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A Different Lens

A Different Lens

JULY 8, 2020    |    2.7  MINUTE  READ

There I was, painting a room in Uganda on a short-term mission trip. I thought my short time in Africa wouldn’t have a long-lasting impact, but I had no idea what God had in store. I had arrived hoping to learn how to view the world with a different lens, one that had a softness for a different culture and a people group I did not know. It was 2010, the year I began the process that would change my life—and my family’s—forever.

Photos of the Williams family

As I painted the room, about 60 curious kids crowded around the doorway, looking in at my work. I sporadically painted a heart and started to paint the word “Jesus” on the wall. One child spoke up: “Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.” The children laughed and giggled, then ran out. Seeing the joy in these children and knowing that I could help them know Jesus was exciting. That was the first moment the Holy Spirit stirred in me for Africa. I felt God speak, saying, This is where you should be.

When I arrived home, I was quick to tell my wife Debby of my newfound love for Africa, but her response was less than eager. Why wouldn’t it be? She hadn’t gone or experienced what I had; our life at home was so busy with youth pastor responsibilities and our children that it just didn’t seem doable. Despite the fact that we weren’t on the same page regarding God’s call, we would find out soon enough that the seed for Africa had already been planted and God’s plan had already begun.

A couple of years went by, and Debby and I decided to go to Uganda together in 2012. She had seen how it was still affecting me and wanted to see and experience Africa for herself. My intention was just to go with her, not to recruit her. God does what He wants, though, and we just listen. I was preaching at a church service in Uganda, and that’s when I saw my wife crying.

Photo of two men and a woman praying

Debby isn’t the emotional type, but something had grabbed ahold of her heart that afternoon. While listening to me preach, it was suddenly clear to her how we were being used. She told me that God had told her, I can use you both powerfully. He had shifted her lens, and she now understood a little more of what had drawn me to Africa. We had a short discussion and came to an agreement that we would go to Uganda for a long-term commitment.

Ten years later, our faith, our family, and our marriage are stronger than ever. The lenses through which we view the world have changed, the way I had hoped they would all those years ago. We now have a soft spot for the culture here and an excitement for the relationships we have developed and those we have yet to build.

Photos of Ugandan people in ministry

We are involved in youth ministries with Heritage International School in Uganda. We also have been able to reach out to the local HIV/AIDS community through an organization called Tumani Aids Prevention Program (TAPP). Through these ministries, we have seen many children and youth attend school for the first time, receive much-needed care, and, most importantly, accept Jesus Christ into their lives.

Life has not been simple or easy. In fact, we’ve discovered that life as a missionary is challenging in many ways. The world is broken, and we can’t fix it. God can bring healing, but the realities of sickness, death, and brokenness are still present. I remind myself often that when we’re doing the right things, life will get harder—it’s a sign that God is clearly behind what we’re doing and what He called us to do. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that in the end, God is victorious!

When I first traveled to Africa to serve as part of a short-term trip, I couldn’t imagine what kind of long-lasting impact that experience could possibly have. In the ten years since that first trip, I have been continuously amazed at the ways God has continued to shape our perspectives, speak into our lives, and use us and our supporters to make a lasting impact in Uganda.


GO: Short-term missions can have long-term impact. In the past ten years, 100% of WGM global workers have had previous short-term experience. If you would like to know more about how you can see God and different cultures around the world through a new lens, click here.

PRAY: Continue to pray for God’s will to be done in Uganda. As we continue to disciple youth and care for the physical and spiritual health of others, we can always use more helping hands. Will you pray for more global workers to join the mission God has called us to?

Author Bio: Justin and Debby Williams have been serving in Uganda since 2013. You can follow their journey on Facebook

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