“I thought that if she was just going to die anyway, I should let her die quickly. Then I wouldn’t have to love her, and it wouldn’t have to hurt. Anyway, if she lives, she’ll just grow up to be like this. Who wants to live like this?”
5 months ago my friend Regina, a Karimojong woman who picks fallen branches off our street to sell as firewood and occasionally stopped in for water, came to me desperate. She and her 4 small children had been evicted from their house because for the fourth time in four months she had been unable to pay their rent. As I looked at the three youngest, all on the brink of starving to death, I will admit I judged her. I had been providing the family with food for a while now, how did the children still look like this? But as she breathed the words above I understood. If one’s hope is not in Christ, she simply believes that life is hard and then you die. If this is the case then of course, of course, run from the hard. If you know the pain of losing a child and you know that you will, eventually lose this one too, then obviously your only choice is to run. Immediately, my judgment turned to sorrow.
I don’t think I have to tell you what happened next. Regina, Girl, Capata, Salimu, and baby Katie moved in. They needed a place to go, they needed some hearty meals, and Regina needed someone to teach her how to love her children. Someone to teach her about the Savior.
“I am entrusting you with much,” He whispered.
4 months ago Makerere, the resident “crazy man” of Masese showed up at my gate with his leg burnt to the bone. Believing that his leg was salvageable even after several doctors alleged otherwise, I continued to bandage it daily. The only problem? As soon as Makerere went home each day he again fell pray to the addiction that has haunted him for years. Drunk and stumbling around the slum, his leg would get dirty and he would forget to eat. There was no way it would heal if he kept this up. His house had been burnt down, the reason for his leg wound, and all Makerere really wanted was to die. We begged him to move into the small house in our backyard. (This little house serves as a place for men or families to stay while we minister to them so that both my family and our guests can maintain a semblance of “normal” life while living in community.)
Friends advised against it. “You can’t move the crazy guy into your back yard. You can’t let the crazy guy sit at your table.” But the vote from the kids was unanimous. Yes you can. We packed his remaining belongings (a lantern, an extra shirt, and half of a chair) into our van and made him part of the family.
“I am entrusting you with much,” God whispered.
Last week a grandmother approached me at worship in Buziika and handed me a 6 pound 7 month old. I wasn’t really sure he was breathing. His mother is dead, his father is gone, and this grandmother is just not really sure what to do with him. Figuring he would need at least a month of high fat milk dropped into his little mouth every twenty minutes before he was ready to live in Buziika and be bottle fed by Grandma, we again made the decision to grow. The two of them hopped in the van to come home with us while Grandma learns to take care of sweet baby Juma. In conversation on the way home it was apparent that Grandma had some confused ideas about Jesus and witchcraft. I sighed as I realized that taking care of babies wasn’t all we would be teaching her.
“I am entrusting you with much,” He whispered.
Today Regina and all 4 of her children are incredibly healthy and happy. Though we will miss them terribly, it is time for them to move out, to stand on their own two feet. Regina has been doing some work around the house to build up some savings and with this money and a small loan from Amazima, will begin selling tomatoes and onions to make an income and support her family herself. She is a beautiful mother. She is a beautiful friend.
Makerere’s leg is almost completely healed. Only some pink granulation tissue and lots of smooth brown skin cover the area that was once festering with infection. Makerere is 3 months sober. He will stay here for a bit longer because he is afraid to relapse, but soon he will begin attending vocational school. This face that was once constantly sullen is now ever-joyful. Makerere smiles and sings songs he has learnt at church as he rakes our leaves or picks eggplant from our garden.
While Grandma and baby Juma are still fairly new, Grandma is learning and Juma is already growing. They are a sweet addition to our days.
This house I call home, it is where people flock for help. For a glass of water, for a welcoming smile, for a story of redemption, for a place to belong. “Come and listen,” we say. “Come and listen to what He’s done for us. For you.” These 8 will leave, but more will come. They always come. I don’t know why us and I don’t know why here. Our house is a wreck and dinner is late. We make a ruckus in the grocery store and we don’t get invited out much because surely we will bring a screaming baby or worse, crazy people. We are late to church and sometimes we get there and one doesn’t have shoes and one forgot to comb her hair. We are the messy ones. And we pray and we pray that we could spill out the grace God has so lavished on us.
13 pairs of eyes look at me as if I hold the world. I pray they learn from me half of what I learn from them. They are growing. Trauma from their pasts surfaces and we fight to cling to truth and joy. The days feel long but the years are so short. Time slips away and these little people transform into big people and I pray only that they are becoming people who know Him more.
“I have entrusted you with much,” He whispers.
The book releases in October. I know what this means: more eyes on us. I struggle with the thought of it. All I want is more eyes on Him. I am just a broken mess, grabbing for His feet, reaching out to touch His cloak, thankful for His mercy that washes over me. I am just a little girl, relieved to crawl into His lap and curl up there.
He has entrusted me with so much. And from those who much has been entrusted, much more will be demanded. We want only to represent Him well. So I have taken some time away to feel the weight of it all. 13 little girls, the families in the back yard, friends, family, people in Masese, people in Buziika, people in America looking at me. And satan whispers, “Run. Run and run and run. No book. No blog. No more homeless people in the guestroom. Lock your doors. Take these 13 and just shut yourselves in and stay away from all these eyes because you are not good enough to have so many eyes on you. Run.”
But I look out in the yard and I see only redemption. I see God making thorn bushes into pine trees. I see Him filling our holes with His blood. I see traumatized children that struggle sometimes but laugh mostly. I see them embracing these one-drunk, once-lifeless, once-starving people who are growing in a merciful, healing Father. I see lives changed and I see eternities changed. I see family where there once was only loneliness. And I don’t know why He chose me, this broken little girl, to witness all of it.
I look up. And His voice is so much louder than satan’s. “I have entrusted you with much and I have demanded of you much. But only with me will your life bear much. So run. Run and run and run into my arms. Run. Run and run and run into this world sharing this story that has Me at the center. This making of disciples, it is my business. And I am with you always and my burden is light. I spill through your brokenness and I will be glorified. I promise. I will be glorified.” And that is all I want.
I sat in the heaviness. And I weighed the risks of sharing our entire life, all of it, the joy and the sad, the beautiful and the ugly, with the whole crazy world. And I know. That if on the other side of that risk is the possibility that someone may see Jesus in our brokenness and know that there is grace and purpose in theirs too, then the whole crazy world is welcome. For a glass of water, for a welcoming smile, for a story of redemption, for a place to belong. For a glimpse of a Savior who uses even us, the messy ones. “Come and listen to what He’s done for us. For you.”
We look up. We are thankful for the mess. We are thankful for the much. We are thankful for a story to share, the story of His death and His story in our lives.
Would you pray with us? That as eyes turn to us, they would see only Him. That however, whatever, wherever He would be glorified. He will.