Our van pulls into the bumpy dirt space next to her bumpy dirt house and there she stands, her smile like sunshine. It is hot and we are late but her joy reminds me of where I find my Joy. My two youngest see her and their grins match hers as they clap and chant, “Miss Angelina, Miss Angelina!”

Her hug is warm and encouraging like a mother’s and I rest there a moment. “Good morning, sweet friend,” I say and the word rolls off my tongue and fills up my heart as my children pull on her skirt and crawl up into her arms, because she is. She herds them into her house no bigger than my kitchen and has cups of tea and biscuits waiting for them and I cannot believe how blessed I am. I have to run down and start working, but the girls don’t bat an eye. They know they are safe here. “They’ll stay here with me,” she chuckles, “enjoy your meeting.”
I thank her and I whisper more thanks as I walk away and the full weight of it hits me. This woman, she is my friend.
*     *     *
She lets me put my hand on her shoulder and take her baby for her as she bends her head to weep. This baby was named after me shortly after she was born straight into my lap, the same lap that her father died in just minutes ago. I mop her house. What else do you do?
We stand in the rain and we cry. Neighbors come and I feel their reassuring hands on my shoulders and an on-looker might think that I should be afraid here, in the dark, in the rain but I feel only comfort. So many faces press in to the candle light and I marvel at the stark contrast of people who used to spit at me because of the color of my skin to people who now join hands with mine in the night. “Thank you for crying for our pain,” she says and words fail me. I remember that Nouwen wrote “Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there,” and so we sit.
I walk back up the muddy hill and by the dim lantern light from a near-by chapati stand I embrace people that my heart so deeply loves and even on the hardest days I can’t help but feel gratitude because I know: These people, they are my friends.
*     *     *
We sit in a circle in my yard and I serve tea and paint their toenails and our laughter is real. We read the word and share prayer requests and praises and not all of them believe yet but they are starting to recognize His answers, to see that our prayers are real, too. We have laughed at our days and cried for our sorrows. We have shared wild stories and we have sat in the silence. And despite a million difference we are really all just the same, and we have forged relationships that will last.

*     *     *
I speak English and Luganda. She speaks Nkarimojong and Swahili.
Her baby is sick, but I can’t figure out how in the world she is going to tell me what is wrong. I try all kids of crazy sign language and she stares at me. I’ve got it! I start making gagging noises as if I am going to vomit. She nods her head enthusiastically. “How many times?” I ask, and even try to sign. She doesn’t get it. I make the vomiting sound once; she shakes her head “no.” I make it twice. I make it three times. On the fourth, she nods her head earnestly again. We stare at each other. And then, we fall to the floor in stitches. We both realize how ridiculous this is.
I hand her some medicine. She smiles, but pulls me back onto the couch as I stand up. “Eklip,” she says, and I know that one. Pray. She wants me to pray for her baby. She doesn’t believe just yet, but still, she wants me to pray. I curl myself back up next to her on the couch and I thank Jesus for Namele and for her baby and for His love. She stays for dinner.
And as she sits at my table and holds my hand as we bow out heads in prayer again, joy floods over me. This woman, she is my friend.
Status, and culture, and language mean nothing in these moments. Race and age and life experiences fade away. Her hand is in mine and we bow to our Creator and we break bread and we laugh, oh we laugh. I hold her baby and she holds mine and we care about each other in a way that is real and deep. She sits on my couch or I sit on her dirt floor and we exchange a few words that we can both understand in broken verb tenses and we love, and it is enough.


I have long put aside my dream that I might change the community of Masese, but this place, these people, they change me. I share with them so little and they share with me wisdom and joy and laugher. They let me sit with them and know Him more. What is success when children still go to bed hungry and husbands still beat up their wives in a drunken stupor and lives are still cut short by terrible illness? Surely only these faces. Surely only love that transcends all cultural barriers, defies language and race and age, destroys stigma. Lord willing, in ten or twenty or thirty years, Masese will look different as the people here are empowered with a love and a hope that can only come from Jesus. Lord willing, in ten or twenty or thirty years, I will look different too, as He continues to shape my idea of ministry into His.  And in the mean time, through the hard, we will hold our heads high and gaze in wonder at the Savior and say with full confidence, “Love has won.”
Love has won. And against all the odds, these people, they are my friends.
Incredible photos by the wonderful Jackie Kramlich!

