After a little car trouble and crazy traffic, we arrived at the Ugandan border 10 hours after setting out. Tired and sleep deprived we met our new driver, Fred, and he took us over the border to meet Uganda!!!
None of us had been to Uganda so we were unsure what to expect. We arrived at the hotel and checked into our rooms excited for running water and a shower spout!! We literally threw our bags down and headed back out the door to meet our contact, Pastor Ruth, founder of Smile Africa to see what mission she had in store for us.
We came to her house and had a meal of seasoned chicken, chipate, pineapple and all sorts of traditional Ugandan food, it was delicious. We sat down with Ruth as she told us the story of Smile Africa. May I first start with what an angel on earth this woman is. She is a pillar of strength and the women here flock to her and think of her as their leader, angel, their Godsend. She is so humble and praises the Lord for all the work she has been able to do and gives Him all the glory.
She starts off with telling us the story of her baby, Esther…Esther was abandoned by her mother directly after birth and discarded into a trash pile. Esther was found by the police and Pastor Ruth arrived on the scene to the rescue after hearing of her. She took her to the hospital and said God spoke to her that the baby should be her own and she would be called Esther. She took her into her home where we met her and she was now a healthy 1 year old and loved dearly. Ruth did meet the mother of Esther in prison where she went with the intention to see if you would repent for what she had done and let her know of the baby’s safety. She found the mother had been through horrible challenges in her life or rape, prostitution, abuse, abandonment and betrayal.. To describe the stories of the mother would be too painful to write… The mother was bitter and unremorseful since she could not take care of herself she knew she could not take care of another. Ruth kept baby Esther a secret and prayed with the mother and offered counsel and left. She later sent her clothes and thankfully have not heard from her since.
Ruth is on a mission with Smile Africa to take in battered, raped, widowed and other vulnerable women and children and helping the rehabilitate. She had registered over 800 women with Smile Africa. She takes the children who live on the streets with no family into her organization and provides them with food and safety. She empowers the women by offering them a second chance in life… A fresh start.. A reason for them to get up in the morning and survive. She helps teach them a trade or craft and teaches them to plant and sell their goods. These women are making their own living now and starting over in the name of Jesus Christ.
We pulled into Smile and saw tons of little children running to our van shouting, “HOW ARE YOU?!!” with a huge smile and open arms. They surrounded us with love and acceptance immediately. They lacked shoes and appropriate clothing and some were malnuritoused and Pastor Ruth is dedicated to turning that around for these orphaned children. They may not have everything yet, but by the grace of God and His amazing servant Ruth they now had food and safety which is everything to these kids in Uganda.
We toured the facilities she has worked so hard on and showed us they had running water supply and we sat down to listen to all the ministries they had going including a prison ministry where they rehabilitated those there helping them reconcile with Christ. It is amazing what these dedicated people are doing. We visited where they make their beautiful crafts and their sewing machines that Pastor Ruth has provided them once they complete their training. Once they complete their training they train 2 others and receive their sewing machine.. Amazing.. So empowering for these women.
We then got to stand in front of 40 women that welcomed us with such open hearts and arms and were overjoyed that we were there to support them. We shared with them what our mission was and how much we admired their courage and strength.
Then one by one these women came up and in front of everyone gave us the story of the storm that brought them to Smile. We heard such painful stories of the women being beaten nearly to death, stabbed, raped, and betrayed in a way we could never understand. We listened to the stories of HIV Positive women and how they are surviving and how they KNOW they are worth it. We listened to how they found Jesus and how He still loved them no matter what they choose to do in their path to survive. He forgave them and they in turn are now forgiving themselves. These women have more courage than I could ever wrap my head around. They fight when their hearts are ripped to shreds and perserver when they have lost every part of their home. They are inspirational. I can’t say enough.
We ended our day after this and speaking with some of the women…
Tonight we pray for them and hope that we can find a way to continue to serve them here and do God’s mission here at Smile Africa.
We thank God tonight for His absolute and perfect plan.
The women have put this prayer in my head tonight.
I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me…