My friends over at The Archibald Project, Whitney and Nick, recently contacted me with the idea of hosting a media mission in Jinja, Uganda where creatives give back and tell stories through their art form. I was beyond ecstatic about this idea and then they asked if they could team up with We Spread the Love, and I just got even more excited! As some of you may know, We Spread the Love is a community of people with big hearts wanting to give back with their God given talents. We are opening that up with a volunteer program next year, providing opportunities for people to come and dive into the culture and communities with projects that give back. So this was absolutely the best way to start off that mission!
The Archibald Project is one that truly was created out of a selfless and giving place in The Runyons hearts. As a non-profit, they provide the service of traveling with families during their adoption process and telling the story of the orphan. I had the opportunity to meet them in Jinja last year when they were there documenting The Via family who moved to Jinja, Uganda to be with their daughter Chloe who they were having difficulty retaining a visa to bring her back to the states…so they brought home to Chloe. Whitney and Nick documented this story in such a beautiful way…truly sharing all the emotions this family experienced upon leaving the states and moving to Uganda, Africa for the next 3 years. They tell BIG, BEAUTIFUL and BOLD stories….the stories of Gods love.
As we team together, we now want you to come and join us on a media mission for a week next March. It will consist of loving on lots of children in a local babies in Jinja home called Arise and Shine. Mid week we will take a trip to the Kibuye that the organization Arise and Shine works with and sustains where we will document stories of local villagers like Faith whose lives have radically changed through organization programs like the orphanage, sewing projects, english lessons, malnutrition programs, etc. We will end the week relaxing on an island along The Nile River to invest in one another and just come together and support each other in community.
This team will be small and in the future we will bring more people and provide more opportunities like this. There is an application process that will be reviewed and prayed over as Whitney and Nick select the group for this first trip. Your life will be changed and through the work you are doing, you will ultimately change lives as well.
” Some stories are beautiful, some powerful, and some heart breaking, but all of these stories need to be told. We tell these stories. We use our cameras to advocate for orphans. We capture precious moments that stir the heart and inspire others to adopt. We show the world little faces still waiting for a family. We let the orphan know that their life and their story matter. We give a face to the faceless and a voice to the voiceless. We want the world to know that they exist and we will travel anywhere we are called in order see this purpose accomplished.”- The Archibald Project
Arise and Shine Babies Home
Faith and Family // Kibuye Village
Delivering images to Faith before I left Uganda
Once upon a time in late July, J.P. planned a surprise adventure for us…well the surprise was for me but it sure was an adventure for the both of us.
It all started in Long Beach where we boarded a boat to take us an hour away from the main coast to Catalina. I had never been to this island, but could always see it out there in the distance…well depending on the day and the fog factor in Los Angeles. I don’t really know what I expected but I was blown away. Approaching the island, it felt like we were pulling up to a coastline in Europe. Upon docking and unloading…of course that dream diminished but I was still in awe.
The plan was camping and to be honest, I had no idea what that entailed on an island. Usually when we camp we have the luxury of our car, we pull up to our campground and comfortably keep all of our goods safe and organized. For this camping trip we had to carry everything with us. I was excited for this challenge for carrying around 60lbs of gear up hill, in the heat and avoiding grazing buffalo because it was probably the closest we would ever get to stories our grandparents would share. You know the ones… ” I walked miles up hill in the snow to and from school ever day..”. We did well. There were some stops, stretching, switching off gear and looking back at our trail and wondering how the heck we had walked all of that with the load on our backs. At one point when we got closer to our camp ground, a beautiful group of buffalo came toward us. No one had warned us of what to do when you are presented in this situation so we assumed they weren’t all that dangerous. We just stood by as they grazed by, those big beautiful gentle creatures and felt so small in this big story of God.
We cooked amazing food, hiked for many miles, took naps on random picnic tables, explored the Catalina airport, took pictures in the sunset fog and finished our last day off in the town of Catalina with the rest of civilization. It was a trip I would have never dreamt up and that is what made it so special..it was one of a kind.
We chose the campground with the beautiful tree and tire swing of course.
Man. Make. Fire.
The day we hiked about 6 miles to the airport.
The simplicity of cooking next to a campfire is one I will never tire of.
