We are better because of it…

As we drove up the hill from the Rwengo church to the Kate Clinic, I could never have imagined what was to come. Lost in conversation with those around me, Kathryn pointed out the “house” that my sponsored child, Grace used to live in. My heart ached for the conditions that were in front of us. Drawing nearer, we noticed a few little ones began to emerge from the home. We both saw a little girl, standing there in an LSU cheerleader outfit, staring at the bus.

IMG_0054

My heart began to race at the possibility of this sweet little one being my Grace. Still unsure, I found myself wanting to jump off the van to see. Then, she smiled. A smile that told me this was Grace. A smile that I have seen in pictures from my sister since 2011 and in letters and cards since I became her sponsor in early 2014.

IMG_0004

I could not get to her fast enough to wrap my arms around her in a sweet embrace and found myself shaking in anticipation. With each passing moment we tried to explain to her that I was her sponsor, but it still felt like she didn’t fully understand. Finally, Emmy D came over to translate. I was desperate for her to know who I was, that I loved her dearly, that I have prayed for her, that I have been waiting for this moment.

IMG_0005

Just when I wasn’t sure her smile could get any wider, she understood what was being said to her and wore smile of pure joy. A smile that overwhelmed my heart. A smile that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. A smile that communicated she loved me and was so thankful that I was her sponsor.

IMG_0010

Over the next hour, we walked around the land, holding hands, laughing together,

IMG_0043

IMG_0046

IMG_0032

hugging, and simply enjoying each moment given to us.

IMG_0048

We may not speak the same language, but one thing is for sure, we both understood the love shared.

IMG_0052

-Rachel Bitter


It was early Tuesday morning on August 11th and our team had now been on Uganda soil for four full days. Unfortunately my stomach had been upset most of the morning and not getting any better. As we pulled onto the campus of Katyazo, all I could think of is staying on this bus until I get feeling better. However, right on cue we were greeted by the students as we exited off the bus. We knew this was where our sponsor child attended, but Julius was nowhere to be found. Like every other school we visited, we were given the opportunity to introduce ourself and say whatever was on our heart.

Before I could introduce my oldest daughter who joined me on the trip and myself, I was engulfed in the arms of our adopted son Julius!!! The warmth of his arms squeezing me was far beyond what any medicine could ever do. My thoughts quickly turned my heart to pure joy as I was overwhelmed with emotions of meeting our sponsored child.

Julis Pic 1

We were able to see where he lived, meet his classmates

Julis Pic 2

and shower him with our love.

Julis Pic 3

Although we had to return to Michigan, we will always have a son in Uganda that is loved and prayed for every day.

-Jeff and Kenzey Burget


Like Rachel, Jeff and Kenzey, many others on our team exchanged hugs with their sponsored children. Some have been exchanging letters for years,

da1f8926129778aa83288cfd22b4052b

while others were connecting for the first time.

P1140966

Several of us were able to spend a few moments with the families of those we sponsor.

P1150032

P1140997

And even more, we were able to get a glimpse in to their lives at home.

P1140984

P1150021

Whether it was first meetings

IMG_0286

11879630_10207727904340327_1092221506_o

or sweet reunions,

IMG_2254

P1140928

each connection was special in their own way.

I will never forget the day in May this year during the choir tour that Gerald told me his sister was available for sponsorship. Sometimes it is hard to know all of the connections of the children in the program, so when I found out his sister needed a sponsor, I prayed that someone special would choose her. Someone who could pour in to her and love her and be loved in return. Her story is one full of heartache, yet the Lord is at work redeeming the hurt for His glory.

When Todd mentioned to me at Carry a Jerry that he and his wife and their two small children wanted to sponsor, I knew this was the chance to connect her with a family that would do just that!

Four months later they were face to face.

41F21F97-2E25-4AFD-AD0D-B7F1D2BD7AFD1F3C3948-083A-44E8-90C6-151E7F2800B2

6C164D1C-74D9-42E5-82F1-F685260D2E576057AEDF-F996-44FA-B534-1F495032113A

Thank you Father for sponsorship.

Thank you Father for connecting your children from one side of the world to the other.

Thank you Father for provision for schooling.

Thank you Father for using each of us, Ugandan and American alike, to impact the other.

We are better because of it.

