My name is Marissa Griffith and I am a missionary.

I have been on mission with my family several times to Haiti. I learned so much about what it means to be a missionary in my daily life at home in the States, and the importance of caring for the spiritually poor in my own life - the lonely, forgotten, oppressed and vulnerable...to smile and hug a lot of cute children and to come back to the states and tell people about my 'great experience'

However, thorugh Uganda, the Lord has opened my eyst to the reality of suffering and need in the world. It's very easy to look at a picture of a skinny African child, donate a few dollars, and walk away. But when you are confronted with a woman caring fro ten children who are not her own, in a home the size of two garden sheds, her only income from the sewing she does out of one half of the house, how can we keep our hearts from breaking? 

Or when a little baby dies while receiving the sacrament of baptism, or when street children clamor for the last bit of rice to fill their empty bellies with their only meal of the day, how can we refuse to 'see with the eyes of mercy and respond with heart aflame?'

God has given all of us hearts that were made for love and compassion, hearts that were made to be broken so that they can grow with love for His people. It is our duty to respond to this heartbreak by serving and above all, loving these people. They have so much to teach us about joy, simplicity, trust in the MayLord...and love.

Many people view mission as a radical vocation only for the small number of crazy people willing to fly to foreign countries and do the dirty work, While it's true that mission is a radical call, mission is for everyone! Jesus calls each and every one of us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison...I encourage anyone and everyone to support to the Nations in whatever way possible whether it is through monetary donations, prayers or coming to Uganda!

 

My name is Theresa. The tables were turned.

In June 17, 2016, my life was changed forever. It was on that day, I arrived in Uganda, Africa with a group of eight other missionaries. We were met at the airport in Entebbe by a group that had arrived about two weeks earlier.  Here I was on a trip that I had only dreamed of. It was finally coming true. I was prepared to work and sing and pray...to build houses for the homeless, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and and those in prison...minister to the poor of Uganda. What I wasn't prepared for was what happened next. 

Soon after my arrival in Uganda, I had a serious fall that resulted in a broken wrist. It occurred on arrival at mission base in Masake while I was taking a shower. And suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of ministering to the people of Uganda, I was being ministered to by them. They showed me the pure joy and hospitality, sharing their gifts with each other, and with us; and taking care of their community. Everyone that we met expressed their sorrow at my injury. Everyone told me that they were confident that God was with me and would heal me. They thanked me for coming to their country and helping, even though I was unable to help, except to smile and pray.

I was able to bring a smile to the face of one little boy as we played frisbee while everyone else worked. I was able to do some teaching to the young women of the schools that we visited, and I was able to pray in the homes that we visited. So here I am humbled by my experience, still on the mend with one month to go but forever changed by the joy shared with me by the people that I met. I will return, likely next year with two hands this time - prepared to do the work. The harvest is plenty and the laborers are few!

Peace and all goodness,

Theresa.

My Name is Tony Griffith and I am a Missionary

Let's start with our leader, Stephen. I mean Jesus. Well, honestly when you see Stephen in action over here loving, worshiping, working and praising, it might be easy to mistake him for the Jesus man. Stephen, with the blessingof many in the US and Uganda, has put together a journey in faith that allows you to live your faith fully, immersed in love, respect, praise, worship and action. You will be with a joyful and fun-loving group of North Americans and African  missionaries serving, playing, working and praying with Ugandan people in need. From a wind blowing mass in prison, to touching moments at a Ugandan hospital, to clothing, feeding and even building homes for those in need. The journey will renew your faith, enliven your spirituality and allow you to live the gospel message without distraction. The beautiful people of Uganda have so much to teach us in simplicity, joy, love and service.If you cannot make the journey personally, please support  to the nations and offer missionaries to allow them the opportunity to serve and enrich both their lives and the lives of those in Uganda.

