Reflections From a Missionary

In America, a new school year for elementary and middle schools began mid-late August. In Uganda, the final school term of the year starts in September. Wings of Hope Christian Academy (WOHCA) 700+ students, faculty and staff embarked on finishing this school year well. Andrew Menees, shares his reflections on experiencing the education system during his 3 week missions project this past summer.

In Uganda, school life has a different meaning. Teachers typically get paid low wages and students often will walk miles to school. They both seem to take advantage of giving and receiving education and they see it as a very important part of life no matter how hard it may be for the students to get there or for the teachers to take their time to really make sure each student is getting a good education.

At WOHCA, every teacher I met is very passionate about caring for their students both individually and as a class. Francis, one of the teachers that I observed, really made me appreciate his teaching. Though he was a science teacher, he taught more than science to his students. He taught them how to give better presentations, how to spell words like hypha and mycelium, and that was only in one day. He isn’t getting paid any extra to teach them more, but he does anyway because he wants the students to be able to leave the class knowing more than the biology of a mushroom.

As we traveled to other cities, we could see students in uniforms walking in almost every place we passed. They also usually have hours from 8 to 5 but have more frequent breaks to play and visit with each other. But in between net ball (a game the girls play) and football (soccer), the team and I got to look at some of WOHCA exams and were able to see how intelligent they are. We read through the English papers of the P7 class ( 8th grade) and they seemed to know the subject better than many American students I know.

I can say both the teachers and the students are fun, loving, engaging, and just happy to be where they are. The education goes beyond a designated subject a teacher is hired to teach and the students are intelligent and surprisingly focused on learning more. I honestly loved seeing the people I met [at WOHCA] and I was very grateful for the opportunity to experience a Ugandan school and all the people in it. It’s amazing to see how God is already working here. He has placed each individual where He wants them because He knows what they need in order to see the love He has for them.

To learn more about how our school is strategically placed to provide quality education in a high at risk population in Uganda, click here.

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Pastors Conference

Our first day couple of days started out kind of hectic. We planned on the 75 people that signed up for the conference to be present, but only 25 people showed up off of that list. Then we had the issue with the nametags. Finally, attendance was challenging because last names are pretty difficult and the first names are very common with other Ugandans. The good thing is that even though there were difficulties, everything worked out! We still had a full house and over 80 men and women regularly attended throughout the conference. The lessons were well planned and presented by Jeremiah and the translators.

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These people showed up from very long distances and were all eager to learn and experience God. Some traveled over 40 miles! When we began worship, I was amazed at how they could fill a room with their voices and how joyfully they sing and dance to worship God. When it came to the lessons, they asked very intelligent questions and even tried to test Jeremiah’s knowledge. It was cool that Jeremiah knew and had all the Scripture to back up his answers. I really believe this conference made a difference and one participant’s story, Godfrey, stuck with me.

I met a man at the conference, named Godfrey, who traveled about 30 miles to be here. He is a pastor at a Baptist church in his city and he said they are in the process of planting more churches in that general area. I asked him what he does when he isn’t being a pastor and he answered “I am always a pastor no matter where I am at.” Though he has another job as a personal driver, he is always spreading the word of God while giving rides to people. He said that that was what he learned from this conference: He is always doing his job as a pastor no matter where he is at. He doesn’t show up on Sundays and give a great sermon and then forget who God is throughout the rest of the week. He loves God every day of the week.

I’ve realized that what they are doing is similar to what this team and I am doing. We’re traveling far when we have little money (even though we are rich comparing to Ugandans), we’re not working for pay when we may financially need to, we’re eager to learn about the culture and learn how to help them when we may not know how, and we’re doing it for God because He has sent us. Though we may have questioned going, for reasons such as safety or just not feeling comfortable, and though we shouldn’t have questioned it, we still came and are working for God so that more people know about Him. If we had decided it was too stressful to leave work or too scary to travel 21 hours away from home, then these pastors would not be here today to learn. We would have delayed or maybe even stopped what they were planning to do with the information from this conference. That’s delaying 86 people from telling others about Jesus. We’ve come a long way to tell a lot of people how to live out their faith by being local missionaries just like these pastors come a long way to hear how to be local missionaries. Helping 86 people who already love Jesus tell even more people about Jesus, that’s a huge win for this small team.

It’s great that we can see Romans 10:15 right before our eyes. “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” We’re coming to Uganda to preach and the Ugandans at this conference are coming to us so they can continue to preach to everyone else in Uganda as we leave. This mission trip and conference is not only helping the people of Uganda, it is also helping me grow with Christ and see how quickly and effectively He works. The better I know Him, the better I can tell others about Him. If I truly believe and work for Him, others can see Him in me and hopefully one day others will see Him in them.

