Alumna Madison Nye ’10 recently traveled to Uganda, where she worked with IChooseYou Ministries to provide Christian education to children who are starving, abandoned, or have no family support.Read more about Madison
Throughout the summer, Madison helped create gardens for the kids’ families, played and danced with the little ones in the schoolyard, helped run a medical clinic, and hosted a sleepover for a group of girls in the village. Madison says, “It was the most rewarding experience of my life, and I cannot wait to go back! God’s love is so evident there and it truly changed my life.” She would like to share the following letter about her experience with the Westminster community.
I wish I could tell you everything about Uganda and my experience there, but it is nearly impossible. First of all, it is the most gorgeous place I have ever seen. I served in the town of Mbale, nestled in a valley between huge mountains. Every day, when I woke up and looked outside, I saw lush greenery and waterfalls in the distance. But the most beautiful part of Uganda was its people. As cliché as it may sound, I fell head-over-heels in love with the people of Uganda. They are the most joyful, uninhibited, and transparent individuals I have ever met. The conditions in which they live are far worse than you hear about or see in pictures. I met a family with 11 kids living in a mud hut the size of my bedroom – a real eye-opener. But the biggest shock was simply how joyful they are. Poverty, violence, and death surround them, yet they are the happiest people on the planet. It is revolting to think about how ungrateful and moody we can be while blessed to live in much, much better conditions.
These people truly LOVE Jesus. They praise Him day and night, and, take it from me – there is nothing sweeter than hearing 150 small children singing their heads off to the Lord. We attended chapel at the school and church, and they do not even use instruments. They produce all of the beats and rhythms solely using their voices, hands, and feet.
Another great experience I had was walking through Namatala. The kids all ran up to us and grabbed our hands, just excited to see a “Muzungo” (white person). The majority of these kids were obviously suffering from malnutrition, and if they were clothed, they wore dirty, ripped scraps – yet they were all smiling. We met one single mother of nine who was concerned about one of her sons who had refused to eat or drink for days. In our medial book, we were able to find a formula to treat malnourished children, and thankfully the boy finally started drinking again. I also had the honor of helping a man who was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. I held his hand while we cleaned his wound, and he returned the next day so I could check on him and redress it. It was a really cool feeling to be able to see concrete progress, and he was so gracious and thankful. It made my heart happy!
I must say that the biggest connection I made was with a vivacious, beautiful, 11-year-old girl named Justine. I met her on my first day in Uganda, and we instantly clicked. We danced in the schoolyard until it was time to leave. Later that week, we had a family day for all of the IChooseYou kids, and they performed several songs for us. I knew that Justine and I were meant to be friends when I saw her organizing everyone into their lines and leading the songs and dances in the front. She was literally my Ugandan mini-me! She pulled me up on stage and made sure I knew the dances and the words to the songs (although I had to pretend a little because we were singing in Ugandan!). She has such a sweet little heart and she is so happy, even as her father passed away from AIDS and her mother and sister also have HIV. It’s amazing to see a little girl who lives with so much hurt praise God with a loud voice and happy smile every day. Hearing her and the other kids sing out to Jesus with their pure, uninhibited voices is something I will cherish in my heart forever.
Still, my favorite memory of the trip was the sleepover I hosted for Justine, Vicki, and Winnie at our hotel. The girls donned our swimsuits and hopped in the pool – something they had never gotten to do! Then they took a bubble bath with running water, which was another huge treat. The girls relaxed in white, comfy robes while we played UNO on my bed, and then they stuffed their faces at dinner. The excitement and joy they felt from experiencing such a “special” night was priceless; they were able to experience this luxurious gift that I had always taken for granted. It made them so happy, and it was so easy and fun for me to do! Next summer, my goal is to host a sleepover for all of the IChooseYou middle-school girls so they can all experience a night of fun and luxury! I plan on bringing a suitcase of t-shirts, pajama bottoms, and toothbrushes so that each girl can take home a special “PJ bag,” as most of them sleep in their school uniforms because they cannot afford pajamas.
During my entire experience in Uganda, I was so encouraged to see what an impact IChooseYou Ministries is having on the village of Namatala. IChooseYou allows Americans to sponsor children in Namatala through monthly or yearly donations, which provide them with Christian education, food, uniforms, books, and medical expenses. Sponsorships are huge for these kids. While I was there, I visited one sweet girl named Vicki who had been diagnosed with Malaria. She was very sick but would not have received her IV and medicine if she hadn’t been sponsored. An individual’s donation literally saved her life. If you think you might feel called to sponsor a child throughIChooseYou, please let me know!
Now that I am back in the U.S., it has been an interesting adjustment. On the outside, I feel like I have slipped right back into my old routines. But I cannot get the people of Uganda off my mind. I struggle with beating myself up in regard to how privileged I am when I think about the awful conditions in which my friends in Namatala live. However, it was cool to see how my contribution changed one life and how that life has changed several more. I know God doesn’t expect me to go and fix all of Uganda’s problems, but I truly believe He has given me the charge to love people like Justine fiercely. He loves me fiercely, and I intend to do the same. The Ugandans taught me more about my faith and changed my life in many more ways than I even could have done for them. Every day, I miss them and hope they are doing well; I cannot wait to get back there next summer. It was truly the most amazing experience of my life. I would love to talk to you about it further if you are interested, so feel free to email me!
Love and thanks,