Under the Mango Tree: Reflections on Two Weeks in Uganda

Under a mango tree in Hoima, Uganda, roughly 100 children gathered, eagerly waiting for Vacation Bible School to begin.

Jody Jennings, vice president of campus ministries at North Greenville University, leads children to VBS in Uganda.

Sixteen short-term missionaries from the United States had traveled there to minister to these children and their families. Their sacrifices of hot showers, air conditioning and cultural familiarity seemed utterly insignificant as the days passed and relationships between the natives and the team grew.

The group of missionaries did not bring a pre-planned ministry program. Their mission objective was to “come alongside” the people of Hoima and to ask where it would be possible to step in and help. The ministerial approach opened doors of service that were far greater than what they could have imagined.

Similar to American churches, select leaders from Hoima Baptist Fellowship Church wrote a Vacation Bible School curriculum and were passionately recruiting help in their community. The 16 friendly foreigners, anxious to serve, were an answer to their prayers.

Paul Scotland, a student at North Greenville University, teaches children under the mango tree for VBS.

Vacation Bible Schools were held at two different locations in the city. Well over 100 families were served, and hundreds of children were celebrated, and deeply touched by the team’s impact.

Ministry happened far from the shade of the mango tree, too. Team members taught in a high school and college, assisted a local musician in developing songs for a low frequency radio station, and coached young adults in playing basketball the “American way.”

For two weeks, serving the people of Hoima was a lifestyle. Whatever was needed or even requested, the 16 missionaries responded in joyful service. Jesus said: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15).

Short-term missions team member Eddie Martin blocks a shot in a game of pick-up basketball in Hoima, Uganda.

Foot washing doesn’t sound glamorous. For many, neither does short-term missionary work. Honestly, eating “barbecued goat on a stick” from an ambitious street vendor at the risk of stomachache is not ideal. However, knowing and experiencing the life-altering practice of short-term missions is real; it is significant, and it matters.

What would your life look like “under the mango tree”? To explore missions opportunities or assist others in going, contact Joshua Gilmore, Baptist Collegiate Ministry director at North Greenville University.