We're in Jinja

I'm back! And yes, I love it! My heart is full and I'm overwhelmed with the joy associated with seeing old friends. I love the staff, I love the students, and I love Jinja.

Yesterday, I paused to look around the multi-purpose room of the CoG office. I was overwhelmed by the colliding of my worlds, as I am accompanied on this trip by some of my closest California friends. Looking around and seeing my Ugandan family meeting my California community, I felt joy. I cannot believe that I get to spend this week with both my communities, doing what I love doing most, in a place that has forever changed me. It's a dream come true.

Four years ago my first trip to Uganda was for Camp Allstars. Camp Allstars is Children of Grace’s annual camp for approximately 90 of our sponsored students. We spend the week living together while we learn about life skills, reproductive health, and the Bible. The week is always jammed packed with food, games, and musical worship. It has become one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Today Camp Allstars 2012 began. The children were each picked up in their respective villages and then arrived at the Lords Meade Vocational College eager and excited for a week of camp. I was one of the first mzungus at the bus to greet them, as I wanted to see and hug the children I love and have missed so much. I was humbled as kids would come off of the bus and shyly say, “Hi Risa.” I would return the greeting with a huge hug.

On this trip I have been particularly struck by how much it feels as if I’ve never left. I can't believe it's already been 1.5 years since I lived here and six months since my last visit. The staff is still made up of my good friends and the kids are much taller, but I haven’t forgotten their names. I still remember details about their lives and they know and remember me. As I drive around Jinja I still remember which unmarked streets are one way and the storeowners still greet me by name. I still feel overwhelmingly deep love each time I look into the eyes of a small Ugandan child. I think more than anything, on this particular trip I am just sad to only be here for two weeks. Mentally and emotionally I feel as if I am ready to return and stay for a while. However, I do not feel as if that timing is for right now, and I am okay with that. The students are incredible hands with our Ugandan staff that is unbelievably gifted at their jobs of mentorship. I simply love these children and I miss them when I am away.

My camp team is blue, we are the Superstars. We just created our team banner and I was able to teach the kids each how to paint stars. Jeff, Shelby, and Nicole are also on my team- we're having a blast! In a few minutes we are going to make blue tie-dye t-shirts. My kids are sweet. Some are familiar faces and some are new ones. I am excited to get to know each one.

Nicole and I waiting for campers to arrive.