Bobby Wilkinson, our pastor of Christian life, kept a journal while he and the team from Providence went to Uganda last month for the missions trip. Throughout this week, I’ll be posting a new entry every day. I love Bobby’s heart and perspective about missions, the church and life, and I know you will to. Here’s day 1 from his journal:
Wednesday – 4pm est
It finally came. June 13th, this is the day that felt like would never get here, the day we jet off to Africa. Now, the last week seems like it happened in the blink of an eye. I could have used 36 hours each day, 24 didn’t seem enough. But, the preparation whirlwind is over, somehow most of the lists got done; the Bobby do list, the church do list, the family do list, the honey do list, and all types of randomness in between. We are finally on our first plane flight, Charlotte to DC. My sweet family watched from the overlook in Charlotte as we blasted into the air. A few times today I’ve had to hold back the crocodile tears thinking about my precious family and all that I will miss when I’m gone. Truly, the sacrifice involved in Jesus’ admonition about leaving family for his call is hitting home. “break”
(Backlog) Some other points worth mentioning from day one of our journey – I woke up and stuffed all the clothes in a bag. Then shocked and cleaned the pool. After that, we started off the day at Lowesville cafe as a family, but not before a classic last-minute Wilkinson Walmart run. I couldn’t go without all the kids having some processed snacks. 🙂 We met the team at the office, took some pics, and said our goodbyes. On the way to the airport, we avoided an accident when someone literally pulled right out in front of us on highway 16. Ben laid on the horn, and I was right on time with a classic back seat driver comment, “uh, Ben, you had the left lane open.” That suggestion came after he stomped on the brakes, with two cars in the caravan right behind us, one pulling a trailer. Praise God we avoided it, nothing that you read in this journal would have been written had the Enemy derailed us in such a way, even before the journey even started. God is stronger.
Check in at the airport went ok, it took a while because their computer/system was acting up, and because of that they waived a $400 fee on the one oversized bag we brought with the post hole diggers. We ate one last good American meal at Chili’s before boarding our plane. I coordinated with Bethany to come to the airport overlook to see us fly off, which they did not actually see us because we were on a different runway. She said Cadence cried on the way home because she didn’t get to see us. We were at Washington Dulles for a couple of hours, I spent time charging all my gadgets for the next flight, and little Bob chose to spend the first of the money I put in his fanny pack on a frosty from Wendy’s 🙂 . (Note – I later took the rest of money back out of his bag after he gave an African kid an American $5 bill for a fake necklace that turned his neck green. He did get it back, eventually. I love his giving heart though. I explained to him how much American money is to a poor African child, and how that kid would probably get beat up the first time he showed that to an older child.)
Thursday morning – 2:30a est & 8:30a Belgium time
Well, we are in the air, it’s 2:30am to our body, and we are 1 hour out of Brussels Belgium on this 777 Boeing. When I finished journaling last time, we were on the first flight. And it seems like in a 7 hour flight, finding time to write would be simple; well, here’s what’s been going on. First, our flight was delayed an hour and a half, due to a hydraulic line leak/malfunction, and they had to repair it at the gate. We started to taxi out, then the pilot nonchalantly informs us that “something is wrong with the plane and we’re headed back to the gate for maintenance.” Thanks for the confidence boost Captain Reassurance. 🙂
Eventually we made it into the air and immediately they served us dinner, at about 8:45. It was actually pretty good food. Lil Bobby had beef stir fry and I had chicken and rice. Then we watched Captain America together. At that time is was about 11pm, so we brushed our teeth, tried to get comfortable, and eventually dozed off. Bob had a difficult time, I can’t imagine his excitement. I think we both slept about 2 hours 45 mins. After waking up, we saw that there was 1.5 hours left on this flight. Now, he’s watching Happy Feet and talking to Kaylen, a new friend we met who is also headed to Uganda for mission work. So, in the last hour of this 7 hour flight over the Atlantic, I finally found some time to catch up the journal. I imagine we’ll get a nap on the next flight to Africa on the Airbus, hopefully it’s as comfortable as the plane we’re on now. It’s a plane, so it’s small, but it’s still been a pretty cozy trip. So far, everyone is doing great.
Saturday night June 16 – 10:15pm
From measuring the time that has passed from the last time I wrote you can tell just how busy we have been here in Africa. I’ll try to hit only the highlights, because to record all the neat things that have happened would take way more time than I even have to offer. Here we go.
