I’ve never been a book worm and I’m not one to enjoy watching movies and documentaries that cover atrocities against man. So, I only knew a little bit about Gulu and Northern Uganda and all that happened with Joseph Kony and the LRA. I probably knew more than the average American due to my work, but still, it only skimmed the surface.
Honestly, I did not want to know. There is still a part of me that doesn’t want to learn anymore. Who wants to truly willingly break their own heart? I was almost dreading this part of our trip, satisfied to have just gone on to Ethiopia with the Visiting Orphans team or to have gone on home.
I didn’t want to hear the children’s stories. I didn’t want to see a room full of children grieving and crying out with hurt deeper than I’ll ever know. I cannot imagine the memories and scenes they have to shut their minds off to. The nightmares they sleep through and the fear that constantly haunts and trails them. The fear that “when” and “what if” the rebels return?
I have been to Rwanda about 15 years after the genocide. As soon as we arrived in Kilgali, we went straight to the genocide museum. This museum leaves nothing to your imagination. I was not at all prepared for the stories and scenes and photos I was going to see. It didn’t just cover the genocide in Rwanda, but also many others in the 1900’s.
I struggled with fear while I was there. Fear that plagued me while I slept which I had to war against spiritually. I had no idea the horrors that humans could do to each other. If they could do it then, then why not now? Could there be a trigger for this to happen again. So, my time in Rwanda, unfortunately was not as wonderful as my time had been in other African countries. I’m sure this was one reason I was hesitant to visit Gulu and it’s people.
So, I arrived at Village of Hope reluctant to dive in and love these children. It has only been 2 or 3 years for most of them and this man, Kony is still unbelievably alive and well. I was reluctant to share my heart and open it to them. I had to search my heart and soul. “Lord, what’s wrong with me? Normally I can’t wait to dive into the lives of orphans and love them? Why am I so hardened and calloused?” I was sitting back while Bethany and Britt were pursuing these children and making sure they were always in the midst of them.
As I wrestled with these questions I realized…It’s because I didn’t want my heart to break again. Normally when it breaks it means God is going to ask me to do something bigger than myself to make a difference in His Kingdom. And to be honest, I’m just plum tired of that. My life has been one heart break after another and working so much to accomplish things much larger than me.
I have just wanted a normal life finally. I’m finally married and we have a house we love and we’re ready to put down some roots, and have a family. Of course, like most, wanting to have a biological baby first. (I’m human too!) Especially since time is not in my favor (or so the doctors and others would like to tell you). Of course I will adopt, but why can’t something “N.O.R.M.A.L” happen in my life for once. Something on course like the rest of America. Something easy. Why can’t it be about me, just once? Why does it always have to be about HIM?! ☺
Pretty selfish, huh? But I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one who struggles with that. I know b/c I talk to many friends and acquaintances who are amazing men and women doing awesome things for God and they also struggle with the same desires and thoughts.
So finally, as we had our first day off at Village of Hope upon arrival and I was planning to just have some “me” time, my heart began to melt. These children without invitation would come and just sit down next to me as I read the Bible…wanting me to read to them. STARVING to hear the word and wanting to know more. Wanting to read it to me. Joining me and putting their arms around me as I tried to stay in contact with my “world” on my blackberry or Facebook. Looking at each person’s profile. Wanting to see all the pictures on my laptop. Loving the pictures of the beach and my dogs and my nieces as flower girls and loving my wedding dress. Holding my flashlight for me as I ate my dinner in the dark by the fire so I could see what I was actually about to eat and constantly combing, braiding and playing with my hair.
I don’t think these children had a clue that God was using them to minister to me. To love on me, to open my heart…that mother’s heart which has been determined to do it “My way”.
As the next morning dawned and we got ready for the heavy day of emotional grief counseling with the kids (what I had been dreading), I stood in my mud hut with two of the most precious friends and fellow “journeymen” (as they call you in Gulu) a woman could ask for, Britt and Bethany. We were talking about the kids, talking about what that day would hold. (I was still dragging my feet as I got ready for this) I started telling them how I had grown fond of this little girl Faida (who you will read about in my previous post) and Britt commented, “Amanda, I have known all along that God was going to do something in your heart on this trip, but I didn’t know what…but when I see you with her, I see your Mother’s heart for her…” And…that’s when I broke. I finally let it all go…my coffee cup shaking in my hand as I let go of that which I have wanted and desired in order to probably, knowing God, receive some sort of another extraordinary calling to these children. Maybe it’s adopting a large sibling group, maybe it’s adopting children with HIV, maybe it’s opening up our own orphanage or moving to Africa. Or…maybe it’s just continuing to work forVisiting Orphans so that more and more people are ministering to orphans. Or even more...what if it's ALL the above or more than one of these?!
Whatever His will is, I finally let Him have all control and have His way with me, my plans and my family. It still hurts to share but I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what He has in store. I know it will not be easy and will most likely require MUCH work and will be anything but NORMAL…but maybe, just maybe, I will make a difference personally, this time in the life of an orphan(s). (photos by Bethany Haley)
Follow along as I take this mission seriously and minister to the orphans in this world.
Visiting Orphans...It pretty much speaks for itself. Our lives are made to give away to others and I love it that helping orphans is pure and undefiled religion! Follow along as I take God seriously about this mission and minister to the orphans in this world. He is constantly at work in our lives..we just sometimes have to shift our perspective to notice Him. I pray you will hopefully see Him in the words and pictures below..through my perspective.
This blogpage follows the mission trips I lead to minister to orphans in this world. I am the Executive Director of a mission sending agency called Visiting Orphans. (www.visitingorphans.org) I believe my mission in life is similar to the President of Compassion International, Dr. Wes Stafford. In his book, "Too Small to Ignore" he says, "On one side of this international bridge, my role is to minister to the poor, to the orphans, to "comfort the afflicted." And then I cross the bridge, coming back to the Western, more affluent world, where my job is to speak and write and to "affict the comfortable" to call them to action." Loving people on both sides of the spectrum...
I pray that something in my words or pictures will inspire you to reach out beyond yourself...to GO and help the "least of these".