Uganda (Part 1)

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and a lot has happened.  Last spring we found out that my third pregnancy was twins.  That was a scary surprise, and we began to prepare ourselves for the worst.  We already had a one year old and a three year old and a roommate.  The roommate moved out, and we redecorated and re-purposed rooms to make space for the coming babies and for possible helpers.  My mom freaked out just a little (she had had twins at 30 weeks that were a crazy load of stress for about 10 years). I freaked out a little and went on to read every blog post I could find about how to prepare for and what to expect with multiples.  And we worked really hard all summer.  We decided to get everything in our lives as ready as we could, and we’d plan to spend the year after their birth just taking care of kids.

That was the plan anyway.  What has actually happened in the past 6 months has been tons of kids and.  And ministry.  And dinner get-togethers.  And church.  And building deeper relationships with friends. And painting and carpeting rooms.  And visiting family. And diving into the Word. And knowing Jesus more. And reading.  And attending conferences.  And…planning a trip to Uganda.

You see…our babies were/are good.  God was/is with us.  He had heard our scared prayers and caused our babies to be good little babies.  We had received the discipline he had for us after Naomi was born (you can read more about that here), and we’d changed so that we were ready to take on the larger responsibilities of 4 kids under the age of 4.  Everything that we thought about what it would be like to have twins has become an amazing picture of God’s goodness and mercy.  Our twins were not premature.  I did not need a C-section.  They were not in NICU.  The first year of twins has not been like hell, as some online said it would be.  It did not take 6 months to sleep train them, as I thought it would.  They almost never wake each other up by crying.  They do not even share a bedroom with us anymore.  It has not been as expected.

After the church plant we’d been heavily invested in for the past 6 years finally dissipated, we took a year off of conventional church and were just meeting weekly with some of our best friends for dinner and some sort of casual Bible study.  No one in our group being particularly driven to organize these weekly events, we eventually just started watching (online) the sermons from a large local church after dinner.  Then, when we resigned ourselves to the reality that with 2 babies we wouldn’t want to host weekly,  and our friends – also expecting again – wouldn’t either, the guys just mutually decided we’d all attend this large local church.

To be honest, I didn’t want to.  I love tiny church.  The kind where you can greet each person by name as they walk in the doors.  It’s like family.  I didn’t want to go to the large church and be just one face in a huge crowd, able to get lost, to have no accountability, no group of close friends to chat with each week.  But because I didn’t have a better plan, and because I really love my husband and will follow him where he goes, I went to Big Church.

It didn’t take long to adjust and start to love the sermons and music, and to pick out people that we knew.  We also got to know some of the childcare workers pretty well because our “big” kids always pitched huge crying fits when we had the audacity to leave them in their care.  It was great.

Six weeks after the twins were born was missions week at Big Church. After talking at length about God’s call on his life to pursue full-time mission work, Pastor Joe told us to go out in the lobby to look at the different tables that were set up with information about all the places Big Church was involved in the world.  The lobby was crammed with people that had filed out of the sanctuary and were just crowding around the different tables.  Tim gave me both of the babies in their car seats, after we agreed he should go get our “bigs” from the childcare room.

This happened when I was right in front of the table labeled “UGANDA” and “DAYS FOR GIRLS*”.  Not being interested in anything like that, I turned my back on it.  You see, just a couple of months earlier I’d told my sister-in-law (who LOVES Africa) that I was really glad that God made people like her that love Africa so much, because I didn’t want anything to do with Africa.  I’d always, since I was a young teen, had an aversion to the place, and I had no desire at all to go and get my hands dirty in the seemingly endless problems that exist there.  I turned my back on the table because my heart was turned away from the continent.

I looked through the crowd toward South America and East Asia, but remained rooted to the spot, even when I thought about wandering around the lobby a little. I felt a little as if the Holy Spirit was nudging me to turn around, but I refused on the grounds that it was Africa, and “We both know how I feel about Africa.”  Then, over the clamor of voices all around, I heard, clear as can be, “So what we really need is women who sew.”

