This summer, Village Bible Church (VBC) in Sugar Grove, Illinois sent a team of eight church members for an annual mission trip to Uganda, with the goal to visit personally every child sponsored by VBC congregation members–nearly 130 children. This report tells of the amazing efforts by the VBC team members and the impact that their fellowship, worship, and servanthood has made on the staff, families, and community of Juna Amagara. Most important was the team’s humble callingto simply offer Jesus’ hope and love to the children, and be a blessing to every child.
June 18 – July 5, 2018
Our purpose as a team was to represent Village Bible Church in Uganda and visit with the 132 Juna Amagara children sponsored by Village Bible Church families. But more than that, we wanted to continue to encourage and appreciate the JAM staff, to love and encourage the guardians, to bless ALL the children in Kishanje and Mbarara (the two largest JAM care point centers – representing approximately 900 children), and to spend time with the ABIDE boys and girls. We also spent some time in Kabale with The Shepherd Center boys and staff, where Lisa O’Brien now serves.
We desired to encourage the children, to grow in our relationships with them, to clearly share and explain the Gospel message, and share the love of Christ with them in a tangible way. We shared the Gospel message both individually with our sponsored children and in assemblies with all the school children. We hope that with the combination of – quality time, appropriate physical touch, sharing words of affirmation, explaining God’s great love for each of them in the gift of Jesus, and giving of practical gifts – we were able to accomplish our goals.
As we have done the past two years, most of our gifts for the children and their guardians were purchased in country ahead of time.
Gifts included personal toiletries, school supplies, laundry soap, shoe polish, and some biscuits and sweets (lollypops) – just for fun! We also let each VBC sponsored child shop at the “Village Bible Church Market” – where they were able to pick out a couple items that they liked in their size – a shirt and trousers for boys, and skirts, shirts, dresses, or black school shoes for girls.
As in the past couple years, the Village Bible Church team continues to have a strong desire to bless EVERY child at the two largest Juna Amagara care points in Kishanje and Mbarara. These two JAM care points serve about 900 children. Sarah graciously provided us with the number of children in each class, by gender, for both these locations. Again this year, Kate made contact with a ministry called “Dresses for Orphans” that donated several hundred dresses and t-shirts for the children. They graciously made adjustments to all the dresses to make them longer than last year (per the request of Herbert and Sarah). We distributed the Dresses for Orphans shirts and dresses to ALL the nursery and primary students at New Times in both Kishanje and Mbarara. (Approximately 600 children) We purchased many pairs of boy’s, girl’s, women’s and men’s underwear in the US and distributed those to all the New Times children as well. While our time in Uganda was concentrated on the specific children sponsored by Village Bible Church, we wanted ALL of the Juna Amagara children in Kishanje and Mbarara to know that they are special and loved by God. With the distribution of these gifts, we truly enjoyed singing songs with the children, dancing, and Kate was able to make an analogy of the free gifts we were distributing to the free gift of salvation God gave every one of us in Jesus Christ.
SPONSORED CHILD VISITS
We are pleased to report that we had visits with:
- 4 children in Rubanda
- 66 children in Kishanje
- 5 children in Kabale
- 35 children in Mbarara
- 9 children from Kayanja, who were bussed to Mbarara and we met them at the ABIDE house
- 5 children in Kampala
Totaling 124 Village Bible Church sponsored children. Praise the Lord!
Unfortunately, we were unable to visit with 4 VBC JAM children that had left the program. Three children were too far away to visit. One child was sick at home and we were not able to visit with her. We left the letters we had for these children with Davis.
