I Left my Heart in Africa
Last May, Zach and I were given an opportunity of a lifetime. We were asked to go to Uganda, Africa with a small group of people from the states + one Aussie to help teach music to children at Watoto. ((Okay let's be real... they invited Zach to help teach music and I somehow managed to tag along!)) Watoto is an incredible church that started over 30 years ago. It has a massive orphanage located in Uganda with thousands and thousands of children. I couldn't possibly say enough good things about it! We went to help with Watoto's very first worship camp and it was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had! Not to mention, our first day in Uganda was mine + Zach's 1 year anniversary!! :) I couldn't imagine spending it in any better way!
We spent the majority of our time in Kampala. The first day we went to church at Watoto's central location and also did some shopping at the craft village markets. It was so funny because all the women working the markets greet you by saying, "Hello, you are welcome!" So you know that you are more than welcome to come shop from their particular booth, haha. It was so interesting to see all of the different hand-crafted goods for sale. I could have shopped around for hours just looking at all the intricate details in everything... from hand-woven fruit baskets to multi-colored hand-stitched blankets! The colors of everything were so bold and beautiful!
That night we drove through Kampala to Suubi, the orphanage we would be staying at for the rest of the trip. With over 1500 kids who live there, it was completely overwhelming, emotional, and beautiful all wrapped into one. The village itself was absolutely stunning! Everywhere you looked was a view more beautiful than the last. The colors everywhere were so vibrant, it seemed as if the grass was so much greener and the sky so much bluer than I've ever seen. The couple who started Watoto, Gary and Marilyn Skinner, had such an incredible dream of building a place like this and have done an amazing job! The difference between the streets of Kampala compared to Suubi village felt like worlds apart.
The worship camp lasted for 4 days. We had so much fun with the kids and I know that Zach and the rest of the band truly enjoyed teaching them! Zach helped with voice and keys trainings. It was so cool to see how much the kids soaked in every bit of information they were given! Pretty much all of them were self-taught or brand new to music, but extremely talented and eager to learn more. It was inspiring to see! I spent a lot of my time in the baby home. From the moment I saw the babies, my heart melted. When I tell you they were all the cutest babies in the world I truly mean it...they were all so precious and joyful! Just thinking about it now gives me chills. To spend any amount of time at the baby home was such a blessing to me! My heart was so happy the entire time! Most of the babies have been abandoned, some are even found in the trash or in the woods, so the fact that they have a place to live and people who love them and are nursing them back to good health is one of the greatest things I can think of.
I also spent a lot of time with some of the older girls who were a part of the worship camp. We even had an all-girls hang out for part of the camp that turned out to be one of my favorite memories from the trip! We all sat around and talked about things like inner beauty, leadership, and teamwork. Some of the advice and ideas the girls were sharing with each other was so wise and powerful. It's common in their culture to be very quiet because it is considered respectful, but hearing them start to open up and speak boldly was beautiful to me. I loved every minute of it.
As you can tell, I had a life changing experience in Africa. I absolutely left a piece of my heart with those children, and I will most certainly go back again. Some of the girls I met I think about on a regular basis. One girl named Stella even made me a beautiful skirt that I adore! Another girl named Kelly wrote me some of the sweetest letters I have ever received! The joy and generosity that is overflowing out of the children of Watoto is contagious to be around. I cannot wait to go back sometime soon!!
PS- I have to cut myself off from talking more about this trip because I could go on forever! To see more photos, be sure to check out the Africa gallery! :)