God Shows Up
Author Katie Davis Majors, a wife and mother of 14, talks about the realities of living and serving as a missionary in Uganda. Majors tells the story of Mack, the village alcoholic who put his trust in Jesus, and shares how her understanding of God has changed since she first stepped foot on Ugandan soil in 2006.
About the Guest
Author Katie Davis Majors, a wife and mother of 14, talks about the realities of living and serving as a missionary in Uganda.
God Shows Up
Bob: Katie Davis Majors says there are certain things that adoptive parents understand that bio parents just can’t fully appreciate.
Katie: What better way to clearly understand God’s heart for us than to bring a child, who is not biologically related to you, into your home and call them your own and believe that they’re your own? I now have adopted children and a biological child. I can say, with certainty, that my love for them is the same.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 19th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s a lot we can learn, as followers of Jesus, when we go near the orphan or those in need. We’ll hear more about that today from Katie Davis Majors. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was coming back from a trip recently—I was grousing about the poor condition of the airplane I was on. It was an older plane—seats were kind of hard and, you know, I was cramped up. I went on Twitter® and I just—[Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, you belly-ached on—
Katie: —to the whole world!
Barbara: Oh! My goodness!
Bob: —belly-ached to the particular airline in question.
Dennis: Oh, really?
Bob: I called them out and said, “It’s time to upgrade your planes.” A friend of mine “tweeted” back at me and he said, “You need to fly to better destinations.” I “tweeted” back to him—I said, “There’s no better destination than home.”
Dennis: There you go!
Bob: Yes; “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home”; right?
Dennis: Well, I have to ask this; because she was snickering as you were telling that story. It’s like you don’t have any idea about the condition—
Bob: —what a bad airline is? [Laughter]
Katie Davis Majors joins us on the broadcast. Katie lives in Uganda.
Can you tell us a story of a flight on an airplane in Uganda?
Barbara: Or even a road, maybe. Driving a car down a road is probably just as bad.
Dennis: Oh, exactly.
Katie: Yes; the only time that I get in an airplane in Uganda would be to fly overseas, so then the airplane isn’t terrible; but the condition of the roads is not great.
Dennis: Well, I think there’s no question that we’re spoiled, here, in America with all of our services.
Bob: I think you’re right.
Dennis: Katie is the author of a new book called Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful. She is a mom to 14; a wife to 1, Benji, which is a great story in and of itself; and they’ve had a little boy of their own named Noah.
This is a book about, really, finding God through the interruptions of life, what we would call an interruption. Bob was interrupted by the seat in his airplane. You were interrupted, one day, by a guy, who was on your doorstep, by the name of Mack.
You generally have taken care of girls, but this was a guy who needed help.
Katie: Right; yes. Mack was brought to me from one of the communities that we work in, by a social worker on our staff. She had found him, and he had been severely burned. His leg—you could almost see the bone, it had been burned so badly and so deeply.
You know, I thought I knew Mack. He was the village alcoholic. He was the guy who was getting in my way on my way to Bible study—he was the guy who was yelling profanities, and I would cover my children’s ears. I had shrugged him off as an annoyance—as that kind of person. So, when she showed up with him—my sweet social worker, Christine—I kind of shook my head at her; but he was badly hurt, so we proceeded to three different hospitals. We were told all three times that his leg would have to be amputated, because it was so badly injured.
The hospitals in Uganda, where we live, are pretty understaffed and very under-resourced. The doctor explained to me that his leg did have a chance if somebody could bandage it and dress it every single day; but he said, “My nursing staff here, with this many patients, we don’t have enough gauze, we don’t have strong enough antibiotics; we won’t be able to do this every day. If you’d like, I can show you how and you can do it at home.” I said, “Okay,” which is funny to me now. You know, sometimes, you wonder, “Okay; God, what?”—how did I…” / “I did?”
Barbara: “How did that come out of my mouth?” [Laughter]
Katie: I said, “That was fine”; but I did. We’ve been privileged, over the last many years, the house that we live in has a really simple guesthouse in the back—it’s really just a line of small rooms. So, we do have a place where it is safe to let other people live. They’re not inside our home, and so—
Dennis: Yes; that’s one of my first thoughts: “What’s a guy like this going to do in a house with so many young ladies?”
Katie: Right. So that’s why I felt safe about the fact that we had some good separation between our house and the guest home; and I have people like social workers on my staff who are able to come and help out with this sort of thing.
