by Abigail Kang
Many of you may know that I returned from my trip to Uganda this past Summer. Thank you for all your support and prayers. I want to start off by giving some context. I went with an organization called Teen Missions International, which is based in Florida. Every year, they send out over several hundred teens to 15-20 different countries in the world, where they also have bases in. This year, I was on the Uganda Footwashing Team–a team of 19 including 4 leaders. All teams start off at boot camp in Florida, which is an intense, 2 week preparation for the field. From running an obstacle course every morning at 6AM, to packed schedules from 5:30AM-9:30PM, to flooded, muddy tents almost every night, I had to rely on God from the get-go every single moment of the day. It was a tough two weeks that would prepare us for the worst situations possible on the field, and it was also a full two weeks in which I began to build my relationship with the Lord. After the two weeks, on Commissioning Night, we were sent out to the field. The Joy of Having Little
I wanna talk about the joy of having little. Because our team was a footwashing team, we packed over 1000 pairs of shoes, socks, medicine, buckets and food in our 30 duffel bags. On Pack Out Day, our team was given 19 backpacks and told to pack all of our necessities, with a 15 pound weight limit. This is a lot harder than it sounds! I complained about how little we could take. But after our first night in Uganda, after our first footwashing experience, meeting these children, after seeing how 4 young sisters– younger than Bethel–could only have a couple of bites of food a day, 15 pounds was more than enough.
There grew a joy in me for living so simple. We had enough nutrients and water to keep us alive, we still had sleeping bags for the cold nights, we had clothes to wear and shoes to walk in so we don’t get unbearable sores on our feet. That was enough. Sadly, this was not even the reality of many Ugandans. I learned to be thankful for the “little” because God showed me how that “little” is BIG in His Kingdom. It is what He provides for me all my days. I didn’t need to greed more clothes, shoes, better education, more likes/comments on social media. I didn’t greed attention, respect, or success. Because my victory is in the King of kings who provides everything we need and so much more. When we worshipped with the locals, it didn’t matter if we were wearing the latest shoes, what mattered was our attitudes and we worshipped like never before.
Worship in Suffering
I want to go more in to the worship aspect, because we had to worship. We went to three different bases in Uganda: we spent a couple days in Jinga to settle in, took a 15 hour bus ride to Koboko and served there for a while, took another 15 hour bus ride to Bugoi, and then came back to Jinga.
We arrived in Bugoi to find that they were in a famine. This base was a rescue unit to provide safety for girls who had to walk several hours to school. The rescue unit is next to a school to eliminate the risk of girls being sex trafficked or kidnapped on the way to school. Because of the famine in Bugoi, the rescue unit is only hosting 3 girls. The night we arrived it rained all night, which was God’s grace. Without that rain, we would not have water for the next 2 days. Quickly, water was running out, we could not bathe or do laundry, and had to be smart about what we cooked and how much we drank. We actually had to footwash with lake water which was a 15 minute walk. The closest water source was a well 7 miles one way. With no transportation and only being able to carry what we could, this was a major setback. This wasn’t even our biggest worry. We battled spiritual warfare left and right. The stomach flu hit our whole team. We all became on edge with one another. We were dehydrated because we were out of water. We got no sleep because of the mice and because everyone was throwing up at night. And to know that there weren’t nearby towns, doctors, stores, and transportation, felt hopeless. Thankfully, there was a turning point. It was my turn to lead evening devotions one night, and for our worship time, I felt God saying we just needed to be still. We soaked in His presence and soon began breaking out in victory songs and spontaneous worship. It was in that moment when I realized we don’t have to suffer alone. God reminded me that this is your team, this is your family, and this is My army. Because we were reminded that night that we are victorious simply because God is on our side, our problems didn’t go away, but my perspectives/attitude changed. When we worshipped in the middle of that storm, God brought us back, brought us stronger, and rebuilt our unity.
After being on the field for over a month, we went back to Florida for debrief. We had air conditioning, cold water, beds, showers, and laundry machines! It was a time to spend our last moments with our team, learn about the challenges coming back home, and remember everything God did for us. In classes at debrief, we learned about the culture shock and team sickness we would face back home, and how it was hard because nobody would fully understand our experience. I was like “pshh I’ll be fine.” But the moment I arrived at the San Jose airport, I broke down. After doing life with my team, after battling with them through dangerous situations and spiritual warfare, I felt so down because I went from having them 24/7, to not at all. And the first night, I couldn’t get myself to sleep on my bed. I was overwhelmed seeing buildings, driving on the right side of the road, having MORE than enough food and water. Coming back home was a testimony of its own and in the process of grief, God reminded me that He gave me that unity with my team, to bring back home. After realizing that, my attitude changed. More than expected, many people at school were really interested in my trip, and I’ve been able to share the love of God with them. A girl whom I would’ve never thought would be interested in even helping people, is going to Africa next year because my trip inspired her. I can see the fruit of God’s work growing in my own school.
I went to Africa wanting to do something BIG, heal the blind. I realized that it wasn’t about doing something great. It was about the children I talked to, that one hug, that one high five, playing and worshipping with the fatherless–those “little” things are what mattered the most. God revealed to me that He values more than what we deem as “great” in our eyes. I learned to take joy in those little things. I learned to take baby steps, rather than expect the end product right away. Most of all, I learned to rely on the Lord fully, for my strength, joy, and love.