Today’s guest blog is by Amanda O’Neal, who spent over two and a half years in Masindi, Uganda with her husband, Michael O’Neal. Amanda’s gracious heart and love for others is evident in her reflections on their time in Masindi.
By, Amanda O’Neal
Masindi, Uganda holds a very dear and precious place in my heart. I had the great honor of living there for two and a half years and I have been forever changed. In January of 2009, Michael and I packed up our lives, said goodbye to friends and family, got on a plane, and entered into a sacred wilderness.
When Matt Alexander and Dr. Ed O’Bryan created the brilliant idea of Palmetto Medical Initiative, they approached Michael to see if he would go to build the first medical center in Uganda. One interesting thing is that we were both Spanish majors with a heart for missions so naturally, we ended up in Africa. Doesn’t God have a funny sense of humor? So after careful consideration, prayer and counsel, we knew that it was something we were created to go and do.
Launching out into the unknown, we had no idea how this project would turn out. All we knew to be true was that this vision was innovative and was something worth taking a risk for. We stepped out in faith and found ourselves embraced by God’s provision. Stripped of friends, family and first world conveniences, I began to feel my outward identity of independence, efficiency and productivity fall away. I began to discover that living in deep connection to God and interdependence with the people around me was the more life-giving way. Masindi became a new home for us and the people became our new family. I learned how to hold space for the feeling of so much despair and yet so much hope. The transforming, redemptive work of God was at hand. Ashes became beauty. What started out as a field of sweet potatoes was transformed into a beautiful, life-giving medical center.
Palmetto Medical is a unique and beautiful model. What I love most about PMI is that the short-term medical mission teams serve as the building blocks for the greater goal of creating a self-sustaining medical facility. This is happening in Uganda and Nicaragua with great success. MKMC is self-sustaining. The vision is all about creating ownership and empowerment and that is something I will always stand for. I am so grateful that we got to be a part of building that vision into a reality. We poured our energy and our hearts into that vision. Some days that energy looked like sweat and tears and then other days it was laughter and love.
Despite many challenges and hardships, it was the most life-enriching journey for Michael and me. We went with the intention of helping the people of Masindi and yet they helped us so much. They taught us a new way of looking at life. They taught us that true joy can blossom in the soil of suffering. They taught us that we are brother and sisters, not “us” versus “others.” We learned in the most practical way that you gain your life when you give it away.
Thank you for taking the risk to move away from your friends and family, Amanda! Your spirit towards life and can-do attitude is inspiring and helped to shape PMI into what it is today.