We are the crazy ones. We are the family that left our comfortable position chasing the American dream and traded it for burning trash, body odor, dirt and poverty. We are following a calling on our lives.
I wanted to introduce you to a very special ministry called Sixty Feet… sharing a few stories from my mission trip that changed my life. It’s hard to comprehend that children living in Uganda who are orphaned, lost, abandoned, rejected are sent to prison, but it’s the truth of their existence. I’m still trying to process the things I witnessed at the prisons we visited [code names] M1, M3 and M4. I hope you will join me in praying for the imprisoned children who desperately need God's miracles in their lives. I saw what I saw. Read More
We spent the day serving food to 500+ local children with Amazima ministries!! I was so excited to meet one of my real life heroes in Uganda and watching the amazing Katie Davis love in action. Take a peek at our crazy interview!!
I’m so excited to introduce you to my new friend, Rebecca Sorensen. I had no idea there was a real life princess living in Kampala, Uganda in a house full of love. God called her to serve and minister to orphans [read more of her story] Please leave her a crazy comment of support!!
My first hero I want to introduce you to is Pastor Samuel from Return Ministries in Kampala, Uganda. He introduced us to his big crazy family and helped us understand what it really means to be an orphan. His passion is training up people to love and care for orphans, but he is a living testimony of what it means to simply love. We learned that Pastor Samuel could only work part time for his ministry due to high living costs in Kampala for his family. He could not afford to minister full time… that breaks my heart!
My first few nights in Uganda, it took me a long time to go to sleep. I wrote a few things by flashlight in my personal journal to share with you.
We met Pastor Samuel at 10:30 am for breakfast at Sophie Hotel. We ate eggs, fruit and toast. He spoke with us about why we are here and what exactly is an orphan. It was outstanding. I am learning more about what it means to be an orphan spiritually, physically and emotionally. The children are so lost and lonely, but need to feel a part of a family. The children Samuel works with are 15 true orphans that he has living on the compound.. they live there, eat, go to school, and are a part of a family. The other 200 VERY needy children come when they can and eat and interact with Pastor Samuel’s adopted “family.”
The team went to the bank together and exchanged the money we had for donations and shopping. We had about a 30 min. drive to Kampala and Return Ministries. The children had been waiting for a long time for us to arrive (had to wait to eat) They were ecstatic. The looks on over 200 faces of children ranging from ages 1-15 was something I won’t forget. They were cheering and dancing and sooo excited to see our team. *Remember, we do not have any of our donations bags, but we had glitter and fingernail polish and bubbles to play. The children did a short program for us of songs and dancing. It was really precious. They sang several songs and then we got to eat with the children and staff.
There is a very old man (photo by Carrie) and his wife Josephina living at the compound. I think it really hit home for me that Pastor Samuel needs to be here too- full time! There was rice, potatoes, beef stew, peanut mixture (purple?) and bread like a flat tortilla to eat. The kids went first and then we served all 200+ children their food. I noticed we ran out of dishes quickly, so I asked if I could help wash dishes. Oh, what an experience:) They put me in a room with a pile of dirty dishes and I scrubbed in a metal pot with a few of my team mates… with a tiny stringy scrubber and got to work!! It was so much fun working side by side with the staff of girls helping feed the children.
The children played for the next few hours with the team. Every child had glitter on their faces and finger nails and toes painted in bright colors. I went around taking photos of the children, but they had to hold my hand before I clicked for them. It was my way of bonding and taking photos with the children. I got to hold 2 girls about Zoie’s age and they both fell asleep in my arms. I was in heaven. I also got to have my hair braided by a group of about 5 girls and 1 staff member. Oh boy did it hurt. My head is still tender:)) I think my team had more fun seeing my wild crazy hair, but it was worth it.
We left the ministry about 5:30pm and went directly to the airport. The big surprise… all 26 bags showed up!!!! I know from experience that this is a flat out miracle!! We were ecstatic due to all our donations making it and many people had no clothes for 24 hours. We came back to Sophie Hotel for a delicious meal of fried chicken and a array of delicious Ugandan food. We had a brief “debriefing” and talked about how we want to spread our donations out for the remainder of the trip. Randi led the group in breaking up the children we visit today in 4 age groups, so we can really bond. The team met late tonight to come up with some wonderful Bible skits and songs to work with the children.
