"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27 The Bible, NLT
A few Sundays ago, I met the Watoto Children’s Choir for the second time. They were visiting Australia and we were delighted to welcome them to LifeSource, to hear their story and enjoy their music. The energetic, joyful, bright child voices burst into their first song, Signs and Wonders, and I was transported back to a time some nine years ago when I first met them in Raleigh, North Carolina.
By Watoto Childcare Ministries, March 2017 on YouTube
Back in Raleigh, I learned how each child had suffered the loss of one or both parents, often to HIV/AIDs, a disease that ravaged their country, Uganda. I heard their stories of rejection and abandonment. I remember hearing about the story of the baby who was found on top of the garbage. And now in Sydney, I see her singing and dancing in front of me, a beautiful girl with the brilliant dance moves. I also heard about the women who suffered the loss of husband and children to the disease (or war), widows with immeasurable grief, often carrying the stigma of the disease or its association.
What one church organisation did next was priceless. They rescued the most vulnerable of children, with the approval of the Government of Uganda, and placed these children in loving families and communities. Often these new families were formed around widows, bringing the lonely into families, with the children receiving individual love and care, shelter, education and support. Watoto’s goal is to raise the next generation of Ugandan leaders. And they are well on their way, with a number of them now in their young adult years.
In the early ’90’s it was estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that around 1.5 million were infected by the HIV virus, then 10% of the population and 20% of sexually active men and women. In 2015, Avert reports that there are still 1.5 million living with HIV but the infections are reducing due to robust treatments and education initiatives.
It was wonderful to meet the children again, this time in another continent. This is a different group, of course. They travel to raise awareness of their needs. They become advocates for the others back home who suffer. The travel also broadens their horizon. I can see them exude with confidence as they sing, dance and tell us about themselves.
I remembered my dream to visit the Watoto Village, to see and to contribute, to learn and to take away these learnings, so I can impact my world like they have theirs.
So this time next year, I will be in Uganda. Because there are widows and orphans here who need me to broaden my horizon, to enlarge my heart, to extend my tent, to learn what to do, to get out of my comfort zone, and express my faith in extraordinary ways.
This time next year, I will be in Uganda.