The team left King's Church Chatham at about 2am on Saturday 21st October all excited about the trip to Uganda and working with YWAM. Eleven of us had spent the previous couple of weeks praying and preparing for this trip but Tawa Edwards could not travel because of changes at work. We had other challenges as a team but God had promised that He would be with us and that He had equipped us.
Ten of us boarded the Brussels Airline flight to Entebbe via Brussels; Charlie-Jay Kavanagh, Gill Vickery, Max Allen, Nyasha Manyanya, Rowena Daynes, Chloe Ainsley, Carol Hinks, Fia Hankin, David Seal and Paul Akinbadewa. You could feel that some were a bit anxious but overall there was a sense that it was going to be a great trip. After a nervous spell at Brussels where we thought we had lost Carol we arrived Entebbe at about 7:50pm, tired after the long flight. Susie Modi, Rowena’s sister, had arranged for a bus to meet us and take us to YWAM Kampala where we were welcomed with a lovely meal and crashed out for the night.
We were up early the next morning to travel up to the YWAM base in Arua which is about 500km North from Kampala. Susie’s husband, Waru joined us and travelled up with us after a joyful re-union with Rowena. The bus was slow and took us nearly 12 hours but it was great to see the lovely scenery; the River Nile, baboons and even giraffes for those who were not asleep! Even though we arrived so late, there was a warm welcome and another lovely meal. We also met Valence, his wife Sophia and the other YWAM staff before retiring to our dormitories for some sleep.
On Monday morning after breakfast at 7am, we joined all the YWAM staff and students for the base worship in the lovely Dream Factory Auditorium. We had been asked to lead Worship and Nyasha, Rowena and Dave led a powerful time of praise and worship. Max then gave a presentation about Kings Church and the various ministries, with a focus on what we do in the community. After this Susie and Valence spent time with the team for a brief orientation – rules around the base, culture and our itinerary for the week etc.
The business start-up training sessions led by Rowena and Chloe, themselves small business owners started on Monday afternoon. These would run all week and would prove to be one of the key areas of the mission and was very popular with the women. Rowena also taught practical tailoring skills at some of these sessions. We also had the children’s after school club, Little Explorers run by Fia and Carol with YWAM staff helping.
This was followed by the Youth club, Explorers, run by Gill and Nyasha with YWAM staff also working alongside them. The team had brought arts, crafts, games and other resources and it was great to see the children enjoying themselves. We had estimated an attendance of 70 children for Explorers but by Wednesday attendance had grown to 120 children. At 4pm Dave, Charlie, Max and Paul joined Valence to meet the local football team after which Dave put them through their first practice session. We took out training kits, footballs and brought a small trophy.
On Tuesday 24th, we were up early again. While Rowena and Chloe continued with the small business training sessions Max, Charlie and Dave went for ‘Boda Boda’ Evangelism. The young men who drove their Boda Boda’s (Motorbike Taxi’s) were always hanging around not too far from the YWAM base and it was a great opportunity for the guys to share their testimonies and get to know some of these men. Charlie befriended a young Muslim man who made a decision for Jesus a few days later.
The rest of us went to one of the Compassion Centres where we helped to run a training session for new parents and carers. It was another opportunity for us as a team to encourage and to pray for some of the parents who were struggling with a number of issues. Gill led and taught from her experience as a parent. We had about 70 women and provided refreshments and drinks for the session. We then went back to the base to help run the Little Explorers and Explorers after school clubs. Dave also had his second training session with the local football club.
Wednesday was to be one of our most memorable days. The whole team travelled up to the Men’s Prison where we were not allowed to take photos or any recordings. It was humbling to see the prisoners dancing and praising God with drums knowing that some of them might never see freedom. There were about 90 men sitting and waiting for us in the main courtyard. We had other men on the sides and others standing afar off under trees listening to us. The team sang a few songs and then the men shared their testimonies. Charlie, who had struggled all through our preparations and on the trip, found the boldness to share his testimony with such clarity and conviction. We also performed a short drama which Nyasha had organised and directed - it was a sketch depicting God the Father’s love for us. At the end, one of the prisoners, David made a decision for Jesus. We left him a Bible and gave other Bibles to the library. In the afternoon some of the team returned to the Women’s Prison where we also did the drama sketch and all the ladies shared their testimonies. It was then back to the base for the after school clubs and the last Football practice session.
