Guest Contributor Jeff McCoy, a journalist who covers the Eastern Panhandle, shares his first-person account of visiting Uganda as part of a missionary team.

JINJA, UGANDA- After a grueling 28 hours of travel, including a transatlantic plane flight, truck and van transportation, the team arrived at a hotel. After a few short hours of sleep they departed for a small village of Buneusi, almost four hours away, to provide a medical clinic and religious services before traveling on to other locations.

The first stop, Buneusi, is near an orphanage and local farms.

Ugandan pastor, Andrew Mwagale and Bato, a local retired mechanic, drove two vehicles full of medical supplies, and us — a medical team, pastors from the United States and one journalist.

People walked for miles from surrounding villages to hear the pastors preach, to see the medical staff for pains and ailments they were suffering. More than 300 patients were seen, but some were turned away as the needs exceeded the staff’s resources.

A 24 year-old woman named Josephine was at the end of her pregnancy, and saw the doctors for advice about her baby that would be born soon.

She has had a tough life. Her father died when she was one month old, leaving her family with hardship. She hopes to someday open her own clinic to help people in remote villages. “I’m just praying to God,” Josephine said.  Uganda crowd

A very large crowd sat in the hot sun to hear West Virginia Pastor, Tom Snyder speak.  Snyder is the pastor at Back Creek Valley Full Gospel Church in Berkeley County. “This is because you prayed and God answered your prayers,” Snyder said.

The children from the closest orphanage waited patiently with hundreds of others for the hot meal that was prepared in the field.

Some of the children had lost both parents to AIDS and many others were abandoned very young.

Uganda kids

The youngest child had come to the orphanage right after her birth. Her mother left the hospital immediately after delivery and could not be found. Four brothers were abandoned after their father died of AIDS, and their mother realized that she would be dying soon as well.

The orphans sleep on mats in a building less than 200 square feet. There is no electricity and, at night it is total darkness. The water supply is not consistent. Ugandan pastor, Felix Otenge runs the orphanage and is trying to build a school there.

There is not a single toy at the orphanage; although, a neighboring village boy had a homemade soccer ball.

After the long two-day event, the crew boarded the waiting vehicles to make their way to the next location where they would bring hope and assistance to another group of people.

“We’re just getting started brother. Wait until we get to the leper colony,” Snyder said.

Reporter Jeff McCoy can be reached at