"And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18

Sunday, August 12, 2012

So…What can 13 people with 35 trunks of supplies accomplish in 14 days with God’s direction?

The journey began months ago with prayer and planning. Transportation and lodging would require 29 hours on 3 buses, 34 hours on 4 airplanes (plus 26 hours in layovers), and 5 hotels. We would be crossing time zones to one 8 hours ahead of EST to visit 6 ministry sites and work at 3 of them.

Ministry work provided:
  •   238 children attended Children’s Bible Club
  •  123 adults attended Community Health Evangelism classes on nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, safe water, first aid
  •  32 women attended a class on Woman’s Health and Pregnancy
  • 484 preschool and elementary age children had a day of Vacation Bible School
  • 259 people attended a 1 day Medical Clinic in a remote village of a strong Muslim district, where 18 gave their lives to Christ
  • 300+ Beanie Babies given to sick children at a children’s hospital

As the team is settling back into their lives in the US we are reminded of the blessings that living in the US provide, which is a simple fact of the location of our birth. Life in Uganda is hard. Simple things of everyday life that we don’t even think about are a struggle there. Food, water, shelter, and health care are not easy to come by, and sometimes not even possible. But love is universal and can bring a big smile to the face of someone in need, no matter where you are born. To have the privilege to share the love of Christ in Uganda was just that – a privilege. We are so thankful that God has allowed us to be a part of His work. Thankful for families who sacrificed to make it possible for us to leave our homes for 2 weeks. Thankful for the everyone who prayed with us and for us. Thankful for those who gave willingly of their time and resources to help make it possible for us to go and have the supplies needed to accomplish the work. But most of all we are thankful to have a Lord and Savior willing to die on a cross to provide salvation for all who seek Him!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts from our youngest team members:

Cole – Yesterday once we stopped at the children’s hospital I was sad, because they were all very sick.  I felt bad for them because they had to get shots & medicine. I thought it was interesting how they did the IV’s with the wrist thing.  I guess I learned something from that. Then today, we spent a lot of time riding. We stopped at Isacc’s orphanage (Canaan). The first thing that happens when you step off the bus the children hug you, hold your hand, & stay with you. I met my friend Gideon, who I met last year. We played football (soccer) together last year, but didn’t have time this year. While I was there I had my first full Novida = a malt beverage with 48% sugar in it. Then we drove to GSF for a quick visit. I was hoping to see my friend Eli.  Though I didn’t see him, I made 2 new friends. I got to see where Amos use to sleep and while doing that, I got to see last year’s friend Brian and gave him a hug. Then we gave good-byes and drove to the Central Inn to get all ready to fly out in morning. The end.

Amos – Today was the most interesting day of the trip for me! I was very interested when I went to the first orphanage (Canaan). I’ve never been to a different orphanage. GSF was the only orphanage I had ever been to. I use to know how the kids felt when they had so much laughter and joy when we came, because I use to be one of them. The most interesting part of the day was meeting all my friends. When I went to GSF I was surprised to see how much had changed. I met almost all my friends, my Aunt (my mom’s sister), guess you could say one of my older brothers (Morris). Saw new people I had never seen before. This is the saddest days of my life as well, because one of my good friends (Matthew) was paralyzed from the waist down, but I still rejoiced for him.  Even though he couldn’t speak to me, he understood me.  I’m glad that Andrew was driving us, because I think he is one of the most trustworthy bus driver I have ever met. This was my first time meeting Andrew, but I knew him even before I saw him, because people had been talking a lot about him. At the airport he ask me what his name was, I said, “Andrew.”  He said, “Shut-up, mama Cindy told you.” This is when all our joking started. When at the Coggins (Gulu), Andrew, Elijah, and I were cooking and I was the Chef.  Then Andrew ask me, “Whats nek (next)?” He asked me that question every single day. We always laughed about it, but this afternoon when he left he asked me one more time. And I said, “This is what’s nek” and then I hugged him good-bye. Tomorrow morning I will be sad, because we are leaving. When we leave, I will take one good look back and think about next year. The end. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is it really coming to an end....

Greetings from Pallisa! We arrived here 2 days ago and meet up with Pastor Samuel and his Family. We felt such a warm welcome from everyone here. Yesterday morning we had Vacation Bible School at the School with 169 kids. The kids just loved everything we did for them and learning about Noah’s Ark. In the afternoon we did Community Health Evangelism with the Ladies and Bible Club with 68 kids at Pastor Samuel’s. To end the day we counted all the meds for the clinic. Some of us stayed up past our bedtimes to get them all counted. 

