Hey everyone. So I’m going to Uganda and back to Israel & Palestine. Yup, all in one trip.
In high school, I watched a video that taught me a little about the war in Uganda: Where the region was going through civil war and rebels were pillaging villages and taking children as child soldiers. I remember being so moved by this that I did the thing: bought the t-shirt, shared the video, and maybe donated some of my allowance in order to receive a cool bracelet or poster. I may have even tried to sell shirts and perform a dance at a fundraiser, haha. That was all I could really do at my age and compared to the knowledge I have now, I’m thankful for being exposed to the information regarding the turmoil of the LRA even though my knowledge may have only scratched the surface.
In college, I started to attend good ol’ ROCKHARBOR Church. Crazy to think I’m here: working for a church while doing my photography business. I think working at a church was the last thing I thought I would be doing. Throughout my years there, there would also be weekends where they would highlight their global partnerships such as Mexico, Uganda, and India. I’ve always been keen to travel and have been fortunate to do so, but in terms of mission trips, I never did one through a church. During one of these Uganda Highlight Weekends in 2013, there was a call to support the ministry. A little place called Gulu Bible Community Church: a church planted almost 10 years ago. There was even a guy on stage talking about how he sponsored a child and never had the opportunity to Uganda. The year he was able to go, he said how never thought he would ever get to meet the child he was sponsoring but one day, the child who he’s only see in a photo came running to him with tears down his face. I really felt compelled to sponsor a child that weekend even though I knew I would never ever be able to meet her. Her name is Lamunu Shila. However, knowing I might have a chance to actually meet her is completely nuts to me. I was that guy in the story.
We just had a small team return from Uganda in the summertime to serve and this trip is specifically catered to celebrated the 10th anniversary for the Gulu Bible Community Church. After these 10 years, many branches of the church have been established, including another location that I will flying in one day early to visit, Guru Guru. Due to road conditions and transportation difficulties, people from each branch have never really seen the other churches or have met their church family from the other side of the the city. I’m so excited that we get to play a part in helping all the churches come together to celebrate the church, all that God has been doing in the community, visit the medical clinics, and help foster the growth of education, healthcare, and fellowship with as much love and work as we can give.
The three things I am most excited about are
- the possibility of meeting Lamunu Shila in person. I’m also excited to meet our brothers and sisters across the world, build a relationship with them, and do as much as possible to contribute the self-sustainability of the region and church
- getting to visually record the experience through photography in that others will be compelled to support the ministry and maybe even go to Gulu
- helping other team members bring a makeshift photobooth so that families can have printed portraits
- getting to be a part of something bigger than my talents, abilities, and myself: a story that has been ongoing for 10 years led my people who are much more experienced and even passionate that I.
I have never been to Uganda. Let alone any other country in Africa and the closest I have been was either the Rock of Gibraltar to play with monkeys or the Canary Islands to expand my knowledge of photography. As excited as I am to visit and serve in a place I’ve never been before, I’m more excited for the reason that we are sending yet another team of individuals here: to love others and continue the relationship that is usually sustained from afar. More info here.
Israel & Palestine
I’m a overjoyed to say that I will be returning to Israel & Palestine this year once the Uganda portion of the trip is over. In January of 2015, I recall being in the region, thinking, “I don’t know if I’ll ever return here. I’d love to, but I just don’t know what that will look like in my future.” I was fortunate enough to have a lot of opportunities to talk about the work that was done there, the things, I learned, the people I’ve met. This political topic is very important to me, very relevant to me as an American-Christian, and one that I want to continue dissecting, understanding, and supporting. I want others to understand why I’m passionate about awareness and the fight for peace in the region.
After the first trip: I returned not only fired-up, but honestly quite confused. Why people thought the way they thought, why people who should have no business supporting the idea of peace do, and what our jobs is as advocates, American ones at that. Here are my daily blog posts about the 2015 trip.
Here is what I wrote about in 2014 when preparing for my first trip:
“My love for others continued to grow, and my shyness was tested. Now, the opportunity has come to go on this trip in order to not only speak to others, but learn so much more about a world conflict that is known of, yet not known.
Although the region has been in conflict for many decades now, I have never thought too much about the reasons behind it. I asked, “Why can’t there just be peace?” For a few weeks in the late summertime of this year, this was definitely a hot topic. The articles people shared, what I read on BBC, and the common knowledge that Americans have of the conflict definitely aided my understanding of what was going on, however there is still so much bias and misunderstanding. I think that going there and talking to people from both sides of the conflict and hearing their stories would really help me understand things better. In turn, I can share that knowledge with people when I come home.
Secondly, as a Christian, this trip will help my understanding of the faith grow. Putting the cities, landmarks, and streets from the Bible into context would make my visual understanding of the rich history in the text come to life. The basis of Jesus’ teachings was love and forgiveness. By meeting with, listening to, and sharing meals with people of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian descent from all different walks of life, what better way to learn about these principles from people who live in constant conflict with their neighbor?
I believe that making bold decisions and sacrifices is the best way to get things done. Peace won’t take a day, or year, or maybe ten, but partnering with people who believe that being pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace is a start to making a huge difference in the world. People of this land need to know that there are people who love them and are with them, no sides.”
So what exactly will we be doing? Our group will be partnering with the Telos Group whose vision is security, freedom, and dignity for every human being in the region. They will organize a trip for us that allows us to encounter so many different narratives from both Israeli and Palestinian histories. We will be briefed about modern day society and politics, meet with a Melkite Archbishop, Israeli military general, a Muslim Sheikh, Israeli journalists and human rights activists, Palestinian peace activists, an Orthodox Jewish family, and more. We will visit a Christian church, an Arab Advocacy center, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, a Jewish settlement, etc.
- Keep an open mind. There will be so many conflicting stories that we will hear and it be hard.
- Be strong enough to absorb the pain of someone else’s brokenness
- See the humanity in others, have empathy.
- Realize that it cannot be “Us vs. Them” if this will work.
- Walk amongst our brothers and sisters across the world just like Jesus would have. Loving people and listening to them when they are broken and persecuted.
- To share what I learn, to share these peoples stories, and bring awareness back home to people who really need to hear it.
The Hard Part
I’m truly inviting you guys to be part of this story. I’d appreciate the support. I can’t just send out cookie-cutter letters and not explain the trip and my heart for it in full detail. I want to thank you in advance and meet up over coffee to debrief you about what I learn from this trip. I want more people to have a heart for peace, for the world and for the people.
Alright, so I have to raise $4,500 for the trip & need approximately $200-300 for vaccinations.
Asking for money is hard. However, I realized that it is a way to declare complete dependence and to admit that it is okay to ask others for help. So here I am. If you can support me financially, click here. Anything helps. There is an electronic option and you can use snail-mail. Also all the mandatory information about tax-deductible donations is included there.
If you cannot donate financially, I still want to invite you into this. If you have burning questions to ask someone on the ground, I would be happy to do that. It makes the journey so much worth-while. Thank you so much for getting this far into it. Please, please, as me all the questions you have! I don’t know everything and I won’t be able to answer it all, but this is why I am going on this trip.