Linnea Ristow is pursuing her dream at Newman University as a pre-med student, but is realizing her dream as a mission worker in Uganda this summer. She has wanted to do this type of work since early childhood.
At the age of 12, she organized an art auction to raise money for the organization Empower a Child when a family friend came back from his mission work with stories of how he helped children in Africa. She was so inspired by his stories that she felt she wanted to do something to help the children, too. That act of kindness turned into a love for the organization, and today she is in Africa helping the children just like her family friend had done seven years before.
More recently, after hearing a church member talk about Uganda, she decided to research mission trips through Empower a Child. The more she learned, the more she felt called to do something. She spent the spring of 2016 raising money to take the trip by writing letters, starting a GoFundMe account, and even using her art again to raise funds.
Her mission work began in late May as she traveled to Africa, and will continue until mid-August. While there, Ristow said her typical day includes morning devotions and daily projects consisting of things like a children's program at the school, performing manual labor for nearby families, doing upkeep on the compound and school, running mini medical clinics, assisting at a rehabilitation hospital, or helping staff at an orphanage.
"We have rice and beans for lunch, then do another project in the afternoon until about five," Ristow reported. "We fellowship with one another in the evening — talking, playing card games, doing sports with kids at the school, etc, then have dinner. I am glad to be serving alongside some amazing, Godly people here! I know I can learn a lot from them in the upcoming months."
During her first few weeks, she and others met a family in Zirobwe who had an incredible story of a parent overcoming alcoholism and giving her life to the Lord. The family didn't have a kitchen to cook in and Ristow felt blessed to be able to work on building one and providing them a place for cooking.
"We decided to return and build the family a kitchen. It was very strenuous manual labor, but was so much fun," recalls Ristow. "It was all worth it to see the joy and happiness in the faces of the entire family. I continue to visit the family regularly, and ... whenever I approach the house now, the mother runs out and hugs me with open arms. She and her family bless and inspire me constantly."
Ristow talks about her ups and downs of this journey in her blog titled "Kansas to Kampala," where she said she reflects on God's miracles and love. When speaking of frustrations she has experienced she simply states, "I’m adjusting and God is teaching me patience and flexibility."
When Ristow returns in the fall, she will continue her education at Newman and is looking forward to working toward a major of either Biology or Chemistry. You can follow Ristow's journey online by visiting her blog.