M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta

The Cornerstone M25 Team

The team on the last day as we prepare to head back to Auburn

There are several entries that have been sitting in my drafts for a while that I’ve trying to get posted, and this happens to be one of them. M25 Mission Camp is a youth missional organization in Atlanta that works with the homeless in a way I’ve rarely seen over the years. It wasn’t the first youth trip for me, but it was the first one in a while, and I was amazed with every aspect of the experience, mainly because it changed perceptions and perspectives on life and serving others well. This video we produced can explain it better than I can here. For now, there are some images that shows a little of the week we spent trying to love others well.

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Seeing Our Next Team Off to Uganda Today

Cornerstone Church Uganda Team Leaves for Atlanta

Cornerstone Church Uganda Team Leaves for Atlanta

Today instead of going on the trip to Uganda with the team from last year, I got to see them off to the Atlanta airport. It was a sad goodbye for me personally since I’m staying behind, but I know God is going to work among these eight people pictured above over the next week in Uganda. This team is going to build on so many other teams that have already gone and come back, intent on sharing the love of Christ with others in a culture and context far different from the comfortable life we live in the western world.

You can see a little more about what the trips are like from my previous posts in the Uganda tag, and if you want to follow along with this particular team you can follow April Olive’s blog as she updates throughout the trip. I can’t wait to hear about their trip, it is quite an experienced group of travelers with a heart for the people of Uganda.

Our Next Team Headed to Kampala Uganda is Leaving Today

Uganda Team June 2012

Today our church sent off the next team that heads over to Uganda. This is our second group to go over to Uganda this year, and we have 2-3 more teams headed over to Kampala Uganda in the coming months. This team is a great group of seniors who have saved, found donors, and been preparing for months to get to the point of this photo above. In just about 24 hours they will put their feet on that red Uganda dirt, and somewhere in the back of their mind I know they will be thinking, whoa, we are in Africa.

I’m really looking forward to hearing all about how they are able to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Uganda. If you would like to follow along as they post, you can head over to Rusty Hutson’s blog. If all things go as planned, Rusty will be sending blog posts over to the church as often as possible once they get on the ground and get to the house. Their first day is going to be a five hour drive out into rural Uganda, so once they get back from that first day on the ground we should start to see some new posts. To see more about past trips just click here or Uganda in the drop down menu at the top.

Heading to Entebbe International Airport for the Long Ride

This is the last trip post before we get on the plane in a few hours. I will continue to post some photos from the trip over the next several weeks and months as I go through the thousands of images I’ve taken over this trip. I can’t reflect over this trip any more, especially since we really have no distance in time for all our experiences over the last 7-10 days. For now I will leave everyone with the photo above that sums up our awesome driver, who took care of us the entire time. Everyone who has been over knows what this photo means. We love Eddy.

In this post are some shots of us in the crazy fast Eddy van along with one of Olive we all just loved. She was a super nice lady who went with us just about everywhere. It’s hard to sum up this trip. I think I probably will find it hard to sum up the trip for months to come, but overall it was a learning experience, a humbling experience, and hopefully one where we lived out the love of Jesus.

They are Hidden but Not Forgotten

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

This is how our team started the day today.

This verse from Isaiah was on all our hearts as we headed two and half hours out of our comfort zone, into the Ugandan landscape, to visit some children that we have been praying for and about, for months now. Words just can’t describe the day we had today. How do you explain the heart of God in the midst of nine people who only want to follow a call that none of us seemed to understand, and in many ways, still don’t? I know there are just some days when you can feel God’s presence moving and working more than others. I think we all go through days like that when we feel farther away from God’s presence, and then there are days, like today, where God’s presence is so tangible that you wonder how you can keep time from moving forward.

Today we visited the first of two very special children’s facilities in Uganda, escorted alongside a ministry group that has been working very hard over here to be the salt and light to these very special children. We spent the day interacting with these kids, and we worshiped with these kids in a way I don’t think any of us expected. There wasn’t a praise and worship chorus sung, there weren’t any lights or electricity, it was just a few African drums and the voices of about 100 people, mostly kids, singing in a way only the Joy of the Spirit can provide.

The photos here (and this text) represent our day at this facility today in a way that is meant to show part of what we experienced throughout the day. These weren’t the photos I liked necessarily, they were the photos that the entire team picked out to include. As if the day wasn’t incredible enough, all nine of us waded through about 1,500 images and narrowed them down to these 16. Some images weren’t included here and were as powerful as any image I have taken in my 20 years as a photographer, but all of this was done with purpose and conviction with these kids in mind.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is how the day ended.

