For 2014’s Mission Celebration, the Love Reaches team recreated the global missions adventure inside the walls of Timberline Church including cultural experiences and a variety of foods. As visitors traveled from country to country they received stamps in their passport and then the completed passports were collected for a drawing. The prize? A fully paid short-term missions trip. The winner? Stephanie Jhones, a first grade teacher in Fort Collins. Here is her story:
Q: What got you interested in going on a missions trip?
I have long been interested in missions work, but the trips for the most part were cost prohibitive. My daughter had gone on a local trip (to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming), but I had never gone on one.
Q. What was God doing in your life around Missions Celebration last year?
My husband and I have long been supporters of missions and wanted to attend the evening of the Missions Celebration for a more thorough understanding of what Timberline does globally. I was definitely prepared for an adventure as I do not tend to be one to sit back and watch the world pass by – I like to be an active participant. I was eager, had no reservations whatsoever.
Q: How did you feel when your name was drawn?
At first, really not much emotion but happiness as I was not aware what was being given away. Pastor Mark had simply encouraged the attendees that we would want to be sure to participate, but did not say what would be given to the winner. Possibly the website had mentioned the trip prior to that night, but I do not tend to be on the website much and had no idea a trip was being given away. I honestly thought the prize would be something that had been made by a local merchant in one of the countries being served (such as a blanket from El Salvador or a handmade product from the UCOUNT marketplace), but nothing as large as a fully-funded trip to the place of my choosing. Once Pastor Mark announced what I had won, I was shocked and humbled. What an amazing blessing!
Q: Why Uganda of the trips available?
I have had a heart for the people of Africa for as long as I can remember. I did not know if there was a trip to Africa or not, but when I arrived home I went to the Timberline website (yes, that same night!) and looked to see where they had trips planned for that year. When I saw Uganda was one of the choices, I started pursuing that option. I feel God placed me on the Uganda team as my skill set and the timing with my job was a perfect match. I was completely open to God’s will and what he had in store for me and did not have any preconceived ideas of my purpose for this trip to Uganda.
Q: What happened on the trip and what did you learn?
The trip was amazing, (read the team’s trip report here) and as cliché as it sounds, truly life changing. I learned how hard many people in our world must work simply to survive. You hear about it and see it on the news, but to witness the struggle first-hand is very different. I also learned that though they may not have much, they are still happy (many happier than Americans who have more than one could ever hope for). I appreciate that we in America have clean water, access to healthcare, and free time to pursue interests. Those in Africa must work long hours to survive and even then some are still not able to provide the basic needs for themselves or their family (food, clean water, shelter, and clothing).
When I met with the Director of Education at Cherish Uganda, Larissa Rwakasiisi, I felt it was the reason God sent me to Uganda. We met for almost three hours and we were both so invigorated and prayed that, if it is God’s will, I would return to Cherish to assist in implementing some of the suggestions we had discussed. Larissa and I have been in touch since my return to America and I have sent materials to her via email.
Q: What’s next on the horizon?
The trip inspired me to put together a presentation about the struggles in Uganda, which I presented on February 7th and will present again on February 25th. In October, I put together a shoe cutting party for another organization in Uganda called “Sole Hope.” My friends, family, and I provided 50 pairs of shoes, including funding to get them to the people of Uganda, as well as a large amount of medical supplies for helping in the fight against jiggers. I hope to continue to do various activities to make a difference in the lives of those who struggle to survive. My long-term goal is to return to Uganda and possibly assist Larissa in enhancing the phonics program used by Cherish and increase its effectiveness for the students at Hope Academy.
P.S. There will be another drawing for a trip during this year’s Missions Week. Stay tuned for more details because this could be your year to go!