Allison Costley with a neighborhood child
Kids say the darnedest things.
Jonesborough’s Allison Costley can attest to this.
After returning from a family mission trip to Honduras, Costley’s daughter, Analeigh, immediately announced she wanted to go to Africa for their next installment of missionary work.
Although Costley, who worked as a religion teacher and at St. Mary’s Catholic School, and her husband, Wayne, didn’t take the request too seriously, they started an “Africa Jar.” The spare change they collected there would ultimately land the Costleys across the globe, in the exact place 11-year-old Analeigh wanted to go, doing what they love — helping others through their faith.
After completing the necessary paperwork for the Heritage International School and quickly getting accepted, the Costley family was offered the opportunity in Africa.
“We were taking a step of faith into completely unknown territory,” Costley said in an email correspondence from Uganda. “We committed to moving to Uganda and working at (a school there) for one year.”
Not only did the family of four — Allison and Wayne with daughters Analeigh and Abby — make the trek, but they also brought the couple’s niece and nephew as well as Allison’s mother and father.
“When we first moved here I felt fear constantly. Walking the streets — fear. Going into a store — fear. Loud noises at night — fear,” she writes in a Facebook post in February. “But then time goes by and you get use(d) to your surroundings and start to feel a little bit more normal. The fear subsides. I just looked at some of my friends the other day and said, ‘We have a great life here.’
“It feels the same because we are all here together,” she added in her email correspondence.
As much teaching as they are doing in Uganda, the Costleys have managed to learn along the way, too.
They have experienced true poverty and serious sickness. Seeing all that poverty and illness, Costley said, has taught them just how spoiled, blessed and loved they have been in their own lives.
Perhaps the most growth comes from time spent with the children who call the village orphanage their home.
The Costleys regularly wash the feet of those children, as well as adults in the village, to extract the jigger bugs burrowed into their skin.
They create play areas at the orphanage, provide cleaning supplies to wash the walls and floors, and raise money so the orphans can go live with caretakers for six weeks at a time just to get away from the building for a bit. When those children return to the orphanage, Costley said, they’re basically different people, having gained weight and strength as well as strong relationships with their caretakers.
Through it all, the Costleys’ faith has been their guiding light.
“We are now in our eighth month of living here and things feel more normal,” Costley said about the switch from East Tennessee to Kampala, Uganda. “It’s like living two different lives.”
One big difference between the two places is the lack of conveniences, like having Walmart just down the road to grab a snack or pick up dinner, she said.
In Uganda, they drive on the other side of the road, have no air conditioning, there is excessive trash on the sides of the road and many Americans would consider the houses unfit for animals, Costley said.
“We are immersed here and have adjusted,” Costley said of the experience. “I think it will be interesting to really know the answer to this when we return to the U.S. this summer.”
The Costleys are due back in East Tennessee in a little more than a month. According to Costley’s Facebook page, however, the family has committed to spending another year in Africa.
“We definitely miss our friends and family back home and are super excited to see everyone this summer,” she writes. “We know God has us here for another year and as always covet your prayers and encouragement.”