Going to Uganda in May with Yobel International was an experience that helped to put the pictures of a fascinating continent into focus. At 19, a college roommate handed me a book about the Rwandan genocide that changed many aspects of my life including the direction in which I was heading. Since that time, I have studied international politics and have read up on many aspects of various countries’ histories in Africa and how they have impacted their current political states. Somehow in the mix of all this, I failed to study up on the political influences within the country of Uganda. I had read about their victories regarding their AIDS prevention programs, but never about the failures with an ongoing civil war. Somehow, I had fallen in line with so many people’s mindsets of how Uganda is Africa’s success story.
With Yobel, I feel I received “the whole African Experience”.
We went from extreme urban areas to extreme rural areas. The only thing I missed seeing were the elephants and giraffes. We met wonderful people along the way and caught a glimpse of the life of an African man or woman. I will never forget their faces or their warm hearts. Nor will I forget the stories they told me and how these strangers opened up to a girl who was so clueless about their strife. I know that we were not exposed to an honest day in the life of these people, especially since on the farm we were in the training room most of the day, but we did witness a different culture; one that has endured so much. Every time I think of the people I met in Uganda, my heart swells with love. One thing that sticks out for me is how when you would enter a room, you would be told “you’re welcome”, and at first I honestly did not understand and was confused by the saying. Then the little light bulb went off and I understood I was being welcomed into the room, the establishment, wherever. Another aspect of these people that stuck out for me was the love they have for God and how their various shades of worship were much more potent then what I have ever seen here in the U.S.
My biggest regret on the trip is that I felt shy and uninformed about the people I was meeting and did not engage in too many in-depth conversations. It is a whole different experience to listen to someone talk about what they have witnessed and endured versus reading it in a book; at times it was intimidating and I could not wrap my mind around it. Closer to the end of the trip, as I started to understand the culture and lives of the people we were meeting, I was able to engage more. The last day of our journey, a handful of us took a guided boat ride on Lake Victoria. Our guide spoke with us about various troubles in the country such as the corruption and injustices in their prison systems. The guide told us of how a man was accused of killing his wife and spent 11 years in prison before going in front of a judge; all the while his wife was alive and well and he had suffered all over a piece of land that some officials wanted.
Since being home, I have begun to learn more about the country of Uganda and its past. The more I learn, the more questions upon questions I have. I wonder if the Acholi men and women still identify with their warrior tribal pasts; about how many women I met suffered horrific abuses and what has kept them going. I would like to ask more Ugandans about how they really feel about their government and what they would like to see for their country in the years to come. Other questions I would pose are how various people from the northern and southern areas of Uganda feel about Museveni and his achievements and/or defeats.
I went with Yobel on an “exposure” trip, and I was honestly exposed to so much that it has taken me a long time to break down all I saw and experienced.
This trip helped me to open my eyes a little wider to the plight of what so much of our world is up against. I look forward to joining Yobel on more of these trips and to gain a better understanding of this world and what God has in store for my life in regards to these experiences. My goal is to bring information and understanding to as many people as I can about how most of our world lives and to show them there is so much more outside of our own lives and what we know to be true.
By: Lisa Curtis of Aurora, Colorado
Yobel's heads out to Juarez, Mexico with a team of 10 today to conduct a Paradigm Shift Business Experience Course, offer new designs to the Mujeres Fuertes Tailoring Initiative, and build chicken coops for Amigos Ministries' Beautifying the Barrio program. Our next Exposure Trip is scheduled for January 3-17 to Calcutta and Darjeeling India. If you'd like to join us, email Irene Jaw at firstname.lastname@example.org!