I Never Meant to Be a Mother
About the Guest
Motherhood is delightful and difficult, even for the most seasoned of mothers. Amazima Ministry founder Katie Davis tells how she went from a being a kindergarten teacher in Uganda at age 18 to a soon-to-be adoptive mother of 13 Ugandan orphans by the time she was 25 years old.
Motherhood is delightful and difficult, even for the most seasoned of mothers. Katie Davis tells how she went from a being a kindergarten teacher at age 18 to a mother of 13 by the time she was 25.
I Never Meant to Be a Mother
Bob: As a young teenager, Katie Davis took a giant step of faith when she moved to Africa to care for the needs of orphans. She knew Jesus had called her there, but she didn’t realize all that call would mean for her life.
Katie: After about four months, I would sit in my bed and just cry—just go, “Oh, what did I do?”—because, at that point, I knew Jesus had wrecked my life. There wasn’t ever going to be a way that I could go back to my life that was normal—I wouldn’t be able to do it. I wouldn’t be able to live that way anymore, and I knew that I wouldn’t—but I kind of wanted to! [Laughter]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear more from Katie Davis today about how Jesus wrecked her life in a good way. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You remember, Dennis, that our daughter, Amy, spent a couple of years after college in Southeast Asia. She called us during her senior year and said, “I’m thinking I want to spend time in Southeast Asia after college.” We, as parents, kind of wrestled with that decision. And ultimately—
Dennis: Did you immediately applaud that?
Bob: We did not immediately embrace that—took a little processing.
Dennis: Mary Ann had a little bit of a problem with it; maybe?
Bob: Yes. We just—both of us—had to kind of pray our way through that. What she never did—she never called us in the middle of her time over there and said, “I’ve decided to become a mother.” That would have been a whole new level of “What is going on in the life of our daughter?”—if she had done that.
Dennis: And we have a young lady—who, at the age of—well, Katie, how old were you when you decided to become a mom?
Katie: Nineteen was when I fostered my first little girls.
Dennis: Okay—decided to become a mom when she was 19 years of age. Her name is Katie Davis. She has written a book called Kisses from Katie. She serves Jesus Christ in Uganda, caring for, now, 13 children—count them—that she is in the process of becoming their mother; right?—adopting them. And she is the director of a ministry called Amazima—is that right?
Dennis: Did I get it right?
Katie: You got it.
Dennis: I want to ask you to read the first two paragraphs of your book because I think this kind of sets apart how your life is making a difference in the lives of a lot of children.
I never meant to be a mother. I mean, I guess I did—not right now though—not before I was married, not when I was 19, not to so, so
many little people.
Thankfully, God’s plans did not seem to be much affected by my own. I never meant to live in Uganda—a dot on the map in East Africa on the opposite side of the planet from my family and all that is comfortable and familiar. Thankfully, God’s plans also happened to be much better than my own. You see, Jesus wrecked my life.
Dennis: Yes, He really wrecked it! [Laughter] He called you to give up an easy-going life as a teenager in Nashville, Tennessee—wrecked your parents’ lives, like Bob was talking about with his daughter going overseas. And you went there for one year. Well, you ended up staying. You encountered a number of little girls, but there was one who really grabbed your heart. It was the first little girl that you decided to adopt.
Explain the story because this really is an interesting story how you came about meeting her—it really came about through her sister.
Katie: Yes. So, I was living at the orphanage—had been working there for a while / had been teaching there for a while—and had also started to see a lot of the children in my class would come to school a little bit, and then, would not come to school for a while. I started asking, “Why are these children in and out of school all the time?” The pastor, who ran the school, said, “Well, they can’t always pay for their school fees.”
And I thought: “Oh, my goodness. That’s terrible.” I didn’t know that the school was so expensive, and it’s not expensive by our standard at all. I also recognized, during my time there, that a lot of the children who were living in the orphanage had living family members who would come and visit—who would see them / who seemed to love and care about them—but yet, the children lived in this institution.
They lived there so that they could go to school, and so that they could get their medical care, and the food that they needed, and things like that.
And so, I and my translator had started a small outreach—just with ten people to try to keep a couple of these children going to school but not living in the orphanage—we were paying for them to go to school, but they were staying with their families. I had met Agnes, and Mary, and Scovia because they were children that were on our list of maybe these children would be eligible to stay living their grandmother. Their grandmother really didn’t know what to do with them—was thinking about putting them in the orphanage.
Several weeks later, Oliver called me and said: “Oh, my goodness. We have to go visit this little girl. There’s been a storm. Her grandmother’s house has collapsed on her. She’s in the hospital. We’ve got to go visit her in the hospital.” We went to visit Agnes, and she had been smashed under this brick wall in the storm.