But he stayed—he wasn’t actually allowed to come up to the main house—so I would go back there on the porch of his room every day and dress his wound. Slowly, he began to sober up; and this really gentle, genuine side of him came out. He began to tell me his story of all the tragic things that happened in his life that had led him to this point. God really just gave me such a compassion for him.
We don’t get to our brokenness just because—you know, really terrible things had happened to him that had led him to this place. As I changed his wound each day for almost an entire year—it was about ten months / maybe closer to eleven that I was changing that dressing.
Every day, for about an hour, he would tell me little pieces of his story. I would share with him little pieces of the gospel and how I really believed that, not only was God going to make his leg whole, but God was going to make all of us whole.
We had just endured some loss in our family—we had lost a foster daughter that had lived with us for a long time. I really think, as I watched Mack’s leg heal, that God was doing a lot of healing in my heart. As I testified to Mack who I had known Jesus to be, God was really having me say some of those things to remind myself of what I believed.
Dennis: So, how could you do that? I mean, seriously—bring a total stranger in there? What was the motivation? What was the heart that caused you to care for that guy for 12 months?
Katie: It wasn’t—I mean, it the first time we had had a stranger in dire need show up and need a place to stay.
For Mack, I think, I was looking for healing / I was looking for redemption. I had not seen a happy ending in my family’s story recently as we had lost of our daughters to the foster care system. I wanted to believe that God would heal this wound, and I wanted to watch it happen. Through that, God did a lot of healing in my own life. He definitely healed Mack’s leg. A year later, Mack was up walking around the yard, raking our leaves for us / taking out our trash, just like a dependable, fun uncle for the kids. He had gotten a job at a local dentist—he’s a dental assistant now.
And actually, my friend Benji—who was just a friend, at the time, and was doing men’s ministry in the area—I had reached out to him and said: “Hey, I don’t usually have guys around, but there’s this man that’s ended up living in our guest house. He needs a man to be discipling him. Would you be willing to come do that?”
Benji began meeting with him multiple times a week for several hours, just studying the Word together. About a year-and-a-half after Mack had moved in with us, he put his trust in Jesus. He walked into my kitchen and he said, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” and then he turned around and walked out. I stood in the kitchen and just cried, and yelled, and, I mean, was so excited.
Bob: You know, Katie, I have a picture in my head of the gospel being proclaimed in—I don’t know if it’s in Uganda, but in parts of Africa—sadly, sometimes a shallow, consumeristic gospel, making promises and then shallow conversions that are momentary. It’s like: “We’ll try this witch doctor, because the last one wasn’t so good.” Talk a little bit about the ministry of the gospel that you’re involved with and what you’re trying to do to counteract what’s going on in lots of places in Africa.
Katie: You’re absolutely right. We see a lot of that—the shallow conversion—everybody’s looking for an answer; right?—so: “I might as well try this out. These people say that it can work.” It’s difficult, too, to be white in an African country and proclaiming the gospel; because you want people to come to the gospel for the gospel, not because of something that they think you might offer them.
So, you know, we’ve seen two things in ministry that we are both very passionate about—and that Amazima, as a whole, is very passionate about—one is just relational ministry / one on one over a very long period of time, discipleship through studying Scripture together. Another is equipping locals. We have some ex-patriot staff, but we have mostly Ugandan staff.
The goal of the ex-patriot staff is really just to equip the Ugandan staff with good, deep theology and the true Word of God so that the Ugandan staff members can be the ones discipling, especially the children in our program.
All of the families and children in our programs are assigned a mentor, who’s a social worker; and they’re all Ugandan. So, as an ex-patriot, we are really kind of behind the scenes, trying to encourage these Ugandan leaders to be the people sharing the gospel; because I feel like it’s [better] received.
I say this a lot: “You can pour all the money, and all the resources, and build all the buildings and have all the projects; but in ten years in Uganda, the stories where I see true life change are people who have had a one-on-one relationship with someone who is pointing them to Christ. I think relational ministry is where it’s at.
Bob: What you’re talking about—I remember, a few years ago, reading the book, When Helping Hurts, which I know you’ve read.
Bob: That’s a part of the thesis. We have—in this country, we have a desire to want to help; and yet, we can throw a lot of resources at stuff that’s actually counter-productive.
Katie: Yes; and let’s be serious—helping feels good. You know, it’s not just about the person I’m helping; it fills me up as well. I believe that God intended it that way—that giving would be joyful and that acts of mercy would be done cheerfully—but I also think we need to walk with wisdom in that and how to best steward the gospel to a different people.
