Sunday, February 15, 2015

It Is Always Worth The Effort

These thoughts are a bit removed from my current every-day work and life, and yet are so present for me. This will have nothing to do with life-giving rain water. It will have everything to do with watering a life, though.

My heart has been overwhelmed, completely filled to bursting, with emotion 4 times in the past week. 

It was 8 years ago that I stepped onto Uganda’s soil for the first time, made the drive in a coaster bus from Entebbe to Kampala, purposing not to let my heart become attached to anything here. 

Within that same week, my heart was crushed by a group of boys in their early teens who possessed a zeal for life unlike any I had ever witnessed before. My eyes were opened to the possibility of a life being strengthened by my involvement and encouragement. God revealed things to me that radically changed the course of my life.

 I have not always been happy and agreeable about some of those changes, and yet I know what God showed me deep in my heart and He has shown over and over that only He could have orchestrated some of the events that have carried me up to this past week. 

A series of circumstances that I never could have foreseen led me to a season of life working with street children. It has been the most difficult, the most rewarding, the most challenging, and the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I love love love seeing the lives that others have cast aside and finding the glow within them that makes them a precious child of God, and fanning that ember until the young man can break from the chains of the street into a responsible adult. 

Currently, I am not directly involved in working with street kids. I miss it, but that’s not the area of ministry that God has directed Collins and I into for this season. But “my boys”, the young kids who are now young men, are ever present in my mind and heart. 

Episode 1:
 I was talking with a young man who is one of my “firstborn sons”, one of the boys that lived in the home in Ssenge that I helped staff. He was simply telling me his plan for the day, and as he walked away I called after him to say, “I’m proud of you! I’m proud of the decisions you are making for your life today!” and then I choked up because when I first met him years ago, I never ever would have imagined a conversation like the one I had with him last week! I always prayed and dreamed that my boys would grow into responsible adults, and yet…as a mother, to see them walking in the fullness of what God created them to be, completely humbles me.

Episode 2:
As I navigated through traffic the other day, I inched our big safari-rigged vehicle to the intersection I dislike the most in all of the city, and then as I swung around the corner and finally was headed toward home, I saw another young man, one that had just been a small quiet boy in our programs in Kivulu years ago. I pass him at this intersection regularly, he has a bit of a job helping to park cars and controlling traffic so that customers at a series of shops can get in and out of their parking places. I saw him standing there in his bright orange vest, and as we made eye contact, he broke out in a huge smile and waved to me energetically. I smiled and waved back, and kept smiling the rest of the way home because again, God reminded me that every single moment poured into that boy was worth it, to see him smiling and moving forward in life!

Episode 3:
I was on a boda (motorcycle), trying to hurry to an appointment in the city, mentally running through the list of things I needed to accomplish before heading home. I’m not even sure now how my thoughts wandered, but I found myself thinking about Ibra and how I wanted to suggest he come visit…but wait!! He’s gone!!! My Ibra…gone. Only 20 years old. He’s been gone for over 2 months now, passed away in a freak accident. 

I keep thinking about him and wanting to see him, and the pain that he is no longer here is so sharp and intrusive, my heart literally aches in my chest and the tears burn under my eyelids. Last October, he called me when I was still in NY to tell me that he needed my help, he needed to talk to me. We shared on the phone, and I assured him that I would see him soon…his call put a fire under me to finish everything in NY so that we could get here to UG, so that I could be here for Ibra, be the mentor and mother and friend that he needed me to be. 

I never got to see Ibra again. He is gone. I recently looked at his Facebook page to see his face again because I’m missing him so much, and he had put me as his cover photo. His picture is nestled into the picture of me. It broke my heart again…every ounce of energy and debate and taking chances over and over to prove to him that if he would be trustworthy, then I would trust him, were worth it. He knew he was loved. Every moment I poured into him was worth it. I just wish I could tell him one more time how precious he was to me.

Episode 4:
 Just this morning I learned of the death of another former street boy. This one, I didn’t know. But I do know he was killed unjustly, happened to walk down a street at the wrong time. I know the pain that his death will bring to the family, the family of street kids and the people that work with them, the house mom that continued to reach out to him and never gave up on him, loved him as Jesus loved him. My heart breaks for the young on the street who are never given a second chance, for the ones who pass away unnoticed by the world. The ones who are seen as a menace, when really they are precious souls. Every ounce of effort poured into this boy- a boy with a sense of humor and loved to make people laugh, who babysat the cook’s grandchildren and helped them take their first steps- was worth it, because every life is precious, and every life deserves another chance. 