The houses are just made of these mud bricks. She was just lying there—tiny in this hospital bed—and her collar bone was broken.
When we went to the hospital, they said, “Well, we can’t treat her.” I said: “Why can’t you treat her? Why is she just lying in this bed?” They said: “Well, there’s no one here to pay for her medical treatment. So, unless you can pay for your medical treatment, you can’t get any. So, she’s just here, taking up space.”
I said, “I’ll pay for her medical treatment.” You know, it’s the grand total of like $30 or $40 dollars, which for her extended family members, that $30/$40 would have just wiped out their money for the year—really. I said: “Well, tell them I’ll pay. Whatever it is, do what they need to do.” So, it started with just paying for Agnes’s medical treatment.
Oliver said, “Well, she has two sisters.” I said, “Well, Oliver, you have to go get them.” I’d started renting a little house outside of the orphanage because, in order to have this outreach registered as a ministry, we needed an office space.
So, I had this little teeny house that we were renting. I said, “You know, they can just—they can spend the night at my house.” Their grandmother was very, very ill and actually ended up passing away a couple of months later. She said, “Yes, that would be great if they could spend the night at your house while we figure out what’s going to happen.” So, they spent the night with me.
We would go and visit Agnes in the hospital all the time and make sure she was okay. Then, Agnes was discharged from the hospital. We said, “Well, now, where do they go?” She couldn’t really walk—she had just all this bruising—and it was very difficult for her to walk. Her collar bone was broken—so, she just really needed to lay in bed all the time. I said, “Well, of course, she can come and stay with us while we figure out what we’re going to do with these little girls,”—and really, kind of felt like the Lord started to impress upon me, “This is your family.”
I remember one morning—I was just praying through this: “God, where do they go? Their grandmother is so sick, and I don’t really know if they are going to be able to move back in with her. There aren’t other relatives that will take care of them.” Scovia, who was five at the time, walked into my room. She said, “Mommy, can I call you, ‘Mommy?’” And I remember I just—I mean, I had just been praying, “Lord, would You—would You show me—would You show me what to do?”—right? And He said, “Sure, I will show you.” So, Scovia came in, and she did—she called me, “Mommy.” And I remember, just in my heart—just knowing, “Well, that was the answer to that!”
Bob: Okay, wait. I’ve got to know about the phone conversation you had with your mom and dad when you said, “Guess what happened when I was praying this morning.”
Katie: You know, I don’t even remember the conversation. I’m sure it was tentative because I know they were like ready for me to come home from my year in Uganda and have this very normal life. So, this was changing things.
Dennis: That must have been like a bomb—I mean, they are expecting you to come home—and you go, “Hey….”
Katie: “I think…”—yes—“I think I’m leaning toward foster care—that will lead toward adoption—that will lead toward permanent family and a permanent residence here.”
I struggled. I think we all run into this, at some point, where we think maybe we can live in both worlds; right? “Maybe, we can do what Jesus is asking us to do and still have all our stuff that we don’t want to give up,”—whatever that is—whether that’s the dream of college, or whether that’s material things, or whether that’s a relationship that we’re not quite ready to walk away from yet.
I think all of us, at some point, go through the struggle of “What is it that I really have to give up to be all in?” And so—
Bob: Well, and your year in Uganda had not been just one continuous picnic. I mean, you had been lonely, and you had—I’m sure you had to get used to the fact that, when you were hungry for ice cream, you couldn’t just hop in the car and drive down to the ice cream place and get some ice cream; right?
Katie: Right. I think it is a good thing that I am so stubborn, but it’s not always a good thing—sometimes, it’s a very bad thing. But I think I would have—
Bob: I’m just looking at your friends in the studio there. There are all nodding their heads at that, by the way.
Katie: They know.
I think I would have come home; but I didn’t want to hear the people who said, “I told you so—little rich white girl from Brentwood.”
Dennis: So, your stubbornness kept you from going back?!
Katie: Oh, yes. I wasn’t going to come back here and hear people say, “I knew that you couldn’t live in Africa!” So, there were days when I was so lonely. I mean, I lived in a room that was not a whole lot bigger than this table that we are sitting at. My bed was a single bed—so, think of the size of a single bed. In order to shut the door to my room, I had to have my feet on my bed. If my feet were on the side of the bed, there wasn’t room for the door to shut.
So, the room was not much bigger than my bed, and that was very different from the lifestyle that I was accustomed to. There were times—I mean, I loved it—I loved it—I loved it. And my heart was there, but it was also very different.
Dennis: You said you slept under a mosquito net, but that didn’t keep the lizards—
Katie: Eww. Yuck!
