***Last November, I made three personal goals for 2012. One of those goals was to see Ben go overseas. When I set that goal, I always assumed I would be going with him somewhere on vacation or a mission trip. When Epic Church began this partnership in Uganda in December and planned the first trip for June, we both planned on going. I found out I was pregnant in January so my plans quickly changed :) While I very much wanted to join Ben in Uganda, having a baby this year is an answered prayer for us! I am so thankful that he was able to go and for the experience he had. We will share more pictures and about the church partnership in Part 2. ~Lindsey
My Experience Meeting Fred Wandera
I have never had the opportunity to travel internationally until this year. I've always hoped that my first major trip oversees would be significant and have meaning. I would love to sail across the english channel and walk upon the beaches of Normandy and to reflect upon the significance of the ground that was under my feet. I've wanted to go to the Holy Land and see the places where Jesus walked and where the heroes of my faith preached the Gospel, preaching that rippled throughout time and led to my personal salvation.
However, I didn't have the opportunity to see either of these two things but something I did not expect. I got to see faith in action. I got to see true joy. I got to see true worship and I got to see a child's life being transformed before my very eyes.
I had the privilege to travel to Kampala, Uganda, which is in East Africa. Epic Church recently began a partnership with United Christian Center, a thriving church that is truly making a significant impact throughout that country. UCC operates a school that is designed to help care for and educate children from the local slum and to help bring them into faith in Jesus and to help bring them up out of poverty. Through a partnership with Compassion International, Lindsey and I were able to sponsor a 6 year old boy named Fred, who attends this school. After meeting him, I don't think I'll ever be the same.
Fred's father died several years ago and he lives with this mother and two sisters. To make a living his mother sells sweet potatoes on the side of the road. By doing so, she is able to pay rent on a tiny little concrete hut, with a torn sheet as a door way. Because of our sponsorship of Fred, he is able to attend UCC's school, receive a proper education where he learns about Jesus, basic math, science and reading and also gets food and healthcare. I had the opportunity to go visit Fred and his family at their home. I walked in, parting the torn sheets they used as a doorway, and there had my life changed.
I visited with Fred's mother, who required a translator to communicate, for about 20 minutes until Fred arrived home from school. I was able to share some gifts that I brought them which included healthcare products, cooking utensils, new sheets and hand towels, food and a few toys for the kids. The overwhelming joy that she displayed was amazing to me. She was so thankful and so happy to have me in her home. This was an incredible experience, which then went to another level when Fred walked in. This 6 year old boy was one of the sweetest kids I've even seen, complete with a big smile with his missing two front teeth! During my short visit with him, I gave him his toys and showed him photos of Lindsey, since she was unable to travel with me.
After we left, I was talking with the local minister and the Compassion Rep who accompanied me to Fred's home about how my visiting him would impact their family. Supposedly, not many sponsored children have the opportunity to actually meet the people who sponsor them. To most, their sponsors remain an imaginary person who helps pay their bills and occasionally sends them letters. The Compassion Rep said to me, "For most of these children, meeting their sponsor is second only to meeting God".....Speechless.
As I was walking back to the church I recalled how my wife Lindsey, who is very good at helping me keep my eyes on what is most important, recently helped me put into perspective some concerns I was having about how much I've been putting in my Roth IRA, savings, etc.....after visiting Uganda, my perspective is forever changed. Whenever I get caught up in the stress of my job or frustrated about how much San Francisco costs to live, I will always have this experience as a reminder of what is truly important and where true joy comes from. It comes of knowing Christ and loving and serving others. Fred and his family taught me that.
During the rest of the trip, I had the chance to spend time with Fred two more times. I had the opportunity to sit in his classroom and listen to the lesson being taught, feed him breakfast and lunch and on our final day spend two hours at an amusement park. Complete with go karts and bumper cars! One of my favorite memories will always be when Fred would see me for the first time he would run as fast as he could and jump into my arms smiling the whole way. It melts my heart thinking about it. I will also never forget his face when I told him that it was time for me to go home. He became visibly upset and so was I.
My life and my perspective has been changed by a little kid in Africa name Fred Wandera. He is no longer just a strange child from a foreign land whose picture is posted on my freezer door. He is my sponsored child, who I hope to visit every year until he graduates from the sponsorship program when he is eighteen. I now dream of a day when I can see Fred and my son throwing a Frisbee together at an amusement park in Kampala, Uganda. An overseas vacation that will truly have meaning.