“We look at everything differently; not just the big things, but the little things also,” Summer Laney said.
God changed Brandon and Summer Laney’s lives and family forever in 2011 when He led them to the village of Najjanankumbi in Uganda, Africa. The trip was not on their agenda for that year, and it was not something they had previously considered. However, God had big plans for not only Brandon and Summer, but for their children also. They have returned to Uganda almost every year since 2011, and two of their children have jumped on board as well.
Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM) spoke to the Laneys’ small group during The Mill’s 2011 Missions Conference. Brandon felt called to go to Uganda after hearing from them.
Summer was already going on The Mill’s trip to Venezuela that year – her first international mission trip. However, she began to feel called to go with her husband to Uganda also. Summer said that she started seeing many small signs which led her to believe that she was supposed to go to Uganda too.
They went on the trip to Uganda that year, not knowing what to expect. In the village, “the people made you feel so welcomed, like they’ve known you their whole lives,” Summer said.
She and Brandon returned home transformed and with a new perspective of their – and their children’s – walks with Christ. When they shared their experiences with their children, their oldest, Brynn (then seven) told her parents that she wanted to go to Uganda with them the next time. They told Brynn she would have to wait until she turned 10 to go, as suggested by ARM. “We didn’t really take her seriously, and we thought she would change her mind,” Summer said.
However, Brynn did not change her mind. Brynn continued to bring it up, even to the point of writing about it at school. “At first, I just wanted to go because my parents had gone; but, as time went on, I really felt called to go,” Brynn said.
Summer and Brandon went on two more trips – one in 2013 and another in 2014. Then, when Brynn turned 10 years old in 2015, Brandon accompanied her on her first trip to Uganda.
Since then, Brynn has been on two more trips to Uganda. “It was really hard seeing the people and their living conditions. They live in huts in the middle of nowhere. Going to Uganda has made me more grateful for things,” Brynn said. She said that she has really enjoyed going to the school and being with the kids around her age. On her most recent trip, Brynn had to step outside of her comfort zone and share the Gospel with a very large group of people. “I had never done that before, but I got to share John 16:33 with them, which was really special,” she said.
Addie, Brandon and Summer’s second child, also developed a desire to go to Uganda after hearing about her family’s experiences. In 2018, after turning 10, she got to go on her first trip to Uganda. “I liked everything, but I really liked going to the Sudan border,” Addie said. Summer recounted that at one point, no one could find Addie; they eventually found her surrounded by several village girls playing with her blonde hair, a color that’s rare in Uganda.
From trying Ugandan foods to seeing baboons on the side of the road, Brynn and Addie have had amazing cultural experiences, but also the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a people they have grown to love.
Now, even the youngest Laney children, Campbell and Emmy Claire, think that going to Uganda is “normal.” Campbell (6) said, “When I turn 10, I’m going to Uganda to tell people about Jesus.” Summer said, “That’s the normal in our family now. When you turn 10, you can go. Not that it is expected, but allowed at that point.”
Before going on mission in 2011, Summer remembers thinking, “That’s what someone else is supposed to do.” Now, their family’s priorities have changed, and they have allowed their experiences in Uganda to impact their family in very real ways. Brynn said, “We don’t watch ‘regular TV’ anymore.” Summer recalls returning from her first trip and making sure that their children ate all of their food at meals. Brandon and Summer have also taught their girls sacrifice through these trips. Brynn and Addie have had to help pay for their trips. “This is not just vacation, fun-time,” Summer said.
Brandon mentioned that the impact of their trips to Uganda comes through in how he and Summer parent their children. He said, “I remember Brynn’s fist trip when she gave away the shoes off her feet to a family in the village all on her own. That’s a [parenting] win.” He said that going to Uganda has made them more grateful for what they have. The family now sponsors three children in Uganda, including one who they began sponsoring after meeting him on their last trip.
Summer said, “We are more missions-focused. We could have gone on lots of big trips; we could have already started building a bigger house; but, instead, we’ve put that money toward going to Uganda.”
It is possible to reduce “missions” to just a trip – one or two weeks out of the year. It is even possible simply to allow that trip to be a good experience that you look back on with fond memories. For the Laney family, however, that first trip to Uganda changed their family, perspective and priorities forever.
Read more stories like this one in our new Stories from the Field book. Make sure to get your copy on Sunday, March 3!