It’s been less than a week since I was surrounded by beautiful and precious Ugandan children, cheering and reaching out to touch me or hold my hand. It was an amazing experience; life changing, to be honest. But not because of the cheers of children or the temporary rock star status I enjoyed. The transformation came because God helped me see a little more clearly just how very blessed I am.
You see, I was born in America, to loving parents who have been married my entire life, to each other. We weren’t rich by American standards, but growing up I never lacked for what I truly needed. Though my husband and I are technically poor by American standards, we’ve never lacked for what we’ve truly needed, either. And our children, though their childhood has been defined by a certain level of sacrifice, have experienced abundance in many ways that can’t be measured by dollars and cents.
Children in Uganda aren’t so lucky. Many families in Uganda are broken; men have twenty and thirty children with different mothers and children often grow up without a loving or even engaged father. Of the approximately 38,000,000 people in Uganda (a country the size of Oregon) almost half are 15 years or younger. Uganda is considered the epi-center of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and many children have been both infected with HIV/AIDS or are orphans because of it. And Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world. The average Ugandan lives on $30-60 USD a month…less than $1000 USD a year?! And while many things are still within reach for those men and women who bear God’s image as much as any American, some things we consider essential are not, like education and basic health care.
It has been surprisingly difficult to come back home. It took a few days for me to understand my irritability. But it boils down to guilt. I feel guilty that God put me in America. At least two of my children are alive because of the access we’ve had to health care. If they’d been born in Uganda, they would be dead.
The really difficult thing is, the mamas in Uganda don’t love their children any less than I love mine. Their hearts don’t ache any less because death is a way of life in their world. The real difference is, they don’t have the luxury of grief, because life is so very hard.
What do I do with this? Being impatient with my children won’t make the suffering of Ugandan children any less. Nor does it bring glory to God, in whose name I went to Uganda in the first place. In my quiet time, praying through my grumpiness and struggles, God brought to mind Jeremiah 29:11. And it struck me with a completely new meaning.
You see, Jeremiah 29:11 is written to a people in bondage, suffering for the sins and choices of generations of Hebrews who refused to honor God’s Law. They have just been told that the false prophet promising release in two years is lying and not sent from God; rather than going home in two years, everyone who can understand what is being said will die in captivity. God, through Jeremiah, tells His people that they will be in Babylon for seventy years. Then He says that He knows the plans He has, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give a future and a hope.
That same God has a plan to prosper and not to harm His people in Uganda. Even though their lives are so very hard, filled with so much “challenge.” And I don’t understand. It doesn’t seem fair, and honestly, I don’t like it. But God doesn’t need my permission. He is bigger than I am, and has a perspective that transcends time. So, in the words of Lauren Daigle, I will trust Him.