Saturday, August 27, 2011

Buddy's Buddies

There's one thing that tops our packing list every single year. And that is our little friend Buddy. We can't leave for Uganda without him. He's packed safely into my suitcase every year and is ready to give out hugs to anyone who comes his way.

His favorite place is Igamba. I brought him along for the Saturday program. The remembered Buddy right away. I didn't even need to introduce him. They already knew his name. After a short reminder that Buddy's home is in America so the kids should be sure that he made it back to one of the team members before they left, he was loved on by young and old alike.

Buddy especially enjoys seeing old friends. So he was so happy to finally make his way to Mariam and Sophie.

But, he was most happy to see Bridget. And I think Bridget felt the same way. She held onto him, hugging him wherever she went. Until...

Buddy met Alice. She's the daughter of one of AMG's volunteer teachers, and she loved Buddy. She wasn't too keen on sharing him with anyone else. So once she found Buddy, they were the best of friends for the rest of the day.

Buddy also made friends with Alice's bear, Barry. Ok, so maybe his name wasn't Barry, but Buddy thinks it would be a good name for a bear.

Once Alice got her hands on Buddy, she didn't want to let him go. She was pretty confident she was taking him home with her which meant we kept a pretty close eye on Alice for the rest of the day. Luckily she was cuter than cute. My dad (of course) taught her to say okie dokie, and also got her to say Deeeee-licious!

I'm not sure how we ended up getting Buddy from her in the end, but he made it safely back home with us, a little dirtier and more loved than ever!

- Aly
(This post was approved by Buddy himself. He gave it two paws up.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Live a Life of Love

This sweet little girl captured the hearts of myself and my friends Ashley and Karen.

It's not hard to see why with those big beautiful eyes, the long lashes, and the adorable smile. It could've turned into quite an argument about who would get to bring her home. She was always standing at the gate watching us. She would come to the center wearing rags. The first time we saw her, she was wearing shorts that were so tattered you could barely find a place where they intact. She also came at one point wearing a shirt for a skirt.

Her belly was big, but still her smile was bigger. It's amazing to me that these children can come from such poverty and still smile, still laugh, and still play.

Some of the ladies at our church made some clothes for us to take with us to give out to the kids. So the last day we were in her village, Ashley tracked her down. She came and stood at the gate as usual. The unsponsored kids know they can't come in unless invited, so I went to bring her into the office.

At first I think she was a little afraid of what was going on. My mom found a neon green shirt and small pair of shorts for her to wear, and she realized she was getting new clothes. Ashley took her by the hand and led her back outside. We all gathered together, the team, staff, and all the kids that were around the center. We held hands and began to pray. Ashley said that during the prayer, the little girl's shorts fell down (they were a little big). She said, the little one looked up at her with those big brown eyes then let go of her hand, pulled up the shorts, and reached back for Ashley's hand.

Somtimes the deepest connections aren't made through spending hours with someone, but just a small moment in time. Sometimes gratitude isn't found in what someone says, but seen in a simple glance. And the greatest love that we can give is rarely spoken through words, but shown through actions.

"Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ." - Ephesians 5:2

- Aly

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Loving Deeply

Despite some of the heartache we have been feeling over the past week, we have to rejoice because we serve an awesome God, and He truly blessed us through the ministry over the past few weeks. One of the best parts about going to the same areas every year is that we get to see many of the same people. We love to meet and make new friends, but it's even more special when we see people over and over. We watch kids grow. We watch families change. And through it all we make some very close bonds that we wouldn't trade for the world.

Take Matiya. We met him in 2008. We were doing home visitation in his village, and the national workers had found some of the neediest children for us to take a picture of and try to find sponsors for. Matiya was one of them. He stood there in his green corduroy overalls, only briefly glancing at us. Now, after three years of sponsorship and love we went to Matiya's home. As he saw the team coming down the path he started skipping toward us. And when he saw my dad he ran as fast as he could and jumped into his arms, almost knocking my dad over. He was so happy to welcome us to his home, he could hardly sit still. And when we left, he held my dad's hand until we made it to the bus.

My mom has a special place in her heart for Mercy. She is the sister to Eva (one of the girls that we sponsor) and is sponsored by my grandmother (my mom's mom). Mercy always comes looking for my mom. She knows that no matter what is going on in her life, my mom will lend an ear to listen. Mercy is facing some very difficult circumstances in her life right now, but she knows that my mom's love for her is strong.

