My Uganda Internship Experience With Joni and Friends

By |Published On: August 24, 2019|Categories: Internships, News, Stories|

“If there was any phrase to describe the atmosphere it would be “literal heaven on earth”


My name is Tristen Udeh, and this was my first time being part of an internship program that involved a short term mission overseas and learning about disability ministry. In preparation for this trip, I was nervous, optimistic, and eager to learn from the biblical perspective how God desires for us to be inclusive despite disabilities or disorders.

I learned about the Joni and Friends Internship Program through my friend Ashley at church during her internship back in 2017. I felt a push to step out of my comfort zone, but I was resistant. Fast forward to 2018, Ashley returned and shared again. This time I knew God wanted me to do this internship and I said yes.

I have to say it was the best YES and a transformative one for my life.

Arriving in Uganda, the unity between the team was a blessing. The cross-cultural dynamic of the team provided such a wonderful experience spiritually and culturally. Having Ugandan teammates allowed for deeper insight and a different perspective as we interacted with the locals, communities, and we were able to experience the difference in cultural norms.

The Beyond Suffering Conference in Gulu was one of my most memorable experiences. Working with Sports Outreach Ministry (an in-country partner), educating families, community leader and teachers about the power of being inclusive of individuals with disabilities was transformative.

I was so moved by their willingness to learn how to better serve individuals with disabilities, and change the negative language used to describe them was encouraging to me personally.

The Luke 14 Banquet was a prime example of what inclusivity looked like. If there was any phrase to describe the atmosphere it would be “literal heaven on earth.” My expectation of what the banquet would be was exceeded and I believe the Holy Spirit was present, and it was apparent in the smiles on each and every face there.

“I was ready to encourage these families, but instead I left having received more than words can ever comprehend.”

After the banquet, we had the opportunity to visit two of the families we met during the Beyond Suffering Conference, and I was moved by the amount of faith and strength each mother shared and exuded.  The two mothers we had the honor to meet challenged both my walk with God, and my intentionality in how I seek him personally. Going into the visit I was ready to encourage these families, but instead, I left having received more than words can ever comprehend.

While in Uganda, our team had the opportunity to serve at the Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped. This was a pivotal experience for me. The receptive spirit that was present between the staff and students was so encouraging. Their willingness to participate in both Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the teacher training, challenged my relationship with God.

It can be so easy to become stagnant in my relationship with God because here in the states, everything I need is at my disposal. But to be in a country where every single day the source to continue living is based solely on faith that God will provide, it empowers the people to focus on the importance of life.

“I was reminded of God’s grace and how willing he is to utilize our gifts when we just say YES.”

I was assigned the opportunity to conduct my first teacher training on mental health in relation to disability ministry. I was nervous and doubted my ability to be effective in my training. In that moment I was operating in fear of the unknown, because this was brand new territory for me. I’m comfortable in one on one sessions with my clients, but teaching a room full of 20-30 teachers just seemed frightening and impossible! In doing the training I was reminded of God’s grace and how willing he is to utilize our gifts when we just say YES.

Aside from serving, we were sent to do daily devotionals which was the catalyst in growing a remarkable unity within the team. It allowed us to stay fueled to serve whole heartily. I look forward to the opportunity to participate in next year’s internship, in 2020. And you should too!

Written By—Tristen Udeh, Joni and Friends Intern

Joni and Friends Internship Program

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