This time last year I was in the putting the finishing touches on my trip to Uganda.  I had never been overseas. As a matter of fact, my only air travel was to Las Vegas the year before, to a friends wedding.  Up to this point, state-side travel has been the extent of my journey.  However, I’ve traveled {by car} to every state with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. I’ve seen Mount Rushmore. I’ve been to Yellow Stone National Park. I’ve seen NYC, Manhattan, and Queens. I’ve visited Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. I’ve seen the beaches and palm trees of Florida.  I’ve dipped my feet in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean. I’ve fed the homeless on Christmas morning with the Salvation Army and Life Church.  I’ve passed out blankets and clothes underneath bridges and overpasses to less fortunate, some appearing somewhat sketchy.  I’ve been homeless myself.  I’ve been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood {crazy, scary stuff}, as well as mentored Pregnant teens and teen moms.  I’ve been present for the easy births, hard births, and stillbirths of these girls. I’ve talked a friend from a ledge {I may have pushed a few there as well}. I’ve been married and divorced not once, not twice but three times. I’ve survived domestic and sexual abuse. So, we will just say I’ve seen my fair share of good bad and ugly “stuff”.
But, nothing in my life up to this point had prepared me for the lives, homes, and spirits of the Ugandan people. I knew from the time I was twelve or thirteen years old, Africa would be a place I would visit. As a young girl sitting cross-legged on the front pew of a church intently listening, hanging onto every word a missionary spoke, the Lord softly spoke to my heart, a sweet whisper telling me one day I would stand on the red clay of Uganda. Over the years this spoken word was in the back of my mind. It was never aforethought. I became a mom, a wife and other responsibilities in my life took precedence over anything past parenting or being a wife, especially the frivolous idea of  Uganda.
Finally, at the age of thirty-nine, twenty-six years after that soft-spoken word, I was ready to board a plane and head to a country I had only read and prayed about.  I spent months preparing. I made and sold countless pies and bookmarks. There were anonymous donors who contributed.  Finally, the morning came and I was packed. If you know me at all you know I am borderline OCD planning organizational fanatic. I had a binder for the babysitter who would stay with my girls, she was there for emergency purposes.  The girls were 17, 15 and 10. This binder had my trip itinerary, as well as copies of the US consulate and US embassy information, the girl’s medical information, a signed consent for medical care, a copy of immunizations and including a copy of my will, you know just in case. I also had a binder that contained a copy of all information I needed to enter a foreign country in the order I would need it {Monica Geller would be proud}. I was prepared. My suitcase contained everything you need to survive a zombie apocalypse {minus the weapons, TSA frowns upon them}. Especially everything you needed, if you wanted to convert the zombies to Christianity.  I was prayed up, packed up and ready to roll or fly.
The check-in at the airport was easier than I thought.  I was traveling with one person who had to make this exact trip eleven times before and four others who were on their first trip like myself.  There were four men and two women in our group, ranging from early 20’s to 60’s.  We had a very eclectic group. Different backgrounds, different marital statuses,  different ethnicity, a widower and one single. The one thing we had in common was our love for our savior and our desire to share him with the world.
We flew to Atlanta, the biggest airport I had ever seen, then changed planes. Seriously, I didn’t know a subway existed in an airport. I was excited to board the flight to Amsterdam where we were to have a short layover. The flight went smooth. I was too excited to sleep. But, let me tell you if you have never seen the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean from a plane, add it to your bucket list. It’s a must see and the pictures do not do it justice.  We arrived without a hitch in Amsterdam, however, our flight was delayed so, they put us up in a hotel for the night and we were able to sample the local cuisine.  Early the next morning, we were off.  The last leg of our travels to arrive in Uganda.
We landed in Entebbe, claimed our baggage and caught our ride to our destination. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t expectation-less, but I was indifferent on what to expect.  We drove through some pretty sketchy parts of Uganda before arriving in our hotel (It was about a forty minute drive). The first thing I noticed was the armed guard at the entrance of our hotel.  We checked in to a very nice hotel with deliciously amazing views in a sketchy part of  Kampala, Uganda.

