The following is a guest post from our friend and Episode 25 guest, Emily Wierenga.
Note from Emily: Friends, this post is long. But would you take time read it, for me? For all the precious Ugandan mamas who need your help? And then, would you consider sharing the post so others might help too? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
She walked for four hours just to meet me.
Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looked at her sandals, even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, and I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.
She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/AIDS, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it.
She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting–because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money and no way to feed her sons or daughters.
And here I was, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t. And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sun-up to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. No, it was because I came from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.
I smiled at her, but I felt sick.
I am a mother. Every night I walk into my boys’ room and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of my children. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under your own roof – and THEN, to walk four hours to meet the woman who can?
This woman (me) who flies over in her airplane with her suitcase full of clothes and her bag full of lipstick and her wallet full of money, and says it’s all in the name of Jesus — a God this farmer worships more reverently each day than I ever have in my life?
Our Father weeps. He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Uganda in the same situation–who has to lose her child, who cannot take care of her children.
And He’s asking us to do something about it.
Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong. I sponsor as many children as I am able.
But standing there with this beautiful woman in her brown hat and her downcast gaze, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought, No. Enough. There has to be more.
I want this son to look at his MOTHER with adoration, not me–a stranger.
I want him to look at HER to provide his needs, not me–an outsider who didn’t birth him without an epidural, who didn’t weep and pray over him every night of his childhood, who didn’t spend every minute of every day trying to earn enough money to buy him a bowl of Matoke (cooked banana) so he wouldn’t starve to death.
So, I went home and founded a non-profit called The Lulu Tree. I didn’t intend to found a non-profit. I didn’t — and still don’t — feel qualified to start one, I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.
Our vision at The Lulu Tree is to work with HIV mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda (the worst of Kampala’s eight slums), equipping them to be care for their own kids. Our slogan is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.” Lofty, I know. But you have to dream big, right? Shoot for the moon and you’ll land somewhere among the stars?
So we’re shooting for the moon.