When A Hungry Girl Crawls Into Your Soul. Because Of Beatrice!

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Today Brandi is telling her story about Beatrice. Oh Brandi, I love you.

They wrapped her tightly to my back with fabric, like I was a real African mama. She didn’t know me from Adam and yet she snuggled her little face against my back and my heart soared with joy. I didn’t know in this moment what this little girl would do to my heart, how she would rip me open to a new depth of love and a new pain that would take my breath away.

Her name? Alaso Beatrice.

Even now, I whisper it with reverence and wonder if you will read it with the care it deserves. She is beyond special. She is the epitome of the Biblical phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

After they placed her on my back for a few hours of good, solid African mama work – I slipped her out of the fabric and brought her to my hip to hold. It is here that I first saw her dimples. Dimples for days and a shy little smile that will make your heart soar. Oh, I was in love. Just like that. Head over heels.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fairly easily. I have a son adopted from Liberia, West Africa and, as any adoptive mama will tell you, it’s not as hard as some might think to love another child as your own. I have traveled to Uganda multiple times. I run a non-profit there (Beauty For Ashes Uganda – you can pause and go like it on FB if you need too ). I know what it is to love the Ugandan people and to have your heart fall a little more in love every time. But this? This was different from any time before.

This hungry little girl crawled into my soul and settled there, staring up at me with her dimples, shy smile, and sparkly eyes. My soul felt something that can only be called holy and sacred.

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I spent the rest of my day in her village, Odukai, with her on my hip. She was my little shadow. We worked together and I snuggled into her little neck, sending her into fits of giggles whenever I had the chance. I painted her little nails, along with 100 others, and watched the little girls beam at their new pretty hands and feet. I even left her dig through my backpack, looking for snacks. I shared my banana with her and handed her any food that was handed to me.

After we spent time in the garden, digging up the cassava and piling it all together for all of us mamas to peel, I set Beatrice down next to me. She immediately reached for the sharpest blade she could find and I gasped, “Oh sweet girl, little ones shouldn’t play with knives.” She looked at me, a tad incredulous and grabbed a piece of cassava and quickly peeled it. The other mamas laughed and one leaned over to me and said, “It looks like she’s been preparing her own meals for a while.”

I sat back stunned ~ in both wonder and heartbreak. Beatrice is four. Four-year-olds shouldn’t play with knives…not just because it’s not safe, but because four-year-olds shouldn’t be responsible for their own meals. Littles shouldn’t know how to peel
cassava, or anything else, because they should be too busy playing to worry about making sure their bellies are fed.

Beatrice is four, but she’s the size of a two-and-a-half-year-old. Just a little peanut that fits perfectly on my hip or snuggled into my back or on my chest for a quick little nap.

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As best as we can put together her story, here’s what we believe has happened: Beatrice’s sweet mama was just a young teenager when she had her first babe. Five years later, Beatrice was born. Sometime when Beatrice was a babe, her father was poisoned and her mama ran away. Beatrice and her sister went to live with their grandma. Grandma, however, had late stage AIDS and was not doing well. From what her great aunt told us, at this point, Beatrice almost starved to death. This thought alone is so unimaginable to me that I can barely write the words. The one who my heart adores almost starved to death, while my babies beg for snacks every hour and eat until their tummies are more than full every single day. A mzungu (white person) came along and took her to a hospital or care center of some sort for a time, nursing her back to health before bringing her back to Grandma.

Now, Grandma lives in Odukai village. She is still very, very sick and can’t work. From what we have heard, Beatrice lives there along with a few other kids (possibly 10 total). Since Grandma can’t work, the kids go from house to house (mud hut to mud hut) asking neighbors for food or if they can have a piece of cassava. No worries, they can peel it themselves. Sometimes, they find enough food. Sometimes they don’t. A mama from the village told Rita (our field director) that sometimes Beatrice sleeps on the path on the way back home because she’s so weak.

The day I heard this news, I was on my way to a meeting at Chick-fil-A. I got into line and when the young man asked for my order, I wept. Here I was, eating lunch while Beatrice went hungry.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with a heart that weeps over the hungry. Every night when my family sits down to pray over our dinner, I get choked up, “Father, thank you for this food. Please provide for those who are hungry. Amen.” And my children and I look at each other and whisper, “especially Beatrice.” All I know is that this heart, this broken, weeping heart of mine cannot stop at crying for the hungry. If I simply cry that there are children who are hungry, I will have done nothing to ease their hunger. My tears over their trauma must move me to action.

Here’s what I know: I know that Beatrice lives in Odukai village. We are asking the mamas of our women’s cooperative in Odukai to “adopt” Beatrice’s Grandma and allow her into their cooperative even though she has very little to offer to the group. We are brainstorming what needs to be done for Beatrice and the other children who live with Grandma. We may treat their family like we do the “child headed
households” in our program and provide food for them every month. While we agree that mamas should be empowered and given the tools to feed themselves, we do not believe that children should have to work.

So here’s the plan to help make that happen!

I want to help Beatrice’s whole village in her name. The precious mamas of Odukai Peace Group (the name they have given their cooperative of 45 single mamas and widows) need to send their kids to secondary and vocational school and can’t afford it themselves. They need another $1099 to send their kids to school on June 15th ($40 for secondary school, $100 for vocational school). They also have another 6 kids that want to start University in August — at a cost of $500 per student. So $1099 is due June 15th and another $3000 is due August 1st.

Do you think we could come together and help the kids in Beatrice’s village in her name? I want to be able to go to Odukai and tell the mamas that because of our sweet little Beatrice, people all across the world rose up to help her village.

