Rachel Hamilton

Author | Writer | Traveler | Child of God | Kiwi Girl

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Summer storms.

It’s 10pm at night the thunder is raging and lightning flashing. Inside it’s hot and humid.

A summer storm.

Sometimes life feels like a summer storm.

Recently I have felt so so fatigued by personal storms, sickness, stress and the loss of a very dear friend to cancer.

Feeling so empty. I’m like a broken jug, who wants to full those around me up but the life giving water keeps running out.

6 months ago I managed to run a Facebook page that reached over 20,000 people, reply to countless emails from people who shared their struggles with me. Volunteer helping the homeless of Sydney. I saved, planned, and went on my second trip to Uganda. Volunteered for 2 months and come home, overflowing with joy. I was so energised with all I had learnt in Uganda.

But now i struggle to find enough emotional energy to get to work each day.

Times like theses God feels so far away.

But my very wise friend reminded me it’s ok to grieve, ok to struggle, ok to be broken because in theses moments God holds us.

She is so right.

Today at work God reminded me that we must be kind to ourselves in our personal storm.

Yes people around us walk through things more terrible than we could imagine but it doesn’t mean our pain doesn’t count.

It doesn’t mean we should somehow just get over it.

Your pain matters, your storm is real, your courage is seen.

Let’s be kind to ourselves and hold tight to the knowledge summer storms don’t last forever.


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The Cost of Stepping out in Faith

So overwhelmed. So many things I want to do. So many lives I want to change. Yet here I am feeling a failure.

This is the raw unedited image of returning home.

2 months since I returned from my second trip to Uganda.

I’m letting people down, I know it, I’m not proud of it.

Over and over I’m reminded that an empty jug can not fill a cup.

Yet I feel so distant from the only one who can fill me.

Struggling to be a good friend, to keep up with the simplest tasks.

Let alone deal with the important things pressing on my mind.

People don’t talk of the cost. The price of following where God leads.

We just see the glory, the inspiration, the courage of great men and woman of faith.

We don’t see the blood of their tears before and after their journeys of faith.

We don’t see the valleys of doubt, fear, loneliness that come alongside the joys of following Christ.

Thing is when you’ve been changed by steps of faith you cant go back.

I’m never going back to the one I was before I went to Uganda and I dont want too.

But I’ve lost more than one friend.

Somedays I just want to shut myself away from everyone and try to understand this new girl looking back at me in the mirror.

Caught between two worlds.

The girl who lived by faith in Uganda and the girl who is overwhelmed by doubts, fears back here.

Everytime I step out in faith, after every overseas trip, theses feelings and struggles come to fight with me when I return.

Is it worth it?

Is it worth being so burdened down by the cares of this world. Is it worth feeling so lost at sea when I return home.

100% yes.

With each step, I am closer to the heart of the one who died for me.

Everytime I surrender to Christ’s ways I am becoming less of me, more of him.

In touching an ophans hand, I touched the very heart of God. Because they are his children.

I will never be the same.

For the sake of his call, I will accept and embrace the cost.

Trusting even when He feels so far, God is holding me close, filling me with his love.







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Life is a blessing. 

Five weeks ago, I arrived back in Uganda. I hate saying this because it means I only 3 weeks left here. 

But I remind myself every day I have in Uganda is a blessing. 

I’ve learnt a lot. 

Friendships have grown deeper, new connections have been made and wonderful experiences have happened. 

Like visiting the zoo and holding a huge snake, feeding a lion, and interacting with so many amazing animals. 

Reunions with friends. 

Some not so great but moments of growth.

White water rafting was one. 

I’ve always wanted to do rafting and I thought no better place than the mighty Nile river. 

So a group of us volunteers decided to go. 

I had talked to others who had done it and they said it was great fun, so I was excited. 

The first rapids were fine, in fact I thought they were a bit boring. Little did I know what was up ahead. 

We hit a grade 6. A long rapid with a strong undertoe. 

Let me just say we weren’t meant to hit a grade 6, but somehow our boat drifted into it. 

We flipped. 

I was pushed under the boat.

Everything went slow motion. 

