Kira awoke at 2:15 with a cry, which left me lying in bed occupying a mind swirling with all the details of getting this journey into action for the children, for the team members, but especially for God’s purposes. I’m the one holding the reins, to use the terminology of blossoming horsewoman. If I let them go all floppy and loose with a high spirited horse, guess what I learned the hard way? The animal is set free to do as it pleases and it might go running off in the wrong direction. No, I think it’s best to keep good contact on the reins with a generous sensitivity to remain flexible to the circumstances. So my mind buzzed and churned for an hour and a half before I decided to go make the coffee.
Anyway, I couldn’t just lie there in bed when the 245 photos I took on our first day were unorganized and waiting to be shared. So, I snuck out on a snoring husband, gathered my techy gear, padded down a set of stairs that is unevenly built yet so familiar to me that I knew to anticipate the tilt in its descent. This is a place I feel I know well. Here all of me is relaxed and relieved to have returned. The times in my life I have been most alive have happened here. I can almost cry to sense I am once again home. All those months working from my home office, tethered to my computer, and here I am finally set free to do the work that is most satisfying, purposeful, enjoyable and exciting.
Sharing this experience with others gives me a great amount of joy. To see the children here respond to meeting new friends, and to see my friends and family light up as they interact with the Ugandans is a source of my endurance when my office is hot, dinner comes from the freezer, and sitting at the computer screen becomes unfriendly towards my instincts for mobility. My heart was altered the first excursion I made to this country, and I am quite sure it has the same effect on so many others. My prayer remains that those who are moved will not easily forget what God has shown them here, and they will seek out God’s will for their life in light of these children’s faces. How will everyone respond when they return to their usual routines? How quickly will they forget? How much of them is really changed?
The first day was full of greetings. In Uganda the most offensive thing you can do to a person socially is to not greet them properly. I am often told, “you are most welcome”. That’s not a response to my thank you, this is their sincere invitation into their circle. Eye contact is not a custom here, even though for us Americans we are taught to give a firm handshake look the person in the eye and say hello. Eye contact is considered aggressive, but the Ugandans understand if it comes from us to give us allowances and not hold it against us as rude. The best way to communicate here is with a smile and a big hug doesn’t hurt either. I have always appreciated the warmth in the people of this country. I’m told by many of my friends here who have traveled to other African countries that Ugandans are friendlier than the others. I can’t argue with their openness and willingness to include me.
After dinner with Harriet everyone had some play time while some of us began to open boxes and search for the new church clothes that we brought for the children. I asked the kids to all go shower and prepare for the evening debrief and prayers. Once we were all gathered in a circle in the living room we began with the highs and lows of the day. I hoped to coax out the feelings they were all having about either being here for the first time in Erica’s case, or returning after all that has changed from last year.
The highs of the day of course include sharing a deep love and appreciation for the children here. It doesn’t take much to get a child to hug your middle, hold your hand, or climb in your lap. And when a smile goes heart deep, it’s a mutual connection!
Then finally we were able to begin processing the anger that is bubbling up about the changes that have occurred over the year. We no longer work with the organization we did last year. Our children were remembering what they experienced with those people last year and now feeling the full impact of the betrayal, lies and corruption. Our kids weren’t only feeling hurt, they were struggling with some serious anger. I can fully comprehend the intense emotion they were having. I also understood they were coming face to face with its full impact for the first time.
Jack said, “I know the bible says we are supposed to forgive, but I am having a really hard time forgiving him.”
Abby said, “I’m just a kid and I haven’t ever had an enemy in my life. I learn over and over from the bible to love our enemies, and I’m just now realizing how hard that is to do.”
From the mouths of babes, both of them ten years old, and both of them pretty sure they want to be missionaries when they grow up. I reminded us all, and pointing the longest finger at myself, that we all have our sin that disappoints God. Not one of us is better than another. If we remember we want to be forgiven for what we have done, we must be able to forgive others for what they have done to us…first.
I explained however, it’s critically important that we do not impede God’s work in another person’s life. If God intends to give consequences for bad choices I should be discerning and wise about interfering with that justice. Forgiveness is one side of the coin. Facing the consequences of bad choices is the other. I told the children, it is often at the very bottom of our own pit that we discover God alone can lift us out. I would never want to lift someone out before they came face to face with Jesus, the only one who can really save us from ourselves. So the kindest thing we can do sometimes is to let someone fall deep into their pit knowing, hoping they will come face to face with Jesus.
The challenge in this is having the wisdom, discernment and obedience to not interfere with God’s work. If anyone would like to know how to pray for the ministry of Kirabo Seeds, we need that sort of wisdom, discernment and a follow through with obedience. I’m not a great bible teacher, or bible scholar but I’ve learned many lessons the hard way and I am certain of this, the only thing I really fear is to be outside of God’s will for my life. I’d rather do a hundred really hard things that feel like it will end my life as I know it than to take an easy turn and be outside of God’s will.
I also reminded the children that Paul was the worst persecutors of the Christians until God stopped him on the road and changed him completely. Our God is able to do anything with anyone, including our enemy. Someone who could manage all those lies and manipulate with such finesse has some sort of brain power that is in a twisted way remarkable. If God decides to untwist and harness that power and turn it towards His ways of honesty, goodness, kindness, compassion, and selflessness what an impact there could be in this world. I hold out hope.
Really what more could I hope for a person than to know in their hearts what Jesus has done for us all? The transforming love of Christ can turn a wild wolf into a docile seeing eye dog. I don’t know what God has planned, I just know what I’ve been called to do, and that’s Orphan Care.
And hasn’t God so opened the door to allow us to fulfill this calling? Absolutely. To walk into the home of Kirabo Seeds and see fourteen happy children making their family life together in the love of Christ shows me how far we have come since the days when we were pawns in someone else’s schemes. God alone provides for these children, he can do it through us, or someone else. It’s not Mama Tonya that made this happen. I’m just happy to know how to recognize God’s will for my life, submit to it, obey, and now see the fruit.
There are no riches on earth that I’ve tasted, touched, or seen that compare with the feeling I got meeting these children today for the first time. I don’t know what treasures in heaven look like, but I have to hope they feel like this.