We brought Uganda home on our feet. We’ve rinsed and scrubbed, yet our shoes still wear the orange-red soil that daily crept in between our toes as we served as missionaries. There are shadows of terracotta hands on our white t-shirts. The smell of burning trash and charcoal clings to our hair.
A few days ago, dozens of joy-ridden children sat on our laps, curiously fingered our long wavy hair, squeezed our hands, and searched our eyes for a look—one you-are-loved look. To be honest, as they snuggled in close, their scent was often pungent. But the overwhelming aroma that lingered after our time together was that of Jesus Christ. The smell that brings life in a place where death runs rampant.
There are two Hands of Love schools in Uganda that care for more than 1,600 abandoned and orphaned children. After spending several days at the more developed school near the big city of Kampala, it was time to trek to the second location. The Namadhi orphanage, located in the remote Kayunge district of Uganda, is way out there. It took our team nearly five hours to reach it.
As the Hands of Love van rattled and heaved along the bumpy, unpaved roads carved by the heavy downpours of the rainy season, we took in the unusual scenery. We noticed mud and wattle huts, half-clothed children playing with cardboard boxes, women carrying fire wood and bananas on their heads, and mosques.
Every four to ten kilometers or so, a concrete building with turrets appeared. The turrets were crowned with the unmistakable crescent moon and star of Islam. The building of these rural mosques is funded by Islamic supporters in the middle east whose investment includes a well. Thirsty villagers, who might otherwise walk miles each day to gather water, are offered a shortcut: convert to Islam and receive full access to the well. How ironic. The very source that brings them physical life is used to rob them of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
But at Hands of Love Namadhi, the smell of life pervades the air. Joy surprised our team at every turn. Children chanting “wel-o-come” greeted us with personalized signs and waved palm branches as if we were queens.
Though these Hands of Love children are dusty, they are loved. Though they are hungry, they are fed—both with sponsored meals and the Living Word of Jesus Christ. The fragrance of Christ saturated the atmosphere and we breathed it in deeply.
Our afternoon in the bush flew by. We blew bubbles, attended a school performance, taught classes, gave gifts, and loved the children.
We threw pebbles in every direction, touching as many young lives as we could. Later that night, our weary team returned to our Kampala hotel. We entered air-conditioned rooms and ran clean water in pristine showers until it steamed hot. The orange-red water disappeared into the drain, rinsing off the day’s dust. But the fragrance of Christ forever lingers in our hearts.
As you move through your day, what do you leave behind? Does the “scent” of Jesus’ love linger as a result of your interactions? How can you be more intentional about the way you love others to point them to Jesus? Please share a comment below!