as Tuesday. Ever. With no rain to cool it off, we just suffered through it, drinking about 15 gallons of water, plus the kids using the pumps at the basketball court and school. But today we had another dozen, and kept adding all day, so we ended with about 28. The kids had a great time, and really began loosening up, engaging in the sports and games, and having fun with the stuff inside. They are, however, completely incapable of forming a line. Totally. And the kids under 10 were… okay, let’s be honest. They were pretty unruly. We determined we really needed an adult with Natalie (15) and Nathan (18) at soccer for them to get anything done. Fortunately, my Androsian friend Denise was there, and she was very helpful!
We cut out hands today with the smaller kids, making them form a heart. On the left side of the hands, they wrote prayers for themselves. On the right side, prayers for their family or friends. Three of the six kids whose prayers I wrote prayed that their family would have enough food… That’s just heartbreaking.
Several of us had headaches on Tuesday, and it was so hot we just took it easy after we got back to Beneby’s. Dinner was great, but it was a mellow night – and a lot of prayers for it to be a lot less hot!!
Our team came from the US in two groups, because one of them works for American Airlines, and her family was flying stand-by on Friday. That was four people, and the other five came on Saturday. The Rays got to the airport in Nassau for the Western Air flight at 2:30, and were boarded on time at a little before 4:00… But the Delta-flying group was delayed by equipment issues in Atlanta. Western Air, to their credit, did wait for about 40 minutes, but they had a pretty full flight and had to leave. Of course, our group on the ground watched the flight taxi and take off…
Fortunately, Western Air has 2 charter planes, so they sent one to pick up the stragglers. However, because they were prepaid, the pilot brought another load back first in order to not lose the money if they went with another pilot, so our crew didn’t get there until after 7:00. For those of us on the ground, we were happy to learn that the airport has great internet! Obviously, everyone was quite tired by the time they finally arrived. We packed about 13 bags and 13 people (plus the groceries we’d run and gotten while we were waiting) into the 15 passenger van and headed to Mastic Point. Since we were all starving, we basically threw the bags in the door and walked down to Murphy’s Chill and Grill for the first of 6 delicious meals made my Mrs. Murphy – and it was cracked lobster! Bummer, right?
Needless to say, everyone slept well! The next day was busy with fun stuff. We went to church at National Church of God, Pastor Barr’s church in Mastic Point where the camp was held. We had an absolutely delicious lunch at the Barrs of snapper, crab and rice, crab, and slaw, then headed to Uncle Charlie’s blue hole. I’d gone to the blue hole back in April, but it had been way too chilly to swim, so I was ecstatic that it was hot and beautiful, and we could jump right in – which I did! We were there a long time, and it was absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to do it again!
When we finally got out (somewhat unwillingly, but there were members of our group who didn’t get in, so we felt we had to!), we headed to Henry Morgan’s cave to search for buried treasure. Henry Morgan was a pirate who frequented North Andros and is (of course) supposed to have buried treasure in the cave. No luck so far, but I’m not giving up!
Across the street and through some woods is a gorgeous and deserted cove, so we spent some time there, enjoying the cool, clear water and gorgeous view.
Home for a quick (and minimally watered) shower, and prep time! We got all the bags opened and organized for the camp. We pumped up about 35 balls, organized crafts and outdoor games equipment, and made 76 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Monday’s lunch. (There was a bit of a misunderstanding, so the kids didn’t know they were supposed to provide their own lunches!). After that, if was off to Mrs. Murphy’s for another delicious dinner, then bedtime, full of anticipation for the week.
This was a really fabulous team. As an introvert, I was fully prepared to retire early to my room each day, but the only day I did that was when I had a migraine on Tuesday. We got along great, everyone was fun (and funny), and there was just a wonderful sense of camaraderie throughout the week. It was really a blessing to me to have not only some great teens along, but some really great adults, as well. I’d go on another trip with this group any day!