Stirred up to joy, sacrifice and hope
The Templepatrick Presbyterian Youth Team presented their reflections to church members who had supported them in their visit to Arua, Uganda, this summer. Team leader Judith McCartney has summmed up what she has been reflecting on since their return:
Uganda is an incredible country and Arua is one of the most special places I have ever visited. From the moment we stepped off our flight , we were met with a sea of joy, warmth and welcome. We had the privilege of being hosted by the local diocese and we encountered people who genuinely changed our lives. I have tried to choose a few words to share some of our thoughts and how God encouraged, inspired and challenged us.
The first word has to be JOY. I am not just talking superficial happiness, smiles on faces kind of joy. I am talking deep-rooted, life-transforming, Holy-Spirit filled joy. The Christians we met love God with their whole being and long to share His love with everyone they encounter. Praising God is a way of life – it is part of who they are and their daily activity. A simple handshake will not suffice in Uganda…you are greeted by people holding your hand and literally jumping together with you in celebration of the fact that you are there with them. The warmth of welcome and love is tangible and overwhelming at times.
My second word is SACRIFICE. It is impossible to travel to Uganda and not see the need that people experience, some in truly desperate situations, especially in the refugee settlements where funding has been cut and even the next meal is not guaranteed. In the midst of this need, however, it is the deep sacrificial love that impacted us the most. Trusting God for every need, the people we met gave wholeheartedly out of the little they have. Many of us cried a number of tears at the depth of sacrificial love that we were shown again and again.
The next word has to be HOPE. On our first day in Arua I heard a statement that has stayed with me since and I hope always will.
“When people are in need they come to the Church…and why would they not…as we are in a position to bring hope.”
Even though they face many of their own struggles, hardships and pressures, not least financially, the Church in Uganda gives all they can to offer hope to their brothers and sisters who are in need. Hours of travel over bumpy, dusty roads, to spend time with people who have experienced severe trauma in their lives and now find themselves in desperate situations, is part of normal routine for some of the Christians we had the privilege to meet. Sharing God’s love and hope, often at personal cost, was something that wasn’t even questioned but was accepted as God’s call on our lives. The challenge of experiencing a Church willing to step out of its comfort zone to bring God’s love and hope was truly inspiring and challenging.
My final word is STIRRING. It is maybe a strange word to choose but I feel it best describes how I feel after this trip. God has used this experience to stir my heart in so many different ways. He has given me a new thirst for His Word as I have witnessed young children stand and recite verses and passages from the Bible because of their love for what God has to teach them. He has challenged me to follow God’s call on our lives to be the hope-givers because of what God has done for us. He has given me a passion to pray for His work in Uganda and support the work of the Church in whatever way I can.