Lessons From the Front of the Bus

This is the last blog post from Trip 50 and you are in for a double feature. First up, Luke Bilberry shares lessons learned from the front of the bus.

As I sat towards the back of the bus, I looked up and saw a special sight.

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I saw 4 American students getting the lesson of a lifetime. I began to think of all the teams that have gone before Trip 50 and how many others have sat at the front of the bus or the Miracle Van.  The front of the bus is a special place of education. It is a special place to see with new eyes and hear with new ears lessons that are life changing.  I want to share with you some of those lessons. I pray that you are able to learn through the lessons that we have learned from the front of the bus.

Lesson 1:  The power of words.

Anyone who comes to Uganda quickly realizes that there can be a language barrier. While English is the national language, there are still local dialects used to communicate. As we all talk, we lean in a little closer to listen carefully to try and understand. The the fun begins as we exchange different words in English and the local dialects.

If you haven’t visisted Uganda yet, here are a couple of words to practice before you come:

  • Hello is Agandi
  • Thank you is Webale

I am sure that our Ugandan friends struggle to hold back the laughter from our failed attempts, but they are always gracious.

On and on the comparison of words happens at the front of the bus. What happens in this moment is something beyond mere words, love is exchanged. The collision of two cultures takes place as everyone is trying to understand one another. It is a shared space where we try to learn from one another; to seek understanding from one another is a work in humility.  It is a work that can only really be done in love.  To seek understanding with another is to say, “You have value and I want to learn from you.”

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For many, the front of the bus is the place to learn that our words convey more than ideas, but the words carry with them love. In fact, love is the language that is really taught when you ride in the front of the bus.

Lesson 2: Keep your eyes open.

Another lesson that you quickly learn as you ride in the front of the bus is that you must keep your eyes wide open.  This lesson is learned quickly from first timers, but can take some time to master. As you look out the window of the bus, it is so easy to see that there are many differences between America and Uganda.  They drive on a different side of the road. Their trees look different. People walk everywhereDSC_7796 and if they are not walking they are riding a Boda Boda- three or four people (plus a few yellow bananas on top) to one motorcycle.

As you look longer and your mind catches up with your eyes, you begin to see beyond the interesting things the landscape of Uganda holds, but you begin to see the richness of this country. It is a country that is rich in natural resources. It is a country that has a beauty that causes you to think that there is more beyond that what our eyes can see. You see the rolling hills and you begin to see that there is strength and majesty. You see all of the banana trees and the trucks and bicycles that carry the bananas and you see that there is always a provision of produce. It is a reminder that God always knows the needs of His people. While our needs may be different, keep your eyes open and watch as God provides.

Lesson 3: We are different, but we are the same.

As the two previous lessons combine, it is clear to see one of the greatest lessons that you can learn form the front of the bus. It is a lesson that ought to shape us all. It is one that, by the Grace of God, will carry these young students further than any mathematics course. It is a sort of social studies. This lesson teaches us that even though we are different, even though our skin color may be different shades, our languages may sound different, the reality is that we are all the same. 

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We all have struggles. We all come from families with different stories and challenges. We all have hopes and dreams for the future. We all desire to be known.  We all desire for our needs to be taken care of. I don’t think there can be a greater lesson learned form the front of the bus than to look at another and realize that at our core, we are the same.

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We all face challenges. We all desire to be loved. We all have joys and moments of celebration. This has real implications for our lives. That if we are all the same, then we all play a part in caring for one another.

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Because we share a common bond as humans, all created in the image of God, we have value no matter the country of our birth or the economic status we have. Our differences might glare at us like red flashing lights in the night, but the important part about us is what we have in common. We are all His.  

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Hello, my name is Jake Hageman. I play the quads with the drumline and I enjoy it very much.

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Like Luke, I learned something on the bus rides. As I rode with the team from school to school, I noticed that many people work on the streets. They are working in fields planting trees, watching after livestock, or working in markets that turned out to be their homes. Most of the people I saw appeared to live off of very little earnings, but I noticed one thing that grabbed my attention immediately: everyone was filled with joy. They would wave to me with a smile so big it lifted my mood entirely. I was interested as to how they could be so content and joyful. I thought to myself, “I have so much more stuff than they do, and I am not content with what I have most of the time.” Back in the states, I always wanted more…but these people didn’t.

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This joy was also evident at each school I visited. They did not have much at all, but they were content and joyful. I wondered once again how they could be so joyful with this little of stuff. Then I realized exactly what it was. It was Christ. They knew that they didn’t need anything as long as they had the grace of Jesus, and I felt convicted. I felt that I was not being thankful for what has God has blessed me with.

