After a calendar year of monthly meetings, planning, and fundraising events, the time had finally arrived to begin our journey to Africa. Fr. Johnson led us in a quick prayer at the church, then we piled into our cars and departed on the trip of our lifetimes.
Apart from the Waitses and Fr. Houk (who had previously traveled to Uganda) no one truly understood what the next two weeks had in store for us. After two days, and multiple filights, we arrived in Kigali, Rwanda. After meeting our drivers, John and Kizito, we left paved roads and traffic lights behind and discovered the “African dust.”
One of our first stops was the Bishop’s School. While the rest of the team played volleyball and soccer with the students, I met the adorable 8-month-old Uma and her mother, who taught at the school. Talking with the mother, she asked me how I liked Uganda.
It was surreal to have a conversation with a person from such a different culture and background, while finding out we had so many similarities. We both strongly disliked avocados and the sprawling hills of Uganda fascinated us. We both enjoyed teaching little children and gorillas enthralled us, though she had three viewings of the creatures in her lifetime and it would take a miracle for me to glimpse one in the wild. This encounter stuck with me throughout the remainder of the trip and reminded me how similar we are to the people we are seeking to serve.
During our week-long stay in Bwindi, we also built a Banda, a community and worship area. Well, “built” may be an overstatement. We hiked a mountain for about twenty minutes until we arrived at a village called Ratungula. We rested under the current community meeting place, the avocado tree, and as we listened to the many speeches of our hosts, we began to understand the depth of their gratitude.
One man stated, “If I could open my heart and show it to you, you would see love.” Overall, this phenomenal journey exposed to us how deeply our work affected the Ratungula community and how similar people with such different backgrounds can be.