Monday, October 19, 2009
Mother of Problems
We met one of the most incredible women I have ever had the privilege of knowing in Uganda. Her name was Beatrice and her story will break your heart and fill you with awe at the God who makes beauty from ashes. I think I'll let my husband, Ben tell the story from here...
We sat in a living room in a house in Soroti, Uganda. It was hot and as the fans turned the 15 of us sat in rapt attention listening to Beatrice tell her story.
“After my husband’s death I began to ask, how can I help these widows? They give you a name; of course they now call you a mother of problems. People begin to avoid you and no one wants to associate with you now that you have a lot of problems. And these widows now live a lonely life - a rejected life.”
Beatrice is a young woman, not what you think about when you use the word “widow”. Her husband was a Pastor of their community and one day was traveling by motorcycle to visit another pastor when tragedy struck. Her husband died on that dirt road leaving Beatrice with three children and another on the way. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to lose your spouse. I love my wife with a crazy kind of love. I need her every day. She is the person that I want to share my joy and sorrow with. She is the person that I have shared my deepest laughter with and the person who’s hand I’ve held as I’ve had the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. I can’t begin to know what Beatrice went through in that moment.
A widow in Uganda faces not only the loss of her husband, but often her home and possessions are taken from her. Her land which grows the food that feeds her family is no longer hers. Her friends and family avoid her. She is still responsible to care for her children but with no possessions and virtually no possibility to earn money to feed them. This is why widows are called “mothers of problems”. It is grief heaped on top of grief. It is no wonder that the sorrow of widows in this situation is deep and unending.
Beatrice told us that day in Soroti that after a while she “put away her tears” and began to wonder how she could help widows just like her. Her plan was simple - minister to these widows with God’s word and pray with them. She began telling them of the Hope that can be found in Christ even in the midst of their loss and difficult circumstances. And they listened. As they listened the widows began to see the power of God move in their homes - healing, provision of food, health, hope, and peace filled homes that had not known it for some time. She would meet with these women at least once a month and after a time decided that they needed to have a large meeting; a conference of sorts. She had no idea how many widows would show up or how they would feed them but in faith she pushed forward.
800 widows arrived, many of them days early, for this conference and God provided food for them...bags of food which should have run out never emptied. As they began to meet and pray and hope in Christ for their future, others took note. The President of Uganda recognized the power behind the Widows and gave them a grant that helped them buy goats and some land. As the goats reproduced, the offspring were given to other widows. And with help from The Children of the Nile (TCON)a farm was developed and a conference center constructed so that the widows who Beatrice had organized would have a place to meet. The Teso Widows Organization now has 21,000 widows in the region registered - 21,000!!
With the support and help from others these women are now caring for each other as well as many of the orphans in their villages. As they often watch their friends die from disease, they now have some resources so that they can take in their friend's children. These women, these mothers, these widows are caring for themselves, each other, and the children who have been visited by tragedy. It's amazing, really. Each of them carries a ledger with them - a notebook of sorrow. In this ledger is the name and needs of each orphan in their community. This way, when organizations like Children's Hope Chest come into an area, the widows are instrumental in providing information about how many orphans there are and what the needs are. They have taken on the burden of the forgotten. Though they at one time felt forgotten, they know in deeper ways than I will ever know, that God does not forget them.
Sitting in that room with Beatrice that evening, I knew that we had an audience with one of the Saints. The people had called her “the mother of all problems” but God had another name for her.
THE MOTHER OF PROBLEMS
The path was clear and the road was straight
Your joy in the things that last
But that dirt road devoured your Love
Left alone and great with child
In perfect sorrow you labored
Life in a mixture of blood and water
Unending need and nothing to give
All things now gray and the path obscured
Tears burning like fire stream endlessly
How can you have taken him from me?
Leaving me rejected, forgotten, dependent, alone
You hear them call me “The Mother of Problems”
The questions seem contradictions
And His plans a path of sorrow
But you were known before the dawn of time
And formed with the care of consuming love
You resolve to set aside your weeping
To move into the new path
With joy and sorrow and truth you speak
He provides and they listen
Sorrow is fuel and faith like air
Arriving hungry and expectant, He provides
Unsure and frail, through you He speaks
The wise are fools and the powerful, broken
His plan is proved true and path faithful
The season of hardship yields a bountiful harvest
The fruit is sweet and sustaining
And He has given you a new name:
Healer of wounds
Finder of lost dreams,
Repairer of the broken
Speaker of wisdom
Giver of passion
Visionary for the blind
Power for the weak
Shepherd of the lost
Restorer of dignity
Vigilante of peace
Vessel of compassion
And Mother of Hope.