Monday, May 21, 2012

Uganda.. For the Sake of Love

To think.. this is where Wayne and Terrie (our area leaders) are! Distributing shoeboxes in Uganda. 
From Samaritan's Purse:

For the Sake of Love

A group of young people sacrifice the comforts of home to deliver shoe box gifts to children in Uganda
An acrid, burning smell fills the air as the vehicle bumps past block after block of low, mangled tin buildings. The coaster—an oversized van or undersized bus, depending on whom you ask—provides little cushion from the rutted, red dirt roads. Shining dark faces glance up in surprise, as the rich brown eyes catch a glimpse through the windows.

“Mzungu! Mzungu!” The tiny children cry out with glee to see a bus full of 25 foreigners pass. Many jump up and down, throwing their hands up in greeting, and then chasing behind as fast as their dusty legs will carry them. Others just stare, pondering what might possibly bring such a crowd to their little corner of Uganda.

This scene played out time and again as 25 youth and their chaperones from the United States trekked from Kampala, across the southwestern end of the country to Kamwenge, and back again. They chose to forgo one week of their summer vacations, trading lazy days at the beach for back-breaking hours shoveling silt out of fish ponds, sifting sand for home water filters—and delivering Operation Christmas shoe box gifts to nearly 2,500 children.

As the youth team traveled through the countryside, visiting and working at various Samaritan’s Purse projects along the way, they spent nights without electricity and running water. They crammed themselves and their luggage onto bouncing buses, without air conditioning or seat belts. All for the sake of love.

Ephesians 3:14-21 quickly became a theme verse for the trip, cropping up in several devotions that were independently planned before arriving in Uganda. Strangers quickly became friends as they ministered the love of Jesus to others, and experienced His love in return.

Nowhere was the love of Christ more tangible than at the Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift distributions. Thousands of children, many wearing neat school uniforms, crowded the various schools, churches, and orphanages in Kampala and Masaka.

The girls and boys sat patiently, lined neatly in rows according to age and gender. At each distribution, members of the Samaritan's Purse youth team took turns explaining that, because of God’s love, each child there would receive a gift.

At one distribution, a small girl sat down in Alicia Morrison’s lap.

“She just wanted love,” Alicia said.

When Alicia stood up to share with the crowd about Jesus, the girl followed. Throughout the distribution, she stuck close by her new friend’s side, wanting to be held and cuddled, taught how to play with her foreign toys.

“Even though we were not able to communicate well because of the language barrier, she still felt loved because she could see the love of God working in all of us,” Alicia said. “As much as some of the families and children needed physical help, more than anything they need the love of God dwelling in their hearts.”

The team got to know a small part of Africa and its people that week, and was changed by their interactions with Uganda’s people. Each hand held, each little waist hugged, taught that Christ’s love is longer, higher, and deeper than any ocean or distance separating the two cultures. Each nail hammered, each scoop of mud shoveled, demonstrated that the Lord is able to do more than we ask or imagine.

Stephanie Sharron, 16, summed up the trip and the impact of Operation Christmas Child with a story from the last shoe box distribution. It was held at a church that had survived in a community where previous churches failed, and Stephanie asked the pastor why it was successful.

“He told me that they survived because they showed love to people," she said. "I was expecting some thought-out strategy or big plan, but they just showed love. It truly blew me away. Maybe everything I do, if done in love, will make a big impact.”

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV).

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