Nineteen-year-old Cierra Crowe is taking a huge leap of faith. She is moving from Register to Kireka, Uganda, next week for the sole purpose of showing God's grace to Uganda's children.
But what may seem like daunting, challenging steps to some won't be so difficult for Crowe. After all, she left pieces of her heart there in the fall of last year when she returned to the states after serving in a Ugandan orphanage for three months.
Crowe can't wait to return to the place where she "fell in love with Uganda's culture and people" — and she wants the Ugandan people to fall in love with God.
"Not everyone can go and show God's grace," Crowe said. "Others can go, do and help in some way, but I want to show God's grace; that no matter what you've done, God can forgive you. God loves you."
Crowe's living conditions will be primitive. She's rented a very small apartment that's basically a concrete-block room in a family compound. The rusty showerhead pours water straight onto the floor, and the toilet is little more than a drain to stand over.
Her original plans were to sleep on a blow-up mattress, use a cooler for refrigeration and cook on a single burner. But recent donations from the community have upgraded her accommodations.
"Since the Lord has provided beyond what we could imagine for the organization, I am actually going to be able to get a 4-inch foam mattress and a mini fridge when I get there," Crowe said, beaming with gratitude.
"But I will still be using a 5-gallon bucket for the toilet," she added with a laugh.
Yet despite these sparse conditions, Crowe is anxious to return next week.
"I'm ready to go back, to embrace the people and culture even more, as well as learn the local language, Luganda. I am so thankful God called me on this journey," she said.
Her journey technically began more than half her lifetime ago.
"When I was 7 or 8, we learned about Native Americans in school. I wanted to live in a tepee," she said. "Then I was introduced to stateside missions, and later I learned about Africa and wanted to live in a hut and show God's grace and love. I've always wanted to do that."
At 10, she went on her first mission trip with her mom and grandmother to West Virginia to serve with Nevils Trinity Baptist Church through a ministry that works with incarcerated moms and their children. That was a perfect fit for Crowe.
"I love babies. I love kids," she said.
For her next adventure, Crowe and her mom went on a family mission trip with First Baptist Church Statesboro to the Dominican Republic to serve with missionaries there. The following summer, Crowe returned alone, at the age of 14, to work with the same missionaries for 10 days.
Two summers later, she served in Honduras for two and a half weeks at an orphanage. She flew home, only to quickly return to ministry, this time joining her older sister, Ashley, who was working with an organization in Haiti that served mothers and their children.
A heart for missions, a heart to serve others, a heart for the Lord — that passion led her last year to Another Hope Children's Ministries in Uganda, again, serving God's children in an orphanage through Bible study and childcare.
Falling in love with the people of Uganda helped Crowe as much as it benefitted the children she served. Crowe struggled with health issues toward the latter part of her time at Southeast Bulloch High School, which led to some struggles with depression and confusion as to what she wanted to do with her life.
"Finding God's purpose and being in his will — I knew Uganda was where I wanted to be, needed to be," she said.
When she returned to Georgia in the fall, Crowe began the process of forming a domestic, nonprofit corporation, which gained 501(c)(3) status in November. She aptly named the organization Delight in the Lord Ministries Inc. after one of her favorite Bible verses, Psalm 37:4, which states, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
When Crowe lands in Uganda next week, she'll jump right into her passion: leading Bible study, helping feed the Kirekans and showing God's grace to Uganda's people. From there, Crowe said she is trusting God to show her the permanent village in Uganda in which he has chosen for her to serve.
To find out more about Crowe's ministry, to follow along as she serves or to partner with her by donating to her ministry, visit www.delightinthelordministries.org.