-Kathryn

The Greatest Gift

With any trip we take, extensive planning goes in on the front end. There are so many things to consider when putting together the schedule, packing bags, and working in as much as we can to a trip. Sometimes it is the things that we don’t plan at all or things that come together at the very last minute that have the most profound impact! Keep reading for more from Team 53 to see just what I am talking about!


John VanDyke-

In May, Joel and I talked with Pastor Emmy about the availability of the Bible in their native languages.  He thought maybe half the homes of PCM church members had one.  Some churches had only one Bible for the whole congregation to share. We talked about the barrier the lack of bibles represents to people studying the Word on their own and being discipled.  Just a week or so before the trip, the idea for obtaining and distributing Bibles surfaced yet again. We made a few phone calls to team members and other friends. Between those calls and our trip budget, we were able to come up with enough money within a day to buy 1,000 Bibles in two languages. After witnessing the need, and the joyous response first-hand, I pray these 1,000 Bibles are just the beginning.

P1140495

At the Mbarara church, one pastor jumped up immediately after Pastor Emmy made the announcement and started waving his arms and shouting amid wild cheers from the rest of the crowd, I could read his lips, “I LOVE YOU!!!”


Shevi Sloane-

One prominent theme throughout our trip has been unity in the body of Christ. That unity was sealed through the giving of gifts, and the gift that was given was no other than one of the greatest gifts our Lord has ever given us; His Word!

DSC_0007

Thanks to the miracle of various anonymous donations, at the close of the service, we were able to give away dozens of Bibles in the native language of the brothers and sisters of the Kampala church.

DSC_0036 (1)

Most of those in attendance, including pastors, came forward to receive their first ever Bible written in their language.

DSC_0029

I approached one of the brothers and asked him; “Is this your first Bible?” With tears in his eyes he answered, “Yes, my very first Bible.” In the back of the church, behind the crowd,

P1140251

dancing and celebration broke out as men and women clutched their Bibles and rejoiced like they had just received the greatest of treasures.

DSC_0038

As we went forward to give away the Bibles one of the young ladies on the team, Kenzy Burget, accounted how a girl had followed her to the front to help pass out the Bibles. Kenzy marveled as the girl told her with such excitement, “I was able to hand my mother her first Bible.” It was apparent to all in attendance that our Ugandan brothers and sisters yearned dearly for the Word of God.

IMG_9956

It was mentioned later, by Kenzy’s father Jeff; “If we only were as excited about God’s Word as those people were.” I know exactly what Jeff is talking about. Paul speaks about this in Romans 7:22-24 where he says “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

P1140255

In my inner being, I truly desire to hunger and thirst after the Word of God, yet I am always at war against my flesh to hunger and thirst after other things more. Lord, help me to rejoice on account of your Word like those who danced upon receiving your Word today. Let me hunger for your precepts and be filled as those who held a copy of the Bible, in their own native language, in their hands for the first time today.  I imagine that the many people who received a Bible today are still sitting awake late at night meditating on the words of God pouring off the pages and filling their hearts. I am sure they will awake early in the morning tomorrow to fill their souls even more so, for they delight in the law of the Lord. Lord, let us delight in your law even more, we pray. Amen.


Melissa Wayne-

We take for granted how easily accessible Bibles are in America. In Uganda, Bibles are much harder to come by and are often written only in English. To find Bibles printed in the native language takes some effort but is a much appreciated gift.

IMG_9972

Like the others have mentioned before, Team 53 had the joy and privilege of distributing Bibles, written in two different native languages, at three different locations. First, we handed them out at the Kampala Conference. The Kampala Church is a new church plant with humble beginnings, but clearly God is already at work. When told they would be getting Bibles, people quickly got in line.

DSC_0044 Soon after, people were dancing and waving their bibles high in the air in celebration of the gift. One young man even said with excitement, “I am going to be a preacher now and come to America to preach the Good News!”

Next we were given the opportunity to lead a conference for pastors and elders at the Lwengo Church. It was a 2-day conference with 500 people in attendance. We were thrilled to be giving pastors’ families a Bible in their own language.

P1140501

We hope this will serve as an encouragement in their ministry as they pour into the lives of the people around them.

