The Ashland Beacon
Earlier this year, the youth group at New Life Fellowship Church made a plan to go to Uganda this summer to pass out shoes, food, and the word of God to the hungry people of Uganda. They were excited to be able to change lives. What they didn’t anticipate was the incredible impact this trip would have on their own lives.
The group arrived in Africa on July 9 and made their way to the school founded by Ashland native, Amy Compston, more commonly known as Amy for Africa. They brought more than 5,000 pairs of shoes with them in 88 bags. The airline, upon hearing of their mission trip, only charged them for 18 of the bags. At a fee of $200 per bag, this saved the mission trip thousands of dollars that could instead be used to serve the people of Uganda. Chuck Williams pointed out that the “Lord was with us, even at the airport.”
Each day that the team was in Uganda went almost the same according to incoming Blazer senior, Tate Ashby. They would get up and have a Bible study. Then they would load up the truck with the corn and beans that they had brought to distribute to the people before unloading it into the ghetto that they visited or onto a boat to go to an island. Pastor Jason Plummer would preach and then the team would distribute the food. But the routine wasn’t actually routine. The people there are “so on fire for God” even though they “have nothing,” said Tate. This is a sentiment echoed by Larra Ferguson who shared, “the people there are literally starving and have nothing earthly or materialistically, but so many of them have so much joy in God.”
Tate remembers arriving at one of the islands in Lake Victoria to pass out corn and beans and the people were “super pumped when we showed up” because they literally have nothing to eat. Fishing is owned by the government so it is illegal for the people to fish to feed their families. Guards patrol the waters during the day so some are reduced to sneaking out at night to fish for food to keep their families from starving to death.
Tate Ashby and Nick Williams, an incoming Blazer freshman, got to visit with one of the local witch doctors and lead her to Jesus. They then followed her to her home and witnessed to her mother, who was in her 80’s and was blind, crippled, and sick. The mother said, “Yes! Jesus! I love him so much!” This is something that Tate wistfully explained will stay with him for the rest of his life because this woman was at her lowest, living in a mud house with no food, but still praising God.”
Chuck Williams said that the first day that they arrived, more than 200 people showed up even though they were supposed to be on lockdown for COVID. On the second day, more than 500 people arrived at the school for help. He said that they were physically hungry but they were also “hungry to hear about the Lord.” The police chief showed up and they thought that they were going to be shut down but he said that the “Lord made it happen” and the chief allowed them to distribute the food.
The team had spent part of their first day breaking down the 350-pound bags of beans into bags containing six cups of beans each. When they went into the ghetto, the mayor met them and pointed out where to deliver food. The church group broke up and went door to door, hand-delivering beans and corn maize to the families in the ghetto. Williams said that “it was hard work but we were there to serve the people of Uganda.” They provided food to more than 450 families living in the ghetto areas.
Kim Williams said that when they arrived in the ghetto areas and on the islands, a lot of the children were afraid of them and would hide because they had never seen a white person before. Chuck Williams quickly won them over with candy, toys, soccer balls, and “whatever else he could fit in his backpack,” according to Kim. One child that needed help very quickly was very young and was dying from dehydration and malaria. The nurse practitioner that was with them gave the baby Pedialyte and the group purchased malaria medication for $3 and the child “went from death’s door to waving bye three days later,” said Chuck Williams. Such is the poverty in the country of Uganda, that a child’s death can happen over the lack of medication that only costs a few dollars.
The group worked about 12 hours every day serving the people who live mostly in one-room mud houses before returning to their hotel by the 7 p.m. curfew. They were told that the bag containing six cups of beans and the 10-pound bag of maize that they passed out was expected to last each family about two weeks. The families of between five and eight people would use it to cook one meal a day to make the food last as long as possible.
It wasn’t all hot, hard work though. The group played soccer - them against the Ugandans - one of the days that they were there which was an activity that 10-year-old Nathaniel had been most looking forward to. The U.S. team won in overtime with the help of three Ugandans who joined their team to even things out. Tate said that “without them, it wouldn’t have been much of a game.”
On the last day, the group visited the Queen Elizabeth National Park and went on a safari. They wanted to end their trip with some fun and relaxation. They got to see lions, a leopard in a tree, elephants, crocodiles, hippos, monkeys, and baboons.
Both Tate Ashby and Nick Williams agree that this was a “humbling experience” and that they will always be more grateful for what they have that others do not. Tate said that he had “kind of anticipated that but it became a reality” once he visited Uganda and “seeing where they live, what they eat, and what they have to wear, I came back thankful” for what I have at home. Nick said that it was “such a blessing to be on that trip.”
“If someone has the opportunity to go, they should go because it is definitely something everyone should experience,” Kim Williams said.
Larra Ferguson said that “we went over there to serve them and bless them, but they wanted to serve us, and they truly blessed me.”