We spent most of our last full day in Uganda with Sam Kisolo. He’s adopted more children than he can count throughout the lifetime of his family. Literally, I asked him how many, and he answered my seemingly irrelevant question by saying, “I don’t know how many. I just know their names.”
Upon hearing that answer, I started to wonder if his house was just a place to stay with named-rather-than-numbered little bodies walking around, eating and sleeping. Until I went and saw for myself.
The traditional greeting in Uganda is for a child to bow on bended knees before an adult and extend their hand for a handshake. As we sat on the Kisolos couch pouring through their family photo albums, the children started returning home from school. Each came to greet their father first. (I lost count too.)
Every single one of those children who bowed before their father and reached out their hand was reached back for and pulled into their daddy’s lap. Sam would lovingly pull those children in and put his hand on their face.
There was a secret, intimate conversation - a named and not numbered interaction between a child and a father. This home was not just a place to meet the basic needs of orphans, widows and elderly… even though they are indeed doing that.
This father’s biggest dream for all of his children is that they know who they are in Christ and live it out. He wants them to know they are created in the image of their Creator and to create.
Some of his older children are studying agriculture, some business, some catering... And they are taking these passions, skills and giftings and putting them into practice. They are going together into desolate, hopeless villages to plant gardens, grow organic foods, bring that food into town, start a restaurant and create jobs for other people.
You know that African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Sam Kisolo is raising a village of creative children to transform the nation.
This is what family is.
It is reaching out your hand, pulling them into your lap, touching their faces, and whispering secret, transforming Truth into them… and knowing that they’re going to grow up reaching, pulling, touching, whispering, and transforming others too.
I was so excited to get back and reach my hands and heart and secrets to these people I love in South Africa. Especially Mama Charity. Because God has been whispering transforming Truths to us at Ten Thousand Homes about her.
We gathered around the picnic blanket at Sunday Lunch this week, so happy to be back together. And as I told this orphaned mother the story of a reaching father, she leaned in.
Her eyes bulged; her head bounced up and down in the most eager agreement. It was like she was waiting for me to touch her face.
I told her that Ten Thousand Homes wants to live like that family.
Like the Father’s Family.
I told her I wanted to live like that – with her, with the Sunday Lunch crew, and with everyone I come across.
And I told her that, maybe, if we learn how to reach out our hands, pull people in, and live like real family with them, there won’t be orphans any more. Maybe our hands reaching out can change Dwaleni, the community she lives in.
I realized when I looked in those suddenly overwhelmingly childlike eyes that this woman with five children who has only experienced abuse, abandonment and being taken from has never been invited into something bigger than herself.
She’s never been pulled onto the lap of her father. And never been whispered to about the mystery of that kind of love that comes in its fullest when it’s given away. But she wants it.
She physically leaned in toward me during that moment, wordlessly proclaiming she wants to be a part of that thing that’s bigger than her… the Family that transforms.
So I told her we start with our hands. With reaching.
I pulled out paint, stripped the spaghetti-covered shirts off all the kids, and we started making art. Everybody at Sunday Lunch reached out their hand and added their perfectly-designed print to this family creation. It is BEAUTIFUL.
I proudly held it up, and showed Mama Charity, “This IS how you build Home. Everybody reaches and puts their hands in.”
And then… drum roll please…
I choked back tears but didn’t even try to fight the smile as I told her that this reaching, beauty-making piece of art would be the first thing we would hang up in the new home Ten Thousand Homes is going to build her.
|She was so surprised she didn't know how to react. :)|
WE’RE BUILDING MAMA CHARITY A HOUSE!!!
I’M SO EXCITED!!!
But better than a house, we’re building a gathering point, a reaching place, a beacon of light in Dwaleni. We’re building a family that is learning how to love and transform like family.
And I’m believing that this is going to be a turning point for Dwaleni.
For orphans of every age.
I believe Family is going to win.