“Religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Do you know what I really appreciate? When things are clear-cut and black & white, with all the expectations spelled out. For any enneagram friends out there (woot woot!), I am a 2 with a strong 1 wing hence I love to follow the rules.
As an early Christian, the Old Testament had a draw with the clearly delineated laws the LORD spelled out for the Israelites. In Exodus 20:1-17, I read about His Ten Commandments and thought, “There are only ten; surely I could stick with that.” But then I kept reading…
“He said, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock… If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven… If any clothing is contaminated with mildew… If a man dedicates to the LORD a field he has bought… These are the commands the LORD gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.’” Leviticus 1-27
Phew, He lost me at mildew! Thank the LORD for JESUS is all I can say to all of that!!
As I devoured the New Testament, I was drawn to the stories of true redemption, confession, and salvation. My passionate, law-abiding self (remember, enneagram 2 with a 1 wing) still needed tangible rules to follow. I then found comfort in the myriad of Christ’s invitations such as this:
“Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 2 Peter 4:8-10
Do you know what I love even more than following rules? I LOVE TO LOVE. And loving people, is actually a whole lot easier than living by all the rules life can try and impose on us.
And so it was, as extravagantly loved children of God, we responded in our own uninhibited expression of love and moved here to Northern Uganda to work with the amazing ministry of Otino Waa Children’s Village. God’s love compelled us to go “to the least of these” and care for just a fraction of the 2.5 million orphans here in Uganda.
Why so many? Because of war, being forced into child combat, HIV/AIDS, poverty, human trafficking, sexual slavery, land wrangling & more.
At Otino Waa, our mission is to provide education, nourishment, and care to orphaned and vulnerable children in Northern Uganda through the love of Jesus Christ. Our work is to use the money we raise to build up the future of Uganda, its children. Our approach encompasses the whole-person through these strategic avenues: education, medical/dental, local church, scholarships, vocational training, and empowerment of women.
While the list of ministries can seem endless and the ocean of issues can seem so dauntingly vast, let us not lose hope friends. ‘Slowly by slowly’ (as they say here in Uganda), we are making a difference. In fact, I see the changed lives every day so let me share with you some of God’s odds-defying stories!
Rufina is one of our amazing house moms who cares for 8 complete orphans here in our Otino Waa Children’s Village, and she is a cherished friend. She has one biological daughter and was widowed 6 years ago to HIV/AIDs. Rufina is eager to learn, keen on detail, and performed well when she was in school. She had aspirations to become an accountant but then all of her academic documents were destroyed in a house fire. What did that mean for Rufina in a country with no electronic filing system? No advanced degree institution would receive her without starting over.
Rufina came to us with her eyes fixed on Jesus and a willingness to turn beauty out of her ashes, literally. She never complained of her circumstances, never longed to be elsewhere. Rufina chose to become a living example of Paul’s charge,
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
During our usual summer rush of visiting teams from the USA and beyond – one woman, an accountant, began talking to Rufina over lunch. Another woman, a retired teacher, began a friendship with Rufina months later. There were no dollars exchanged, no buildings erected, not even a program we could take pictures of. These were just women loving on one wonderful woman here in our bush village of Northern Uganda. The result? Rufina was reminded of her deep longing to become an accountant and was compelled to start again after the encouragement received from these visiting career women. Rufina started back in weekend university classes this fall while still working at Otino Waa during the week and she is a daily testimony to our students to never give up on their dreams!
Truth be told, Jaspher is what many would call a “trouble-maker” – aka a boy who is pushing against any imposed boundary as he tries to find his way through his broken story called life. Jaspher is one of our children in secondary school (think high school) and I met him in our clinic with repeated accounts of “chest pain.” Jaspher was seen at the main referral hospital in town and had been given a reasonable diagnosis and so I conceded to treating him per their recommendation. The only problem was that Jaspher was not getting any better.
Let us flash to the influx of visiting summer teams again. This year, I started a new “tradition” at Otino Waa and arranged for our first annual physical exam campaign. While school physicals and yearly medical exams are normal in most developed countries, this was an idea foreign to our community here and I wanted to unleash a renewing wind of change. We have 300 children who live at our village with over 120 Ugandan staff who keep all of our ministry wheels in motion. With those types of numbers, I knew we would need help, so I used the summer months to mobilize any and all visiting medical professionals.
One rainy afternoon, a visiting doctor saw Jaspher for his annual physical exam. She then immediately contacted me with a grave concern. She had heard a concerning murmur on his exam- a murmur I had never heard on my own previous exams. I arranged for Jaspher to travel to a neighboring city where it was confirmed he had damage to one of his heart valves and he needed heart surgery. As only (GOD) would have it, another visiting doctor that summer then connected me to a cardiac surgeon who comes to Northern Uganda once a year that she knew from the Los Angeles area. Through the connections of these unrelated visiting professionals, Jaspher has been seen, his replacement valve has been ordered, and we are now awaiting its arrival for his life-altering surgery. CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?
Friends, maybe you see the news and cannot handle one more war, one more murder, or one more tragedy. But do not lose hope for LOVE IS WINNING! And don’t take my word for it- come and see for yourselves.
These are just a few of the lives being transformed here at Otino Waa because of the love of Jesus expressed through people JUST LIKE YOU.
I LOVE TO LOVE… Won’t you come and join me?