By Sam Rawson
Recently, I read “Kisses from Katie”, a book written by 23-year-old Katie Davis, an American girl who is now living in Uganda and mother to 14 Ugandan children.
When first hearing of Katie’s story, the question that immediately popped into my mind was, “Is she crazy?” A young, single, homecoming queen from Brentwood, Tennessee, mothering 14 orphaned or abandoned girls in rural, pothole-riddled, poverty-stricken Uganda?
No husband to help get the kids up. No family down the road to call for help. No dishwasher. No washing machine. No well-staffed hospital or chemist around the corner. Basically, none of the conveniences that so many mothers from developed nations (with fewer than 14 kids) rely upon every day.
I was intrigued to find out just how she managed to bath, tickle, love, feed and nurture all these girls while so far from the support system of her family and friends. Not even one paragraph in and I discovered her secret. And it didn’t have anything to do with dishwashers or help on speed dial.
Her secret was simply Jesus. Every second of every day. Through homework, tears, sickness, potholes, and dinner time. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
This isn’t a story about a girl on her own mission to save the world. It’s about a girl who surrendered her life to Jesus, including her plans for her future, and then listened when He said, “Go!” And, as in Katie’s instance, God’s plans aren’t always of the white picket-fence variety. They often have a tendency to make us look kind of crazy in the eyes of the world, and sometimes even in the eyes of fellow Christians.
Katie’s journey begins in her final year at high school when, despite the reluctance of her parents, she heads to Jinja, Uganda to volunteer at a children’s home during one of her holidays. She quickly falls in love with the country; simultaneously heart-broken by the extreme poverty and overwhelmed by the beauty and warmth of the land and people.
The following year, after graduating from high school, she returns to the children’s home in Uganda after reaching an agreement with her parents that she could postpone college for a year. What follows is a period of extreme challenges, as she battles to communicate in a foreign language and understand a different culture, and of a deepening love for the people of Uganda.
Faced with the desperate need around her and the reminder of her comfortable life in the US, Katie starts a sponsorship programme to help children attend school. Word spreads and money begins pouring in from the States to support her programme.
Every day children show up in her yard and together with an assistant she serves them samp and beans from a huge pot and helps them with their homework. On Fridays, more than 100 children arrive for Bible study followed by supper and a shower – and then all 100 of them spend the night sleeping on the floor of Katie’s rented house!
The jump from ‘carer’ to ‘mom’ comes suddenly and unexpectedly. When the wall of a nearby house collapses on nine-year-old Agnes leaving her and her two sisters, seven-year-old Mary and five-year-old Scovia, homeless, Katie searches the village to find someone to care for them. Abandoned by their mother and with a deceased father, the children have nowhere to go so Katie takes them in, nursing Agnes back to health and giving the children their first taste of love and attention.
Not long after moving in, five-year-old Scovia asks if she can call Katie ‘Mommy’. In her heart Katie already knows the answer, ‘Yes, we’re family.” And so Katie’s journey into motherhood begins.
Now Katie is ‘Mommy’ to 14 children and that one year has turned into a lifetime of commitment. Amazima Ministries (www.amazima.org), the NGO she founded out of the school sponsorship programme feeds over 1600 vulnerable and orphaned children every day and puts more than 500 children through school every year.
Glancing over Katie’s story it’s easy to be impressed and to put her in the Mother Theresa ‘superwomen’ category. Countless times as I read her book and cringed as she cleaned and bandaged rotting wounds, I thought, ‘Oh my word, I could never do that!’
But what comes through the pages so powerfully isn’t an image of a flawless human being. It’s the image of a girl much like any other, who enjoys hanging out with friends, eating junk food and watching romantic movies. What sets Katie apart isn’t her superhuman strength; it’s her unwavering desire to be in the centre of God’s will for her life and to share His love with the world.
Unwavering. That’s the word that often gets us. We want to do what God asks us today, but tomorrow we want something else even more. We so easily get distracted or lose sight of what God is asking us to do.
Katie isn’t superhuman. She’s not trying to save the world. But she is being obedient to God when He says, ‘Stop for this one. Help this one.” We don’t all need to move to Uganda to be obedient. We just need to be open, alert and willing to stop where we are when God tugs on our heart and says, “This one. Help this one.”