Saturday, 2 November 2013

Silent No More

Even now her words resound to my very core.  Words spoken seven long months ago that should have faded by now, drowned out by life in all its busyness.

It was Easter Monday and we walk along a foot path just outside Kampala, Uganda, past some scattered houses, and into an open, lush field.  We are a group of 25 or so, some of us mothers and daughters on a mission’s trip with an organization called Sixty Feet. 

Photo credit:  April Olive

We were being led by a local pastor and his wife, Mama C, who work with and share the same heart toward the children of Uganda as the ministry we were travelling with.  Mama C stops and she and her husband begin to share their dreams for this land we are standing on which is now owned by Sixty Feet.  The vision they shared includes homes for orphaned children, a school, a farm to sustain the operation and more. 

Her heart is here, she loves her country’s mothers who struggle to raise and provide for their children after their husband has left or died of AIDS.  She loves the nation’s orphans, as demonstrated by the fact that she and her husband currently foster 25 children, but have, over the duration of their marriage, fostered well over a hundred children.  Mama C and her pastor husband know all too well the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

When they had finished sharing their vision for the land, Mama C, from her humble genuine heart, looked to us, the ‘mzungu’ from the land of plenty and said, “We need you.  Uganda needs you.  We need you to go home and tell everyone you can, share what you see here.  You in North America have the resources.  We have the people, we have the vision, but we ask you to be the spokespeople and gather the resources to support this dream and help bring a future to the orphaned children of Uganda.”
Her challenge to us that day reminded me of scripture that the Lord keeps bringing to me over and over again.  “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  Prov. 31:8-9

There was urgency in her voice.

I had only been in Kampala one day and I understood her urgency.  Desperation, oppression, and hopelessness abound and it grips and it’s heavy on the soul.  For so many Ugandans, they are bound by injustice, oppressed by the cycle of poverty and are weighed down by the burden of moment by moment survival.
It has taken seven difficult months to process my trip to Uganda.  The ministry we travelled with is Sixty Feet, a Christian organization which serves imprisoned children.  I cannot describe the immensity of the feeling of hopelessness and despair inside these facilities.   There are no words to describe what happens to your heart when you see a child in one of these places.  Even now it overwhelms me.   It’s been hard trying to find my place back in ‘normal’ North America after experiencing the contradictions which are Uganda - the heaviness of her despair, yet the beauty of her lush landscape and the joy, perseverance and generosity of so many of her people.  Life wants to take over, it stops for nothing, yet I never want to forget and I know I must do something.
Finding that something has been challenging, and after a great deal of prayer, I approached a team member from the mission’s trip, Christi Kidd.  She is too is a follower of Jesus, a mom, a photographer, and is burdened for the desperate children of the world and wanting to do something.  She too was at a loss as to what to do.
Together we have decided to accept Mama C’s challenge, to use our mutual love for photography and words for the glory of Christ to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”.  God’s timing is perfect and we have decided to launch our initiative just in time for Orphan Sunday.
Did you know that November 3rd  is Orphan Sunday?  It is a day for Christians to “stand for the orphan. We are a people called to defend the fatherless…to care for the child that has no family…to visit orphans in their distress.” (Christian Alliance for Orphans)

Christian, did you know there are 147 million fatherless children in the world today?  2.5 million of them live in Uganda, and half of these in Uganda are orphaned because of AIDS.  The statistics are mind-numbing which means we almost instinctively shut off our compassion at the hearing of such staggering numbers.  To justify our lack of empathy we say things like, “They are just a number, and the problem is just so big, and it’s over there, so we really can’t do anything about it.  Next.”
One thing I learned while in Uganda is that each one of the 147 million fatherless children has a name, was created by God, and He loves them and is with them, even in the most dire of circumstances. 

Take Rebecca*  for example.  She is less than two years old.  She was abandoned by her mother in a pit latrine (an outhouse without the house), found by the police and brought to one of the facilities that Sixty Feet serves in.  There are 300 children in this overcrowded government run facility and the government workers do all they can for the children, but basic care is about all that can be handled due to the number of kids.  I held Rebecca for over an hour the day we visited that facility.  She clung to me like nobody’s business, desperate for a hug and a mother’s love.  Jesus sent me that day to that place, to hold that child and have compassion on her and love her and sing about Jesus to her, even though she couldn’t understand His gospel. 
She understood His love. 
There are 146,999,999 other fatherless children just like Rebecca all over the world right now.  Their name might not be Rebecca, but they each have a name.  Their story might be different, but they each have a story.  You and I will never make a difference for all 147 million of the orphans of the world, but we can make a difference for a few.

Rebecca needs Jesus.   Follower’s of Jesus, we are His hands and feet, His body on this planet.  And until He returns, He has commanded us to “Go, therefore...” and bring Jesus to the ends of the earth including to the Rebecca’s, and Samuel’s and Hakim’s and Maureen’s and as many of the 147 million orphaned children around the world as we possibly can. 
One at a time.
It is a big task, and a challenging command and it is really easy to get overwhelmed and not do anything.  But inaction is not an option for us and I’d like to challenge and encourage you and me, to start at the source of unlimited power:  prayer.  
Christi and I would love for you join us this week in honor of Orphan Sunday in one of these simple things to put feet to our faith:
  • Visit the website of Orphan Sunday to learn more about the world’s orphan crisis. 
  • Pray for Rebecca.  Pray for the 299 other children in the facility where she is.  Pray for the 2.5 million orphans in Uganda, or the orphans in some other country.
  • Fast and pray on one day this week following Orphan Sunday for the 147 million orphans world-wide and ask the Lord to awaken in you a compassion for the fatherless.  If you would like scripture to pray and read maybe start with Isaiah Ch. 1, or Ch. 58, or the Book of James.
  • Visit the website of Sixty Feet and learn more about their ministry and how they are bringing hope to abandoned children in Jesus’ name.  Pray for their current needs.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10
*Name has been changed for her protection
Christi and I are not sure what this initiative is going to look like just yet.  We only know right now that it involves words and photography to be used for the glory of God to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, that the Lord may use it in some small way to "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."  Is. 61:3)
Most likely within the next few weeks we will have a blog or website up and running.  You can help us by praying for us as we begin this journey and by spreading the word to the church - the body of Christ within your own circle.
We would love to hear from you!  Comments are open (though they are moderated) so please let us know which of the actions above you chose to do this week and tell us what you learned, or how you see the Lord awakening your heart.


At 11 November 2013 at 15:35 , Blogger Christine said...

Look forward to hearing about the initiative! We hosted an Orphan Sunday brunch at our church again this year. Praying hearts will be moved to show the love of Jesus to the orphan!


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