Newbie Heads to Uganda With 29

I remember looking at Roger on the way to the airport and saying, “I don’t think I can do this.”  What in the world did I get myself into?  I was leading a team of 29 to Uganda (never been there) and Ethiopia.  I only personally knew 4 of the team members… Randi (my BF) Dee Dee (my childhood BF) Sarah (adoption friend) and Vit (adoptive friend’s brother)  The rest were complete strangers and I was really nervous… OK terrified!  I had dreamed of working in missions and was thrilled with the opportunity to lead a team, but when it all came down to it, I wasn’t going to be able to rely on my charm and good looks to survive in Africa.

The months preparing for the trip were busy, fun, and detailed.  I’m not a very detailed person, so I was thrilled I had a co-leader (Ashlie) who took the reins on that department.  She did a fantastic job conducting the conference calls, creating online charts, and answering the emails from the team.  I still don’t have the guts to tell her the one conference call I was in charge of, I missed!  She would kill me.  I literally passed by the note on my refrigerator- DONT FORGET CC TODAY! and drove off to Starbucks for an afternoon snack.  I returned home to multiple calls from the team making sure I was not dead.  I was so embarrassed and realized I had a lot to learn about being a fearless leader.

I wonder why God picked me to lead the July 2010 team?  At the time, I had no idea that my amazing co-leader was going to have her world interrupted by their adoption miracle and not be able to join us in Uganda.  I think if I would have had the slightest inkling, I would have run for the hills.  But, God had it planned all along and redirected the team to a little craziness… me. newbie. leader.

I met my team of 29 (Ashlie was already in Ethiopia) at Dulles Airport.  I saw the sea of Simply Love shirts and knew I could not run away.  I had the same T shirt on and was met with a big hug from Randi at the tram.  I tried hard to remember faces and names, but was working really hard to make sure I was breathing.  I met my substitute co-leader, Ernie and instantly loved him.  He raced around the airport for hours making sure tickets were correct and people made it to the gate.  I also sensed something extra special about the team.  As we made our way on the plane, we were all giddy and excited.  I zipped through security, but was instantly stopped by a very grumpy agent.  He literally grabbed my carry-on, tossed it on the scale, and told me I would not be able to board with the overweight bag.  I remembered reading in past emails from Visiting Orphans to stand firm if there were problems with the airlines, even if security was involved.  I basically grabbed my suitcase and ordered him to let me on the flight with my team!!  He grabbed my suitcase back and chewed me out for having such a heavy carry-on.  I was the only one left standing and started to panic.  I’m going to miss the flight and really mess things up for the team. I looked up and saw Randi and Vit standing in the doorway pleading with security to let them take some of the weight off.  We scrambled and repacked my bag.  It worked and I was able to roll on with my heart pounding and sweaty hands.

Fun Flight Pics:

(Me & Randi snoozing on 18 hr flight)

We arrived in Entebbe Uganda at 1:30 A.M. with 26 bags missing.  I paced like a crazed lioness at the luggage counter, but it did not make the bags magically appear.  The group was stellar and my 6 men worked for hours with two sleepy Ethiopian Airlines staff to make separate claims for each missing piece of luggage.  Can you spell N.I.G.H.T.M.A.R.E?  I was in a lather and decided it was time to take out my bottle of chill pills and start walking the walk.  I told my team for months to be flexible and joyful and relaxed when things got a little crazy.  This was the definition of crazy.

We stumbled into our hotel in the wee hours of the morning and crashed until lunch.  We met Pastor Samuel and started our adventure to Return Ministries, a special orphanage in the heart of Kampala.  I had no idea that my life would change radically in less than a few hours.

I can’t wait to share stories with you of our time in Kampala and Jinja, Uganda with the bravest children in the world.  Bloggy Question: I want to know if you would ever consider leading a mission team – why or why not?

Join me Feb. 2011 to Ethiopia for 10 days ministering with Visiting Orphans. Also, June 2011 to Uganda for 10 days ministering with Visiting Orphans.

8 Comments

  • 1
    Big Nanny says:

    Love reading the day by day of your trip. Yes, I'm going to lead a trip to Ethiopia in January and yes, I'm nervous for all the reasons that you just stated in that post:)

  • 2

    You were an AMAZING fearless (well mostly fearless -ha!) leader!! So glad I was able to take this trip with you!!!!

  • 3
    Nina says:

    Yup, I would lead a team, but I would also be scared to death. I've been on so many trips: Ghana, India, Nepal etc….but never a leader. What a privilege you had! And what a privilege that group had by having you as their leader! I would count it an honor to have you be my leader. xoxo

  • 4
    Tymm says:

    Kari – yep…. I guess I would lead. I leave on dec. 27. Scared? Uh… yeah. Willing? If it makes Him famous – ABSOLOUTELY WILLING!

    I wrestled with God for about a week and a half before committing to it – I had so many excuses why i WASN'T the one for this – He finally slapped me around and said "Tymm – it has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with Me."

    Looking forward to it with excitement and trepidation!

    (p.s. – got your email – gonna call you sometime soon to pick your brain!! Thanks for being so willing to help!)

  • 5
    Kryste says:

    I've never even been on a mission trip yet, but I am ready to go with VO next year and I couldn't be more excited.

    If you would have asked that question six months ago I would have most likely said NO WAY, but my heart has been changing and I feel God just pulling at me to get uncomfortable, get scared to death and GO GO GO!

    I really hope you will be my fearless leader on my trip next year. Still haven't decided which one it will be.

    You're awesome Kari, love love love ya!

  • 6
    Amanda Smith says:

    First of all, I am so excited to be joining you in June! I lead a team to Nicaragua this past June. It was by the craziest thing God has ever asked me to do, but I am SO glad I did! Can't wait to get to know you more!

  • 7

    Kari – Your posts inspire me. I'm just crazy enough to say "YES" I'd lead a mission trip – even though I've never left the US. In 2006, God began calling me to be more aware of the needs in our world and I am so looking forward to the day when I can go (or even lead) a mission trip. Yes, I'm scared. Yes, I'm hesitant. But, Yes, I'd lead. I would love to go with your team in 2011.

  • 8
    Vittee says:

    Kari, you are an amazing team leader. God did so many amazing things and we had so much fun. I am still praying about next year. The only difficulty is being able to manage my time off. Would I consider leading a trip … absolutely … scared to death … absolutely. I look forward to reading all the installments. God bless!

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