Uganda Day One

My adventure begins at 4:30am. My bags are packed to the max as I’ve used my scale at home to measure it. I’ve got the TRX bands, jump rope, resistance bands and timer packed to engage these women in exercise to move their body in movements they have never done before.

I have paper plates so that they can learn about proper nutrition and use all the food groups which protein is growth, carbs are energy and fruits and vegetables are protection.  I love the terms used because with each type of item you put into your mouth you are either eating it for growth, energy or protection.

I packed crayons to have the women draw out the different foods that would be allowed in each group and divide it up on the plate visually. I have paper so they can either draw or write out meal plans and then I’ll share how they can take one meal and repeat it each week say on Monday morning for breakfast to ensure that they know that one meal a week is balanced and healthy.

I also brought for each of them a kitchen item to have.  A vegetable peeler, tongs, or paring knives.

Lastly I packed books for the community library that we are designing and setting up within the artisans workshop for their use as well as the community.  So just a variety of chapter books, picture books and simple reads.

My 2 pieces of luggage are set to embark on an experience of a lifetime.  One that will be remembered because this is my first trip away from the North American continent but also my first service and volunteer mission.

My friend, Leslie Kawai, told me about this opportunity of serving the women and children in Lugazi, Uganda with a company called Musana.  I instantly I knew this trip was finally my time to go.  I’ve always wanted to do a humanitarian something for quite sometime.  The stars aligned and I was able to commit to coming and oh how I am ever so grateful I followed my prompting to come.

We arrived at the SLC airport to begin our long 36 hour journey but had a few stops on the way. The first was LA and we had a 6 hour layover there. I suggested we leave the airport and find a cute brunch place by the beach. I yelped it and found Cafe Milan in Playa del Rey.

On our drive over with our taxi our driver was from Bangladesh and is Musilm and began our conversation with what brought him to the US.  He was picked from a lottery to come over and start a new life here.  Out of the billions of people they only allow 5,000 applicants and he was picked. So very small odds and he is so grateful.

He shared about his religion and we asked if he practiced it at all and he said “I’m trying”.  Well in mind those words have created a new meaning for me. You either do or you don’t. So Leslie began to share with him about Mormonism and what we believe and bore a sweet and simple testimony of the Book of Mormon and gave our taxi driver a small copy of it.

I was in awe of how simple and easy it was for her to share.  She said that when she travels she brings a copy and prays that someone in her path will come along that she knows God has prepared for her.  She’s such a beautiful example of Christlike love and compassion for all and wants people to know where her happiness and joy lie and that’s living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cafe Milan is just this small cafe located in a row of businesses and is quite rather small.  We walked in and a group of older people were gathered around with their coffee, newspapers and having a great conversation.  I immediately thought that they must be “the regulars” and they sure were.

One of them happened to be our new friend, Howard, and boy we were grateful we walked into his path and opened our mouth to have a conversation.  He is a former NASA space engineer and he shared:

“Take your happiness with you and when making decisions never do something to embarrass your mother.”  He then went on to talk about how braggers brag about themselves and the humble already know about themselves so they don’t need to project it to others.  He strives to meet his motto in life which is for every person you meet is to be better off for knowing him.

We asked where he studied and learned all this and he said “on the farm with my dad”. Rarely do you meet someone where you start taking notes because what they say is so thought provoking.

Howard needs to write a book!  His little nuggets of wisdom were just what I needed to hear.  I told him to and he just laughed it off but I said to him if I could write a book so can you. I then gave him a copy of my book, “MindStrength for Women” and he was just in awe and I shared how it came to be and that we all have a message to share so why not write it out.

He invited us to park our bags at his condo around the corner and showed us around his neighborhood and walked us to the beach.  It felt so good to put our feet in the sand and to hear the waves crashing. It makes me miss what I had in my backyard all those years.

We concluded and called for a taxi and left Howard but he blessed our lives in that short three hour period that day and will cherish his words of advice.

We got to the LA airport and I wanted to move my body so Sandra and I did lunges down the walking escalator, speed waked and did head stands. It was just so fun to just be me in front of all these people and we got a lot of smiles and laughs. It was the opposite reaction of what I’ve always thought all these years.

