An Assignment to Love
About the Guest
God has turned my world upside down, but He's turning it right side up." Amazima director and founder Katie Davis tells how God changed her perspective and filled her with passion to love and serve the Ugandan people, especially the children. It's through caring for the orphan that God has turned her values upside down and nurtured her dependence on God above all. Hear more about the remarkable impact Katie and Amazima are having in Uganda.
God has turned my world upside down, but He’s turning it right side up.” Katie Davis tells how God changed her perspective and filled her with passion to love and serve the Ugandan children.
An Assignment to Love
Bob: We are taught to pray, in the Lord’s prayer, “Give us, this day, our daily bread.” For most of us, that’s not an urgent need; but for Katie Davis, working with orphans in Africa, that prayer makes a lot of sense every day.
Katie: Scovia, who was five at the time, walked into my room. She said, “Hello, Mommy.” I’m sure she had heard the other girls in our house talking about me—“Oh, there’s this lady—her name is Mommy. She feeds us,”—whatever. She said, “Hello, Mommy, thank you for food today.” And I just remember how that struck me. “Thank you for food today”—like this is what we are looking at—this is what we are dealing with.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll learn more today about how God is using Katie Davis to minister unto the least of these in our world.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was talking to a friend of mine recently about the conversation we’ve been having this week with Katie Davis, about her work in Uganda and her work with orphans over there. And my friend was telling me about the new home theater system he had put into his house. He said, “Now, I’m starting to feel guilty that I put in a big screen TV in my house.” You’ve got a flat panel TV—not a big one; right?
Dennis: I do, and occasionally, when I have a chance to visit a third-world country, I think of the almost two worlds that seem to coexist at the same time.
Dennis: And we have so much in America.
Bob: So, do you think we’re all called to downsize, and sell everything, and send it all somewhere where they need it more than we do?
Dennis: No, not necessarily, but I do think we are called to do this—and this is found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 24, verse 19. This is a rather extended passage, but I want to read it. It says:
When you reap your harvest, in your field, and forget a sheath in the field”—that’s like a head of wheat—“you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow that the Lord, your God, may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore, I’ve commanded you to do this.
Bob: Okay. So, I don’t have wheat fields, or grape vines, or olive trees—
Dennis: I think the message is you need to be thinking of how you can take your plenty and pass it around to people who have need, and they are not far from you. You don’t have to go to Uganda to be able to find people in need.
I’m wondering how Katie Davis—who is our guest, as you mentioned, on the broadcast all this week—Katie, how do you handle this because you leave Uganda / you come back to America—even though you are only 25 years old and you started doing this when you were 18—you have to sort it through when you come back to Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. How do you sort it out?
Katie: It is difficult to kind of reenter into this world, where people have just about everything. I’m blessed in that, during my time here, it is so brief that I am often only surrounded by people who have very much but are also very generous. I usually spend most of my time here with family and close friends.
And they do a great job of having a lot, but also sharing a lot. And so, I think that would be our message to people here—who find themselves even with a big flat screen TV—right—is that it’s okay to have plenty. It is okay to be materially-blessed. What do we do with our material blessing and how do we use that?
So, that’s been a huge challenge to my family, even as we’ve found ourselves coming from a place where—when I had my first girls, we lived on very, very little—and we ate very, very little. There was a time when we could not afford to have a table. So, we ate in a big circle on the floor. And we look back so fondly on those times of sitting in a big circle on the floor. I mean, those were sweet, sweet times of just total dependence on Jesus. But now, we have a little bit bigger of a house.
We have a dining room table. We sit around it and eat plentiful meals. How do we share that with the people outside of our yard who have less?
Dennis: Well, I have to put that in context, though. You do have 13 children that you are in the process of taking care of. You’re using your house to care for people who are homeless / who are gravely ill. Give us an example of what happens in an average month.
Katie: Oh my!
Dennis: What takes place—how many people will live there?
Katie: It kind of depends on the person’s situation and what their need is or what their illness is. We have a house; and then, in the back of our yard, there is what used to be a staff quarters for whoever lived in the house before us, I guess. We don’t have any staff that live back there, but it is four small rooms and a bathroom.
