God’s image is reflected in humans all over the world. I speak for team in saying that I believe we were all humbled after meeting Jenna’s friends and the people in her community in Uganda. Their servant hearts, joy, and resiliency gave us a new understanding of God’s vast creation, His strength, and the peace that comes from knowing Him. I’d love to share about all the people we met and the kindness that was shown to us, but for time’s sake I’ll share with you a few who became dear to us and are a strong presence in Jenna’s life. I know you would love them.
First: Mukaka. She is the grandmother of a family with about 15 grandchildren, all who live with her on a compound across the street from Jenna. She is in her 80s, yet seems untouched by the aging process as she continues to do heavy labor to care for her family. My most vivid memory of Mukaka is seeing her carry an overflowing armful of wood (for cooking) from the forest to her home. Mukaka is filled with joy and kindness. I do not know what her face looks like without a smile on it. You can’t help smiling back when you talk with her. Mukaka is like a mother to Jenna. Jenna spoke about times when she first arrived in Uganda that were hard—she would go sit at Mukaka’s feet and just be with her. Even if she had no idea what Mukaka was saying. (Mukaka is now learning some English through Jenna.) But language doesn’t seem to matter; Mukaka loves Jesus and she loves Jenna. Her caring presence has been a huge comfort to our friend. In this way, God’s image shines brightly in Mukaka. Let us rejoice that God himself comforts us and calls others to do so as well!
Next: Akiki Kristine. She is Jenna’s friend who also plays a large role in caretaking for her family, but that did not stop her from dedicating several mornings to teaching our team how to speak the local Otorro language, sharing her testimony with us, and having us over for a feast at the end of a long day. Akiki Kristine is gentle and has a servant’s heart. She is a loyal friend to Jenna and is steadfast in her faith and gratitude to God. You see, there was a point in time where Akiki Kristine had a serious accident and did not think she would ever walk again, given the limited access to surgeons in Uganda. But by God’s grace and provision, she got the medical help she needed and can walk today. She does not miss a beat in giving God the glory. Akiki Kristine models Christ’s humility as she serves God, her family, community, and even strangers with a joyful, obedient heart, motivated by gratitude and praise for what the Lord has done.
Finally: Tuni. She and Jenna are very close friends, almost like sisters. Tuni laughs a lot. It seems that she and Jenna could carry on for hours with jokes. Not only do they spend their days together working at Green Leaf Craft Shop, but they also share meals and hang out in their free time. Tuni’s life has been filled with hardship as a result of being mistreated by the people who are supposed to love her, including her family and the father of her child. Nevertheless, Tuni trusts God. Her faith gives her strength and resilience. As Jesus modeled perfectly, Tuni trusts that the Lord is with her, despite difficult life circumstances. With this faith, comes strength.
Our team read through Philippians throughout our time in Uganda. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul talks about confidence in Christ—that Christ will work both in us and in others. He emphasizes that we will suffer, but this suffering points us to our Savior and our need. He writes that we should be expectant in Christ, that he will grow fruit in us and that ultimately our prize is heaven and unity with God. Mukaka, Akiki Kristine, and Tuni have all pointed me to Christ, who reflects God’s image perfectly and completely. I am thankful to know more about Christ through these women and all of God’s people who we met in Uganda. A week out from the trip, as my heart yearns to return to Uganda, I pray and hope for the day we will all be united with Him—not separated by oceans, cultural barriers, or anything else—singing, dancing, and filled with joy.
“Restore our fortunes, O Lord,like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”