I have been learning so much about my struggle when it comes to grace, love, peace, and patience. All that Fruit of the Spirit, eh? I often think about our ministry with these boys as a ministry that receives nothing in return. It is simply a life of unselfish servant hood that is really difficult some days. I am not trying to boast, but to speak of the struggle. We love these boys. We give them love, attention, education, clothes, food, etc. And what do they give back? Fighting, disrespect, attitude, rebellion. I often have discussions with the other staff members about how this is a ministry that you give and give but very rarely do you receive. But I am wrong.
But today I am overwhelmed with a different thought process. Maybe you have already made the connections. I think I have in the past, but today it feels more real and it is resonating deep inside my heart. I remember orientation at Camp War Eagle when I was in college. One of the main things I remember them telling us was that we have no love. I was like, “What?! I have lots of love! Especially for children; that is why you hired me!” But as humans, we are broken and incapable of loving each other. It is Christ who is using us to show His love. His love fills us and then is poured out on those who need it. We don’t have the love, Jesus does. This simple statement of truth has stuck with me since then.
So as I am here working with these boys in the slum, I do not love them. But I am so incredibly thankful that our Father has the ability to send His perfect, unfailing love through me. What an incredible blessing.
Those thoughts led to new thoughts about the boys. I said earlier that these boys have nothing to give back. At times I have felt guilty for saying that because they do give back to us (and no, I’m not talking about the fighting and disrespect). They give me food. Yesterday, two of the boys came up to me to offer some of their meal to me. Seriously?! This is your one meal today and you are giving it away to me? (this is a part of their culture- a culture of sharing and generosity)
The first boy to offer me food was Abdul. Now, we have been able to resettle so many boys over the last year with the help of Susan, one of our Ugandan social workers. Because of that, there are so many new boys this year that I don’t recognize, but Abdul has remained on the streets. I remember him from last year. Abdul speaks good English and can be very sweet. He loves to laugh and play jokes. Last year he refused to call me Auntie Lauren. He would either call me “Auntie Lawrence” or “Uncle Lauren”. This year, he will put his hand out to shake, when you reach out to shake his hand, he makes a fist to “bonga” or “pound it”. When you make a fist to bonga back, he opens his hand to shake. Then you open your hand to shake, but he makes a fist again to bongo. And he repeats it over and over. Then he will say, “Okay. Serious, you shake.” But he won’t. You go to shake and he makes a fist. At first it is tricky and funny, but after a while, it gets old. Sometimes he is frustrated that I refuse to shake or bonga. (I am tired of the nonsense and just don’t go with it anymore.) Sometimes he gives me lots of attitude because I won’t play his little “game” and be fooled over and over. I feel like my relationship with Abdul is a teeter-totter at times.
It was Abdul’s only meal of the day. It is possible he won’t receive another meal for more than 48 hours. But he shared it with me. And he probably shared it with his friends as he went and sat back down. The Lord used Abdul to show me love and grace. Abdul had very little to give, but he gave.
God has everything to offer me, and He does it through them. I mentioned that the Lord has taught me about grace this last year. I have had some recent struggles in several areas of my ministry and life here in Uganda. I have had moments of stress, disappointment, anger, and frustration along with other emotions under those banners. But our Father is the God of unfailing, steadfast, bountiful grace, peace, and love. And His greatest desire is to lavish it upon us. It is such an unnatural thing for us to experience, and especially for street boys to experience. But it is the most powerful thing in life. And I am so thankful for it. It is transforming my heart and mind. The Lord is stirring His love and grace within my heart, and I must be obedient in sharing it with the boys and others around me.
These verses brought tears to my eyes this morning. Words I have heard my entire life, but the Lord is using these street boys to make it so tangible...
Ephesians 1: “So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us… He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us…”
Colossians 3: “Above all, clothes yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.”
Romans 5: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and characters strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Isaiah 26: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”
I pray the Lord is showing His love to you in a very intimate way.