As I was being thrown around in the water, struggling for breath, I thought of my family back home, my life up to that point, had I done everything I was called to do in this life. Deep thoughts.  
I came up for air but found I was trapped under the side of the raft, finally the guide managed to pull me out and onto the upside down raft. I was still clutching tight to the paddle. ( don’t ask me why.) Josh ( the guide) shouted to hold on, but as I looked up another raft came crashing down on top of us. 

White water, couldn’t breathe, fatigue. Trapped again under something. 

The overwhelming feeling that I was going to die. 

Little voice in my head said “Time to give up fighting.” 

Then pure sweet lifegiving air, and a canoe who took me to a raft. 

Smooth waters.  Safety. 

I’ve never felt that close to death before.

Was I? I don’t know. Nile river rafting has never lost anyone. 

 But the experience gave me a reality check. 

Life is fragile, priceless and the future isn’t promised. 

Am I living a life, that if today was my last day, 

I could look back and say “I gave it all” “I made my life count.” 

Do I love enough, care enough, am I leaving foot prints of good behind me? 

Do I realise that each day has a purpose, and reason. 

Life is a miracle and I must make it count. 

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Joyful Journey.

I’ve been back in Uganda just over a week now. Such joyful days. Days pass by in a happy blur. Dishes, dirty nappies, cuddles, warm welcomes, baby laughs, bumpy bus rides.

Coming to Uganda for the second time has been everything I dreamed of and more.

My heart overflows.

I feel so loved, so welcomed and so wanted.

Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of Africa.

Dreamed that one day I would be loving little babies in Africa.

Each year the pull of Africa grew stronger.

15 years old I listened to a couple talk of their time in Africa.

I felt deep in my heart I would go..

At 17 I saw the Watoto choir perform.

I felt a deep calling to volunteer with Watoto at the babies home.

But I was too young.

Finally I turned 19, this must be the year I thought.

Still the door was closed tight.

Instead I went on a mission ship, sailing from Dubai, to Sri Lanka and India. Three wonderful months of well cleaning, volunteering at a boys home, rasing awareness for HIV and Aids and so much more.

I came home with renewed passion to serve.

More years past.

Still the door was closed.

Then I got really sick, the doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong.

All my dreams of Africa came crashing down.

Finally I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Two years I struggled with daily pain, no job, little hope, but still Africa called me.

My family and I moved to Australia.

My health improved a little I started a full time job at a beautiful Hotel, a place I imagined myself long term.

The dream of Africa started to fade.

I was comfortable, happy, settled.

But things happened.

Suddenly I could no longer work at the place, I adored.

I cried.

My life was a mess.

Africa called.

I looked into trips but door was still shut.

So I traveled to Cambodia and Thailand.

Saw the realities of sex trafficking and child slavery.

It broke me but also gave me passion to do my part to help.

A month past.

I got a new job.

I whispered to God, “Am I ready for Africa yet? I’ve waited so so long.”

I heard yes.

I couldn’t believe it.

So I applied to Watoto.

I nervously waited to hear if I was accepted.

Maybe this would be just another closed door.

The door opened wide.

I arrived in Uganda.

For the first month I struggled so much, I couldn’t understand why God had called me to come. I felt unworthy.

The remaining two months were wonderful, I fell in love with the country and people.

Weeks turned to days and before I knew it, I was going home.

But Africa still called.

As the plane left Africa.

I knew I would be back soon.

I arrived home.

Settled back into work, everyday life.

But day and night all I could think about was coming back to Uganda August/September this year.

I reapplied to Watoto.

Would the door close?

It stayed open.

Every tiny detail came together and here I am.

This journey has been long, it’s been painful.

But I wouldn’t trade anything for the path I walked.

I still don’t know the reason I am here or why Africa is so much a part of me.

After these two months I don’t know if it’s possible to come back again.

The door may close.

But for now, I’m making every moment count and embracing the joy of this wonderful journey.

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4 months ago, 4 days to go.

4 months ago I arrived home from Uganda. After three months of living in Africa my whole world view, the way I looked at life and even how I viewed myself had changed.

It was like my life restarted.

I know it’s crazy to say but it was like I had a fresh start.

My emotional, physical and mental wellbeing has completely changed.