Our evening walk after dinner turned into some of the most beautiful moments.
Back to town…
In this season of life, I don’t have a place to call my own. Some of my best friends have invited me into their home during the months of my stay in the states and it has been the biggest blessing ever. One of my favorite things to do is to host people though. So when Felicia and Tyler came to Los Angeles to visit from Nashville…we got creative.
One of my favorite places in Southern California is Joshua Tree. I just love how magical this place is. All of the rock forms piled on high in the middle of the desert…it’s breath taking. It had caught Felicia and Tylers attention as well and they suggested we stay there a couple of nights during their trip. So we ventured onto Air BnB and found one of the coolest houses to rent out.
We had one full day in the desert and that consisted of rock climbing, relaxing, lots of eating, playing ping pong and taking pictures in the pretty sunset light. Quality conversations were had and beautiful memories were made.
Here is a peek into our trip…you can find more on the Wandering with Mary facebook page!
You can see more pictures on the Wandering with Mary facebook page.
I love the open road. There is something so exhilarating about driving in an unknown place and taking everything in for the first time. Being able to pull over, jump out of the car and explore your surroundings is something I feel most of us may take for granted far too often. Think about all the freedom we have to just experience this earth! Do you take advantage of it enough?
Our time was limited the morning we drove through Colorado. We had a few hours to make it to the airport to catch my flight and we needed every minute of that time allotted. As we began our drive, I was speechless. Driving just through Durango, I was in awe of the fall colors and quaint countryside backdrop. There was even a steam engine at one point that passed by as the morning light shined through the engine smoke….I mean…it doesn’t get more picturesque than that.
As we reached Silverton and headed even more north towards Grand Junction, we just had to stop. I knew time was limited but if I didn’t take pictures to document this drive…this experience, I knew I would regret it. Thank goodness, J.P. didn’t fight me on this, even though he did give me the “we really need to go” look a couple of times. At one point..I knew we should keep going as the road conditions were slowing us down a bit but I insisted we stop. I felt like we had walked into a snow globe and I just wanted to bask in the midst of it and let snowflakes fall onto my shoulders. I was looking up at the beautiful evergreens covered in snow when J.P. got an alert on his phone saying my flight had been pushed back a bit. I believe that was God giving us a gift of time allowance…an opportunity to play in his beautiful creation and not rush past or through it. We definitely took advantage of this gift.
So…this is the documentation of the most beautiful drive I have ever been on. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Durango to Grand Junction
I wasn’t quite prepared for the weather.
This is what it looks like after you get hit in the face with a snowball —>
This is probably far too many photos…but I really couldn’t help but share every single one.
I still wasn’t prepared…
We travel a lot. It is a hobby that I took up a few years back and have been obsessed with ever since. While I have found it an absolutely amazing way to immerse yourself in different environments that will then lead to you learning so many new things about oneself…I believe travel is something that is always better with someone by your side.
It is hard to find the perfect travel companion. Maybe the person you are traveling with enjoys waking up at the butt crack of dawn, loves going on sightseeing tours, enjoys eating junky fast food for every meal or simply will only listen to the radio for the whole duration of the trip. It took a really long time, but I have found my perfect travel partner, Mr. Jonathan Patrick McLeod.
That doesn’t mean because he is the perfect travel partner, things will always go perfectly. In fact, this past trip we encountered so many challenges. I told J.P. that I feel like our trip resisted us before we even started the car. It began with a head cold on my part…then we both experienced horrible allergies while we were visiting our wonderful friends in Phoenix. The day we woke up to start our travels to Colorado we learned a few things…
1. My head cold and allergies lifted…yay!!
2. The government shut down and that led to all state parks being closed…including the Grand Canyon…can you believe that?
3. I had the most excruciating back pain.
I suggested we drive through Sedona because it wasn’t that far out of the way and it truly is one of the most beautiful places. As we were driving through, my back pain got to the point that when I was breathing, I felt like doubling over from pain and when we stopped to take pictures and I lifted my camera to my eye, all I could do was cry. I am no baby when it comes to pain and when I suggested I go see a chiropractor for the first time during our trip…it was a big deal.
