We have a group debrief at the end of every day where we talk about what we experienced during the day, the bible verses that encouraged us through a circumstance or struggle. It’s a most valuable activity to help everyone compare what they are experiencing and problem solve as a group. For example, when we brought visitors to James’ place they were so happy to have new people that they could ask help from so they didn’t waste one minute before asking Mark to partner with them. Mark said, “I’m just a passenger on the bus, the LaTorre’s are driving it.” Many times someone will approach us and say, “excuse me may I speak to you?” Sure, we stand aside, they give the very sad, truthful life story of great struggles, which is the baseline of living for all Ugandans, and then they finish with, “will you sponsor me for school? Will you help me pay the rent?” And then we are in a really sticky spot.
What is the best solution to a situation like this? First, it is to not have a critical spirit. Then, I asked everyone not to pass out money or promise money, or to give out their personal contact information. All of these requests need to be made to our organization where we have a protocol for handling the great needs in this place. Finallly, it is so important to put our arms around the person and have a prayer over that need.
We are here to love the people and share God’s word. We aren’t here to give out big gifts or rescue them from debts. We will share our expertise and help them think about their problems and show the ways to use their own resources to problem solve their own situation, but we cannot swoop in and make the problems go away with our western dollar. That only reinforces the practice of asking for money. This is very difficult to do.
Finding sponsors for children to go to school here is one of my jobs while I clack away on my computer in my home office. It’s not easy. I must pray, and wait for God to move hearts. I don’t just want the money, I want people who are drawn to the ministry of helping these children. We need love and prayer to be lifted up to God on behalf of the children. So I wait for sponsors in the same way that the children do. But the people here think there is a store full of sponsors where I go and choose them and put them in the back of my van and take them with me to rescue everyone from their struggles. I tried to explain it so they understand. So when I am approached by someone who wants a sponsor to go to school, and I am everyday, I say there is a long waiting list and I can put your name on the list. But very often I lose many sponsors and I have to replace them for the children we have already put in our program. Adding children to our program is a big commitment from us and we don’t do it without serious consideration because the depth of need is so great that we must go to the neediest first, not the one with the most boldness who wasn’t afraid to ask me directly for a sponsor.
Who are the neediest? Those who don’t even know to ask for help. For us, we have determined it is the children who have lost both parents and have not a person in this world to protect them, feed them, or look out for who they are designed by God to become, they are the neediest. These are the children we have brought to live in our care.
I really love the people at James’ church. I understand they are all mostly related somehow, and they come from the same area, and they love the Lord very much. Half of the children there are orphaned without either parent, and yet still part of the extended family. This is a church family, and Kirabo Seeds began our work here under a set of lies that they were all orphaned children and the pastor could not provide for them. Now that I know the truth we have not abandoned them, we have committed to teaching them how to work themselves into a healthy financial balance where they can take care of themselves. Last year we provided this group with a cow (two really, but one died under Adam’s supervision), seven goats, and two hundred chickens. And Rebecca has grown a pig business that I will blog about because it is remarkable what she has done. Our response to their requests for us to pay debts was to use the resources they have to problem solve. Sell a cow! Slaughter it and sell the meat. Sell some goats. And in this way they are taking care of themselves, and we are committed to teaching them skills to do it wisely.
I’ll tell you something. It is so much easier to just hand over the money and feel really good about ourselves. We can see their joy when we rescued them and pat ourselves on the back and then do a little happy dance. But have we just replaced God in their eyes? Will they praise us and thank us and forget to remember it is God who provides? It is much harder, and it takes considerable time to guide, teach and help them help themselves. But for lasting change it is the only way that really helps them. The hard way is the way we are committed to making a difference here. Why are we committed even though we become frustrated and it goes slow? Love. It is a love that comes first from God and flows through us to His people. We never doubt our calling to help the orphaned children, but when we realized the help we give is not the help they expect we trust that eventually they will see this is all a part of God’s design and plan. And in the meantime, we hold on to scripture and pray for guidance, and believe the promises of God.