HARTINGTON — For Jordan Anderson a trip to war-torn East Africa was a dream come true.
Anderson, a 2011 graduate of Cedar Catholic High School and a 2015 University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad, joined forces for two weeks in July as volunteer for Angels of East Africa.
The group is a mission/humanitarian work organization that focuses on aiding northern Uganda and South Sudanese areas of interest over the past two decades.
The organization was founded by pastor Sam Childress, ‘aka’ the ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ as depicted in the 2011 film starring Gerard Butler.
He started the Shekinah Children’s Village in Numule South Sudan in the middle of a civil war to help kids orphaned in the war or others facing other challenges.
“It’s not a matter of if I can go back to Africa, but more of a when I can go back,” Anderson said. “If the opportunity presents itself then I would absolutely go back and do it. In the foreseeable future I will stick to the United States and do something here for now.”
Anderson learned about Angels of East Africa right around the time he was about to graduate from college, but he had long fantasized about traveling to Africa while also hoping to do missionary work.
“So it turned out to be the perfect fit,” he said. “At first, I did not know if I would ever really go, despite being very interested. It wasn’t until Sam Childers ended up coming to Lincoln in 2016 and I had the opportunity to meet him and hear him speak, then I knew that I was going to go for sure.
“I always wanted to go to Africa growing up: I was a fanatic about the place. I watched documentaries of it and saw the wild life and nature of it.”
His 2018 marriage to long-time sweetheart Kelsey Christensen and starting a career as a juvenile probation officer slowed the process down until he could finally make the trip this summer.
“I had been playing around with the idea of going there for years, but never found anything that spoke to me,” he said. “When I found out about this, everything clicked together and it was the spark for me.”
Kelsey wasn’t so sure about sending her husband into a dangerous place and then there were the semantics of cost.
“She was pretty nervous at first and she had been overseas, too, so she understands,” he said. “We both wanted to go overseas and make a contribution and she knew that I wanted to do something like this for a large part of my life.
“It definitely isn’t the most tourist friendly spot or a place a lot of people want to go to.”
Over a day of travel from the States to Holland to ultimately Rwanda en route to Uganda, Anderson immediately got to work.
Along the way, he would help supply food to the Prince Henry Christian School in Kampala, Uganda, and help an orphanage with clothing and supplies.
“It’s an eye-opening experience,” he said. “There is nothing you would see here in Nebraska.
He ended up in Numule and spent four days at the focal point of Angels of East Africa.
“We had a huge group of kids just storm us,” Anderson said. “They treat you like a celebrity and the greatest person in the place. I am a private, shy person when I first meet someone, but you couldn’t shy away from these kids. It kind of blew me away.”
The village had its challenges, but compared to most around them, they were able to give the kids at least some semblance of hope.
“Compared to the area, it was a pretty nice place to be,” Anderson said. “Everyone ate every day and that’s saying a lot for the area. The South Sudan was rugged living.”
Anderson was impressed by the organization holding tight to the kids it saves, where a student could leave when they turn 18 and either go to a university or learn a trade, paid for by the Angels of East Africa.
One can stay within the embrace of the organization until the age of 26 when they must, finally move on.
“They will be with them all the way and that kind of blew my mind,” Anderson said. “It was absolutely 100 percent worth it and what I expected. It was a life changing and eye-opening experience. Personally, it was kind of a struggle to find the funding to go on the trip and wondering if it was ever going to be worth it. Actually seeing what it was going toward was very humbling and inspiring.”
Kelsey and Jordan have no children for now and what they might be able to share one day is a chance to help more kids suffering in an area of the world most kids would never want to grow up in let alone live.
“She was relieved when I got back,” Jordan said. “The plan for now is for her to go with me in the future. She’s kind of traveler, too, and I think she wants to have that experience, too.”
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