Completely Full Hearts of Worship on this Sunday in Uganda

Today was an unbelievable day. I hate to keep repeating that over and over again each day, but I don’t really know how else to describe it in actual words. I have broken sentences, incomplete thoughts, and it’s 1:30am right now and I have to get up in about 4 hours for probably the most emotional day of the trip, so I know below isn’t going to be perfect, but you get the idea.

Today we started off with worship at Gaba Community Church. Church started at 8am (not sure when it ended) with their intro praise and worship. We stayed for an hour before we had to leave for Buloba Community Church and worship with our friends in Buloba. Church in Buloba went from about 9:30 until about 1pm. It was great to have the privilege of being able to worship with these two churches today. The worship experience between the two churches is actually pretty different. Gaba is a westernized worship (at least the one we go to is) and is very similar to our own church. With the concrete walls and ceilings and all open windows though the praise and worship sounds like it should be heard for miles, and probably is. After Gaba we were hurled down to Buloba by our famous NASCAR-ish driver, Fast Eddy, and arrived for bible study around 9:30am, with church until 1pm.

After lunch the team traveled around the area to visit several different homes that have sponsor children. This was a very humbling experience and extremely difficult to explain. This was the first time I was able to go into the homes of specific families and there really aren’t adequate words to describe the feeling you get from walking into someone’s home like this. The families are so excited to see us and spend some time with us, and that just amazes me. The three homes we visited were very emotional and one that just stands out (photo below) is when Bart got to visit the home of his sponsor child and pray for and with his boy’s mother. It’s the photo below of most of us packed into a space of about 4 feet wide by 6 feet long. I was using an 8mm fisheye lens so the photo in this case doesn’t do the situation justice, but it was as good as I could do in this situation. The photo above was probably my favorite photo of the day and that photo was taken with April’s sponsor family home. I love that shot because of the expression on April’s face but we had a little more space to shoot so I was able to capture a more natural light image.

After the home visits we were scheduled to go speak with the high school students at St Francis (a school we played a ton of soccer at on the last trip). We were going to speak to the students in this job fair type lecture but instead of being there for a 30-60 minute stay we ended up there for several hours. The last shot below of Prabhakar shows the very last speaker of the day and it made the day. He had these students in stitches but gave them some incredible advice in only the way a university professor could do. He was definitely the ringer of the whole day for these kids.

Tomorrow is going to be one of the most difficult days of the entire trip and we will all appreciate your prayers as we head over to work with 60 Feet ministries in a children’s prison in Kampala. I’ll explain it more later but the is the culmination of a long process that has been prayed over for months. We all prayed together tonight for tomorrow, for the strength to go through this and still be light and salt to everyone we meet. For now, I hope you enjoy some of the photos of the day. The images here represent a snapshot of the day and pretty much the entire team individually picked out these 14 images. I know there’s a bunch here but it’s hard to narrow down 2,000 images into 14 and have it truly represent the day. Thanks for your continued prayers for all of the team, I do miss seeing my family, as we all do, but everyone is doing well. Deborah, there is one photo below (not of me) I included just for you, can’t you guess which one? Love you!

The plan is for us to do a post tomorrow with images from the children’s prison, but right now I just don’t know what that looks like at all.

Over Egypt

If I timed this right, and that’s a stretch but it should be close, we are flying over Egypt right about now looking out over the Saharah Desert. The shot above is what we should be looking at right this very moment as we cross over from the Mediterranean Sea into the great land of Egypt. No, I don’t have wifi on the airplane unfortunately, I just, for once, planned ahead. I’m not really sure why this point in the trip has significance to me, perhaps because after all this preparation we are finally over the continent of Africa, but if you are looking at the photo above and thinking, there’s nothing there… that’s sorta the point. Nothing, for miles, hundreds of miles, except sand. All I could really think about was how in the world did the Israelites wonder around in the desert for 40 years? No wonder they were ready to kill Moses at that point.

Getting to this point in the trip keeps me thinking about being stuck between two worlds, the western world and all it offers is now so far behind us, yet we sit on a plane, which is basically our own civilization and culture, while we look out over a land that Moses walked across some 4,000 years ago (give or take a few). Another 4-6 hours and we will land in Rwanda, then Uganda, and leave the culture we know and understand behind for the next week or so. From then until we leave we will be known as the Mazunga who came to visit.

I’m a terrible poet, but this view and this flight across the desert, where so many thousands and thousands of people flown before today, deserves to be written about at some point. I know, at least for me, I’m excited that we have finally crossed over into Africa.

Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again… Genesis 46:3.4

I love that God has called out this land from the beginning, and I am now able to see it as none of the Israelites could have ever imagined, from 40,000 feet up in the air. Looking forward to some sleep on the ground in another 6-8 hours or so. Till next time.

