Since high school, Socha dreamed of going on a mission trip to Africa, but it became a reality when she and her father developed a relationship with Pastor Paul Gidudu, a minister who lives in Uganda.
After waiting a year during the pandemic, Socha received news of the possibility of another trip cancellation.
“Uganda went on lockdown a month before the trip,” Socha said. “I had been preparing for this trip for so long and to have it canceled did not make sense to me. Then, we heard tourists were allowed to go. I knew it was the grace of God.”
Upon their arrival, they received an unending stream of welcomes from Ugandans.
“They’re gentle and generous. They want to make sure their visitors are very comfortable and well attended to,” Robert said.
The Sochas had a twofold purpose to their visit: bring hope and peace to the hearts of the people amid the lockdown, and form connections so as to improve the physical conditions of the community.
After landing, they traveled 16 hours by car to the country’s capital, Kampala.
At the hotel, the Ugandans never let the Sochas seat or serve themselves. The Sochas were astounded by their sacrifice and hospitality.
Throughout the three weeks of the trip, Isabella and her dad hiked to different villages to deliver food and clothing. Every day, the pair would speak about the Christian faith for an hour on the radio, reaching more than 400,000 Ugandans, Robert said. Robert focused on developing relationships with local leaders and authorities while Isabella spent her time interacting with the children in the community.
Isabella said the love and beautiful spirituality of the children she met in the village Mbale was particularly striking. Because of their poverty, the children realized a need for Jesus, she said.
“They just love the Lord so much here,” Isabella said. “They were crying out with the most sincere faith. For an hour and a half they would pray during lunch, ‘Lord, we surrender. Please remember us in our trials. Please remember us when we are struggling. We want you. We love you.’”
At one point, Isabella wanted to pray with a certain girl. The two were facing one part of the classroom singing and praising. About halfway through the song, Isabella turned around and found that the other village children had filled the whole classroom and were singing in chorus with her.
“In Uganda, they worship God until they are hard and dry,” she said.
While Isabella toiled away at her work, Robert met with the Mbale Rotary Club to improve living conditions and establish plans for a stronger education system.
“Our short term goal is to drill a water well and tower with solar power,” Robert said. “The system will have multiple spigots that are gravity fed which will provide fresh, clean, filtered water. Our long term goal is to help the pastor expand his orphanage into a primary and secondary school.”
He also spoke of the severe poverty present within the community.
“We were told of a grandmother who would take off her robe to cover her four grandchildren at night. That’s the kind of thing that tears at the heart strings that this is something which actually happens,” he said. “This is a real person who is trying to continue existence for herself and her grandchildren, and is in such a desperate state that she would have to cover them with her own clothes at night so they wouldn’t be cold. That was one of the most touching moments.”
Despite the harsh conditions, Robert said the children are filled with optimism and joy, along with a desire to live and become productive contributors to society.
“These kids in this organization are dreaming to be doctors and lawyers and mechanics. They are not thinking that they are condemned to live in poverty,” Robert said. “What you’re born in doesn’t define you. With hard work and determination, with education, with people loving you and encouraging you to improve, you can accomplish anything.”
Isabella said she hopes to return to Uganda and continue her mission of evangelization and education with the children in the Mbale village. In the meantime, she looks to study theology and receive a minor in early education to prepare her for this future task. Robert continues to strengthen relationships with his Ugandan counterparts so as to bring hope and peace to the hearts of the people in the small villages of Uganda.
However much love the Sochas gave to the Ugandan people, the Sochas felt so much more in return, they said.
“We made an impact?” Isabella said. “They do not even understand the impact they have made on my heart!”