UGANDA — When the man up front picked Danielle Parker to be the volunteer in front of the group, her assignment was simple, and yet hard.
Wash your hands.
“I know how to do that, but I don’t know how to show (someone else how to do) that,” she remembers thinking.
But with a little coaching (“Now, wash the tops of your hands”) from a speaker with Global Belief Project, educating school children about the importance of proper hand washing to health, Parker got the job done. And in this celebration of a repaired well to offer clean water to the area, the children lined up to wash their hands.
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They also grabbed their cups for a drink. It’s an image from a recent mission trip that has stayed with her.
“Kids (were) racing up and down the hill to the well,” she said, “pumping and sticking their mugs out to get water.”
Parker, a 2017 New Palestine High School graduate, was part of a group from Brookville Road Community Church who traveled to central Uganda recently. During their two weeks there, they stayed at a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) campus and helped with a variety of projects, from organizing a vacation Bible school to helping build a school.
The school, two rooms and an office, was mostly done when the team arrived, but the New Palestine team put up the siding and painted it. With that project done sooner than originally expected, team members found other ways to help, such as visiting an orphanage and a home for children with severe disabilities, offering the children an extra dose of play and friendly conversation.
“It gave us so many options to do other things,” said Danielle Romoser, a senior at New Palestine High School. “The biggest thing that I learned was just that you have to adapt and follow God through everything and trust that he has a plan for you. …We had faith that God was going to provide (other jobs) for us.”
Drew Pieratt learned about adapting when his guitar became lost in luggage at an airport during the group’s long journey — a 14-hour flight, a five-hour flight and a five-hour drive — to the YWAM HopeLand campus in Jinja, Uganda.
His guitar eventually was found, and someone made the five-hour drive from the airport to HopeLand, so he had it by the third day of the two-week trip. That allowed him to continue with the plan for him to lead worship at a church the team visited and to play when the group met for devotions.
This was the first mission trip for the New Palestine High School junior. It offered an introduction to jet lag — he said some guys were waking at 3 a.m. during the trip — along with some surprises. The pineapples and bananas tasted sweeter, more natural, to him there. Also, the landscape was not the desert he’d pictured in his mind before the trip. There were mountains and trees, such as banana trees.
“All the greenery was different,” he said. “It was a really beautiful country.”
He did find what he’d expected, though, in the exuberant worship of Ugandan Christians, with drums, shouting and dancing.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “They put kind of their own twist on it.”
Pieratt also experienced the hospitality of people in a village where team members were sent out in groups with translators, asking people if they could pray for them. In home after home, people welcomed them in, giving the visitors the only chairs they had and sitting on the floor.
Parker remembers another time of interaction, a visit to a center that offers meals and education to children living on the street. Team members acted out the Bible story of David killing the giant Goliath for the children; then the children wanted to act the story out again for the team.
The teacher asked the children what lesson they could take from the story; Parker remembers the girl who said, “With God, the enemy will always be under your feet.” She found that profound.
She thinks about that Bible story, and that moment, and finds a lesson of her own as she faces the transition from high school to college. For example, she said it’s one thing to pray with someone in New Palestine where she’s familiar with people. She knows doing so in a new setting can, like showing how to wash hands, push one’s comfort zone.
“God just kind of showed me that I need to be bold for him,” she said. “When we are uncomfortable for God, he’s going to use us … it’s worth it to be uncomfortable for God.”