At the end of every month, I like to share a few things I learned in the last 30-ish days. Since we’re in Uganda right now and I pretty much can’t think about anything but this country and her children and very small planes, it only seemed appropriate to dedicate this edition of Things I Learned to Uganda.

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Here are 10 things I’m learning in Uganda in no particular order:

1. If you go to Africa in January, it will snow back home. Especially if it hasn’t legitimately snowed AT ALL so far this winter.

2. Small planes are legit. As you know, I have been super nervous about riding in a plane you can’t stand up in. As it turns out, small planes are the way to travel. As we flew over Uganda this morning on our way to Kampala, I kept waiting for my hands to shake but instead I just felt peace. Thank you to those of you who prayed for that. (I’m looking at you, Mom.)

ticket for barbie plane

3. If you are in Uganda, place your iPhone in your lap. Turn the camera like you’re gonna take a selfie. But instead of taking a selfie, take a them-y. And don’t stop clicking.

ugandan selfiesYou will not be able to imagine where they learned this from.

selfies in uganda

4. Mike Varel is a fantastic, soulful, talented photographer. But even he can’t prevent the photobombs.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day Three5. If you pull into a slum in a bus and a hundred children greet you with drums, cymbals, signing, hugs and TROMBONES, you won’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Especially when you realize what song they are playing. (Email subscribers click here to see this 10 second video):

And you will walk and half-skip with them through the slums they call home even though you know really horrible things happen here. But for a few moments you won’t be thinking of those horrible things and they won’t be, either.

Because it’s time to have a parade.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day ThreeAnd when you talk about it later that night with the friends who were there with you, the one named Jeff Goins will say, “This must be what heaven is like – music, dancing, and children.” You will nod your head and agree with him. Because he has to be right.

6. Child sponsorship works. 

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day ThreeThis young woman on the right graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program and is now in her last semester of university studying criminal justice. She visits this center and teaches the children their songs. When she graduates from school, she wants to help make a change.

“Most people thought life had to end in primary seven and began to do immoral things. So I decided to stand out and make a difference.”

These are the stories we want to hear.

7. Child sponsorship doesn’t always work.

We sponsor a child to give that child care he wouldn’t otherwise have. But the long-term success may ultimately be in the hands of the parents. In the words of the pastor of the church partnering with Compassion in Kampala, “Our job here is trying to convince the parents to secure a better future for their children.”

But sometimes the parents can’t be convinced because poverty has already taken from them what poverty wants, including hope for the future. On the one hand, it feels like a risky investment. On the other, it feels like the Gospel.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day Three

8. When the parents are convinced, you will know it.

If you visit the home of a child who is sponsored through Compassion, the mother will be very grateful to see you. Especially if you come along with the President Emeritus of Compassion International, Papa Wess. And the way she will show her gratitude is by jumping up and down when you hug her, inviting you to enter into her home (however small it may be) and offering you gifts of honor and gratitude.

papa wessThe gifts will be chicken. In its various forms.

9. If you sponsor a child in Uganda, you will not regret it.

You will go look at the photos of children waiting for sponsors, then you will pick one of them.

Do not, I repeat, do not over-think this step. If you need a guideline, just choose the one you are least drawn to. It worked for me.

In a week or so you will get a packet in the mail telling you more about your child and you will write them a letter immediately, not because you have to but because you can! You can even do it online (it’s so easy – no stamps! No paper! This is worthy of lots of exclamations!) This first letter will be one of many you exchange with your child, because sponsorship with Compassion is not just about giving money, it’s about being a friend.

10. If you go to Africa in January and it snows back home, you won’t care a bit that you missed it.

no regretsEspecially if you sponsor a child who lives in Uganda.

You know you want to. Here’s how.