Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
When True Vine Ministries found Catherine she was hopeless and in utter despair. She had come to a place where no wife, mother, or woman should ever be....she was ready to run away and abandon her children, her home, and her life. Her husband had deserted and her heart had been shattered. She had no way to provide for her children, no way to feed them and no way to send them to school. We cannot even begin to imagine the circumstances that would cause one to feel that helpless; that intensely hopeless. In a country where the people live on so little every day, how deep the despair must have been that would bring her to the point that she would be ready to leave everything behind, even what was most precious to her.
True Vine encouraged Catherine and helped her get back on her feet. They ministered to her and spoke Christ into her life. The support she received allowed her to do something she couldn't before- she dared to hope.
Catherine also joined the Women of Destiny beading group. With the money she received from the beads, she was able to send her children to school. An enormous weight had been lifted from Catherine's shoulders.
But her heart was still very, very broken.
The Lord gave us the enormous privilege of visiting Catherine in her home. She lives in a one room mud-brick building with her 3 children Kitiibwa Jemimah (13), Dorkas (10) and Mugabi Gideon (7). As we began to speak with Catherine, you could see the brokenness in her eyes...in her heart. Her anguish was so evident in her voice and in her posture. She sat on the mud floor in a crumpled heap, head down, wringing her hands, her voice barely audible. In a gentle whisper, her voice trembling and breaking as her tears began to flow, she told us her story; the events that led her to the place she was that day. When we asked her how we could pray for her, she prayed for a bigger home for her children, that they would grow in Christ and she began to weep even more. She told us that the difficulties of her life caused her to struggle in her faith and that she was spiritually weak. She asked us to pray that God would bind up her broken heart and strengthen her faith. Our hearts ached for her and we cried and prayed with her, and for her, pleading with God, on her behalf, to heal her broken heart. The flood of tears testified to the profound grief and pain she endured.
As we sat there on the floor of her little house hugging her and kissing her, we knew this was a Divine appointment. God had arranged this meeting in advance. If we could have scooped up Catherine and her children and brought them home, we would have. If we could have given her the moon, we would have. But we gave her what God had brought us there to give. Our love, given to us through Christ, who first loved us. We loved on her and poured into her the best we could and our hearts were forever changed. Could this meeting be the one reason God brought us to
After we prayed, she kept thanking us. We felt so unworthy of her words. She told us what a blessing we were to her and she thanked us for visiting her. No, Catherine, it was YOU who blessed us.
God wasn’t finished quite yet. Right before we left, Catherine said "I have gifts for you". She ran off to her little garden and cut two 7 foot tall stalks of sugar cane and dug up several yams and brought them to us. You could see the joy in her eyes that she was able to give us something. We were so touched and deeply humbled. A woman with so little wanted to give us a gift. Be still our beating hearts. She couldn’t possibly have imagined the enormity of the gift she had already given us. Her kindness brought us to our knees and continues to sweetly haunt our daily thoughts.
We miss you so much Catherine, our treasured sister, and we are praying for the day when we will be with you again. God will heal your broken heart, because He keeps his promises. He is faithful and loves you more than you could conceive.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The waitress arrived and told us what was available. A menu wasn't offered which is very different than we we grow accustomed to in America. The selection was beef, chicken, goat or liver with rice, potatoes or matooke. We hadn't tried matooke yet and we were feeling pretty hungry so we thought we'd go with the chicken and rice.
When our plates arrived, Cathy & I just stared at each other. We weren't concerned about the "rice" part of it....but what was that brown blob of stuff on the side of our plate? We wondered "is THAT the chicken...or did they make a mistake and give us the liver"?
I think Richard saw the concern in our eyes and said "it's ground nuts" with a smile on his face. Just then, the waitress returned with the "chicken" portion of our rice and chicken lunch. Insert great sighs of relief.
Richard & Jesca got a good laugh at us. We got a good laugh at us. The ground nuts? Well, they taste like ground nuts! The chicken and rice was DELICIOUS. Of course, there really wasn't any food in Uganda that we didn't find delicious.
