My Time in Uganda
By Chandler Scott, Simone’s Kids Short-Term Trip Volunteer
June 2017 marked my second journey to Nakaseke, Uganda, with Simone’s Kids. The first team trip I went on was in 2016. After arriving to the schools the first time, it took about 20 minutes for me to realize this organization was something way more incredible than I had imagined. The students, teachers, and staff welcomed us to their beautiful school through singing and dancing and hugging for hours. Both schools welcomed us, and they were not just welcoming us to their school but into their lives. They love so fearlessly with no wavering.
I was overwhelmed and ashamed of my timid stance on loving people well. What was I so afraid of? I remember asking Jesus to help me love with abandon. I knew that was what I was supposed to do – I had been taught it all my life – but after seeing so many strangers love the team so fiercely, I wanted to do more than know it was right. I wanted to do it right. These people and I serve the same risen savior, and it took a trip across the world, those particular people, and their example of Christ-like love to help me step into a boldness for Christ that I’m not sure I would have found otherwise.
I am forever grateful for that change in my own life. One day is all it took, but I had 2 weeks there, so it was game on. I was extremely excited to meet my sponsor child I call sweet Maria. The programs director, Mason, spotted her first at the well and said, “Scott, there she is!” Meeting her was by far the most incredible part of the first trip, followed by many more heart-filling days. When the time came to fly home, I prayed that this was not the last time I would be with my Ugandan friends.
Fast forward one year, and I am standing in the “pool” watching my Sweet Maria be baptized through blurry, happy, tear-filled eyes. THAT became my new favorite moment in Uganda. This summer was incredible, because I got to reunite with old friends and meet even more new ones. I got to see how much Maria had grown and changed in just one year and feel so proud of the person she is. She’s a funny, sweet, caring, girly girl that keeps her friends laughing, always offers me a spot by her at lunch, and smiles the biggest when she talks about her family and Jesus. I was also one year into loving people with that bold love I asked Jesus for because of my first encounter with the students at God’s Hope in 2016. I couldn’t talk about this trip without talking about a little boy who weaved his way into my heart without a word. Literally.
When primary students are on breaks, they will find us and play until it’s time to get back to class. I was a Macarena fool, so often the kids who spotted me would sing and dance and then run off to find more people. Komya Deniz is a P1 student who, for some reason, found me every day for 25 days and stood by me even when we had all screamed out our last “Heyyyy Macarena!” His friends would leave and he would still be standing by me. He was like a beautiful shadow that smiled all the time and held my hand when we were not dancing or running around. Between his little bit of English and my little bit of Lugandan, we didn’t talk much. At least not with words. But his spirit connected with mine, and I think we both knew we had found a forever friend in each other. Without using a word at all, Jesus had shown me through Deniz that sometimes loving someone is literally just choosing to be there – a gleeful presence in their life that shows how deep a faithful friend can touch a heart. Deniz didn’t need words to love me. I didn’t need words to love him. Godfrey calls it a divine connection, and I agree! Divine connections are very real and very precious.
Seeing the behind-the-scenes work was also a huge blessing. The time and energy it takes to pull students one by one to write letters to their sponsors and organize the ins and outs of a program like this gave me a new appreciation for all aspects of the organization. We got our hands dirty painting some bathrooms and got to deliver dishes and beds to homes. We spent some time at an orphanage and got to love on kids who needed lots and lots. We even got to take our sponsor children to the zoo, which was an incredible time. The work we did was only a drop in the bucket. But I sure am glad to be at least one drop.
Many people from home tried to tell me how great a sacrifice I had made to travel there and serve. I think I shocked them when I responded by saying it is no sacrifice to live in a place with the people of Nakaseke. It is not a sacrifice to smile all day, sleep under a mosquito net, or be a little dusty during dinner. It’s not sacrifice because everything there is slathered in love. Classrooms, homes, huts, bus rides, dinner, breakfast, lunch, and church services are all love built. That isn’t sacrifice. That’s the sweetest taste of heaven I’ve ever had. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to see the effect Simone’s Kids has on the people of Nakaseke (and team volunteers).
I have heard Simone talk about education being hope. I think she is spot on. As pastor Dan would say, “Education without the gospel creates clever devils.” That’s the beauty in Simone’s Kids. Not only are they focused on quality academic education for the students, but they also base their days on the glory and blessings of the Lord. These students don’t take their opportunity for education lightly. They don’t praise God timidly. They are joy filled, talented, incredibly resilient, and intelligent, and some of the dearest friends I have.
Sponsors provide hope through prayer and giving. If I could say anything to someone thinking about joining the team to meet their own sponsor child, I would say “GO!” And tell me about it when you get back!
If you are interested in traveling and volunteering in Uganda, please email Mason Satterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to submit an application!