We ended up foregoing our plans of getting on the road and camping in Colorado that night but decided to stay in Sedona instead where J.P. took care of me and my back. The next day it was like a miracle…no more back pain….a whole day ahead of us…here we go! But alas…as we drive through the mountains of Sedona, the cars check engine light came on. A few hours in Flagstaff at a Toyota dealership didn’t give us the best news but we decided we needed to move forward and be in constant prayer.
This trip was one that we had been looking forward to for awhile and it didn’t go at all how we imagined. When we finally made it to Colorado, I was blown away by the beauty of the fall and glimpses of winter even. I couldn’t help but wonder why we didn’t get to frolic in this beauty for the last couple of days like planned but we tried to make the best of it…I’ll share those photos with you next!
Even though our trip looks entirely different from what we expected…in the end I can’t help but smile looking at these photos…even the ones in Sedona where I was going through such bad back pain. I am lucky to have found a travel buddy that sees the beauty in the “change of plans” and is always looking optimistically about everything. I am lucky to have found someone who will pull off the side of the road whenever something interesting catches my eye and doesn’t question it for one bit or rush me to move on. I am lucky that this travel partner doesn’t mind eating sandwiches all day long so we aren’t eating fast food and regretting our life decisions….but I am also so happy that we both can agree when Dairy Queen is rightfully deserved.
*We have had so many travels, including the start of it all in Africa, that I’m just going to start sharing our adventures in no particular order in a series called “Here We Go”.*
Dairy Queen, Somewhere
Looking back on my time in Uganda this past trip that lasted from December to May, there are many things that stand out in my mind but one stays heavy on my heart in a good way. Your support.
The last thing I expected on my trip was to meet so many people in the virtual world and learn that so many individuals were supporting and praying for me on a daily basis. It was a vulnerable adventure, there is no doubt about that. If you know me at all, it is very hard for me to keep what is on my heart to myself. I believe that we all can teach and inspire someone, so that is why I laid it all out there to you during my stay on Instagram which can now be relived through these books.
I celebrated Christmas in a beautiful fashion, I hung out with a bunch of joyful children and spoiled them with presents that many of you helped make happen through donations. We danced, drank soda and even had a cake for Jesus’s birthday. I experienced homesickness for the first time and finally knew what it felt like to want to be in two places at the same time. I made a lot of friends from all over the world and we adventured through out the beautiful country of Uganda. I met my angel Juliana and in one short month, you saw me fall in love with her and lose her in my very own arms. The prayers that poured out for my little girl in the midst of her falling even more ill was remarkable. All through out the world, people stopped and prayed and kept Juliana very close to their hearts. You witnessed a lot of love from children and me being reminded everyday that I was not brought to Uganda to help or change these people but they were changing me daily. Even returning back the states, your support still overflows as I miss Jinja and my loved ones so much and I feel those prayers. Peace and hope overcome me and I thank you for lifting those thoughts to God for me. I truly cannot thank you enough for opening your hearts to me…I feel like I have the biggest family ever!
Through all of this…I just feel so loved and supported. Thank you for that. I plan on returning but this time is to work on redesigning We Spread the Love and opening up so many opportunities to invite you in to be able to come to Jinja and have these experiences for yourself and also give back where you are.
All proceeds from these books will be funding those projects and I am so excited because it opens up so many opportunities for YOU! I thank you for your patience over the last year in figuring out and working on these things and I promise it will be something you will be so excited to be a part of.
I split this journey into 2 volumes for a couple of reasons. Firstly, production costs. If I put it into one book, it would be quite expensive to buy and little to no money would be able to go back to fundraising. Secondly, this will be a series. You can buy volume one now and in the future when you are ready, volume two will be waiting for you. If you would like both, you get a little bit of a discount now too! Through future trips, more volumes will be made and again, every penny will be put towards fundraising. I can’t wait to see what this will look like years from now!
If you have any questions, feel free to write me at email@example.com. I thank you for everything! These books have been a vulnerable labor of love and I am just so honored and blessed that you would like to take one home with you. Thank you so much!
5×5 // 40 pages
You can purchase volume 1 here
You can purchase volume 2 here
Volume 1 + 2
You can buy both volumes here
If you would like to donate without purchasing books, that is very welcomed and you can do that through the donate button on the We Spread the Love website.