I have spent the past six summers of my life here in the heart of Africa. In many ways, coming to Uganda has become ordinary. The sights. The smells. The life here.
But never the need.
Witnessing the overwhelming daily needs facing so many people here-especially children- is never comfortable. The longer I am home in the States, the less pressing and emotional the needs become. Less real, less of a concern to me. But every May I find myself jarred, shocked, and freshly convicted.
Yesterday at the ROJOM school as Scott loaded items into the back of the Kamara's small car, he pushed aside a bag of clothing. "What are these clothes?" he asked Theophilus.
"My wife, she is crazy," Theophilus smiled. "She collects these clothes and keeps them in her car so that if she is ever sees a naked person, she can give them something to wear."
This is my friend, Sarah Kamara, who operates a travelling clothes closet in her vehicle. She invites hungry children into her home-even when there isn't enough food. She is a walking blessing, a poured out person for the sake of Christ. Sixty children now live at the Ranch on Jesus Orphanage Home started by Sarah's faith. Three hundred and fifty are being educated in the ministry's primary school. All because a needy woman put other's needs above her own, did not wait for someone else to act, and took the Lord God at His word. By the world's standards her husband is right…she is crazy.
As I experience the poverty and lack faced by so many innocents in Ugandan society, what we are doing in our ministry to meet this need feels quite small and inadequate. What is stopping Ranch on Jesus from growing? What is keeping Sarah and Theophilus from doing even more for their people? To be quite blunt-its only money.
This month I will have to sit across a table from Sarah and explain from our budget that not only will she have to limit her mercy. She will have to cut back. Funds are tight. With the world economy in shreds, raising money to care for orphans is tough. Practically I will have to say these things. But in my heart, facing these needs, I don't see how I can rectify it.
I don't see how I can really tell Sarah to stop extending compassion when I hail from a church that lives in the wealthiest sector of the world. Even though money may be tighter these days, most of us, me included, are only really having to make cutbacks in our wants. We have enough nutritious (and maybe not so nutritious) food stocked in our pantry to last for weeks, enough clothing in our closets that we could not do laundry for a month and probably be fine. TVs, CD players, cars with leather seats and more. And not to say these things are wrong or that they are equally possessed by all of us, but by and large, they are the rule of normal life.
But of course even with its abundance of wealth, the church in America isn't the ultimate answer for those in need in Uganda. Ranch on Jesus has much more than an American partner ministry. It has the Name of Jesus on the sign and falls under the family provision of the King of the Universe. Our Boss and Father owns all the cattle on the hills of Africa and every SUV in the parking lots of America. It's all His and His will is that we extend it outward to those who need it. So simply, this is what Sarah is doing. And I can't find a practical or Biblical reason why she shouldn't.
Besides, I know my friend. If we in the States have to cut back she will dig even deeper into her own pockets to find her means of dispensing charity.
I sit late tonight in our guesthouse in the corner of our darkened room. My mind and heart are spinning with emotions. Still, after all these years, I am still so unlike my friend Sarah. I think of the faithlessness I've had, the lack of generosity I've shown. The greed, the fear, the selfishness. As I look at the banquet laid out by the Kamara's from their personal pocketbook, all my offerings of time and money seem no more than a bologna sandwich.
I have held on rather than let go. I have consumed more than I ought. The shoes in my closet. The toy's in my daughter's room. My wants have taken precedence over other's needs. I have not done unto them what I would have them do for me.
The devil in my ear wants to tell me that I am overreacting. That I could have been worse…that nice things aren't bad…that I can't help everyone. This could very well be the truth, but I can't help but feel that a case of overreacting is exactly what the Holy Spirit has prescribed for me tonight. For far too often we American's are chronic underreacters, reasoning our way our of action, mercy and godliness.
I need my spirit shaken. I need to be reminded that in the time it has taken me to write this over 100 children somewhere in the world have died because they are hungry. It is a lie to say I can do nothing about it. My Father knew the hairs on each of their heads.
I know that I cannot be the savior of the world. I am one young woman surrounded by billions in need. But I do know a Savior who came to the world to call His people into the service of bearing His Name into the darkest, poorest and most pain filled corners of the globe. He was God and man with only two feet and two hands, but He gave His life to buy a body comprised of countless members, members who would labor in the vineyards to right all that had been made wrong in His creation-to make ALL things new.
Jesus is making all things new in me and I also ask Him to make all things new through me.
The Father gave what was most precious to Him to rescue me from my need when I was undeserving.
Jesus laid down His only life to make me-an alien- a brother.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through His poverty you might become rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9
I want to stop consuming.
I want to carry the kingdom of God around the way Sarah does in the trunk of her car. She is prepared for mercy. Prepared to heal. Prepared to be His loving hands and feet. To become poor so that others might become rich.
I want to put myself last the way He does. The way Sarah does with extravagant generosity. After five years of friendship I still admire her. I still can't touch her.
Why are there so few Sarah's? What is stopping us? The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are so few. Humbly I ask all of us to consider ways in which we might toil and offer more. So much is needed here to advance the call of the King. Ranch on Jesus and the Kamaras are here praying for the means to not only survive 2009, but to thrive for His glory. I am here as their ambassador pleading with all of those in our Family of God to set foot in our Ugandan vineyards and do what you can. Starting with me.