The following blog was written by our amazing Sole Hope Advocate, Amy Vick. She was able to visit Sole Hope in Uganda during the summer of 2013. I had the honor of meeting her for the first time while she was on the ground here. She has the most beautiful heart and an unwavering passion for Sole Hope. Today we welcome her to the blog with open arms. Here is Amy's story of HOPE. - Lis Steckle, International Coordinator
Home is where the heart is, right? It is for me. This means I have a home here in Alabama and one across the ocean. You see, this past summer, I traveled to Uganda with Sole Hope, but not all of me came back. Part of my heart remains. It is covered in red dirt that no soap can wash away. It is joyful, even in the midst of the most heartbreaking of circumstances. It is full of love, bearing much fruit.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
I love that this translation uses the word "produces". It helps me see the fruits of the Spirit as the products of the work of the Spirit that they are. A fruit tree does not magically or immediately yield its fruit. Only after the seed has been planted, fed, watered, and grown to maturity, does its fruit come forth. The same process of time and effort (work) of the Spirit in each of us is likewise what produces our fruit. I don’t believe it is by either coincidence or a simple choice of order that love is listed first. For without love, how can we have any of the rest? This is very evident in the work and the workers of Sole Hope. It is for the love of the people they serve - born out of an obedient love of God, Sole Hope exists and is growing...bearing much fruit.
Two of the hardest days for me this summer were the two days we spent in clinics in the village of Wakisi. They produced in me a level of patience, gentleness, and self-control that I have never experienced. Each of these days humbled me. They broke me. But they showed me a side of love I would not know without leaving the comforts of the life I had always known. And, in this love is a joy and a peace that I find hard to explain. Something so deeply rooted within me that I find it difficult to touch with words. So, I’ll give you a bit of my experience instead, straight from my journal, raw but edited.
Uganda Day 2
“Off to Wakisi. Short ride. Small village tucked in the middle of corn and banana tree plantations. Extreme poverty. Naked babies running around red dirt yards. Smiling, enthusiastic children. Skeptical adults. We arrive. Unpack. Set up. Message by the chairman [of the vilage]. We begin. I shadow Sasha. She is 11. She is the best [jigger remover]. This in itself humbles and breaks me. Her voice is a whisper, her eyes and hands are skilled beyond her years, and her heart (as Andrew puts it) is strong. She is ELEVEN...only 4 years older than my own daughter. [She is] Amazing. The children. Oh, the children. Smiles are big. Hearts are brave. All are in clinic alone. Most [of the children Sasha and I treat] report living with grandparents. Only 2 of ours all day said mother or father. Another blow to the heart. Their small feet are so callused we have to use razor blades to shave away excess before we can even begin removal [of the jiggers]. The toenails that they still have are thick, dirty, and misshaped. We chip away some nails with razor blades to get underneath and remove. Pictures can never do justice to what actually happens. Watching the skin being ripped away then ripping it yourself. Holding the child you are working on. Seeing all the other injuries. Some so severe it becomes hard to tell if there are jiggers. The hole it leaves behind [when jiggers are removed]. The infections. I am determined. I work all day. My face is all smiles and does not betray the crushed state of my heart...I wash feet. I bandage. I remove. I assist.”
Uganda Day 7
“We made it to Wakisi with Paul after a short delay...I set up to do [foot] notes and assist...Teddy and Jeffery each had a child [with jiggers] quickly so I got busy quickly. I fought frustration hard today. The cases we had...hurt me and angered me at the same time. There was no comfort and no quiet. I wanted to scream. Loud and long. [Then came] a bad case. It went against every instinct, both maternal and human, in me to stand there and do only what I was supposed to do. But I did. I watched as a child writhed in pain, crying so hard the snot from his nose was hitting the floor. He bucked and jerked and touched his wounds to try to keep them from being worked on. He was forcibly held by one or two men [at a time]. These children literally have thick skin and they have a high pain tolerance. I can’t imagine the level of pain he was feeling. The 2 jiggers in the tip of his pinky [finger] were so large. [There were] 2 more in that hand. Then the palm. Jesus held me...removed a couple from the other hand then started on the feet. His feet were rotting. HIS FEET WERE ROTTING. He is not a tree stump or fallen fruit. He is a child. This should not happen. EVER.”
So, where is the love? Did you miss it? It was there the whole time. In between the lines.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
Can you see it now? Love is an action. Love was there washing feet, bandaging wounds, removing jiggers, holding the children tightly as they cried out in pain. Love smiled and never complained. Love rejoiced at the sight of the healed feet and happy children days later. Love endured. Love remains.
This is what those on the ground in Uganda see and experience day in and day out working for and with Sole Hope. Their love and their joy are because of days like those, not in spite of them. They are brought to their knees as humble servants. Through the pain, the poverty, the disease, the heartaches, and the trials, they are refined and they bear much fruit. The fruit doesn't come so they can work; the fruit comes because the work is done.