I mentioned a while back that I spent one summer working with orphans in Uganda. I am no Mother Theresa, but this was, in part, one of the ways that we would know we were supposed to move back to France in 2007. It is a long story, but to sum it up, one of our criteria for our move was to have my husband’s Law School debt completely paid off.
The second was one of those “Hah! This will never happen” kind of tests I threw out there: I said, “Okay, if this is really what God wants from us, then I will have an opportunity to go to Africa and work in an orphanage before we move.”
Again, this was completely random. NOT the kind of thought I usually have. So when I said it, it was like in one of those old fashioned mystery stories, “duh Duh DUH!”
Again, this is one of those hard-to-believe things, so unreal that even typing it here makes me positive no one else will believe it. My husband and I attended two churches at the time: One where we served in the children’s ministry, but because we served during both services, we never got to actually worship, and the other we attended on Sunday nights to worship.
On the Sunday night that followed my offhanded pronouncement, there was a presentation of the summer mission trips and one was to Uganda to work with a ministry that–and I swear this is true–had a Fashion Design School in Kabale where they taught girls to knit, to sew, to make patterns, to tailor.
Now. Obviously, you know me by now. You know my love of craftiness. This was for me.
By July I was on a plane to Uganda while my husband took his Bar Exam.
The sewing machine finds a home
We spent a few days in Kabale, where my sewing machine found its new home, then went to Mbarara, a mid-sized city, then drove what seemed like a lifetime to Kishanje Village, an itty bitty, tiny little village. With no electricity in the mountains, just across a lake from Rwanda and down the hill from Congo. There we were going to help build a school.
My joy was in spending time with the children of the village, some orphans, some not. All very very very poor. My heart yearned to provide for each one of them, but in the end, they provided for me.
I am not a hiker
I am not an outdoorsy kinda gal. I am an indoorsy kinda gal. Not as though this should come as a surprise to you.
One day, one of the kids said “let’s go to the lake!” I hadn’t known there was a lake. Ever amenable, I said, “Okay, let’s!”
I AM NOT A HIKER. I just want to make sure you understand that. But what is a “walk” in the hill country to get to a lake for some is a two hour nightmare for another.
However, one of the children, a boy of about nine named Pai, said, “Don’t worry Mirembe,” (Mirembe was my Rukiga name, the name they gave me that means “Peace”) “…just watch my feet.” Then, he added imperiously, “But sing, Mirembe. I like it when you sing.”
You aren’t singing
Pai’s feet looked about how you would imagine them. This was a little boy who had probably never worn a pair of shoes in his life. They looked like hardened tree bark. For two hours, every time Pai would remove his foot, I would put my foot where he had just left. For two hours, through rivers, forest, landslides (not exaggerating. I wish I were!). And I sang.
When the path would become treacherous, Pai would slow down and scold me, “Mirembe, you aren’t singing!”
Oddly, I was not afraid. I knew we would make it. Pai, although just a child, had done this dozens of times. I was singing, and that has always been what holds me together.
When we arrived at the lake, the aforementioned lake across from which you can see Rwanda on the other side, it was the most breathtaking view…I wish I had photos. I wish I had photos, but nothing will ever do that view justice: not after two hours of following in the footsteps of a little boy with hardened tree bark for feet who liked it when I sang.
I have thought about this hike a million times over the years. Every time I get something new out of it. But the most important life lesson has been this: my job is not to know the way. My job is just to follow the footholds laid out for me and to keep singing.
I may not know you, or what is going on in your life. But I know that if you pay careful attention, God wants to show you every single place to put your feet. He knows the way, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the landslides.
And keep singing. He likes it when you sing.