I wasn’t going to start telling stories of the individual kids of Redeemer House just yet, but after last night, I decided that I really want you to meet Gloria. She is 13 years old, from a tribe in the north. She was one of the original kids of Redeemer House, coming to us from a slum called Kuwugu Senegu when we first opened our home in October, 2008. She was under the guardianship of her maternal uncle, Tatta Api, often eating nothing all day. She owned only the clothes on her back, and she had never been to school. And yet, unbelievably, her life was much better than that of her siblings in the village where they lived in Northern Uganda, and that is why her mother had sent her to live with Tatta Api.
When we first gathered the kids who would be coming to the orphanage and gave them new clothes, 3 outfits apiece, I remember Gloria carefully and painstakingly folding her new (secondhand) clothes. She seemed in awe of them. She was painfully shy, and very serious. She also had a problem with stealing and running away when she first came. But she has been transformed! She is still a bit shy, but she has a quick, radiant smile. She struggles in school because of her late start, but is so excited to be learning to read. We have assigned each of the older kids a younger one to be their little buddy to help with, and Gloria has been the one who has really taken to it. She is very nurturing, a regular “mommy” to Natasha, age 3. She can cook a whole meal for 20 people, and she is the one who always will jump in and start helping - cooking or cleaning or whatever needs to be done - without being asked. In fact, she is usually the last one out of the door, because she is helping clean up or get someone else ready. (Sometimes 14 year Annet, our oldest, is the last one out of the house, but that’s because she’s taking lots of time getting herself ready – but that’s another, very typical teenage story!) Gloria truly has a servant’s heart. She wants to be a pastor someday – and I believe God will use her greatly.
Gloria is the one who told Mommy Gracious some time back that she hoped someday we could buy soap and pass it out to the poor kids who don’t have any. So, some of us fasted last Saturday, and we will all fast one more day, and we will use the money we save on food to buy a big cake of soap. We will cut it into small bars, and the kids will pass it out in Kuwugu Senefu when we do an outreach there with an American team that is coming next month. When I proposed the idea of a fast so that the soap they give would truly be something they earned and gave themselves, the kids unanimously and enthusiastically chose to do it. That these kids understand and practice fasting is amazing to me – but they do! These are incredible children who love God with all their hearts! They recognize that He is the one who has rescued them from desperate circumstances – and they remember those who are left behind, who have not been so fortunate.
Yesterday, Gloria received word from Tatta Api through one of her classmates that he is planning to go north to the family village on Saturday. (Easter is a huge holiday here, with the whole country suspending everything for 4 days, and almost everyone tries to return “home” for Easter.) Last night, at bedtime we heard knock, knock on our bedroom door. Gloria asked Mama Gracious if it would be all right with me if she sent some of her own clothes to her older sister in the village. The kids here don’t have many clothes, and Gracious asked her what she would do for clothes. She replied, “God will provide.” Of course I said “Yes”. How can you deny a heart like that? Gloria brought some of her favorite clothes, and when we nixed her sweat suit, saying that girls in the village didn’t wear pants, she instead brought the new dress I brought for her this trip! (Gina, she also sent the nightgown you made her, and I know she loves it.) A few minutes later, knock, knock. “Jajja Kathy, I also request from you some soap for my mommy, because she doesn’t have any soap”. So, two bars of good American soap. Then, a few minutes later knock, knock. This time it was Esther, another of our girls, requesting that she be allowed to send some of her clothes to Gloria’s younger sister, and there was Gloria, kneeling in the background, head down. Praying that I would say yes? Of course I did, so Esther sent a dress and a blouse. Then a few minutes later, knock, knock. Gloria was back requesting “colgate” (their name for any toothpaste) and a toothbrush, explaining that in the village her mommy used a stick to clean her teeth. We found toothbrushes for her sisters, too. I offered to help pack her gifts, and found she had added another skirt. She gave up her precious book bag to pack her gifts in. When I told her we could tape it closed, she added one last request. “Jajja, I want to send my mommy two cups of rice.” I found a ziplock baggie, and Gloria put in something like 4 cups of rice. Her little book bag was so stuffed we could barely tape it closed! (You never know when you’re going to need good old duct tape!) Then I found some candy and a couple of beaded bracelets, and asked Gloria if she would like to tuck them in the outside pocket of the bookbag for her sisters. She beamed! She left this morning smiling, caring a precious bag full of love for her far-away family.
I wish I could write this in a way that does it justice, that could show what a sacrifice it was, and show the caring, giving heart behind it. I was on the verge of tears that whole time, and when we had finished packing the precious bundle, with the rest of the household in bed, I spent some time in the quiet sitting room, reflecting on God’s amazing transformation of this young life! I was so humbled, so challenged, and so blessed! Oh, God, give me such a heart!
I know God has great plans to use our precious Gloria in the future. He already is!
African Hearts - Ssenge
7 years ago