We love Pastor Samuel. His spirit is so quiet, strong and passionate about what his mission is for his people. He welcomed us back to the orphanage and this time we came with a plan. Randi’s ideas were a wild success. We broke the kids up in 5 age groups and everyone went were they felt led to serve. It was such a blessing for me to watch “my crazy team” loving and playing and ministering to the children. In fact, I was blown away!!!!!! Every single child today was loved. Every child received a hug or nurturing touch from my team. Every child was able to witness the love of Jesus in the kindness and love and playfulness and affection that the team poured out. I was the witness to a miracle of what it truly means to simply love.
The children received 200 color books and crayons… we worked with them as they held a crayon, maybe for the first time. A sweet little girl bent over in her chair clutching her color book and threw her guts up. Awwww I felt so bad for her. Watching the older children/siblings jump in and take over parenting skills with their younger siblings was a reality eye opener. They are so loving and nurturing.
I bonded with baby Dora. She was 2.5 and tiny with the most stunning smile I have ever seen. She had a deep spirit that shined in her sweet eyes. She has seen things in her short life that I most likely will never witness. Her older sister came around several times to check on her in my arms, but Dora would push her away. She wanted full time me:)) I didn’t let her go for hours. When I had to say goodbye, she clung to me and cried. This tiny toddler knew that I loved her and didn’t want me to let her go. Our time together was precious and Dora and I didn’t want to let go. I took a precious photo of the 2 sisters saying goodbye to me at the gate. I was told the girls were being raised by grandmother.
I’m really happy to announce that with love, support and team donations through Visiting Orphans, we have come together and helped Samuel leave his job at IT and work full time in Kampala with Return Ministries. God placed us at this amazing ministry at the perfect time to make a real difference in hundreds of children’s lives.
(I just received this email from Pastor Samuel- please pray)
praise the Lord!
Join me and my brother, Michael Smalley to Uganda June 2-11th 2011 with Visiting Orphans. The trip is filling up fast… sign up HERE.
My Favorite Team Pics:
(photo by Carrie)
Video made by Joe
To learn more about Return Ministries and how you can visit Pastor Samuel in Kampala, Uganda- click on button.
When Visiting Orphans invited me to lead a mission trip to Ethiopia and Uganda, I will be honest… I was saving my love, energy, and time for Addis Ababa. I had no intentions of falling in love with Uganda and was not anticipating the intense train wreck heading straight for my heart. I was really excited to serve and explore a new country, even taking the time to google the two cities we were visiting – Kampala and Jinja. The best part, I had no idea that God was preparing a big crazy surprise and life changing adventure that would rock my heart. Here’s some of the facts I studied:
Uganda is a country of stunning beauty and heartbreaking history of persecution. It is a landlocked country in East Africa. It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, which is also bordered by Kenya and Tanzania.
Between them, Ugandans speak an impressive forty or more different languages. This is a result of Uganda’s ethnically diverse history, and the adoption of English as the main language during Uganda’s colonial years. Uganda is a fascinating country, with a complicated history far too often involving bloodshed, violence and betrayal. Yet the people are among the most welcoming and determined to be helpful that you could meet anywhere in the world.
However, what soon became transparent to me was that Google failed to mention a single thing in any of the articles I read, about the individual heroes I would meet in Kampala and Jinja. In fact, I wasn’t prepared for the kindness, hospitality, service, joy and love I would witness at every corner we turned. I had no clue reading from my Google notes, that the children who are suffering atrocities on a daily basis, exemplify what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I was completely unprepared meeting Pastors and Directors that literally gave everything they had to their congregation or village ministry.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the 7 days I spent in Uganda was the singing. The children of Uganda love to sing! They sing doing their chores, going to school, playing, worshiping… and even at bedtime. I learned a new way of worship through music. They didn’t have any hymn books or fancy instruments… just their voices and hands and pure joy. My favorite song was simple… “I love you Jesus, deep down in my heart. I love you Jesus, deep down in my heart. So deep deep so down down, so deep down in my heart. So deep deep so down down, so deep down in my heart.” I heard that song a hundred times a day and it always brought tears to my eyes.
The people of Uganda embrace with all their hearts the simplicity of God’s love. The hundreds of children that we had the honor of loving and serving taught us the only reason for living was worshiping God, loving God and longing for His return all day long. I have never witnessed with my eyes, children worshiping with every fiber of their bodies.
In my next four blog posts, I want to share a story about each hero I met in Uganda. My dear friends, Pastor Samuel, Rebecca Sorensen, Pastor Isaac and Katie Davis have made a crazy impact in Uganda. This list does not include the countless children and staff we met along the way, but my four heroes are remarkable and courageous and dream makers and warriors for Jesus Christ. I hope that you fall deep deep in love with Uganda, too.