98 thoughts on “

  1. Amen! We stand beside you in awe of our Wonderful Savior's work. There are changes in us, here in the US because of what He is doing in all of your lives there. To God be the Glory!

    Like

  2. this is beautiful katie.
    you have taught me so much.
    i am old enough to be your mama, yet YOU have taught ME and my four daughters much.
    love has won sweetheart, love has won
    xo

    Like

  3. I love how you pointed out that our idea of ministry is constantly changing as we get to know our Creator more and more. Your words are always so beautiful, and I think it is because you write with such raw emotion and your write your honest thoughts. The lessons you have learned and passed along to us have taught me so much about love, and you are so right, Love has won!

    Like

  4. Dear Katie – thank you for your blog. I love reading about your life in Uganda.

    Our daughter, Monica (22) is volunteering at Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM)right now. She has been there since June, coming home Oct. 30.

    As much as our family is excited to have Monica come home, I have mixed feelings. I am sad for the many children there that she loves and they love her. I feel like I know them and I have never been there.

    Monica met Brooke (from Florida) on the plane on the way to Uganda who said she was volunteering for your organization. I hope that is going well.

    Monica and I plan to go back to Kyampisi in 2014 or God willing, a little sooner. I can hardly wait! I am sure I will want to take all the children home with me.

    Anyway, thank you so much for your wonderful work! I appreciate it.

    Meg Nelson
    Woodbury, MN

    Like

  5. Katie, your writing is like a song…the words are melodic and come from the purest corner of your soul. You continuously inspire me, (a 60 yr. old, wife, mother, grandmother, living in America),to have a more vibrant,alive,active walk with Christ. You are daily, in countless ways, being the hands of feet of Jesus. Praying for you, your daughters, and your ministry…as well as all those whom you call 'my friend'.

    Like

  6. Thank you.
    And the Jesus Storybook Bible! Our church had been going through the stories in it, telling them and then everyone studying them. I get to tell the story “The Captain of the Storm” next Sunday! Love from Washington State:)

    Like

  7. Thanks once again for your beautiful inspirational blog. I totally agree from my own experiences too, that friendship transcends cultures and races and the love of God unites the most different of people. Praise God!

    Like

  8. Oh Father God, Jesus, Spirit,
    I thank You and praise You for the holy and mighty work You are doing through Your willing servant, Katie! She is obedient to Your call and receptive to Your spirit as she lives and loves YOU in Uganda… her life is visible to her village, but also to the rest of the world! Through Your Word she ministers and teaches and loves her neighbors and friends. I continue to pray for her ministry, the work of Amazima, the rest of the staff and donors as You direct and lead along the paths You have marked for them. I ask and plead in Jesus Name for receptive hearts and willing minds to accept the Truth of redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord. I plead for safety and health for Katie and her daughters and her friends. You are using her in great and marvelous ways! I pray the following verse for Katie as she continues to live a life of ministry and purpose for the glory of God: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). In Jesus' precious Name, AMEN

    Like

  9. Amazing journey with Christ, your life Katie, & it is only just beginning. God bless you & your children-we support children through World Vision.
    Thank God for feet on the ground like yours.

    Like

  10. Katie,
    Seems like most of your blog posts are from the ladies, so here's one from a guy. I just completed your book last month and have started following your blog since. I cried reading the intro… (laughing at myself).. who cries reading an intro?? Not really sure what all God is doing (are we ever really??), but this much I am certain of; He is on the move. Be encouraged… He establishes peace for us; all that we have accomplished, He has done for us. (Is 26:12)

    Like

  11. Katie,
    Seems like you get a lot of comments from the ladies, so here's a post from a guy. I just read your book last month. I cried reading the intro… (laughing at myself)… who cries reading an intro?? Not really sure what God is doing (are we ever really?), but I am sure of this; He is on the move. Be encouraged today by His word in Isaiah 26:12 for all those who labor for Him… “Lord, You establish peace for us; all that wee have accomplished, You have done for us.” His love & privision is unrivaled:)

