|Through waters uncharted my soul will embark
I’ll follow Your voice straight into the dark
And if from the course You intend
Speak to the sails of my wandering heart
Like the wind
Clear the skies before me
And I’ll glide this open sea|
Captain, Hillsong United
Four years ago today I stepped on a plane to Africa for the very first time. If I had known the adventures and the pain and joys that Uganda would hold for me I don’t know if my seventeen year old brain would have been able to comprehend it all. I witnessed beauty and agonized over death and fought darkness I did not want to be called to fight. Here I am four years later and sometimes I wonder if it was at all worth it. Did I even make a mark in the endless battles of poverty or bring joy to the broken hearted?
I travelled to Uganda over the 2016 new year and I fell deeper in love with the country, but at the same time I began to worry that my worth was not enough. I have always sworn off the “savior complex” that some young missionaries are easier infected with, but this was the complete and utter opposite of that. I questioned what good I was doing, if I was hurting more than helping, if I would be trusting enough to allow God to lead me into muddy waters of these foreign lands. The doubts drowned my joys and danced with my fears; I was not worthy or good enough.
I saw things in Uganda differently… this family who did not have mattresses was like a million other Ugandans who didn’t have any where comfortable to sleep. The grandmother was blessed because she lived near the creek and others had to walk miles to gather water. Those boys were happy even though they didn’t eat today, so why did it matter? Anything I would do for them would only turn into laughing in my heart, mocking me of all the poverty my hands had yet to even touch. Why did I, as a foreigner, need to come help? They were doing okay with their lives and they knew who Jesus was so surely He would answer their whispered prayers and heal their broken hearts. I was just another white girl who would try to leave a lasting impact and fail miserably.
What happens when you become desensitized to everything you’ve strived to change?
My heart was changing into a hopeless mess and I wondered why He had called me four years ago to Uganda when He knew how big the mess was and He knew how small I was. God has been in Africa since the beginning of time, He has seen the unending and countless wars against rebels and slavery and poverty and spirituality. He has witnessed the millions killed by death and malaria and AIDS. So why, why did anything I tried to cure or better or fix change anything ever? Why has He called me into this storm that is sweeping me into currents that are too strong and waves that will continue to drown me?
I walked into the poorly lit home of a five-year-old little girl named Joyce. Couches were crammed wall to wall in their small home and I tried not to slip on the concrete floors they had just mopped. Joyce was one of our new sponsored children and wore a shy little smile as I handed her a new backpack and supplies. Her older sister sat on the couch opposite of me translating what she could in her broken English. Her mother was not shy and spoke quickly to my friend who was acting as my translator. I nonchalantly wiped sweat that was pouring from my face off as the noonday sun beat down on the home.
The mother told of how a recent boda-boda (motorcycle transportation) accident had taken the life of her husband and she was now the sole provider for five children. She had been praying, begging God to show up with the fees to enroll her children in school. And here I was, sitting on the couch showing Joyce how to use her pencil sharpener and bringing the receipt from the school that said school fees and uniforms and books had all been paid in full. Yet, there I was shying away from God choosing me as a vessel.
What happens when God chooses to use you as an answer to prayer?
Something I learned about God while in Uganda was to never underestimate His plans. Everything good pours from His grace, it spills over and floods these broken lands with hope and beckons us to breathe in the goodness that He is. The very hands that carved the foundations of the earth has also written our stories and continues to lead us into the hard because He knows what we are capable of when His love is being lavished freely over us and within us.
Joyce was one. She was one face in a sea of hundreds that needed sponsors to care enough about their futures. She was only one and at the same time, she was one. One child who had the hope of education carrying her from a life of poverty into a life where dreams are allowed. Joyce can pretend to be a doctor or a nurse or a pilot and know that maybe one day she will succeed in becoming any of those. Joyce is one of the future leaders of Uganda. She is just one and at the same time she is the hope of Uganda. The one answered prayer of a mother that somehow drifted across the ocean and touched the heart of a sponsor and God ordained that Joyce was the one.
If I could tell my seventeen year old self anything, it would be all these lessons learned. That sometimes, when you feel empty, when you feel like you are fighting this battle alone, it’s time to turn to Jesus. Lay these burdens and worries at His feet and watch as His beautifully orchestrated plan unfolds and I am left with a peace that transcends any fear. As the ones that He has called we are nothing, but in His will we are everything beautiful and so much more.
one. In a sea of hundreds, I will continue to step out in faith that He has chosen one more face, one more future, one more prayer to answer. Slowly, one will become two. And in the storm of poverty I will keep my eyes on the One whom the waves and the winds obey, and I will obey the same. All He is asking is to follow Him, my worth is found in the sweetness of His voice calling me unto Himself. Follow Him into the unknown and allow Him to be the One that fights the poverty, because I am only one but I am His.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. [Isaiah 58:6-9]