Updated: Apr 11, 2020
In September of 2018 we began our travels from Dallas, TX to Jinja, Uganda. This was the beginning of a two month mission trip with an opportunity to serve in a new ministry. We had no idea what to expect, nor did we really have set expectations. Because Uganda had never been a destination we had contemplated visiting, we quickly began to research all things Uganda in order to be "somewhat" prepared.
Our prayers were always to show Christ's love through our actions and words wherever the Lord took us. This started out an easy task as we felt welcomed, loved, surrounded by jovial children with big, beautiful smiles. The excitement of meeting new people, learning their customs and familiarizing ourselves with the local community of our ministry was all so refreshing from our lives in America.
However, one day it all changed. It's hard to pinpoint that day exactly, but it became very evident that the newness, compassion, and joy of being there had been tainted and replaced with great sadness. Mark & I would talk about our struggles, trying to understand the sudden changes we were feeling. We spoke with a young woman who serves as a full time missionary in another country, and she pointed out the fact that what we were experiencing was "culture shock." We were feeling trapped without a vehicle of our own, at the mercy of our social worker to drive us around or catching a wild ride on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi). Not having the ease of rinsing off fresh vegetables and fruit right from the tap water in the sink became a real chore because e-v-e-r-y-t-h-ing was a process! There were only certain places we trusted when it came to eating out and we frequented them often. Doing laundry in the shower was no longer the fun adventure it had been! The cold showers every single day was a challenge, especially with the electric current that zapped me each time I touched the metal knobs!
With all of those "little things" that were so different than our lives in the U.S., it especially became trying when we fell ill multiple times, having to make frequent visits to the local hospital. The real kicker came when we received a very devastating call from our daughter in Texas. Two weeks prior, we had FaceTimed and she announced that we were going to be grandparents and now was rushing to the ER to have a D & C (her pregnancy had been a false positive because she had a molar pregnancy, which is a fast growing tumor). We felt helpless, although we knew her Heavenly Father was there with her. My father was also diagnosed with lung cancer during our time away, and again, we had to trust that God knew these terrible health afflictions would happen while we were away. We chose to worship, pray and give thanks to Him, and after a lot of sobbing, we were back to being grounded in the peace of Christ.
We want to share the negatives, not to focus on them or to complain, but often times these are realities for missionaries serving long term in foreign countries. Just think that in our two short months we were met with so many trials and health issues, and our teammates experienced much of the same. Satan was hard at work! This is what he's best at-trying to knock down those who are obedient to the calling from the Lord. It became so evident to us what was taking place and although we succumbed to short-lived pity parties and indulged in our culture shock, we also knew our time in Uganda was short term and that gave us "hope."
Can you imagine what it must be like to experience trying times and situations such as ours but over years rather than months? And those trials taking place while trying to stay focused on God, the mission set before you, and the guilt of reporting back to supporters anything but good news?
Did you know that most organizations recommend missionaries NOT come home for at least two years because they'd likely not return? Did you know that the first year is inevitably going to be one of the most challenging for your health as your body adapts to the new environment, bacteria, bugs and eating habits?
In future posts and blogs, we will be featuring Q & A's with anonymous missionaries serving in sensitive countries. Our purpose is not to discourage full time missions, but rather to bring awareness to the challenges, and shed light on ways to truly support those who are serving away from their homes and away from their extended families.
Painting a visual picture of their daily life in a foreign country should lead us all to ask what it is we can do for Christ...is it to be the hands and feet that encourage those serving globally or is it to go as well?