Local firefighter’s life changes after mission trip to Uganda

Published 7:26 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Decatur County Fire and Rescue employee and devout Christian Van Eakin recently went on a mission trip that changed his life forever.

Eakin was one of the 10 members of Southwest Baptist Church that joined the 19 members of First Baptist Church in Newnan to go serve the villages in Mbale, Uganda.

The trip began with a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church, which also serves as an orphanage. There, Eakin and other members from Georgia got to spend time with the children, while their parents worked continuously.

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Eakin said if it weren’t for the church, the majority of these children wouldn’t be able to have a meal at all. Unfortunately, Eakin also said if the church runs out of the posho and beans they serve, the kids standing in line have nothing. The problem is not the quantity of food, Eakin said. Uganda has an abundance of food, but because of the lack of labor laws, working members of the family only make $8 US dollars a month.

“They have no luxuries,” Eakin said. “The luxury might be they get to feed their entire family.”

Unfortunately, their biggest need isn’t food. It’s clothing. Eakin said the children there may wear the same dress for two years or the pastor may wear the same suit every day for years at a time. Several different programs from the churches had been preparing clothing for them, knitting dresses, blankets and other necessities. While this mission trip did not notice footwear issues as much, the mission trip two years ago became aware that the majority of children do not have shoes or any other type of footwear. They educated them on the importance of sandals, because the people were starting to get jiggers, or worms, in their feet that had to be cut out.

“We don’t have a need in America like they have there,” Eakin said.

When having to fix people’s feet, the volunteers learned of a new issue. The village had little to no medical supplies. The doctors and surgeons had no gloves or gauze, Eakin said. They were delivering babies with trash bags over their hands. Once the children are delivered, they are considered lucky if they have a mud hut to return to and sleep in. Eakin said a heavy rain could sometimes even ruin that hut; children rarely have a stable home there.

“The most inspiring part about it is that even through the hardships and lack of fundamental needs, they praise God through everything,” Eakin said. “The people who are struggling have nothing to fall back on, but God.”

The church will continue to go on mission trips to work on another project they have begun. Southwest Baptist Church pastor Stanley Phillips helped build schools in Entebbe. Every year, they give additional money to the village to help add concrete flooring, buy desks and buy books. It helps bring down the cost, because children who do not pay do not get an education and are forced to go work with their family members.

“The country itself is beautiful,” Eakin said. “It is sad the people live in squalor, but if God leads you to go on a mission trip, then by all means be faithful and go. It’ll change your life.”