“There were more than a hundred who died in this village that night. People were running and there was commotion. The rebels, they started shooting, so we entered one hut. They would just torch the house and lock it from the outside. All the rest of the people perished, so I thank God for taking care of me.”
Those were the words of a young Ugandan woman as she sat with me, topless; her arms, hands, and feet gnarled with thick swirling scars. Her back had become disfigured when doctors salvaged her only healthy skin to rebuild the rest of her body. Pasca was orphaned that night ten years ago when soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army locked her family in a hut and set fire to the grass roof. As the hut collapsed, Pasca was pulled from the burning debris. She was the only survivor of the ten who were trapped in that hut with her.
For two decades Uganda had been under attack by one of the most brutal resistance armies of our time. Children between the ages of five and 15 were routinely abducted and forced to kill or be killed, and to become child soldiers or child brides. Those who were able to escape the deadly raids were confined to government run displacement camps, where the close living conditions caused HIV/AIDS to spread like wildfire — to the point that now there is no family untouched by the virus. Knowing all of this, my imagination had painted a gory picture of what I would encounter when I arrived in Uganda for the first time. I imagined a society of traumatized and spiritually broken people. I was afraid.
When Pasca was finally healed enough to return to her community, she found herself ostracized by the people she had grown up with. Because her parents were both killed and she was still a child, she lost the right to her family’s land. Pasca became one of the 2.5 million orphans in Uganda.
The scene was something from National Geographic and somehow it included me. I was a new Christian and a stay at home mom of three children, ages 1, 3, and 5, when I was first called to the mission field in 2009. I had never been on a mission trip. I’d never even left the country really, and I certainly had not seen abject poverty, disease, and the fallout of a civil war. The only scripture I knew were the ones my children brought home from VBS.
I had nothing to offer in a country made infamous by the atrocities that had taken place there.
So there we sat in a dark, smoky mud hut; two of the most unlikely defenders of the fatherless. She was a child of the war — a survivor who had lost her family, her land, even her physical being. She had no home, slept on the dirt, and didn’t know where her next meal would come from. In spite of this, she adopted seven children in her village who needed her to be their mom.
Neither of us had anything to offer, and yet God worked through us and continues to do so.
When I first became a Christian I prayed that God would equip me and use me. Now I joke that if I had I known the extent to which God would use me, I would have prayed more specifically and much more narrowly. I just wanted to support those who were fighting the battle daily to care for orphans in the US and on the other side of the world. It was orphan care from a safe distance. And besides, what could an inexperienced volunteer stay at home mom possibly do to make a difference in the world?
And for that matter, what could an orphaned child of war possibly do to make a difference in the world? To those seven children Pasca adopted, she made all the difference in the world.
There are heroes all around us who have embraced the biblical mandate to care for the orphan. And like Pasca, most of those heroes didn’t set out to be a fierce advocate for the orphan. There was no overtly radical call to action. Instead, they heard the still, small voice of the Lord, and step by step, as their life circumstance unfolded, God equipped the called and made great protectors of the fatherless out of someone who had nothing to offer. All He needed was a yes.
Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a still, small voice.1Kings 19:11-12
Pasca was recently enrolled in Sweet Sleep’s economic development program, where she was given business training and the startup capital needed to establish her own produce stand. With the proceeds of her small scale business, Pasca has been able to pay the school fees of all of her adopted children, feed them twice a day, and provide them with shoes and clothing. She is now a well respected and sought after member of the community where she was once ostracized because she was an orphan.
Recently a pastor asked me where I thought I would be in five years. I told him five years ago I was a stay at home mom with three tiny children. Now I travel the world fighting for the orphan and working tirelessly to link arms with those who are adopting them.
I couldn’t possibly have had the breadth of imagination to pray for God to use me in this way, so there’s no limit to what He might do with the next five years.
As you pray, ask God what your “yes” is. He works in remarkable ways through the most unlikely of servants. All He needs is your obedience.