This is a “part two” of my previous post, Finding My Uganda (My Calling in This Life): Part One.
In the book, Kisses from Katie, the author, Katie, left her life of middle class comforts and safety to follow a calling from the Lord to begin an Education Sponsorship Outreach program in Uganda. This program was designed to match orphaned and vulnerable children who were unable to afford education with sponsors from all over the world. Her vision quickly expanded, starting in 2007 with 150 sponsored children and growing to over 700 today.
I thought it would be helpful to share a little background on Uganda…to help illustrate why this calling was not initially very popular among those who loved this ambitious and faith-filled young woman.
Uganda is a land locked country in East Africa, the 2nd most populated of its kind after Ethiopia. Uganda gained independence in 1962 but has endured countless conflicts since that time. There has been great turmoil with regard to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) movement. This rebel heterodox Christian cult, listed in the past as a terrorist group by the United States, has inflicted many civil rights violations, mostly on children. Its leader has abducted numerous children, forcing them into warfare and sexual slavery.
The United States has provided a great deal of aid to Uganda, and a good portion of it to the country’s children. One organization called “Invisible Children,” has spent a great deal of effort in identifying the leader of the LRA, creating an online video that has gone viral, depicting the gruesome human right abuses enforced by the LRA. 100 million people viewed this film in a 6-day period, 3.7 million of them joining in to fight against the leader of this radical child abducting and enslaving terrorist group.
Uganda is not a place of peace or comfort. It is a place where you cannot take one step without fear that someone with ill motives will be right behind you. It is not a place of freedom or equality. It is not a place where children are treated as we see the majority of them treated here in the United States. Children are hungry in Uganda. Children do the work of adults in Uganda. Children are sold as slaves in Uganda. Children are forced to kill others in Uganda. Children are not allowed to be children in Uganda.
In my “Uganda” I often see children who are hungry…who do the work of adults…who are not allowed to be children…or worse, are treated as outcasts of society due to their malformed and wheelchair bound bodies. These who are trapped in their young, yet frail bodies. These who do not have an audible voice, but most certainly have thoughts to communicate. I see strangers pass them by without a glance, and if there is a glance, it is quickly diverted. These children, the least of these…
Not always do I get the chance to even know if I make a difference in these children’s lives, but neither does Katie in Uganda. There are 700 children with sponsors in her organization…it humbles me to think of the numbers of children I have treated. I have no idea. But, I know that the number would astonish me and it would be food for my aching soul…my aching and often depleted soul…my soul that yearns for others to really see these children too.
Are Katie and I really that different? I am not sure. Katie has an amazing organization and is making a tangible difference, one that I can look up on the Internet. What I do, well, it is my job. I am expected to prescribe medications and order tests and interpret them. I am expected to fix people. To heal…I get paid to have these patients come to me, talk to me, learn from me and hopefully…be healed by…me…?
Who am I? Who am I that God would use me to heal? This is one of the questions that truly humbles me when I think and consider where my “Uganda” just might very well be.
My mind is pulled back to Psalm 23…sheep versus disciple…what does it mean to be a sheep?
A sheep is described by Merriam-Webster as a defenseless animal, a docile person who is easily influenced, a person who does what other people say to do, an animal often raised for meat or its wool and skin. I also found a definition from The Free Dictionary by Farlex that described a sheep this way, “a meek or timid person without initiative.” I think we are all familiar with the weak qualities of sheep.
But what about those qualities that make them endearing to our Savior? Jesus likened us to his sheep so many times in Scripture. In Matthew, the parable of the lost sheep describes Jesus’s rejoicing over finding one little lost sheep…when he had ninety-nine, who he left to find the one. I just love that image of Jesus chasing down the one. Coming for the lost one, the one without hope, the one afraid and alone…the one that I can often identify with. And I believe a lot of my sweet patients can too.
Then there are the disciple qualities of a sheep that my NIV study Bible references. In Luke 14:25-34, Jesus talks about the cost of being a disciple. He talks about giving up relationships, denying self and carrying your cross, giving up everything.
Isn’t that what sheep do? They helplessly follow their shepherd. They trust him with all that they have. They really don’t give it a second thought, even following him off a cliff if that is where he leads. They don’t question their shepherd; they don’t stray from the herd…unless they are sick or injured. And if they do stray, their loving and caring shepherd comes to them, holds them, places even that one sheep gently over his shoulders and carries him back to his herd, his family, his community, his perfect place in life.
Oh, that I would trust my Good Shepherd in this way. Yes, I am a helpless sheep…but I want to love my Good Shepherd like a helpless sheep loves his shepherd. I want to follow Him, beside the still waters…the green pastures…because I trust that He knows the best way. And if He stops, if the sky becomes gray with menacing clouds, threatening thunder and even piercing lightening, I want not to give that storm a second thought…because I don’t think…and instead I let him do the thinking, the wrestling, the leading and the guiding. And in allowing Him to lead, he quiets my every inner doubt, question and confusion and I am there…at perfect peace, my soul restored…
That patient I referenced in part one of this post, who I feared was dying and felt under qualified to make that call? God gave me the courage to take those hard steps, to tell the family, to believe that even as helpless (just like a sheep) as I felt, that this calling, this Uganda of mine, had to be viewed from a different perspective.
What I realized it this, that my “Uganda” is simply being content in my Good Shepherd’s arms, even if I sometimes have to imagine myself resting on His shoulders…being carried every single step of the way.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”