Last month we had the pleasure of hearing Chelsea speak of her time in Uganda as part of her Missions Internship with NZCMS in 2017-2018. Below is a summary of some of the stories and reflections she shared.
An Introduction with Lucy
Chelsea’s best friend in Uganda was Lucy. Lucy has a disease which usually takes a person’s life by the age of 7. She is now 33 years old and is almost a walking miracle. However, her life isn’t exactly simple and she isn’t able to work due to her illness. Lucy was just one of many people Chelsea met in Uganda and, by the end of this story, you'll know how powerful an impact she has had on Chelsea's life and faith. But before we continue Lucy's story, let's journey through some other adventures Chelsea had through her Internship.
Getting through the checkpoint
Chelsea sat on her ‘boda’ (motorbike taxi) as they flew down the dusty roads, flying past the endless farmlands and beautiful clouds of butterflies. Nervous energy crackled in the air as Chelsea and Nick drove towards a checkpoint. They needed to get to a village called Apaa but there was a high chance that they would be turned away at the checkpoint.
With them was a fantastic young nurse who, with a box full of medical supplies, was travelling with them to get the abandoned health clinic back up and running. The last staff member had been forced to flee because of the local conflict. The impact of this conflict has been slowly displacing thousands of the locals, most of whom are very poor and cannot afford to leave the only home they had ever known. It was very important that the nurse and supplies made it to Apaa otherwise the healthcare ramifications for the locals could be tragic.
Finally, they arrived at the checkpoint. The drivers slowed down to be checked, holding their breath and waiting for the guards to call out. However, incredibly, they noticed that the guards at the roadside were asleep! Without any challenges, the team’s boda drivers drove straight through as fast as they could.
When they arrived at the village, a woman immediately came to them, ecstatic that they were there. She had two sick children. Any other clinic was either too far away or too expensive for her to reach. As they began cleaning up the clinic talking to the locals, it was evident that the land conflict was extremely tough yet there was absolutely no way that the locals would leave unless, in their words, “They were dead”.
When the team left Apaa, they couldn’t help departing with a sense of worry for the people there, unsettled by the news they’d heard and what would become of the people in that area.
As part of here Internship, Chelsea stayed with NZCMS Mission Partners, Nick and Tessa, in their local community for two months. She said that the time she lived there was just a taster of what a Missionary’s life looked like. But it was two months of life-changing moments that consistently stretched and grew her faith. She would often find herself asking “Where is God in this situation?” or on a different day “God is so present here!”
Breaking into a refugee camp
“The worst they could do is get you arrested, and we’ll sort that out later if that happens.”
Quoting Nick’s words brought a laugh from the CMS Support Group that Chelsea was speaking at. During her time in Uganda, she wanted to visit a refugee camp, however, Nick was busy that day. Of course, he had no qualms at all about letting Chelsea loose to find her own way there!
She was warned to keep a low profile when entering the camp and to stay away from the camp authorities who might not be happy to see her there. If she was found, of course, he said she’d either be kicked out or arrested. This didn’t seem to be a big issue for him although Tessa was a bit more concerned. In the end, however, Chelsea decided she would go on her own.
Through bodas, taxis, and hitchhiking, she eventually arrived at the camp, headed round to the back and entered (Hitchhiking is a way many Ugandans make their living and very different to hitchhiking in New Zealand).
The roads were worse than the Christchurch roads in 2011 post-earthquake. In this one refugee camp, 30,000 people were crammed into a space of dusty paths, huts and barren land, interspersed with the occasional small tree. Chelsea made friends with a young man named Richard who walked around translating for her.
She learned that he was trying to save money to support his family, as his father was injured and couldn’t work. After building a farm in South Sudan, the war tore over his region and they were forced to flee and start again. He was hoping to return to South Sudan later that week because he needed to get some papers to be able to work. Chelsea never found out whether he was successful or not.
For three hours Chelsea walked around the refugee camp, meeting many people and hearing their stories. By the end of the day, when she arrived home, the impact of what she’d just seen hit her. The following is a quote from a journal entry she'd written the night she got home from the camp.
"It’s honestly been a very, very heavy day here. I’m always struggling to find hope in such a hopeless place. Tonight I just curled into a ball, and I cried. A camp of 30,000 people, sort of forgotten by the rest of the world. Why could all of this be happening? Why do some people, so full of the need for power or greed …hurt so, so many people? And what do I do…?"
That night, Chelsea returned home full of questions and wondered where hope was. Hope, however, was found in the life of her best friend, Lucy.
A Conversation with Lucy
One afternoon Lucy told Chelsea her story. At a young age, her mum died, and her dad was murdered. She then cared for and raised her two younger siblings who now did not want a relationship with her. Lucy's story was full of grief and Chelsea specifically remembered the two of them sitting down for an entire afternoon and crying together as they talked.
However, despite all of this, Chelsea remembered hearing Lucy sweeping the compound around their huts every morning. And every morning while she worked, Lucy sang praises to God. And throughout the day, she laughed at a joke or story. Lucy’s singing helped Chelsea have hope that God could help her through anything. And her laugh proved that he was present in every situation, no matter how hopeless it seemed.
Through Lucy, Chelsea was reminded that God was not the brokenness. And he was not the pain or grief or loneliness either. God was with those in their brokenness. And, through Lucy, Chelsea saw that God could make something beautiful out of something that was broken. That is Lucy's story. And this is Chelsea's. They're both only in the beginning chapters of their lives. And sometimes their lives are not easy. But they both hold onto God because they have faith that he is the hope for all people.
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."
If you would like to know more about the Internship opportunities that NZCMS provides, we would love to hear from you. visit our Internship page at http://www.nzcms.org.nz/haerenga/ or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org