Romans 8:31-39 says, “If God is for us who shall be against us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jenny Vaughn felt called to go to New Hope Uganda’s Institute of Childcare and family in preparation/anticipation of working with returning child soldiers who had been abducted to fight Africa’s longest running war. God led Jenny to Uganda, child soldiers, and New Hope after she prayed about going to Sudan. Jenny went to Uganda for 5 months of training, and in that time, worked with kids with special needs, children orphaned by poverty and death, and visited the site where New Hope is helping returning child soldiers heal and get their education. Jenny’s reason for going is simply. “My Lord asked me to. He said, “go”, and I went, and in the preparation, He gave me a love for the people of Uganda I cannot explain except to say He gave me small part of His heart for this amazing country, and these amazing people.”
JENNY’S MISSION IN HER OWN WORDS:
I am Jenny Vaughn, a chick devastated by the immense love of Jesus, in a world full of immense suffering, given a life of immense joy, to share with all those God opens the door to.
I went to Uganda motivated by what at that time appeared to be God’s call to work with returning child soldiers. I have always been very moved by human suffering, in any form, and all that I saw and heard about Sudan made me want to go and do something, anything, that would give the hope of Jesus to those who had lost so much. I began to pray earnestly God would open the door for me to go. What happened instead was God brought the child soldiers of Uganda into my heart and mind, directing me somewhere I did not expect. I couldn’t have fulfilled this call on my life without the generous support and friendship of my friend Stephanie, and of More than Music as an organization. More than Music gave me a venue to raise support and awareness through a benefit concert given by Stephanie and her musicians when the time came to begin raising funds. Stephanie has always been there for me as a friend, as a sister, and even a cheerleader. We don’t have enough space here for me to tell you about our friendship and love, but suffice it to say, I would not be who I am today had God not put Stephanie in my life. More than Music provided a vehicle for me to raise support, as well as provide supporters a tax deduction through enabling them to give to me through More than Music. It just was one of those amazing ways God was served by the vision He had given Stephanie through the music and ministry of More than Music. He does that a lot through More than Music.
I landed in Uganda January 2, 2011, not really sure what to expect, but full of anticipation and excitement, I began my journey. For the next 5 months, I was a student at New Hope Uganda Institute of Childcare and Family. There I received training to work with kids orphaned by war, poverty, death, and abandonment. I lived most of that time in a Ugandan banda, without running water. We had electricity sporadically. I learned to shower out of a bucket, relieve myself in a hole in the ground, and live simply. It was wonderful and I mostly loved it. One of the many facets of being in the Institute was being part of a family group. I was placed with the Jonathan family. The Jonathan family consisted of married family parents; Kato and Jane, their two children, a muzungu (foreigner, or white person in this case) who filled the role of JaJa(grandmother), and 32 children. The children called me Auntie, and over time, I became part of the family. The kids and I worked the fields of corn and cassava with hand tools and plowed with oxen. It was back-breaking work, but I loved it. That is where I got to see the characters of my kids, and they got to see mine. We talked about our lives and discussed the nature of God and how He speaks to us. We became connected through working for our food, through taking care of the younger children, playing games and having family devotions. Even now I can hear them sing praise to our God and hear their laughter. Family took on new meaning when one of the girls in the family lost her biological sister. Almost every kid had a story to share about a parent dying, or someone very close to them. They had shown me the way everyday since I had arrived, and I was allowed to give back to them a little of what God had given me.
Our classes focused on God alone, seeing ourselves, and any person we would work with through the lens of our Father God, who has the healing love to offer each of who have ever felt lonely, orphaned, abandoned, or desolate. Our classes were composed of Africans, and 4 of us, “muzungus”. All of the Africans in our class were from different tribes or even other countries. We were all of us strangers, but we departed as dear friends. It is very hard to describe the learning and growing that took place in each of us while we were there. God was at work healing each of us in individual ways- but experiencing it together, and preparing us to serve Him in each of our individual callings, but of one purpose and one love, the love of our Father.
When I had down time, I would go to the special needs school and help out wherever needed. It was the time I loved the most. Because I didn’t speak Luganda, and some of these kids couldn’t speak, it was a little less intimidating, and our hearts did the communicating. One day, one of my favorite kids was sick, so I took him to see the nurse (musawo) for a malaria test. When he got his blood drawn, he cried and sobbed, and so picking up his stiff body from the wheelchair, I just held him against me while he cried. The sobs and cries turned to silent tears as he pressed his little body into my chest-feeling comforted and less afraid. Every time I saw him after that, he would smile and motion for me to get him out of his wheelchair. I think his mom didn’t give him that kind of attention, as she was leading a pretty turbulent life at that time. It was such a privilege to be to him what God has been to me, love and peace and comfort in the midst of fear and pain. I will always count that as one of the most precious moments of my life.
God gave me the opportunity to go to Kobwin, New Hope’s site in Northern Uganda for returned child soldiers. Being the only white person for many miles was a new experience for me, and I think for some of the kids who were there. One little girl sat in church for at least an hour and stared at me with her mouth open. Kobwin is set back just a few miles from a lake, among enormous boulders. All of the Ugandans there were from the Ateso tribe. What I saw and heard there also changed my life forever. Kids who had grown up in and around war were praising God with their entire being. They did not praise Him halfheartedly; they earnestly sought to praise Him and seek His face. Most of us in the west see people who go through traumatic circumstances and see them react with anger, bitterness, and hostility. Although I know these kids have had those emotions, they did not let those emotions keep them from their God; the One who saved them not just from their sin, but from death and war. They had been through hell, and saw God reveal His love and grace to them, giving them life where there had been death, and they were truly grateful. I was so humbled and awed. I want to love God like that.
Shortly after leaving Kobwin, I left Uganda for the US. I was prepared to go back to Uganda for many years to come, but it seemed God had a different plan in mind. He brought me a wonderful man, who, Lord willing, I will marry this summer. As much as I can say I didn’t see Uganda coming, I really didn’t see God bringing me a man after sending me to the mission field. But if God is God, then He gets to direct my life in whatever way He desires. I absolutely still love Uganda and deeply long to go back, but now is not the time. God has a way of bringing us exactly where He wants us, and I can never predict where that will be and what that will look like. I love that life with God is an adventure, and that I am not in control (much as I think I would like I am at times), so I keep my eyes on Him. Currently, I am living in Elko, Nevada, working with a Native American tribe to address the issues that have come with the onslaught of methamphetamine on their reservation. I am interested to see what God has in store for this current chapter in my life, and believe that, “for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” (2Timothy1:12b)