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1 Timothy 6:6-10 was shared at the dinner table tonight on this subject, and I agree wholeheartedly with what it says. Verses 8-9 says “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” I feel that a lot of the time the luxuries of the “American Dream” ruin our relationship with Christ. We are greedy and selfish instead of taking a couple of seconds and thanking Him for blessing us the way He has. I can say for myself that I do this a lot. 

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This trip has truly opened my eyes in ways I never thought it would. Every single person I have met has helped me understand and experience what true joy is. The Lord has shown me that even the poor can be content and joyful, and it is something I will never forget.

Trip 50 is signing off. We are each thankful for our shared experiences and thankful that you walked this journey with us by reading!

O is for Omwana

Hello from Uganda!  This is Michele Potts, Kyassenya Sponsorship Coordinator.  

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This is my third trip to Uganda and it is just as much a blessing each and every time. 11403161_10153379645223570_1150423333612351384_n

The changes and additions to each and every school is a true gift from The Lord and He is blessing them tremendously.  After three trips, I think I have a new favorite place to visit, The Omwana House!!!

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As a sponsorship coordinator, when I arrive to schools and new places such as the Omwana House, which we visited today, it is hard not to see the needs of the schools. The Omwana House is a true blessing for these babies which have been rescued from very harsh environments.  

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I am so happy to see that they are thriving while being cared for and loved by the staff.

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I also see that there are so many overwhelming needs and supplies for these babies such as beds, high chairs, cloth diapers, milk, baby food, medicine, blankets, clothes and the list could go on and on.

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The expenses at this house are many also because of the baby/nanny ratio. We currently have six babies at the house and six adults on staff including an administrator, social worker,

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coordinator, and three nannies who take shifts taking care of the babies. If you would like to sponsor one of these precious children or want more information about the needs of the Omwana House, click here.

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The Lord is at work in the lives of these children and we know and believe that He who has started a good work will see it through!

My name is Cortney (Michele is my mom), and I have an immense love for young children, especially babies.

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From the moment I arrived in Uganda, I’ve had a child in my arms!

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On the first day visiting the Omwana house, I grew attached to a sick little boy named Kato. He laid on my chest while I rubbed his back, and my heart filled with love for the sweet little boy.

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Like my mom, my favorite place to visit has been the Omwana House. Helping those who are hurting to feel cherished and cared for has been my favorite part of this experience.

Today, we got to visit the Omwana House for the second time.

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Hearing the stories of abuse and neglect is not easy, but I try to remember that these children are now safe from harm and have a very large, loving group of people to look after them.

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The best thing about being in Africa is getting to love on the children who may have never experienced love outside of PCM.

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When traveling to all the different schools, it was easy to pick out the kids who crave love and affection the most. Knowing that they are special and precious can make all the difference in their little lives.

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I am not musically talented at all, so instead of playing the drums and connecting with the kids that way, I have had the privilege of holding their hands and dancing with them while the drum line is performing.

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Most of the time, the smallest babies get stuck in the back where they can’t see, so it is a blessing to pick them up and dance with them so that they feel included. Watching the children dance, watching them put their hands on their hips and “shake, shake, shake,” is one of my favorite memories so far!

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If you are supporting PCM in any capacity, thank you! Thank you for giving even the youngest of our brothers and sisters in Christ the chance to know and experience parental love and care. Thank you!

God of All Nations

Psalm 117 “O praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.”

I have read Psalm 117 many times, but I don’t think I ever really internalized the significance of the “all ye nations” phrase until yesterday. A little background information might be helpful at this point. Since age 7, I have been a drum fanatic.

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I saw someone playing drums in church and it was over, I was hooked. Drums and percussion have been a life-long hobby and semi-profession.

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I love to share my passion for this diverse family of instruments with anyone who cares to listen. Teaching the drumline at Grace Community School has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

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God has blessed me with the opportunity to share my passion with an amazing group of students.

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What a blessing it is to not only teach kids about drums, but to also get to teach them how their musical talents can and should be used as an act of worship.

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Being here as the Trip 50 team (Go Eggs!) has given us the opportunity to work out this aspect of our faith, to worship Him with a loud, joyful noise.

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So, about yesterday…we visited the Rwemikoma school.

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We were greeted warmly by the kids and staff, and we were treated to a wonderful presentation by various classes at the school.

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Then we played our program, which the students seemed to enjoy,

and gave the students a chance to play on our American drums.

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That part was really loud!

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Then, Luke Bilberry, our team leader, made an inspired suggestion, and the words of Psalm 117 jumped off of the page and became the living Word of God. His suggestion? What if the Rwemikoma students and drummers sing some of their worship songs and the Grace drummers play along? I stood and watched for the next several moments as two groups of students who had never met before began playing, singing, and worshiping as though they had known each other all their lives.

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People from two different nations were praising Him as one. It was a small glimpse of heaven, and a reminder that God is the God of all nations and all people. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

-Jeff Shelton