Where Do I Begin? - First Week Perspective from Greg Mendoza
Where do I even begin? Over the last week I've experienced and grown more than I could ever express with words. Over the past year or so God has really placed a burden on my heart to do something, to take action, to get off the bench! I was getting tired of sitting in bible studies talking about what it looks like to be a follower of Christ but then as soon as we walk out of the room we go about our daily lives like nothing ever happened. That personally just ate at me, and didn't seem right. Sunday, I got to go to church at the Segner's house. While I sat there, I looked around the room at all the missionary families, I finally felt at peace. These families gave up their lives in the States to move to Uganda and show God's love to the people. Talk about getting off the bench and actually playing the game!
Don't get me wrong, you don't have to move to Africa to do God's will for your life. But there's something special about being surrounded by people who are the epitomes of James 1:27.. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." They are literally in the trenches of this world taking care of the poor, tending to the sick, and showing love to the unloved! God has really blessed me with this opportunity to learn from the Segner's and to be a part of an amazing ministry.
We landed in Entebbe, Uganda pretty late on May 15th and got to a guesthouse where we stayed the night (a guesthouse here is the same thing as a bed and breakfast). That was a very "interesting" time. The guesthouse’s driver picked us up at the airport, which wouldn't have been that bad except for the fact that we had no idea who this guy was, where we were going, it was dark, and we were in another country! The whole time, I was thinking "my mom would be freaking out if she knew about this"... oh and I still haven't told her yet so I'll be getting a call after she reads this. We finally get to the guesthouse and all is good. This guy named Paul, who’s from Holland, and his wife Claire, who is Ugandan, runs it. Really nice people!
That night I was reading Psalm 121, which says in verse two.. "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
The next morning we get picked up by another man named Paul, the Healing Faith driver, and head towards Jinja. And that's where the fun begins! It finally hit me; I was in a place that I only knew existed through pictures and TV. It wasn't all bad, it was actually quite beautiful in some places. Now I won't go into much detail, but some of the things I witnessed definitely made it hard to sleep that night. And that was just along the main road to Jinja! I was starting to panic a little and feeling very overwhelmed by it all. I started thinking that there's no way I could do this, that it was impossible for me. I know it was just the enemy trying to get to me, and for a second it was working. Right there in the van I started praying, and I kid you not, as soon as I look up I see this taxi that on the back had "PSALM 121" in big yellow letters. Immediately all fear and anxiety went away! I was reminded very quickly that I was called here for a purpose and that ALL my help comes from the One who created the universe!
After being here over a week I'm finally starting to settle down and feel more comfortable around town. Especially after the creative introduction to Jinja life the Segner's came up with. They set up an "Amazing Race" Jinja style! We were given clues and had to find the place in town and either take a picture or buy something but there was a catch! We were only allowed to ask people on the streets and we were racing against each other! Every place we went was somewhere we would need to know
There's been A LOT to get used to. From the money, to how you buy food, to how you greet people, to what side of the road you drive on, to just the culture as a whole. I could go on and on! Initially it was very strange, but the more I’ve been around it the more I realize America could learn a thing or two. People are never in a hurry or rushing. They focus more on relationships and they take friendships very seriously. For example, if you pass a friend on the street it would be normal to say “Hey, what’s up?” and then keep on walking, but here if you do that they would think you were extremely rude. You would need to shake hands and carry on a conversation asking how they are and how the family is doing and so on. The lifestyles just go at a much slower pace. I really feel like you get a chance to focus on what’s really important in life without any distractions.
Since it's the rainy season here, it storms pretty much every night. Which is bad when it comes to getting out to the villages that Healing Faith works in. Luckily it held off enough and allowed us to make it out there twice the last week! I was so excited to finally be able to serve and see what it was all about. In order to make it out to the village we had to drive down this mud path that was barely wide enough for our van (yes, it's 4x4). It was awesome! As soon as the kids saw/heard the van they all came running! We got to play games with the kids, as well as sing and dance. At the end Jason told them all a Bible story. I was really impressed by how much they remembered from the last story, which was weeks ago! After the story there were already several women lining up for medical treatment. Most of them had infants. And let me tell you, I have NEVER felt more awkward in my life! As part of the cultural differences I mentioned before, the women won't think twice about whipping their breasts out in front of you and feeding their babies. At one point there was one lady who had a baby on each one! I was definitely not prepared for that! As I was staring off into space pretending like I was playing it cool, Jason was caring for each person that was there. I finally came to and got to see how he interacted with the people and I immediately thought "when you did it to the least of these, you did it to me." It was incredible to actually see this happen right in front of me! I've helped out with various Healing Faith fundraising events while back in the States, but to actually see first hand the life change is almost unexplainable. This is real people, real lives, and real issues that are being cared for.
Just remember, you don't have to go to Africa to love and serve people. There's people around us everyday that can be served and shown some love! But most importantly though.....DO SOMETHING!