I know nothing of sacrifice and yet I feel sorry for myself.
We cannot fully repay the hospital for Annie. We cannot fully pay the IRS for self-employment taxes this past year (I figure if I am not on welfare and agree not to use public highways or public parks or public bathrooms this might be one they could just overlook, right?). I am tired and I feel slightly lonely on the road this time around. I can’t get rid of my acne or the final ten pounds I gained during pregnancy and this weekend I have to go to Vegas with a bunch of stupid pretty girls who are going to look amazing and I am going to have to wear a trash sack everywhere I go. My family all moved away to tim-buck-to. And dangit, every other band pulls up to shows in their tour buses; we pull up in a white minivan.
Blah, blah, blah.
I am tired because I got to sing my own songs from stage this weekend; I got to do what I love (or as my college pastor told me last week, I got what I prayed for). I am exhausted because it’s pretty tough to be in Nashville, New York, Boston, and Maine all in one weekend. Whew, poor me. I have acne and a big butt because I brought a beautiful, smart, charming, whimsical, pure, innocent, HEALTHY, perfect little baby into this world. We made her. She grew in my stomach. I grew a freaking person inside of me; of course my butt is bigger. My family has moved to tim-buck-to because they passionately love Jesus and have committed themselves to following his voice; even if it costs them something like not being close to their granddaughter. My sister’s are scattered because they are educated, smart, and FREE to pursue their dreams with their husbands and they are doing so. I am going to Vegas with a few days of free vacation built in… isn’t that enough? And shouldn’t I be happy that my girlfriends are beautiful? I can’t pay the bills because I don’t have a real salary. I don’t have a real salary because I don’t have a real job. I don’t have a real job because I have been incredibly blessed to play music, to communicate something genuine and life giving to people, to travel the world, and to live on faith and a whim.
How could I possibly feel sorry for myself?
And yet, I am so tempted to. Something about the last month has just brought me to my knees and made me want to throw in the towel. Made me want to quit. What’s worse, it’s made me somehow believe that I have it rough, that I actually have legitimate reasons for feeling sorry for myself.
Sitting in that place…
It was in one of those moments two weeks ago that I found myself downstairs in a Hilton lobby checking my email. I had several comments from the blog in my inbox that said, “Jenny, you have to read this girls blog, you would love it.”
These are usually the suggestions I skip over. Not because I don’t believe you, but because I don’t have enough time. But this particular morning I had time. Annie and Ryan were asleep and I was trying to sneak in a cup of coffee before we hit the road for the next show. So, on a whim, I clicked the link and found myself on a blog called kissesfromkatie.
The blog had a simple black background and a picture of a young, beautiful girl who was laughing with a man who, I presumed, was from Africa. They looked so happy. They looked so far from self-pity or self-loathing. They radiated joy. I was instantly convicted and in the same breath captured by this girls face. There was something about her face.
I began skimming over her blogs when a certain entry caught my eye. It was a narrative of her life. She starts at age 16. She wants to go to Africa and work in an orphanage. She goes. She falls in love. The man at the orphanage tells her she must come back and teach kindergarten. She says she is too young. She has to go home and go to college first. He says no, she is supposed to come now. She starts caring for these children. Teaching them. Loving them. And… playing mom to them.
The narrative continues. She comes home for her first semester of college… she is miserable. This is not where God wants for her to be. She knows she has to go back.
And by the end of this blog… she has gone against her parent’s wishes for her to attend college. She has gone against what is logical, practical, wise, and even safe for a girl her age. For any girl. Well, for any person. She has literally gone against what any normal person would do. Yet, I do not get the sense that she is rebellious or out to dishonor her parents. I do not get the sense that she is on some hell-bent agenda to do what she wants to do no matter what. I do not get the sense that her life is hopeless and lost and she is trying to fix it by skipping town and going to a different country. I do not get the sense that she is doing what she is doing for the attention, glory, or some exalted false humility she may achieve from it. I do not get the idea that she will only be there for a short time simply to check something off her list and return home to start her normal life up again. I do not get the sense that she even really knows what she is doing or what comes next. I do not even get the sense that she is weird or crazy, eccentric or strange.
No, I do not sense any of these things as I read.
Instead, I distinctly sense Jesus.
Jesus Christ, the son of God, who touched lepers, welcomed in prostitutes, let children crawl all over him like he was a jungle gym, let bleeding women touch his garments, and touched people… physically touched them.
I have never met Katie, but I hear that she physically touches every single person she meets. No matter what disease plagues their body.
