Two years ago today I walked into a room of strangers with little in common beyond a willingness to serve God in Uganda.
One year later I met another group of people who once again planned and trained and prayed and boarded planes to Uganda.
And last week a new group of 17 gathered to eat Chipotle among kids ministry murals and prepare for another trip to Uganda. Yup, for the third time I’m delighted to be a part of the Musana VBS team!
I’m confident that this fifth Musana VBS program will be the best one yet. There’s actually basically no way that it can’t be – not because previous trips or teams were lacking. Quite the opposite: because they’ve been stellar, building on each other, creating a strong foundation of friendship and teamwork with Musana. Each team has set the next one up for even greater successes. (Even more fun: this year’s team includes nine Musana veterans with six VBS veterans! And for some reason we always have a Ben…)
When I came back last year I wrote about the hospital that Musana is building. I have no regrets about that; the hospital is coming along beautifully and the outpatient wing is open and seeing patients! I’m still passionate about getting that hospital complete.
But… I didn’t write anything about VBS – specifically how much change I saw in just one year. A huge oversight on my part! Let me bring you into the inner circle on some of the amazing things I experienced.
In 2014 I went to Musana so nervous. I was told that the Bible Story station may not have a Musana staff member for me to work with, and I had no idea how cross-cultural story telling would turn out. Luckily that prediction was completely wrong because I met Lameka, a 21-year-old first-year Musana school teacher who LOVED to be goofy. We worked together side by side at the Bible Story station all week. I had brought some ideas for creative ways we could teach each of the stories; most days I would teach the first two groups while he watched and he would teach the last three, imitating some of the things I did. We also teamed up – one day he acted as a narrator and I as a character, and by the end of the week I was a narrator while he was a character.
I’ll admit I don’t even do well team teaching at kids ministry at my home church, so team teaching with someone from a completely different culture was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I was sooo proud of him, too, as some of the teaching and acting we did was way out of his comfort zone as well. And while the kids did pay attention to me while I taught (often with perplexed looks on their face at this odd American girl telling stories in an unfamiliar way), I couldn’t make them laugh the way that Lameka did when he got on stage.
When I returned in 2015, Lameka was there again once again. We donned more green t-shirts, excited to pick up where we had left off. But I wasn’t just working with Lameka that year; they had assembled a whole team of folks to work together on the Bible Story. I was hugely cheered to see four staff getting involved this year in the Bible Story station. We had a planning meeting on Monday where I told them the themes for each day of the week and we talked about how and who could teach each story. Of the 25 teachings that week (five groups for five days), I think I taught maybe four times. Instead they took the teachings and made them their own, getting creative with props and costumes. Most times the only thing for me to do was fill in the extra time before dismissing he kids to the next station – easily accomplished with songs and Bible verse memory.
Where the first year Lameka and I had almost a mentee-mentor relationship, the second year we felt more like teammates and peers. I can’t imagine what my team leader, Jodi, must think having watched all four years of VBS right from the start when, as she says, “We did VBS to them.” Now we get to do it with them. If that’s what I got to see in just one year, what might things be like after another year? I can’t wait to see what will happen.
I’d been on a several short-term mission trips before Musana, but all of them were one shot; I didn’t get a chance to see how God was working over time in a community. I think that’s why I came home last year so passionate about Musana and the hospital in specific – because I could see what God had done in Iganga through Musana in just one year.
Like everything at Musana, the VBS program is focused on sustainability. We still partner together (because that’s fun, too!), but bit by bit over the years the responsibility and coordination for VBS has been passed from the Americans to the Ugandans. Hopefully one day they’ll be able to take a program like this out to the communities of Iganga, running it all on their own. It’s one thing to read the numbers about Musana’s sustainability; it’s another thing to see parts of it taking shape right before your eyes. Also, who knows, maybe this year for the FIRST TIME I’ll get to see what’s happening at the other VBS stations? 🙂
So once again I come to you and ask for your help to make this trip a reality. And I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t scare me to raise $2900 for the third year in a row! But I threw my application in the ring once more this year and if God wants me to go I believe he’ll make it happen. I hope you’ll consider supporting me this year; every dollar helps! Only 95 more days until we take off on June 15. To sunshine!
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Cash or check donations can be mailed to Flatirons Community Church, 355 West South Boulder Road, Lafayette CO 80026. Make checks out to Flatirons Community Church, and be sure to include “Musana VBS – Alissa” in the memo line – or in an attached note if sending cash. (Or hand it to me to save a stamp! I will gladly come pick it up in person – as long as you’re within 50 miles of Boulder, Colorado…)
Credit card donations can be made online at Service Reef. Please note that there is a 5% fee associated with Service Reef, so I will get 95 cents from each dollar if you choose to donate this way.