In 2009 I joined a mission team from my church in Katy Texas to come to Uganda for the first time. I had travelled all over the world but this was my first visit to Africa. I was 41 and ripe for “my grand adventure” in life. Katy was a boring time for me. I know God is sovereign in my life because he hooked me with orphan care before he allowed me to discover horses. I never would have imagined we would start a children’s home from a vapor of an idea, caged in good intentions and protected by the kind of grit and perseverance that rattled my human foundation and yet strengthened my faith.
Rachel admitted she accepted me sight unseen as her leader when she heard of all the fraud and corruption we endured as we developed Kirabo Seeds children’s home. She said, “can you imagine that woman who doesn’t know our culture suffered all that and yet, still, she remains to do a good work for these kids? She must really love these children. Most people would never come back to Uganda.” It is true. I suffered. I persevered through many beatings. I kept coming back. Not only do I love the children, but I also love the people who work in our home to raise these children. They are the true heroes. They are the heart of the success of these children. They work hard. They sacrifice much of their personal lives to help 18 orphaned children become all they can be. They do this because the love of God flows through them into the children. They have hearts for service.
When I love someone or something I will fight to protect it with every shred of grit I can muster. I also learned “be careful saying such things because they will be called to a test.” I’m relieved we birthed this ministry in my forties because as I see fifty winking at me, I don’t have the same drive. It required the brand of crazy to persevere to establish KS that most people back slowly or run at top speed. While we had just enough support to keep going we didn’t have the kind of backup of people power we are able to find now that we are steady and established. I suppose it is true with anything. An athlete must train and compete to win and then the sponsorships roll in. But very few fans return when the first races are lost. An author can’t get a contract on a book idea. It must be written before the support rallies. I’m so thankful to the sponsors who have been with us from the beginning. You have held us up and encouraged us when it all seemed lost. I hope the aroma from the fruit of perseverance surrounds you and has a medicinal effect on your soul. I hope you take ownership of the beauty that is tangible here and now.
On the one hand we had the finances in the bank to establish and grow this ministry. On the other hand because we had money we were a blinking target for fraudsters. My conversations with God went like this, “help me know your will. We have the financial ability but we keep hitting devastating obstacles. Who quits ministry when they have the funds? Most organizations are forced out because the funds dry up. Please help me know how to go forward. Strengthen me.”
For many years Erica and I spent week by week hanging on when all seemed too lost. We shared many trips together here to put it all back together, go home, and watch it all fall apart again. We cycled like this long enough until we were able to get George and Irene to be the leaders. And then lymphoma sent him home to the arms of Jesus. When that happened I surely believed I couldn’t rise again and glue the fractured pieces of the ministry together another time. Erica and I were depleted and begging for freedom from these trials.
But there was Rachel and a fresh and raw Irene, newly widowed, assuring us, “we can do it.” We thought, let’s see what happens. Through the year we monitored the progress from the U.S. So here we are able to see with our own eyes how the ministry has flourished in 2017. It resembles the transformation of an ugly pruned, thorny bush of cut canes into a fragrant, colorful, ravishing rose bush. We see an organized and clean home from corner to corner. We are greeted by intelligent and well-mannered children who are secure. The staff practices a team work we only dreamed possible. Attitudes are positive, friendly and cooperative. And the quality of our bookkeeping made Erica cry because it is perfect. I am suggesting EVERY NGO on this continent should have a look at the accountability, transparency and integrity we demonstrate in our accounts. Every dollar sent each month is accounted for by receipts tidily bound in monthly books and recorded on a computer program that Erica and Rachel can both work on together from anywhere in the world. We can prove how every shilling is used to help the children reach their God given potential even though their parents have left this earth. We can prove it when we say every dollar reaches the children.
I saw far too many children’s homes where the money never touched the children and it was apparent from the rags they wore, to the vacant look in their eyes. We have determined to honor the donors who sacrifice to help these children by making sure the children get the benefit of the funds. That process is a knock down fight and thanks to the determination of Erica and Rachel I say we are victors!
This week as our team worked in the KS home we were able to discuss future plans for this ministry rather than do relief work from the current disaster. It is exciting to imagine how to graduate the first group of children and be able to continue to fill their beds with the next generation of Kirabo Seeds kids. We discussed at length possible projects to begin of a for-profit nature to sustain this ministry from Uganda and fund this home from here for many generations to come. We hope this ministry outlives the founders.
Our journey is quite like the fire swamp scene in The Prince Bride. When all seems lost to Buttercup, Wesley assures her they have seen the fire, the quick sand and then the rodents of unusual size appear before they are able to know the dangers of the forest. But once they know the obstacles they are able to make their way through. I’m sure in the future we will encounter many more troubles but now we are now wise to their nature. It takes a pruning for a rose bush to bloom. I am certain that our roots are deeply established and the environment is ripe for countless flowering seasons ahead. Kirabo Seeds is going to survive and flourish in orphan care. We made it through only by the grace of God. Our humble tears of gratitude and anguish have kept the garden watered. It was worth it all to see it now. (and I never believed I’d be able to say that.)