I sense Jesus himself…
I see a glimpse of Jesus himself. And her name is Katie. She has moved to Uganda on her own to care for orphans. No, not just care for, she has gone to Uganda and single handedly adopted 13 abandoned children. She is a mom to 13 children. She is 20. I am almost 29 and I have pity parties about the woes of raising one small child who has more food, love, medicine, and clothes than she could ever possibly need. Katie is 20. She is keeping 13 children alive, sending them to school each day, helping them with homework each night, feeding them, keeping them healthy, giving them the love of a mother and father all by herself. How can I have a pity party now?
Katie is not in Uganda through Compassion International or some other big organization. She is in a village that no one else has gone to. She simply went where she was needed. She is there alone with one other girl from the village and her 13 children. Except for Saturdays… that’s when she and her 13 adopted children prepare food for over 1200 children in the village. Yep, Saturday she feeds 1200 children.
Want to know what else she does? She takes in any sick child in need of medical attention. She de-worms babies who are on their deathbeds. She gives stitches. And bathes kids who have open sores oozing with infection. She does not turn a sick child away from her house; instead she brings them home with her and nurses them back to health. And if she doesn’t know what to do for them she calls back home and a doctor who does know will walk her through it. She’s no doctor. She’s barely out of high school. But if she doesn’t do it, then who will? At least that’s what Katie says.
And on Saturday, when she feeds the 1200, she also leads a worship service of music and praise and they all sing together. All 1200 of them.
Can we just get back to the fact that she de-worms babies? That means she helps the babies poop out worms that have infested these little babies bodies. I can’t even watch that stuff on TV without crying, but there she is, 20 years old, doing it because, “if she doesn’t, who will?”
I read about Katie, but really, I am reading about Jesus.
I wipe away a steady stream of tears flowing down my face. I look up and remember that I am sitting in America. In a Hilton hotel. I wonder what would have happened to my life if I had followed some of those quiet nudges and whispers years ago? The ones that said, “Just go Jenny. Just go there and don’t come home. That can be your home. They can be your family.” I wonder what it would have looked like for me to be brave enough to follow such an insane noise? Katie gives me a glimpse. I wonder if it is too late for me to be used by God in such a powerful way? I wonder if I have ever sacrificed like Katie?
I am lost in this girl’s story. And the words of Jesus come to my mind.
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Matthew 8:19-22.
Surely Jesus didn’t mean this? Let the dead bury their dead? If you want to follow me, follow me alone, and do nothing else first? That’s way too intense. Surely Katie is the weird, strange exception. Right Lord? Please, tell me that you don’t really want us to be eccentric or…
And then a few pages over God literally leads me through scripture, “Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worth of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worth of me; any anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worth of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10: 37-39.
Back to Katie. Sometimes this very raw girl is sad and I am sad with her. Sometimes she is adventurous and happy. But in a more recent post she is angry. Why, she asks, are there children starving to death when there is enough money in the world that another child should never die of malnutrition? Why are there orphans when there are enough Christians in the world to each adopt one child and rid the world all together of orphans? Why are there perfectly smart, brilliant little kids idly sitting on the side of the road each day because they cannot afford to go to school when there are enough American families who could each adopt one child and make sure they get an education? Why? It is no longer sad, she says. It is infuriating. She is angry. And, after reading the final blog post, I am angry with her. Disgusted really.
And I hear Jesus say… Jenny, one day you will be accountable. Your generation will be accountable. She is asking a good question Jenny. Why? Why Jenny? Why are these kids still hungry? Why do they still lack basic medicine? Why are they suffering while you sit in the Hilton hotel?
Tough Topic Tuesday
So today I ask you the same thing. Why? And more importantly, what will we do about it? The New Testament is clear. Care for the poor, the orphans, and the widows. The least of these. Lose your life to find it. What you do unto them, you do unto God himself. The life of Jesus was sacrificial. He told us that to follow him meant sacrifice, so much sacrifice that many who heard left Jesus sad because they knew they could not give that much of themselves. We know what the New Testament says and we know what the life of Jesus looked like… we know these things, yet still, we are so slow to do anything. We are hardly doing anything.
I am hardly doing anything.
And my question today is are we living sacrificially? Is there anything sacrificial about your life? Your money? Your time? Your future? Anything?
The thing is, I don’t know that I’m really sacrificing anything so that the needs of others are met.
As I have shared Katie’s story there have been skeptics. “Oh that’s nice for her.” Or “Wow, I could never do that.” Or, “How do we know she’s using the money well?” Really? I want to strangle those people. I mean the options are to buy chickens or goats… not a lot more she can do with the money. And a few responses have been cynical, “We can’t fix Africa, Africa has to fix itself.” Jeez, good thing Jesus didn’t say that.