    Like

  12. Seems like you get a lot of comments from the ladies, so here's a post from a guy. I just read your book last month. I cried reading the intro… (laughing at myself)… who cries reading an intro?? Not really sure what God is doing (are we ever really?), but I am sure of this; He is on the move. Be encouraged today by His word in Isaiah 26:12 for all those who labor for Him… “Lord, You establish peace for us; all that wee have accomplished, You have done for us.” His love & privision is unrivaled:)

    Like

  13. Seems like you get a lot of comments from the ladies, so here's a post from a guy. I just read your book last month. I cried reading the intro… (laughing at myself)… who cries reading an intro?? Not really sure what God is doing (are we ever really?), but I am sure of this; He is on the move. Be encouraged today by His word in Isaiah 26:12 for all those who labor for Him… “Lord, You establish peace for us; all that wee have accomplished, You have done for us.” His love & privision is unrivaled:)

    Like

  14. Thank you for this amazing post. Katie, you, God, and Jesus have changed me and many people around me forever. We are adopting two precious children from Africa. They will join our children here in Indiana. I pray that one day soon all my family can come to Uganda and meet all the wonderful people surrounding you. I pray that I can meet you. Praying for you and your daughters always.
    Love, Amanda

    Like

  15. 1I finished Kisses from Katie last week. Thanks for the blog for it helps me know how to pray for you. Mollyrnaesi from Boise, Idaho

    Like

  16. Katie, I thank God that my sister happened to stumble onto your book, and share it with me. It has truly inspired me, pushed me, and challenged me, and cheered me on in my relationship with God. As a teenager living in America, it is so incredibly easy to fall prey to unthankfullness, and conformity…but even now, I know that God has a higher call on my life, and I am learning more of who He is through the people in my life, and the situations he has been putting me in….I am keeping my eyes open. Thank you, again. I feel like, through your book, you are speaking to me 🙂 God has changed my life and perspective…I will not forget you, your girls, and the beautiful people of this world!

    Like

  17. What a beautiful story to read first thing in the morning. Warmed my heart and blessed my soul! I want you to know that I will pray for you and for the people you live among. God bless you in an extraordinary way!

    Like

  18. Katie,
    Your words bring a smile to my heart. I am so overwhelmed at the love Father God is pouring out of you. What a mighty God we serve that He would use us to minister to those He loves so very much!

    Your phrase, “Love has won” has played over and over in my head for the last month as it is used in a song by Natalie Grant called “Alive.” Her song states “Look what Mercy's overcome. Death has lost and Love has won.” Those words have carried me as we are mouring the loss of a precious 14 year old boy in our youth group. My husband and I were his small group leaders.

    We are currently feeling the Lord's call to GO, and are praying earnestly that He would show us where He would have us serve Him. Your book has given me so much courage, and I hope to one day experience the faith that you demonstrate every day. In my flesh, I struggle with the idea of moving us and our 1 year old daughter to an unknown place, and possibly a dangerous place at that, but I read of God's provision in your life and know that He has carried us this far and will not let us fall from His hand.

    Thank you for being bold enough to allow us into your life and into your heart. You are such an encouragement and inspiration to many. I pray that you feel the arms of Jesus embrace you today, and that He empowers you to teach without fear and to love this people passionately with complete abandon.

    Love from Louisiana!
    Your sister in Christ,
    Mandy

    Like

  19. Katie,
    Your words bring a smile to my heart. I am so overwhelmed at the love Father God is pouring out of you. What a mighty God we serve that He would use us to minister to those He loves so very much!

    Your phrase, “Love has won” has played over and over in my head for the last month as it is used in a song by Natalie Grant called “Alive.” Her song states “Look what Mercy's overcome. Death has lost and Love has won.” Those words have carried me as we are mouring the loss of a precious 14 year old boy in our youth group. My husband and I were his small group leaders.

    We are currently feeling the Lord's call to GO, and are praying earnestly that He would show us where He would have us serve Him. Your book has given me so much courage, and I hope to one day experience the faith that you demonstrate every day. In my flesh, I struggle with the idea of moving us and our 1 year old daughter to an unknown place, and possibly a dangerous place at that, but I read of God's provision in your life and know that He has carried us this far and will not let us fall from His hand.

