Uganda experience changes lives

by W. Winston Skinner


Kristen Moore of Newnan uses her guitar in a classroom in Kiwawu. “You are a missionary wherever you go,” she said.

Kristen Moore grew up in Newnan — in a home where faith and mission service were part of the environment — and she looks back on time she spent in Uganda as life-changing.

Moore, 26, will never forget her experience teaching school in a small village. Her work was done through the Pennies for Posho mission organization. Now she is working with Ugandan Thunder, a popular children’s choir from Uganda touring in the southeastern United States.

“I help with the arrangements,” she said. She knows the children who are visiting the United States. “I know their personalities … speak their version of English,” she said.

A few weeks ago, she began a six-month stint working with the choir, which will be singing at a Coweta County school and at churches in adjoining counties.

Her current connection with the children from Uganda is part of a yearslong process of spiritual growth that is continuing. “I can really see God preparing me step-by-step for a little bit more,” she reflected.

“It broke my heart in many ways. It saved my life and gave me perspectives that I never would have had,” Moore said of her missions experience.

Moore worked with the choir in 2008 and met Dr. Ted “Big Daddy” Moody, who founded Pennies for Posho a couple of years later. Moody was in the United States — back from a stay in Uganda.

Moody asked Moore to consider being a house mother for the visiting choir members. “I prayed, and I felt like that was where the Lord wanted me to go,” she said.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — because I’ve never been a Mom,” Moore said. Suddenly being a mother for a group of youngsters from another culture was enjoyable and enriching — but also quite challenging.

Moore had spent some time in Kenya while she was in college. “I fell in love with the African people,” she said.

Subsequent to her time as a choir Mom, Moore went to Uganda to teach in a village — working day after day with youngsters who would become members of a visiting choir. “It’s actually harder to be in America with Ugandan kids than it was to be in Uganda teaching,” she said.

In addition to major duties with the children in a practical sense, Moore said the choir Mom job also required lots of praying.

“You’re not getting enough sleep. You’re trying to protect very sheltered children from American culture to the extreme,” she said.

Playing host to Ugandan Thunder is different from working with international college exchange students — or an immigrant family. “They’re coming here, but they’re going back home. It gives me a different perspective on our culture,” she said.

“You want to accept the blessings people want to give,” Moore added, while keeping in mind the much simpler lifestyle in Uganda.

“People see these kids, and they want to help in some way,” she acknowledged. “You may not be able to do things for them in your American way.”

Moore said the children’s coming to Georgia is a blessing. Their visits tear down walls in churches — including racial barriers. “They’re little missionaries to America,” she said. “A lot of our churches need missionaries to come into the church and minister.”

There were many aspects of living in Uganda that were different from being in Coweta County. “God was faithful,” Moore said — explaining how she persevered.

She taught grades four, five and six — two classes of each grade in Kiwawu, a village near Mityana, an administrative city of about 39,000.

Kiwawu is a trading center — “a little dot along the road to Mityana,” Moore said. There were about 20 shops along the roadside.

In addition to fresh food, the stores sold snacks and detergent. “I could get toilet paper. I could get toothpaste,” she said.

“Nothing in the shops has a pricetag on it,” said Moore, who does not like to haggle.

The school at Kiwawu was built with help from churches in America. The mission house, where Moore lived, had bedrooms, toilets and showers. There was electricity at the mission house — sometimes.

There was “always the chance” the power would falter while she was doing some chore that was much easier with electricity. Irregular power made it harder to cook using leftovers and to freeze foods for use later.

There was a gas grill that could be used to prepare meals — a luxury in some ways since most people living in the area cooked with charcoal. Meals were prepared at the school for 650 children each day.

Moore learned to wash everything she had worn at one time and how to use food to maximize her spending. She also learned that God had a plan that often helped make things go better than she might otherwise have thought.

“It was just amazing how He worked some things out,” she said.

She also learned to adapt to African time, which has little focus on the actual numerals on a clock. “They don’t do anything on time,” Moore said.

There were about 45-60 students in each of Moore’s classes. She was serious about her teaching and enjoyed getting to know the students as individuals.

“Over there, they’re kids. They’re not little angels. They’re not helpless. They’re not ignorant,” she said.

“I hated grading papers,” Moore said. “That was one of my least favorite things.”

Moore grew up in Newnan and graduated from Newnan High School in 2005. She spent lots of time with her grandparents in Colquitt. “I’d been going down there for years at spring break,” she said.

As she grew toward adulthood, the visits to south Georgia served not only as a recreational outlet, but a spiritual one. “The Lord would speak to me there,” she said.

Her parents, Warren and Mary Faye Moore, created a home where their daughter could easily grow toward a strong faith — a faith that spurred her to action. “My parents consider me God’s child before their own,” she said. “If He calls me to go somewhere, they’re not going to try to stop that.”

Moore described her parents as “very prayerful.”

First Baptist Church of Newnan played a major role in Moore’s journey. When she was in eighth grade, she wrote a paper about Lottie Moon, a 19th century Virginia woman who spent most of her life sharing the gospel in China. That experience left Moore feeling a call to missions.

Several in her family — including Kristen Moore and both parents — have made mission trips to Romania.

“My mom kind of knew this was coming before I did,” Moore said of her missions connection with Africa. “They trust the Lord with my life.”

Moore attended Georgia College in Milledgeville where she graduated with a degree in outdoor recreation in 2009. “When I went to college, I saw a whole other side of God,” Moore said.

Her experiences with the people of Uganda — and particularly the children — have also helped her to grow deeper in her faith.

Once the choir tour is over, Moore is not sure what her next step will be. “Just being with Him (God) is the best thing,” she said. “I know He’s preparing me for what’s next.”

The choir has a way of communicating what it means to be part of the family of God, the kind of connections between believers about which Jesus taught. “That’s how we are to be when Christ returns,” Moore said. “He’s coming for His family, and we need to be unified.”

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