Join me this week in celebrating the heartbeat of a country that is rich in spirit and love. Bloggy friends, I want to know if you will pray about coming back with me to minister in Uganda with Visiting Orphans. We have a brand new trip scheduled, June 2nd – 11th 2011. You can sign up today!! You can FaceBook Rebecca Sorensen and follow her new blog to learn more about My Father’s House Ministry and Royal Hope School in Kampala.
Bloggy readers, Let me know what you think in the comments about worship styles in different parts of the world that you have witnessed that made an impact on your life and how you worship.
Praising the Lord with music in Uganda
(videos by Joe)
BIG CRAZY NEWS- We have 15 people signed up… only 10 more slots open to fill! If you are feeling a passion about this trip, please continue to pray and fill out the application when the time is right!!! Spots are filling up fast!!!!
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. Read More
I can’t believe I’ve only been home 3 weeks from Africa! It took me a long time to recover physically and emotionally, but now feeling the excitement bubbling inside my heart to share the good, bad and craziness with you. I think the best place for me to start is from the beginning. I would never have had the opportunity to lead a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia without the incredible ministry of Visiting Orphans. I stumbled into the leadership role of an extraordinary team of 30 for reasons I still do not fully understand. I am grateful for all the twists and turns that happened to redirect me, change me and guide me to serve in Africa.
The executive director of Visiting Orphans is my friend, Amanda Lawrence. We have never met in person, but have a shared passion for missions, orphans, adoption and craziness. She opened up her heart wide in faith and allowed me to jump on board due to our relationship with America World Adoption. She has lead countless mission trips all over the world and taught me so much about leadership and serving with her grace and love for orphans.
My personality, as you know is a little on the crazy side, but Amanda poured her patience in abundance as she worked with me during the months preparing for the trip. The best part, announcing to her that I was going for a week to Alaska with my family the week before the trip. She never wavered in kindness, understanding and willingness to help.
I wanted to give my best effort as a newbie leader and allow God to lead through me. God lovingly taught me through my team how important it was to be flexible, patient, joyful, loving, and courageous every step of the way. I was so humbled. I watched my team demonstrate love and generosity and compassion to every single person they ministered to.
(Thank you team- Ashlie, Ernie, Randi, Dee Dee, Vit, Kevin, Judson, Juliana, Kari, Carrie, Joe, Emily, Darrell, Cherie, Ashlie, Amanda, Beza, Carly, Chaye, Cynthia, Cynthia, Eryn, Janette, Jen, Karen, Kinsey, Lindsey, Marge, Rebecca, Sarah for loving radically in Africa!!)
In the next few weeks, I want to celebrate on my blog the incredible people we met in Uganda and Ethiopia. I have so many stories and photos to share with my readers. I want to dig deep down in my heart and tell you how God changed my life. I pray that God will use our craziness in Africa to help spread His message of love and service and ministry to orphans.
I want to invite you to join me on a bloggy adventure to Africa. I hope that you will read the stories, leave your comments and share your own personal stories of mission trips and orphan care. We are all in this together. If you have any questions please email me.
My New Crazy Mission Trips 2011
I will be leading two trips in 2011. Please join me serving orphans in Africa!! You can go directly to the website Visiting Orphans to sign up today!! The first 5 men who sign up for the trips will receive a FREE Man Up T shirt!!!
10 Day Ethiopia Trip: February 17th – 26th 2011
- Leaders- Kari & Roger Gibson and co-leader Kelly Blackwell
10 Day Uganda Trip: June 2nd – 11th 2011
- Leaders- Kari Gibson and Michael Smalley
Men Needed- Visiting Orphans has available spots for an Uganda Mission trip Dec. 28 to Jan. 12!! Sign up today!!
Visiting Orphans vision is simple:
- To enlist Church volunteers to visit orphanages so they may meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs of orphans.
- To develop relationships, provide comfort and to share the Gospel with orphans.
- To provide financial aid for child sponsorship, medical assistance and construction to improve the living conditions of orphans.
- To mobilize Christian churches to help orphans experience the blessing of family.
Visiting Orphans mission is simple:
Visiting Orphans is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Established in 2005 by America World Adoption Association as a way to further help the orphans of the world. Visiting Orphans works to fulfill the biblical mandate given in James 1:27 of “visiting orphans” in their distress.
Visiting Orphans has conducted many missions trips for churches, schools, and individuals from around the United States to orphanages around the world including China, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Russia and Costa Rica.
Looking ahead, VO’s plan of action is to begin mobilizing and working more directly with churches in the United States. While we will still work with individuals and schools in order to bring people to orphans and expose them to the hardships they face, partnerships with churches will drive our expansion and positive impact on orphaned children around the world.
