Saturday, July 1, 2017

Her Name Is...

In 2002, I ventured to Kampala, Uganda, as a bright-eyed college student, excited to explore the world. I was going to help build a house that would hold 8 orphan children and their house mother. It was apart of a village of orphan homes that is known as the Watoto Children's home, a modern take on traditional orphanages that creates small families for the orphans while providing jobs for women, usually widows who were least likely to find good employment.

What I encountered left me changed beyond recognition. The climate, the landscape and the people left an indelible mark and changed the way that I saw the world around me. The extreme poor countered by the mega-watt smiles left a paradox that made me question my outlook on life. Such poverty next to such joy. My American ideas were shaken.

On my very first trip I had the privilege of meeting a house mother named Margaret. She was warm and welcoming and ushered me into her home, giving me the best seat in the small, spartan house. She held my hand and talked about two of her boys, both orphans from the government orphanage. Her story, and those of the boys, stuck with me.

Margaret was raised by her grandparents and succeeded in school, becoming a schoolteacher. Shortly after she started teaching she got married, and after the birth of her third child she stayed home to care for them, not wanting to have her babies raised by strangers. 3 more children followed.

"My secret to raising my children was that I tricked them. I just loved them and loved them and I would always try to be there for them," Margaret said. "This is how I would raise them: I would just love them too much."

When Margaret became a Christian, her new-found faith upset her husband and he left her with all of the children. She was forced to move in with her ailing grandparents and jobs were scarce.

She was one of the lucky few who was chosen to become a house mom with Watoto. This ensured that she would have food, clothing and lodging for the rest of her life. Her older children were able to go to boarding school and she was able to keep the youngest two children with her. She moved into a house with 6 orphan boys.

The transition to mothering orphans was not as simple as she had thought. These children did not respond to her love. They were rebellious and did not listen. It was a slow process of them coming together as a family.

One particular little boy named Vincent was very shy and did not interact with the other children. He had missing fingers on one hand. He didn't smile. He preferred to be alone.

Margaret had to pray for grace where Vincent was concerned.

"When Vincent came, I had to pray and pray that God would break the ice between us." Margaret said.

But grace came one chilly morning.

Vincent came close enough for Margaret to pick him up and put him on her lap.
"It was cold and we just warmed ourselves by the stove and I held him close." Margaret said. "After that, the ice was broken, and he knew that I was his mom."

Her story of love and redemption took a deep hold in my heart. I heard the call of the orphans and the widows. The call for love and acceptance, the need for family, no matter how it is formed.

I was able to see first hand the transformation in little Vincent. I met him on my first trip and he would not touch my pale white hand, afraid of my skin color. When I returned almost 2 years later, his little hand grabbed mine and when I looked down and noticed his missing fingers, I was amazed at the bright smiling face accompaning that little hand. He remembered me and I was blown away at the change in him. Happy, confident, smiling from ear to ear. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.

There is so much joy in the redemption of children, in the creation of families.

It was in that red clay dirt of Uganda that I knew that I had to do something. The desire to adopt was rooted firm and now, 15 years later, I am preparing to head to China to adopt my own little child, to create my own special family.

And my daughter...

Her name is Margaret.

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