My first night in another time zone is typically the easiest, thanks to the sheer exhaustion that comes from traveling afar. The subsequent nights, notsomuch. I'm an insomniac at home but at home I have the interwebs to keep me company when I can't sleep. Not so in the UG, baby. It was a scary thing to be alone with my thoughts on those web-less and sleepless nights. Sometimes, when I was confident I wouldn't disturb my 5 roommies, I would crack open my trusty Kindle and work on another book or four. Sometimes I would write.
Our first full day we were up and out pretty early in order to make it to a Saturday outreach event at Victory Church in a small village outside Kampala. Our team conducted a prenatal women's health seminar for about 300 expectant mothers inside the walls of a tent covered but roof-less church building. Our team leader (Melissa) was invited to the mic to share about the Mercy for Mamas organization, and it was a beautiful moment for me as an adoptive mother to be there among so many Ugandan mothers to tell and show them that we believe in adoption when that is absolutely necessary but that what we really think is that it is best and most important for THEM to live and raise their babies. Adoption is beautiful but orphan prevention is even better.
After the program, (which was given in their language by a Ugandan nurse-the oh so very fabulous Agnes) we served the women a meal with sodas and opened a prenatal clinic on our team bus. The ladies were a smidge hesitant at first but in the end were so encouraged by seeing a team of mzungus (white people) who wanted to serve them in any way possible, starting with a hot meal, a rare soda treat, and providing them with sterile birthing kits to protect these mamas and their babies from unnecessary infections and death.
The simplicity of this organization is so incredibly beautiful. Mercy for Mamas partners with local ministries who are on the ground serving vulnerable women of Uganda. Some, like SHIM, work in remote areas and serve families in the local villages in general ways. Others, like Kupendwa, serve a very specific purpose in operating as a foster home for pregnant teenage girls in crisis. In and through local churches, MfM supports long term mission efforts by providing the ministries on the ground with stores of the mama kits as well as short term educational and encouraging programs. At Victory and at each of the subsequent places we visited, Melissa would listen to the local leader's requests for what the women in the audience needed to hear the most and then she would coordinate the team's efforts in best meeting those needs. Sometimes it was a talk on menopause (interestingly a first for every crowd, bringing some real understanding and reassurance to a bunch of women who thought they were losing their minds). Other times the most important thing we did was just actively listen to the sweet chattering of a girl who really just wanted to be heard.
MfM's simplicity also makes it wonderfully versatile. What in the world would connect villagers on some remote island, incarcerated women, pregnant 12 year olds, and more than 75 unique ministries all across Uganda? Mama kits. Because facing the realities of childbirth is a universal language, and any woman who listens to a health seminar and receives a good meal and a mama kit on Saturday will likely return on Sunday to hear more from the congregation reaching out to show them kindness and real love...the kind that would sustain them well beyond the moment their child comes into the world and even surpassing the years of hot flashes and feeling like they're going plumb crazy because of the mad rush of those hormones they didn't even know existed.
There are many "causes" out there calling people to action, but I don't know that I've seen many organizations as simple yet versatile as Mercy for Mamas. It was an absolute honor to be a part of this team...even if I didn't wear the shirt.