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by Katlynn Menees

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Joy Through Pain

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

We haven’t really had much internet since the last blog, so sorry that it has taken awhile to get another one up. Plenty has happened since we’ve landed, though. We’ve experienced the Ugandan way of sales (Ty is a great negotiator, by the way), we’ve experienced their food which is very carb heavy, their delicious tea and coffee, and then we got to experience their hospital and the Hospice Tororo workers and patients. We spent two days with the Hospice Tororo field staff (Agatha, Martha, and Rita) as they took us out to show us what they do daily. In one day we drove over 40 miles and visited eight different patients; all who have some sort of cancer, and some who are HIV positive.

Every day, these ladies go out to see how the patients are doing, distribute medicine needed, try to connect, and have conversations. They can travel up to 60 miles at times to make sure that these patients are able to receive proper care and get their medicine.

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Things I noticed as we arrived at their home were their friendliness, sickness, and their happiness; even while going through great pain. Two ladies, Shelly and Jayda (not real names), have breast cancer that has affected their breasts differently than the other and James is on bed rest with prostate cancer and showed us his bed sore. Every patient we met, or one of their family members, would bring us chairs to sit in while they pulled out a mat for themselves to sit on. Though they were in great pain, they took the time and energy to work harder for us.

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I expected to see the patient in bed and mad at the world as we awkwardly stood around them like we do in hospitals in the US. I didn’t realize how thankful and loving they would be towards Americans. As Americans, we have so many stereotypes we put on people of different cultures and we let that affect how we see them. In my mind, I thought the Ugandans would think we were snooty, rich Americans who are only going to see them for our own benefit of proving something to our friends back home or to look good for a college application or a job interview. But before they even met us, they already started arranging chairs for us and greeted us before everyone had even gotten out of the vehicle. I came into the situation attempting to remove any stereotypes I had of them and bracing myself for the stereotypes that they had for me. Instead, they just welcomed me and wanted my presence. If I start having faith that God can use people regardless of what they might be going through, I might be a bit more loving and thankful as well. For example, James opened up after Philip prayed for him and even asked Philip if he had a spare bible that he could have.

Through all this pain and sickness, they were still very happy individuals. It was clear they had very little. They didn’t have beds to sleep on, their little kids were either naked or their clothes were torn, many of them didn’t have any shoes and we could see they were struggling, but their family was always there to help them the best that they could. They knew that we were there to see them, visit with them, pray for them, and just be in their presence. You could really see how much they appreciated us in how they would tear up during a prayer and thank us for coming to visit with them.

by Katlynn Menees

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On Our Way To Uganda!

As we go on this trip, you will be receiving blog updates and photos of everyone to keep you all up to date on this new experience that we are having. Just to reintroduce the team real quick, it is Jeremiah, Ty, Andrew, Philip, and Katlynn (me) that are on this plane right now headed to be with God’s people in Uganda.

So as we arrived at the airport this afternoon, everything seemed to be going well. We all:

  • Arrived at a decent time
  • Had our tickets
  • Had our passports

Great! We did our job. Next stop: Uganda.

But…

It didn’t quite happen as smoothly as we anticipated. Our first issue was that we had a bit too much luggage. After weighing our bags, switching around items into other bags to meet the weight requirement, then switching them around some more because of an extra pound or two, then back to the scales, we finally met all the weight requirements! Next, we went to check our perfectly weighed luggage to find out that we had one bag too many. After paying a few extra bucks to add a bag, we got that issue resolved. Yay! After our luggage was checked in, we realized that one of our laptop’s charger was in the checked luggage, and the other laptop decided it wanted to update for two hours. Though we needed to send out this blog with airport wifi, do some budgeting for the trip, and send some final emails, we kind of just pushed this issue aside. We knew it wasn’t the biggest deal so we decided that we would figure it out on the plane once the laptop was finished updating. No biggie.

But then, to top it all off, the ladies checking our tickets gave us some lovely news: Philip’s seat on the plane had been suspended. We didn’t know why or how it happened or what to do to change it back to normal. All we knew was that Philip did not have a seat anymore. As a team, we all prayed that God would fix this situation and make sure that Philip could get on that plane with us. Within no time, our prayers were answered and his seat was available again. I was amazed at how quickly God worked to solve this issue. What Jesus says about our Father is true! We asked and the door, or rather the seat, was opened (Matthew 7:7).

