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It takes two days, three flights, and eight hours on a bus to get to Bududa, Uganda. We’re in the first few years of a new partnership with the Bududa Learning Center, which is a school dedicated to educating and equipping children and young adults in one of the most disadvantaged parts of the world.

It’s really a bit of a hike to get here, with intermittent naps and breakfast-when-we-should-be-having-dinner taking the place of our normal routines and regular schedules.

I hesitate to complain about our journey, because it turns out that everything went just fine. Big ups to Court and Sarah in the Outreach department for double and triple-checking flights, visas, and packing lists; forging and sustaining this partnership; and equipping the seven of us to get outside ourselves and our routines and be open to the change and challenge of serving with our partners at the Bududa Learning Center in Bududa, Uganda.

BLC is at work through three primary programs: Children of Bududa, a child and youth sponsorship program for Bududans who have lost one or both parents; Bududa Vocational School, which equips students with an accredited secondary education as well as skills in a variety of vocations, including woodworking, tailoring, and IT; and a women’s cooperative, which empowers women in the community with entrepreneurship skills and microfinance loans.

This is a new partnership for a congregation committed to upholding outreach as a ministry priority. I don’t have the exact figures handy, but Myers Park Presbyterian Church has at least a 40-year history of partnerships and mission in Africa, sustained through decades of faithful disciples feeling God’s tug to forge relationships with severely disadvantaged people half a world away.

For now, we’re as settled as one can be on the first full day in Africa. Our personal effects are unpacked in simple bedrooms and the suitcases full of requested supplies have a temporary home in an office at BLC. The journey of these supplies is just a tiny bit incredible, since everything we brought came from somewhere and someone else. There are sheets and towels that were collected by church members. Craft and game supplies assembled by our 4th and 5th grade Mission Kids during Vacation Bible School. Even cleats donated by a group of soccer parents in Raleigh who saw a Facebook post from a friend of a friend and responded overwhelmingly.

There are seven of us here, but we represent all of you at one of the most important times in a partnership: the beginning. We’re here to cultivate a relationship and find ways to let it thrive. We’re here to build trust, break bread, and laugh with our partners. We’re here to stretch ourselves and to imagine God’s world in a whole new light.

You brought us to this place, and we brought you with us.