Today ended our work here in Uganda where we had a clinic and saw over 259 people and were able to provide resources to them and share the Word of God. Come to find out we were the first “muzungus” (white people) to ever go to this village. We also had 15 Villagers lead to Christ which was a big blessing for the team knowing that we are doing God’s work over here.  Tomorrow we head to Jinja to visit the Children’s Hospital to show them that we and God love them as we visit and pass out beanie babies. After visiting with them we will do a little shopping and end the day off at Ling Ling’s Chinese Restaurant. And yes, there is a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Uganda.

We have enjoyed our time here in Uganda and have had such a blessing to be able to come on this trip and see what God is doing in Uganda. This trip has touched our lives and we will always remember the experiences we have had over here. This was a new experience for me (Beth) and a very different one that will not soon be forgotten. Sean has also been able to experience the joy of sharing this with his wife. We have met some great people who will forever be friends as well as Brothers and Sisters in Christ. God has put us on this trip for a reason and I know we were used like God had planned. Thanks for all the prayers and love. See you all soon!
Beth & Sean McGann

Friday, August 3, 2012

Being the change {and feeling the impact}

Good evening! Nicole here with warm greetings from Pallisa. As our trip progresses the days seem to get longer and the workload larger. Each time we board the bus again it feels like we never got off, but the team is just as energetic and motivated as on day one. 

We wrapped up our work in Kitgum and have since traveled South, but the time we spent there is still filling my heart. As Ryan, Deb and Cindy mentioned in our last post, we visited Faith Academy/Faith Alive Ministries where we really made the most of the time we had! Aside from the VBS, Bible Club and Community Health Evangelism (CHE), we introduced a new program for women focusing on women's health issues, specifically related to reproduction and childbirth. Kitgum has an extremely high mortality rate related to pregnancy, childbirth and infant deaths, so I was eager to see how the ladies would react to the teaching. 

Of all the things we've done thus far, this program really had the biggest impact on me. The crowd was large, engaged and very interested in the education. It goes with saying that the things we take for granted in America are too many to count, but most people probably don't even realize that there are so many women in this world who don't even know what is happening when they are pregnant. 

Rhonda and Susan organized an amazingly educational session complete with pictures, diagrams and even a stuffed 3D pelvis and baby! Even though we were using a translator, it was clear that the women were really learning and many questions were asked. Though it was just a couple hours of what may seem like basic information to most of us, I saw what an amazing impact it will have on reducing the death rate of these women and their infants. 

Have you ever physically, emotionally and spiritually felt yourself directly making an impact on the world? That's what we get to experience everyday here. 

We were rewarded our last evening in Kitgum with an amazing meal at Clayton and Monica's house and quite an adventure to go along with it! The path to their house had been blocked by a river which raised due to rain, something we were told rarely happens...

Lisa's Land Cruiser was the only vehicle which could transport us across so we loaded in the bus, went as far as we could go, crossed the flooded road 8 at a time crammed into the Cruiser (except Justin and Sean who decided to roll up their pants and wade across!) and then waited in Clayton's truck on the other side until everyone was there. 

We then road to dinner standing in the back of the truck, bouncing down the road (and I mean bouncing!), ducking to avoid tree limbs and eating bugs, laughing until we cried. It was even more fun on the way back when we couldn't see the limbs :) 

We did all make it in one piece and each with two eyes, what more could you ask for?

xo ~ Nicole

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The team arrived in Pallisa this evening from Kitgum. As to be expected in Africa...things can take a little longer & not always go as planned. FLEX is certainly the name of the game. Our 5 hour drive was actually 8 hours & upon arriving at the hotel, which Samuel had coordinated with multiple times over the past few weeks to ensure that everything was prepared for us, there were a few issues with the rooms. We do have the most important things - a bed, electricity & water (which actually are more of a luxury than necessity here). The team has settled into them respective rooms and started getting ready for bed.

It never ceases to amaze me how tiring sitting all day in a vehicle can be....especially here where the bus ride is more like an amusement park ride - dodging craters, dropping into some craters, traversing streams, & swerving to miss the goat or cow or person on the bicycle. Tomorrow we begin our final ministry work here in Uganda. We have VBS in the morning & Bible Club in the afternoon, then it will clinic prep for the medical clinic on Saturday. More to updates to come tomorrow :)

Thank you for your prayers! Everyone is doing wonderful! With that we will say "Good-Night"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Greetings from Kitgum, Uganda!

