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Caring for Uganda’s Orphans: A Young Woman’s Journey of Faith
It is my sixteenth birthday, and I am eating sushi at my favorite restaurant with my parents when I tell them that I would like to explore the possibility of taking a year in between high school and college to do mission work. This is unheard of in my family, and they say they are not sure and will think about it. I am nervous, but somehow I know it is right. He changes their hearts.
I have just turned 18, and find an orphanage online. I beg my parents to let me visit over break, just three weeks. A month later I am on a plane. I am so excited. I am so scared of being alone, but I know He is going with me. I fall in love.
I graduate high school having made the commitment to teach kindergarten for a year at a school in The Middle of Nowhere, Uganda. In August I get on the plane. I’m apprehensive, and I cry most of the way because I miss my mommy and my boyfriend. I am eager, but so uncertain. I trust Him. I teach 138 children how to speak English and to love Jesus.
It is October and I am just not sure I can do it anymore. I live in the smallest room I have ever seen in the back of a pastor’s house. I am more uncomfortable than I had bargained for. No one understands—not people here, not people at home. I am tired. But I am prideful, and I am not going to quit. I don’t like this. But I know He has a plan. I learn. I grow. He is there.
It is December, and God has spoken very clearly about opening a ministry that sponsors 40 of the orphaned children in the village where I am working. This involves moving into a different house, alone. It is big, and I cannot imagine how God will fill it up. I am lonely and I am anxious. But I am still trusting. He fills the house, and we now have 150 children sponsored.
It is January and I am looking at a little girl, crushed under a brick wall with no one to care for her or her younger siblings. I offer to take the three home with me until we find them a better placement. I am not really sure what to do with them, but I know they are God’s children. They stay.
It is three days later and the littlest looks at me and calls me mommy. My heart might break in two. Something clicks. I am even more scared than I was the day I stepped on that plane, but I know. Today I have 13.
I have to deliver a baby, give a boy stitches, pull a tooth, and give an injection. I am petrified. But no one will do it if I do not. He is present. He holds my hand. They are all fine.
It is August, and I must get on a plane back to America to go to college, as I have promised my father. I do not remember how to be a teenager or what it is to be normal in Brentwood, Tennessee. I will have to leave my babies. I will have to make new friends. I am sad, and I am terrified. He wraps His arms around me. He puts just the right people in just the right places, and they help me, and they make me feel at home.
First semester is over, and He speaks clearly to me that I cannot serve two masters. “Go home,” He says, “and stay.” I am uncertain, but I want to be obedient. He squeezes tighter. I am thankful.
I have to look at my loving parents who have given me everything and tell them that I will not go to college right now, because I feel God wants me to be in Uganda. I know how disappointed and how angry they will be. I am more scared than I was when I got on the plane and more scared than I was when I took my first children. But I know that this is the plan. They love me anyway.
It is February and my daughter’s biological father comes to take her away. My heart breaks in half, and I am not sure I will ever be able to get out of my bed again, let alone foster another child. I am more than devastated, but I want what is best for her, what He wants for her. She comes back, and her biological father learns about Jesus.
It is March, and a lame little girl is brought to my gate. She is undoubtedly mine, but I am still anxious. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know what to do with a special needs child, especially as my thirteenth child. I am criticized and ridiculed. I wonder. I trust and praise God for her sweet little life. She starts to walk.
I find myself in a village full of starving people that for some reason seem to want to kill me. God says to serve them anyway. I am not sure how it is going to work, or if it is safe. I can’t figure it out, but I know He can. Twelve hundred Karamajongs, the poorest of Uganda’s poor, are now served hot meals daily.
We keep taking in more children until there are 400 in our program. There is no way we will raise enough funds, but by now I have stopped worrying. He has always provided. Blessings rain from the sky, and all 400 children go to school.
I am 20 years old, and I have 13 children and 400 more who all depend on me for their care, who are all learning to love Jesus and be responsible adults and looking up to me. The reality of it all can be a bit overwhelming at times. It is, however, always pure joy. There is a common misconception that I am courageous. I will be the first to tell you that this is not actually true. Most of the time, I am not brave. I just believe in a God who will use me even though I am not. Most mornings, before I even get out of bed I am overwhelmed with His goodness, with his plan for my life; I stand in awe of the fact that He could entrust me with so much. Most days, I don’t have much of a plan. I don’t always know where this is going. I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part: courage is not about knowing the path. It is about taking the first step. It is about Peter, getting out of the boat. I do not know my five year plan; even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled, and I am terrified, in a good way. So some call it courage, some call it foolish, I call it faith. I choose to get out of the boat. To take the next step. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.
[Adapted from the original blog post: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/2009/08/it-is-my-16th-birthday-and-i-am-eating.html]
Katie Davis is the founder of Amazima Ministries (http://www.facebook.com/pages/AMAZIMA-MINISTRIES/133121766698849?v=info), which serves the most vulnerable in Uganda through education, feeding, vocational outreach, discipleship, and medical care. Follow Katie on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/people/Katie-Davis/1513020117) or Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/#!/katieinuganda).