We use that as transitional housing for people who—either are homeless and don’t have a place to go or, sometimes, people who are very ill and can’t really take care of themselves. Maybe they need to get started on their HIV medication—but often, that medication, actually, makes you feel very sick before you feel better—if they don’t have the support of family or neighbors. So, it just kind of depends on the month. Sometimes, people are there for a few weeks while they look for a job and look for a place to go. More often, they are there for several months.
We love just to sit back there and read Scripture with them, and share our story with them, and share with them all the ways that we’ve seen God work in our lives, and all the ways that we believe that He would work in their lives. It’s fun—even as the girls have gotten older, when they come home from school, to see them in the backyard, talking to the different—it’s often women and children who live with us—but see them talking to the different women, and children, and sharing a little bit of how God is working in their lives.
It’s been fun to watch them take that on as their personal ministry and our family’s ministry. But that’s just kind of a way that we say, “God, out of the overflow that You have blessed us with, we want to bless these other people.”
Bob: How do you keep from being taken advantage of because I would think, in the culture where you are living, people would see you and go: “Oh, there is this one woman—if you just let her know you have a need, she will take care of it”?
Katie: Well, first of all, I have great, great friends. And the communities that I work in are very grateful of our staff—have very good relationships with our staff. We have a big Ugandan staff. Their primary goal, all the time, is to be forming relationships with the families in the community. And so, lots and lots of people, who we work with, would feel very protective of me—so, I think that makes it easier.
You can kind of easily weed those people out. There are people, always, who come to
my gate and say: “Oh, I’m hungry. I need this. I need that.” I mean, usually, we bring them a plate a food. If they say, “Oh, no, I wanted money instead,” we say, “Oh, well, then, you’ll probably have to go look somewhere else.” Whereas, if they hungrily eat the food, we go, “Oh, you needed a meal.”
The people who we move in with us are always people who we have some kind of preexisting relationship with. So, often, I work in three or four different communities. I do Bible studies in a community called Masese—that is a slum. A lot of the people that come to live with us are people who have been living in Masese. The neighbors know them. The people around know them. Usually, they’ve been evicted from their homes because they can’t afford to rent a home anymore.
But usually, the people that stay with us are people that we have tried for several months to help from wherever they have already been.
So, it’s not just that they show up one day and move in. We usually try to get a family member or someone else to take care of them before they come and stay with us for a while.
Dennis: Yes, and Katie, it’s interesting, as you’ve talked about these people you’ve encountered—especially the children—you don’t sugar coat it in your book.
Katie: Thank you.
Dennis: I mean, it’s kind of raw, at points. Children who haven’t had a bath and aren’t clean, and frankly, stink—you know—and yet, one of the major messages I took away from your book was your assignment from God was to love. Your purpose was to love these children. I really like that; but you also have a purpose around truth, and that’s the name of your ministry.
Katie: Yes, the word, amazima, does mean truth in the local language.
We chose that as a name—I chose that as a name because we want that to be the core of everything we do. We do feeding programs, where we feed children lunch. We do sponsorship, where we help children go to school and pay for their school fees so that they continue to live with their biological family. We do farming outreaches. We do vocational training, and we teach women to make jewelry so that they can sell it and make an income for their family.
But at the very heart of all of those things is discipleship. In all of our programs, we make sure that there is some kind of mentor, or teacher, or social worker—one of our staff members is walking alongside people that we serve to teach them the gospel. And just the joy of my week—every week—is that I get to sit with the women who make our jewelry and lead a Bible study. We’re going through the book of John right now.
So, we want everything we do to be really relationship-centered and really gospel-centered.
So, as we look forward, one of the biggest initiatives that we have right now is we are in the process of building a high school. So, we have—we have the land. We’ve hired the head of school who is doing all the research and hiring all the staff. Our goal would be that this would be a high school that our children, who are in sponsorship, can go to; but also, that one day, once we’ve really figured all of it out, that it would be a school that, also, the community members would want to come to. Our goal in that is just that we really want to build into those relationships.
Right now, we send our children to existing high schools, which is fine; but we don’t just want to see these children go to school. We want to see these children know Jesus, and become lovers of Jesus, and followers of Jesus, and because of their love for Christ, change their nation. We feel like: “What better way to do that than to grab them at this very tender age of going off to high school.”