Dennis: —and the ants out of your bed. And you had a rat—you said was the size of a kitten.
Katie: Oh, yes—big rat.
Dennis: Where did he live?
Katie: Well, he lived in the bathroom. I just got in the habit of not going to the bathroom at night. I remember the first night that I went to the bathroom, and he ran by. I thought: “Okay, note to self: ‘Go to the bathroom before bed. Don’t go to the bathroom again!’”
Bob: Okay, I think you must be really, really stubborn because just what you’re describing here I can see somebody going: “You know, I’m glad I came and spent my year here, and did the work, and invested. A part of my heart will always be here, but I’m ready for a little Nashville comfort. I’m ready for a soft bed, and no rats, and ice cream when I want it.”
Katie: Oh, yes. After about four months, I would sit in my bed and just cry—
—just go, “Oh, what did I do?”—because, at that point, I knew my heart was stuck. I mean, there wasn’t ever going to be a way—I have read it. Jesus had wrecked my life. There wasn’t ever going to be a way that I could go back to my life that was normal and do it—I wouldn’t be able to do it. I wouldn’t be able to live that way anymore, and I knew that I wouldn’t—but I kind of wanted to! [Laughter]
Dennis: You went on to adopt two more girls—
Dennis: —a few months later. And—
Bob: Now, were Mom and Dad—did they—they must have gotten to the point where it was like, “Okay,”—
Dennis: “What’s next?”
Bob: —“we’re with you on this,”—right?—when you said that you were going to adopt these three. They kind of came around and said, “It’s your life”; right?
Katie: Kind of. I mean, they always asked good questions that were important. You know in the way that a parent does of—“Now, are you sure?”
Bob: Have you thought about this?
Katie: “because you know that that means—
Katie: —“This is this, this, this, and this.”
I wasn’t sure, but I thought I knew a lot. So, I said: “Yes, I’m sure. I’ve thought this through!” [Laughter]
Dennis: By the age of 19, you were a mother of six. You’d taken on some responsibilities—so much so you needed to go raise some money for your work among orphans—
Dennis: —in Uganda. And you were getting ready to leave. Agnes—I assume it’s the same one who was almost crushed—
Dennis: —by the wall that fell in on her? Agnes came to you and told you, you couldn’t leave. You want to share that story with our listeners?
Katie: Yes. Agnes had just kind of finally adjusted, after a few months to life with a mom—life with a home / life with a family. As I shared a little bit earlier, I had started what started as a very small ministry.
I just said: “These kids shouldn’t have to live at the orphanage if they have family members who want to take care of them. We have to figure out a way that we can pay for their schooling, and pay for their food, and pay for their medical care, and they can live with their biological family—whether that’s a mom, or a dad, or an aunt, or an uncle, or a grandparent.”
So, we had grown from 10 children, who were being—what we called sponsored to stay in their families—to we had about 40 now. And then, 40 turned into about 100. So, we had 100 children who were signed up to go to school. We got through the first term of the school okay.
Then, it was about time for second term. It was like: “Oh, we don’t quite have enough money to send these children back for second term. We need to do that. We’ve committed to saying: ‘You get to go to school and stay with your family. Your family does not have to give you up or put you in an institution so that you can have these basic needs met.’”
So, I knew I had to go back to the States and do some fundraising. Agnes just begged and pleaded: “No, you can’t go. You can’t go. You can’t go. You can’t go.” I must have said something like, “Well, sweetie, someone has to raise the money so that we can continue to eat.” I’m sure that was my comment to her. So, she ran outside, and she got some grass. She said, “I will eat grass, and you do not go!” [Laughter]
Dennis: That was her way of trying to get you to stay there.
Dennis: She didn’t want you to leave.
Katie: No. So, then, I knew I was like really stuck. [Laughter]
Dennis: And 100 grew to—what size now?
Katie: We have 721 children who are currently sponsored by Amazima. That means that their school fees are paid for / they’re provided with meals. At school, we pay for them to have lunch. Then, we send them home with some food so that they can have dinner for their families. They’re provided with any medical care that they need. This enables them to live with their family members.
A lot of them are still children who have been orphaned—a lot by HIV and AIDS.
Dennis: Well, you did end up coming back to the States to raise some money. While you were back here, your friend, who evidently must have been helping you run the village, ended up taking another child in.
Dennis: You want to tell our listeners about your first conversation with a little girl named Joyce?
