It’s not every day Waterloo residents get to experience life in a third world country. But for eight members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo, it was a firsthand experience for 10 days.
The group left Jan. 12 on a mission trip to Uganda and spent a week and a half working to renovate a ministry center office and conduct a vacation Bible school for local children.
The travelers included Pastor Tony Troup and Camp Wartburg director Bob Polansky, who both said the trip was “life changing.”
This is the first time members of the church have done an overseas mission trip, and Polansky said garnering support for such a trip was one difficult aspect.
“We had never done anything like this before,” he said. “We had a lot of questions because it’s an international journey.”
Troup said that although the flight was expensive, the cost of the project they performed in Uganda wasn’t all that expensive.
“Our congregation was very supportive, and it really helps us realize what it really means to be a church,” Troup said.
They started talking and planning two years ago and finally departed in the heart of January.
The group ranged in age from 25 to 61 years old, and for several days they painted, replaced gutters and baseboards and patched drywall.
“It’s not something for the faint of heart,” Troup said with a laugh. “Everybody worked so hard.”
Polansky said this was the first time the Ugandan Lutheran Hour Ministries center had an overseas group come to help, and they were thrilled at the chance to get to know the local people and work with them.
“They have a lot of plans and ways to make their ministry grow there in Uganda,” Polansky said. “We were blessed to be a part of it.”
Each day, the group had morning devotions with their group of eight, had breakfast and then went to more devotions with the staff and workers of the center.
“We sang songs and they gave testimonies about how they became Christians,” Polansky said. “It was good to have that fellowship together. Singing songs is a great way to unify people.”
They then worked until sundown each night for the first five days.
The group had the opportunity to go to a cultural center and see traditional dances of several Ugandan tribes.
“There are more than 45 tribes in Uganda, and they all have their own customs, dances and language,” Troup said. “We got a little taste of the dancing of each tribe and some excellent drum playing. It was a great lesson in their culture and history.”
The group had the opportunity to go on a white water rafting trip to the source of the Nile River, which had 12-foot waterfalls as a part of the trip.
“It was pretty intense, but I would do it again today,” Troup said.
When most of their work was done, the group had the opportunity to go out into the rural areas and teach vacation Bible school.
“We did a puppet show on the story of Jonah and the whale, and apparently a bunch of kids there are still imitating it,” Polansky said. “It’s cool to have a lasting impression.”
Polansky said the pastor there serves more than five congregations and is extremely dedicated.
“It’s not like around here where you can just get in your car,” Polansky said. “He probably walked or rode a bus.”
Both Polansky and Troup said one of the main things they took back with them was how friendly the Ugandans were.
“It was a genuineness that they really wanted to get to know us,” Polansky said. “In a short amount of time, some great bonds were made.”
Troup said he was impressed by the universality of the church.
“Christians are everywhere and their cultures are very different, but they love the Lord,” Troup said. “You get a real sense of the one, holy, apostolic Christian church.”