A High School Missionary

My name is Mathew Poe and I am a missionary. I am a sophomore at Union County High School and active Lifeteen member for St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. I learned of Stephen's mission when he came to talk to the children at VBS. I immediately knew I had to go as I had been wanting to go on mission with him to Haiti. I came home and told my mom I am going to Uganda with or without her consent. Little did I know that she had already been talking to Stephen about going on a mission trip with me. That's when I received a bag and a note saying that "You are a missionary." It was my first mission, first time on a plane, and my first time out of the US. When I first arrived in Uganda I wasn't sure how I would fit in with helping out as I was just a fifteen-year-old boy. The people immediately accepted me as family and I accepted them. The core team for Lifeteen Uganda quickly started talking to me and I grew closer to one specific person who's name is Moses Mugenyi. He never ceased to amaze me. He was an amazing people reader and one of the greatest friends and brother I will ever have. I got to put a check on my bucket list for playing soccer in Africa as well as eating grasshoppers. It was the first time I ever did something good and experiencing humility. When you gave the children clothes they would bow or get on their knees and say thank you; if you received something from them, they would bow instead of the other way around. They would apologize for something they didn't even have something to do with like if I tripped on a root or told them a story of when I got hurt. This mission changed my view of the world and life, it taught me to cherish everything. I viewed a three-month-old child die and I was angry. I was shown to be happy as the soul is now with the Father. I watched as children played with tires and washed in streams. I was exposed to so much as well as the happiness of the African people. I saw their faith and their joy and became filled with the same thing. I was upset to leave home but knew I had to go to share my experience with my friends, family, and strangers. I am definitely going to be back as there is still more to be done.

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The Call to be a Missionary

The life-giving call to be a missionary disciple of Jesus lies in the very heart of what it means to be Christian, and God began to foster this call in me through the witness and example of so many people including Stephen, who introduced me to Lifeteen Missions.  In him, I see a man who loves the Lord and his Church very much and desires nothing more than to bring the Gospel to every single person he meets.  That is what it means to be missionary!

My Name is Mark Kowalski and I am a Missionary

 Mark Kowolski on Mission: General Cepeda Mission 

Mark Kowolski on Mission: General Cepeda Mission 

The life-giving call to be a missionary disciple of Jesus lies in the very heart of what it means to be Christian, and God began to foster this call in me through the witness and example of so many people including Stephen, who introduced me to Lifeteen Missions.  In him, I see a man who loves the Lord and his Church very much and desires nothing more than to bring the Gospel to every single person he meets.  That is what it means to be missionary!

Mark was ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Richmond VA on April 16, 2016. He will be ordained a priest June 3, 2017. 

My Name is Stephen Smith and I am Missionary

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I am an ordinary American Catholic guy.  Husband, father and grandfather.  U.S. Navy veteran.  Eagle Scout.  Retired educator.  I serve on City Council.  I am a Secular Order Franciscan.  I am a Knight of Columbus.  I have played many roles in youth ministry – from parish youth minister to summer camp director for Life Teen. 

God has given me a heart for missions which was stirred when the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.  I have seen God move mightily.  He continues to call me. I continue to say YES.

I will never forget that day in 2010 when seated on the sofa in the comfort of my own home I was watching the newscast of the horrific earthquake that rocked the island nation of Haiti and the hearts of many including mine,  It was at that very moment that I heard the Lord calling me to Haiti to serve Him by serving our Haitian brothers and sisters. 

Over the past 5 years, I have responded to that call to Haiti 20 times.  My companions and I have assisted in the construction of a clinic, hospital, churches, homes, wells, roads.  We have been able to provide food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, shelter for the homeless, clothing for the naked, healing for the sick, comfort for those in prison.  Most importantly, we have brought the love of Jesus Christ to all He placed in our path.  But not just in Haiti…we have also followed our call to serve in Jamaica, Europe, Mexico and in the United States.

My Name is Regina Cothren

I once called Young Harris, GA my home but now I see that I have a home in Masaka, Uganda as well. 

I am a senior at Hayesville High school. I hope to continue my education at UGA or Kennesaw State.

I grew up in a Catholic family. We used to go to a traditional Latin Mass before going to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. My church family has inspired me to live in my faith.  

I love to read, journal, and run when I'm not scooping ice cream for kids at where I work. 

My favorite quote is, "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."-Mother Teresa 

My favorite scriptures change based on what  is going on in my life. Right now my favorite scripture is undoubtedly, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth."-John 3:16-18 

 


How did you hear about To The Nations?

I heard about To The Nations through Stephen Smith and was instantly intrigued. 


Was this your first mission trip? What other missions have you been on? This was my very first mission trip.. Plane ride.. And out of country visit. 


What made you decide to go?

I have been wanting to do something like this for the past couple years so when Stephen Smith asked for missionaries I knew that I had to go because God was tugging at my heart about it. 


Who supported you so that you could make the journey?

Family and friends alike helped fundraise and support me on this mission. Without their prayers I don't know what I would have done! 


What surprised you about your mission to Uganda?

Uganda was all that I imagined and more. I was surprised by the faith that all the Christians in Uganda share. They have such joy in their hearts and it truly inspires me.

How has your relationship with God changed during and after the mission? This mission trip has made me rely on God more. I've had to lay all my trust into his hands. My relationship with God has strengthened because I see that I do not need all of these earthly possessions.. I just need God and his  infinite love.