I've known Patricia, an AMG national worker, since our first trip in 2007. What I didn't know at that time was the special bond God would forge between us. We have become good friends over the years. We've seen each other through some tough times between my sickness and some difficulties she faced last year. One of those was the sudden death of her mother. We kept in contact with each other, and this year when my mom offered to be a mother figure in her life (something Patricia had been praying hard for) in the blink of an eye, she went from friend to big sister. And by that I mean she went from picking on me once in a while to picking on me all the time. As a seasoned younger sister, I played my part and gave it right back to her in the most loving way. I've never had a big sister, but if I had to chose one, I'd pick her.

Those are just some of the sweet friendships we picked up with while in Uganda and just some of the reminders that while sometimes the work feels hopeless, sometimes we get it right. We know our job isn't to fix the world (though it would be nice if we could). But it is our job to love with all that we have. It's not always easy. Sometimes loving so deeply breaks our hearts. But there are also those times when it brings us overwhelming joy.

- Aly

It's a Process

When we meet up with teams, we are given a packet of information at the end of every trip. It includes many debriefing questions and also a rundown of some of the emotions we might experience as we come home. It doesn't matter how many times we go through the process, I think we always seem to experience every bit of the ups and downs of returning home.

I was going to write this post last night. After the post I wrote Saturday, I wanted to share about how we've started to move from the despair we felt the last week and first few days home to a steady desire and resolve to do what we can for even just a few people. Our conversations had changed from trying to process what we saw and almost reliving it with each other, to talking mostly about what steps we can take to help the situations we found, to inspire more people to want to sponsor children, and what we look forward to for next year.

Then there was today. I drove to the chiropractor to undo some of what the 20 hour flight and Ugandan roads did to my back. I was alone in the car (alone for the first time in over a month) and I passed an old man walking with a cane. He was wearing a hat that made me think he could be a veteran, and he was hitch hiking. I knew that as a young woman driving alone I shouldn't be driving around old men I don't know. But there was still that part of me that knew how wrong it is to live in a world where we can't trust one another enough to help each other.

And I completely lost it. Tears started streaming down my face, because the sight of that man brought me back in time a few weeks as I sat in the AMG truck in downtown Kampala. I watched as a girl no more than 10 years old stood at our window begging for money. I could hear her voice as she said over and over, "Hello, hello." And though my mind knew I couldn't give her anything, my heart was screaming, "What are you doing just sitting there?"

And as I drove past that man, tears streaming down my face I wondered is there anyone I can actually help? I go to Africa and am surrounded by the immense needs of the people, and I come home and still I can't escape it.

I know we're supposed to be focusing on the postive work we accomplished on the trip. And I know without a doubt that we made a difference in people's lives while we were there. I know for a fact that children who have nothing and no one felt deeply loved and I know that sometimes that's enough. But it doesn't always feel that way.

Getting back into life at home is a process, and God is still working on us. Just when you think you have it down, an old man comes your way and breaks you. And the pain is deep, and it brings up so many other memories and emotions. But I know that with everything that happens, God is still working. Every time God breaks my heart, He is at work. He can't give me strength to stand up for something if I didn't fall down and get a little broken first.

I ask for your continued prayers through this process. Pray that in the end, God will bring us to a place that despite the heartache, we can make a difference in the name of Christ for these people. Please also pray for our teammates as they continue to work through the coming home process. And finally, we ask for prayers of good health. Some of our team became very sick on this trip and they need healing. Pray for the ones who are healthy, that they would stay that way. (And yes, I am among the healthy so I praise God for that!)

- Aly

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today has been a very tough day. You'd think that with all the times we've gone to Uganda, come home, and gone through the process of readjusting to life at home that we'd be pros. But I think that the more we go the more deep and lasting connections we build. And as we connect on a deeper level with the people, it becomes so much harder to come home and reconcile in our minds the things we see.

More than ever during this trip we felt the tug and pull between the progress we are seeing in the lives of the children and the hurt and suffering that continues to surround us while we're there. We see positive changes, but we also see the scars that past hurt has left behind. We see people rising up out of the suffering, and others who are crushed by the circumstances they face.

And at times it's too much to bear. My mom said something today that really hit me. While we were in Uganda she was really resisting the trip to Igamba. That village is a very difficult place to visit and she knows that. We were initially supposed to spend a week there with the team joining us at the end of the week. Expenses kept us with the team, but my mom had really been resisting it anyways because she knew how much it would break her heart to be there. So we only ended up spending two full days there and it completely broke us. She said it was as if God was saying He didn't need a week to break our hearts for those people. All He needed was two days, nine home visits. That was all it took. We visited homes of kids we've known for years. We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. We saw families thriving from the support they receive through AMG. But we also saw families completely crushed by life's circumstances.

A father leaves and now the mother can't provide food for her three children. Kids who are going to stay for two weeks and face the mother who abandoned them and left them without food for years. And the hardest part is the depth of love and connection we have with these kids. One of these kids was one of our sponsored children who stays at Upendo (she was home during her school vacation). The others were also from Upendo. Kids we consider as a part of our family, that we love as our own. And to have them sobbing in my arms, soaking my shirt with their tears is so hard. But then to leave them and come home, it's even harder.

