5 Things I Learned When I Visited Uganda

by Brittney Meyer, Amazima Stateside Social Media Coordinator

1. Always say hello.

I walked into our office there quite a few times before I got the memo, this memo: around here (there), people are more important than tasks. I don’t know about you, but the “I’m-in-a-rush-so-don’t-ask-me-how-I’m-doing-surely-you-understand” kind of hello is pretty high up there in my vocabulary. That kind of hello is generally culturally acceptable in the US, but in Uganda… it is a big no-no.

In talking with one of our team members, I learned that in Luganda, there are two types of hellos… one is a true greeting, respectful and courteous. The other one is only used if you are in a rush and regrettably can’t offer someone the greeting they deserve. Why? Because people are always more important than tasks, and the principle of greeting proves this value is upheld. So, my takeaway? If I’m too busy to stop, say hello and actually look someone in the eyes, then I am simply too busy.

2. Life goes on, with or without electricity.

I ventured back to my room as the sun went down, prepared to give myself over to productivity for the rest of the night. Soon after I got settled in, the Ugandan skies opened up and rain started pouring out. Next came the wind and thunder, and honestly, if I had Internet I would have frantically consulted Google about the likelihood of tornadoes in Africa. Of all the fears I thought I’d have to face there, severe weather was not one of them.

To make a long story short, the electricity went out (not an uncommon occurrence), my computer died, and I had absolutely nothing to do for a solid hour. And you know what I learned? Life. Goes. On. The things I needed to do didn’t get done, but I sat still for an hour and listened to rain hitting the roof, and that’s what I’ll remember.

In Uganda, life goes on even when electricity doesn’t, and I think we could all use a power outage every once in a while.

3. You don’t have to have money to be rich.

I hopped on the back of the boda (a motorcycle taxi), and my kind driver waited as long as he could before bursting out, “Miss, are you born-again?!” I’ve never been so excited to respond with a yes. Joy, sheer joy. I saw it in his eyes. He had riches the world can’t touch, and he wanted to share them with me. I saw this joy, these riches, in many people’s eyes there. I looked into the eyes of the women in Masese who participate in Amazima’s beading circle, and I saw the same thing. Of course, I also saw many hardships, suffering I had never laid eyes on, too. But, oh, the treasure they held inside of their souls – joy, love, and peace from our Heavenly Father.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-20

4. Moments would last longer if we would move slower.

Texts. Calls. Posts. Likes. Shares. Reminders. Deadlines. Our days are full and fast, and my experience in Uganda was anything but that. Time seemed to move slower, and moments seemed to last longer. I witnessed the strangest phenomena, people somehow managed their schedules and completed tasks without running around looking like chickens with their heads cut off. Stress, anxiety, and unfruitful busyness didn’t seem to rule daily life, and I think that’s why moments lingered.

Life will never look the same here as it does there, but maybe, just maybe, if we slowed down we might find slowing down is one of the most productive things we can do.

5. It’s ok to be privileged, it’s not ok to be selfish.

It was amazing to watch our Ugandan team in action. I experienced all of our programs firsthand, I saw children I’d only read stories about, I met people I’d been told about… I saw what it looks like for a group of people to live for something and someone bigger than themselves. I was honored to share meals, conversations, and really the same air as them. …Kidding, kind of.

If you’ve ever been on a missions trip or visited a third world country, you know what it feels like to head back to the comforts of home. It’s easy to feel inadequate, guilty, and selfish. I have felt those feelings in the past, but I left Uganda with a new perspective. The truth is, there’s a slim chance I’ll ever move there or anywhere outside of America. Regardless, the issue is not where I live, it’s how I live. Everyday I wake up and face the same choice: will I live a selfish life or will I lay my life down for others?

We might not be in Uganda, loving and serving people firsthand, but you and I are playing our parts. We are helping Amazima carry out its mission and vision in our own, unique ways. And the best news is, we don’t have to travel thousands of miles to love people… there are plenty to be loved in our own backyard.

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