Akanyijuka Moses was only an infant when his mother threw him out with the garbage. Helpless and alone, dogs chewed on the little boy’s head, leaving him with prominent scars. No one is certain how or why, but Moses survived his abandonment and spent the majority of his early childhood living on the streets of Kabale, Uganda, digging through those same piles of garbage for his daily sustenance.
Less than a mile away, a pastor and his wife mourned another failed attempt to conceive a child. Barrenness is seen as a curse in Uganda, and couples without children feel a great deal of shame. Once again they asked the Lord to have mercy on them, and give them a child of their own. This time His answer was clear; they were to build their family a less conventional way.
This pastor had seen devastation his entire life, and knew there was great need in his own community. He wanted to obey the Lord’s call to care for the least of these, but pastors in Uganda do not earn a salary, and his own family struggled financially. In an act of faith he met needs whenever and wherever he could, and soon partners joined his work. Temporary arrangements turned into sustainable solutions, and an orphanage was built. The orphanage was named after the first child who called it home: Akanyijuka, meaning God Remembers Me.
God had rewarded the pastor’s obedience, and a street boys’ home, church, school, and micro-loan non-profit were added to his ministry. God even gave the pastor children of his own: four biological and two adopted. God had shown Himself faithful, but a year and a half ago the church sponsoring the orphanage and school chose to redirect funds to a ministry in its home country. The pastor did not know how he could continue to care for these children God had brought into his life, and desperately prayed for direction. He knew if funds were not procured quickly, forty children would return to living on the streets, and their six house mothers would be unemployed.
While the pastor was bringing his new need to God, I sat on the opposite side of the globe praying with a team of six women from my University. We were going to be traveling to Uganda in May to work alongside this pastor in his ministry, and needed significant funds to do so. Weekly we prayed for God to lead people to partner with us so we could follow the call we had felt placed on our hearts. Not wanting to be passive participants, we decided to fundraise by selling stickers. We had chosen Isaiah 40:26 as our trip’s theme verse, and the stickers we created had the words “Each by name” as a reminder that we serve an omniscient God who knows even the stars by name. God answered our prayers, and called people to support us in our fundraising. Between their generosity and the sales from our stickers, we were blessed with more than we thought we needed. When we boarded the plane for Uganda, we had eight-hundred dollars in hand, and hearts eager to see how God was going to use it.
During our five weeks in Uganda, we constantly saw ways the money could have been put to good use. We considered buying better school supplies for all the children, helping our translator go back to University, or buying new shoes for everyone at the orphanage. These material needs were so obvious, and we could think of reasons to justify each. We brought these ideas to the Lord, but each time our hearts were redirected to the pastor and his ministry. We knew he was struggling with sponsorship, but had no idea how great his need truly was. As our time in Uganda drew to a close, the seven of us simultaneously shared our convictions to give the money to the pastor, and let him use it however he needed.
On our last day, we sat in his office and shared the story of how God had unquestionably provided for our team so we could not only come fully fundraised, but bring extra money as well. We described how we felt the money had been ordained for him from the beginning, and as we presented the Lord’s gift to the pastor, he began to cry. He explained to us how he had gone to check his ministry’s bank account that morning, as it was the first day of the school year, and had found there were not enough funds for the children to attend school. He had expected to arrive at the orphanage with heartbreaking news that day, but instead he called his wife into the office and told her there was now enough money to send every child to school for the semester. The verse which had branded our stickers took on a new meaning as each child we had come to know by name was able to put on a school uniform.
On that June day in a small Ugandan village, the words of Psalm 65:5a rang true: “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth.” God had bigger plans for the money we raised than our team could have ever imagined. While we were hoping to meet the clear, physical needs in front of us, God knew the money He provided would be used to answer a prayer only He had heard. In fact, He had been using His people to fulfil one another’s prayer requests all along. When the pastor and his wife prayed to conceive children, they were unaware God would use them to meet the needs of a little boy too weak and lost to cry out for Him. When we were surprised by the success of our fundraising, we thought God had gone above and beyond in answering our prayers. In our small-mindedness, we had prayed for seven plane tickets. God provided them, but knew they were so much more than our means into Uganda. Those seven plane tickets were purposed to deliver an answer to a Ugandan pastor’s prayer.
It is a beautiful thing to be invited into the work God is already doing. Through His power and wisdom, He could meet His people’s needs without help from creation. It is only because of His infinite grace and love that we are allowed to participate in answering prayers. The Psalmist tells us, “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2. Our God hears us when we pray, and He delights in answering us in unexpected ways. Let us always bring our requests before Him, and never cease looking for ways to join in fulfilling the prayer requests of His people.
What were you created to do?