It is dark. It is quiet. The cold rain drips through her thatched roof soaking through the thin sheet she wraps around her skeletally frail body. Grace is 80 years old, blind, and all alone. Her HIV has progressed into full blown AIDS making it impossible for her tiny body to fight off any type of infection. The merciless cough caused by tuberculosis racks her body. In despair she cries out to God, a God she has not spoken to in twenty years, believing he had forsaken her when the AIDS virus took her precious husband and all 6 of her children from this earth. She wails to Him and asks if He can hear her. She knows that her life is near the end. She desperately wants to believe in something, anything, before she departs from this world. She begs the Lord that if He can hear her, if He is indeed real, He would send her a friend, a visitor, some kind of sign that someone out there cares. She falls asleep shivering, with a plastic trash bag over her head to keep the rain off her face.

The next day I make the familiar trek through the Masese III village, Patricia strapped to my back, bandaging wounds, testing for malaria, kissing foreheads. A woman from our beading group (go buy a beautifully handmade necklace and feed a child! www.147millionorphans.com) suggests that I go visit a blind old woman that she has heard of who may need some assistance, so I grab my dear friend Tamara and head deep into the village in the direction we have been pointed. I am not prepared for the sight that meets my eyes. Grace is indeed old and blind, but that only scratches the surface of her troubles. I actually spend a few minutes marveling at the fact that she is still alive. Her body is hardly strong enough to sit up, let alone stand or walk. She has not eaten in three days, and she hasn’t seen in 5 years. What gets to me most is the eerie quietness that surrounds her house, in the very back of the village near a trash pile, all the neighbors gone to work, even the wind seems quiet today. I think for a moment that her tiny mud house is exceptionally dark inside, and then I remember that for her, it is already dark anyway. I embrace this sweet woman, patting her back and kissing her cheeks and I tell her that Jesus loves her and I love her. “He does!” She exclaims. “He has sent me visitors as I asked!” Her excitement turns to a whisper, “I had stopped believing. I did not think God cared for me. Lord, I believe in You.” Tears streamed down both of our faces and together we began to pray to our Father who sees and hears and answers even the smallest of our requests.

All this took place about three months ago and was just the beginning of lots and lots of time spent with Grace. I would take her food a few times a week that her neighbors would help her cook every day. We went to many, many doctor’s appointments getting her treatment for her TB, blood transfusions, and lots of vitamins. When I brought the girls to meet her, they instantly fell in love with her sweet heart and immediately adopted her as their Jja Jja (grandmother). Most Sundays the girls and I pack up a picnic lunch and head over to Jja Jja Grace’s house to share a meal with her, read the Bible, sing and dance. The girls love it and Grace loves the house filled with noise and laughter. On Christmas day we ate lunch at her house and God gave all of us the most beautiful Christmas gift (second only to His Son, of course!) Jja Jja Grace, who just months ago had been too weak to stand, began to walk. She walked around the outside of her entire house (about ten square feet), praising the Lord the whole time. As neighbors came to watch and ask, we prayed with them to accept Jesus. Grace’s testimony was changing lives right before our eyes, and how blessed we felt to be a part of it.

Two days ago I went to visit Grace and was surprised to see that the food we had sent her for the week remained uncooked and uneaten. She said the neighbor who had been helping her cook the food had moved away three days ago, and she had not eaten since. I asked her how she had been taking her medicine, and she said that she feels around for each of her five packets of medicine and swallows one pill out of each. This presents a problem as they are all different, some to be taken 3 times a day, some to be taken two at a time, some with food, and some without. This clearly was not going to work. After talking to more of Grace’s neighbors and finding no one that was willing or even able to help, it struck me. We were going to have to move Jja Jja Grace in with us. To say that the idea of this overwhelmed me would be an extreme understatement. The girls helped me cook Grace’s lunch and wash some clothes for her, and we headed home so that I could think and pray about what to do next.