From Gulu, we have moved three hours west onto Kitgum, to visit Faith Alive Ministries/Faith Academy led by Pastor Clayton and Pastor Alex. Last year, we toured a piece of land that was no more than brush and dirt that was to be made into their ministry site. As we approached it yesterday morning, I did not even recognize it. They have started by erecting a small pavilion with a tarp covering it, and a brick building consisting of a large, open aired room for congregating and school, and also a smaller room for storage and for the teachers to take a break from the children. The second day we were here, a large storage unit was transferred to the site from Sanctuary of Grace in Gulu. Now that they have a place for storage, the other room can be used primarily for the teacher’s use.
If there is one common interest between myself and almost every other man and boy in this country that I have found, it is a passion for international football.  As I got to talking to some of the members of the ministry, they informed me of their plans for the future to have at least one or two more buildings up by this time next year. The young men of the ministry have a plan for attracting local interest to their Church/academy through this shared passion. Their plan is to invite the young men, and women if they like to play, for a game of soccer every Sunday, then encourage them to stay for song, praise, and worship. They have not yet set up a field of play, but have plans to flatten out a small patch of land (no more than 30 or 40 yards in length), and set up goal-posts.


Coming to Uganda this year was a difficult decision for me to make.  My Mom has been going downhill in health since my last trip here.  Even though I was excited to be able to plan for the trip, I did not know if this was God’s will for my life at this time.  One week before we were to leave I had to put her in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure.  What was I to do?  What was God’s will for my life in a place so far away?  I placed Mom in God’s hands, she got so much better before I left.  I felt that it was OK for me to leave for a country half way around the world to do His will working with children who were so needy. Just as I knew mother would like for me to do as she had taught me to do growing up.  Take care of those children who needed love and compassion.
Working in Gulu. at Sanctuary of Grace school with my P1( 1st grade ) class was a joy.  The children were such a pleasure to work with during the morning at Vacation Bible School.  We told stories, made necklaces out of sea shells, worked with stickers to remind the children of God’s love for them.  At Faith Academy, Nicole, Amos and I once again worked with P1 students.  They were good. We went through the same stories and crafts that we had done the day before.  We went back to Faith Academy on Wednesday where Nicole worked with the ladies of the villages concerning health and nutrition. I worked with Susan and others for our Bible Club presentation.  When we went outside the pavilion to play games I came up to one of the little ones who was getting run over by the older students.  I stopped to pick her up to carry her out of “danger”.  She was so tired, she went to sleep on my shoulder almost as soon as I picked her up.  She stayed in my arms for the rest of the time we had with the children.  I know that it was right for me to come to Uganda this trip to do God’s will.



This has been a very busy and ever changing mission trip – and the team has REALLY stepped up to the plate. We knew that we would have a very busy schedule and that it was subject to change, but we also knew that every change would be God lead if we were willing to follow His direction.

So far we have completed:
Vacation Bible School with over 400 children
Health Seminar with over 80 men & women
Women's Health Seminar with about 20 women
Children's Bible Club with over 500 children
...and there is more to come :)

The ministries here in Northern Uganda have a great work to do after 23 years of war. We have had the privilege of coming along side them for a short period of time physically – but through prayer we can partner with them every day to come.

Tonight we were hosted at Clayton & Monica’s house for a wonderful dinner under the mango tree. What an awesome time of fellowship! The women had been working all day to provide thewonderful meal of their local dishes for us.

When we returned to the hotel Amos lead the team in a devotion on tithing – not only monetary tithing but tithing of the gifts and talents that God has provided each one of us. I was struck by a convicting thought, one of which I am certainly guilty of…In American, a land of such abundance and affluence, (I would venture to say) that we are so reluctant to give of our very best and certainly not all that we have every day to the Lord. In Uganda, where mere survival is the focus of each day and their faith in God is all they have to hold onto, they are willing to give all that they have to the Lord. Their commitment to sharing the gospel of salvation is the over powering motivation that drives them to forward each day.

Faith Alive Ministries is only a few years old and yet they have a school of about 200 children, whom they educate, feed, and care for. They are committed to evangelism. Pastor Alex was sharing with me tonight that they have been doing door-to-door evangelism for the past 2 weeks, as well as, counseling and discipleship. Through this effort they have had 70 come to Christ! Bear in mind this is a small congregation with a small all volunteer ministry staff.

They said we blessed them with the activities we have done the past 2 days – I believe we are the ones to receive the greater blessing! I am so humbled and thankful for the Lord’s prompting to serve here in Uganda with such wonderful brothers & sisters in Christ!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Progress through God's design...