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Though our adventure at the airport was nowhere near smooth, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Because as a team we learned a lot. Now we know issues will occur, but as a team we can recognize the issues and know prayer is the key. We saw Him fix all these issues because God wants us to be in Uganda. He will do everything to make sure we get there.

So please follow along with us and keep reading to see what God does next. We all are  going to Uganda to see God work through us so we can help others see Him too, and within our group, we already witnessed Him and His powerful hands working for us before we even stepped foot on the plane. We thank God for His help and for the opportunity for us to even be here. We’re so grateful, ready, and willing to experience Ugandans and to be there with them, loving them as God does.

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by Katlynn Menees

A Father's Legacy
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Typically, holidays are a busy time for a chaplain — and for my dad Father’s day was no different. He informed us sons that he would be on call visiting patients across the city of Houston. At first I was disappointed, but as the day went on I realized my dad, Daniel Situka, is pretty special. My father is helping others on a day he should be honored. He always finds a way to put the need to care above his own. It’s that heart that birthed Sovereign Wings of Hope.

Over 40 years ago, Daniel Situka was an active Christian in a war-torn Uganda. Though he had the option to only take care of his family, he chose to invest into Uganda’s future by creating youth outreaches, delivering aid, and creating avenues for young adults to obtain high school and college education. He and my mom received threats, were mistreated, and endangered themselves for the sake of a greater community.

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Even as my parents later struggled as immigrants in this country, they found happiness in God and family and continued to serve Uganda. My dad took three jobs, and my mom two, while both getting their masters. They had a surprise or two along the way (me and my little brother), but they never forgot about home. They set up foreign exchange programs to assist youth, ran short term mission’s trips, and set up the first hospice in Eastern Uganda. As I grew older, my dad would travel back as often as he could to share Christ’s love in practical ways. Many believed in Christ, graduated from college in all sectors of society, and invested back into Ugandan communities.

Today, Uganda is a peaceful, growing, developing nation and I can’t help but think my dad’s sacrifices made some of that possible. Uganda is currently major producer of coffee and tea to the world, it has assisted in global trade efforts, the tourism is buzzing, and commerce and health infrastructure is beginning to thrive.

However, there is still more work to do! Many of these resources are only in the capital and central Uganda. Like many other NGOs in the 2000s, my father shifted SWOH to care for the peripheral areas of Uganda. We have inspired more locally run hospice organizations in Uganda. I am proud to serve as President of Global Operations for Sovereign Wings of Hope Ministries (SWOH) and lead a team of missionaries this year to Uganda whose work will assist in those margin places.

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I also take pride that I am carrying on my father’s work. He has shown me how compassion transforms lives and I have witnessed that a legacy of compassion can change a country.

Happy Father’s Day Tata (Dad in Lugandan).

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2018 - Spring Newsletter

Sarah Fulgham is a past CTP (Community Transformation Project) member who was excited and willing to share about her experience in Uganda! She has been on several mission trips, including ones to China, Mexico, Italy, and inner city Houston. Uganda was different than the previous mission trips Sarah had been a part of. We asked her to share some stories about the CTP and what made this trip different.

One thing that Sarah misses most from Uganda is the relationships she had with the people there. She reminisced about how genuine and relational they were.

The CTP team visited Wings of Hope Christian Academy during the first half of the mission trip. They played games with the students, showed the teachers some different teaching techniques they could use in their classrooms, and got to just spend time with everyone. One of the activities the team was involved in was going to the school to read a book with the students and teachers. They purchased a book written by a Ugandan author from a local book distributor. They brought enough copies for there to be one book per two students -- rather than only the teacher having a copy of the book. Typically, the teacher has to take the time to write out a few paragraphs on the board and discuss each section, just to have to erase it and start over for the next few paragraphs. Having more books to go around, they were able to go through it much quicker. The students and teachers were so thankful that at the end of the week they put on a performance and showed the CTP members how happy and appreciative they were for them just being present.

Just “being present” is how Sarah describes SWOH. She expressed how it is different than other mission trips she has been on. “Most people ask what we’ll be doing. They expect to hear that it’s a medical mission trip or that we’re going to teach English. But SWOH is about being present. It’s about loving on the students, teachers, patients, and people at the guest houses. It’s about being Christians wherever we’re at and loving people. To see where they’re hurting and where they need love. Now, we do have a focus, but the main focus is to engage the culture and enrich the community.” Simply put, ministry of presence is what differentiates this Ugandan CTP from other mission trips. Rather than going to Uganda to “do,” we go there to “be with.”

Check out the full Newsletter

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