Sophomore biology major Linnea Ristow didn’t spend her summer break the way many students do. Instead of heading to the lake or beach, she spent her twelve weeks of freedom building mud huts, walking through African slums, and riding on the backs of boda bodas—motorcycle taxis that are used extensively in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.
Ristow said she has known she wanted to do missionary work since she was 6. Her family went on a mission trip to Thailand when she was in high school and she said her parents fell in love during a mission trip to Japan.
“I feel like God is calling me to missions, and Uganda seemed like a wonderful start to that,” Ristow said.
From late-May to mid-August Ristow lived and worked with other missionaries in a compound as a part of the Christian, non-profit organization Empower a Child, which focus on aiding children and families living in extreme poverty in Uganda and Kenya.
Ristow and her fellow missionaries lived in the Ugandan village of Ziroobwe and would also spend one or two days a week in Kampala, which is 32 miles north of Ziroobwe.
“Generally, we would do two projects a day,” she said. “One in the morning and one in the evening.”
Ristow said she and the other missionaries would spend time sharing the gospel with locals, doing manual labor for elderly members of the community, working in an orphanage, assisting doctors in a local clinic, and teaching the children lessons on spirituality and other things.
She said the cultural differences between Americans and Ugandans were very interesting.
“They were very appreciative and kind,” she said, “more willing to invest than just money, because nobody has any money. What they do have they are willing to share.”
Ristow said she had a blast working with the children and people of Ziroobwe and Kampala but that some days were a struggle, like when she worked at the rehabilitation clinic.
“It was mostly kids from war torn regions who are missing limbs,” she said. “Or sometimes they’ve recently had a surgery or something and they’re recovering.”
Ristow said during especially trying times she would find strength through her faith.
“There were times when a certain experience or day would be emotionally draining and we would turn to the Lord to recharge us,” she said.
At one point, Ristow said they worked at a medical camp with five Ugandan doctors where they saw 1,820 patients in just three days.
“It was like twelve plus hour days, but it was such a blast and such an incredible thing to be able to be a part of.”
Ristow said her favorite part of the trip was forming relationships with the kids, who would affectionately call her “mzungu” – a term that means “wanderer” and is used in the region to refer to people of European descent. She said they eventually learned her name and hearing that meant a lot to her.
“It warmed my heart to hear the kids call out my name and run to me and tackle me with a bunch of hugs,” she said.
Now that Ristow has returned she said she isn’t sure what’s next for her but that she would like to go on a mission trip every summer during the coming years of her undergrad and medical school.
“I figure if I trust Him in the little things in day-to-day life, then ten years down the road I’ll end up exactly where He wants me to be.”