I am a pastor’s daughter. My love for Africa stems from when I was 2 years old (see picture above, of me with my friend Solange–a blind, mute girl who was neglected by her parents and left in the darkness of her living room, day after day) and living in the Congo and Nigeria with my parents who were missionaries with Christian Blind Mission. My brother was born in the Congo, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, the vibrant landscape, and when I went back in 2014 on a blogger’s trip, it felt like going home.
And while I was there, I met the mother of my sponsor child.
She walked for four hours just to meet me.
Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looked at her sandals, even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, and I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.
She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/Aids, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it.
She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting – because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money and no way to feed her sons or daughters.
And here I was on a blogger’s trip, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t. And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sunup to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. It was because I come from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.
I smiled at her, but I felt sick.
I am a mother. Every night I walk into my children’s rooms and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of them. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under my own roof – and THEN, to walk four hours to meet the woman who could?
Our Father weeps. He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Africa who cannot afford to care for their kids.
And He’s asking us to do something about it.
Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong.
But standing there with this beautiful woman, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought, There has to be more.
I wanted this boy to look at his MOTHER with adoration, not me – a stranger.
So, I went home and five months later, in June of 2014, I very naively founded a not-for-profit called The Lulu Tree. I didn’t intend to found an organization. I didn’t – and still don’t – feel qualified to start one; I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.
God told me clearly not to try to fix the world. “I could fix the world with one breath,” He told me. “Your job is to love.” With this in mind, our vision at Lulu is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s families through the local church.”
One of the hardest things for me personally is not to live in Africa full-time, but we believe at The Lulu Tree that love hurts, that it requires sacrifice, and can often best be shown from a distance. We believe that it’s best to let nationals do it themselves.
We are not white saviors. Only Jesus is our Savior. And He is everywhere. So, we hold hands with our Lulu friends from across the miles.
I still travel, once a year, to each country to touch base and to pray together with our teams in the same room. But then I return home. With God the Father as the bridge between.