On May 12, 2013, a team of seven individuals from Maryland and Virginia set out on what would be La Mano of Hope’s first outreach on the continent on Africa. This team included 3 individuals who had never been on an international missions outreach before, 2 of which had never flown before. The 20 hour journey, in which we visited 3 continents en route, landed us in Kintintale, a community in the city of Kampala, the capital of the East African nation of Uganda. Our home away from home in Kintintale was the beautiful home of Pastor Steven Sebyala, his gracious wife Sara and they’re beautiful family. Kintintale is home to Harvest Africa Mission as well as Friends of Touch.
Not a day of our journey passed without tears of excitement and joy as well as tears of sadness and brokenness as our hearts were quickly united with our new family in Uganda. The work days were spent in medical clinic, led by Dr. Jill Ciccarelli and soccer camp led by Pastor Joel Flower. Each day hundreds of patients were seen in the clinic presenting with illness ranging from allergies, infections and skin conditions to serious injuries, pneumonia and a handful of patients requiring emergency care at the local hospital. Dr. Ciccarelli and Chris Ciccarelli along with local providers who partnered with us, saw over 400 patients in the 4 days of clinic. They worked so diligently inside the church, Calvary Gospel Temple, where the hot African sun penetrated the tin roof ceiling. Thankfully the lone ceiling fan provided some relief as patients flooded through the doors of the church patiently waiting to see the doctors who wanted to treat not only their physical conditions but share with them the love of Jesus, the one and only true answer to all of the conditions of life.
Thanks to the donations of so many generous and faithful partners, we were able to provide a well stocked clinic, directed by Miss Kylie Pooler, student at Shenandoah University. She did an outstanding job keeping the pharmacy in order while treating each patient with such tender care and compassion. Her servant heart was so evident as she patiently explained, often through translators, the indications for the treatments. Thankfully we also had some great translators working with us. Although English is spoken by many, Luganda is the language preferred by all. This was a brand new experience for us all previous LA MANO OF HOPE outreach teams have had at least one team member who spoke the national language for where we were serving. Luganda is a beautiful national tongue of Uganda and we had great times learning as the days passed.
We learned so much! And some how after long days of clinic and camp, we still found the energy to sing and dance and pray for hours each night as thousands of beautiful faces, young and old, gathered together hear the gospel message.
One particular young man came to us the first day of clinic with an enormous head wound. 10 year old Kissim had been hit by a car the week prior to our arrival. His jaw was dislocated and the top of his head bore an enormous open wound. This boy’s family was financially unable to get him the treatment that he needed. Kissim is a student at the school led by Friends of Touch which ministers to over 500 children each school year. We initially wondered if this young boy was mute as he didn’t speak to us at all. He was in such tremendous pain and was not being treated with any pain medications. The school director was able to provide us with the information we needed for treating Kissim and he became one of our favorite patients throughout the week. We were able to treat him with antibiotics and pain medications. Additionally, Chris provided him with a daily dose of love and wound care for his heading, wrapping his wound well enough for him to eventually be able to participate in the soccer camp, happening just outside the church at the school grounds adjacent to the church property.
By the end of the week, little Kissim was running and laughing and playing with us and the other young people. He definitely came back to the U.S. with us in all of our hearts. And he is just one of the many individuals with whom God put into our lives during our time there. It’s always amazing to realize that God will work wonders, move mountains, unite people from different cultures and lands, even if it is just for the one person to know that He loves them and cares for their needs.
Simultaneous to the medical clinic, Joel Flower and his team of university soccer team players, Kaylee Monninger and Alyssa Monninger, joined by national volunteers, were outside in the school yard directing the soccer camp. During the week they had over 200 boys and girls attend the camp in which they received daily instruction and training and prizes and participated in competitions. Joel, Kaylee and Alyssa were some of the most popular people in Kintintale that week. The kids loved them and learned so much about the game of soccer and about the love of Jesus during the week. There were moments where we weren’t completely sure Kaylee and Alyssa were going to get on the plane with us to return home. Along with a lot of sweat and tears, their hearts remain on Ugandan soil.
To our surprise, Pastor Steven and Harvest Africa Mission were in Kintintale the same week hosting crusade each night. Which meants, La Mano of Hope was also in crusade each night. WOW! What an experience. Joel and Melissa had the privilege of ministering in music each evening and worshipping with their worship band. Crusade began around 5 pm and continued on until 10 pm each evening. We learned so much! And some how after long days of clinic and camp, we still found the energy to sing and dance and pray for hours each night as thousands of beautiful faces, young and old, gathered together hear the gospel message.
Again, we say THANK YOU, although words don’t seem enough to express our gratitude, to the many many generous supporters who gave finance and resources to make this outreach possible. Because of the partnership many have made with LA MANO OF HOPE, we were able to provide over 400 patients with much needed medical care and medication treatment; were able to provide resources and supplies to the children at the soccer camp, including lunches for the week, soccer balls, shoes, socks and school supplies; and were able to bless Friends of Touch with an offering for their expenses in daily meeting the needs of these children.
LA MANO OF HOPE will return to Uganda in 2014 with a construction team to provide some much needed renovations to the school property. If you are interested, please contact us at Melissa@manohope.org. To learn more about Friends of Touch, please visit their website at www.friendsoftouch.org.