We’re aren’t talking about fixing Africa, we are talking about caring for the least of these… wherever they are.
*Waiting on government’s, legislation, or other worldly institutions to fix it is not the answer (Though it is part of the answer. We cannot write off the efforts of NGO’s, government, or other institutions, but neither can we solely rely on them. They are only a part.).* We must do something. Big. Not little. We must wake up. Now, not later. We must act.
And I am frustrated because I am not saying anything knew. We all know this, we know what we should do and could do… we just don’t quite get around to doing it. Somewhere along the way we have to stop viewing Katie as the eccentric fringe and view Katie as the norm. She was valedictorian and homecoming queen. This is a normal chic who is following the hard, sacrificial, narrow road of Christ, not a strange, rare, saint. She is simply doing what needs to be done. And unfortunately, that means she is a minority.
I must do something…
I head back up to my hotel room in a daze. There is a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach. I am partly feeling sick from conviction. But I am, with each passing second, more and more overwhelmed with a sense of urgency. I must do something. I must act. Now. This is not an emotional reaction… this is the Holy Spirit.
I think about Katie for days. Literally, I cannot sleep. I cannot stop telling Ryan about her. I cannot stop calling my friends and saying… you have to read this blog. This goes on for days. Katie has awoken something in me. That thing in each of us that really longs to lay down every single thing we have and give our entire existence over for God’s use. That passion that erupts when you think about what it would be like to actually give yourself away, to sacrifice…
Sacrifice. That’s the word. I have never really sacrificed anything. Done something for God that has put me out, that has required deep trust, which has really jeopardized my own wealth, health, comfort, or happiness. No, I have never truly sacrificed. I wonder if I can actually do such a thing? What could I sacrifice to help Katie? What does Katie need? How can I help? What should I do next?
I asked God to guide me. I emailed two ladies from the board of directors that work with Katie. They “basically make sure Katie can do what God has called her to do without her having to worry about resources,” and also, “Try to foresee how Katie is going to burn-out next and we try and beat her to that place so we can keep her alive and keep her going and doing what she is doing.” These two ladies joined Katie’s side and created a “board of directors” two years ago when they stumbled across her blog and couldn’t sleep for weeks either.
I met with one of the ladies last week. She was headed to Uganda to visit Katie and to adopt her 6th child that Katie has insisted be adopted by someone. I send Katie some pajama pants, loufas, lip-gloss, and stickers for her kids. She might be sacrificing everything, but every girl needs cute pajama pants. I ask Stacy what Katie needs.
Right now, she says, Katie needs to buy a piece of land and build a clinic next to her house so that she will stop bringing in sick babies and children off the street and into the living room with her other 13 children! They also need to build a few latrines. Apparently the 1200 children are stopping up the ONE toilet she has at the house. She needs $6,000 to buy the land. Then they need money to build a basic clinic.
Fine, I say. We will get the $6,000 and then we will start raising money for the clinic (which by the way has a waiting list over a year long of doctors and nurses who have already committed their time. They are simply waiting on a place to be built).
And so now, here I am, telling you about Katie and asking you to do something tough… help me raise $6,000? Or $10,000? Or however much we can raise?
For me, that means the money I get from the WiiFit I am currently selling on eBay… will now go to Katie. I really wanted a new fall outfit. And I really, really wanted to get my hair colored and my disastrous personal haircut fixed. But I have clothes; and my hair is just hair. I know it’s stupid, but it is a struggle to even turn over $75. But for me it is my first step to giving away my excess. I have a long list of other things I am going to try and sell as well. Starting with my fancy silverware I registered for when I was married. I mean, it is beautiful. And I am sure it would be so fun to feel like Martha Stewart one day and entertain people with my beautiful place settings and sterling silver ware. But really? There are children with worms and scabies and a 20 year old who needs money to buy chickens for protein, baby formula, and de-worming medicine and I am going to hang on to my forks? Forks? Spoons? Fancy butter knives? What is wrong with our culture?!?
So I am asking you to join me the next few weeks in finding ways to sacrifice here and there and help me raise the $6,000 to buy Katie this piece of land. We will come up with as much money as possible, and then at the end of the month, we will buy this little plop of land in Uganda.
Don’t take my word for it, go read for yourself (www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com) and then lets find a way to get her the money she needs… for the land, and then, maybe even the clinic.
Tough? It really shouldn’t be. We are the richest people to ever live in the history of the world. It’s just a matter of choosing to be sacrificial.
So, I know your money and time and resources might already be going somewhere… but can they stretch to one more place? Can we pull together $6,000?