Patrick was wearing a bright red tattered t-shirt, two sizes too large for him, when I first met him. We were supposed to meet the director of a children’s orphanage at the bus stop near the main road. Patrick, who was 20 at the time, didn’t look the part. What was happening? He took us up a hill and to a compound surrounded by a cement wall. We ducked through a small metal doorway and were met by 40 pairs of hands and eyes.
Caleb and I decided to spend 2 weeks with Patrick and the 43 kids that were living in that single family home on the outskirts of Kampala. We heard the stories of each of the kids. Some had been abused, others abandoned, others didn’t even have memories of what had caused them to be dropped off at Patrick’s door. And after two weeks of hearing their stories, we travelled back to the United States with the hope of sending 8 kids to school. 6 years later that small act has become far more than we could ever ask, imagine, or hope for.
I always say if I knew the scope of what we were committing to six years ago we wouldn’t have said yes. And a lot of me really means that. We took on enormous responsibility when we were just 21 and just dating. We had no business starting a nonprofit. Patrick and William had no business trusting us, and many of you had no business giving us money. And there are times when work is busy, we are moving or traveling, and one of the kids at the orphanage is acting out and I truly wonder how long we can do this.
And although I know myself well enough to know that I would have been too scared and far too practical to commit to being the sole source of funding for Raising Up Hope. I am so grateful that God in his goodness didn’t allow us to see the full extent of what saying yes would require. Saying yes to what God was up to six years ago has sustained my faith. Where God leads he has indeed provided.
There are so many times in our daily life in Chicago where things seem thoughtless-routine-even easy. We go to work, we pay our bills, we plan for the future, and we invite people into our home and believe God is at work but what does that actually mean?
But then Caleb and I will realize that Beautiful Response’s budget for the year is $200k and we know we have no business raising that much money. Or school fees for the term are due and we don’t have enough money. And I write Patrick and William to tell them that we do not have enough funding and to please pray with us and trust that God will provide. I write that to them because I know that they believe that. All the while I wonder if this might finally be the school term God doesn’t show up. And am I finally going to learn my lesson for not managing our cash flow better or not spending enough time on administrative tasks?
Then, someone sends a gift for $2,000 even though we had been meaning to send them a letter to invite them to give and never got around to it. Someone else decides to sponsor a kid for $40/month. And I am reminded of the miracle we experienced 6 years ago when we tried to raise money for 8 kids to start school and we received enough for all 43 kids. And I am reminded of how quick I am to forget that I believe in a God who hears prayers, who shows up, and to whom these kids belong.
Saying yes and getting involved in someone’s life or in a situation that is messy or complicated or beyond your control is giving God a chance to show up. For any of my fellow type A folks, we like to be in control and like life to be predictable and it can feel foolish to hope for the improbable. But as it turns out, I think God likes to show off but we have to give him a chance. I experience miracles, grace, answered prayers, and really uncertain moments in more abundance through our work with Beautiful Response than I do in any other part of my life.
When I met Patrick in his bright red tattered t-shirt, I had no idea how much we were committing to. When we said yes to visiting the kids, to sharing their stories, I had no idea that God would take that yes and turn it into a non-profit, would use our small yes to change the lives of those kids. And I had no idea that through those relationships I would learn so much about faithfulness, self-lessness, and how to change someone’s world.