In May, I went to Kampala, Uganda with my church. Our church partners with a church in Kampala, called Freedom Church, that works with homeless boys in the city.

In May, I went to Kampala, Uganda with my church. Our church partners with a church in Kampala, called Freedom Church, that works with homeless boys in the city. For various reasons, there are a lot of boys who live on the streets in the capital city of Kampala. I was excited about the trip, but I had no idea how meaningful and impactful it would be for me.

During our time there, I was shocked by how kind and caring the people we interacted with were. The staff, volunteers, and boys were all so incredibly happy to have us there. They went out of their way to get to know us and make sure we had everything we needed.

From the Freedom Heroes site, “In Kampala, Uganda Freedom Heroes provides care, education and support to over 100 children and young people who are living on the streets. Some of these children are living in our home for boys, where they are loved and cared for.” The ultimate goal of the program is to have all of the boys to back home or to another family member so that they don’t have to live on the streets. It’s about loving and caring for the boys who otherwise would have nowhere else to go.

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After I got back and was able to fully process and synthesize the trip, I learned so much from the people of Freedom Church and my time in Uganda.

I learned to always be thankful. The people in Kampala don’t all have much. The areas we worked in were poverty-stricken, and even still, everyone was so thankful for what they had.

While we were there, we had an opportunity to give each of the boys a bible. The boys were so thankful for this small gift that we were able to give them. I can’t describe the smiles on their faces and the joy that I could feel from them. I don’t think I will ever forget how thankful and happy they were to have something that belonged to them that someone gave them.

I learned that it is important to slow down. There is a saying there — TIA, or this is Africa. When things are behind schedule or when someone is late, everyone just says TIA. I feel like I am always on the move and on the go; it was incredibly refreshing to be more relaxed and not so stressed about when I need to be somewhere.

I have learned the importance of joy and happiness. Even though the people of Kampala have many needs, they have so much joy. The people that we worked with that volunteer and work with the church always had a smile on their face and always exuded joy. We live at a dramatically different pace in the U.S. and are oftentimes so consumed with the things going on around us that we forget to stop and smell and roses and appreciate our lives in the moment.

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My time in Africa was short, but it was had a profound impact on my life. It has taught me the importance of thankfulness, slowing down, and finding joy in the everyday. I want to encourage each of you think find ways to give back in your own life. Not only to help others, but always to help yourself. How can you serve someone today?