We sat next to Mark on our flight from LA to Amsterdam. He happened to see my headstand and asked if I did yoga.  So that conversation led into my book and I gave him a copy of it too.

We had plenty of time to have a conversation and we did. We talked for about 3 hours about work, family, travel and then the difference between Catholics and Mormons.  What a powerful, spiritual fun conversation we had with him.  He was so respectful and genuinely interested in who we were.

Leslie and I shared our love for the gospel principles and how simple our lives are and how much family is the center of all of that that’s brings us happiness and joy.  It was a beautiful experience and once again God prepare Mark to sit next to us.  I know God’s hand is in this work.  I came willing and able to share because I decided I wanted to have a missionary experience before I left to Africa. Yes I am more confident in who I am and my message and the lessons I have learned so that made the choice easier for me.

What an awesome kind man he was to us. We got his address so we could send him a copy of the Book of Mormon but also next time we think to travel to Europe he said he would help us. So I’m going to take him up on his offer one day.

I just realized how God wants us all to connect with one another and to not just live day to day consumed in our own selfish path.  Take the time to look up from your phone or your worries because someone has it harder than you do.  I have learned that the more confident in who I am the easier it is to open my mouth and not worry what the other person thinks of me.

I too am so grateful for having Leslie in my life. What a powerful woman, mother and friend she is.  Each time I am around her I am in awe of the takeaways I walk away with.  Her testimony is magnificent and strong, her voice and the way she connects is so sweet and comforting.  I feel so blessed to have sat by her for hours learning from her.

She talked about motherhood and that’s one area I have been weak and I chose it to be weak.  She shared how each day with her children is a gift because she is a single mother and the times she has with them is cherished time.  I take motherhood for granted.

It’s was just the amount of information that I needed to hear and took a few takeaways to create a few more habits and practices into my life.

From Amsterdam to Entebee we noticed that we were following this cute family since SLC so we finally talked to them. Come to find out the wife is the daughter to the current Kambalya Uganda mission president. They are on spring break so they were taking their kids over to have the expedience as well as do some work there.

I overhead a few others on the plane also going to Africa to do some sort of work.  Some health, building schools, one guys was making a film.  Such unique opportunities to serve these African people.

Our last connection we made was with Mary and Wilina.  I could tell right away that I was really going to like them both!  Spunky personalities with good hearts. They asked why we were going to Africa and then they shared because they teach nutrition to remote villages. I shared that i was going to teach them about exercise and their eyes lit up.

I told them about kettle bells and they were so into it so I gave them both my book before takeoff and this particular flight was only 30 min long and as we exited the plane they had read some of it.  They just had such appreciation for my Christianity and belief in God and it was refreshing to them.  They both said that they could tell that I was  good Christian women when I first started talking. I can’t wait to keep in contact with the two of them.

Some Ugandans were on the plane and as we landed they began to sing!  It was so unique and such a special welcome into a land rich in happiness despite their circumstances.

This whole travel day has been exceptional.  It’s allowed me to see myself as a servant of the lord.  I would consider this experience like a mini mission for me so far and it’s only the first day into this,

We were picked up at the airport by Melissa and Fred.  Fred is a bishop of a ward just outside Kampalya.  His wife Tina is the manager at Musana and is due to have her 4th baby any day now while we are here so that will be exciting to see a fresh new baby sent from heaven.

As he was telling this in our 2 hour drive from the airport to Lugazi I couldn’t help but think of the privilege this new baby will have to be sent to a faithful LDS couple in Uganda. Then I thought about my life and the blessing to be born in the covenant in the United States. I am just overwhelmed.  My life is oh so good and I have so much to be grateful for and appreciate the goodness of God in my life.

Fred told us about his conversion story in 2002 and he’s only missed 2 Sunday’s at church since.  He served his mission in South Africa and married Tina in the temple down there.  I could tell that this couple were powerful together and can’t wait to meet Tina. We gave him a few pieces of candy and he talked about on his mission his American companions would receive packages from home and it would be candy and he said his favorite was chocolate covered cinnamon bears, root beer candy and beef jerky. Then Sandra and I laughed and said that we brought all those with us!

Just to think of the luxuries we have in America that Africans here don’t have.  My mind and perspective has deepened and I know it will continue to do so.

My day today was just EPIC and it’s just getting started.