    Thank you for being bold enough to allow us into your life and into your heart. You are such an encouragement and inspiration to many. I pray that you feel the arms of Jesus embrace you today, and that He empowers you to teach without fear and to love this people passionately with complete abandon.

    Love from Louisiana!
    Your sister in Christ,
    Mandy

    Like

  20. Katie,you inspire me to do more, love completely, and show more compassion in my community. Your book changed they way I looked at ministry. I have shared it, knowing it will effect others as it did me. Praying for you daily, as you love those precious girls.

    Love never fails,
    Patty Moore

    Like

  21. Aren't friends such a blessing? I'm continually thankful for the ways in which God chooses to bring them into my life. Some of the people dearest to me span oceans and languages, but we have Him in common…and that's enough.

    I remember a very similar story to what you shared when my pembantu (house helper, but more importantly, friend) in Indonesia and I just couldn't communicate what we wanted, and not even the Indonesian/English dictionary was helping! We finally just laughed and laughed…and laughed some more. And then we hugged…it was the first time she hugged me. Oh, how He can build a friendship despite obstacles!

    Thanks for sharing your heart and for what you allow Him to do through you. Be blessed today!

    Like

  22. I hope my 11 year old daughter grows up to be just like you with your reckless abandonment for Jesus Christ! My daughter has had a passion for orphans since she was 6 years old. I've already read your book but I'm going to begin reading it with her each night. I hope it will inspire her to do something great like this!

    Like

  23. I read your book during last summer vacation. It was very touching and powerful enough to change my life.

    I could say your soul is so beautiful that it glorifies Jesus name. You made me think over the purpose of life of true disciples of Jesus Christ.

    I really appreciate you have become a good model and challanged all of us.

    From South Korea,
    With Love in Jesus,
    Janis Kim

    Like

  24. I read your book during last summer vacation. It was very touching and powerful enough to change my life.

    I could say your soul is so beautiful that it glorifies Jesus name. You made me think over the purpose of life of true disciples of Jesus Christ.

    I really appreciate you have become a good model and challanged all of us.

    From South Korea,
    With Love in Jesus,
    Janis Kim

    Like

  25. I read your book during last summer vacation. It was very touching and powerful enough to change my life.

    I could say your soul is so beautiful that it glorifies Jesus name. You made me think over the purpose of life of true disciples of Jesus Christ.

    I really appreciate you have become a good model and challanged all of us.

    From South Korea,
    With Love in Jesus,
    Janis Kim

    Like

  26. I read your book during last summer vacation. It was very touching and powerful enough to change my life.

    I could say your soul is so beautiful that it glorifies Jesus name. You made me think over the purpose of life of true disciples of Jesus Christ.

    I really appreciate you have become a good model and challanged all of us.

    From South Korea,
    With Love in Jesus,
    Janis Kim

    Like

  27. Hey!
    I am a seventh grader in MN. For my english class, I am doing a paper on a person I think is a hero. I choose you because I read your book and was amazed!
    email me at avalwilk@gmail.com if you are interested. I will send you some questions, and then I will send you the final paper.
    Thank you so, so, much!
    God bless you 🙂

    Like

  28. i will never be the same after reading your book! it made me cry over and over! you have the most beautiful caring heart that i have ever heard of…i have adopted two little boys and once again im convinced more then ever it was the right thing to do! God bless you katie….

    Like

  29. Hi!
    I am a seventh grader in MN. For english, I am doing a project on a hero. I choose you because I read your book and was amazed!
    I have to ask you some questons. If you are interested, please email me at avalwilk@gmail.com .
    Thank you so, so much!
    And keep up all the good work 🙂

    Like

  30. Hi Katie, I work in a church on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I got your book from a friend with whom I work. She knows I minister in Uganda for the month of January every year. I will be in Uganda and traveling to Kapchorwa from Kampala and I always have lunch in Jinja on my way. I would love to take you to lunch when I am there and hear all about your story! I am working with the Sabiny people in Eastern Uganda to help them find a way of life without Female Genital Mutilation (God is doing amazing things with these dear folks!) I will be traveling through Jinja on January 6th. Is there any way we could get together?
    I love your story!

    my Skype name is pattiricotta
    email address is
    pattiricotta@gmail.com
    I hope to hear from you!
    God bless the work of your…heart!

    Patti Ricotta

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s