A Second Chance: Uganda

I think I’m going to try it again. You know, by myself. Not as a leader, but as an observer. Almost like a clean slate.
Uganda.
A second chance at a mission trip with new eyes, a fresh perspective, and no expectations.

Let me catch everyone up to speed. Back in July, I took a group of high school students to Haiti. It was my first time in a developing country and I was excited. A lot of people that I know had gone and loved it. I love to travel and I love high schoolers, so I thought I would come back in love with Haiti, in love with missions, and fired up to go back.  That didn’t quite happen for a number of reasons, you can read more here.  But in my heart I knew I would try again. I would go to another developing country at some point, just not for awhile.

Then, I met Bob.
If you don’t know Bob Goff, you should.  He is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker that encourages people to live a lifestyle that fiercely seeks out ways of showing love.  In 2012, Bob wrote a book called Love Does and gave away 100% of the proceeds to build a school in Gulu, Uganda. Bob founded Restore International in 2002, an international NGO focused on trying to change a few lives for the better. Restore fights for freedom and human rights, works to improve educational opportunities, and aims to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend. Restore is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization, and works in Uganda, Iraq, Nepal, India and Somalia. And, because of Bob’s Vision and the work of Restore International, he serves as Hon. Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States.

This past October, he was our guest speaker at Immanuel Church where I had the opportunity to meet him.  We quickly became friends and stayed in touch the weeks following the event. On a whim, he invited me to tag along, with him and a few others, on a 6 day trip to Uganda. So naturally, I said no. Twice.
Did I mention Bob is FIERCELY persistent?!

So within a few short weeks I was on a plane by myself to Africa.
I know….crazy.
[Warning: after you meet him or read his book, you may be tempted to say YES to him, too!]
Can I share some of my adventure with you?
Here is my journal entry from Day 1: Chicago to Amsterdam

I plan. I organize. It’s in my blood. Travel is an organizer’s dream. So naturally, packing 6 days of travel into one carry on for Uganda was a welcomed challenge. I printed the packing list and got to work.

Two weeks early.
A small backpack for my camera is all I need under my seat, I think. Everything else will be right above my head.
Kleenex? Check.
Malaria meds? Check.
Passport, beef jerky, and a football for good measure? Check. Check. Check.
And of course, my O2cool fan.
Best. Invention. Ever.
Need-to-sleep, fan-addicted friends? Don’t leave home without this battery operated, treasure.
I should have seen it coming.
It was beautiful, my bag, that is. Every square inch bursting with supplies. I made it to security, removed every item I packed and article of clothing I had on to get through. (Anyone else feel nervous they are carrying an explosive EVERY time you fly?) Anyway, low and behold, I was the lucky winner of “the search the bag” award!
What did I win, you ask? One “quick” wipe down of my bag, and evil stares for holding up the line.
Then it happened. He touched the fan.  The only thing I could do was pray, “Lord, please, not the fan!” The batteries set off the warning bells. Good thing God answers prayer. [wink!] The nice TSA  man let me through, fan and all.
Everything was going well until I got to the boarding ramp to get on the plane.
Shoot.
I made eye contact with the flight attendant.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to step aside and check your bag.”
“Um, no.” I thought….and may have even said out loud…..
Not my “everything-I-need-including-my 3-1-1 toiletries, my-cute-African-appropriate-outfit-for-tomorrow, and, well, EVERYTHING-is-in-there….BAG?!”
I tried to charm her by removing some items in the front and even comparing my bag to others that were breezing by with much bigger bags than my strategically packed carry on. Clearly, she didn’t recognize or appreciate my skills. Augh.
Nothing worked. “Can I get it back in Amsterdam?” I pleaded.
She smiled, and said no.
Ok. Now I’m pissed.
Does she know I am not that flexible? I don’t trust easily.
Especially airlines and checked bags TO AFRICA!!!?!
I frantically grabbed my leggings and a tshirt. Probably the two dumbest things I could find as she pried the bag from my grip.
Bagless and defeated, I found my seat. 26a.
I see a sweet, older lady sitting in 26b and think, at least the flight should be tolerable since I was upgraded to a window seat.  In fact, 26c was empty. I don’t travel much, but I think plane etiquette is for her to move over to 26c and leave the middle seat, 26b, open.
Guess she missed that part in the flight video.
Here is sit, typing this journal entry.
Bagless and cozy.
I notice the flight tracker and put it on. Flight trackers are so organized. So detailed. And, it makes me think about how often I wish life was more like that flight tracker. All the twists and turns mapped out. By the minute updates. Predictable. Precise. Even tells you the weather conditions.
But life isn’t like that, is it? At least not from our vantage point. I think it’s more like a surprise checked bag.  You plan as best as you can and then life pries your fingers off the handle.
I really hope my bag gets there. But in the meantime, I am going to try to make the best of it. I’m gonna snuggle with my new friend from Chicago… who happens to be reading about love and God. I’m gonna eat my almonds and be grateful. I’m going to trust that God is more interested in my heart than my luggage.
I think I’m gonna turn the flight tracker off too. Just gets me focused on the wrong things.
Like the destination instead of the journey.

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