My first introduction to Uganda was to come assist the ministry of the Comforter’s Center, a Christian crisis pregnancy center, run by Veronica. She and I have been friends for many years. I continue to be drawn back to the people here who knew me before I became “Mama Tonya”, a difficult role because there are those who spread rumors thick as oil that she’s got a lot of money. That conjures images in the minds of locals who are trapped in poverty of a faucet tap that gushes shillings and is accessible to anyone who can get near me. Just the thought of that turns me into a turtle and I withdraw into my shell. The best way to offend me is to mention my financial status next to my name in a conversation. It isn’t how I define myself. Why would someone who really cares about me do that? Those who do are not my friends but my foes.
As I said this culture has a rumor and gossip current that could power up New York City at night. So it is no wonder when Veronica was reading my blogs about our breakup with a long enduring ministry here that she picked up the current on the street. She reached out to me, Tonya, with prayer and encouragement. She wrote me encouraging emails as one who has withstood years and years of ministry against all odds and remained standing for the Lord.
So we stopped by her place for a visit to thank her. She said, “oh honey, I have been so worried for you, the spirit in me was unsettled, and we prayed for you to be protected, wise and strong.” We asked her how she protects her ministry against those who are after personal satisfaction and willing to abuse friendship to be content.
Her answer aligned with something I said the day before, and it gave me chills. She explained that when someone comes to her with a big heart for her work she inquires into their “story” and she begins to determine what really motivates them. She listens and then she watches to see if what they do aligns with what they say. She seeks to know, “are you willing to lay down your life for this cause?” Or do you just want access to something else? That’s great wisdom. Because ministry is not for the feeble, no one said this would be easy, many obstacles come and suffering can be great, so who is willing to stand for that?
I told my team on this mission trip, “I know for absolute certainty that God has called me to orphan care in Uganda. Nothing and no one can derail me from that calling and I’m even certain I am willing to lay down my life for these children. I also trust the promises in the bible made by God and I cling to them in times of trouble. There are many but here is one for example, “do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I know Phiona has the same calling to orphan care, she’s endured hardship, been in danger and persecuted and still she stands for the cause. She’s not next to me for the money, she’s here for the cause. And anyone who is on our team needs to have a fierce sense of protection and love for the children, fueled by a calling from God. Anyone who has selfish motives in working with us will be discovered and face the shame, and wrath of God for coming between his precious ones and their blessings. This is how I know that:
Exodus 22:22-24 Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”
Anyone who channels our ministry’s money into their own pockets in secret is guilty of taking advantage of an orphan. Veronica lifted us up, and encouraged us with her wisdom and experience serving a faithful God among those who are motivated by selfish ambition. I am so thankful for her love. Kirabo Seeds is breathing again, there’s nourishing oxygen coming into our ministry, and our future is unburdened from the heavy problems we’ve been dragging around for the past year. That doesn’t mean our problems are over, or that it will be easy going from here on out. That’s ok. But won’t it be exciting to see what God is going to do for these children? I think so.