Somewhere around the mid 80’s, John Farnham released a song called “You’re the Voice.” I’m sure the meaning of the song is nothing like how my brain has been applying it over the past 5 months, but nonetheless, those words keep ringing through my mind. We’re all someone’s daughter…we’re all someone’s son.
Yesterday, Julie and I were driving back home and there were two very little girls digging through our trash, trying to find something of value, and probably trying to find food. I met another boy at the gate who said, “Pastor, I don’t want to ask you for things. I know everybody does that. But we have no food. My grandmother is sick and needs to eat. Do you have anything left?” A man came up to me after service last Sunday asking to speak to me sometime this week. I made an appointment with him to talk this past Thursday. He told me he was thrown in the latrine as a baby and someone passing by got him out and cleaned him up and nursed him back to health. That caregiver died when he was a young boy and he’s lived the rest of his life trying to survive on his own. He turned from Islam and accepted Christ that day. I spoke to his wife yesterday and she too gave her heart to Christ as well. I told them I loved them and I would see them next Sunday, and as we were walking away, he told me that was the first time he had ever heard those words directed to him.
The other day I was doing some painting at the church and a student from the school that I’m campus pastor for came by to see me. He helped paint a little and then I walked with him back down to the school. On the way he said, “Do you remember a few weeks ago when you talked to me after the chapel service?” I did remember. He was clearly upset and wanted me to pray with him, so of course, I did. He continued, “That day I was going to commit suicide. I had already planned when I was going to jump from the 4th floor balcony. I played it out in my mind over and over. I decided not to after we prayed. Pastor, I have nothing left. I have no one left. There’s no one who would even know if I had died that day.” I kept it together until after I dropped him off at school and then I just got into my car and wept. Of all the things in this world I understand, that just isn’t one of them. I’ll never understand it.
When I think back over my childhood, all I can remember is love. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old. When I got a little older there were some pretty rough times…going from a fairly comfortable to having absolutely nothing within 6 months. I can remember a few times during those years not telling my mom that my class in elementary school was taking a field trip because I knew we didn’t have the money and I knew it would hurt her to tell me that we just couldn’t swing it. So, while the school was on field trip, I would hang out at the school, help the teachers grade papers and stuff, and then come home without a word. I can remember saving up my birthday money and Christmas money that relatives had given me, and sneaking a $20 bill in mom’s purse every now and then. My older brother was in trouble a lot, and I would wake up at night to shouting matches between him and my mom. And yet, with all that…the thing that is most in the forefront of my memory is love. There has never been a day of my life, ever, that I didn’t feel loved by my mom and dad. I’m their son. I know what that means. And I’m a lot like them.
Over the past 5 months I’ve been struck by the reality that there are generations of people in Uganda who are just like their parents. They too are someone’s daughter…someone’s son. They’ve known neglect and so they neglect. They know abandonment and a lack of love, so they abandon, and fail to love. They’ve been cheated and exploited for gain, so they cheat and exploit. They become their parents…and on and on. Uganda is drowning for lack of heroic, godly, caring, strong, Biblical fathers. I would never do anything to diminish the value of a mother. But there’s something powerful about the hands, heart, and words of a father. And they’re almost entirely absent here. I can feel it everywhere I go, and with every boy and girl I talk to or spend any time with. They hang on every word. They’re content to just sit beside you…to hold your hand. They have a scared look until you smile at them and then they smile the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. A simple “I love you” spoken by an adult, and their life is utterly changed.
Ministry is ministry, and our whole world needs it. And maybe I’m biased because these are my people. But there is a level of need here that isn’t matched by any experience I’ve had in the 15 or so nations I’ve been to. There’s a desperation that human words just can’t really fully explain. That’s why we need you. We need you to pray for wisdom and discernment. We need you to pray for strength as we hold our hearts out every day and bring them back in every night bruised and torn. We need you to give, and give sacrificially. I need people to value life and the Gospel and choose to sacrifice something to see something miraculous happen. We need you to come. These kids, mothers, fathers, this society needs you. It needs your smiles, your hugs, your words, your example, and the greatest need of every human heart…the Gospel. We need you to keep telling the story, to remember us, and to help others see what they otherwise would not see. We need you.
Our unveiling banquets in Chattanooga(Sept 13) and Spartanburg(Sept 15) are going to be a huge celebration of all the open doors God has made available to us in these past 5 months. But it’s also going to be a very difficult night for me. Because as much as I want to celebrate, and see everyone, and update everyone on our progress, I still have faces in my mind of all the kids and birth mothers we’ve had to tell that we can’t help them yet. I have memories of kids waiting just outside the door…kids waiting on their name to be called.
So, in the words of John Farnham:
We have the chance to turn the pages over. We can write what we want to write We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older
This time, we know we all can stand together With the power to be powerful Believing we can make it better
You’re the voice, try and understand it Make a noise and make it clear We’re not gonna sit in silence We’re not gonna live with fear