I rolled around in my bed not sleeping that night, “God are you truly asking me to do this?” And God said, “I think you know the answer. You don’t actually wonder if I am truly asking you to do this, you are just afraid of the inconvenience it may be to you to have a blind old woman in your care.” It was true. Somehow, adopting a grandmother seemed a lot more daunting than adopting a child. But it boiled down to this: Do I believe that Jesus was serious? Do I believe what He said was true? And the answer is yes. I believe that he was serious when He said to love my neighbor as myself, and I believe He meant this even when my neighbor was not tiny and cute and cuddly. I believe when He said to love my neighbor as MYSELF. He really meant to care for others as I would care for myself or my family, and I would never let myself or my family live in such conditions. How different it can be to “believe” the word of God and to take it literally.

As I thought of all the different life changes that would need to take place for us to accommodate Jja Jja Grace completely overwhelmed me, but the only reasons I could think of to NOT move her in with us were completely selfish. We have enough room, we have enough food, we have enough love. We have enough. I kept coming back to Matthew 25, a passage etched in my hear that says:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these brother’s of mine, you did not do for me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I BELIEVE that when Jesus said, “I tell you the TRUTH,” He meant just that, that His words were true and He wasn’t kidding. YES, I believe that I am saved by faith through GRACE. Grace that is freely given and cannot be earned by anything I do. But I also believe that sometimes we rely so heavily on the Grace of God to cover our sins that we blatantly disobey His word and feel ok about it. “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” THAT is what Jesus will say to those of us who do not care for the least of these. I believe this is true because I believe His word is true, EVERY word is true, plain and simple. That is a heavy, heartbreaking thought. How often have we neglected you, Lord?

“I’m sick,” He said, “will you look after me? Will you invite me in?”

Yes.

In the morning I sat the girls down for a family meeting, something that is quite routine at our house. I already knew what their response would be when I asked them what they thought about Jja Jja Grace coming to live with us; I knew that they would be more than willing, excited even. They are SO MUCH better than me at giving without holding anything back. The vote was unanimous, they jumped up and down and squealed and told me thank you for having such a good idea. I laughed to myself; this was SO not my idea.

We went back to Masese that day and after women’s meeting went down to Jja Jja Grace’s house to invite her to move into our home. Tears welled in her eyes and a grin crossed her face, “God has given me a family,” she cried. “All these years with no one, and He has given me a new family!” What happened next threw me for a loop though; she said no! I looked up and wondered. All that thinking and processing and not sleeping, and she said no. She said that she was too old to start a new life and would be too much of a burden on us. She said that Jesus would be the one to take care of her and we could just continue to do what we can at her house. The girls begged and pleaded, but she had made up her mind. I will not pretend that my selfish, human heart didn’t feel some relief.

As we left, all feeling encouraged by the love God has sewn into our relationships with Grace, I wondered if He just wanted to grow me. If He just wanted to see if I would say yes. If in some small way, I was like Abraham and He just wanted to make sure I was willing to sacrifice it all for Him, only to tell me that I didn’t really have to. Jja Jja Grace may still move in; she may not. I am leaving that one in God’s hands. I believe however that the act of Grace moving into our home was not really the point; God just wanted to work in my heart. I am so thankful that He loves me enough to teach and mold me on such a personal level. I am thankful for Jja Jja Grace and all she has taught me and my family about Jesus. I am thankful for the opportunity to look into the eyes of the least of these and know that Jesus is staring back at me. I am thankful for the opportunity to simply say, “Yes.”

135 thoughts on “

  1. Katie,

    Not only are you incredibly gifted in love and can give it so freely and eagerly as you do, but the Lord has gifted you with your writing. The experiences you share with us about life in Uganda come to life before our eyes as we read your blog. It isn't just a story that is happening to a girl we've never met… you put all of us right there with you, tears streaming down, wanting to reach out and help Grace no matter the sacrifice. It is my prayer that your heart and your words would call more and more people to act. To step away from the lives they lead, GO and make a difference. GO and make disciples. Keep up the incredible work, keep being the kind of vessel the Lord needs to expand His Kingdom. Keep lighting a fire under all of us.

