I have to admit, when I first heard about the opportunity to go to Uganda I didn’t have a real “ah ha” moment of knowing why I was to go. I had a peace in my heart when we prayed about it, but I continued to ask the Lord “why are you sending me to Africa?”
The first day we were driving, I looked around at all the people and an odd thought entered my mind; ” Where are all the handicapped people?” The thought was strong and I had it several times the first couple of days.
We came to Uganda to minister the love of Jesus to women and children in three different areas; Bethel Children’s school which is located in Mesese, Kerith Children’s Home located in Pallisa, and Ebenezer Children’s Home in Kibuku.
We held conferences for the women in each of the areas, I’ll blog about the conferences later. While part of the team shared testimonies and teachings from the Word, the other part of the team spent time loving big on the children.
Each day that our bus pulled into a location, we were greeted like royalty or famous stars! The children excitedly surrounded the bus shouting, “Muzungu! Muzungu!” (White Person!)
Our first day at Kerith, I stepped off the bus into the sea of children and my eye caught a young boy standing off a bit from the crowd.
I felt drawn to him so I went over and reached out my hand asking for his name. He timidly shook my hand and said “my name is Jonah.” With big eyes I made a fish face and asked “like Jonah in the Bible?” A big smile spread across Jonah’s face as he lifted his eyebrows and said “yes!” It is custom in Uganda to lift your eyebrows when giving a yes answer to a question.
For the rest of the day, Jonah and I hung out together. We helped sort bulk bags of rice, flour, and beans into smaller bags to deliver to families in the villages behind Kerith.
Jonah and I held hands and I attempted to talk with him as we walked for a couple of miles delivering the food. We sang one of the songs he and the other children sang when we arrived, “I want to be like Jesus.”
Each family we visited met us with such expressions of gratitude like kneeling and shaking our hands, clapping and laughing with joy. We offered to pray with each family, they were very receptive, even the Muslim families accepted our prayers!
A few times Jonah and I got separated but each time I looked for him I found him looking at me with the most tender look on his face.
While we were walking back to the children’s home, we met a man on the path. We didn’t have any food left but we had soap which we gave to each family and I quickly learned this was quiet a luxury which they were thrilled to have.
The man, named Bernard, was happy to accept the soap and Jesus! We told him and each family who we delivered food to that we came in the name of Jesus and we asked if they knew Him.
Bernard said he didn’t but would very much like to. Right there on the path with Jonah at my side we had the privileged of leading Bernard to Christ!
Later that evening as we said good night to the children we told them we would be back the next day. Jonah had an unsure look in his eye as I hugged him and said “see you tomorrow.”
I got on the bus with a knot in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I asked if anyone who went on the Man Up trip last year knew anything about Jonah’s story, they did not.
I couldn’t get Jonah off my mind. His gentle but guarded spirit pulled at my heart as I remembered parts of our day together. I witnessed him sharing a cracker one of the team members gave him with a boy. The boy never asked Jonah to share, he just did!
Another time he and I sat on a concrete step together but before I sat down Jonah carefully brushed off the spot where I would sit. He had such a gentle caring way about him yet I sensed he was holding onto something that deeply troubled him.
I wondered why Jonah was at the orphanage? What have his short 11 years of life been like? What has he seen or experienced to make him so quiet and guarded? Even when we held hands I could feel his guard up, he didn’t grip my hand just let his hand rest in mine. He seemed so unsure of what I would do yet he stayed by me with eyes almost pleading for a way to communicate something important.
The next morning while eating breakfast at the Pastors home, a volunteer worker and I were talking and she said; “there is one story that’s really tragic about a boy named Jonah.”
I nearly jumped out of my chair and exclaimed, “you know Jonah’s story?
Haley, the volunteer worker told me that Jonah and his mother lived deep in the “bush.” She shared that Jonah’s mother who they call “Mama Jonah,” because it’s custom to call mothers Mama with the oldest child’s name after Mama, is crippled and the men in the village would come into her hut and repeatedly rape her knowing she could not defend herself.
A community development director, like a social worker, learned about the abuse happening to “Mama Jonah” and the conditions she and her children were living in and he contacted Pastor Sam and his wife Mercy, founders of Kerith children’s home.
Pastor Sam & Mercy jumped right in. Their church and another organization built a concrete home with a metal locking door for “Mama Jonah” so she no longer had to worry about the men coming in at night. She allowed Sam and Mercy to bring Jonah to live at the children’s home where he is getting an education and the care he needs.
As Haley shared this horrific story, I knew exactly why God had sent me to Uganda and why the Holy Spirit nudged me to look for handicap people. I knew I needed to get to “Mama Jonah” and share my story with her and how God has healed and redeemed the pain from past abuse. I needed to share the love and hope of Christ with her.
Mercy took me and a couple other team members to see “Mama Jonah.” We journeyed through thick bushes and narrow paths winding around mud huts with hay roofs and finally arrived.
“Mama Jonah” lives with her mother, three brothers and a lot of children. Seeing visitors they scurried around laying out mats for the women to sit on and putting out small wooden chairs for the men to sit on as per their custom.
I sat beside “Mama Jonah” with a large crowd of people circled around us and told her my story and how when I heard about what she has suffered I felt compelled to visit and share the love of God with her and let her know that she is not alone.
She sat quietly and listened and several times said “webale nnyo” (Thank you very much). She told me she believes in God but doesn’t have a bible so we made arrangements to get her one in her language.
We brought her gifts of rice, flour, salt, beans, corn meal, soap and a beautiful pattern cloth. Again she repeated “webale nnyo”
She allowed me to hold her hand as we visited and I was reminded so much of Jonah as I looked in her eyes, I saw the same tender but cautious, “can I trust you” look.
I asked if I could pray and she said “please pray for my pain, physical and emotional.” We laid hands on her and prayed.
I showed her this video of Jonah and she watched it over and over with a warm smile on her face.
As we drove away, I wondered if I should have said more or done more. The Holy Spirit quickly remind me He’s the one who does the work and He will continue to woo her to himself and heal her pain.
I was reminded that we are mere vessels that God uses to flow through. Our part is to be obedient and to “Go” where He sends us…even when it doesn’t make sense or we can’t understand why…He always has a plan!
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6