For over a decade, I’ve watched this organization, which houses pregnant teen moms, make a difference in the lives of young girls from all over Uganda and other neighboring countries. They are a safe haven and a second chance for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual abuse, unintended pregnancy, and rejection from their families. This is accomplished by housing these 11 to 19 year old young mothers through their pregnancies, providing nourishment, counseling, and skills training. They also fight on their behalf to find a permanent home or schooling (through sponsorships) for them to return to post-delivery.
I’ve remained in awe of their care, leadership, and heart to expand. And, every time I meet the girls I’m blown away by their courage, their stories, and their willingness to engage. Today was no different. As I looked around the room, I saw 29 precious faces, round bellies, and beautiful eyes staring at me. As I opened my mouth to share a word of encouragement I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t help but think about my two daughters. I imagined them sitting in those chairs. How would I react to the news? Would I embrace them or reject them? Would I respond with love or would I too pass judgment? I sobbed as I tried to utter words of encouragement, to remind them that they are valuable and precious. I apologized on behalf of their parents, and then we spend the day loving on them in as many ways as possible — art projects, gifts, counseling, and more. This day will never be forgotten, and I’m excited to go back tomorrow to meet the two new babies that were born since we left a few days ago.
Thoughts from Calvin:
I’m in a room full of pregnant teens and the question “why am I here, what positive impact can I possibly have?” bubbles into my consciousness. I’m extremely aware that I am the only male present in this group and what terrible memories my presence might bring up for them. I can’t seem to connect with these women in the ways my female team members can. And so I stick to my camera, capturing special moments and helping out where help is needed. We can sometimes become so focused on trying to make a difference that we forget the means by which we are even able to affect meaningful change. We forget sometimes that God doesn’t require anything more of us than to be present with others, to love them as best as we’re able, and to trust that He will move through us. Often our own expectations are the biggest blocks to this. To allow yourself to be unsettled and disturbed when you hear that a 16, 14, 13 year old girl is pregnant and no husband or boyfriend is there to take responsibility and her family has abandoned her. How wonderful it is to be confronted with our ultimate position of inadequacy, only to realize the healing and redemption of others is best left to the One who loves them most.
Our team gave a presentation on sexual health, and I was asked just moments before to give a closing statement. Right before I got up to speak I felt led by this thought, “Tell them what a man should be.” As I approached these women, I immediately knew that I needed to kneel before them with no reservation to show my grieved heart. I recounted the creation story of Adam and Eve to iterate that they are beloved daughters of God made to be cherished and loved. Adam failed in the way that men have repeatedly continued to fail each of these girls, whether in the role of father, brother, lover, or friend. But there is redemption in the better man made in Christ Jesus who loves them dearly and would see each of them and their children cared for and loved.
After I shared, I resumed my auxiliary role on the sidelines of the activities wondering how many of my words, if any, were understood and received. Before our departure one of the young women approached me with a question about forgiveness towards the male friend who had raped her. I shared what I could, prayed with her, and asked her about her unborn child to which she replied, “I am having a boy, may I name him Calvin?”