Following years of mission visits to Africa, Cindy Haun is ‘answering a higher calling’

She only kept two items — an antique chest and a handmade wood sign featuring a cherished Bible verse.

One of Cindy Haun’s friends at the Crossing Church made the creation, inscribed with a verse from the Book of Esther that fits the next chapter of Haun’s life: “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”

After she retired from the Hannibal Free Public Library, Haun sold her home and belongings to help finance her impending move to Uganda. She feels nervous and excited — she will be living off retirement funds without health insurance and she doesn’t yet have a home selected. But she’s confident that everything will work out according to God’s plan. Whenever she visits, the children in the community all know that Jaja Cindy, Ugandan for Grandma Cindy, is back to show them love, help with their educational pursuits and share the gospel. Haun made the decision to move during a visit in March and April 2017, when missionaries Todd and Wendy Gilliland asked her if she would like to come back for good.

Haun has been visiting Uganda yearly since she first sponsored Christine Atukunda, a teenager whose letter to the Gillilands set a school in motion in a community with no running water, dirt roads and crowded conditions. The school has grown from reaching 25 students about 5 1/2 years ago to educating more than 200 students — the Gillilands and other school officials are now seeking a new location to deal with the rapid growth.

Haun said that 17 positions for students recently opened at the school, resulting in 700 applications flooding in from children seeking the opportunity. The school ended up accepting 23 new students. Haun said all the children speak English along with their tribal language, and they cherish the opportunity to learn every day.

“Education is really important there,” Haun said. “The kids see that as the only way to have a better life and a better future for their own families.”

When Haun visited in March 2017, she saw a dream of hers fulfilled — a home was established for abused and neglected girls — providing a safe home for four children. She said she will help out at the new facility, helping the girls move forward with forgiveness through feelings of pain, anger and sadness. She said she can relate to the girls at the home through personal experiences.

“It means a lot to me, because in my own personal life, I’ve had to deal with those situations,” Haun said. “I’ve had things happen to my girls and things happen to me, so I can relate to those situations, and I can let them know that you can survive and you can get through it. It’s not easy, but you can get through it.”

Each of the four girls cried when they first saw their new bedrooms and their own beds at the home, Haun said. She said she’s also looking forward to helping out at the school wherever she can, possibly tutoring students one-on-one. She said that anyone can make a difference in a child’s life, and the impact is far-reaching.

“There are so many kids there who need that help... but if you can at least start by helping one child, that’s a start,” Haun said. “You can’t help them all — you can’t financially or emotionally, because you are spreading yourself too thin. But if you start with just one child, you can make a difference in that child’s family, and it just goes on and on from there.”

Haun said she felt grateful to be living rent-free with friends, helping her save money for her departure on April 15. And she is looking forward to answering a higher calling in her new home.

“There’s just something about [Uganda] — the joy of being there, the kids — it radiates,” she said.

Haun encouraged people to begin making an impact within their own communities — she volunteered for several years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) before visiting Uganda.

“Remember, it doesn’t matter what age you are or what skills you have — people think ‘Oh, you have to have this education or a degree — if you can love on someone, that’s all you need,” she said. “And that is a start — just to love someone and care and listen to their story — and see where they’re at.”

To learn more about the school or assist the Gillilands with their mission work, visit To keep up with what Haun is doing each day, check out her blog at

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at