Monday, October 8, 2012

I'm Dirty

Katie Davis, you've left me dirty.

Yesterday I finished reading "Kisses from Katie" by Katie Davis and it has changed me, hopefully forever.
This book came up in conversation while my team was planning for an upcoming lesson on orphans and a co-worker lent me a copy. 5 days later, I am left dirty - dirty from the imprint that Katie' life in the red dirt of Uganda has left on me. And I like it.

For most of you, you probably have never heard of Katie. Her book (released last fall), is gaining her much notoriety, but fame is not what Katie is after. No. Katie is all about love and literally being what Jesus called us to be here on earth - a physical, emotional, and spiritual extension of His heart to the needy and lost.

Katie's story began 5 years ago when she was an average teenager. She graduated from high school and decided to take a year off to go work in Africa before starting college and resuming a "normal, American, Christian life". Initially a Kindergarten teacher at a village orphanage, Katie's heart for Uganda was quickly exploding and turning into something much more than a teaching opportunity to help educate the poor- it was turning into God's unique and special calling on her life. Katie was overwhelmed with the needs in her community and the extreme poverty. Because of this, her desire grew to help the people beyond education and it took shape in the form of Amazima Ministries.

In addition, as God brought so many children and broken families into Katie's path, she felt God calling her to adopt. Yes, as a teenager. Yes, as a single mother. Yes, it sounds nuts, which makes sense since most of God's plans sound nuts on the front end. 5 years later, Katie has adopted 14 daughters that all call her "Mommy". In fact, her entire village and the neighboring villages call her "Mommy" because she is the one who cares for the children. They know she will come and they know she will help.

Katie and her children (13 are pictured because she lost one daughter whose biological mother came much later and reclaimed her).


In addition to caring for her own family, Katie's organization now sponsors hundreds of children and feeds thousands more weekly. Here's a brief look into Amazima and Katie's life in Uganda...

To give you even more insight into Katie and the type of person she is, here is an excerpt from the back cover of her book-
My Life in the red dirt of Uganda
Sometimes I want to spend hours talking with my best friends about boys and fashion and school and life. I want to go to the gym; I want my hair to look nice; I want to be allowed to wear jeans. I want to be a normal young woman living in America sometimes. But I want other things more. All the time. I want to be spiritually and emotionally filled every day. I want to be loved and cuddled by a hundred children and never go a day without laughing. I want to wake up to a rooster's crow and open my eyes to see lush green trees that seem to pulse with life against a piercing blue sky and the rusty red soil of Uganda. I want to be challenged endlessly. I want to be taught by those I teach, and I want to share God's love with people who otherwise might not know it. I want to work so hard that I end every day filthy and too tired to move. I want to make some kind of difference, no matter how small, and I want to follow the calling God has placed on my heart. I want to give my life away, to serve the Lord with each breath. At the end of the day, no matter how hard, I want to be right here in Uganda. 
Wow. 
Like seriously. This is for realz.
I am still in shock from her story. 
I know it sounds totally cray-cray, but this story has completely captivated me. I am stunned with her ability to abandon all that is comfortable and safe and "expected" and embrace the unique path God has put her on, no matter how hard or unexpected it is.

And if you read her book you will see exactly how hard it can be. I can't imagine living without air conditioning, a washing machine, or 24/7 water and power. I can't imagine living without more than 2 meal options, I can't imagine living with cockroaches and rats and deadly mosquitos. I can't imagine watching your children play in trash and pure grossness because those are their toys.  I can't imagine cleaning up children and adults who have been living in pure filth and squalor. I can't imagine picking jiggers out of their feet and binding their infected wounds. I can't imagine watching malnourished children fight disease and die. I cannot imagine the overwhelming weight of all the needs and trying to help, which often feels like "trying to empty the ocean with an eyedropper" as Katie puts it.

I also cannot imagine how it feels to help someone completely helpless and see God work in their lives and Jesus fill their eyes. I cannot imagine how it feels to receive love and hugs and smiles from hundreds of children each day. I cannot imagine seeing the gratitude and overflowing thanks from people who have known no love or abundance and are experiencing kindness for the first time. I cannot imagine how it feels to be living out Christ's call 100%. I can't imagine the overflowing joy and love and faith that comes with this. I am envious of Katie and her obvious closeness with Jesus, but that's silly. His closeness is available to us all if we choose to follow close to him. I am the only obstacle preventing this same experience in my life. 

Katie's story has made me think twice about a lot of things that I accepted as normal and fine in my life. It's made me re-think the "5 second rule" and all those leftovers we throw out. It's made me see our pantry and refrigerator in a new light. It's made my house feel gigantic when I know families of 10 or more are living in space smaller than my laundry room. It's changed my outlook on my closet. A few weeks ago I was melting down over my hideous, old clothes and now when I look in my closet I see extravagance and blessing.  It's made me overwhelmingly grateful even when I accidentally buy the wrong type of milk or my order is wrong at a restaurant. It's made me question the extras (like Starbucks, music/movie downloads, home decor, etc.) because that money could go to something truly life-changing. It's made me realize most of the stuff I sweat is really, really, trivial and not real problems. It's made me want to do everything in my power to help somehow, someway in these places and in these people that are deteriorating, and most without Christ.

Katie's story has challenged me to love one at a time and help one at a time. It reminds me of my favorite Mother Teresa quote, the "We cannot to great things, only small things with great love." This is truly how I want to live. Everyone is important to Katie because everyone is important to God. She's challenged me to see the love of Christ stamped on each person on the planet. She's challenged me to just keep taking steps forward instead of getting overwhelmed by a goal. She's challenged me to just let go of some of my earthly desires so God has more room to make me who he wants me to be. She's challenged me to really give my life away.

Reading this book on the heels of Love Does and some other books like Radical has left me swirling. A life changed by Jesus yields action, yields fruit (John 15). I'm not sure what God is wanting to do through me and why these issues have been rumbling within me, but they have and are and I don't see that changing. I am praying that God reveals his path for me and how he wants me to get involved. I have some ideas, I have some dreams, but I need God to light the path.

Katie Davis you are a hoss, an inspiration, and a world changer. I am so inspired by you and I hope I can meet you one day and say thanks.

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