I find myself longing for Mama Jesca's cooking. In the morning, breakfast usually was omelets made with fresh eggs covered in garden fresh tomatoes. Eggs were always served with either fresh, homemade biscuits or hashbrowns. Coffee was such a treat because our "creamer" was fresh milk from the cow, cooked with just a hint of ginger. Who needs Starbucks?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Sometimes you wake up knowing that this day will somehow be very different; that by the end of it something will have changed. That day was Wednesday, January 26th, 2011. We woke up to another amazing morning at the Kibirango farm. It is beautiful, rivaling any rural country landscape in America. However, the intense green and lush countryside belie the utter poverty and desperation that is so prevalent in Uganda.
On Wednesday we loaded into the van to begin our visits with several widows and their children. Along for the ride were Maggie (a social worker), Dennis (17yo son of a widow we would soon meet), & Maggie, a little 6 year old girl in a crisp pink dress (Dennis’ little sister).
As we drove, Maggie sat in the middle seat, with Jesca. Dawn & I were in the back. Every now and then she would shyly turn around to look at us and we would wave at her and smile. She seemed very interested in the both of us and of course we couldn’t help but stare at her beautiful face. Her deep brown eyes were mesmerizing and I was certain they had seen far more than any 6yo eyes should ever witness. Her little mouth did not smile. As hard as I tried to coax one out of her, it didn’t work and I wondered if she had ever had reason to.
When the van arrived at our first stop, Maggie & her brother walked us through an ally to a row of mud rooms, one of which they called home. There was a fabric curtain hanging in the doorway, the only thing keeping the outside world outside. Maggie and Dennis came in the house and sat with us as we visited with their mother, Robina, an HIV+ widow and her other 2 children, one who was also HIV+. The room was approximately 7’x7’, entirely of mud with a piece of linoleum covering the floor. There was a small bed behind a hanging piece of fabric, a bench, and a small double shelf inside. Stacked wherever possible were their water cans and other belongings. We visited for a while, listening to Robina tell her story, asking questions, taking pictures, and praying for the family. I began to see perhaps why Maggie seemed so reluctant to smile.
On the walk back to the van Maggie took my hand and was fascinated by the tattoo on my wrist (2Cor 5:17). She ran her fingers over it and turned my wrist to see the other side, tracing the tattooed vines with her finger. Again she sat in the middle seat and Dawn & I in the back. I reached over to touch her on the nose and she held my hand. She didn’t let go and as I reached over with the other hand she wrapped my arm around her chest. That’s how we rode to the next stop, Maggie & I holding hands. She looked back at me with a contented little sort-of-grin. Not quite a smile, but the corners of her mouth definitely turning up ever so slightly. Or was that my hopeful imagination?
We learned that Maggie attends school at Victors Junior Christian School and that she did not currently have a sponsor. Dawn & I looked at each other and it was clear that we both had the same thought at the exact same moment……”She does now!”
Maggie walked hand-in-hand with me to the 2nd house and sat beside me while we visited and prayed. Once we were back in the van Maggie sat beside me and I wrapped her in my arms. She again held my hands and gazed up at me. I tried to make her laugh by making silly faces and slowly but surely she began to mimic each one. Dawn took a series of pictures we call “The Faces of Maggie”.
Every once in a while I thought just maybe I saw a slight grin. She again walked with me, holding my hand, to the 3rd home and sat in my lap as we visited. I think she was almost as taken with me as I was with her. As I sat there I couldn’t help but think about my son, Clyde, and how different his life is from Maggie’s. I felt very sad to think Maggie probably didn’t have anyone who gave her “eyelash tickles” at bedtime or read her favorite story in bed.
Sweet Maggie. The little girl in the pink dress who changed so much for me. If I could have packed her in my suitcase and brought her home I would have done so in a heartbeat. I think of her every day and cannot help but cry as I remember her sweet face and the difficulties that are her reality. I can’t help but wonder what her every day is like.
Beautiful Maggie. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her on the Friday before we left. I looked around the school grounds hoping to see her, but she wasn’t there. I left Uganda that day with a Maggie-shaped hole in my heart. It’s an aching space that is filled only by the knowledge that God loves her so very much and has a plan for her. I pray that His plan includes bringing me to see Maggie again someday.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11