We were delighted to have had the opportunity to share in such wonderful visits with each of the Village Bible Church sponsored children this trip. In each of our visits with a VBC sponsored child, we ask a series of questions, in order to help the sponsors get to know their children better. Again this year, we included a question on the Gospel. We asked each child if they could explain the Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, using words. This allowed us the opportunity to talk about their beliefs, and what the Bible has to say. We asked them what they knew about Jesus. For the young ones, we asked them what they knew about Jesus, or to share with us a favorite Bible verse. The verse John 3:16 was a favorite of many of the children. This gave us an opportunity to further share God’s Word and look up special Scripture passages with them. We went over the Gospel A, B, Cs – Accept, Believe, and Confess. What a delight it was to be able to talk about the truth of Jesus Christ and His incredible Gift of salvation with each of the children.
We feel like the relationships built over repeated visits to Uganda have allowed us the opportunity to go deeper in relationships with the children. We feel like we can better bond with them, encourage them, and even hold them accountable when their actions are less than desired.
As such a large group of sponsored children, we also felt like the children were able to foster deeper relationships with each other as they spent time together during our visits.
We were thankful for the ability to pray with each of our sponsored children asking God’s blessing upon them, and that they may know how much God loves them.
The practical gifts provided tangible reminders of God’s love for them. It was with great joy that we strived to be conduits of God’s love to His precious children. To God be the Glory, the focus of our trip was accomplished in a mighty and beautiful way as God did immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine according to His power at work within us!
We had asked sponsors to donate money ahead of time so we could purchase gifts in country again this year. We also gave sponsors the option of including an additional $10 if they would like a Bible added to their child’s gift bag. Lisa O’Brien was able to purchase many items in the market, supporting the local Ugandan economy. Most children also received a letter from their sponsor. Some sponsors sent small packages. Reflecting over this new gift approach (year 3), it had many benefits – children received gifts that were very practical to their lives and all children received the same gifts for the most part, so there was unity, not inconsistency in gift-giving. If circumstances allow, we would recommend a similar approach in future visits.
GIFTS TO EVERY CHILD
While we distributed gift bags to all our Village Bible Church sponsored children, we were also able to distribute gifts to every child at New Times Primary and Nursery School in Kishanje. All boys received one pair of underwear and a t-shirt made by Dresses for Orphans. All girls received a pair of underwear and a dress made by Dresses for Orphans. What joy on each of the children’s faces when they received their gifts! So thankful the generous and talented sewing group at Dresses for Orphans that made these gifts possible!
At Kishanje Highlands High School we distributed pens, jelly (Vaseline), and sweets (lollypops) to all the boys and girls after Morning Glory (chapel) one morning. The high school boys in S4, S5, and S6 also received a pair of underwear.
At New Times Nursery and Primary School in Mbarara, we were able to pass out gifts to each child, then enjoyed a time of assembly with all the children. All the girls received a Dresses for Orphans dress and a pair of underwear. The boys received a Dresses for Orphans shirt and a pair of underwear.
When our trip concluded in Kampala we were able to leave some extra Dresses for Orphans dresses with Brenda, a JAM social worker in Kampala, to distribute to some JAM children in Kampala, as needed.
With that, another team mission was accomplished – WAY above our expectations. Praise the Lord that we were able to share His love in a tangible way with EVERY child in the Juna Amagara schools in Kishanje and Mbarara. But also with many in Kampala as well.
We took each gift-giving opportunity to share with the children that their gift was free, they didn’t have to pay for it, they didn’t have to work for it, the gift was completely FREE – just like the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. This free gift was available to each and every one of them. All they had to do was reach out and accept it. We often recited John 3:16 together and reviewed the Gospel message. We pray that many hearts were open to a better understanding of God’s great love for them.
JUNA AMAGARA STAFF APPRECIATION MEALS
We had the blessing of being able to host staff appreciation meals at each location:
- In Rubanda with the HEAL clinic and JAM care point staff
- In Kishanje at New Times Nursery and Primary School with their teachers and staff
- In Kishanje at the High School with the Kishanje Highlands High School teachers and staff
- In Mbarara with the New Times Nursery and Primary staff, ABIDE staff, and JAM administrators
- In Kampala at Endiro with the Kampala care point staff, and Anthony representing the HOLD
We hope these staff appreciation meals provided a tangible way to express our thankfulness for the many ways Juna Amagara staff serve, encourage, and positively impact the students on a daily basis. Travis shared a biblical message to each group of staff that was well received. In order to further bless the staff, we gave each staff member a gift as well – either a scarf, a necktie, or a handkerchief and tea bags, and then a bar of soap.