Mission: Visiting Orphans works with Christian churches to help raise orphan awareness in the hopes of each orphan experiencing the blessing of family through:
2. Transitional Services
If you are part of a church looking to start or expand your orphan ministry we would love to assist you!
My heart is almost as full as my suitcases. I’m feeling excited and nervous and blessed like crazy for my 14 days in Africa. I think the shock has finally worn off that I’m actually going to get on a plane and fly to my beloved Africa to serve orphans in Ethiopia and Uganda. I’m honored that 31 crazy people are joining me from all over the country. My family has supported my adventure wholeheartedly and have made me feel that what I’m going to do is important to them, too. My community has also supported my trip and wrapped their hearts around helping me raise donations for the 14 projects and hundreds of orphans we will visit. I was interviewed on radio and newspaper for orphan awareness and adoption support. I’m packed and ready to go with a well-organized itinerary and plan, but I know that God can write His own itinerary and change every plan made for His glory. In fact, I might be a little disappointed if our plans don’t change just a little due to some craziness and adventurous detour (remember Haiti).
Someone asked me recently why I’m going to Africa to visit orphans? I wanted my answer to sound confident and wise, but all that came out was shaky and emotional. I want to walk the walk. It’s very difficult to express what is deep in my heart and the passion that burns inside to simply love orphans. God gave me 3 beautiful children and now I have the honor of visiting children who do not have a mom or dad or family. They just need someone to hug them tight and love them unconditionally.
Please join me for the next 14 days and pray for me and my team. We are moms and dads and sisters and brothers. We are 31 different souls heading to Africa with different expectations and beliefs, but one special purpose- loving and serving orphans.
My Crazy Adoption blog will be featuring guest bloggers for the next 14+ days. These are crazy readers that took the time out of their busy schedules to write posts that will inspire, encourage, challenge, teach, and make you laugh or cry!! Please take the time to come over and read the guest posts and pleaaasseee leave them your encouragement and cheers in the comments.
My Crazy Readers, it was so much fun for me to show off your fundraising projects when I was in Haiti. It was a joy to give them away to the amazing people I met there that fervently serve orphans. I’m traveling soon to Uganda and Ethiopia on my mission trip with Visiting Orphans and would LOVE to be your billboard. I will show off your fundraising products via photography or video, wearing, giving, or sharing them with others in Africa!! When you see me wearing your products in a future post… leave a detailed comment and description of where readers can purchase your products. I will also add a LINKY TOOL for you to share where to purchase your projects. I get many emails a week from readers who want to support your fundraisers!
If you are interested in me being your billboard in Africa- leave me a comment for my mailing address.
Deadline to send me your fundraising projects- July 4th!!
I need your help to collect donations [list here] for my mission trip- gifts for the orphans my team will visit for 14 days. I want to bring 100 purses for the women at Fistula Hospital… can you help me?
I’m so excited to have special guest blogger, Sumer who just came back from a 14 day mission trip with Visiting Orphans in Uganda and Ethiopia. We only have 1 more spot open for my crazy team of 25. Please take time today to pray and ask- are you the 1?
Our July mission trip to Uganda & Ethiopia with Visiting Orphans is filling up fast!! Thank you for your amazing emails & prayers as we are building a team of 25 crazy, passionate, loving, inspiring, adventurous bloggy friends (men & women) to join us – July 19th through August 1st on a trip of a lifetime. Many of your hearts are stirring and praying about joining us and I want to encourage you to move forward in faith and do something radical.
I can’t wait to meet Katie Davis and all her girls- you don’t want to miss this adventure to Uganda! We will have the opportunity to feed over 1000 orphans that Katie has loved and cared for.
Things to do:
1. Fill out the Application to reserve your spot: VISITING ORPHANS WEBSITE.
2. Get a Passport (Check your expiration date please!!) http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
3. Make an appointment at your Health Department for immunizations. Yellow Fever is the only shot that is mandatory, although I went ahead and got all the recommended shots, including Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, and Typhoid http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/vaccinations.aspx
1. Please send out donation request letters ASAP. Make them personal and include a self addressed return envelope!
If you want to read my post introducing the July Mission Trip- CLICK HERE.
I am beyond CRAZY EXCITED to announce today a very special mission trip that you can join me- Team Kari -on this summer. I am co-leading a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia …we are building a team of 25 crazy, passionate, loving, inspiring, adventurous bloggy friends to join us – July 19th through August 1st on a trip of a lifetime.