My hope is to endear our sweet little Beatrice to every mama in that group so they will want to rise up and help even more! Do you think we can do it? Would you join me? For Beatrice. To honor her and the pain she has gone through and to bring blessing from that horror?

You can donate at www.beautyforashesuganda.org Put “because of Beatrice” in your comments. Total, for all of the children in our program, we still have to raise $6,856 — so please note in your comments what you would like your money to go towards if Odukai is covered. It can go towards the other school children, or to the fund to help Beatrice’s family and others like hers.

**PS: I promise to tell you what we find out about our little Beatrice and her family and what our staff decides is the best way to help. Together, we will make sure this sweet little precious one doesn’t go hungry again.

If you’d like to share these stories or photos, please do so only with the intent to allow others a window to this world and to allow their tears an opportunity to make a difference. You can use #beacauseofBeatrice if you would like.

No More Simple Sunday Church!

I don’t want to go to church on Sundays anymore.

My youngest daughter is always bugging me about Sundays… “Is today Sunday?”… “If today’s Saturday that means tomorrows Sunday, right?”… “Do you and daddy teach in the morning so that we can go early?”

Enough already kid!

I’m sick of Sunday clothes, or church clothes as some may call them. I’m over after church lunches where we recap the days sermon. We take the same route to church every time and I see the same thing over and over, it’s getting redundant.

We sit in the same seats every Sunday. The seats don’t have our names on them but the do have our butt imprints. When we greet our neighbors we shake hands and hug the same people every time. Smile and wave, smile and wave.

As you drive out of our church there are signs and they do not read “thanks for coming” or “have a nice day” or “we loved having you”. They read “You Are Now Entering Your Mission Field”. AHHHH there it is!

Sunday church should be our fueling station, not our weeks worth of God time. I want to be in a constant state of “church”, Sunday through Saturday, 24/7, 365. Of course I want my daughter to beg to go to church but I don’t want her to think that it is reserved for Sundays. I want her to spread the good word every where she goes all of the time. I don’t want to show up to church early because I have to teach, I want to be teaching all the time.

Why do we have church clothes? Does it matter if we show up in a rhinestone dress or our pajamas? Certainly God doesn’t care what we clothe ourselves in.

And as for Sunday lunch, well it’s pointless to sit and talk to people about the sermon when those people were sitting in there with you. Why aren’t we out talking about the sermon with someone who didn’t get a chance to hear it?

How often are we inviting new people to join us, not because our church is super amazing but because we want their hearts to be filled with the love of the Lord? The seat that we sit in each week is loosing its cushion.

It’s our safe zone.

What would happen if we went four aisles over and two aisles down? Or heck, what if we showed up at a completely different church for one Sunday? What if that spot is the one God wants us in so that we can reach someone in that area that needs us?

But I’m SO comfortable in my usual spot!!

Our path to church is so predictable. What if we took the long way? I don’t have any idea what would happen because we have never been adventurous enough to try it.

If we are supposed to be Gods hands and feet then we need to get uncomfortable.

We need to get our hands dirty and put some mile on our feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my church and will never stop going but I don’t want to leave it at that. I want to truly be the hands and feet of our Lord. I want to show up to church in jeans and a tshirt because church is where ever I am.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15.

He didn’t say to “come in,” He said to “go into.” He didn’t say sit in the same comfortable seat and get your one hour of free and easy religion for the week.

He said GO and PREACH to ALL creation.

He’s telling us to get down and dirty, to get serious, to get wild and passionate about growing His kingdom.

That means to skip Sunday lunch with your regular church buddies and go out and spread what you just heard. Eat lunch with the homeless this Sunday instead of with your friends and see what it does to you. It will stir your soul.

Show up in a tshirt that reads “Jesus wore a dirty robe and that was His Sunday’s best”.

Show up late because you spent extra time preaching to a nonbeliever. Sit four aisles over and two aisles down or better yet sit on the sidewalk next to a homeless friend.

Wake your kids up on a Thursday and say “lets go to church” instead of “It’s time for school”. They are little disciples and their school is their mission field. We need to make them brave and bold in their faith and let them know that every day is church and every day is the perfect day to spread the word.

If we don’t show them how to do that then where in the world do we think they are going to learn it.

Hold on, I’m breaking a sweat here and I’m just getting started.

Let’s stop seeing what we can get out of our church and start finding ways we can give to those who need us.

Who the heck do we think that we are asking what the church is going to do for us! The church doesn’t owe us a thing and it’s not there to serve us, we are there to serve it and it is there to serve our Lord.

There are those who need our faith, our conviction, our compassion, our knowledge of the Word, and yes, sometimes they might even need our money.

Yikes! Why would i even bring that up, What a jerk I can be.

Well, 95% of us are have enough money that we can go to the grocery store at least once a week and stock our refrigerators. Some of us have enough money for vacations, nice clothes and jewelry, don’t get me started on shoes or my girlfriends will kill me.

What if we gave up those luxuries to help even the playing field with the less fortunate? What if we gave as much as we took? Not just with money but with time, with love, with generosity, with compassion.

Lets stop asking what’s in it for us and start understanding that we have already been giving our gift, our “prize”, our inheritance and we better start sharing.

Let’s pray

Generous Father thank you for the abundance of blessings that You pour out on us daily. Help us to let go of our selfish human ways and turn our gifts in to blessings for others. Wipe the dirt from our eyes with Your saliva so that we can see again. Show us how to create church where ever we are.

In Jesus name, Amen

I’ll give up my shoes, I’ll give up Sunday lunch, I’ll give up buying expensive shampoo but if you EVER try to take away my Sunday morning breakfast taco be prepared for a knife fight.