Mission to Africa
From the Pastor’s Desk
You’re resting in the hot, dusty, worn van with no seat belts, when an overly-friendly baboon decides to jump in and join you. Wait a minute, buddy, the van was already overcrowded, and that’s my seat! That’s someone else’s backpack you’re grabbing. Go back outside with the nearby warthogs and stop showing off your opposable thumbs!
Welcome to Africa.
Going on mission to Uganda was a trip of a lifetime. Seven years ago, I became acquainted with Aid Africa, before it was formally incorporated, and Peter Keller, the executive director. Over the years, I witnessed Peter and his family traveling back and forth to Uganda many times to help the poorest of the poor. There are always inherent risks in travel, especially to developing countries, but over time I became convinced that it was safe enough.
Uganda has had more than its share of dangers. Idi Amin and Joseph Kony were brutal murderous thugs. Both created enormous havoc. Many people in northern Uganda have horrific memories of violence they witnessed or personal stories of abduction. There are many orphans. However, things are improving, and there is a new generation of bright, young, inspiring Ugandans coming of age. Peter Keller is optimistic, having seen societal improvements in recent years. When I first met Peter and he encouraged me to come, he said that I would certainly witness people dying during my time there. That is not the case now. Over the years, his agency alone has helped tens of thousands of villagers obtain healthier living with fuel efficient cook stoves. People who were once refugees now live in homes with fresh water and fruit trees provided through AidAfrica.net.
There are many aid organizations in Africa and especially many Christian missionary aid groups. Aid Africa is different, it is secular, including people of different faiths or no faith, and it promotes developmental, sustainable aid in partnership with the villages. Many villagers in northern Uganda know of Aid Africa, and its local manager – George Ovelo – a man who helped organize meals and safe housing nightly in Gulu for 7,000 children for a couple of years, while Joseph Kony’s army was abducting village children. George is popular and often invited to local weddings. I teased that he will likely get invited to about 7,000!
I thought that I would go on this trip to serve others, but – in all honesty – I’m embarrassed to admit that they served me; at times cooking meals that they themselves were not eating. I am processing so many encounters and how I believe God is calling me to respond to what I witnessed.
Aid Africa helps a lot of people and I enjoy contributing a small amount monthly. Additionally, Peter funds an amazing orphanage of 25 children on his own. The orphanage needs other donors. Many bright young people have no financial assistance of any kind. Their education would be a great investment for our world’s future.
Helping the poor and orphans is not only a biblical plea; it helps stabilize countries, preventing wars and conflicts that impact children from our own community. Sadly, the United States takes in more money from Uganda, through declined visa fees, than it gives back.
While in Uganda, I was delighted to read Bill and Melinda Gates’ Annual Letter for 2014. This optimistic letter demonstrates that the world is getting better in terms of more people living longer, healthier lives. Extreme poverty is decreasing, but foreign aid makes a difference. The Gates’ challenge us to climb on board and help accelerate success against poverty and disease. When we hold on to false information, the process is tragically slowed down. Three deadly myths that get in the way are: “The poor will always remain poor”; “Efforts to help them are wasted”; and “Saving lives will only make things worse.” You can read Bill and Melinda’s responses to these myths online at http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org.
If you are interested in discussing Aid Africa or getting involved somewhere else in the world, I would love to meet with you!