Making a Difference Around the World

church members travel to help supply fresh drinking water

Recently, I traveled with my friend Patty Robinson and 14 others on a two-week mission trip to Uganda, through Hope 4 Kids International, based in Anthem. We are both members of Light of the Desert Lutheran Church in Cave Creek, Ariz. and our church sponsors a village, Kasolo, and 40 children through H4KI's child sponsorship program.

While in Uganda, we did service projects in several areas of rural Uganda, as well as visited Kasolo, meeting our sponsored children and delivering more than 140 pounds of school supplies and handmade dresses.

This was a mission trip to a country currently mostly at peace, but only a generation removed from violence that turned millions into orphans and widows, and created fear in even the remote villages. Uganda is on the mend with much credit to the many worldwide organizations that have poured resources into the country to help them heal from the violence, and from the scourge of AIDS, as well as other diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever.Hope 4 Kids focuses on the many children in Africa who are without one or both parents, and who are without hope to get out of the poverty and desperation of life there.

The trip included many service days to more remote villages, where safe water has been a basic need for the lives of many villagers, and the child death rates are over 50%. In these areas, Hope 4 Kids has drilled over 350 wells and given the villages safe water for generations to come.Hope 4 Kids also sponsors schools, programs to give children healthy meals and medical assistance, among many other things.

A highlight of the trip was to drive several hours over dirt roads to help villages celebrate the dedication of a new well. The gratitude of these people was overwhelming, and the celebration was like nothing I had ever experienced – hugs, joy, dancing and thankfulness. These are people who have little to nothing, who live on subsistence farming, whose huts have dirt floors and grass roofs, no electricity, water, or other basic comforts.Cooking is done outside and most of life is too. I was impressed with how this simple lifestyle created what appeared to be close-knit, supportive communities, with shared crops, childcare, evening gatherings, etc. Their faith in God and joy for life left a lasting impression.

The main impact on me was, after a roller coaster of emotions at the poverty and medical needs, the fact that one person, and one team, can make a difference in many lives – in bringing regular meals to an area in need; in providing educational materials and medical supplies, such as a simple life-saving mosquito net for sleeping; in sponsoring a child with a small monthly amount ($31)that makes all the difference in that child's schooling and family life; in sponsoring a woman starting a small business that will feed her family; and just giving people hope where hope was gone.

The most surprising things about the trip to me, after the disparity in life-style compared to our comfort, were seeing the joy and happiness, which just burst out of many of those who received us into their villages.We felt so welcomed into their communities, and overwhelmed at the beauty of the children, the countryside and the hearts of many Ugandans.

I would encourage anyone who is looking for travel that can make an impact on lives to consider a mission trip. You will have an inside experience of the real lives of people, and possibly be forever changed in your own view of life's purpose and the role that you can play.

by Sharon Fox