Follow along with eight disciples as they travel to Bududa, Uganda to work with our partners at the Bududa Learning Center.

This post was written by Kathleen price.

We arrived in Bududa last evening, just as the sun was dipping below the horizon, grateful for the last light to show us the beauty of this corner of Uganda that we had come so far to visit. We were greeted by smiling, familiar faces and strong hands to help unload a bus full of supplies and eight tired and happy women. Despite the long, bumpy, dusty ride, we are excited and ready for what is to come.

Eight folks bound for Bududa, Uganda

Strangely, there is one thing that irritated me on this trip and I can’t seem to shake it. When we approached Entebbe and filled out our immigration card for ‘Purpose of Travel,’ we were told to mark the box for ‘Tourist.’ The word doesn’t fit right – it has a derogatory connotation, it is never meant as a compliment. It indicates someone who is barely passing through, skimming the surface of whatever is deemed as a monument or place of interest, taking a photo or 42 to prove they were there, buying a souvenir that costs more than it’s worth and leaving again, back to wherever they came from. I think it is akin to the way that some people use the word ‘christian’, with a lowercase ‘c’, when they are making a judgment about people who claim the faith. It is said with air quotes and it is not meant to be a compliment. It refers to someone who might be able to quote scripture but who stays inside the four walls of their church, who goes through the motions of what they think is expected of them, but their heart is closed and they have little sense of justice (or injustice) in the world. They are a christian tourist. The true meaning of the Word is potentially lost on them, or worse, twisted in a way that serves their interests, creating barriers, dividing people and reinforcing the concept of an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’

We are not here to be tourists, and we are absolutely not here to be christian tourists. We are here on a relational ministry – at its core, it requires you to engage, to be present, to have courage on a personal level that demands vulnerability and humility. It challenges everything you know about faith. To be a person from a world of material excess, the poverty is overwhelming and heartbreaking. It takes your breath away. It is inconceivable, even when you see it with your own eyes. And yet it comes paired with the most unshakable faith – a belief in God’s grace, love, and presence.

We shared in a church service this morning with a local minister at the school today – singing, dancing, praise and more singing, including a personalized welcome for each and every member of our team. We played games with the students, including a made-up game that involved recycled bottles, did puzzles and made beaded bracelets. We laughed with them, talked with them, told stories and tried to understand each other, through both a language and a cultural divide. And yes, we took photos – many, many photos – all of us together, arms intertwined, sharing a moment as brothers and sisters in Christ, striving to understand each other, to care for each other, to learn from one another. This is what it means to be a Christian- with a capital C – a shared belief that there is an abundant and generous God who wants His people to love one another, in spite of all our differences, we recognize the divine spark that connects us all and we celebrate that sameness as a way to build a community, and build a world.

Kaylee helps lead games with the Children of Bududa support recipients

The women of Myers Park Presbyterian also sang to the congregation today – a hymn we all know – Here I Am, Lord. The words take on new meaning for me after today – the willingness to accept the call, to step forward and outward, to volunteer for the unknown will of God.

But what brought me to tears today, in a simple, mud brick classroom in a rural mountain town in Eastern Uganda was the promise that ‘I will hold your people in my heart.’ It is a commitment we take seriously, a promise we intend to keep. We are not here to be tourists. We are here to be Christians.