Loudly and Proudly: Julia Clark Describes her Missions Trip to Africa


Photo credit Derrick Mutumba.

Julia Clark

The sun began to rise at 6:25 in the morning, painting the sky in hues of lavender and rose. A crisp air nipped at my shoulders, the smell of dirt and grass carried in the wind. The beauty of Africa was overwhelming.

On Feb. 10, my amazing missions team and I were planning to visit a school in Amuru, Gulu. We had gone the day before to meet the kids there, and the next day we headed to church. It was my second day in Gulu, and I was absolutely in love with it. It was just so peaceful there, the people were so soft spoken and loving, so willing to just be with me.  I had never done anything like that before — I had never even been out of the country before — but I loved it. The idea of the day scared me, to be honest, but as the morning progressed, I felt more and more calmed by the thought of being able to praise Jesus with these kids. God was preparing my heart.

After we all packed into a small bus, we headed to Amuru. The drive was about an hour long, but worth it to see their friendly smiles and bright eyes again. The sun poured over us in golden heat; it was only noon and already 100 degrees. Dust danced around us constantly, but neither that nor anything else could steal my love for Africa.  All the girls had to use the restroom, so we headed there while the guys entered the small brick church building.

When we walked back from the bathroom, music was already erupting from the little building. We all walked to the other side and thinned ourselves out to try and fit inside. The place was so tiny, but there were so many people there. Everybody was jumping up and down, shouting and dancing. The biggest surprise was seeing my dad, my friends Joe and Nick and probably fifteen Africans dancing and singing their hearts out on the little stage.

I am a shy person by nature; I don’t like to put myself out there. So when my dad’s roommate Jonathan pulled me towards the stage and said, “Come on, Julia!” I said, “No, no, I’m good!”

We were shouting over the roar of the music.

“No, come on!” Then he pushed me onto the stage. I was now dancing in front of an entire church with my dad and friends. They sang so loudly there was no doubt heaven could hear.

As I got more comfortable dancing with these people on stage, I noticed how loudly these people professed their love for Jesus. The thought hit me hard as I thought back to churches in San Diego where the congregation just stood idly watching others sing on stage. My world slowed for a minute amidst the chaos as I felt the overwhelming feeling of God’s love and joy and his people yelling at the top of their lungs for him, even when they had nearly nothing.

My heart radiated with joy as I was overwhelmed with God’s presence, and in that moment I felt him say to me, “Just have fun, let go of your worries, dance.”

We danced forever, laughing, jumping, singing, shouting and just showing God how much we truly loved him. I stood behind the boys, which was a nightmare because none of us white people — or, as the Ugandans called us, “Muzungus” — could dance, but we didn’t care. We were just together having fun, loving Jesus and creating friendships that would last far longer than the two weeks we were there. The one-hour church service had given my life a new perspective.

Photo credit Brittany Melon.

This praise and worship was their normal Sunday service, but, for me, it was a moment I will never be able to forget. Just the feeling of God in the room, and the joy of not caring how I looked on that stage, and being able to laugh and dance with these people I had never met before was unreal. Their normal way of living had changed me forever.

My time in Uganda was everything I wanted it to be and more. There were so many times I felt God there with us, so many times I almost died from laughing too hard, so many times I felt the people I was serving with were family I would never lose, so many times I could have cried because I felt so spoiled and so many times I could have cried because I felt so unconditionally loved. I will always remember the way I felt dancing in the little church in Gulu.