"The problem is that they build the island houses too small," explained Pastor Samson one recent evening.
He went on to expound. Most island homes have one, maybe two rooms at the maximum. As more children are born, the oldest find themselves having no place to sleep at night, simply for lack of room and privacy. They are forced out of the home to find shelter elsewhere.
His explanation made sense as to why this may be a contributing factor to the teen pregnancies that are all too common on the islands.
Amidst exciting testimonies of answered prayers, recent salvations, and a flood of new students descending on the island, we learned this week, through routine testing, that three of our girl students had started the school year (that began in early February) pregnant.
All three were in the top class. Two were in the group I had taken to a Bible camp in December. One had professed Christ last year, was in regular discipleship and was serving as the head girl student of the school. One was the niece of a good friend and an area pastor.
Those of at Shepherd's Heart and at the school shook our heads in disbelief and disappointment, and asked ourselves why.
Counseling was done before the expulsion took place and the girls were sent home. One was doggedly determined to abort the baby so she could return to school and resume her studies, saying her mom had already threatened her if she became pregnant "again." This was obviously not her first pregnancy, not would it be her first abortion.
It seems she suspected the pregnancy even before the testing was done, and bought the abortive medicine beforehand. "It is too late," she told concerned counselors Friday morning, as they tried to dissuade her away from killing her own baby.
"I didn't plan to get pregnant," said one as I sat next to her Friday morning on the boat, her packed belongings nearby. Her time at the island school had been very brief - lasting only about two weeks. Now she was returning to the mainland with a heavy burden and many questions.
When I asked about her plans, she responded fearfully, "I am going to run away." Run away from her family, her neighbors, anyone who might know her. After encouraging her not to make any decisions in haste or out of fear, I asked if she would keep the baby. "No," she said, she planned to abort. She said she was too young to be a mother and wanted to finish school.
Again, I encouraged her to turn to God to seek forgiveness, guidance and help in this hard time. "Entrust your life and the life of the baby into God's hands." I spoke of God being the giver and taker of life, and to take a life would be violating His law.
I am not sure it had occurred to her that she was carrying a precious life, a baby.
Such cases and stories are all too common here. Sexual immorality is like a plague, especially on the islands.
While some girls find themselves forced out of their family's home and compelled to sleep elsewhere, like in Pastor Samson's explanation, others turn to prostitution to earn extra money - perhaps money to buy food (that may not be provided at home) or take care of basic needs. The economic opportunities for island women and girls are very limited.
Others are forced into such a lifestyle by their own fathers or other family members. In this culture, a woman's value is found in not who she is, but in what she provides. For others, such choices are consensual and a decision they make on their own.
I am being blunt and not mincing words, because this is reality. Until fathers and families reclaim the great and God-given responsibility toward their duties, this will continue. Until the culture cries out and says this is wrong, nothing will change. Until the girls and women see their value and worth in the eyes of their Creator, they and others will continue to view them as "objects" to be used.
Until Christ captures, saves and radically transforms the hearts and minds of girls, women, families, communities and islands, they will remain in this deep and deceptive pit of sexual sin.
Satan has set many traps and many have been ensnared. Yet Christ is the True Redeemer - to redeem from sin and bondage.
You have heard of those parents who when hearing their kids are "bored," immediately respond by assigning the bored child some kind of a chore. Maybe you grew up in a home like that.
I don't remember experiencing boredom as a child. I have the blessing of having a sister very close in age. In our young years we were always using our imaginations in creative play, whether it was running a "restaurant," performing a two-person talent show, or making "handcrafts" that our parents felt obligated to buy from us in our little "bazaar."
I am also realizing you should not tell God you are bored. It falls in the same category as asking God for patience. :) You are bound to receive the answer to your prayers - but in unexpected ways.
Anyway, when I first came to Uganda, I had one primary job - to serve as the coordinator for the Child Development program (the ministry's sponsorship branch). But, I found myself being idle and having too much free time on my hands, which I did not like. Since then God has placed other roles and responsibilities in my arena. And I usually say, "I would rather be busy than bored." I think God heard me say that one too many times.
However, I feel like while I have been juggling my various roles, I have been dropping balls here and there. Between the sponsorship program, hospitality, and communications at SHIM, and working at the school in computer classes, serving in the financial office, and teaching Bible study, plus taking an online missions course - I feel like some areas are not getting the attention they need.
The Bible said God will not give us more than we can bear in terms of temptation. But I also believe that the same principle could apply to the responsibilities He gives to us. He won't give us more than we can handle - with His strength and grace to accomplish it. That is the key.
I am always mesmerized by juggling acts and have noticed that when there is more than one juggler in the act, they can handle multiple balls, even knives and other objects - more than one person could handle.
Timing and knowing your partner are crucial, otherwise you may miss a step, embarrass yourselves terribly, or worse suffer an injury.
My previous post was about not letting busyness and work come before my relationship with God. I am still learning this lesson - slowly. Again, I am grateful for God's graciousness and patience with me in this particular "classroom."
With what you are juggling today, are you in sync with your Heavenly Father?
I have said that if there is a hard way to do something, I will find it. This is especially true if it has anything to do with mechanical "thing-a-ma-jigs" or numbers. Either one tends to short-circuit my brain.
Unfortunately, I also seem to complicate my life of faith. Lately I have been reading in Genesis and have so enjoyed the simple and straightforward faith of men like Noah and Abraham. They believed God, and they obeyed Him, even when such obedience drastically set them apart from their world.
And back then they had less peripherals to bolster their faith. There were no churches, weekly Bible studies, Bibles, radio evangelists, contemporary Christian music, e-devotionals, small groups, or a myriad of volumes on any topic of spirituality you can imagine. Perhaps that is why Jesus encouraged us to have faith like a child (Matthew 18:1-4). A child receives a word and believes it, usually with no questions asked, nor seeking for more assurances.
Last weekend I sent out an e-mail update, sharing what God has been teaching me concerning not confusing my priorities of ministry and my relationship with the Father who called me here. Here are some excerpts:
"This morning I read: 'Beware of any work for God which enables you to evade concentration on Him. A great many Christian workers worship their work.' (From "My Utmost for His Highest" - April 23)
"Ouch. That hurt.
"Finding value in what I accomplish is often a trap for me. At times I think, 'I am missionary. People are supporting me so I can get things done here. They need proof of their investment.' However, the truth is I am called by God (not by others) - just as you are, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. God calls me foremost not to a task, a role or a mission, but to a relationship with Himself. And the overflow of the relationship with my Heavenly Father fuels and directs how I use my time, energy and resources. Lately, I have been reminded and challenged by these truths, especially as I enter a busy season here on the island.
"This past week marked the beginning of a new school year for many students, including our own who are attending Lingira Living Hope Secondary School. It is with excitement and some trepidation that I think about stepping back into my roles at the school - working in the financial office, teaching computer classes, and befriending and mentoring the girl students through the weekly Bible study and in some one-on-one discipleship. Honestly, sometimes I get overwhelmed - by the needs, by the culture, by what may be expected of me, by expectations I put on myself.
"But again I am reminded, God is not looking to me for the results, but to be faithful in my relationship to Him, and in what He has called me to. Phew, that is a stress reliever.
"'There is no responsibility on you for the work; the only responsibility you have is to keep in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him...We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything; wherever He puts us our one great aim is to pour out a wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. 'Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.'" (From "My Utmost for His Highest - April 23)
In the busyness of life, don't forget your first priority - your relationship with your Creator. Everything else is secondary."
God has been confirming this lesson in so many ways recently that I could probably write several blog posts, but I will stop here.
Wherever you are at, remember to first put God first.