It was indeed a privilege to be able serve the Juna Amagara staff in this seemingly small way. Village Bible Church desires to bless those who bless others.
We met with guardians in both Rubanda and Kishanje. There were only 6 guardians gathered in Rubanda. In Kishanje the number was well over 100. We shared a biblical message with each group. We sang and danced. We also presented the guardians with a gift of laundry soap. In Kishanje we gave the chairperson many bags full of bras to distribute to the women. There were only a few men present, and we gave each of them a necktie. It was a joy to encourage them to keep loving and supporting the children they care for. We also felt their great appreciation for Village Bible Church and the difference that child sponsorship is making in the lives of their children.
We had the opportunity to visit with both the ABIDE boys in Kabale, and the ABIDE girls in Mbarara. Travis was able to have a wonderful teaching time with each of them, that lasted way longer than planned as both the boys and the girls had many questions. Travis truly enjoyed the opportunity to teach them and engage in extended discussion.
Lisa O’Brien provided the team with Bible Study booklets at the beginning of the trip. These daily devotions, which occurred mostly over mealtimes, were truly a highlight of the trip, as we dug deeper into God’s Word together as a team. We discussed our theme verses and other Bible verses throughout the trip. We focused on God’s love. We shared our hearts and our prayer requests for each day. It was powerful. God moved in our hearts. We were better equipped for ministry by filling our hearts and minds with God’s Word and His strength for each day.
We were SO thankful to have Ivan Byaruhanga and Lisa O’Brien as consistent (and GOOD!) drivers for this year’s trip. Davis Ariho was our consistent JAM staff team leader throughout the trip. He helped the team in many ways, and was a blessing to have with us throughout the trip. We also had the pleasure of having Joseph Namanya join us for the entire trip. He was a great travel companion, photographer, interpreter, and friend.
Thank you, Ivan, Lisa, Davis, and Joseph for all your efforts to make our trip successful, safe, and so much fun!
Three of our team members became sick along the journey. The worst happened in Kabale after our return from Kishanje – a little over midway through the trip. Brenda Ninsiima was able to visit the team in the morning at the hotel to check in with those feeling ill. It was SUCH a blessing to have her expertise and loving care. She advised us to alter our plans to travel to Mbarara that day in order to allow the sick team members to sleep. She returned later that afternoon to check in and determined that one team member should go to a local clinic. She was concerned about dehydration. One of our team members was also a nurse, so the two of them accompanied our sickest team member to a local clinic. The team member was given an IV with antibiotics and fluids. Although exhausted, the team member recovered within a day, and we are so thankful for Brenda’s loving care! We realize that being in Kabale on that day was God’s provision for us in the storm of sickness. What a blessing!!!
One of our many team highlights was dancing and singing with the nursery and primary children at New Times in Kishanje. Thanks to Davis, Mercy, Joseph, and Ivan for joining our team in the fun!
Another highlight was our Sunday afternoon climb up the mountain in Kishanje along with several of our team’s sponsored children and Juna Amagara staff members. This trek allowed us quality time with students and staff – to laugh, to play games, to enjoy God’s amazing creation and its beauty, to be silly, to bond, to encourage them, and to share God’s love with them. We soaked up those moments and we carry them in our hearts. Well, and in a few hundred photographs. : )
Overall, we see great things happening at Juna Amagara! Our hearts are with these precious children, their guardians, their communities, the Juna Amagara staff, the great work being done at the HEAL clinic, the many ABIDE students and graduates we encountered, and with all the God is doing in Uganda through Juna Amagara Ministries. May the Lord continue to guide and lead this ministry for HIS Glory!