See, the one thing I thought when going on this trip was…… I would arrive in Uganda, unpack Jesus out of my bag, and take him with me to meet the people and teach them all the amazing stories of the bible. I will tell you I was wrong!! EVER. SO.WRONG…  I did unpack and I did meet the people. However, Jesus was already there. I was blown away!! Seriously!!!! I was humbled to my core. Not by the poor living conditions. Not by the dirty unattended children roaming the streets, carrying five-gallon buckets of water. Not by the huge piles of trash on the sides of the road. But, I was blown away by these beautiful people who were living the life we teach our children in Sunday school to live. The lives we were taught to live. Not, one person I encountered looked at their situation. Their poor living conditions. Their lack of indoor facilities. Their stoves that were metal pans over an open flame outdoors. Their lack of anything we deem as a right to have not a privilege.  They treated us a royalty. They fed us their best {The food is surprisingly awesome}. They set up chairs and couches in the church that had been covered in beautifully handmade doilies fit for a king. They didn’t have much, but they offered us their best. The thing that blew my mind the most was their knowledge of the bible. Even the little small elementary age children I had nothing to teach them. I only had to love to show them. Pure. Simple. Unconditional. L.O.V.E!  Because, Jesus was already there. He was there on the faces. He was there in their joy. He was there in the midst of their thankfulness. The thankfulness they expressed that a nobody from a small town in Texas (at the time) would come and sing songs, tells stories and just offer love.

See, at the first church when I followed a couple of the guys who spoke at a service before me I was scared, okay I was terrified. What if I had heard God wrong all those years ago? What if I wasn’t supposed to be there. What if the trip had unconsciously been selfishly motivated? I had a plan of what I was going to say.  For starters, talking with an interrupter is much harder than you would think. Especially when you are a fast talker. I looked into the sea of faces and immediately my mind went blank. I had nothing of worth to say. I had nothing they could learn from me. Then,  I literally heard a still small voice say, turn here. I had a place marked in my bible.  Reluctantly,  I turned to the book of Jonah.  I began to talk about all the times the Lord would place things on my heart. I would brush off, put off or just plain ignore. And, how the procrastination in doing what God had laid on my heart is possibly why I had traveled the road I had. Had the heartache I had. And, how when I finally listened I ended up where he told me I would be twenty-six years earlier. I wasn’t sure why God had laid this particular message on my heart, I just knew I had to share.  Even, so I still doubted myself. I was on the verge of tears at the thought that I had just made a fool out of myself.  The Lord knew the terror that was in my heart. Just when I thought I can’t do this again. I feel stupid, I don’t have a degree in theology or any kind of religious studies, who am I, other than unqualified nobody? By the way which was part of my sermon.  During the Q&A time,   In the sea of faces one man stood up and said as he pointed in my direction, that lady is here to talk to me, she was sent here to tell me that, what she said God has been trying to tell me. And, because of you, I will no longer be scared. I will do what God has called me to do (I’m not quoting exactly). Do you know the amount of unspeakable joy, humility, and relief I felt at that very moment? In the sea of faces, one man said, You were sent here to tell me that. That was all I needed. Even if nothing else happened the entire trip, I knew in my heart of hearts one life was changed.  It gave me the courage to get up again, again and again. See, there are many stories in the bible that were life changing by the obedience of one person.

  1. Mary mother of Jesus
  2. Moses
  3. Esther
  4. Noah
  5. Daniel
  6. Abraham

I could go on with a list of unqualified nobody’s that God himself qualified and called somebody’s that made an impact that changed the world. If you think it only happens in the bible days, you are mistaken. Just read the story of Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, and many others.  So, I can tell you Uganda didn’t need me. They didn’t need me to  “unpack” Jesus, they needed nothing from me. They already had him. I needed them. The trip was a life-changing trip, one that has forever made me a different person.  There I was humbled, grateful, blessed, encouraged and changed. I’m bolder, more courageous and determined. This blog would exist without this life-changing trip. So, let me tell you… If God has placed a person, a job, a sermon, Sunday school lesson, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, a mission on your heart don’t ignore it. Don’t run from it. DO IT! The world can change with the obedience of one.
Keep your coffee strong and your faith stronger,
Hollie McCalip

Highlights of our trip to Uganda. 

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