You know, that’s the four or six years that prepares you to really enter the world as a young adult. We’d love just to have teachers and mentors who are discipling them as they are teaching them and who are teaching them the Word as they are teaching them science, social studies, literature—all these things that they need to learn to be successful adults. We want them to learn them with a Christian worldview, and we want to raise up followers of Christ who will impact their nation.
Bob: Do you think, five years from now, you’ll have 23 kids? I mean, I’m just trying to do the math. It took you—you have 13 in the first seven years. Add another five—
Dennis: That’d be 26, Bob.
Bob: That’s what I’m wondering. Do you think?
Katie: I wouldn’t mind—I like being a mother. I do think the Lord is very gracious to us to give us what we can handle—
—and to stretch us and giving us things, sometimes, we feel like we can’t handle. I feel like, right now, I have really a beautiful personal relationship with each one of my children. And when I think about adding even just one child, my fear would be that that child would get lost in the shuffle.
We are all so established, six years later in our routine. They are so established in their place in the family that I think to adopt a baby—I would be handing that baby to someone all day long: “Here, can you hold the baby while I do this? Here, can you hold the baby while I do that?” A child might kind of get lost in the shuffle, and I don’t believe that it would be fair to adopt a child that I could not really parent and pour into.
I also have seen God do just an incredible work in the community around me and in my staff.
Over the last six years of, as I have fostered my daughters—and decided to foster to adopt them—and we’ve also fostered several other children, who’ve been placed back into their biological families. We’ve fostered them during difficult times in their family, or we’ve fostered them as we’ve looked for even Ugandan adoptive families for them. I have seven members of my staff now who have foster children that they are fostering to adopt to become permanent members of their family—Ugandan staff members.
And we’ve seen, even in the communities that we are working in—we’ve come alongside these families and said: “We would like to pay for your children’s education, and food, and medical care. We’d like to disciple you spiritually so that your children can stay in your home.” We’ve seen that sometimes we will have a child in sponsorship who’s only living relative dies. That’s, honestly, how I have gotten some of my daughters—is that they were children who were sponsored because they lived with single grandfather.
Well, then, when single grandfather passes away, you’re kind of out of options as far as family members left—right?—especially in families that are really affected by AIDS.
But we have seen the community around us step up and say: “Well, with the help of Amazima / with the help of sponsorship, we would love to foster that child. If you’re going to kind of take the financial burden, we will take the responsibility of raising the child.” In which case, we say, “Great!” I mean, to see a child grow up in their local community / in their culture, with friends and neighbors who they have known, that is such an ideal situation if you can’t have your biological parents raise you—which of course, would be the first, best choice—that’s so fun.
So, I’ve just loved watching the Spirit move in their hearts and watching them feel like—Uganda, I mean it’s in their culture to take care of each other.
That’s not something that I taught them nearly as much as that’s something I’ve learned from the Ugandans around me. But to be able to say, “We will come alongside you in doing that,” has been a really powerful thing. So, I don’t know—all of my children, who were adopted, were adopted kind of out of necessity of “Oh, these young girls don’t have anywhere to go.” I would love to one day adopt again; but I look at all the very strong and capable Ugandans around me, and I don’t know that I would have to!
Bob: Did it dawn on you, when you began the process of adopting—now, 13 children—that with each child you brought in, you were decreasing the odds that some young man was going to fall in love with you and want to marry you and your 13 kids?
Katie: Yes. That did occur to me. It was a long process of prayer and wrestling with God of: “Oh my goodness!
In calling me to this, You might be calling me to not be married.” I mean, that might be it.
Dennis: You mentioned that Mother Teresa was kind of an idol of yours growing up.
Katie: Yes, but I didn’t—I don’t think that that part was something that I admired. [Laughter] I mean, I always wanted to be married one day. So, I mean—through a lot of prayer and a lot of wrestling—and going: “Okay, You know this doesn’t just mean leaving family. This doesn’t just mean leaving comfort.” In a lot of ways, it meant leaving dreams of what a little girl once thought life would look like; but God has just been very gracious to me. He’s put wonderful, wonderful people around me. We have a great community of support and have friends who love us and take care of us.
Bob: Well, and who knows that guy might be out there; right?
Dennis: He might.
Katie: And I know and I trust Him in that—[Laughter]
Dennis: I’ve got to have you comment on your favorite verse, and then, I’ve got an assignment for you.
