Giving Back: Shannon’s East Africa Mission
October 3rd, myself along with my fellow C3 Toronto interns set out on our 2-week mission trip to Uganda, East Africa. With this being my first mission trip I wasn’t sure what to expect. Taking the time to look back on the 2 weeks, I can’t help but realize how grateful I am for my church, my fellow interns and lead pastors, each person I met and had the opportunity to interact with, and to come home feeling fulfilled and inspired. If it wasn’t for C3 Toronto developing the internship program and offering to fund a church planting conference in East Africa, I wouldn’t have been blessed with this incredible opportunity to travel there!
A bit of background information on how I became a part of this mission... towards the end of the summer, we launched our internship program with C3. This opportunity was announced at our leadership retreat back in June, and I had felt called to apply, and go through the program to develop my leadership and creative gift with design working under Chrissy Burrows (for those of you who don’t know Chrissy, she’s a creative powerhouse)! We have a total of 15 interns, including myself) all working in different areas of the church, every Wednesday, under different leaders. The mission trip to East Africa was a part of the internship and only available to the interns. The goal of the trip was for us to go and help our C3 church planters, spread the word of god, visit with and supply families in the villages of Uganda with hope while delivering care packages. We spent most of our time in Kitgum and Kampala.
Together, the interns and I spend a full day together at the church office and we see each other at church on Sundays… if we weren’t already close we definitely became a family during this trip. We spent MANY hours on a small bus together (named Rosa), saw each other at through every phase of the trip: our most vulnerable, tired, hungry, hairy, smelly… you name it we probably saw it in one another! We learned a lot about each other too: who’s deathly afraid of insects (Aimee), who has a newfound love of animals (Summer), who can rap like Eminem (Cam), and I’m proud to say we got to watch each other grow, in our gifts and God's calling, as well as our capacity! I feel like a proud sister saying this and I wouldn’t trade our experience for anything!
Nothing made my heart smile more than touching the lives of those we had the opportunity to interact with! Seeing their eyes light up during our visits or conversations. I felt like everyone was a sponge who wanted to interact with you and look at you as long as they could! During the church planter’s Xpress conference we shared how we are actively working to spread the word and love of God in our city and the opportunities for church planters in East Africa, like connect groups that create community and build supportive and lasting relationships. Some of my closest relationships I have not were formed through connect groups here in Toronto! It was incredible being able to meet with the young leaders in our church community there, we were able to not only instill hope in these individuals but we left with hope and ideas to bring to our church community here in Toronto! It was awesome to see how C3 truly is a global family, and the feeling you get interacting with our family around the world is something I’m excited for us to continue to do and reach out around the world. This was our first mission trip at C3 Toronto and I see many mission trips to come in the future!
While the conference took place a portion of the time we were there, it was a blessing being able to touch the lives of those in the community. We met one girl in particular, Kevin. Kevin is 22 years old and living with nodding syndrome. Those with nodding disease experience a complete and permanent stunting of growth along with the growth of the brain, leading to mental handicap. Kevin lives out in a remote village with her family. She used to visit Ps David Livingston’s church. Ps David planted the first C3 church in East Africa and was our guide during our missionary work in the villages. Kevin, being unable to walk the usual 40 minutes she would walk to church on a Sunday, is unable to leave her home (a small hut, with very little for her and her family to survive). It is overwhelming for Ps David to visit her and see this disease get stronger. A few of the girls and I circled around Kevin and Ps David, we were asking Ps David more questions but he got teary and it became difficult for him to speak, that’s when Denise (our worship intern) began to sing “I believe in miracles” to Kevin, and immediately you were able to feel the presence of god over our circle and Kevin, we all began to sing and you could tell Kevin couldn’t have felt more at peace, we could only imagine how much she missed going to church and the least we could do was worship and bring the presence of God to her!
One struggle I had weighing over my heart for a portion of the trip was the feeling that I wasn’t doing ENOUGH. I was fighting the thought of we can walk one more kilometer, visit one more family, sing one more song… I was glad to be able to have such an incredible group around me to remind me of what Lowis had said, every drop in the bucket counts. That every interaction we had made a difference and planted a seed of hope and welcomes the presence of God into this wonderful area of the world!
I love that I came home feeling so inspired and encouraged to be a laser beam to God through connecting with people and as a creative. I believe in my church and our mission to lead people to follow Jesus as Lord, and make disciples to advance his kingdom through the local church. I feel that this mission fulfilled that and I couldn’t be more excited to reconnect with that fire within myself to invest in my future and know that I have a part to play!
If you’re reading this and feel encouraged to go on a mission trip, I would say GO! Make sure to do your research to find an organization and a trip that speaks to you and go. I promise it will be an incredible, life-changing experience!
Find more from Shannon here!