A team member took this picture while we were visiting one home in Igamba. I think it perfectly captures the hurt and despair each of us was facing at that time.

At home we can hardly walk past each other without breaking out in tears. There's still so much to work through in our minds and hearts, reconciling the hopeless with the hopeful. Please continue to pray for us, but more importantly pray for the children we left behind. Pray that God's presence will be felt with them. Pray for their hearts.

- Aly

Friday, August 19, 2011

Punch Bugs and Other Weird Happenings

We're still trying to adjust to life again. I'm not quite ready to talk about serious stuff yet. Our last weekend spent in Igamba was a rough one for us, and we're still trying to fully process it all. I haven't really allowed myself to stop and think about everything yet, but I know the time must come.

In the meantime I'll share with you some random tidbits. On the day the team was to arrive, we pulled into the gas station to gas up and we stumbled upon the green volkswagon beetle from this post . So I had to snap a quick picture of it to show all of you.

And then the next day we came across this while riding the bus with the team to Upendo.

Everyone looked at me like I was completely insane when I yelled out punch bug because apparently I was the only one looking out the front window. After that we were surprised to find countless bugs (and not the creepy-crawly kind, though we did see those too).

After going to Uganda 5 times, one might think we've experienced all there is to experience there, but one would be very wrong. I had a completely new and strange experience while in Igamba last weekend. When we first arrived on Friday evening I could see Sophie walking toward the center so I went out to greet her. It didn't take long for a crowd of kids to gather. As I was standing behind Sophie, with my arms around her shoulders another child came and slid under my arm as well. The kids are quite interested in our skin, and this child was no exception. At first she was just touching my arm. Then she started pulling at the hair on my arm. Then she started to pet it, which led to her rubbing her face with my arm. And then, very suddenly and without warning she licked me from the middle of my forearm to my elbow. Never a dull moment in Igamba!

We're still trying to fight the jet lag. My mom was in bed by 8 last night, and I was shortly after that. I was wide awake by 4am and have been up ever since.

I ask you to continue to pray for us as we work through everything that happened. Also pray for our teammates, most of which are experiencing coming home after their first trip. And finally, please pray for my dear friend Ashley who I met on the trip. She is experiencing some health issues that started on the trip (I will spare you the details) and needs healing.

Thank you.

- Aly

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Just a quick post to let you all know that we made it home safe and sound. There's nothing better after 24 hours straight of travel than to hear the flight attendant come over the speaker to say, "We will be on the ground in a few minutes."

We were greeted by our friend Allen, who we are so thankful for. He puts up with our smelly selves every year to take us out for pizza and wings and bring us home from the airport.

I didn't get to update during the trip as much as I would've liked to, but stick around. Those updates will be coming soon. But first we need some time to rest, recover, and reflect.

Have you ever used those moving sidewalks in the airports? They place them strategically around the airport for people who are in a hurry to make their flight...or people who are too lazy to walk on their own. But if you walk on it at your normal pace it's like you're running. But inevitably the moving sidewalk ends and you have to readjust your speed as you step off. It takes a minute of wobbling and sometimes tripping before you get your step back.

Well this trip has been a lot like that moving sidewalk, and these next few days are the adjustment to normal walking again. So as we adjust to life at home, we ask you to pray for us as we process the things we saw and did. And please bear with us as we wobble along for the next little while.

God is still doing big things through the ministry done on this trip. Please pray that everything will be worked out according to His will. Thank you for your prayers and support!

- Aly

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I haven't been doing so good with updating the blog and for that I aplogize. It has been so busy with the team here. Between the ministry, waiting for food, spending time with my awesome teammates, washing laundry, preparing for the next day, and sleeping there hasn't been a whole lot of down time.

The ladies were supposed to do home visits this morning at Namugoga, but it poured pretty consistently all night so we knew when we woke up the program for the day would change...or there would be 11 ladies pushing the bus through the mud.

We are now preparing to go to Igamba tomorrow. In some ways I can't wait to go. I've had this urge to run there this week, but at the same time it's the toughest place to go. One of my goals has been to enjoy every minute of this trip, whether it's waiting to go somewhere, getting somewhere, or doing the ministry I want to enjoy every part.

I'm especially enjoying my time with some of my teammates. I've had so much fun laughing and carrying on with Karen and Ashley. And we have a very similar heart for the ministry. For me, this is what the trip is all about - making lasting connections with people, whether it be the workers, the kids, or the team members. We can come here and do the most amazing things, but without the relationships, without sharing the love of Christ with others, our work is meaningless.

