(The story below is additional coverage of the Wolf Creek Baptist Church mission work in Uganda. Another story related to the mission trip is featured in the spring edition of Faith magazine, a quarterly publication produced by the News Journal that hit the streets this week.)
So what is the worst part about taking a mission trip to the African country of Uganda? That would be getting there and back.
A four-person mission group from Wolf Creek Baptist Church and Rainsville Community Church in Rainsville, Alabama, recently spent 19 hours in the air going to Uganda, first flying from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and then from Amsterdam to Entebbe Airport.
The return flight took 23 hours from the time the group boarded the plane in Uganda until they cleared customs back in the United States.
Wolf Creek Pastor Kenny Carr, who was one of four people on the trip, notes that it was a greatly rewarding experience.
“For the people there in Uganda to have so little material possessions, they blessed us tremendously with their attitude and love and kindness. We definitely feel called to that mission, and that ministry. We were the ones to get the blessing from going. I didn’t expect that,” Carr said.
“When God first called on me, I had the mindset that God would use me to help them. In reality, it was the other way around. They opened my eyes to so much. It changed my outlook on even the way we do ministry here. I think it was kind of arrogant of me to have that attitude. It has helped open my eyes even more here for the need we have at home. It is a different kind of need, but I think it has personally helped my ministry and my heart a lot I think.”
Carr was accompanied on the missing trip by Wolf Creek Baptist Church member Stephanie Skidmore, Rainsville Community Church Mission Pastor Gary Hartline and church member Collette Ball.
After arriving in Uganda, the group spent a couple of days in the capital of Kampala.
“There is an orphanage that we have been working with there. A pastor and his wife have taken kids in off the streets. There is a large population of kids with no parents, and no family, who are just fending for themselves out in the street,” Carr said.
The pastor and his wife opened up their home to the children, and opened a second orphanage in a small village.
“We always go visit them and see what some of their needs were. The living conditions that the kids were in, the roof was leaking. There was a dirt floor,” Carr said about the orphanage.
“Uganda doesn’t have really like a winter and summer like we would have. They have wet and dry seasons. During the wet seasons, the water would pour right in on the kids, and the mattresses were in terrible shape.”
During the trip, the mission group was able to have a new roof put on the building, have a concrete floor poured, buy new mattresses for the children, and new bunk beds in addition to painting the building. They also purchased some food for the orphanage.
From Kampala, the group travelled to the village of Lugazi for two days where they helped conduct church services.
Lugazi also has an orphanage and school, which has 50 children living there full-time. There are another 150 orphans, who go to school there.
The group took witnessing dolls and toys to the children.
The group planned on there being about 300 children, but with children from the village too, there were between 400-450 children.
“There were children everywhere. They found out we were there, and they came to see us. We got to minister to them and take some gifts to them,” Carr said.
During the trip, the group visited the Glorious Link School, which is located in Kiryandongo. They had previously partnered with the school, which has about 300 students and is in a very poor village.
Carr noted that schools in Uganda are a lot different than schools here. For instance, there is no free education. Everyone is required to pay to attend school or have a sponsor.
All the students also wear a uniform, which often times are hand me downs with holes in them.
In the past, the mission group has been able to assist the school with some new uniforms and some food.
This time around, the group provided enough funding to feed the children for three months.
In Masindi, the group held a church service, and helped dedicate a well. The Rainsville church does a 5-K every year called “Run for Uganda,” and the proceeds are earmarked just for water wells.
“We got to dedicate that well, drink from the well, and say a prayer over the well. There were even government officials there to help dedicate the well. Water is important because they have to carry the water for such a long way, and so much of the water is not clean. Some of the conditions are just a water hole on the side of the road. A well is life changing for the folks there in Uganda,” Carr said.
Carr said that once you get outside of Kampala, which is a pretty modern city, electricity is an issue, and is off and on.
When you are at your hotel and the electricity is on, this is when you recharge your electronics and take a shower that is not so cold. When the electricity wasn’t on, you took a shower that was quite cold, assuming there was water. At one hotel, the main water supply to the town had been cut off for two days.
“They brought in water in a truck and we could take a fast, cold shower,” he added.
The roads around Kampala, which is the capital, are comparable to some of our roads here, but not quite as good as an interstate.
Outside the capital, the roads are largely dirt roads, and then more narrow dirt roads, and narrower dirt roads. Eventually, you reach paths that lead up to the villages.
Many people drive small motorcycles called, boda bodas.
“They are a small motorcycle, but they will even use them for taxis. You will see as many as two, three or four people on a little bitty motorcycle,” Carr said. “On the dirt roads you will see a lot of those. You will see people there walking all the time, walking and working.”
The people in Uganda are always busy working all the time from the smallest children to the oldest adults.
While there was Wi-Fi in places, it was spotty.
Carr said that Uganda is working on infrastructure to run electricity to places that haven’t had it. Many of the places the mission group visits still don’t have electricity, such as Lugazi, Kadukuru and the Glorious Link School, which utilize generators.
The country also has very few water wells.
Carr said a point of emphasis for the mission group is to have wells dug near the churches, if possible, so people can connect the churches and the wells together.
The trip is an expensive one just getting to Uganda and back plus paying for food, lodging and transportation once there.
Airline tickets are about $1,500 each, plus about $100 per day for each person for the other expenses.
The church budgets about $2,500 per person just for the trip.
While there any project that the group does takes money. Sometimes it will send money ahead of time for a project, but Carr said they usually just wait until they are on the ground to see what the needs are.
Wolf Creek does a 5-K race each year to support the trip, which has several corporate sponsors.
The church has done dinner and an auction, benefit sings, boxed lunches, and yard sales, including one Skidmore does on a continuing basis, among other fundraisers.
‘Every penny raised goes right back into the Uganda mission work. We have just been so blessed by the love back home,” Carr said.
The group also preached several church services while in Uganda.
Carr admits that as a pastor, it is frustrating to see the people of Uganda walk miles to attend a worship service while some people here would not walk across the street to attend one.
“We take so many things for granted here,” he said. “Almost every place here we have padded pews and or chairs, air-conditioning and heat. There they may have wooden benches, old plastic chairs and sitting on the ground. Most of the churches just have a dirt floor. They have a large attendance. They are just so hungry for the word. They are just so hungry to hear about the Lord. I wish we could get that hunger here again.”