Anyone can create a comfort zone outside of their old comfort zone. All it takes is time. I did it. Uganda—AFRICA, which was NOT in my American comfort zone—is in my comfort zone, when I’m in my home in my town. But, just like all it takes for an American to get outside of his comfort zone is to drive a few miles to downtown big city and help the homeless, all it takes for me is to drive a few miles out of town to the slums and see why we came here to begin with.
I just… haven’t done that in a while. But this week, I did. And I thank God He gave me the opportunity to do so.
With Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s youth missions team, Good Shepard’s Fold orphanage's teens and Calvary Chapel Jinja’s youth group, I squished into the coaster (bus) and headed out to the village on Monday.
Imagine this: You arrive at a soccer field, only its not grass on the ground, its hard, reddish dirt and a few weeds. As you step off the coaster with other American and Uganda teens, you hear yelling, shouting. “Mzungu! How are you? I am fine!” You hear them chatting among themselves, “[something you can’t understand] mzungu!” and you know they’re talking about you, because the missionaries tell you ‘mzungu’ means ‘white person.’ Before the minute’s up, you have five or ten kids fighting to hold your hand. Glancing around, you smile at the kids and continue towards the site where a tarp is already set up. It’s a soccer field, but the kids are kicking around their ‘football,’ a wad of plastic bags and grass.
There’s no way I can tell you all that happened that day. But while you were busy playing ‘football’ (soccer), I was playing an epic form of ring around the rosies with some other kids. One of the troublesome kids ran out right in front of a galloping duo, was thrown down to the ground and began screaming. As I tried to comfort him, his bleeding nose frightened the kids around and caused the little boy to scream all the more. You came with the kids and other teens to see what happened, but left again, distracting the others by playing more football.
After singing worship songs, you may have helped with either telling a story and then handing out silly bands or face painting or telling a different story. I helped with the silly bands, and man, I can tell you that was stressful. After the story, no one wanted to answer the questions, but only for you to hand them their silly band, and perhaps somebody else’s if they could sneak it. Hands in your face, yells ringing in your ears, none of them make for a peaceful morning. Even though you went back for the afternoon, we did the same thing as in the morning.
A few days later, we went out again, but this time to one man’s hut. This time as we step off the coaster, we see a rugged, dirt road beside a flat red dirt yard. The house, or rather, hut, is a cracked mud and sticks building with a grass roof. Or, what used to be a roof. The grass has caved in, and the inside of the hut is worse than the outside. You help sweep out the old, empty bottles and the sticks, twigs, dirt and old plastic bags from his living room while I remove the clothes, shoes and “bedding” from his room. The bed he slept on was only a couple sugar sacks on top of some old, ratty clothes that have grown into the ground. I washed his clothes, amazed at how, in a matter of 3 seconds, I could turn clean washing water and soap into mud, darker and thicker than a chocolate mocha by just dropping his clothes in. Despite the man’s ingratitude (he graciously received the mattress we brought him and then said, “I have no [cooking oil] in my house,” meaning he was asking for some), we still helped him and felt the gratitude of our Father as we handed him his clean, mended clothes.
After some door-to-door evangelism, a community Bible study and dinner, we walked to the orphanage’s chapel for youth group. Auntie Amanda started the discussion with, “I have been praying for a broken heart to see the world around me.” Basically, the whole group shared their experiences that day and their concerns for the people they met. One person wanted to pray for a Muslim boy he met that was stubborn. Another wanted to pray for a jaja (grandma) that was taking care of 5 sick kids that were just dropped off at her house. A little boy had a horrible ear infection that was literally eating away his ear so that it looked like it would fall off if you touched it. The list went on and on. We talked, we thought, we prayed. And then we worshipped.
The Lord was with us all the day, but we felt His presence when we stopped to worship and praise Him for who He is and how He loves us. Then in song, in unison, we offered Him our all once again. Together, we thanked Him for His love and mercy and devoted ourselves to His calling. Together, we felt His love because we had been showing His love to the world.