4 months on and in 4 days I board a plane to Uganda again.

It’s so crazy.

I would have never imagined I could go back to the country I have grown to love so soon.

Ever since I arrived back I’ve felt Africa pulling on my heart.

This time I go back with greater passion to serve. Aiming to be worthy of the privilege of living in Africa for two more months.

Excitement to see the beautiful people I have grown to deeply love.

Joy to see the babies that stole my heart 4 months ago.

I pray that my heart is pure and I act in a way that honors everyone I come in contact with.

I just wish everyone could exprerince love the flows from Uganda.

It changes your life.

I’m so honored and overwhelmed I get to go back once again.

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I had no idea it would be this hard. No idea I would feel so alone. 

People never talk of the aching and breaking of obedience. 

Sometimes the aftertaste doesn’t seem worth the sweetness of  the fruit.

Re-entry is painful. 

How do I live in this state of change. 

My world seems shaky. 

Where is home, what is comfort, how is normal meant to feel. 

Am I doing this right? 

Stepping out in faith was hard but in the moment your grace seemed to give me wings. 

Now I’m struggling to keep from sinking into the pit of dispair, questions, fear. 

Jesus, hold me, teach me, help me to do this next stage. 

Give me hope, joy and peace. 

Just as you gave me strength in stepping out, give me strength in the coming home. 

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I’ve Been Changed. I’ve Seen Hope.

Two weeks since I arrived home and it’s finally hit me, a painful reality that I’m no longer in Uganda. I’ve pushed the feelings away, with everything being a whirlwind of activity it’s been easy,  jetlag, three days in Australia then jumping on a plane and coming to New Zealand, scraping wallpaper, painting, falling into bed each evening so tired and achy from the physical work. I don’t want to face theses feelings or look back, but process I must. 

Uganda my third home, how I adore and love you, its strange to think the first month I would have given anything to jump on a plane and fly home. 

It was Christmas time and I missed my family greatly. I felt like a huge failure as a volunteer and questioned my purpose for being at Baby Watoto. 

But as the days turned to weeks and a month past I began to adjust, adapt and see how Watoto and Uganda was deeply impacting me. With each country I visit it contuines to amaze me that I arrive with the goal to change lives yet everytime I am the one left changed. 

Each situation was an opportunity for growth, insight, healing and restoration in not just the lives around me but my life too. 

My other mission trips I have been on, I have come back feeling broken by the injustice, sin, sorrow and sadness of the world. Broken by the things I have seen. 

Memories of the woman who looked at me with deep pain in her eyes in the red light district trapped in a life of slavery and pain in Thailand, the little boy who asked me to be his mother in the ophange in Sri Lanka.

But this time something beautiful has happened, I have come back, healed, filled with joy by the things God is doing and the joy that there IS something I can do to make a difference.

I’ve seen hope, in the laughing eyes of a happy healthy baby at Baby Watoto, in the new school where 100s of Children can now safely study year round. 

Uganda and Watoto has shown me I want to devote my life to something bigger than myself, I want to use what I have to make the world a better place and it’s possible. We can do it. 

Hurt is everywhere, need is everywhere but we can be the change. I don’t just  have to be in Uganda to make a difference, I just have to have open eyes and hands ready and willing to help those around me. 

So dear Watoto staff, nannies, volunteers, babies, Ugandan friends. Thank you all so much for what you have taught and shown me, thank you for the love, kindness, healing, hope and joy you have brought into my life. For the way you show me anything is possible if we devote our lives to Christ and be his hands and feet to those around us. 

All I want to do is get back on a plane and come back  but for now I will take the knowledge and lessons I’ve learnt and aim to make a difference where I stand right now. 

But I will be back dear Uganda. I will be back. 

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New Normal.

It’s 4:30am and in just half an hour I’m heading to the airport for the second time this week.

In this moment I’m thankful for jetlag which makes it easy to wake up early, it’s also a reminder I will have been in three different countries in the last 10 days.  

It’s a strange feeling not knowing where I call home anymore. It’s almost like I am a child of three families, I have a birth country New Zealand, Australia, my place of residence and work, and Uganda a place where I feel deeply alive, when every day is an opportunity to make a difference. 

