This January, I went on a month long trip to serve at the James Place in Jinja, Uganda. I have never been to a place where I felt such an overwhelming presence of God, and I, honestly, have never been happier in my life than when I was in Jinja. By the end of the trip, I concluded that the best way to experience God’s love is by exploring His earth and people. That was my first mission trip ever, and I have since felt a call to continue down this path of service which led me to a ministry called Our Little Roses located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
I heard about this trip through several of my friends who go every June through their church. I was drawn in by the stories they told me of the dancing, the little
ones’ shenanigans, and the relationships they have formed with the girls over the past couple years. I firmly believe that the best way to serve someone is by letting them know that you care about them, so it was a pretty easy decision for me to go on the trip.
Our physical goal was to repaint the school, but the main purpose was to create those lasting relationships and to be a constant in the girls’ lives. Many people who were with me had been making this trip for 3, 4, 5, and sometimes even 20 years; it was pretty amazing to see the reunions of these longtime friends on the first day. That day for me personally was not quite so sweet. I felt like I was someone’s “plus one” that no one knew. During lunch, I was reassured by many people on the trip that their first time felt just as awkward. So, after siesta, I went back into it with a positive mind and left that day with a couple of new friends.
Over the course of the week, our team rotated around three stations at the home: painting the school, crafts, and Dragon Camp. The crafts mainly consisted of making bracelets and headbands out of strips of fabric that the girls had tie dyed. Dragon Camp is a program run by some of the adults where the girls can play and do random activities that our team brings for them. Along with that, we took the girls to a local pool, participated in a scavenger hunt, danced until we couldn’t feel our feet, and took a trip to the beach. It was a jam-packed week.
Since I’ve gotten home, I’ve been trying to collect all of my thoughts in order to write a perfectly formatted reflection, but I can’t seem to accomplish that completely. There is absolutely no way for me to express to you my feelings about listening to the laughter coming from the girls the day we went swimming or seeing the smiles on their faces when we would drive in through the gates every morning. I am fully aware that I’m new to this and some of you may be rolling your eyes reading this, but what I’ve concluded is that service is a two way street. You go on a trip like this in hopes of changing people’s lives for the better, but what you don’t realize until it’s over is that those people are the ones that changed you — that served you.
The morning before we went to OLR for the first time, one of the trip leaders told us that we would forget how traumatizing some situations are that these girls have experienced because of how happy they are, and he was right! The back-stories that I would hear about some of these girls were just heart wrenching and extremely startling. “That happened to her? But, we just played soccer five minutes ago and she seemed fine!” Some of their stories seem completely irreconcilable, but God is alive in everysingle one of them. It is absolutely inspiring. One day, we also were able to drive past the barrios that some of them lived in before they came to live at the home. It was eye opening to literally see the extreme poverty that some people live in. This experience left us all heartbroken because there are some situations that we weren’t able to help.
One last realization that I’ve made is the power of prayer. At church on Sunday, there was a feet washing ceremony for all of the high school graduates — American and Honduran — held by the college students from our team. Having these people literally wash my feet and continually pray over me was overwhelming. God may not always answer your prayers in the way that you want him to or a way that you can see, but when people are praying over you and you feel that love, you know that He is present. I felt so consumed by love knowing that people cared about me that much and wanted me to succeed so badly. I have had many doubts about God and religion, but this feeling is something so inexplicable, so incomprehensible that this is the only way I can make sense of it.
After experiencing this all encompassing feeling of love, I feel that it is my duty to give it back to my new friends at OLR. I hope to have the opportunity to come back year after year to show them that there is someone who is willing to travel thousands of miles to say hello, someone who is consistently praying over them, someone who is constantly thinking about them, and someone who wants them to succeed just as bad as they want themselves to. I have been so blessed in my life to have a wonderful community of people who are gratified by my victories, and that is something I take for granted. God doesn’t give these kind of gifts for you to keep, they’re for you to expand and share with others.
Learn how to donate or begin sponsoring one of these amazing girls here: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/ourlittleroses. There was also a film made over the last couple of years about the ministry that was produced by James Franco. Check out the trailer here: https://youtu.be/_l6uRvFv-ME.