Things I Learned In Uganda Big and Small

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day Two

singing songs

So I made some beautiful baked doughnuts a few weeks ago.

I took pictures of the process.  Step-by-step.  You know how it works around here.

I dipped them in chocolate, I drizzled them with extra colored sprinkles, then I packed up my bags and headed to Uganda.

I had every intention of blogging about those doughnuts somewhere in between telling you stories about the people I met in Uganda and sleep.

There were a lot of stories to tell.  More stories that I had words to describe.  There was that afternoon fetching water with Kevin and her family.  There was the afternoon in the Katwe slum with Hajarah, her mother, and hundreds of other little children clamouring for attention.  Stories of poverty and need, sure… but mostly stories of compassion and hope.

But doughnuts?  How do I talk about doughnuts?  How dare I talk about doughnuts?  Who cares about doughnuts ever again ever?!

I’ve been wrestling.  There’s the jet lag, the memories of the beautiful people I met, the mosquito bites, the malaria pills, the suitcase filled with coffee, dirty clothes, and red dirt.  There’s a sincere hope I’m holding on to…. and then these doughnuts.

Let me break it down.  Consider this a public processing.

violence is wrong

Things I Learned In Uganda Big and Small

–  Bananas taste REALLY good.  Like the bananas we have here in the states, but WAY MORE LIKE BANANAS.

– Traveling with writers may have you convinced you are a writer yourself.  I went to Uganda with some of the best people to know.

Emily Freeman from Chatting in the Sky is a thoughtful editor and wonderful storyteller.  Jeff Goins seems intimidating until you realize that he’s actually super hilarious aside from being a mega talent. Myquilyn Smith from The Nester will give you the pants off her legs and shoes off her feet if you need them.  Her laugh will touch you, and her writing is tenderly heartfelt.  Shaun Groves is really good at wanting to know people.  Seeing him move through the world for a week is really inspiring.  Bri McKoy is the cheerleader that everyone should have.  Her heart is a good one.

– The people we encountered in Uganda say phrases like “You are most welcome, visitors!” which is so comforting and tender.  No one at my local Whole Foods has ever come close to such a greeting.

– In my experience this week, it’s often the people who have the least that are the most willing to give the most.

– Compassion works through local churches to support and serve children and families in that area.  I didn’t realize this about Compassion.  By working with local established churches in Uganda, Compassion helps Ugandans help Ugandans.  It’s really important work, and the impact these local churches make in their community is really life-changing for a lot of families.

– I was always a little skeptical about the letters I write my sponsor child.  Do they rrreeaaaalllyyy get there?  YES! They really do.  I met the people who hand process each letter and picture between sponsor and child.  Compassion takes these relationships seriously.    Imagine living in a mud hut in Uganda and  getting a letter from someone halfway across the world who loves you and is invested in your life.  I mean…. it’s a really big deal.

– God works.

how to ride a bike

Mike Varel is an extremely talented and soulful photographer…. and this is how you ride a bike.

– Guilt is not an action word.  Compassion is action.

– It’s less about how much you give, and more about what you choose to do with the little you have to give. Someone much wiser than me spoke those words this week.  You get to choose the good you put out into the world.  That’s a beautiful choice as long as you simply make it.

Shaun left us with a question as we waited at the airport in Entebbe for our long flight home.

“Now that you know what happens in the world, what are you going to do about it?”  

The answer?  Gosh the answer.  Geeeeez the answer.  Please tell me this is a rhetorical question.  It’s not.

The answer is as small as smiling as at stranger that you pass on the street.  The answer is as big as advocating for children in poverty all day everyday, without fail or hesitation.  The answer is a daily choice and sometimes a daily struggle.

For me the answer might have something to do with making doughnuts and sharing them with you.  It’s those recipes that I share with you that allows me to support children in need through Compassion.  They’re just doughnuts, but they’re also so much more.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  It’s been more than I could have expected, and your support has touched my heart.  If you thoughtfully considered sponsoring a child through Compassion, then I feel good about my time in Uganda.  If you took action and sponsored a child through Compassion last week, if just one of you did that… then my time in Uganda was a roaring success.  If you already sponsor a child and you decide today to write them another letter, my heart is just over the moon. Thank you most sincerely for all the ways that you put good into the world.

84 thoughts on “Things I Learned In Uganda Big and Small

  1. I’ve been on your website a lot lately. I’m really enjoying your thoughts on your trip to Uganda. I’m a huge advocate for charitable giving and give lots each month to various organizations that I believe in. I have it set up as an automatic draw so each month. It’s as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth and making dinner.

  2. Your post reminded me of this, one of my favorite, quote: “Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: We can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.” — author, scholar, environmentalist and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry.

    Thanks, Mr. Berry. Thanks, Ms. Baker…I mean Wilson :)

  3. Joy,
    I have to confess, I’m a routine lurker. I just hang out on the sidelines, assuming that any comment I leave will be lost in the shuffle. But, that’s so not true, is it?! I realized while following your updates about Uganda that I should emerge from the shadows and holla at you about how wonderful I think your blog really is. I think that you’re uniquely intuitive, sharp, and reading your blog–whether it’s about biscuits or Uganda–is always a pleasure. Your words, pictures, and recipes make my world a little brighter every week, and that’s something to be thankful for.

    Also, I made the decision to sponsor a child after reading about your experience with Compassion and how their work has touched your life. Her name is Benedicta and she lives in Ghana, and I can’t wait to learn more about her and send her some letters!

    Thank you for your words, passion, and donuts.

  4. Tears. So many tears. Beautiful, Joy. Your heart is so fully alive and it was a gift to journey with you in Uganda. I am so grateful for you.

  5. I have been so ridiculously excited to read each new post about your experiences with Compassion. My husband and I began sponsoring a sweet girl in Guatemala about four years ago, and over the years it’s been unbelievable to learn just how far such a small (to us) amount of money goes. It’s fantastic to be assured, again, of the good work that Compassion does.

  6. Sweet girl, I promise to start writing our Compassion girl. We’ve supported her for years and pray for her often, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Thank you for your doughnuts, apple pie, and heart. Your posts always make my heart smile.

  7. How fortunate you are to meet your Sponsor Child! I sponsor a boy in Peru through Feed the Hungry. I love to receive letters from him. I am happy that there is good work being done in the world and that you can continue that through donuts. Win-win. Well done.

  8. Joy, I loved hearing all about your trip. SO refreshing to hear your heart and get down to the real issues of life – keep these kind of posts coming, whether in Uganda or in California!

  9. It’s been amazing to follow along your journey, Joy! Your posts about Uganda have been so inspiring. If you’re interested in keeping up the momentum for doing good, we’re hosting a campaign called Feed South Africa next Monday, where food bloggers are donating their posts to support The Lunchbox Fund and are raising money to feed 100 South African schoolchildren a daily meal for one year. We’d love to have you join us!

  10. Such a wonderful depiction of the heartfelt community of Uganda. My DH is from there and I was blessed to visit in 2010. I too was just as nervous to go there and even though my DH is from a “wealthy” family the amount of poverty strikes you to the core. Where in particular did you go? I found it so interesting that sweets to them is vary foreign and they dont have “special” holiday meals it is special just to get together with your loved ones. I as well sponsor a child and find the letters we recieve heart warming. Glad you were able to experiance that.

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