“It’s not a beautiful vision of me giving them everything they need but I give them what I can.” From playing soccer, eating sugarcane, or applying Vapor Rub when they are sick, Emily Gilbert provides for her boys at the Uganda boys home. Between working in Seattle to help build awareness and support for this community in Uganda and visiting them, Emily has been a figure of true love in the lives of this community and especially for these boys.
As she traveled across East Africa, Emily came across this boy’s home in need of funds before it was to close. She began forming relationships that spanned across continents, from the community in Uganda to Seattle, Washington, while wholeheartedly following God’s will for her. She is raw and honest in admitting that she does not have all the answers, nor does she know what the future of this home looks like. But she certainly has hopes.
She is not a millionaire with all of the resources to provide. She is not able to solve all of the conflicts in these boy’s lives. She is not able to be with them in Uganda all the time. But she gives what she can, and there lies the message of Jesus, particularly in this season of hopeful anticipation.
Many get caught up in what seems to be this glorious and picture perfect missionary life. We have this idea that we will arrive, help, and leave a place better than what we found it. We dream of greatly impacting live; however, as I dove deeper into this missionary call especially through what I have learned through Emily’s story, it is much more demanding and challenging than we give it credit for. Oftentimes, the greatest change happens within our hearts.
Sure, we may leave behind motivation, presents, and gifts. We may leave an impression, a memory of us, but it's what we take away that will greatly affect the mission. We oftentimes leave these places of wander with so much more than what we came to offer. And it's what we do with this unexpected gift...it's how we accept this new found responsibility that comes with our new awareness that is really going to affect other's lives.
For Emily, she came back to America with a story.
She used this story to give back even more to the Uganda Boys Home. From the beginning, there was not a structure, timeline, or list of contacts she went through to begin her call to serve this boy’s home. She has had to travel alone, form relationships and make contacts with those in the community in Uganda as well as in Seattle, care for the many needs of these boys emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and even experienced sickness herself. And there is still much to be done.
A life as such is tough. It requires holy patience and faith. But why does God call us to go out and serve others? Why did Jesus call the disciples out of their professions and lives? Why does Jesus continually state that he came for the poor and lowly, and not the rich and wealthy? What is in this way of life that Jesus deems important?
Chatting with Emily as well as Alex Woelkers, (a volunteer who has recently been to the boy’s home as well) has made something clear: the poor, the lowly, the sick, the hungry, the deprived…they have something to give that we do not. They have had to live their lives completely and utterly dependent on God. All that wakes them up is their trust in the day and God’s provisions. They live and breathe trust in God. They do not think about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. Life is here and life is now and life is today. That is what matters.
Take the story Jesus tells us of the poor widow. Everyone in the treasury gave his or her allotted amount, and the widow goes and gives way less than everyone else. Yet Jesus says she has given more. “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 4:44)
See, it is all a matter of material versus spiritual. Many of us may have more material things and may have a good grip on not letting our lives be materialistic. That is great that we can acknowledge that materials do not really matter; that self-awareness is a blessing in and of itself. But personally, I know that I have never lived a single day in my life where I have absolutely nothing materially but everything spiritually.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”
I must draw the line and say that even though we are blessed materially, how much do those material blessings weigh next to the blessings of true community, of true friendship, of true love, of true and complete dependence on God? I always hear people who come back from mission trips saying that their lives have been more changed than the lives of those they were aiding. Those that we think we are helping are the ones who actually lead us closer to God and closer to being poor in spirit. Seeing as they are the ones who will enter the Kingdom of God first, I know that when the time of judgment comes and we must drop our material blessings, those that are poor in spirit who enter the kingdom first, will also be the first ones to grab our empty hands. They help us realize that what really matters is all in the spiritual realm.
I cannot help but realize that as I read what Emily and Alex have said what their story is, what they do for the home, what their daily activities and adventures are, and what God has provided, that if I was to see it all go down in the spiritual world, it would not be Emily or Alex guiding these boys and the community. It would be these boys and the community grabbing Emily and Alex and guiding them to the Kingdom.
Jesus calls us to drop everything and follow him. Many of the most renowned saints gave up everything to follow Jesus. They chose to live in poverty because there is not just the fact that a material world does nothing for them or that Jesus says it is this that we need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They chose to give it all because it is this lifestyle that inspires others to enter the Kingdom. It is this lifestyle that turns around at the gates of Heaven and grabs the hands of those who could not let go of materials in the real world but had to in Heaven.
Emily Gilbert, Alex Woelkers, the boys at the home, and the community, I thank you ahead of time for turning around and choosing to guide us into the spiritual world.
If you want to learn more about Emily’s work at the Uganda Boy’s Home or desire to show your support during this season of giving, please visit www.ugandaboyshome.com.