Mrs. Shelia Buff, 55 next week, lives in a decent sized little trailer down a long dusty road in Cochran, Ga. With the most cheerful, good ole’ southern accent you could think of, we were greeted with hugs and ’I’m soooo happy you guys are here! I can’t believe it!!’
When you walk into ‘Mrs Buffy’s” house you feel right at home, like you’ve gone to visit your own grandmother. Everything was extremely comfy/cozy, the kitchen was decorated in apple-themed things with a small table in the middle. Made from scratch chocolate-chip cookies were waiting for us. We sat down and ate and talked while she walked around mixing up what she was cooking for dinner. She began asking about all the different babies and staff members at Sonrise. She began to share “I didn’t know why God was leading me to come and work at a baby home, I could never have children, every time I just see a baby I start crying, but I knew the very minute that i heard the church was taking a trip that I was supposed to go.”
She continued, “I was all excited about it till I got on that plane in ATL, then it all hit me, ‘Was it really God or did I just make this up?’ ‘Why a baby home? I can’t handle babies.’ ‘What have I gotten myself into. Oh well, only 9 days and then I never have to do this again.’” She said she continued to deal with all these different thoughts and feelings until they landed in Uganda and they got out of the plane. There is a very, very distinct smell in Uganda that can only be described as ‘Uganda’. I don’t know how to explain it, but when you step off that plane 1,000 things hit you at once. Mrs. Buffy described it as being able to ‘feel the country breathe’. At that time she said ‘Okay God, let’s do this.’
Sonrise has several college-aged Ugandans that volunteer full-time serving the baby home, helping with shopping, driving, cleaning, accounting, emailing, whatever needs to be done. These kids are truly remarkable, they work for free and they all have hearts of gold. They love these 37 children as if they were there own. Mrs Buffy said as soon as she was greeted by some of these volunteers, Aisha, Joseph, Jonathan and Ivan, God spoke to her heart and told her ‘They are why you’re here.’ For the next 7 days she loved on these volunteers, orphans themselves, pouring into them, encouraging them, listening to their stories and sharing her own. She cared for the caretakers.
This is a great story, heartwarming in itself, but what I found more challenging was the life of Mrs. Buffy now. it has been 3 months since her team came back but Uganda is still very present on her mind and her heart. As she walked us to our bedroom where we would sleep that night, we passed a hallway covered in framed pictures of her time in Uganda.
Jonathan is one of the volunteers at Sonrise. An orphan himself, he grew up in Northern Uganda where the rebel army has been reaking havoc for the last 15-20 years. He saw several of his family members murdered in front of him, his own mother tried to kill him because she didnt want the rebels to capture him. He has since been trying to care for his remaining family, cousins, siblings, etc, and in his ‘extra’ time, volunteering at Sonrise. Mrs Buffy shared that she felt led to pay for Jonathan to go to university, about $3000 a year. Damali was ecstatic. “He works so hard and is such a good guy, no one ever thinks about helping him, I can’t believe it, he will be so happy!’
She told us she was going to be moving soon. Damali asked her why and she explained “Well, I’m selling my trailer and moving into a smaller apartment closer to town. I can save on rent, on gas, etc so I will be able to send more money over there and hopefully come back next year too. When I came back I realized that I could downsize a lot and come up with more money to give.”
I’m sure there is a lot more to Mrs Buffy’s story, but I hope from this brief portion you are as encouraged as I was.This week has been very long and tiring. We spoke 8 times in 8 days and travelled 1550 miles by car. I have taken a huge pay cut because of all the traveling. The stress and pressure of trying to make ends meet is weighing on me. The not getting to see my church family and losing touch with friends is discouraging to me. But I was quickly reminded why we do what we do, why every ounce of energy poured into this ministry at Sonrise is worth it. The gospel is being spread. The good news that Jesus came and we are set free to live a life of meaning and purpose and passion. God is changing lives. And not just lives in Uganda but lives here, in the local church. People are being inspired and encouraged and moved to action. We are on a mission field right here on the home front, with a very important mission.
So please, continue to join in on this mission through prayers and encouragement. God is doing big things through all of our combined efforts and through your prayers and support you guys are just as much a part of it as we are out on the road, up on the stage, or in the middle of the village.