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.
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.
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!
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.
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.