P1140531

DSC_0977

DSC_0001

IMG_0151

Finally, we had the opportunity of handing out Bibles at the Mbarara church. The people arrived at church on Tuesday night, not knowing why they were asked to come. After a time of praise and worship Team 53 once again had the honor of presenting the gift of the Bible in their native language. The gift was received with shouts and cheers, arms waving high in celebration.

We are forever grateful for the generous donors that helped make this possible. Our prayer is that these Bibles will be used to grow God’s kingdom and help people here in Uganda increase their knowledge of God and His everlasting truth.


 

Canaan Sloane (age 9)-

When we gave out Bibles to the people at the Mbarara Church, it was a joy to be there.  I loved the happy faces when they got the Bibles.  I loved handing them out.  When I gave them out, they gave me a hug and were very happy.  I also loved the partnership of our team.  When someone ran out of Bibles to give, someone gave them more bibles to give away.  After all the bibles were given away, all the people were shouting and dancing with joy because they got the Bibles.


Thank you Lord for your Word. Thank you for the thousands of people who are gathering around these Bibles together so that they might know you more!

Until tomorrow,

Kathryn & Team 53

An Amazing Day on the Hill

Stopping at the Sanga school is always a highlight for me personally. I fell in love with a little boy named Joshua there in 2011. He looked sick, craved physical touch, and would not leave my side the entire time that we were there. Now he is seven years old, has a great smile and is learning to read in his class.

JoshuaIMG_1822

He, along with 280 + other children climb our school on the hill daily to receive an education and two hot meals. I am confident this school is what nursed him back to health. The kindness. The hugs. The clean water. The food.

Some of them walk up to five miles one way to get to school. Having to be at school at 7am requires them to wake up while it is still dark outside and make the long journey. They make their way up the hill, some with shoes and some without, but all with grins on their faces.

SangaHillClimbingUpIMG_1945

Some get distracted on the way up.

WatsonInATreeIMG_1953

While others wait anxiously for instruction.

InGodWeTrustIMG_1916

SangaClassroomIMG_1940

You would never know that for some, they had been walking or running for an hour and a half or more just to be there.

SmilingIMG_1907

They didn’t know that when the team arrived a very special surprise was in store.

WelcomeIMG_1961

That didn’t stop them from cheering and clapping with excitement at the thought of their presence while they waited for the bus to make it up the hill!

WElcomeIMG_1965

WelcomeIMG_1970

WelcomeIMG_1972

WelcomeJoelIMG_1980

GreetingsIMG_1981

The sound of their voices echoing off of the metal roof was passionate and powerful as they welcomed the team!

SangaSingingIMG_1897

SangaKidsNeverOwnedABookIMG_1892

Worship through Music knows no boundaries. As the team from Chapel Pointe led the children in praise and worship we heard some of the children humming during words they did not know

ToddPraisingIMG_1993

while others followed along with the hand motions of the team members.
JackiePraisingIMG_1995

 

They might not have understood everything, but they knew that the name of Jesus was being lifted up and they wanted to do the same!

Then it was time for something special. Erin worked with the publisher of Arch Books to have enough books donated for each student at the school.

John asked them to raise their hand if they have ever owned their own book.

SangaKidsNoBookIMG_1889

Zero hands went up. That was about to change.

These books contain stories from the New Testament and Old alike. They were getting more than just any old book, they were getting a small chunk of truth that comes from God’s Word.

PrayingForBooksIMG_2030

 

Praying for BooksIMG_2033

Jackie with kidsIMG_2024

BooksIMG_1997

Each class filed to the front to receive their books one by one.

SangaKidsIMG_2002

 

There was no denying their excitement!

BooksIMG_2042

BooksIMG_2046

 

The most humbling sight to me was watching 11, 12, 13, and 14 year olds hold up their first book to ever own.

 

ErinwithP6P7IMG_2063

 

And then they took them and began to read.

KidsLookingAtBooksIMG_2067

They shared the books. The older children read to the younger children. The littlest ones pointed to the pictures and attempted to tell the stories themselves. Each child was grateful. Each child held tightly to their book. Each child at the Sanga school received their very first book to own and I am not sure how I will ever look at the small library in my daughter’s room the same again.

Thank you Erin and Arch Books for putting nuggets of truth in to the hands of our Sanga students! Thank you for giving them the chance to tell the story to their families, neighbors, and friends.

What an amazing day on the hill!

-Kathryn