We arrived in belgium in the morning around 9:30a, and it was 9:45a by the time we walked into the airport. We literally had less than an hour to navigate the airport and get to our next gate. Which was in a different building, only reached by bus, which we also had to wait on. When we got to the gate they were already boarding and we only had time to quickly hit the bathroom and walk onto the plane. The airbus was smaller inside, and the equipment was older, so it was definitely not quite as comfy as the 777. The trip was LONG, we flew about 8 hours, then landed in Kigali, Rwanda, only to sit on the boys locker room stinky plane an hour while waiting on passengers to offload, and some new ones come on. The flight to Entebbe was short, 40 minutes, and we arrived about 30 minutes behind schedule, about 11:20pm local time. We got our bags, stuffed them like sardines into the back of the bus, and spent some time in prayer with Ken and Cathy, thanking God for the safe arrival. Immediately we fell in love with these precious saints.
We drove an hour to Kampala and stopped at a 24hr market for refreshments. We bought bread and sandwich ham, good stuff, we were so hungry! The airlines didn’t serve us supper, just a chicken fajita wrap, called a Posh Pocket, around 8:30 pm. We left the market and finally made it to the hotel about 2am. We checked in to our beautiful rooms, then slept til 9am. ON FRIDAY, we ate a great breakfast, loaded on the bus, and headed to change our money. That is the place that I found cheap wireless internet and loaded a few FB pics. We left there and stopped at a market where Cathy got us some drinks and hotdogs for lunch at the babies home. We arrived at the babies home, and had a tour, met the mommas/nanny’s at the orphanage, held some precious little ones, and then ate the hotdogs. I tried some jackfruit, it was pretty good. That’s a very popular and common fruit in Africa that grows on trees, and fully grown is actually larger than a watermelon. HUGE fruit. Then we spent over an hour sorting and organizing all of the gifts and clothes. They were SOOOO grateful for the generosity and compassion of our church and how they gave. Bobby and Cameron played with a couple 3-year-old orphans (Kim and Chrisch), and also entertained the neighborhood kids through the fence with the ipod, silly bands, tennis balls, and more.
We left the babies home about 4 pm, the team went back to the hotel for dinner, devotions, and rest. Little Bobby and I went with Ken to Omega Church where I was to meet the worship pastor, and the team for rehearsal. We were early, so we made the most of our time by organizing a local futbol game with some kids. Little Bob LOVED it, I played too. Then, Ken and I talked for about an hour, and we were eventually joined with Derrick the worship pastor from Omega. He was very interesting to talk to, and was really one of the “deepest” worship guys I have met. He has worked himself out of all “front man” roles and leads totally from the back… So great, they have so many talented singers, passionate worshippers, that I’m sure he didn’t have a hard time finding people to step up and lead. Oh that it would be like that with pastors, elders, and worship leaders here.
Little Bob spent hours in that area with local kids; talking, showing them the Ipod, taking some pics and video of me in rehearsal, and playing with them. We always knew he was a social butterfly, but it is now a confirmed international trait; he is Little Bob in USA and in Uganda, and it doesn’t matter to him if a person lives in a hut, or house, or is black or white, or has a funny look or accent. This little boy loves people. We got back to the hotel around 10:45pm, took showers, and hit the sack. ON SATURDAY, we woke early, 6:15 am, for a whole day of festivities, ceremony, and celebration. Omega church started Big One, a wedding event that seeks to help couples legally marry. It is very expensive to get married in Uganda, between feeding wedding guests and the bride price, many people don’t bother. They get the blessing of their parents and they start life together. But they don’t make public commitments before God and community and are not recognized in the state. So Omega wedded 220 couples, and we have many pictures of this great day. We helped with set up in a few small ways, I conversed with some of the locals, and taught a few kids how to play bat ball with a stick and a tennis ball. We also helped the brides out of their cars as they arrived at the reception from the wedding. (Back log: We heard the following day at church of some people who committed their lives to Christ through that event, hallelujah.)
We left there and went to a mall so Don could get malaria meds and I could get a memory stick reader to offload pics from my full camera. We arrived back at the hotel around 6, went down the hill where hundreds of school children and parents were celebrating an end of futbol season with awards, dancing, and singing. And of course, we played a little pickup soccer then too. At 7 we had dinner and devotions. The food was excellent, fish, chicken, salad, collard greens, potatoes, rice and a soda. After devos, we came back to the room to pack for tomorrow, lay out our clothes, shower and crash…. and type this journal. I really want to go to bed, but I know that if I don’t write this stuff down now, I will lose it and be too busy to finish later. Tomorrow we are up at 5:45 am, and at 6:15 I am headed with Ken to the church for sound check. The english service is at 8:30 and I am involved with the singing. It is going to be so much fun, and worshipful, and heavenly. I am learning from the Africans a lesson I already know, but have lost the ability to execute. Slow down, don’t be always “doing” something. Sit around, have conversations, dive deeply into the hearts of your children and wife and others, the “stuff” will just have to wait. It is going to be hard repenting and putting this lesson into practice once again, we have so much “to do”. The question is how big a priority the “much” is. That’s it for now.