    –Jen McDaniel
    First Baptist Church, Hendersonville

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  2. Katie – this blog post totally parallels something that happened in my life this weekend, so I thank you for your thoughts and your parallel to Abraham. Your post opened my eyes to how God is using this situation to grow me!

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  3. Amazing story. I am humbled by what I've read today and I agree with what another person said…I am so glad that God led me to your blog right now. I needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. OH, how we've missed you, Katie. I pray your visit home brought you much strength. Praise the LORD for the lessons he send, praise Him for your obedience, praise Him for your testimony! We must all continue to pray for Jja Jja Grace. Perhaps you can tell her how large her family truly is, how brothers and sisters around the world pray for her.
    Blessings from south Georgia!
    Robbie

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  5. Thank you for your encouragement! My husband and I are in the process of adopting our fifth and sixth child from Ukraine! I find myself asking the same questions. Thank you for reminding me of God's response and encouraging me to trust Him!
    Stefanie in NY

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  6. Katie, I just found your blog a few nights ago and have read almost every post. I have dreamed about you and your girls. I even had a dream about little Michael. I feel like that's just God making sure what you've said really makes an impact on me. And it has. Every thing you've said is so heartbreaking, so convicting and so inspiring and CHALLENGING. Thank you for that.

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  7. How many people knew by the second paragraph that Katie and her family was going to move Jja Jja Grace in with them? Katie, your so predictable and that is why we all love you sooo much!

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  8. Katie your posts leave me sitting on the edge of my seat. Your story is so amazing. I found you through Holy Family in Brentwood as part of our prayer chain. Boy am I glad, you touch my spirit with your gifts.

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  9. I LOVE your posts and look often to see if you have something new. I enjoy immensely reading about your family in Uganda and people you work with there. But, I also love the spiritual lessons you share.

    Two comments. First, I think in the story Jesus tells about the sheep and the goats is that we are known by our fruits. No, we do not get to heaven because of our works – you are right – it is ALL Jesus! But we show forth what has happened in our hearts in how we treat each other.

    Secondly, God didn't need to test Abraham to find out if he would obey. God already KNEW that Abraham would obey. Who needed to know was Abraham. Abraham needed to know that he would obey God in the hardest thing that God could ask of him. And, Abraham needed to see that it wasn't really his ability to obey – it was God's provision in ALL things!

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  10. Every time you blog I realize, this is church. This is the “best” church teachings I've heard this week/month. I am so moved by how God uses you. I am moved by your obedience and willingness to act. I just want to say THANK YOU for what you are doing in Uganda and for the volumes it speaks to us in the United States. My heart breaks for the heartbreak in your world. I rejoice with you for God's goodness and provisions through every situation there. I am praying for Uganda. And for Katie!

    Tracy

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  11. I just found your blog a couple days ago, and I am so thankful I have. Your stories are so encouraging and bring the gospel to life. It is so easy to read the word, and then move on with your day as if you haven't just read the very breath of Christ. I appreciate your honesty about your struggles. We are beginning to explore adoption right now, and your life is such a reminder of how to live as Christ and to love your neighbor as yourself. Thanks.

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  12. I really respect all that you are doing. I have often disappointed myself that I am willing to love infant orphans but that I am a lot less willing to love the unlovely, the elderly, the sick. Praying for you and your girls – also, I am very curious as to how you started your work in Uganda. If you get this, would you mind posting how you began your ministry?

