World Vision in Bulisa, Uganda
My trip to Uganda last fall produced many memorable moments. God was most certainly present in every one of them and He collectively used them to inspire me to take bold action in 2017. As Ironman draws closer and I continue to become weary from the daily grind of workouts and the pressure to keep other areas of my life functioning, I’ve been calling on these experiences to help push me through to the end.
One of those poignant moments occurred on our first trip into Bulisa, Uganda. After having spent a solid 4 – 5 days in Africa our group was finally headed to the field. The ‘field’ is World Vision-speak for ‘area development projects’ or Communities where life-change happens. Life-change for the community itself and anyone blessed with the opportunity to visit with the people of these communities.
The agenda for our few days in Bulisa was to see a piped water system, meet with various community members and schools, and spend an afternoon with our sponsored children and their families. Driving into this community and knowing what experiences were ahead of us was overwhelming to me. The ride grew quieter as we drew closer to the branch office in Bulisa.
I was about to see World Vision in action. The moment our team has been spiritually and physically preparing for over the past 6 months was about to occur! The Bulisa office was a one-level building that was no more than 2,000 square feet. It sat on a small piece of property that was enclosed by a concrete wall and security gate. I remember, very vividly, pulling past the security gate seemingly ready for whatever God wanted to show me when I saw a tent and my heart skipped a beat.
Under this tent were all of our sponsored kids and their parents or guardians. Knowing we weren’t scheduled to meet with them until the afternoon we were all taken aback by this abrupt moment of reality. We were also confused, however. We weren’t scheduled to meet with them until later that afternoon. It was only 8:00 a.m. and we had a full agenda ahead of us. Why were they there so early? Our driver simply stated: “They can’t wait to meet you.” I learned it didn’t take much to make me cry in Uganda. That statement was further proof.
Meeting Vicent and His Parents
The morning agenda was memorable and I’ll write more about it another time, but I’ll say I was distracted the entire time knowing these families came out to sit under a tent for hours…just to meet us. I was excited, but so nervous at the same time. For those that know me you can attest – I don’t always make the greatest first-impression! It usually takes a good few times hanging out with me to know I’m an okay guy. I don’t always open up right away. Instead I make nervous jokes to keep things real surface-level. It takes people some time to learn that I’m joking and to appreciate said jokes. I’m like Chandler Bing from Friends…those who are fans of the show know what I’m talking about!
The process to meet our child was both beautiful and awkward at the same time. Our team sat on one side of the room, while the children and their families were brought in to sit on the other side. Then the local World Vision Director read off names and we stood up and walked outside to meet each other and hang out.
What was beautiful about the process was the love each group had for each other. By the time we arrived in Bulisa, we had the chance to exchange pictures and letters at least once. All of us on each side of the room were scanning faces and when we recognized each other it was nothing but smiles, nervous waves, and anticipation to run and hug each other…but not until our names were called! So beautiful. So awkward.
Vicent and I made eye contact almost immediately and we had the ‘bro-code’ down with a head nod, wink, and smile to let each other know “Yeah, I see you Bro.” What I wasn’t anticipating, however, was to have BOTH his mom and dad there. I really struggled with it. They don’t know me at all. I’m just some white guy from America coming to hang out with their son. I haven’t earned their trust one bit. When Vicent’s name was called, however, and he showed some apprehension his parents both looked at him and encouraged him to come and sit next to me and greet me.
I was overwhelmed with the trust they gave me with their son. I thought of my own kids. Would I be so willing in that situation? I’m not sure. The joy and trust in World Vision this community demonstrated was beautiful and I did whatever I could to live up to it that afternoon.
After introducing ourselves I learned Vicent loves to play soccer and wants to be a doctor. His Dad’s name is Emanuel and his Mom’s name is Rachiu. Her smile and laugh when I tried to pronounce it multiple times was filled with grace and understanding. The group came prepared to provide small gifts to our child sponsor. I brought a soccer ball and coloring books. Vicent loved the soccer ball and we played in the hot sun for most of the afternoon.
Vicent Brings His Mom a Glass of Water
Vicent and I shared a small moment not seen by anyone else that hot afternoon. It was a moment God has filled my heart with since that day and something I hold on to dearly as I remember why Team World Vision does what it does.
It was hot. I was thirsty. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ begging for a bottle of water from the van considering this community was only just given access to sustainable clean water a few years ago. Even then, it’s not like you simply guzzle it down because you can.
Vicent finally wore down a bit and asked his interpreter for some water. We walked into the building where he was given a small dixie cup of water. Vicent seemed thoroughly satisfied with this small mouthful of water, but as I turned to go back outside he tugged on my shirt. He said something in his native language to his interpreter, who smiled, left the room, and came back with a full-sized glass of water and handed it to Vicent.
I was mortified. Was this kid going to offer me this glass of water? Am I going to have to drink this in front of him? I was immediately humbled and realized how selfish I am when he walked right pass me towards the door. He stopped and nodded for me to follow him outside. I didn’t know what was happening, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Vicent and the care with which he held that glass of water. It was filled to the brim and he walked with such intent care not to spill a drop. Two hands on the glass, eyes focused on that layer of water that looks like it’s going to overflow, but never does.
We walked clear across the property to that white tent where families were hanging out at the start of the day. Vicent glided the entire way. When we got closer to the tent I realized who that glass of water was for. His momma. He walked up to her and gave her the entire glass. As Rachiu savored the water, both Emanuel and Vicent shared a look with each other. It was a look of hope and gratitude. I was humbled.
That private moment I was invited into between mother and son and the proud approval of father is something I’ll hold onto forever. World Vision’s work and impact is real. I’m forever changed by what God showed me through this one interaction. It’s why I remain so bold in my asks for donations.
The picture with this post is also very precious to me. It’s Vicent and his parents holding a picture of me and my family. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again in this lifetime, but I know we will be forever connected through that one experience.