By Mommy Emily
It’s Tuesday and sweat is trickling down the insides of my knees.
We’re seated on wooden benches in Namagera Village, just five minutes from the School of Hope land. It’s a prayer clinic – our national team puts it on every month to train locals how to pray.
There’s a slight breeze blowing through from the open windows and the teen mamas’ babies are running up and down the clinic floor, chasing each other – their mamas hiding smiles behind their small hands.
The air smells faintly of unwashed skin and urine, as many of the babies don’t wear diapers. But the aroma is sweet. This is our fifth day here in Uganda and the jet lag has lifted and our long skirts are swaying as we sing to Yesu.
Prophet Boss, one of the young men on our national team, is speaking now to the room full of pastors, pastors’ wives, community members and teen mothers.
“The Lulu Tree is not here to give you things,” he declares. “It’s here to change your mindset. It’s here to alter your way of thinking, to equip you with the tools you need to find solutions on your own. So if you came here hoping to get something from foreigners, you’re mistaken.”
There was a shifting of bodies and clearing of throats.
The man standing tall and wide, in glasses, continues: “If you came here to beg, you’re mistaken, because The Lulu Tree doesn’t create beggars. It creates blessings. It creates people who might be poor but who are generous, who know how to work hard and to find solutions to their problems. These visitors here – they’re here to see the God that you serve and to take Him back with them when they go. They came all this way to experience God – not to give, but to receive.”
Inside I’m shouting Hallelujah. Outwardly I smile at the teen mama named Mercy beside me. Her rose-pink Bible sits between us, and her baby – Patience – is wrapping her fingers around my thumb.
Apostle Enoch, a lawyer, leads us in prayer in a strong, solemn voice that declares the Word with authority. When he opens his eyes following the prayer, he asks if there’s someone in the room who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
A small lady rises. She’s dressed in blue, probably 75 years old, and she raises a wrinkled hand. Enoch ushers her to the front and pulls some shillings from his pocket.
He says, “I’m going to give these to you, but they’re not for you to keep. Before you leave today I want you to give them to someone else. Because just like the widow who served Elijah, it’s only when you care for others that God is going to care for you.”
I could barely look, although everything in me agreed – but Jesus’ wisdom is not easy. It’s not easy to see someone hungry and then ask her to feed someone else. In fact, some would say it’s offensive. But it’s the wisdom of the last shall be first; the wisdom of picking up your cross and dying to yourself and the wisdom of Jesus sending out his disciples with nothing and the wisdom of the jars that never ran out of oil.
The woman in blue nodded, and Enoch smiled gently at her.
“As you give, it will be given,” he said. “This is what The Lulu Tree is all about. We believe in the poor helping the poor and the love being passed from heart to heart, like a fire. I am challenging you today to do something very hard, and to love someone else in your own need – to trust God, as you care for another.”
These are the kinds of lessons we don’t learn back in North America. This is the kind of faith we’re lacking because most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, and if we do, there’s generally a soup kitchen close by.
But this is also the kind of faith that invites a love that is transforming Uganda — one widow, one single mother, one pastor, at a time.