I wrote this last night after another unbelievable day full of drama and difficult confrontations. I straddle the fence about posting the details of the day, but then again, why not? These are the events. I have not included my opinions or judgments, only my feelings, experiences and observations. I will not judge this situation, though I believe in the end Kirabo Seeds made the only possible choice. This is the evening report:
I have been keeping the teams away from James place because the first time I brought the team there they pulled everyone aside and asked everyone for things. I was embarrassed and believed my teams didn’t need those problems. They belonged to me. I promised in February when I was in Uganda that I would come to take church service at Jame’s church the next time I circled the world and landed in Uganda. Their church is called Kiriza Yesu Ofune Obulamu. It means “accept Jesus get life.” We arrived at quarter past ten in the morning. We were greeted and sat but no one else was really there yet. They sang, and Moses spoke, and then they went into a strange chanting, pacing, shouting prayer that scared me a little and Kira so much she had to be taken outside by Jack. I found out later they were chasing out demons. (I felt a heavy darkness in that place, and I did not sense the spirit of God moving at all and later during our meeting with my team they all felt the same way.)
Even though all week I was trying to find a way out of that promise to go to this service, I knew I had to take the new team there once, and I had to keep my promise. I reminded myself why I don’t make promises.
My prayer while they chanted was, “Lord help us be strong in this place and let your truth be told.”
The generator was running outside the church and it kept feeling like a strange accompaniment to the loud music and screams through the microphone. The hot sun was roasting us through the metal roof. During the middle of the singing, Jack pulled a molar out of his mouth. Kira made herself at home playing, dancing, and climbing up and down from my lap to be sure she is my only baby.
During the worship they had prepared mats on the floor. The children removed their shoes and danced on the mats. Kira was quick to join in. Jack, Carly and Katrina had some fun there also. Kira can really dance, it has to be genetic.
As I looked around at familiar faces of people I have met in numerous meetings in the church, they were tense, and there was an underlying feeling of anger and maybe hate. It was formal, not warm and loving at all. I didn’t quite understand.
After all the singing, James appeared wearing a pure white satin suit and white leather shoes. He glowed. His entrance was full of fanfare and he held his head high. The children’s choir appeared and sang beautifully, in unison and with great strength in their voices. I’ve never seen such little children sing so well.
Phiona and the children from our home arrived and sat with us. It wasn’t long before all of the girls were sitting on the laps of our team. Their need and answer for physical love was met. It warmed my heart though I was feeling a chill from the members of the church. There are no children’s programs to teach the bible at this church, so they all sat there blank faced the whole three hours.
I admit since all the singing is in a language I don’t know I read some encouraging scripture for a while, then I let my eyes wander to all the children in our program with James that we know and love so much. They are sprouting. The boys are getting lanky, and the girls are becoming women. Watching them grow up these two years has been a privilege. I love the children in this program so very much and I am so concerned about what will come of them as they live in these conditions under the authority of adults who expect me to support them.
Next thing I knew Jack was pointing out that an enemy’s brother was there. I was surprised to see him and not sure how to feel about it. He partnered with our enemy to cheat us last year and I count him my enemy. He said some cruel things at the court house, and I felt uneasy. He greeted me and said I was a blessing to the children there. I sat there feeling lost and confused. I would forgive him if he would ask me rather than behave as if nothing happened. It is very strange that his behavior in church would be a polar opposite to what he does in secret. I sat there wondering, “Lord what is happening? And am I safe?”
Sometimes I feel like people say “praise the Lord”, ‘hallelujah” and “God bless you” in the same way one might clear the throat, or change the subject. Personally, I have learned to seek the presence of God not from what people say, but what they do. When I say “Praise the Lord” I am about to fall to my knees in fear of a sovereign God, full of humility and ready to be quiet and still before the Almighty. I’m more interested in hearing than being heard. I can’t say that’s the attitude in this church. There was a spirit of anger everywhere.
Several people came up to give their testimonies as requested by James, and it wasn’t a testimony to what God has done as it was to what James did for them. Then James began to preach and though Moses was interpreting for him into English I had to ask George to come sit next to me to explain. I wrote on my notes, “I am lost” and he mouthed, “me too.”
Then James used Jonah for his text in a sermon I couldn’t quite follow, except I was mentioned at least a dozen times. He seemed to be giving me the message from him, and not so much from God, that I was like Johah in that Jonah was asked to do something for God but he went his own way so he was swallowed by a big fish. And it was better for him to go God’s way as was requested in the beginning. According to James I am going to be swallowed by a big fish if I don’t give them more. Truthfully, I didn’t put that message together until Phiona explained it to me because it was really difficult for me to understand them yelling into their microphones.
James sat down and I figured it was closing. I wrote one last prayer in my journal, “Lord let your truth be spoken here. I beg you to set me free from these people.” George closed my journal, and went out to get the van ready for us to go.
