There are 195 countries in the world. 195 different nations with their own unique populations, cultures, and problems. So what in the world (get it? I kind of like puns) drew me to Uganda? To be perfectly honest and cliché, it was God. Whether you believe in God as I do or not, that is my only explanation.
As a 16-year-old volunteer at a summer camp, I had never in my life felt the desire to spend my life working for a non-profit, nor travel to Africa. Africa was that continent on the other side of the globe with lions and snakes and beautiful sunsets that I would read about or see on TV but never set foot on. That summer, I watched the most life-changing documentary of my life. Life-changing in that it completely opened my eyes to Uganda and at the very end of it, the Lord clearly said, "You are going to Uganda. That is your home." My response was a very fitting, "I'm sorry, what now?"
I remember clearly coming home and telling my parents and they were less than excited about any future travel to the East African nation. I cannot say I was thrilled about the idea in the beginning either, but it grew on me. It grew in me. For several years, I read, I prayed, and read some more. Life went on, my passion for Uganda grew, opportunities rose up and doors slammed shut. Dave and I met in 2007 and he, too, joined me in seeking after Uganda and what God had for us there.
It was at the end of 2008 that we walked into a new church for the first time, where it happened to be the last day to sign up for their annual trip to Kampala Children's Centre in Uganda. We had no idea where that was, who was going, or how we would pay for it, but we knew we were supposed to go. We wrote our names down and we went. We were going once. That was it. So we went.
The next thing we knew we were moving up our wedding date so that we could go again. Then back again the next year. Then a couple years later with our first child... Our love for Uganda has only increased over the years. There is an amazing sense of family and community each time we go and as we are enveloped in the arms of our friends that we have known for almost a decade. Over that time God has stretched us, our faith, our finances, and our willingness to listen and obey. There are times we have desperately wanted to go and for two years He said, "Wait...not yet." Then, "Wait...go to Guatemala." Then "Wait...Dave can go but not you." Each time I have wrestled sitting still but knowing there are greater things.
In 2014 I stepped in the role of USA Coordinator for Communities of Hope, a sponsorship program started by a close friend and operating through Kampala Children's Centre (KCC) to sponsor the children living at KCC and in the surrounding communities. It was then that I realized that God had given me the deepest desires of my heart. The desires that were not, at first, my own, but placed there by Him so many years ago. I was married to the man who partnered with me and my dreams, we had a beautiful baby girl we had earnestly prayed for, and I was finally working for a non-profit with children in Uganda.
Communities of Hope and What I Actually Do
Communities of Hope (COH) continues KCC's mission to "give the best to the least" by providing much needed sponsorship to children at the center and in the surrounding villages. Sponsorship provides for all living and education costs of children living at the center and all education costs for children living in the community who cannot otherwise afford it. My job is to bridge the gap between sponsors in the United States and their children. There is full time staff in Uganda that runs the day-to-day operations: checking in on children, visiting schools, assessing new families, paying school fees, etc. I partner with our COH Uganda staff to collect updates on all of the children sponsored in the United States, including updated photographs and letters to sponsors; and compile these into a photo card and packet that sponsors receive once a year. Each year I seek to meet with sponsors face to face and share about what is happening at KCC, my visits to children, and share about my experiences during the most recent trip.
I also have the unique privilege of visiting many sponsored children in their homes, meeting the guardians who care for them, meeting their siblings, and enjoying sweet times together. I get to introduce sponsors to the children they support and have previously only known through photos and letters. I have been welcomed with warm hugs and sometimes baskets of avocados. It is always humbling. I have had the privilege of being the one to hand gifts from sponsors to their sponsored children and watch as children open them. I have experienced the heartache of telling a sponsor their child is ill. I have celebrated as children graduate from secondary school and university. To explain all that I do will take more than this one blog post. Uganda and Communities of Hope are a part of me. They are home. I hope, too, that you will come to see this as we share our story.
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