Although I just recently joined and have only recently seen the inner workings of the Hope Center, I have already fallen in love with the organization and the hard-working team behind it. I first heard of HCU, years ago, from Steve Wells in the weekly Wednesday night men’s group at our church. Until this recent summer of 2018, my contributions only consisted of prayer and references to the center a few times to my friends and family. In June of 2018 I joined seven others to make the journey to Uganda on mission for HCU. This visit to The Hope Center is what changed my level of involvement. The impact of being at the orphanage completed something that God established in my desires. This desire was not fueled by wanderlust and a love of traveling. This desire was one of action. And when God’s grand weaving makes these types of opportunities, they are far more than mere travel and adventure. Even if one’s motivation of going to HCU is because of wanderlust, the special place that God has set up in Mityana, Uganda called The Hope Center will affect you regardless.
The Hope Center is special to me because of many reasons, one reason being Steve and Barbie Wells. Before I met Steve, there was a time when I did not know Jesus. I was spiritually lost and in a great deal of emotional need and direction. My parents are extremely supportive and loving, and my family situation is not even comparable to that of an orphans. The children of HCU are orphans or children that cannot be taken care of by their parents. However, at these low points in one’s life, it doesn’t matter how caring your family is, there is something more life changing needed. God brought me to the very church that Steve and Barbie worship at. Steve is one of the many people that God used to get through to me. And and I went on this trip with hopes of God using me to benefit the children of The Hope Center.
The desire that God gave me was one I never thought I would have. Through studies, sermons, and discussions with our men’s group a desire of action was slowly established within me. Reading the red letters, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” spoken by God in the flesh, who has given a hope and purpose to oneself makes organizations like The Hope Center irresistible. After listening to sermons and podcast from theologians and preachers about their travels and how they were able to share the gospel with people all over the world, further action for the Hope Center was irresistible to me. In Isaiah chapter six, the Lord asks, “Who will go?” And Isaiah answers, “Here I am, send me!” I could only answer the same way! When the Apostle Paul says, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” And there in Uganda, children are in desperate need. Furthermore, to add the explanation point on reasons why I had been waiting eagerly to go to HCU and meet with the children is connected by Matt Chandler’s quote, “What made me love Christ wasn’t that all of a sudden I started figuring out how to do life. What made me love Christ is that when I was at my worst, when I absolutely could not clean myself up—and there was nothing anybody else could do for me, right at that moment, Christ said, “I’LL TAKE THAT ONE. THAT’S THE ONE I WANT.” In very serious ways 2,500,000 children in Uganda, Africa have no way of helping themselves. Because of what Christ did for us and what He puts on our hearts, without hesitation we should say, “Here I am, send me. I’ll take that one, that’s the one I want.”
After the previous paragraph it is easy to get amped up to GO and take ACTION. But there is also a sobering reality of the situation. Travel to Uganda is not exactly the prettiest experience. The trip is timely with the landing being thirty hours from departure. The final flight before landing in Uganda is the first shocking eye opener. The people on the flights from the U.S to Europe are very different from those who you fly with from Europe to Africa. Once walking out of the airport in Uganda, I was shocked with what lie before me. I am a farm boy from Nebraska and before this trip, I had not experienced this part of the world.
Once you spend time learning about Uganda and HCU you learn such heartbreaking stories. The children of HCU need a home for a reason and sometimes the reason is just plain awful to hear. Their stories can sometimes be summed up into one tragic, heartbreaking sentence such as, “His parents just don’t want him.” Sometimes, however, it is a much more complicated story like, “Her mother is deaf, can’t speak, and is disabled.” You can then continue to wonder who and where the father is, which then leads you to the likely conclusion that the mother was probably raped. Once while we were in the capital city, Kampala, I stepped out of our van in a very busy street. My eyes soon became locked onto a person that was disabled in a way where their body was so badly twisted that he or she was on all fours. With wrappings around the elbows and knees, this person had to crawl amongst the streets of a city with 4.2 million people. Inside I screamed and cried, “Jesus will you please come and heal this person!?!” But away the person went continuing down the street.
The things that had the most impact on me while visiting The Hope Center can be boiled down to two things. The first is the the concept of how truly different the lifestyles between the United States and Africa are. When you step onto that plane to go experience a culture so unlike your own, it can be a lot for one to absorb. For weeks after the trip, I was constantly stuck on the differences of these two lifestyles. I was constantly searching for explanations. The second, undoubtedly, is the impact meeting the children in person had on my life. When names are put to faces, when mere photos are brought to life, and when you can hold them in your arms, a completion in one’s heart is made. The desire to take action on their behalf is quenched, but also increased. To best describe what it is like after having visited HCU and meeting the children is best expressed in David Platt’s quote, “Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. But once you do, everything changes.” Believe me, everything changes. William Wilberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” The children of the Hope Center are unforgettable. Although they each have their own tragic stories, their smiles and laughs are full of life!.
Another personal interest of mine is the battle of human trafficking and this problem is ever increasing in Uganda. Orphanages are being invaded by groups that take advantage of the vulnerable and unwanted children. These children are then sold for labor and for sex all throughout the world.To put it very bluntly- the children on the streets are so vulnerable that they are easy forms of income for traffickers. When a child sits in a yard or on the street with no parents wanting or being able to care for them, it is easy for a trafficker to take them since sadly, no one would know if they are taken and sold. The Hope Center, though it be small, is a gigantic saving fortress against so much evil and struggle and is protecting children from so much potential harm.
I have learned so much from my visit to The Hope Center Uganda including the realization that suffering is truly happening all around the world. Homelessness and orphans are everywhere. We cannot alone take on all of them, but collectively we are capable. We can all do our small part to make a larger difference. Whether it is in the US or in Uganda, a difference can be made. William Wilberforce once again sums it up, “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” God has clearly set HCU in our paths to take action and be “alive to the sufferings of our fellow-creatures”. This is an opportunity to make other’s problems our problems. Therefore, I am inviting everyone to make the children of The Hope Center’s problems your problems.
Michael, Task Force Member