This post was written by Kathleen Price, a member of the Uganda team. Follow along with updates from the Uganda team as they cultivate relationships with our new partners at the Bududa Learning Center in eastern Uganda.

At the risk of leading you to believe I only know one thing from the Bible, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’, I have been pondering this verse quite a bit on this trip (perhaps because of the artwork in our latrine that says ‘Love one another deeply from the heart’).  In my last post, I talked about the first part – love your neighbor – but there are two parts to this verse and I want to talk about the second part tonight.  It occurs to me that loving yourself has to come first, it is precedent to loving others.  And in this case, I am asking about loving yourself in terms of loving your immediate family versus the family halfway around the world.  How are we doing on that score?

I had mixed feelings about coming here, I suppose like everyone does when embarking on their first mission trip.  I felt ill-prepared.  I didn’t do enough research on Uganda, my arms were still sore from my vaccinations and I was far from ‘spiritually’ ready for anything.  But I had another secret worry.  Contrary to public opinion, I am an introvert.  Having some alone time is critical for my mental health and I was getting seriously anxious about spending ten days of 24/7 with six people I did not know.  I knew three of my fellow travelers in different capacities, but only one of them was in my cell phone contacts (the modern definition of knowing someone).  We had some pre-travel meetings but I couldn’t make all of them and I always felt like I was a half step off kilter when we got together, like I had missed an important memo.  Some of the team had been to Uganda before and the rest of us were like groupies, pumping them for information, trying to get all the test questions before the final exam.  I had a crazy work week right before we left and lots of things happening at home and just the stress of packing a carry on bag for a ten day trip, with no clear itinerary given the fluidity of the mission itself.  So after going to bed too late and a rough nights sleep, I showed up at the airport in a daze and not an insignificant amount of dread.  What in the world was I doing with these people?

Leaving the comforts of home (and wow, I now realize just how comfortable they are!) and stuffing yourself in a metal tube for 30 hours followed by a long bus ride on a bumpy road is a bonding opportunity all by itself.  We definitely got to know each other better and we talked and we laughed and slept when we could.  But then we got to Bududa and we got to the school and we found ourselves and we found each other.  We are ALL out of our element here – teachers, lawyers, bankers, homemakers – none of what we knew before makes any sense here.  And all those labels or possessions or perceptions that we had before don’t matter.  There is a personal vulnerability here that occurs daily, hourly even, that creates intense trust between people, trust that would take years to develop back home.  It is a compressed ‘coming of age’ as adults, a recognition of your limitations as an individual, an acknowledgment of the strength of the group and an acceptance of the need to ask for help from others.  It is powerful and humbling and it quickly distills the truth of the human condition – we only survive in communion with each other.  I have seen it over and over and over in my teammates already, and it has only been a few days.  Virginia LaFar helping three shy, young girls pick out an article of clothing from the donations, with extreme grace and dignity, each one knowing they were cherished, honored and respected.  Kaylee Pratt creatively repurposing extra large t-shirts into dresses for two sweet, giggling girls who followed her arounds like little ducklings.  Alan Lewis playing high five, on the side, down low, too slow with the poorest of the poor children in Bududa, approaching with serious faces and scattering with joyous shouts as if it was new each and every time.  Alison Hinshaw, swinging a pickaxe/hoe like an experienced pro, which she is given hours spent in her garden back home, while talking and laughing with our Bududa friends Joseph and Samali.  Bryan Brooks drawing out the shyest of teenaged boys, by just offering a Ugandan handshake and a welcome smile, happy to talk about football (soccer), drama club or really anything at all.  And Court Young, our beloved and fearless leader – organizing, directing, discerning – all with a full and open heart, laughing, listening, challenging, caring.  She is the epitome of love on fire here – irrepressible, irresistible, infectious – applied equally to Ugandans and mzungus alike.  I love each of these people with my whole heart.  Whatever tenuous gossamer threads connected us before this trip, they are now knitted together into strong bonds that will support and carry us throughout this trip and beyond.  We are richer for these connections and this is just our small but mighty MPPC team in Uganda.  Imagine what we could do fabulous as a church if we were all connected like that?  Imagine what we could do as a world?

‘But most important, love one another deeply from the heart.’

Mission accomplished.