After three hours of church, with a big baby Kira sleeping in my arms it seemed as if church was coming to a close. Then a woman stood at the pulpit and she was clearly angry and intense. Moses interpreted for her and she said, “Mama Tonya I have a prophesy for you, this is a word from God for you…(this caught my eye and I gave her my strongest stare, not fully appreciating her tone. I’ve always believed a word from God is given in love and with gentleness so the Holy Spirit can be heard and not the emotion of the person) She began to yell at me with increasing intensity, anger and speed and here were some of the things she said, “ These children here are suffering and crying out and it is all because you have disobeyed God, because you are not providing for them as you are supposed to do. You need to listen to God and go back to the beginning and do what God has asked you to do.” Of course she spoke for five minutes and repeated herself and said other false and hurtful things directly to me. I’ll spare you the horror. (Truth is I’ve been buying food for them for a year and a half, a gift, and it was supposed to be topped up with their own efforts. But they don’t work or try to provide for themselves. They expect someone else to give the charity. I have refused to pay their rent and I won’t pay medical bills either. We sponsor fifty children to go to school in that place.)
When she was finished people cheered as she sat down. This let me know she was not the only one with these accusations, she was the spokesperson.
I took Kira, sweaty and deep in sleep off my chest and passed her to Jack. I went directly to the front of church and I asked for the microphone. My body language was aggressive, I admit that, but I kept my voice under control. I stuck out a hip and perched my fist there, my feet were set far apart, and when I spoke into the microphone I leaned forward and I am sure the look in my eyes was pure fire. This is all I said:
“What God tells me to do may not be what you want to hear from God, and I am not responsible for the difference.”
Then I sat down, shaking, trembling, and furious. Church ended, people wanted to shake my hand, and I moved directly out of the church and went to the van. James wanted to show me the pigs. I said, I have seen the pigs. Can I have a word with you he asked? I said, no. Then he showed me his empty wrist and he said, my watch has broken. I looked at him, knowing he wanted me to replace it and I said, sorry about that. I told George, get us out of here now.
The team sat with our meal that Auntie Julie cooked for us and we discussed what we had experienced that morning. It was a unanimous feeling that the Spirit of God was missing from that place. The message was manipulative and dramatic. And everyone was irritated by the accusations of that woman.
Finally we all agreed “the word” that woman had had for me was in fact an answer to my repetitive prayers. I’ve been asking God how to solve the problems we were having with their taking, demanding, and expecting but refusal to help themselves or learn how to help themselves. And she said: “You need to listen to God and go back to the beginning and do what God has asked you to do.”
He asked me to take care of orphans, and they are a church made up of a family, though there are some orphans they are all related to one another. It is not an orphanage. It is a place that has given me nothing but headaches, and I felt the wonderful peace in realizing God was closing that door. This was the sign I had been asking for all this time. And all of us in the team felt the confirmation that we should go close that door officially. I was so thankful the team witnessed this occasion so I did not take it alone, but also to give accurate witness to what occurred there and why we had to make a difficult decision.
We prayed together around the circle, and it was unity, encouraging and loving and seeking the wisdom of an almighty God. We called James and said gather the children, I am coming to talk to him. We got into the vans and went back to his church. When all of the children were present and Moses was ready to interpret for James I told him we were finished working with them. I explained to them all that no matter how hard I could try to show them they will not change their expectations, they will not help themselves they will just demand more. The little that I can give will never be enough. I said I will no longer help here and they can really turn to God and stop turning to me. I told the children I love them and I will always remember them in my prayers. But James is their authority and he has responsibility for them, not me. They must obey him. I looked at James and used a word he likes very much, I said, “we are no longer partnering together. Do not call Phiona in your times of need. Call out to God.
Our prayer for these children is that James will send them back to the village with their aunties and jjajjas where they can have a better life than they do here in this place. I pray God sends them a way to develop and be educated. I pray they will never forget the many wonderful bible lessons Phiona taught them. I pray they will believe I loved them and did the best I could. I will try to arrange for extra meals for the children at school as they finish out the year.
When I finished explaining my decision I left the church. I shook hands with Moses and James. I hugged the children one last time, and I looked behind me to see a place I have poured my heart and soul into for two years, and I said good-bye. And I felt God encouraging me that I had done the right thing.
My hope is that we can rent a larger house next year and fill it with more children and if any of the sponsors would like to stay with us, we’ll find the neediest of the needy children in Uganda to come join our family.
The atmosphere after that final scene was dreary and depressing. We have to trust God will not forsake the children. He has turned us away, but he will not turn away from them. But we were suffering a deep sadness for the children, especially Phiona who poured her heart and soul into them.
This was a difficult break up. Breaking up is hard to do. I realized something though about a breakup, there’s a new found freedom we can turn to when we turned away from that closed door. And that feeling is pretty wonderful.