I sighed and turned around.  Sometimes you know it’s God talking to you.  A woman named Shannon was telling a lady about how Days for Girls sews reusable fabric feminine hygiene products for girls who otherwise don’t have access to them.  These products can keep girls in school an extra week each month, reducing the drop-out rate. This in turn leads to a better educated population, improves the overall prosperity of a nation, and much much more.  These products are truly considered a godsend to the people receiving them.  Shannon had an email sign-up sheet so we could get info about the sewing events and what ways we could help, including providing supplies for the kits.

I signed up.  I resolved to go to the next sewing event taking place in 8 days, and I made a mental note to buy girl’s underwear for the kits next time I was at Walmart.

Before Tim and I had even left the church I already had objections.  Why were we making, in the US, things that women could make in their own countries with less expensive materials?  Were we hand delivering them? That seemed inefficient and wasteful.  Couldn’t it dignify women to make these and sell them in their own neighborhoods?  I had read Toxic Charity, so I knew what harms and what doesn’t.

All week as I was taking care of my kids, washing dishes, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and otherwise not using my brain for much, I was pondering Days for Girls and what they were doing.  I was praying about how I’d felt God’s nudge to get involved, but wondering if I really should.  Each time I prayed I heard 2 answers: “Just wait.” and “Go to the sewing event.”

So I waited, and I went.

The sewing event was crazy busy.  I saw that Shannon wasn’t going to have any free time, so I just took my sewing scissors and sat down at a table where a group of women were cutting on the line.  I figured even if I didn’t know anything about the construction of these things I could cut on the line.  The table I was at was rather quiet, and I am a chatty Cathy, so when we ran out of lines to cut on I went to a different table where the ladies were talking more and pinning.

At the pinning table a lady (whom I shall call Chatty Pinning Lady) was indeed chatty, and asked me a number of questions about myself including if I sew or not.  I do sew, and I told her so.  We eventually ran out of things to pin, so I had to go back to the cutting table.

Some time later I saw Shannon scanning the room very intently.  She walked past me, where I was sitting on a low cafe chair, and Chatty Pinning Lady marched over to me, pointed an accusing finger down at me and told Shannon in a strident voice, “SHE sews!”

I looked up guiltily, my eyes wide.  I had dreaded being asked to sew. Shannon turned and her eyes bored through me, as if her thoughts were having trouble collecting themselves.  She asked, “Do you?”

“Yes” I answered, cringing slightly.

Shannon continued to look down at me intently. I felt a bit like a school kid being scrutinized by a teacher.  ”Do you want to sew?”

“Not really” I reply. I’m shrinking in my little chair.

“Why not?” Shannon now looks confused.

I nervously look from face to face above me and start blabbing (It’s my default. Don’t judge.)  ”Because at home I use a really, really old sewing machine. You know, the kind with the pedal-” I am now treadling my feet in the air- ”and I don’t want to break your fancy electric machines,” I say.

Shannon is still staring. Chatty Pinning Lady is now looking confused.  She asks, “It has 2 foot pedals?”

“No” I say, and I continue the blabbing, saying something about one pedal with two feet.  My feet are still going strong. Someone behind us shouts out, “Treadle!”  And I nod affirmatively.

Shannon hasn’t blinked or broken eye contact all this time.  ”You treadle? Well that’s good, because when we go to Uganda to teach the women there how to sew these themselves we need to know how to treadle, and right now we don’t know how to do that.”

My forehead instantly breaks out in sweat (thank God I have bangs) and I start in with a very nervous and very high-pitched laugh.  I reply, “Well that’s good that you’re going to be teaching them how to make these themselves.  It’s better than having us make them forever.”

Or something like that.  I don’t quite remember, because what I was thinking was, “Oh God.  You’re going to send me to Africa, aren’t you?” and He laughed and said, “Yes. Yes I am.” And really, that was much more memorable than what was coming out of my mouth at the time…

 

*If you want to know more about Days for Girls and the positive impact of reusable feminine hygiene products, please visit daysforgirls.org to learn why I have chosen to get involved, and why you should too.

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One Response to Uganda (Part 1)

  1. Olivia Godfrey says:

    Oh Julia, this is so GREAT!! I was smiling the entire time I read this! I’ll be praying for you and the trip and your treadle teaching. YAY! Love this news. Love you.

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