In July of 2008, I received the chance to participate in a mission trip to the African country of Uganda. As a sixteen year old, I agreed to travel on three planes and pass thru three different countries by myself. This was my first real mission trip and my first trip outside of the country, to say I was scared and nervous was an understatement! Upon arriving in Africa, I was greeted by the other team members: ten from the United States, three from Uganda, and the host family of American missionaries. Within the first hour my life was already transforming.
The next two weeks of my life consisted of houses with no electricity, mosquito nets, dirt floors, out houses, bug infested beds, strange foreign foods, and streets with no traffic laws. Between the lawless roads and the frequent gang out breaks, walking down the street was life threatening. I witnessed extreme levels of poverty, inner city slums, uneducated adults, child mothers, and devastated families. The streets were overflowing with barley clothed, orphaned children, many of whom were infected with the AIDS virus. Unsanitary, germ infested water and inefficient medical supplies were a part of their everyday lives. Nothing in my lifetime had fully prepared me for the devastation and hope that screamed out from the eyes of the people I was fortunate enough to meet.
We began reaching out in schools and little villages around our “home.” Towards the end of the trip, we visited a large village in a city about six hours away, located on the Kenyan border. Within the borders of this village my life received meaning.
We sat on a wooden plank held up by two slightly thicker logs for a three hour church service. About thirty minutes into the service I was already complaining of an aching back. Meanwhile, babies were urinating on the church floor because they were too poor to have the privilege of wearing a diaper. While I was focused only on how uncomfortable I was, children and adults were eagerly standing outside in the unforgiving Ugandan sun just to hear what the preacher had to say. When a baby girl was passed to me by her older sister I became aware of my selfishness. The baby was cranky and wet. In that single moment, my heart changed. Every annoyance and every worry I had melted away. The only thing that mattered was the comfort of this precious child. The innocence in her eyes and my knowledge of what she was destined to experience and grow up in was hard to grasp. I wanted desperately to give her a new reality. I knew that helping her specifically was not a possibility, but I could make a difference in other children’s lives, giving them a new reality.
It was from that experience that I knew exactly what my purpose would be. I was determined to use my life and everything in my power to help those who can not help themselves, take care of those in need, comfort the hurting, and love the loveless. In the field of nursing, I believe that I can accomplish these goals.
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