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  13. My aunt recommended I read your blogs today and I'm hooked already! Your strength amazes me, and I know your girls (and no doubt the entire village!) is so blessed to have you there. I look forward to reading more about you and your family. You will be in my prayers 🙂

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  14. Just started reading your blogs a month ago and this writing is a timely message from the Heart of God to His children. Thank you for your faithfulness.
    I am studying about Abraham being obedient to God and it is counted to him as righteousness. Being obedient to the call of our Daddy is a wild ride with Blessing upon Blessing, isn't it? Being available to His call. Thank you, again, for the reminder.
    Praying for you, your family and for Jja Jja Grace. You are in His Hands.
    Lovingly,
    Sandy in NC

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  15. Katie,

    God has been pointing out so many things I do wrong with a gentleness only he possesses. About an hour before reading this post I asked God to keep speaking the truth to me in love. He used this post to answer that prayer. I admit I am bad at knowing scripture and I just love how you point out his words when he teaches you something. That is the exact scripture I needed to hear.

    Even though you struggle to do what he asks, you are a huge inspiration. You may not have the ideas, but saying yes makes you a role model for us all. Thank you so much for sharing.

    with love and prayers,

    Kristi

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  16. Katie,
    I know that when you get to Heaven, God is going to meet you and say “well done my good and faithful servant.”
    If only we were all as obedient…this world would be so different.
    Hugs,
    Sarah

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  17. Katie-
    I am a friend of Tamara's in NC. Crying tonight as I read your blog and sense your heart. Makes me wonder why mine isn't as tender, as generous, why I feel overwhelmed with only my two little ones at home. Thanking God for your work there and the work He can do HERE through your heart to love there.
    Jamie Greene

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  18. I'm so happy to see updates on your blog, I've been checking since Christmas! I just know that every time I read something from you, it's going to be amazing! You are such an incredible person. You inspire me to better my walk with Christ, and be strong in my Faith. Sometimes I get tangled up with living a life around other people, not knowing myself, but I know when I walk with Him, I'm right where I need to be! You are living proof of that truth. I just adore you, and all your precious babies! (well, some aren't babie–but to me they are. ha ha!) 🙂

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  19. yes, God wanting us to just see if we would sacrafice what we wanted for what He wants. He just wants our obedience….the Lord i think is doing the exact same thing in my life right now….so an Abraham moment!!

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  20. My husband and I hosted an older girl one year from the Philippines who needed to be adopted. We felt like life was crazy but we knew we couldn't say “no” to an orphan in need. She was older than our oldest child by 8 years which meant huge changes for us, she had a past… Not sure what the outcome would be, we stepped forward and said yes to this sweet girl. Little did we know that God had other plans for at the same time he had another family already hand-picked for her in another continent. We were hurt, but knew God had reasons, even if it meant us sacrificing our plans, our resources, etc. For also at the same time, a little baby boy in Korea was growing in his birthmother's womb…the same womb that carried our daughter. I love your story and how you obeyed even when nothing happened, God just wanted you to obey. That is exactly how I felt with our story and I can't tell you how it overwhelms me thinking of all the details God orchestrated for these two children to be in their families. I do not understand why, but I'm so glad we obeyed.

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  21. My friend shared this w/ me, what a joy! Reading through it transported me to another time and place!~You are a very special woman who has been Blessed a million times over w/ a love so strong some people in this world will never experience~This is truly amazing! My PRAYERS will be with you!~

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  22. I am totally overwhelmed with uncontrollable tears. God is AMAZING! I pray his very best on Grace, your girls and You. I know HE must absoulutely delight in your obedience. Thanks for sharing your life…the life you have given to HIM.
    Starla

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  23. Katie,

    I found your blog thanks to my friend, Lashae. I am moved profoundly by your ability to articulate your heart and your experiences. I have also spent some time in East Africa taking care of orphans and my heart yearns to return. I know it's God's will for my life, as it clearly is for you. I look forward to keeping up with your blog and hopefully running into you someday when I am in Uganda again. Thank you for being an inspirational light for Christ in this dark world. Blessings, beautiful sister! 🙂

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  24. You bring tears to my eyes with each post you write. I am so encouraged & blessed by your testimony and praise God for how He has worked in my heart through your words. To God be the glory, amen!

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