The end of another beautiful day serving in Africa.  One of the best feelings of peace & satisfaction is doing exactly what God ask you to do where He ask you to do it, no matter how uncomfortable you are or how far you are outside your comfort zone.  It was extremely hot today and even more so when inside a small room filled with faces, but seeing those faces absorb your story about Jesus is “cool”!  Songs were sang, stories from the Bible where told, loads of foam stickers (related to the stories) were used, snack time, play time, and more stories…what a Blessing.  It’s amazing how the smallest act of kindness and love shown here in Africa is so appreciated and not taken for granted.  How amazing it is to see how far the children at Sanctuary of Grace (SOG) have come since 2008 (when I joined the team).  Over the past 4 years the children have received a Biblically based education and at the end of the day the children put on a program for us “visitors” (as we are called).  They sang a very popular (at home) Christian song (“Light of the World”) in English with a heavy African accent…music to our ears. 
 – Rhonda

Today I had a most wonderful blessing! I was able to visit with a very special friend – Regina. She is a widow in her 70’s (we are approximating since age/birthday are not important here) who in 2006, when I first met her, was critically ill with congestive heart failure. Had she been in the US she would have been admitted to a cardiac ICU…but she was not…she was lying in the dirt outside her hut, where she had managed to crawl to since was too weak and sick to stand or even sit up. By the grace of God with the minimal treatment options here I prayerfully treated her. When I left in 2006 she was thankful for the help I had attempted to provide her & thanked God for the progress she had made. I will always remember that the goodbye in 2006 when she told me that when I came back if she was not here – she would be waiting for me in heaven.
In the years since 2006 she had regained her strength to the point of dancing in church as she praised the Lord for her healing – there was certainly no medical research to support her healing based on the minimal treatment she received. I have been able to visit her almost every time I come to Gulu & each time the meeting is even sweeter. I have no doubt that today will be the highlight of this trip, as I cannot imagine anything that can top it. We made our way through the bush on the “road” (a foot path filled with craters, ravines, tall grass, trees & a stream) arriving at her hut. As we got out the Land Rover her excitement was over whelming, as was mine. We embraced – praised God – visited – held hands – embraced some more. What a reunion! I so thankful the Lord saw fit to bring us together in a way that only He could have orchestrated. 


hApPy BiRtHdAy JEFF from Cindy, the team, the Coggins & everyone at Sanctuary of Grace in Uganda!!!! Again this year I find myself in Uganda on my husband's birthday. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with a husband who, although sometimes thinks I have lost my mind, is very supportive! If it wasn't for the love and support of him, my children, and my family traveling as I do would not be possible. I love & miss you all! Cindy

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 3: We’re Only Getting Started

We have now been in Uganda for 3 days and have already seen and felt God’s amazing presence. As first-time participants on an overseas mission trip, we didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived and wanted to allow God’s plan for us to unfold in His timing. Little did we know the impact that participating with the villagers and their children would have on us.

We were blessed to be able to attend a church service while we are here in Gulu. It never fails to amaze us how jubilant the villagers’ worship is! There was a moment in worship this morning when we just had to pause and consider the difference between their circumstances and our own. These people have very few possessions and don’t lead easy lives yet we could only marvel at the singing, clapping, and dancing in praise and thankfulness to the Lord. We only wished we knew the language so we could sing with them.

This afternoon we conducted two ministries, Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and Bible Club. CHE is an educational program led by Cindy that focused on teaching proper hygiene habits and balanced family nutrition based on the resources available in the area. Those present participated in a water cleanliness test with “good” water and “bad” water (salt water). It was priceless to see the look on their faces after tasting the “bad” water but it really drove the point home that even though the water might look clean that isn’t always the case. At the end of the program Mike, Lawrence (the village pastor), and Martin (our interpreter) evangelized to the group about the path to salvation and as a result there were at least 6 salvations…Praise be to God!

Bible Club was a time for the children of the village to come together (some attend Sanctuary of Grace, some do not) and be taught a Bible story. The children watched in awe as Deborah, Cole, and Amos put on a show with the flannel board, visualizing the story Susan was teaching them. Then they put together sticker sheets of the story so that they could bring the message home with them. We ended it with a very vigorous game where they had to throw foam balls into baskets we held above our heads. While it was a rush being bombarded with smiley-face foam balls, it was the smiles on their faces that made the biggest impression on us.

At the end of the day we sat around tired but thankful for the opportunities we’ve been given to minister to these people. We’ve put the finishing touches on our plan for Vacation Bible School and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds…

Justin & Jen

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RDU to LHR to EBB in how many hours?