Dennis: Katie, I know you believe this; but one of the things Barbara and I have really attempted to champion is encouraging believers / followers of Christ to get involved in the foster care system of our nation. You’ve been deeply involved in foster care; and to go back to what Bob said earlier—if you want to help someone, there is a natural way, right now, because there are almost 500,000 children in America—you don’t have to go to Uganda to find one of them.
Katie: Yes; yes; right.
Dennis: Many of them are going to age out of the system without a parent.
Barbara, we just had a delightful dinner with a man who has a passion for this as well.
Barbara: We did. We had dinner a couple of weeks ago with a pastor whose name is Bishop Martin. He and his wife have adopted a number of young men and women out of the foster care system. He is passionate about us doing that, as a body of Christ, in America. In fact, our oldest daughter has been involved in fostering children for years, and they’ve had—I don’t know how many—23/25 children through their house, and two of them they ended up adopting.
It has really opened our eyes. We adopted too—one of our six is adopted—but we didn’t do foster care. We have such a passion to see families welcome these children. The complaint that our daughter, Ashley, hears all the time—and I hear it as well—is: “That would be too hard, and it would hurt too much to give them up.”
I think this book that you’ve written will really help address that, because I think we shy away because of the pain of entering into someone’s life. But when we do back off from entering into someone’s life—whether it’s a foster child or whether it’s helping someone like you did [for] Mack—we don’t realize that we’re cutting ourselves off from knowing God in a way that we would not apart from that experience.
I love it that you’re doing foster care in Uganda, and bringing children into your home, and writing about it so that maybe more American families will address the need that’s right under our noses in our own backyards; because there are so many children who need to be touched—who need to be loved / who need to understand what a relationship is like. They’ve been shuttled around for years, and it’s a ripe opportunity that God has in front of us. I hope people will consider it.
Katie: I agree. What a tangible way to get involved, right where you are, in your own community. It’s certainly as much of a need, here, in the States as it is in Uganda.
There are children hurting world-over, and so that’s one of the things that I really always hope to encourage people in—that you don’t have to move to Uganda / you don’t have to move anywhere—there are people in need right in front of you.
Barbara: Exactly; right; but you do need to open your heart.
Barbara: And that, I think, is what most people are afraid of—is opening their heart—because they know that there might be some pain involved. We’re so pain-adverse and we’re so addicted to comfort that it keeps us from opening our hearts and then, consequently, experiencing God in a way that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Dennis: Katie, I’ve said, for years, that: “When you go near the orphan, you go near the heart of God.”
Dennis: How have you experienced that personally?—because you’ve adopted 13 Ugandan young ladies.
Katie: Well, what better way to clearly understand God’s heart for us than to bring a child, who is not biologically related to you, into your home and call them your own and believe that they’re your own?
I now have adopted children and a biological child. I can say, with certainty, that my love for them is the same.
Because I know that to be true, I can believe God when He says that, through Jesus Christ, I am adopted as His son or daughter, just as Christ is His Son. I mean, really, it’s unfathomable; isn’t it?—but I believe it’s such a clear picture. I desire the world for my adopted daughters, and I believe that that’s God’s heart towards us—this Father heart—and I don’t think I would be able to so clearly understand it had I not experienced the love that I have for my children.
Bob: Katie, you’ve been in Uganda for a decade.
Bob: You left Nashville to go there as somebody who knew and loved Jesus.
How is your understanding of what the gospel is different, today, than it was when you got on the plane and said, “I’m going to Uganda”?
Katie: It’s very different. I think my faith, when I set out—as an 18-year-old, with my suitcase full of construction paper, and crayons, and my heart that was going to change the world for the gospel of Christ—you know, I think my faith was a bit naïve. Definitely—
Dennis: You think?—at 18? [Laughter]
Dennis: I just want to make sure our listeners heard what you just said.
Katie: I’m quite sure. [Laughter]
Bob: A bit—a bit naïve.
Dennis: A bit! I mean, your parents had to let you go, for goodness sakes, at the age of 18, to Uganda.
Katie: They did; yes.
Dennis: They had to wonder if you were a bit off at that point; right?
Katie: Right! Yes; I think I was very optimistic as well. I think I saw God’s goodness to be when things turned out well, or when my prayers were answered, or when things were going my way—then I would say, “Oh, see, God blessed us.”
And I really—I mean, I do believe that the greatest gift God gives us is Himself / salvation and eternal life with Him—that’s what He wants to give us. There’s no material thing / there’s no earthly blessing—it’s Him. I have seen that God has given me more and more of Himself even in the midst of unimaginable hardship.