Katie: Yes. So, Christine, a great friend of mine—she’s still on our staff. She had moved into our house and was helping with just day-to-day stuff. She’s a year younger than I am—and helped me out with the girls. I had left her and another friend there at our home with my six girls and had gone home to do some fundraising. While I was gone—received a phone call from her—she said: “There is this little girl. She’s really in need of a place to go. She doesn’t have anyone caring for her at home.
“Would it be okay if she came to live with us?”
At this point, you are kind of doing, “Oh, six/seven—I mean, I’ve kind of built my life around this anyway. She doesn’t have anywhere to go—of course! Of course, she can come and stay, and we’ll figure out if it’s permanent, or if it’s transitory, or what that looks like.”
So, I remember she called me. She said, “Hello, Mommy.” I’m sure she had heard the other girls in our house talking about me and was like: “Oh, there is this lady—her name is Mommy. She’ll come back, and she feeds us,”—you know, whatever. She said, “Hello, Mommy, thank you for food today.” And I just remember how that struck me—you know, just sitting on this side of things in America, and having just probably eaten lunch or whatever, going, “Oh, my goodness—‘Thank you for food today,’ like this is what we’re looking at. This is what we are dealing with—people who don’t even always have the guarantee of food every day.”
I just remember how excited I was to get home and to meet her.
Dennis: Speaking of food today, how many children are estimated to be on the streets—
Katie: Oh, my goodness—
Dennis: —in Uganda?
Katie: —we would have to look it up. There are so many.
Dennis: Tens of thousands—
Dennis: —who don’t have food to eat like Joyce thanked you for.
Dennis: Let alone someone to call, “Mommy.” And that’s what led you, ultimately, to say, “Yes,” to not only the first six/seven, but now—how many children are in your family or are in the process of coming into your family, as a 25-year-old young lady?
Katie: Thirteen—I have thirteen foster daughters—all of whom are kind of at different processes in the paperwork of being finally legally adopted; but in my heart, I mean, are all the way adopted—
—they are my children.
Dennis: I think it’s a great picture, Bob, of a young lady who exhorts all of us to step out in faith—looking at the needs that surround us—and follow God’s call and be obedient to that—and just as Katie has shared, going all in—not doing it halfway / part way.
I’m just wondering if you ever say, “No”?
Katie: I’m learning.
Bob: But you’re pretty stubborn.
Katie: Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: I think there is a stubborn streak necessary to get to where Katie has gotten. I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of the book that she’s written called Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy. Again, the title of the book, Kisses from Katie; and the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,” if you’d like to request a copy of the book. 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number to call, and we’ll send a copy of Katie’s book out to you.
Dennis: You know, what we’ve talked about here today, Bob, is not unusual for FamilyLife Today. We are all about giving voice to those who have none—the orphan. And our listeners—anybody who listens to FamilyLife Today knows that we have consistently championed the orphan before the Christian community, believing that the church really has the capability of addressing issues around adoption, foster care, and orphans as no other organization in the world.
In fact, FamilyLife helped start the original meeting that ultimately became the Christian Alliance for Orphans, which we started back 10 years ago—had 35 folks at the first meeting, here at FamilyLife. And this year, we had almost 3,000—
Dennis: —at Willow Creek, with people from 35 countries showing up. So, we are about championing those who have no voice—orphans.
And there are a lot of great stories, but one I have to tell. A woman told me she was listening to FamilyLife Today—we were talking about the orphan—we were taking her near the needs of the orphan. She said, “I was running an errand one night, listening to your broadcast.” And she said, “I had to stay in the Wal-Mart® parking lot and finish listening to the broadcast. By the time I finished listening,” she said, “I realized God was calling us to adopt.”
And I just want to turn to the listener, at this point, and say, “If we are going to stand by the orphan—if we are going to stand alongside you and your marriage / your family and encourage you to take steps of faith as well—then, right now, would be the time to make a generous gift to FamilyLife.”
We’ve got a great matching opportunity that we need to take full advantage of. And Bob, we need more listeners to step up and say, “I stand with you guys because you stand alongside me, and my marriage, and family, giving us practical biblical help and hope for my marriage and family.”
Bob: We have had some friends of the ministry who have agreed that they will match every donation we receive, between now and the end of the month, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $2,000,000. So, you call today and make a $20 donation—it’s automatically a $40 donation. Or you make a $100 donation—it’s a $200 donation. We’re asking you to be as generous as you can be so that we can take full advantage of this matching gift, and we hope you will do it today. Hope you’ll go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care.” Make an online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone, and it counts if you mail your donation to us—our mailing address is: Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, AR.
And our zip code is 72223. We do hope to hear from you. I want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your financial support of this ministry.
And we want to encourage you to join us again tomorrow. Katie Davis will be back. We’ll talk more about how God is using her to care for the needs of orphans in Africa. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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.
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