Greetings from Gulu! What a journey it has been thus far and we've yet to even jump into our work here. We left Fayetteville bound for Raleigh bright eyed and bushy tailed on Wednesday afternoon. Between all the bus rides, flights and time zones, I can't even calculate how many hours later we arrived at Sanctuary of Grace in Gulu, but I remember looking at my watch and saying "It's Friday?"

This being my trip with the team and my first mission trip, I'll never know what to expect, but though our journey had it's speed bumps and hiccups, the journey here went smoother than I expected. Military life has taught me to expect the worst and hope for the best and more often than not you're pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed! I also find comfort knowing that our journey, our health, our safety and our work here is in God's hand.

You couldn't help but notice the team everywhere we went, with our yellow shirts and 35 trunks in tow. One thing I found particularly amusing was when cleared customs in London to go to another terminal to shower, we emerged into the baggage claim area (where friends and family also wait) and were greeted by a huge crowd of onlookers with cameras and signs, all waving and snapping photos. One man yelled "Let's here it for Uganda!" and applause erupted. Still half asleep and groggy from the flight, we smiled and waved and continued on. We later realized that when you arrive in London the day before the opening ceremony of the olympics with a large group all wearing the same shirt, which just happened to have UGANDA in big letters across the front, people probably assume you are an olympic team or somehow related. Regardless, I still loved the rock star welcome.

Finally arriving in Africa and making the 8 hour bus ride to our first destination was pretty darn exciting for me and I've yet to shake the "I can't believe I'm here!" feeling. I find myself wondering how those on the trip who have been here 5, 10 or 30 times feel and how it changes for them each trip. We've only  spent just over one full day here and I already feel I've been shown my reason for being called here. I know with every fiber in me that this trip will not be the beginning and the end for me, but the beginning of something that will have no end. I laid on my bunk an hour ago to prepare this post with no idea what I was going to write. The lights have since gone off for the evening and as I type by the glow of my headlight I find myself crying, I am so overwhelmed at this moment and believe I can say the same goes for the entire team.

 It's hard for me to keep this short, I could write for 24 hours and still not share everything I want to (and it's only been a couple days!), but since I'm probably keeping everyone up with my headlamp and keyboard clacking, I'll wrap this up for tonight.

Though we haven't done much yet, we work together like we've been lifelong friends, knowing we are all exactly where we need to be at this moment. And that's just one of many things I'll be thanking God for tonight.

 Headlamps out in Uganda ~

Friday, July 27, 2012

WE ARE HERE!!! We arrived at Entebbe airport this morning to be met by our dear friend and faithful driver Andrew. After loading the 35 trunks, plus carry on luggage, onto & into the bus we started our drive to Gulu. We made a few stops in Kampala to get some supplies. It was an amazing site for the new team members to see just how many cars, trunks, mopeds, people, bikes....on the very crowded roads of Kampala. Then off to Gulu we went. We were greeted at Sanctuary of Grace with a wonderful spaghetti dinner by Elisha (Keith & Lisa Coggin's son...he is a wonderful chef & has a phenomenal menu planned for us)! Now it is time to get settled in. Showers have been started, everyone is shifting about in their luggage, and preparing for our first night of rest in Uganda! More to come tomorrow with pictures :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Greetings from London! We arrived at 7am (London) time this morning. We decided to not venture into London for our typical "running" tour of London because of all the Olypmic activities & crowds. Since arriving we have managed to find the showers & food :) Everyone is doing great - just a little tired and ready to begin the next leg of our travels :) Love to all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice & be glad in it! Months of preparation and prayer are becoming a reality as we depart to day for Uganda: 13 Team Members with 35 Trunks of supplies! Saturday was packing day - this is always a leap of faith as we pack, weigh, unpack, weigh again, shift a few items around, weigh again, and finally close & tape up the trunks with a prayer that the weight will shrink a little before we get to the airport for check in :). The flexing has already begun, as we got word yesterday the bus that was to take us to the airport was having some mechanical problems....Then, it was fixed yesterday afternoon, yeah!....Then, this morning another mechanical issue arose, awe!....Now, we have an alternate plan of transportation, yeah!....The adventure begins. Please be in prayer as we travel!

Friday, July 20, 2012

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 In 5 days we will be sent by the Lord to serve the people of Uganda once again through children's ministry and health/medical care. We have spent months in preparation and prayer - and are ready to GO! Tomorrow we will be packing out our trunks...about 30 of them at 50 lbs each. Sunday the team will be commissioned by Village Baptist Church. Wednesday we fly out of RDU :) Please be in prayer as the final preparations come together, for safe travel, good health, and preparation of the hearts of those we will come in contact with on the way to/from Uganda and in Uganda