Sunday – June 17th – 10:30 pm
This morning was probably the earliest morning of my trip, woke up at 5:50 am, ugh! But for a good cause, to get to church early and prepare to play with the local band and choir. My ride was supposed to arrive at 6:15, and they changed the plans last-minute where we would all ride as a group at 7:ooam. It actually worked out well because we ended up being out the rest of the day as a whole group and having two cars would have been difficult. We left a few minutes after 7am, and just returned back to the hotel at 9:30pm. HUGE day, but a great day indeed. After breakfast, the bus arrived, and we headed to church. We arrived at Omega Healing Center church around 8:10, and the service started at 8:30. Perfect amount of time to plug-in, tune, and be ready. The church had already been praying for over an hour, and when I say pray, I mean deep shouting, and intercessions, and tongues, and yearning, and more. These people sincerely want to see the glory of God in their services, and they have a deep and childlike faith.
We sang mostly songs I was familiar with, which helped me to pick it up fast. The other 3 musicians were phenomenal, playing mostly by ear, and were ridiculously tight. The vocalists were true black gospel: loud, passionate, and energetic. The singing went on for over an hour, and my favorite song out of the set was Lord You Are Good. How glorious and heavenly to stand on the stage of an African church, and look around and sing “People from every nation and tongue, from generation to generation, we worship you, Hallelujah.” I closed the worship time with How Great Is Our God and again the lyrics seemed to take on a newer and deeper meaning because of my context; “all will see how great” and “let all the earth rejoice”. They honored all the volunteers of the Big One Marriage day, and the pastor preached a short 25 minute sermon. He was very wise, and although there was a tinge of “prosperity for man”, it seemed to be prioritized rightly. Man’s prosperity is a by-product of God in us, and not the prime product of God in us. He talked about spiritual fathers, and had some great insights on the parallels of earthly fathers and the heavenly Father. Talking about people who say we should only be concerned with the new testament and “it’s all about grace now” he said, “Try running your house totally on grace.” So true. For God disciplines those He loves, as a good father will lovingly do.
After church we went to a restaurant called Sea Scallops. Again, the food and hospitality were super good, and we had more great conversation with Ken, Kathy, and their family. The team is bonding not only with them, but with each other each day. What an amazing journey this has been in only the first 3 days. After the restaurant, we stopped by a local souvenir marketplace where there was a lot of fun African stuff to buy. Bobby and I picked out a few little gifts for the fam. Then, we went to a local mall where they were sure to have a coffee-house with internet. After buying a coke, they gave us a wireless code and we called home and talked with Bethany and the family on Skype. It was 9am in Charlotte. My wife has never looked so beautiful to me, I miss her so much. I felt even more renewed after talking with her, but I am growing a little more homesick everyday; although I also feel totally “at home” here in Uganda. What a blessing from God to connect with my brood on father’s day.
We had to leave the internet cafe to get to a special “surprise” that Ken had planned for us. I know this sounds redundant, but our next experience is also something that I don’t have words, time, or space to explain. It was an African cultural theatre, and seriously, probably one of the top 3 most entertaining and moving experiences that I’ve ever been a part of. Amazing talent, amazing humor, amazing sound, educational, just top-notch, world-class all the way around. The young musicians and dancers were broadway quality good. I can’t imagine why this production is not an international sensation; really. The owner and founder of the show was also the MC, and he was Bill Cosby funny, maybe even more so. He was a weird mix between Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman. He had us crying, laughing, clapping, and me almost falling out of my chair. On top of this entertainment, we had little African Ethan Nganda, 1.5 years old, who already has a hard time being still, now having to try to restrain himself with all of this fun dancing happening right before his eyes; he lost his battle with temptation. At times he actually became part of the show and the performers just rolled with it. Scott caught much of it on video. The MC picked him up one time and said, “what do you think about the show?” and he just grunted and smiled. Then the MC said, “what do you think the people in this crowd deserve?” Ethan said, “Eat”, that was it. Later, the MC called all the kids onto the floor, and played some games, had some fun, and got them dancing. Cameron was chosen to dance and he said, “I have to warn you, I am a hip hop dancer.” He brought the house down with his moves, and I could tell little Bobby was wanting a piece of the action. He started going around the whole circle and letting everyone dance, little Bob was working out the moves in his head. Finally, it was Bob’s turn. He let loose Bob style, like a true Muzungu (white man), and I was very proud; as was he. Later I commented that he was himself and I love his dancing and he said “Dad, that wasn’t me, that was better than I usually do.” I got almost all the good stuff on video. We left the show early at 8:30 to drive one hour back to Mukono to the hotel. Now, me and little Bob are about to hit the hay, and we get to sleep til 8am tomorrow! YAY for sleep, very needed. So excited to get working tomorrow at the property, time to construct us a fence! Jesus has been so real to us on this trip, what a great experience. I really pray God leads, directs, and blesses our desire to adopt one day from Uganda, if it be his will.