How did the Christians in Africa inspire you and challenge your faith as a Christian in America? I have never met such a welcoming culture in my life. I have never seen such richness of heart in a place of such poverty. One day Father said, "To give from nothing is the greatest act of love." These people gave from nothing...and because they gave from nothing... They gave us everything. These people have inspired me to be joyful for the Lord. They have shown me that worldly things will not make you happy because only God can. 


Was there one moment that will stick with you for the rest of your life? I will never forget a little girl named Regina whom I befriended on the mission. One day as I was leaving she hugged on to me tightly saying, "Please don't leave me. I want you to stay. Please stay with me." I was tremendously heartbroken that I had to leave her because I thought I would never see her again. A couple days later I saw her in town by the cathedral. She came up running saying,"I was thinking about you and I was sad because I thought I would never see you again." This girl has my heart forever. 


It’s been over a month. How is life different now that you are back from Uganda? How do your “normal life” differently? The transition back to America was hard for me. I honestly didn't want to leave my home in Masaka, Uganda. Life is harder simply because I see things with a new set of eyes. I get frustrated when people complain of minor things when they have life so good. It took me a couple weeks to realize that these people did not experience what I experienced and I just have to love everyone with all that I have. I have more joy for the lord now. I pray to God daily and I give him thanksgiving for the time that I spent in Uganda. 


If someone were to ask you why its worth going on a mission, what would you tell them? A mission trip like this will turn your world upside down for the best. Your life will never be the same. A life with God is a life of adventure. If you feel you are called to mission then pray about it... And don't refuse his call to you. Don't worry about how the money will come. If you're meant to go on the mission it will all work out. God will not say no to your yes. 


Is it possible to be a missionary in everyday life? How do you do it? God calls all of us to be missionaries in our every day lives. You don't have to travel half way across the world to be a missionary. You can be a missionary by spreading the love of God through your actions. Pray that when people see you, they see his love. Being a missionary is about loving God and loving the people around you. 

My Name is Tony Cotrupi and I am a Missionary

As Americans, we are inundated by people trying to get into our pockets.

Perhaps it is a walk for cancer, or diabetes. Maybe a family’s home has burned down, or the local food pantry needs canned goods. A library needs funding, or the police/firemen want a little extra, and of course there are always those ubiquitous guys at the intersections with the cardboard signs. And then there is that fundraising granddaddy of them all, the soft focus TV ads and direct mail featuring the malnourished children of the “developing world,” and in particular the region that never seems to develop – Africa.

Perhaps like me, over time you’ve constructed a protective coating around your heart that hardens you to these requests. A deep “compassion fatigue” sets in that, well…. I get exhausted just thinking about.

What’s interesting is that in truth, I have given precious little of myself to help the poor. Yet somehow I’ve grown tired watching others.

To correct this, a close friend recently suggested I need to do more than occasionally give money. Writing checks can help others, he says, but it doesn’t change you. This is consistent with Pope Francis, who seems to be saying the only way to truly understand the poverty and suffering that grips so much of our world, and become more empathetic and fully human in the process, is to hold it in your arms.

I decided to give it a try, joining Stephen Smith of “To The Nations,” a non-profit headquartered at his kitchen table in Hiawassee, GA, and nine other missionaries on a 16-day trip to Masaka, Uganda. For the curious, Masaka is an 8-hour flight from Atlanta to London, another 8-hour flight from London to Entebbe, and then a 4-hour rickety van ride to this dusty, vibrant city of 70,000. If you prefer a longer route, miss your connection in London (as we did) and fly London to Dubai, and then Dubai to Entebbe to add another 5 hours of flying time. If you go to Africa, buckle up and bring the sleeping pills.

Stephen is a veteran of some 30+ mission trips around the world, and his idea for this venture made immediate sense to me.

First, the mission was intended to support and enable local initiatives as opposed to establishing our own ideas and programs. He had connected with Kosozi Moses, a remarkable 23-year old who has started a Life Teen youth ministry program in his diocese to “lead teens closer to Christ.” Most of our time would be spent helping and encouraging Moses and his merry band of 17-23 year olds in work they are already doing in their church and community.

Second, Stephen’s mission trips have both an evangelization and volunteer component, based on the idea that in struggling countries like Uganda, desperate people need both words and deeds. We would preach the good news, to be sure, but also live it – bringing the money and materiel necessary to shelter a homeless family, feed the hungry, clothe the (nearly) naked, visit the imprisoned and do our best to heal and comfort the sick.

