Putting hearts and feet on the ground in Uganda

Putting hearts and feet on the ground in Uganda

Faith Lutheran Church supports mission

by Eric A Thomas

In 2017, Melissa Street, a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, approached the church’s pastor, Adam Dichsen, about a mission opportunity for their church.

After meeting with some individual supporters, doing their homework and much prayer, a mission alliance was formed between Faith Lutheran Church and Pillars of Africa Children’s Ministry in Manyangwa, Uganda.

This mission connection has really blossomed since the beginning leading to the formation of a U.S.-based organization called Hearts United in God’s Service, Inc., a sister organization to Pillars of Africa Children’s Ministry. Street, who now serves as the board president for HUGS (Hearts United in God’s Service, Inc.), knew that God needed to show her a clear sign if they were to go in-person to Uganda. One day God sent that sign through her husband, Kelly Street.

After several years of supporting this ministry and two visits to the United States by Patrick Kunihira, who founded Pillars of Africa Children’s Ministry Founder Pillars with his wife, Madinah, six mission supporters traveled to Uganda on a March 8-23 trip.

Pillars was created to care for children who have been either abandoned by parents and/or orphaned. They currently are caring for 56 children and their focus now is empowering families to stay together through several programs they have implemented. “Patrick invited us to help him prioritize and organize the various Pillars programs and initiatives,” stated Melissa Street. “We created strategic plans for each program with their input and are partnering with them as they work towards goals set forth in the plans.”

Those going on the trip included Faith Lutheran Church Pastor Dichsen and his son, Benen; Patty Nelson; Kevin Krohe; and Kelly and Melissa Street. “Each person on our team brought a vital set of skills and insight and we were amazed at how God moved all through our trip.”

In addition to the 56 children, they also help 250 community children with their educational fees to attend school. They have a nursery school and a primary school which were built in 2020 by HUGS and the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation®. Incidentally, Street met Kunihira in 2017 at an essential oils online class and that is where their long relationship began.

The Pillars program has expanded their outreach to include a clinic which provides first aid for the surrounding community. As additional sponsorships toward this effort are realized, they hope to expand the services. Currently, the 56 children who at Pillars are provided with a home, food, medical care, hygiene products and education. They have a church called EPIC that is their place of worship and they have established several Bible study groups throughout the week. Kunihira is an ordained minister and serves as the head pastor.

In addition, they have a children’s choir to help bring out the talents of the children though singing, dancing and playing musical instruments to glorify God. They have had many opportunities to perform at events in Uganda and hope someday to travel to the United States to share the talents.

Relatively new to the program has been the addition of training in vocations. They are teaching sewing, computer basics, hairstyling, carpentry and welding to single mothers and others in the community that need to learn a skill to support their families. They have an ‘Empowerment Program’ that is focused on supporting area crafters and providing a U.S. market in which to sell various handmade items unique to Uganda. Those who went on the trip presented a Ugandan-style worship service at Faith Lutheran Church on April 30, complete with items they brought back to sell in order to further support Pillars.

Mission trips are life-changing in many respects and are filled with many memories. When asked what one of his most memorable moments was, Kelly Street didn’t hesitate with a response: “I met two teens from Zombo who made their own Adunga instruments. They sing and play their instruments for God and are both very humble.” He has a video of them playing and singing and it never fails to bring tears to his eyes each time he listens to them. For Melissa Street, the highlight was meeting in-person the children and staff at Pillars after working with them long-distance. “It was especially priceless to share that experience with five other people who love them just as much as I do,” she concluded.

Other highlights included blessing the staff and children with 56 pillows and pillowcases made by women from the Jacksonville community. While there, they celebrated the fourth anniversary of HUGS.

During their trip, too, they were encouraged by others who have been there to take in all of the natural beauty that surrounds the area, so they teamed up with Duma Adventures Africa, which is run by a couple involved with Pillars Empowerment Program. During their excursions, they were able to go to the Nile River, travel to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary where they were able to see many animals native to Africa, and visit the top of Murchison Falls for a spectacular view featuring a rainbow produced from the sunlight and mist.

Further information through pictures and daily posts by Faith Lutheran Church Pastor Dichsen can be viewed through the Faith Lutheran Church Facebook page. More information about Pillars, donation opportunities or how to sponsor a child is available through HUGS website, hugsforuganda.com.

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