Many of you first came to know of Amazima when you met Katie Davis Majors in the pages of her book, Kisses from Katie, so we thought, what better way to remember the story of Amazima than to sit with Katie’s words once more. This time, know that you have been a part of this story. You have been an integral part of living out the mission of Amazima.
At the young age of 18, I found myself working in an orphanage on the outskirts of Jinja, Uganda. I quickly fell in love with the people and the culture, and God used this time and place to teach me more about Himself and the true love of the Gospel.
After many months of working at the orphanage and getting to know the children there and the community members in the surrounding town, I was startled to realize that many of the children living there, and in institutions all over East Africa had living parents, grandparents, aunts or extended family members who loved them and deeply wished that they could take care of their children themselves. Often poverty was the driving factor for sending children to an orphanage, believing that they would have a “better life.” This was a devastating realization. Families were sending away their beloved children because they felt that they didn’t have the financial ability to feed them, to send them to school, or to provide them with medical treatment if they became sick. Of course, this wasn’t the story for every single child who lived in the orphanage – a handful of them had truly been orphaned – but it was true of many and after some digging, I learned that it was true of many children in institutional care all across the country.
I began to dream of what it might look like if these children could stay in their homes with their families and still have access to what they needed. What if I could get a few people to help me pay for some of these children to go to school, access healthy meals and medical care? Then they could stay in their communities with their families.
As I began to share this vision with my parents and a handful of friends, I was amazed at how many people jumped onboard and began sending money. For the cost of a few movie tickets or a nice dinner out, we could literally change the trajectory of a child’s life. I was shocked with just how many people were excited to help. Friends and family from the US sent money, and friends who were becoming like family in Uganda helped me organize school supplies, enroll children in school, deliver food and take children to the clinic. We started a weekly Bible study on my tiny front porch where we laughed and sang and ate together.
I never could have foreseen the outpouring generosity of the people who came behind the work we were doing both with financial support and with their time and talents. From the beginning, God has surrounded us with willing and obedient teammates to carry the load – whether that was volunteering to help, sacrificing to give, or spending time in prayer for the ministry of Amazima.
As we began to have the means to support more and more children, I knew that I needed more help than ever before. Our desire was that every child and family served by our program would have a deep and meaningful relationship with someone on staff at Amazima. I did ok until we had about 60 children, but then it was time to admit that my mind and heart were at capacity. In order for each child in our program to have a real and meaningful relationship with someone at Amazima, I would have to enlist more help.
At first, I hired just a few friends to help me. Over the years this grew into a team of trained social workers that we called mentors, men and women whose job was to know, love and encourage the children in our program and their families. To this day, the mentors are usually the most beloved staff on Amazima’s team. You can see the excitement in our student’s eyes when their mentor comes to school to eat lunch with them or spends time kicking a soccer ball with them on the playground. They know that they are cherished, and we truly believe that experiencing the love of their mentor is going to help them more deeply understand and experience the love of Jesus.
Today our team has grown to over 200 staff members and over 600 students, including their families. Some of them have been with us since day one. All of us stand in awe of all God has done to keep these children learning, growing and thriving within their own beautiful communities, and most of all learning and growing in the transformative love of Christ! The ministry of Amazima has evolved so much over the last twelve years. My heart and the hearts of those around me have been stretched in ways we never could have imagined and while many of the methods we started with have changed, our mission has always remained the same. Every day we wake up thanking God for entrusting us with His beautiful ministry and ready to live out the love of Jesus by educating and empowering the people of Uganda, whom I so love, and the communities that we serve.