At the airport we were met by Moses and a few of his friends, who greeted us with open arms and huge smiles. That night, he told us a bit of his own story and why we were there.

His father died when he was four, and his mother at 12, leaving Moses to care for his younger brother and sister. He did not get into details, but he talked about his intimate knowledge of hunger. “For a human being, and particularly a child, all the possibilities of life begin with a full stomach. It is the most basic requirement, the thing we need before we can move beyond simple necessities to the pleasures of life.” In Uganda we would be helping people with some of their basic needs, but he made it clear our real value would not come from anything we brought or purchased.

Here in Uganda we need ‘things’, to be sure” he said, “but most of all we need hope. Your presence, your smiles and encouragement, praying with us – the fact you would fly seven thousand miles to be with us, that is what will have lasting impact. While you are here don’t think the work you are doing is ever more important than talking with a villager, or sitting with a child.

The next day we visited Kiwaala, a small village 45 minutes outside Masaka where we would be spending most of our time. The village has some 2000 people and is administered by “The Chairman,” a man of about 50, smartly dressed in black shoes, a purple blazer and dress pants. The government has put him in charge, and he is an elder in a community with few of them. The life expectancy is 58 in Uganda, so senior citizens are few and far between.

The village greeted our arrival with a raucous show of drums, singing and dancing, and we quickly joined in. The children wore threadbare clothes, some were half naked and very few wore shoes. We would fix that shortly, and at least temporarily, thanks to the 850 pairs of donated croc shoes, dresses, shorts and shirts Stephen had secured and brought in huge duffle bags. The village was tidy – there was no garbage anywhere, and after an introduction the Chairman took us for a three-hour walkabout to visit and pray with the sick. At each home we walked in singing “Thank you, thank you Jesus” in Lugandan, and were greeted by huge smiles, hugs and more dancing. Our priest, Father Inigo, blessed the homes, the people in them, and in one case an elderly woman’s sole possession – a cow.

At our last stop we met Rose, a grandmother whose 5 children had all died of AIDS, leaving her with five grandchildren to care for. This is not an uncommon story in Africa – in Uganda alone there are over a million orphans. Her home was a thatched mud hut, and the family lived in the dirt. They ate on the ground, slept on it, and defecated into a hole dug next to the house. In a thousand years, living conditions for the poor here have not changed. It was difficult to reconcile that my dog has better living conditions, food and access to healthcare than this beautiful, caring woman.

In addition to the five grandchildren, Rose has taken in her sister’s grandchild, a disfigured, paralyzed boy of five. He could not speak but smiled beautifully, groaning to communicate with Rose and his siblings. The Chairman had decided that if we were to build a house for anyone in the village, Rose was most in need. And so with $2000 donated by the mission team and our benefactors for materials, and an all-volunteer labor force comprised of Ugandan Life Teen members (some in a vocational building program who served as our skilled foremen), we began construction.

While Rose cooked for the work crew, the village children, and Rose’s grandchildren, helped us. Day in and day out they carried bricks and dirt to the job site in the hot sun. One little girl in particular, Rachel, quickly taught us everything we needed to know about the Ugandan people. At three years old she would live in this house, so she wanted to help. I brought her to the brick pile and gave her a small piece of stone to carry, thinking I was creating the illusion she was helping. I lost her for a moment, and then saw something that astonished me. On her own, Rachel went back to the pile and picked up a much larger second brick, and was now struggling to carry both the 60 yards to the house. Barefoot, she carried them the entire way, and then went back and made another 20 trips over the course of the afternoon. No parent ever spoke to her, coddled or encouraged her – she was all business.

The next day, Moses took us to Mass at the Masaka prison, and we saw the extraordinary faith of Ugandans. This is one of the poorest countries in the world, so to be in prison here brings poverty and hopelessness to a new level. The prison houses 800 men in crowded, difficult circumstances, yet the church service was euphoric. Their faith really did set them free. The men were polite and visibly moved, some to tears, that guests would come to pray with them. In the prayers of the faithful they prayed passionately for their wives, children, and the judges who controlled their fates. They sang loudly and beautifully, carrying the priest and liturgy with them until hitting a crescendo at the Lamb of God, which they sang with bone-chilling intensity:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.              Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.              Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Given their situation and setting, it brought us to tears. We asked the priest what we could do for the men, and he suggested purchasing Bibles in Lugandan – which cost about $7 apiece. Moses found 40 and would deliver them later in the week.