Thursday 26th was another memorable day for the team. While Rowena and Chloe continued with the business training sessions the rest of us travelled up to Rhino Camp, one of the largest Refugee camps near the border with Southern Sudan. We helped run part of a Youth program in one of the churches. Paul shared on ‘Dreaming Big’ and looked at Joseph’s life who, despite all his setbacks and challenges, fulfils his God given dream. We then broke up into groups with members of the team leading discussions. After this we had a time of worship and also did the drama sketch. At the end there was a time of ministry where we had the privilege to pray and encourage some of the young refugees. We also had the opportunity of working with another team from New Zealand and helped contribute towards the food and drinks for the Youth program. It was during our time at the Refugee camp that we got a call from Susie saying that Rowena was sick with malaria. We were obviously very concerned as a team but thanked God that it had been caught early and that Rowena was being cared for by her sister. Later we were to visit the clinic with Chloe and Nyasha as they had been feeling unwell. Chloe was confirmed to have malaria too but again we prayed and thanked God that it had been caught early.
On Friday we were up early for work duty with the base staff. Susie and Valence decided that we would help plant some trees on the base as they were trying to replace the eucalyptus trees with more environmental friendly trees. We then went up to the hospital on Boda Boda’s where we spent time at the Children’s ward. Carol brought a really encouraging word and we prayed with some of the mothers and children. In the afternoon some of us went into town again with Gill and Valence to run another Compassion training session for Parent’s and Carer’s. Again this went very well and we had a time of prayer with one woman wanting to make a decision to follow Jesus.
Saturday was going to be another day to remember. We travelled up to the Refugee camp but this time to the Dreamland Orphanage. Here we worked alongside the YWAM staff and at the end donated 40 solar lamps to help the children with reading at night. We then visited another group of children where we again sat alongside the YWAM staff as they taught.
In the evening we decided to have a time of worship and thanksgiving with the YWAM team from New Zealand who we had been sharing dormitories with. It was a really encouraging time with Nyasha leading us again into a special time of worship and prayer.
On Sunday 29th, we split up into different groups. Rowena, Charlie and Paul went to the Calvary Chapel with Susie and Waru. Max, Nyasha, Chloe and Gill went to the Church of God where Max preached. Fia, David and Carol went with Valence to the Baptist Church where David preached for the very first time. As it was our last day, Valence and his family invited us round for Sunday lunch which was very special. We then had a debrief with Susie and thanked God for what had been so far a great experience for us all.
Monday 30th saw us travelling back to Kampala. Sid Harper had offered us the big 4X4 vehicle which Max and Dave volunteered to drive. It was a much smoother journey back and faster too!! We arrived YWAM Kampala early evening and was great to see our old friends again.
On Tuesday we had a lie in with breakfast at 10am. Some of us then decided to go into town before making our way to the airport. We stopped at Lake Victoria for a meal and to take in the beauty of Uganda for one last time after which we went to the airport to wait for our flight back to London via Brussels.
We arrived back in London on 1st November. It has been a truly exciting trip and we thank God for the privilege of seeing Him work through us as a team to bring encouragement and hope to the people we met. It has also been a real privilege to have worked with YWAM. We have learnt so much and have been inspired by the passion we found at YWAM Arua. Thanks again to Waru and Susie Modie, Valence and Sophia Zirirema and all the wonderful staff and people at YWAM Arua. We will definitely stay connected and hope to see you all very soon.
We want to provide help and to be a resource where possible in making a difference to the lives of people who are living in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the world and to those that God might send us to.