Getting Lost in Africa

Do you know what freedom feels like?

It feels like stepping so far outside yourself that you forget. It feels like service. It feels like pouring your life out, helping in a tiny way. It feels like getting your heart broken over and over. It feels like redemption won at a cost.

It feels like forgetting about yourself for hours and days at a time.

Before I left, I wondered how this trip might break me and strip away all the junk I tell myself every day, the worries I have, hang-ups I obsess over and the mind games that ruin entire days, weeks, the dulling thrum of life that leaves me in a fog, going through the motions, grasping for hope.

I’ve found out how the breaking happens — it feels like freedom, and like forgetting. Like looking up after an entire day and realizing I’m still here in this amazing mess, marveling that I get to play a small part, wondering what it means and how God is in the smallest details.

It’s a beautiful thing to see how small you are.

I don’t compare myself here. There aren’t many mirrors and I don’t look for my reflection, glance down at my body, suck in or check my hair. Water is scarce and electricity is expensive and so there are short showers and no hair dryers. There’s red dirt caking my feet and there are pit latrines and sometimes not enough food for all the village children and there’s so much that just doesn’t matter.

My role in this place is so small compared to the gaping needs. I love the individual stories, because I get to see such aching beauty, hints of God’s fingerprints everywhere.

He’s right there, with the sick girl I held today in the village, so tiny and soft-spoken, wanting to go see the bubbles, fascinated by my glasses. He’s in the crisis pregnancy centers with the girls, and he’s in the village where they have so little, they argue over who gets the cardboard box we brought the mama kits in.

He’s even with the 12-year-old girl I met yesterday at the crisis pregnancy center. I do wonder where He was when she was attacked and raped and ended up pregnant. This little girl hadn’t even gotten her period yet. The entire session we had on breastfeeding and childbirth she sat there wide-eyed and shy, playing with a plastic dinosaur. She’s just a child, after all. Where were you, God? Who can bear a story like this?

But even she said she had peace. Because she was there, she said she had hope again.

God is redeeming her story, and don’t we all need it?

I need redemption in my story — freedom the lies I believe every day, from the afflictions that hold me down and the fear that holds me back.

These girls do, too.

If I see God’s fingerprints on their redemption stories, I’m sure they’re on mine, too. His hands are all over your story, too. Look around a little, remember, and you’ll see it in whispers and hints: I’m here. Look what I’m doing, even now, to weave beauty and hope and a future.

When we were visiting Mirembe House, Jane led the group in this song: Because He Lives

Some of them looked hopeful while others were shell-shocked, still absorbing the reality of where they were and what had happened to them. But the song was true for all of them, and it left me in tears.

I pray that one day, by relentlessly pursuing God’s plan for her life, the 12-year-old girl would be able to forget herself for a while, too. I pray that one day, she would see the beauty of her smallness, the fingerprints of redemption, and the weaving of it all into his glory.


* * *

I have more stories and I want to write them all. (Today we went to a traditional birthing attendant’s facility in a village, and this 69-year-old midwife was amazing and funny and proud and beautiful. Her story needs telling, too, along with many, many others.) But it’s easier somehow to write around them like this, to explore God’s work in my heart so I can get at some of how it feels to be here, so I can capture not just their stories but yours and mine, too, so that they’re here but they’re also home.

If you want to help these women we’ve met by partnering with these holistic ministries, consider making a donation to Mercy for Mamas. (Click on the “Donate” button on the right side.) 100% of your donation will go to purchase Mama Kits (which we buy wholesale for $7 per kit), which are donated to these centers and distributed to women in villages and to missionaries who work with girls.

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4 comments on “Getting Lost in Africa

  1. Tears. Love this, friend.

  2. stacey says:

    I’ve visited your blog several times now, reading your words and trying to let them soak in. I really have no words. Just tears and prayers and the desire to join you or someone like you one day, and take my camera. Anxious to read all of your stories.

  3. Lindsay says:

    Oh my goodness, these words are so heartbreaking and beautiful. I love this part: “If I see God’s fingerprints on their redemption stories, I’m sure they’re on mine, too. His hands are all over your story, too.” YES. Amen.

  4. Wendy says:

    I am currently reading Richard Stearns’ book, Hole in our Gospel (he’s the president of World Vision) and my heart is being broken by the truth. Your reports from Uganda just confirm the overwhelming need. I look forward to talking with you further about what you are learning.