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Was I "JUST" a Tourist? - Part 1
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By Tree Galbraith

In the next 5 editions of Christian Life in London, we will presenting a remarkable story, a true story, about the journey by Tree Galbraith and ten others to Uganda as part of the "Just Cause Education Outreach". (Tree is short for Teresa - but if you called out to her: "Teresa", she is unlikely to respond as she has not gone by Teresa for a very long time.)

In this first segment Tree describes the lead up to the trip and how it came to be. Many first time missionaries will be able to relate to her description of these preliminaries and the emotions of not knowing "If" and then finding out "Yes".

They had expectations – were those expectations accurate? Realistic?

Let's join Tree and her fellow disciples as they head out on a gospel mission of learning and teaching, giving and receiving appropriately titled; Was I "JUST" a Tourist?

Was I "JUST" a Tourist?
Part 1
By Tree Galbraith

This past August, I was thrilled to be part of a mission trip to Uganda, Africa.

I was one of eleven parishioners of St. George Catholic Church who went with "Just Cause Education Outreach" to Uganda.

Just Cause is a not-for-profit organization based in Southwestern Ontario. Sara Hanson and Michelle Massaro are the founders and serve the organization as Volunteer Team Leaders. Both are school teachers, Sara in Kitchener and Michelle in London.

Sara and Michelle had met Fr. Dennis in Uganda three years ago and he had asked them about helping him to build a sub parish of St. Kizito in Kasaga, Uganda. God was watching out for this tiny village because our Parish Priest, Fr. John Pirt had met Fr. Dennis years before and had also received a letter asking the same thing. When the girls proposed this opportunity to Fr. John and in turn the parish, the response was a resounding YES. We met several times to discuss the "connection" between the two parishes. When the opportunity to make the trip became a possibility, I said a prayer and applied for the dream of my lifetime.

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to present a testimonial on our London District Catholic School Board Faith Formation Day. I am an Educational Assistant for the Board and I was excited to talk about my upcoming journey.

My testimonial centered on a parable about the embers of faith. There are times in a person's life when it is hard to pray or even talk to God. As Christians we do know however, that HE is always present and never leaves us. Faith can be compared to the embers of a fire. Although you do not see the flame, the embers are still glowing and in fact they are the best for cooking or heating. Sometimes we need to blow on the embers to ignite the flame. When you need to ignite the flame you only need to reach out for God and ask him to send the Holy Spirit and the breath of God will get you back on track.

The morning of this testimonial, I received word that I would be going to Uganda. My cheque had been cashed. Along with the 'burned ember' and the other symbols of my own personal symbols of faith, I ended the talk by holding up a piece of artwork that one of the students at my school, Regina Mundi College, had created and my cheque book. The poster said "I AM DETERMINED TO LEAVE A MARK IN GOD'S WORLD". My journey of faith to Uganda had begun!

I have been given the opportunity to share the story of the embers many times this year.

I was thrilled when my colleague and chaplain, Kim Lajoie, asked me to share the parable at our student Ash Wednesday Service. Each and every act of charity that followed, every prayer and penny, every hug and kind word, every toothbrush, calculator, and math set were taken with me to Uganda. I was given a journal, in which many people wrote me notes. I did not read any of the messages until I was in Uganda. They lit up my Spirits on one of the nights I was struggling with homesickness.

My amazing family and friends supported me beyond all words. From the squeeze of my hand by my husband, when they 1st spoke about the possibility of a mission trip that Sunday morning, to the words of support and encouragement, worries and tears, monetary and prize donations, nurse friends collecting medical supplies that in Canada were deemed "garbage", a family dinner send-off party and a very successful and fun "Fundraising" party inspired me to keep the embers burning bright.

The Faith Community of St. George and the Just Cause Team supported the mission team every step of the way. The Fundraising dinner and auction was a true show of the connection with our friends in Uganda and our parish. Along with the entire Byron and London community, we were determined to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. On the morning we left for Uganda, we were delighted to be greeted by parishioners who gave us white balloons, prayed with Fr. John and sent the balloons off in the sky, as a sign of God's love and unity. Our journey was beginning. With the yellow fever and malaria vaccines running through my blood stream, my St. Christopher medal around my neck and 1000's of pounds of luggage in the van, myself and 10 other disciples were going to be embedded into the Ugandan culture. We were on a gospel mission of learning and teaching, and even more importantly, giving and receiving.

Above all, God truly blessed this Mission. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila "Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work... Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine upon a troubled world."

My HOPE, (the word I chose as my motto for this trip) is that I can write this article as a Story of Faith. I chose the title "Was I Just a Tourist?" because as I was sitting in St. Kizito Church on the 10th day of our mission, (a 4 1/2 hour mass, complete with two weddings!) Bishop Matthias asked the congregation if they were tourists in Gods world. He was speaking about the love of God, family and family values, the love between husband and wife, the needs and responsibilities of the Kizito community. He spoke about the need for education and a school in Kizito. Right then and there I knew that I had to listen to my mind and heart and find the answer to his question.

Was I "JUST" a Tourist?