With each of these incidents, I always end with the thought:
 It is always worth it. 
The blood, the sweat, the tears, the prayers- they are always worth it in the end. Giving up on a person is not an option, because we don’t know when the time will come that we don’t get to give them another chance. 

And God doesn’t give up on us. He says we are worth the blood, sweat, and tears too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Three Months and Counting...

We’ve been in Uganda for 3 months and a week already. 

We’re finally reaching a point of feeling more settled- our house feels more like home, we are establishing routine, we’ve figured out how to function in our setting. We’ve gone through bouts of illness and homesickness, and we’ve had holidays and reunions with family and friends.

(Don't worry, Caleb was fine...He hates having family photos taken.In all the other options, I'm the only one looking at the camera. :-/)

In the past 2 weeks, we’ve had a few things stand out starkly from the background of every day life to remind us why we have made this move, and why we have dedicated ourselves to the work we’re involved in. 

The First Thing:

It has not rained here in Uganda in about 6 weeks. Everything is dry and very hot- hotter than normal for this part of the country. Everything is coated in a thin film of orange dust. Little plumes rise from beneath our feet whenever we walk to the little shop kitty-corner from our house. Our few little potted plants pathetically soak up the water we pour on them each day. We don’t have a garden as of yet, but if we did, it would need constant watering to be productive. 

Because of the general lack of water, the Department of Water and Sanitation cuts back on water that flows through the taps, monitoring and portioning out what can be used. This often means that in the early hours of morning (5-6 am), metered water is available, but the rest of the day our sink is dry. 

We have the blessing at our house of having a small elevated tank that fills when the metered water is available, and then is gravity fed to our bathrooms during the day, allowing us to shower, flush toilets, and wash our hands.

Not everyone has a blessing such as this. 

We also have an additional blessing of a 10,000 liter rainwater collection tank in front of our house, just like the tanks that our ministry, the Ugandan Water Project, places in communities all around Uganda. Because of this tank, we have not felt the drought nearly as keenly as has most of the rest of Uganda’s population. Because of this tank,(which was filled to overflowing in the copious rains we received before the dry season abruptly started), we have had the water we need to function well in our home- we never lack for drinking water because whether from the tap or the raintank, we can pour it through our Sawyer Filter and have safe, clean drinking water. We use the water from the tank for everything we need- washing clothes, cleaning the house, washing dishes and bathing the boys after they are covered in dirt and dust from their sandpile! :) 

Not everyone has a blessing such as a rain tank.

 Our landlord was wise to install the tank when he built the compound, and we are so thankful for his foresight. It has made us ever more aware of just how important the work of Ugandan Water Project is in communities- in many places, a UWP rainwater tank is the only source of potable water for miles, and it makes a huge impact in the health and well-being of a community. As we thank God daily for the provision of water in our lives, we are also thanking Him that we have the opportunity to share such a blessing to others in our beloved Uganda. 

The Second Thing:

Collins has been traveling with the UWP Installation Crew, going to the communities that are the newest recipients of UWP Rainwater Collection Systems (for more info on a UWP system: After a set of installations in a community near Masaka, he related to me that one of the tanks was put in place on a Muslim school. The headmaster of the school told Collins that he just didn’t understand how this miracle of a tank was being bestowed on them. 

“The person that referred me to UWP and helped me apply was the Pastor of that church in our village. But I am a Muslim. Why would he want to help me? He runs a school here in this village as well. I am his competition for students! Why would he want to help me, his competition? If I was his friend, I could understand!”

(I have tears brimming in my eyes as I type this, I am so overwhelmed by God’s goodness!)

Collins told the man that we at UWP are ambassadors for Jesus- and Jesus gives His love freely, and so do we! It is only because of Jesus that this man can see such a miracle extended from his Christian “competition”. 

Collins told me this story as we were sitting in a traffic jam, and his face lit up as he said, “I go expecting to plant the seed that Jesus is free to everyone…in this case, the Pastor had already planted the seed, and I just had to water it!” 

We love the revelations that happen when our eyes are opened to see more clearly how our everyday actions impact the lives of others! We’re thankful for everyone that has supported us to bring us to this point- relocating across the globe  is full of great challenges, and we are refreshed to know that our efforts are having an effect! 

Thank you for standing by us, and please, keep us in your prayers!