This past month three other girls and I were blessed with the opportunity to spend a month serving alongside OPC missionaries in Karamoja, Uganda through RP missions. Our time there was definitely an incredible experience, one that caused each of us to be stretched and grow in unique ways as we learned from the missionaries and participated in the various activities they had planned for us.
The main ministry we were involved with during our time in Karamoja was the Karamoja Education Outreach (KEO). KEO was started about three years ago by one of the missionaries in Karamoja who had noticed that there were no preschool/kindergarten opportunities to help children as they prepare to go into the public school system. So KEO began as a preschool designed for children about ages 5-6, to help them begin to learn how to read, write, learn a little English, and do basic math like counting so that they might be better prepared for school. In addition, they wanted children to be exposed to the gospel through Bible stories, memory verses, and songs. KEO operates out of several different locations, the main school building and then 4 outreach sites that have been added over time. At the outreach sites teachers actually go into the villages and conduct school on a tarp under the trees so that the children don’t have to travel as far to get to school. KEO has also absorbed the responsibility of teaching Bible classes in two of the local public schools. In Uganda, Christian religious education classes are required to be taught in primary schools ( in the equivalent of grades 1-7) two times a week. By teaching these classes, KEO is able to provide a service for the public schools and help to ensure that what is being taught is Biblically accurate.
At the various KEO sites, the members of our team helped mostly with the reading of stories in English and telling the Bible stories with the help of a translator. Twice a week the KEO teachers have a time of training, and so we also had the opportunity to teach them some new games and songs to do with the children such as red light/green light, Simon Says, and Rejoice in the Lord. One of the activities that we brought with us to do with the children was bubbles. Many of the kids had never seen bubbles before, so when we started blowing them they were almost scared of them at first. But they very quickly warmed up to the idea and laughed as they ran around popping bubbles for the entire recess period. Many of the teachers had never done bubbles either, and so they had just as much fun blowing bubbles for the children to pop. At the public schools we were given the opportunity to teach the Christian education classes to the sixth and seventh grade classes. Many of the kids who have made it that far in schooling speak English fairly well and so we were able to do this without the help of translators. We had so much fun interacting not only with the children but with the KEO teachers as well. KEO employs about 20 teachers, all of whom are locals who grew up in Karamoja. Most speak English and all of them have varying levels of education based on how far they were able to go. Through our time at KEO we got to hear many of their stories and the ways that they have been blessed by teaching.
In addition to KEO, the missionaries also have a health clinic as a ministry to the people. Here people are able to get treatment for a variety of common illnesses such as malaria, brucellosis, and parasites. They also go out into the villages and teach basic health lessons on things like the importance of childhood vaccines, what to do when your child is sick, and how to prevent STIs. Our team had the opportunity to go out into the villages with the teachers a couple times to see how the lessons were done and talk with some of the people. There was also an opportunity for some of us to go on a clinic outreach, where they take vaccines and deworming pills to more remote villages where it might be harder for the people to walk all the way to the clinic. We got to help with the distribution of deworming pills to children, weighing of infants, and STI testing. The clinic building that they currently have is old and not in the best of shape, so they have been working on the construction of a new site. The new building is almost complete and they are hoping that they will be moved in by the end of July and early August. One of the small jobs that they had left was to fix some of the trim, so we spent several afternoons helping them finish the paint job at the new site.
A good part of our time in Karamoja was also spent just helping the missionaries with whatever they might need. There was some painting that needed to be done on the mission compound and plenty of opportunities to watch mission kids and help with meals so that the missionaries could be free to do other work that might be needed. Once a week our team would cook dinner for all of the missionaries so they could have a night off from cooking and dishes.
Our time in Karamoja was truly incredible. It was amazing to have the opportunity to experience a culture that is so very different from our own and worship alongside brothers and sisters in Christ living halfway around the world. People living in this region often experience a kind of material poverty that is hard for us to imagine since we come from a place where we have everything in abundance. We got to see and here the testimonies of people who in spite of the great hardships they face are full of the joy of the Lord and have fully placed their trust in him. It was also such a blessing to spend time with the missionaries in Karamoja. Living in rural Uganda definitely isn’t easy. They give up many comforts we get to enjoy everyday and have to navigate many hard situations due to material need and cultural differences. It was a great encouragement to see the humility and faith they had as they called upon the Lord to be their strength and work through them. The mission in Karamoja would definitely appreciate your prayers for the various ministries they have as well as for wisdom and protection as they carry out their work.