Written by Shea Nollette.

The team attended church at Watoto’s campus in Gulu. I was blown away by the talent of the worship team and the enthusiasm from the other service attendees. We listened to a beautiful message about Baptism where the pastor explained when you are baptized with the Holy Spirit you will receive strength, passion, and courage from God to persevere and overcome challenges in your own life.

We then headed over to Saint Monica’s Girls’ Vocational School headed by Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. In 2002, when Sister Rosemary was first assigned to St. Monica’s. Uganda was in the midst of a terrorizing war. Throughout northern Uganda, Joseph Kony and his army: the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was brutalizing communities for power and greed. The LRA abducted children, forced boys to become soldiers and girls sex slaves for the men in the militia. Sister Rosemary opened up her heart and new school to the women and children who were victims of the violence. She provided a safe place for the children to stay, have meals, and a sense of belonging. She began to teach them a trade, to empower them and embed a feeling of self-worth within. She taught vocations such as tailoring, cooking, and hairdressing.

As we toured the compound, we found a couple of girls working on sewing machines. With smiles on their faces, these women tediously stitched beautiful authentic clothing. We also found our way to the Jackie Fox Memorial Library built after the passing of my grandma who was an English teacher. I couldn’t imagine a better way to memorialize her.

Then we gathered back at the common area. I was playing with Sister Rosemary’s puppies when a 6’7 South Sudanese man walked through the door. It was Wek! My family had hosted Wek for several years as he attended Arizona State University. He had scored the highest on standardized testing in South Sudan earning him a full ride to ASU. He had moved back to his hometown after finishing school and I hadn’t seen him since the graduation ceremony 4 years ago. We were absolute best friends, so his surprise arrival made this trip very special.

The team then headed to a nearby market to experience a Ugandan shopping excursion. From rice and beans to shoes and homemade baskets, they had it all. It was especially incredible to see all the artwork and crafts showcasing the talent in Gulu.
We ended the night back at St. Monica’s and enjoyed dinner with Sister Rosemary, Wek, Dr. Sylvester (an orthopedic surgeon at Lacor hospital) and his wife. It was a great day to say the least.