Something about countries and cultures, that makes my heart sing. If money was no object, I would become a gypsy, sending my whole life falling in love with cultures​ and countries. 

So it’s hard coming back to reality. 

I’m struggling with the lack of freedom we have here to make a difference.

With all the red tape, legal, and political correctness that binds us from being able to practically get in and create change. 

It frustrates me that you have to have a degree, do a short course, or wade through piles of paper work to be able to do anything worthwhile​. 

Don’t get me wrong I know there is, brokeness, needs and opportunities to make a difference here. 

This is not a hate on the the western culture. 

It’s just as someone who doesn’t have any great wonderful talents or useful skills but passionately wants to make a difference in the world I struggle in this culture of degrees and systems.

There is a reason I’m back home, a purpose for these frustrations, feelings and thoughts. 

Each day that goes by I’m learning to live this new normal. 

I’m thankful to be a New Zealander/Australian and the opportunities these beautiful countries provide me.

But now I’m thankful for these feelings because it means Africa changed me, grew me, challenged me and opened my eyes. 

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Wonderful Uganda 

When I first came to Uganda I had a idea that it would be this adrenaline filled adventure where everything was new, strange and overwhelming. 

While I have had moments like that, I didn’t realise how normal it would quickly become.

 I have traveled and lived overseas enough to know, before you come to a country, you hear the scary, unique and unusual things of that country. 
When I moved to the Australia I was nervous about all the dangerous animals its famous for, I believed deadly snakes would crawl up the toliet into my house, that spiders would bite me in the night and kangaroos would be jumping all over the place. 

In reality I’ve only seen one dead snake, killed a few small spiders and seen a few kangaroos peaceful eating grass by the side of the road. 

Like Australia, I had fears coming to Africa. Yet in the 6 weeks I have been here all my fears have died. 

Uganda has been through difficult times and you can see the aftermath of that pain and struggle, but oh what beauty has been born from the ashes. 

You will never meet more kind beautiful lovely people. 

There is a joy, sweetness and compassion in this country that is so inspiring. 

Life here is wonderful, daily I enjoy rich hospitality, wonderful food and loving community. 

I believe that Uganda is and will quickly become a powerful nation that reaches and changes the world. 

So my dear international readers, I hope and pray, you too can come to the pearl of Africa and let it change and inspire you as it is daily doing for me. 

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Life With Babies. 

How do I put into words how truly grateful I am for the time I am spending in Africa. 

I can’t. 

Baby Watoto. 

A magical place where little lives are formed. 

Each morning when I arrive at work, I am greeted by smiles, hugs and little voices shouting “Momma” 

I started by making the beds and helping dress them. 

Then they have family time and play time.

When the babies arrive at Watoto they are placed into families with a nanny and five other babies. The nanny is the mother figure who for the first two years of their life raises them as her own. When they turn two they are adopted into the Watoto village. 

I am so inspired by the nannies for the way they care and love the babies. 

We often sit outside in the sun.

Then it’s lunch time, feeding 20+ babies per room is a mission but it’s works out.

It’s so cute when they close their eyes and put their hands together for the prayer.

There are 5 different rooms, currently I am in the small toodlers room. 

I have been in Monkeys: ages 6 month – 10 months and Tigers: ages 10-18months. 

International volunteers change rooms every two weeks. 

After lunch we get a 2 hour break because the babies are having an afternoon nap.

During this time I often walk down to the  nearby village and talk to the children or join the babies in sleep. 

When we come back from break, it’s time for a snack and bible time. 

Then it’s play time again. 

You will never find more loving little people than the Watoto babies. 

Each day I am overwhelmed by the love they shower on me. 

Tight hugs, kisses, little arms wrapped around my legs as I try to walk. 

The moment when a baby places her hands on my face and looks deeply into my eyes. 

How am I so blessed to be in this place? 

After play time, it’s dinner, bath time, worship time and then bed. 

We get on the bus at 6:30pm to go back home.

It’s been a month since I boarded a plane to Uganda and already time seems too short.

Eventually my time here will come to an end but the impact these little lives have on me will last long into the future.