Mama KellenRich Stigall
As Mother’s day approaches, I am reflecting on the many women whose hearts have loved so very well and whose lives HAVE changed and ARE changing the world. I have had the good fortune of experiencing many mothers in action both here and there: in the U.S. and in some of the most materially poor countries of our shared world. I have been both broken by seeing the extreme impoverishment of our emerging world and challenged by my complacent layers of comfort edged in a plethora of possibilities, choices and opportunities. I have the opportunity of being born in a different hemisphere, but to whom much is given, much is required.
I have been privileged to travel four times to Africa, often with mothers like myself. In honor of our children and the blessings we so often take for granted, we journey with our mother-hearts to have a lifetime experience of loving others half way around the world. Our African friends smile and say our Mother’s Love carried us to them; why else would somewhat educated, suburban women travel thousands of miles, leaving their own families behind, to love on children and people they did not even know. (Who are these crazy mothers?!) CRAZY LOVE, yep we said YES! And off to Africa we have gone on a journey of relationship.
And our lives have never been the same since…Kellen
Kellen. She is a wonderful mature Ugandan woman. Her age? A superfluous question. Many people in emerging countries do not know a particular date on which they were born. I have learned, America may have the watch…but Africa has the time. Kellen has experienced much time. Her petite frame seems bent over with the weight of life. Years of carrying jerry cans of water and firewood. Her small face is lined with years of laboring in the fields under the sub-Saharan sun and over a fire stirring a simmering pot of rice and beans. She shares of having always dreamed of having a large family of her own. However, she has suffered the lifelong heart break of being unable to bear children. As she shares her story, she seems pregnant with joy –her eyes crinkle tight as the brightest of smiles breaks forth. Kellen sings a short song of thanksgiving. “Tutukendereza Jesu! God is good—All the time, God is good! Praise Jesus, for I am a Mother – this is my home and these are my boys! I am blessed among women!” Kellen has been chosen to serve as Mama to the largest group of boys in the Father’s House. They once were orphaned and abandoned and she was childless. Now, by the grace of God and the ministry of the Church of Uganda, Kellen has made a family and lives in a home with her eleven sons! In sharing her happiness, Kellen has grown taller and stands stronger in this home built from love.
Kellen is one of ten women who are Mothers – Mamas to 100 orphaned and abandoned children in this small invaluable village in sub-Saharan Africa. They are building a future and a hope for all of these children. They each have a story that is compelling, overwhelming and transforming.
If I were to share with you life-defining moments, at the top of my list would be a day spent with Kellen, the other Mamas, and community women for a full day retreat with the Ugandan Mother’s Union.
The Mother’s Union started as a dream of one mother of three in 1876. Mary Sumner launched a society for the support of women and mothers, a circle of prayer upholding the family. As of 2010, one mother’s vision now has 4 million members in 81 countries. Mother’s Union envisions bringing about a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships! Uganda launched its own Mother’s Union in 1908 and presently boasts over 125,000 members. South of the Nile, their Family Life Program prioritizes offering support to marginalized and disadvantaged single parents, widows and orphans. Community based educational programming is provided in literacy, job creation, parenting, food security, health and sanitation. These mothers, individually and collectively, are changing the world through holistically loving and serving children and families in their respective communities.
Culturally naive and first-worldly absorbed, we set the table and made our plans to share and make a difference in the lives of these women. Of course, what we didn’t know changed our lives. These women rocked our worlds and indeed transformed our lives. Their African music beckoned us together; it touched soulful chords that connected us in ways words could not. We circled to the music, smiles and warm personal greeting created a welcome that was both personal and pivotal for what was to come.
For the ten Mamas of the Father’s House, this was their first invitation to the Mother’s Union. They were warmly welcomed and embraced by the mothers in the surrounding community. In small groups we began sharing our life stories and family struggles. In so doing, as women and mothers, we began to realize we are far more the same than we are different. Employment, money, school fees, wellness and getting those children to bed and to sleeping for a bit of a mother’s rest…we all shared the global challenges of all hard working, tired mothers!
As we listened to each others lives we found ourselves in each others stories. We learned from each other. We listened, we laughed, we cried and we learned that TOGETHER our love is a powerful force for good, both in each others lives and beyond our own. We leaned into our shared brokenness in life and chose to grasp the present in gratitude thus releasing the richness of our souls. When stripped to the core, we found connection and community. I never dreamed that Kansas and Kabale could be so close!
We are in need of Mothers. Mamas who will bring God’s love to every community in need. Mothers to be Kingdom bearers of God’s love to children who have no mother or father, who have been orphaned or abandoned. We need mothers this Mother’s Day to bless the children both here and there.
The fact is we NEED each other. When we strip away our complacent and comfortable layers and get to the living quick of our lives, then we can choose to see into the heart of our global neighbor and children in need. One mother can and does change the world with her love. We can discover riches in one another, and in doing so, bring about a world where God’s love is unleashed in powerful ways. Please join me to celebrate the children and the mothers in our midst.
Happy Mother’s Day!