“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner
I wish I had a dollar for every book my mother recommended to me throughout my lifetime; I could retire. I never read most of them, but I thank God that I did read this one, because He used it to open my eyes to a very sweet truth.
The book is called ‘Kisses from Katie’ by Katie Davis, and normally the title alone would be enough for me to dismiss it – I’m more of a ‘Wild at Heart’ or ‘Lone Survivor’ type of reader. It is, however, an incredible story that I’ve read twice already and I am looking forward to the third. What Katie accomplished in this true story is humbling, and could easily stand alone, but I was most intrigued by how God accomplished this work in and through her. I will first try to summarize the book, leaving out the one beautiful aspect that held me captive, and then re-visit it from the perspective that God highlighted for me.
Katie Davis was an eighteen-year-old senior class president, and homecoming queen from Brentwood, TN. During Christmas break of her senior year she went on a short-term mission trip to Uganda. While she was there she witnessed the great suffering and need of these kids and felt God wanted her to come back to stay and help these people. Foregoing college, boyfriend, her parents’ wishes, and friends, she returned to Uganda in the summer to teach kindergarten at an orphanage. She saw that many of the children there were not able to afford the school fees, and described the deplorable conditions in which many of them were living. She tells about how these little bugs called “jiggers” would bore into their skin so deep that their skin would break and bleed. Kids were infested with scabies, and often living in human waste. They were malnourished and some even too sick to walk. Many had Malaria, and even HIV. She went to these kids; dug out the “jiggers” treated the scabies and Malaria, and fed and nursed them back to health.
She started a ministry called Amazima Ministries, where she would get sponsors to send these kids to school and provide food and health care. In a nearby town she taught ladies to make necklaces which they sold so they could buy food. She actually ended up adopting 14 of these girls, and so at 20 years old she was a single mother with 14 kids. The ministry grew and she is able to provide for some 400 other people there.
Now this is an amazing story by anyone’s standards, but especially considering this came from a homecoming queen who was seemingly poised to live a very “successful” life. She left this very comfortable life to sleep under a mosquito net in a disease ridden town in Uganda. If this was all I could see of this story I would be very impressed, say a prayer for her, and maybe send a little money to help out. But, there is this selfish little place in me that would be saying “God, I ask your blessing on this girl and her ministry, but please don’t ever send me there.” I know its ugly, but it’s true – I am so blind sometimes.
On the surface it sounds like a depressing, miserable way to live. But, if that is true, how could I possibly explain this passage from her book:
“Every day of my life is filled with immense joy – more joy than anyone ever deserves. I know the joy of standing in the center of Gods will and watching Him orchestrate everything perfectly; the joy of being able to look into a little brown face that seems hopeless, and tell her that Jesus loves her; the joy that comes from being called “mommy.”
This is just one passage; the book is absolutely filled with joy and laughter. I Google her, and she has a huge smile in every picture. She takes the time to describe each of her children’s personality. She is devastated when one of them is reclaimed by her birth-mother. She is absolutely living in joy and love. I’m smiling the whole way through the book, knowing it is the heart of God that I’m seeing there – I recognize it, and it is so beautiful that I find myself longing to live in a story like that! No matter where it is or what I’m doing. My truest self is longing for the place God is calling me to go. My hearts’ passion and desire matter so much to God that He says to guard it above all else.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
How many times have I blindly gone against the God-given desires in my heart to search for life in a place that is completely incapable of producing it? I watched a YouTube video of Katie and in it she said that any time in her past when she was asked what she wanted to do in life her response was always “I want to be like Mother Theresa.” God placed the desire in her heart, (long before going to Uganda) to do the work He wanted her to do there. And she is following that desire despite having to give up all the comforts of home, and regardless of the fact that in the eyes of most people, she is insane. What courage! In his book ‘Desire’ John Eldredge writes – “We abandon the most important journey of our lives when we abandon desire. We leave our hearts by the side of the road and head off in the direction of fitting in, getting by, being productive, what have you. Whatever we might gain–money, position, the approval of others, or just absence of the discontent itself–it’s not worth it.” It is so easy for me to be blinded by these very things that look like life, but never deliver.
“Your heart is free; have the courage to follow it.” -Malcolm Wallace to his son William in ‘Braveheart’
Father, please show me the desires of my heart; I am tired of chasing imposters. I want the real thing; give me the courage, grace, and humility to follow the desires you have personally written on my heart. I want life, and I want it abundantly; please lead me to my own personal Uganda.
My thanks to you mom for recommending this book. Katie – I hope to meet you one day. You have disrupted me and made me very uncomfortable – thank-you!