How does one get themselves involved in working with a board of an orphanage which is located halfway around the world? While this might be the kind of dream that some people are looking to have land in their lap, this question is one that I never anticipated asking myself, let alone thinking that it might one day become my reality. Honestly, that was not anywhere on my radar as even a potential possibility. Now, let's back up to how I got to that initial question to understand my role today and why the number 8,150 is so important to me.
About two years ago, a few of my friends, Steve and Barbie Wells as well as Andrew Metcalf mentioned that they were involved in the board of an orphanage, Hope Center Uganda. Although I thought that it was a pretty cool thing, at that point, I never really asked many questions about the Hope Center or what being apart of the board involved. However, a few months later, Steve had just returned to Lincoln from his trip to Uganda where he had visited the Hope Center. We both attend a small group and during our meeting, he shared, in more detail, about the orphanage and about his time there. Upon hearing this, my interest was peaked. We talked about the culture of Uganda, the background of the children at the orphanage, and the value that the Hope Center was to those children. In that moment, God began to do something in me that I still do not fully understand to this day. He put the Hope Center on my heart. At the time, all that I could do to support the operations of the Hope Center was to contribute a few dollars here and there.
Fast forward twelve months, I was finishing up graduate school and Steve asked me if I would like to become more involved with the Hope Center. I had previously indicated that I would love the opportunity to visit the orphanage some day and volunteer my time in any capacity possible. “Now is the time,” I told myself. Other commitments I had been involved in were ending and I would have time to focus my efforts on something different. So, I told Steve that I would love to be involved in whatever way possible. Much to my surprise, less than a year later, I embarked on the trip of a lifetime. Our Hope Center US team boarded multiple airplanes, traveled across three continents, and through seven times zones to Uganda.
The trip to Uganda was amazing and the time with the children is something that will live within me forever. The luster of the experience has not ended for me and has created a fire inside me that wants to do whatever I can to support the orphanage. What does that look like? The feelings and emotions attached to me by that experience change daily. However, the one thing that does not change is the number 8,150. This is the number of miles between where I live and the Hope Center. This is how far apart from me a piece of my heart will always be no matter the number of visits I make to Uganda. The place I call home and the place that those orphans call home are so far apart, but I can still come up with 8,150 different ways and words that I could use to describe how much I care, love, and want to support all of those children.
Returning to the United States after visiting the Hope Center has allowed me to reflect on that experience numerous times through conversations with family and friends, working on fundraisers, and just discussing the day-to-day operations in our task force meetings. However, that greatest moment feeling and knowing “this is why I’m doing this” was on the very first day our group was at the orphanage. I was standing on the front porch of the main building, holding Timothy while hearing all the other children laughing and joyfully yelling. I was thinking to myself, “This is it. This is all these kids have! Without the Hope Center, they have absolutely nothing.” At that moment, I was about in tears because in my heart I knew what the staff and our team do for these children is so important. What the Hope Center is means so much more than just a home for these children, but a chance and family. It is real. Real love for real people. I wasn’t there because it made me feel good and I wasn’t there to hit a bucket list travel location. I was in Uganda because God placed the Hope Center on my heart and was speaking to me through the lives of the children and workers there. That moment being in the center of the Hope Center, holding Timothy, and having those thoughts run through my head is the reason I continue to be involved and is still the most impactful aspect of my time there.
As I continue to be involved with Hope Center Uganda, my goal is to provide awareness of this mission, the goals of the organization, and to draw in people that can support the Hope Center through their own awareness of both the orphanage and the culture of the Uganda. However, I also want to challenge people to find out how they can provide their time to volunteer, pray for the children and staff, and to also provide financial support for the ongoing operations and special projects of the organization. Sharing my passion for the Hope Center Uganda and seeing how that can grow within my community and friend circles is my goal. Knowing 8,150 miles away, there are children that depend on complete strangers is my inspiration for all of this because without the planning, care, and support of others, they have absolutely nothing. What a blessing it is to serve those in need and know that our support keeps them going physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Matt, Task Force Member