Bob: When you share the gospel today with people in Uganda, how is it different than when you shared the gospel a decade ago?
Katie: I mean, I think I definitely am more quick to present the fact that belief in Jesus does not mean that things are going to go well; and belief in Jesus does not mean that your garden is going to grow or that you’re not going to live in a dirt house anymore; but belief in Jesus means that you will have someone with you through those circumstances and that those circumstances will just be so temporary in light of eternity.
There is nothing here that we’re putting our hope in. Belief in the gospel doesn’t really mean that we have hope in this world now; it means that we have hope for eternity spent with God.
Dennis: And in the midst of life, you’re going to have these messes that you’re talking about—that hurt / that disappoint—because people will disappoint you.
Dennis: But what you’re saying and what you’re reminding us of is that God shows up and He desires to be our refuge.
One of the things I found, as I was reading your book, was you were really counseling your own soul. As you stood there in your kitchen—peeling mounds of potatoes, cleaning dishes, cleaning up after the girls—but you were counseling your soul with the Psalms / with the Scripture so that you were responding the way God wanted you to respond, realizing He was there with you.
Katie: I love the Psalms because they’re so honest.
I think we’re, sometimes, conditioned to think that we can’t come to God and tell Him, “I feel so disappointed,” or “I feel so angry”; right? We think we’re only supposed to say, “Okay; I’m upset with God, but let me find something that I can thank Him for or something good”; but we see in the Psalms the psalmist cries out to God. He tells Him how he feels.
When I approached God in that way, I felt that God did not become angry with me back. You know, maybe when you approach a human with anger, you expect they’re going to yell back at you; right? But God didn’t feel angry. He understood what I felt / He already knew that I felt that way, and He was able to comfort me all the more when I was honest with Him.
Dennis: Well, as I was reading your book, I was reflecting back on a psalm—
Psalm 43—especially one verse that has been meaningful to me recently. Maybe it will be meaningful to a listener or two.
It reads, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” That’s honesty, right there—that’s admitting where you are. It goes on to say, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”
God desires to be our refuge. Sometimes, He has to knock the props out from under us, where we’re looking for encouragement / where we’re looking, as you talk about, Katie, in your book, Daring to Hope, where we’re hoping for a good ending to the story, and we don’t get that good ending. What God’s doing is—He’s driving us to Himself. So, if you want to counsel your soul, take a look at all five verses of chapter 43 of the Psalms.
Bob: And I think for folks to read Katie’s book and be reminded of the things she has learned, caring for adopting kids, living in Uganda—I think there’s a lot of encouragement / a lot of hope in this book. The book is called Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website—FamilyLifeToday.com—the phone number: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I was with one of our listeners, recently, who said, “I know when FamilyLife Today went on the air.” He said, “It was 25 years ago; and the reason I know that is because that’s when we started having children, right about the same time that FamilyLife Today began as a radio broadcast.” And he said, “All along the journey, I have leaned into you guys for counsel, for wisdom, for help, for advice on how we can raise our kids.”
And he smiled and he said, “And you know, they’ve turned out okay.”
As you know, Dennis, there’s no guarantee that kids turn out okay, even when Mom and Dad do the best they know how to do; but it is encouraging to hear from moms and dads / from husbands and wives who tell us, repeatedly, that this program has made a difference in their understanding of marriage and family and in how they’re living it out.
I wish those of you who support FamilyLife Today—both as Legacy Partners and those of you who will give an occasional donation to support this ministry—I wish you could hear some of these testimonies that we get a chance to hear. These are the people you’re supporting when you support this broadcast. You’re helping to turn around legacies / you’re helping to point families in new directions, and we’re grateful for your partnership with us.
Here, at yearend, we have a unique opportunity for your giving to go farther. Our friend, Michelle Hill, is here again today with an update on FamilyLife’s matching-gift fund. Hi, Michelle!
Michelle: Hi Bob, yes I reported yesterday how the fund might be doubling? Well the matching fund is 4.3 million dollars! …which is fantastic! But what has to happen next is up to our listeners, because without you, that 4.3 million dollar figure is just a number. So…please pray about your part in fulfilling the match… ‘cause right now we’re at seven hundred twenty nine thousand dollars, and that’s quite a gap to fill in just a couple of weeks… so please keep praying, keep giving and to God be the glory!
Bob: And we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to make a yearend contribution to FamilyLife Today. You can do it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to find out how Katie Davis became Katie Davis Majors and hear about the young man who pursued her in Uganda and ultimately got her to say, “Yes,” to his proposal. I hope you can tune in for that story.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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