Under the Mango Tree: Reflections on Two Weeks Spent in Uganda
Tigerville, SC (August 19, 2019) Under the mango tree in Hoima Uganda, roughly a hundred children gather, eagerly waiting for Vacation Bible School to begin. Sixteen short-term missionaries from the USA raised support and traveled to minister to these precious children and their families. The sacrifices such as hot showers, air conditioning, and cultural familiarity all seemed utterly insignificant as the days passed and the relationships between the natives and the travelers cemented.
Unlike many mission teams, this particular group of missionaries from the states did not bring their pre-planned ministry program. The mission objective of this trip was to “come alongside” the people of Hoima and to ask them where would it be possible for us to step in and help. This ministerial approach opened doors of service that were far greater than what we could have imagined from our various seats of service in the USA. Similar to churches in the USA, select leaders from Hoima Baptist Fellowship Church wrote a Vacation Bible School curriculum and were passionately recruiting help in their community.
A group of sixteen friendly foreigners, anxious to serve, was an answer to their prayers. The Vacation Bible School program was held at two different locations in the city. Well over a hundred families were served, and hundreds of children were acknowledged, celebrated, and deeply touched by the team’s impact. Most importantly, dozens of children gave their hearts to the Lord and were radically saved through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As you would imagine, ministry happened far from the shade of the mango tree too. The team members taught in a local high school and college, assisted a local musical artist in developing songs for his low-frequency radio station, and coached young adults in how to play basketball the “American way.” For two weeks, serving the people of Hoima Uganda was a lifestyle. Whenever or whatever was needed, or even requested, these 16 missionaries quickly responded in joyful service.
In John 13:14-15 Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Foot washing doesn’t sound glamorous. For many, neither does short-term missionary work. And, in full honesty, eating “barbequed goat on a stick” from an ambitious street vendor at the risk of stomachache is not ideal. However, knowing and experiencing the life-altering practice of short-term missions is not “misty-eyed romanticism,” it is real, it is significant, and it matters.
Billy Graham once famously said, “It could be that one of the greatest hindrances to evangelism is the poverty of our own experience.” I wonder what your life would look like “under the mango tree.”
For information on how to explore opportunities to minister on a short-term mission trip or to assist persons in raising financial support, please contact Joshua Gilmore, Baptist Collegiate Ministry director, and live life with increasing beauty and gospel significance.
Written by NGU Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director Joshua Gilmore.
Pictured above: Joshua Gilmore with children of Hoima Uganda during a two-week trip this summer.