Do you remember daydreaming of being in the NBA or becoming president? For most, our childhood dreams were just that- dreams, for others, those dreams were achieved. For Sandra Nasala, visiting Africa was a life-long dream, yet something would have to dramatically change in her life for that to happen. You see, Sandra grew up in a Hutterite colony, and Africa seemed about as likely for her as a trip to Mars.
Through a Skype interview, Sandra and I were able to visit about her upbringing, passions, and current life in UGANDA. Yep, you read that right. She’s now an adult living in Africa; that faraway dream of hers really did happen! So, you might be wondering how this came about?
Sandra comes from a large Hutterite family in rural MT. She admits that she always questioned things (i.e., the way of life, beliefs), primarily as a teen. She shared that she had “friends from the outside” (non-Hutterites), and always wondered why they seemed so different. “I saw joy in them, and asked, ‘Why are you so happy?’ and that is when they shared that what she saw in them was Jesus.” While the Hutterites are religious, Sandra explained that the “relational” element to God is viewed differently, and that was something she wanted more of. Sneaking a radio, she found a Christian station, which she says, “impacted my life,” and set her on a path of becoming a follower of Jesus. She began to learn about Christianity, and then secretly bought a Bible written in English. She studied fervently.
At the age of 19, Sandra “ran away from the colony.” With the help of outside friends, she had applied and was accepted to a Christian discipleship program in 2010. There were traces of emotion, belying the pain/fear/courage, that she experienced the night she left. “I jumped out my bedroom window, and hid behind bushes, afraid I’d be followed. I left a letter for my family telling them that I loved them and it wasn’t easy to leave, but I felt my calling was beyond life in the colony.”
Over the years her loved ones have come to accept her decision to leave. “There has been a lot of pain, but it’s a beautiful redemption story,” she admitted. After all, “they’re my family—I’ll always love them. It’s been a journey for sure.”
A One-Way Ticket to Africa
Sandra, having a long history of independence and determination, excelled in her schooling (having only previously studied through 8th grade). Upon graduation, Sandra hopped on a plane headed to Africa. She had agreed to help a friend at a Ugandan orphanage and worked in various orphanages for the next three years. During that time, she saw the devastation and the damage that these kids and their families faced. She learned quickly upon arrival that many of the kids were not truly orphans. They had families—parents who loved and wanted them—but couldn’t afford to care for them. The impoverished families struck a chord in Sandra’s heart; she had found her calling. Her “desire to see kids stay with their Ugandan families” propelled her to move into a leadership role at a non-profit which helped families with job training so that they could afford to keep their children.
The Hope of Africa
Her early years and experience prepared her for her current life in Kampala, Uganda. Sandra has now partnered with The Hope of Africa with a friend from Billings!
This organization helps with women and youth empowerment through the making and selling of jewelry. They provide leadership training and empower youth by making a profit from the jewelry they make themselves. “We walk alongside [them], help restore their confidence by saying, ‘you can do this even if you’ve had a hard life. God can redeem this. He’s a miracle worker, and he can do so much through you if you believe in yourself and do the hard work.” She champions them encouragingly, “Failure isn’t bad… you’ll make it… keep going.”
She, though from across the world, can relate to these kids in a way that many Westerners cannot. She knows the power of faith, hard work, humble means, and having a dream, for she’s lived it herself. She credits her work ethic to her Hutterite background. Her passion for helping Uganda is inspiring, yet she cautioned, “I’m not here saving the world—I’m led by the passions of the Lord, and I’m still a visitor to Uganda and want to work alongside them instead of telling them what to do or how to fix something. I really love living here, these are my people.”
Sandra is living out her passions, and she is not alone! Recently married, Sandra described her husband as a “smart, educated, wonderful Ugandan man” who shares a common passion for helping others. “It’s been a long eight years, but now I see the fruits of it.”
What a journey, indeed, Sandra.
To purchase jewelry and help empower women and students within the community of Kampala, Uganda, shop the Etsy account www.etsy.com/shop/thehopeofafrica
about the author…Katie Jones Backer is a former History teacher with a passion for travel, history, writing, music, and helping others. She is happiest, though, when spending time with her husband, daughter, and two adorable Pomeranians!
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s November 2018 issue.
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