We Arrived in Amsterdam or About Halfway to Uganda

Well, each trip is different, and this one was interesting. Taking off out of Atlanta on such a beautiful night, not a cloud in the sky, flying up the east coast in calm skies was just a relaxing few hours before heading out over the Atlantic and apparently non-stop weather. We came into Amsterdam in the roughest crosswinds and heavy rain, and it was calculated that 22.22% of us lost our lunch on the way down (they didn’t want to name names), and those who didn’t, wanted to, except perhaps Bart who seemed to be bother by nothing. Now we are sitting in Amsterdam at the gate watching a zero visibility ceiling, very heavy rain as it blows sideways across the tarmac. But, we are all in good spirits, ready to be above 25,000 feet where we can see the sun again.

You can prepare and prepare mentally for two 10-12 hour plane flights but I’m not really sure you are ever ready to sit on a plane that long. This is my 3rd visit to Amsterdam, so far, in the last 2-3 months and I’m getting a little tired of seeing the cloudy gray cold rain of this side of Europe, but that’s Europe. It’s not quite the bustling zoo that is Atlanta Hartsfield but they do have a Starbucks and an Airbus inside the airport (though I still haven’t had time to get over to see it yet).

This flight coming up is by far my more desirable flight out of the two. We fly the entire flight during the daylight hours, except for the last leg when we stop in Rwanda, and it’s over what seems like the most remote areas of the world (to me) that includes almost the entire length of Italy, the Mediterranean Sea, into Egypt, and over Sudan.

Our Uganda Team Says Goodbye To the USA for Now

The day has finally arrived and today as our team heads for the Atlanta airport, and I know we all have prepared and prayed as much as is possible for this moment. In a few hours we will be over the Atlantic, at which time comes my very favorite feeling of all, having no control of driving the bus whatsoever by sitting in a medal tube at 40,000 feet for the next 2 days. Of course I did contemplate with Deborah for a short time about taking a slow boat to Africa but she reminded me we wouldn’t make it back before 2012 was here, so I guess it’s for the best we have planes now, I guess.

In case you missed my last trip from a few months ago (just hit Uganda on my blog and scroll down), we travel from Atlanta to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Rwanda, then on to Uganda (yes, we fly right over Uganda to land in Rwanda), for a total of almost 10,000 miles in just about 36 hours from start to finish. I timed my trip last time from the moment I left my house to the moment I got into the guest house and it was right at 36 hours, which translated into 1 sunrise and 2 sunsets. By the time we landed last time I remember thinking, this has to be Africa, if we traveled any farther we would start to head back home around the other side.

For those few of you who might want to follow a more exact detail of what’s going on as we board and land etc, you can follow my feed on Twitter @scottfillmer or you can friend me on Facebook. For those who are unfamiliar with Twitter, You do NOT have to be a member of Twitter to follow our trip/team on Twitter, it is an open page, just click on my name above and it will give show you the updates (if you want to respond to something on there you do need to join Twitter if you haven’t already). For Facebook of course you will need to be on Facebook. The information and photos I post on Twitter and Facebook are unique to those two media’s so you won’t see those pics on my blog. I will also be able to update both while I’m actually on the ground in Uganda during the day, so if you are so inclined you can read what we are doing over there as well.

For now, I would like you to meet our team. From the photo above (in no particular order here) we have April Olive, Amy Frye, Bart Hyche, Emile Ewing, Jamie Moussirou, John Dow, Lisa Randall, Prabhakar Clement, and me, Scott Fillmer. Please be praying for each of us through the stresses of travel, and being away from our loved ones, that God will give us the strength needed to make a difference in just the way he has called us to do. See you here when we get to Europe if I can.

Know that we all greatly appreciate all your prayers as we leave and while we are over there. For those who have my cell phone number, please feel free to send text message to me while I’m over there, it’s like getting a letter from home, and I can receive unlimited text messages on my phone, just can’t send a large number. I probably will not reply, but I will receive your message.

Dinner with the Uganda Team in Auburn Before We Leave

Tonight was our kickoff meal, so to speak, with the Uganda team and our families at the famous Little Italy Pizzeria in Auburn. This was the first time we have all been together with our friends and family in one place, and it was great to all just be in the same room together. Up until now, for months in fact, we have met as a team in preparation for our trip to Uganda, and what a team we have going this trip. Collectively we have such an incredible range of personalities, skills, experience, gifts, and expertise, especially when you include our friends and family that were there tonight. To me, it’s such a great look at how the church body can be so diverse, yet united in Christ together with the desire to follow God halfway across the world.

This will be the first of many upcoming posts from our trip. We leave on Wednesday and I know everyone on the team will greatly appreciate your prayers as we go through the final stages of trying to let go of our busy schedules here and start to focus on the task at hand. For now, here are a few shots from tonight, more to come over the next week to ten days. Thanks so much to the guys at Little Italy for putting up with our large group and all the noise, you guys were awesome (see photo below).