Ashley, Karen, and Aly on the bus.

- Aly

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Doing Something Right

We met a little girl who is going to school at Upendo (she doesn't live there, but walks there every day). Her name is Debra and she is absolutely adorable. She caught our eye as soon as we saw her. She has the most piercing eyes and the sweetest smile. We hugged her, smiled at her, and played with her (as well as the others of course).

We later met her father who is a local pastor and also drives a boda boda. When we met him he told us that when Debra came home she told him that she met some new friends at school and they love her so much.

The funny thing is that we never actually said the words "I love you" to her. But she knew, through our actions that we love her.

Our verse for this trip has been 1 John 3:18, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth."

When a child can tell you love her even though you have never said those words, you know you're doing something right.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tough Stuff

The team joined us on Wednesday, and we've been together ever since ministering to the kids at Upendo as well as doing the Saturday program today. It has been so busy and between doing the ministry work, spending time with team members, writing in our journals, and sleeping it's been hard to find time to update the blog much.

Yesterday was a very tough day. We had to say good bye to the kids at Upendo because they're going on their break from school. They go home to stay with their relatives. Some stay with Uncles, sisters, or grandparents. Almost as soon as we arrived out at Upendo, the taxi came to take some of the kids to Igamba. So the good-byes began immediately.

We were doing ok, holding it together as best we could. We connected with these kids so quickly and strongly this year. They kept coming up to us and hugging us. Then they would walk away and come back a few minutes later and hug us again and again. But one of the kids came walking toward us and when she reached my dad she started crying and we all lost it.

Having made such a connection with the kids and knowing where they're going to spend the next few weeks is so tough. And just as bad was the kids who are not allowed to go back. There are a few who are too sickly to go. My mom found Joy collapsed on her bed just sobbing uncontrollably because she wanted to go but couldn't. It is literally a matter of life and death for her but it doesn't matter. It's still her family and still her home. So we had kids crying because they had to stay and others crying because they had to go. By the end of the day we were emotionally spent.

Today was an emotionally easier with time to spend at the childcare center at Masajja with the kids. My friend Karen was able to meet her sponsored child for the first time and it was so great to see that connection being made. I was able to meet with some of the kids whose sponsors we know.

So we're just a little over halfway through our trip. Still so much ministry left, but yesterday was just the beginning of the tough stuff. We'll soon be leaving for Igamba and there are many more good-byes left.

We appreciate your prayers, and ask that you would continue to pray that God will use us to make a difference in the lives of these people.

- Aly

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Week In

Things have been so busy for us since we arrived. There's so much to fit in in such a short amount of time. Yesterday we spent the whole day out at Upendo. We did some painting, but mostly we interacted with the staff, teachers, and kids. I think it was my favorite day so far!

After lunch I took some time to teach the kids how to make friendship bracelets. I started out with about 4 girls but it didn't take much time for word to spread and more kids to show up. In all I think I ended up with about 40-50 kids making bracelets all at once. But as one learned, they showed the next. They had so much fun. They were too funny, trying to make sure they got it just right. They were sitting there so quietly and so intent on their work.

I think every night so far we have collapsed into bed and had no problems falling asleep.

Today we worked at Bukoto, one of the childcare centers AMG has in Kampala. We spent some time encouraging some of the kids at the school the center is attached to and then the rest of the time we spent helping do paperwork at the office.

We have now been here for one week and have only 2 more to go. There's still so much ministry left to do, and we're trying to enjoy every minute of it.

The team is meeting up with us today. They should be arriving here at the guesthouse any minute. We are looking forward to what the Lord has in store for us as we minister with them.

- Aly

Monday, August 1, 2011


I was hoping to be able to update yesterday, but the network was down so we didn't have internet. Electricity has been sporadic as well. We are blessed to have a generator at our guesthouse so we have electricity at least for a little while before we go to bed. The weather has been strange. Sometimes it's hot, other times it's cold. I woke up in the middle of the night the other night and was shivering. But then last night I was so hot.

We spent most of our day today at Upendo. We did some painting this morning, (in case you need proof)

and then spent the afternoon with the kids. After lunch we met with the older boys and girls to talk about problems of adolescence and then we also talked about alcohol. Kids in Uganda face many of the same dificulties that kids in the US face. We were able to share our own experiences with them, and we pray that they will take them to heart and learn from them. They asked so many good questions that we ended up talking with them over 2 hours. We learned quite a lot more about the kids than we knew before. And they learned so much more about us too.

It's not taking long for us to bond with these kids. It helps that we've already established the relationships in years past. But I think, at least for me, I'm quickly growing attached to them. They crack me up. They make me cry. They challenge me to pray more, worship more, and live more.

- Aly