But let me just share with our listeners: She loves Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” You’ve been talking all around this verse, but what does that mean to you?
Katie: I think I was—that was my favorite verse when I was little. I think it was because it sounded kind of like a fairy tale like: “Ooh, if I delight myself in the Lord”—whatever that means—I’m not sure I knew what that meant when I was little—“He will give me whatever I want!” I think it could be easily kind of read that way.
And I think, as I’ve grown in my relationship with Him, I’ve learned that that really means, when you are seeking after the Lord and you find great delight in Him, the desires of your heart become the desires of His heart. He has changed my desires in that I think about whatever He has in store for our family next—
—whether that’s more children / whether that’s not more children, whether that’s a husband / whether that’s not a husband—I know and I believe that He changes the desires of my heart to desire what He is giving me, and what He is putting in front of me, and what His plan is for me.
Never would I have told you, seven years ago, the desire of my heart is to run this ministry, and the desire of my heart is to raise all these girls, and the desire of my heart is to care for terminally-ill people in my home. That’s not the desire of anybody’s heart; but today, it really is. I just love being where He is moving, and He is faithful to make that the desire of my heart to just be where He is.
Dennis: You’re describing a heart transplant that occurs in the process of following Jesus Christ.
Dennis: I’ve got one last assignment that I want to give you; but I want Bob to share with our listeners how they can get a copy of your book, which I would recommend to every listener and especially the parents who’ve got children—that they ought to read this book aloud to.
Bob: You liked reading this book; didn’t you?
Dennis: I did.
Bob: We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request their copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about Katie’s book, Kisses from Katie. You can also request a copy when you call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, a quick word of thanks to the listeners we’ve heard from during the first part of December, who have called in or gone online to make a yearend contribution in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
The next two weeks are critical for us, here at the ministry, because they will determine, in large measure, what kind of a year in ministry 2015 is going to be. Will we be able to expand what we’re doing? Will we be able to maintain our current level of ministry? Or will we have to cut back? That’s the question that is ahead for us. Really, what happens over the next couple of weeks will help determine just how aggressive FamilyLife can be in 2015.
So, we’re asking you to consider making a yearend contribution, if you’ve not already done so. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care,” and make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. You can also mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and the zip code is 72223. And we just, again, appreciate your support of the ministry and are looking forward to what is ahead for us in the coming year.
Thanks for helping to make that possible.
Dennis: Katie, it’s been a treat to have you—finally get you here on FamilyLife Today.
Katie: Thank you.
Dennis: This has taken a while to get you over here to do this. You’re an inspiration to many. We’ve heard, though, this week that in the process of you ending up in Uganda, you had to overcome your parents’ best wishes—kind of what they really desired for you. I thought what I’d like to ask you to do here, at the conclusion of the broadcast, is give your parents—your mom and dad—a tribute and honor them—
Katie: Oh, thank you!
Dennis: —for their courageous faith in launching you and letting you go. You’re now a mom.
Dennis: You better understand what that looks like. To do that, what you need to do is speak to your mom and speak to your dad.
Katie: Okay. I’d love that.
Dennis: Personally, it’s not about them—it’s to them—they’ll be listening.
Mom and Dad, I never thought, at 18 years old, that it would just be a few years later that I would have such a greater understanding of what it means to love sacrificially as a parent—but as I wake up every day, as a parent—I learn that again, and again, and again—just the huge sacrifices you make to love your children well. You loved me so well to get behind what the Lord was asking me to do.
You taught me kindness. You taught me compassion. You taught me to love Jesus. You taught me to care for other people. I know you never imagined that I would take it and run with it quite to this extent, but I am so thankful just for your ongoing support and your ongoing love. I know that I could never, ever be in this place and be serving the Lord if it wasn’t just for your continued support, and your continued love, and your continued guidance.
And I am just so very thankful that you were so courageous to allow me to step into what God was calling me to—and even to step into what God was calling you to, as parents—and what God was calling us to, as a family.
And I can only hope that, one day, when one of my daughters looks me in the eye and tells me that she wants to go do something that sounds just crazy for Jesus—I can only hope that I would be so courageous to say, “Okay, let’s do it!” So, I love you guys. Thank you!
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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