The next day we visited a soup kitchen that Moses and his team have organized for homeless young men, who can best be described as the Wild Boys of Masaka. He has been feeding them a bowl of porridge twice a week, and through our donation now has enough to serve rice and beans for a year to ensure they get at least some protein. Around 50 boys showed up, all between the ages of 8-16, and the older they got the tougher and meaner they looked. Moses and his team attempt to mentor and invite them to church functions, but it is difficult to gain traction. Several showed up high, likely from huffing petrol, and apparently this is a gateway to progressively darker decisions that usually end in prison or death. I didn’t see any gratitude for their meal. They hurriedly ate with their hands, wiped them on the branches of a nearby tree, and drifted back into the streets. A few days later Moses and his team would be back, hoping for the miracles that occasionally break thru this cycle.

Later in the week, an RN in our group named Pam Kossan from North Dakota engineered a village “health clinic” for some 1200 people. She and Drew Lawler, a 23-year old future Physician’s Assistant from the University of Texas, took some basic medical information and gave those eligible a de-worming pill – many here suffer from worms or parasites. The villagers also received vitamins, a toothbrush and toothpaste, prayer cards, and at the end of the line a bag of dog-eared jellybeans from me. The jellybeans were overage from a wedding Stephen had attended (he’s learned to never throw anything out), and they still had stickers on the bags with a note from the bride and groom. About halfway thru we ran out and I had the unfortunate task of explaining to expectant 5-year olds we were out of candy. Ugandans are experts at coping with disappointment, and the kids quickly deemed me unreliable and moved on.

One of our last experiences took place at the charismatic Father Michael Senfuma’s parish (find him on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJEXt8dnXOo) . Moses and his team were starting a Life Teen program for the youth here, only the second such initiative in Uganda, and they pulled out all the stops. His volunteer army arrived the night before to set up staging, hang banners and lights, and tweak the sound system for the fabulous praise and worship team that arrived the next day. The event started at 10 am and ended at 7 pm, stopping in the middle for an intermission/lunch. Like youth ministry everywhere sometimes the kids come for God, and other times the food, so you better have both. 500 teens packed the building, and another 300 who couldn’t get in sat outside or crowded the windows. They sang, and danced and expressed such a beautiful joy. Moses gave a “keynote” (his word) and passionately encouraged them to embrace the power of Jesus, “who could empower them to richer, more satisfying lives.” He talked about the importance of being inspired, to do and be something great, and asked them to join the church in showering their country with love, forgiveness, mercy and relentless exuberance. It was a beautiful talk, and the kids listened attentively and (I think) believed.

After 16 beautiful days it was time to come home, where the inevitable “so how’s Africa” was difficult to summarize.

I learned it is impossible to hold poverty in your arms and not fall in love. It is the distance between us that divides – cultural, economic, etc., and you quickly realize these are our brothers and sisters, blood relatives, created by the same Father and separated only by geography and chance.

I made a promise to no longer disparage celebrities who travel to the developing world, get “religion,” and end up adopting children. I won’t turn the channel so quickly, either.

And I will find opportunities to help the poor and marginalized closer to home.

Best of all, I will return to Uganda – hopefully many times, because that is where I first held poverty.

And like the tin man of Oz finally found my heart.

  Miss  ion leader   Stephen Smith was in the village of Kiwaala for 15 minutes when this child walked up to him, crawled into his arms, and fell asleep. A retired educator, Stephen and his wife Mary have six children and have taken in 37 foster children over the years.

Mission leader Stephen Smith was in the village of Kiwaala for 15 minutes when this child walked up to him, crawled into his arms, and fell asleep. A retired educator, Stephen and his wife Mary have six children and have taken in 37 foster children over the years.

Read More: http://tcreset.com/2015/07/28/africa/

Uganda July 7-23, 2015

Today was our clinic day, it was very basic, but needed. Deworming, assessments, toothbrushes, toothpaste, vitamins etc..... We saw many things... from Jaundice, Malaria, chickenpox, extreme heart murmurs, clicks, rubs and gallops, severe dental problems. The people just wanted to be helped. We figure there were more than 1,200 that passed through the little church that we were working in. It took about 5 hours to see them all.            

Yesterday we went back to the house that we are building and hauled a lot of dirt to fill in the floors.  It is a small 2 room house, and beause it is built on a bit of a hill one end is lower than the other.  So, we filled in the floors up to the brick line where the cement floor will be poured.  Then, everyone that was there helping was invited inside to pack down the dirt..there were lots of big people and lots of kids all in a chain line singing and weaving there way from one room to the next, and back again.  It was fun. 

I better send this before something happens to the internet...or the hydro..it went out a few minutes ago, but came back on quickly.