My 39th Birthday (Jerry Miele)

It’s been an adventurous and exciting trip so far. I celebrated my 39th birthday waking up for my first full day in Africa. That day my best friend, Alex, and I began our journey to meet up with the rest of the team who was already in Gulu, Uganda, which was to serve as our base of operations for the remainder of the trip. Our trip to Uganda’s second city was eventful when the van transporting us had to be replaced halfway through the trip due to mechanical failures, but we eventually made it to meet up with the crew. Along the way we did get the pleasure of stopping to gaze on the majestic Nile that was swollen with wet season rains.

After a rousing day distributing beds from day two in country and a good night’s rest, the jet lag was gone and the group set out to deliver our second 100 beds to Ugandan orphans. The journey to our second site was a bit interesting as well as we were delayed when a tour bus had become stuck in the mud soaked roads blocking the path for all other vehicles. After a short delay, a backhoe was used to help free the stuck bus and we were off again. Upon arrival, much like the fist site, we were greeted with much fanfare. Two little boys on bongo style drums provided the tempo along with their friends that banged on what looked like turtle shells, while the women let out primal yells of delight and danced all the way into the camp. While there, we had our introductions where I remarked that my son, Caleb, would be jealous that he didn’t get to see such musical talent and that the fact that my daughter, Madison, would have loved the joyous dancing.

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Next came the malaria skits and our performance of songs for the kids, which failed to compare to the energetic dancing that the locals had previously shared. Then came the most striking part for me, playing with the kids. The Lord may not have equipped me for much, but playing with the children was something that comes quickly and easily. The first day I found myself teaching children how to throw a Frisbee, but today I found a whiffle ball and bat and went to town. I was able to use something from home that I love to bring joy to these kids that literally have nothing. Each child wanted to hit the ball and they wanted me to pitch, even after I tried to let them play with each other. They kept giving the ball back to me and away I went having fun with them and doing fun imitations of MLB pitchers of today and those of the past from my youth. Who would have ever thought that using a game I love could help bring some joy to those some 13,000 kilometers away from Nashville. 

I have supported Sweet Sleep from its inception, served on its board, and devoted half of my tithe, but this is the first mission trip I have had the opportunity to participate in. I would have never guessed that back in 2003, that it would have brought me to Africa to serve with a team from Belton, Texas.  All said, this trip has been every bit of the adventure I thought it would be and I will return to the United States even prouder of Sweet Sleep after witnessing firsthand the way it changes lives, both the youth abroad and mine.

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