Agony and Ecstasy demand Humility and TenacityRich Stigall
by Trace Thurlby from Northern Uganda
Today’s high highs and low lows fill my head and heart.
This morning Jacquelyn and Jeffry, tailors at Lira’s sewing center, shared what their jobs meant. Jacquelyn can now pay her little brother’s school fees. She also bought a bicycle which has made trips to the water well, work, and medical center a breeze. Jeffry showed us the home he built for his young family and shared how his relationship with God now has a “deeper salvation” as he follows the example of his boss at the sewing center. For those who may argue the theology of Jeffry’s wording, they missed it. Here is the point: his life has been transformed, and he gives credit to God the best way he can articulate. (Click here to also watch a video of Helen, a tutor for the tailors at Gulu’s sewing center.)
Lives are being transformed. Families are being supported and blessed. Praise be to God!
On this high, we went to two schools to visit with students who recently received their own uniforms. We asked our local church partner (who is handling the uniform distribution as a local church outreach) to pick some typical examples of who they’re helping with the uniforms, and who are willing to share their stories. That’s what the local leaders did. I have a videographer with me, so that we can film some testimonies to share with you later. (Alison Barfoot, GO Africa Field Director, greeting children in Gulu at right.)
In my American mind, I was sure that the typical examples would be articulate, grateful teenagers, or at least some cute little kids. You know, children who would connect with the camera, and tell a warm and fuzzy story that will make us all feel great emotionally. As we started asking questions, I quickly realized how off base my expectations were.
These three children were “end of the line.” No fathers. One mother was disabled. Another mother (we were told in front of her son and daughter) had to be talked out of poisoning herself and her children in a moment of despair. Each came from sibling groups of six. One of the children is a 17 year old 6th grader who has seen more tragedy in his life than I can possibly fathom. These aren’t sound bite, feel good stories. They are the children this ministry is called to serve, just as they are.
Yes, they were proud of their school uniforms. But there were no effusive, mountaintop, “Hurray, I get to go to school!” moments in the time we spent talking. No rescue. Just realness.
Moved to the core, I wanted to reach out and say, “I respect how hard this must be for you to sit in front of camera and answer questions from a muzungu (white) man that you’ve never seen.” God flipped my heart’s desire from hoping to share their gratitude for us and so many of you who worked behind the scenes to make this moment possible, to desperately wanting to share my gratitude to them for bringing conviction and humility to my heart.
I learned something new about why these school uniforms matter so much. It’s not just about creating jobs at the sewing center. Though that’s good. Or just about helping kids at the end of the line in school and life. Though that’s good, too. It’s also about creating a touch point. The local church body had to go out and find the children most in need of the basics, like this. A simple uniform brought Ugandans outside of the church walls to the most hurting. On one side, children and families dying inside and out. On the other, people who trust Christ and know that not even jobs, stuff, and school are a match for the right now oppression kids like this feel. They need to know their significance to an eternal God. They need to know the soul redemption possible through Jesus Christ. A simple uniform represented an introduction of people right here in Uganda, who need and can help each other. A touch point.
“Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for thinking I knew what this moment would be about. Thank you for the courage of these children! Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of what You are doing in their lives. Please keep them close to You, and thank You for bringing me back when I get off track time and time again. Amen.”
Agony and Ecstasy – around us; inside us. What do you feel when you see “the least of these”? These children and our response to the challenges they face can cut deep and make our heart leap at the same time. This is the work into which God has invited me…and you. May we encourage one another to care for these children with the same humility and tenacity they demonstrate each day!