Taking Pearls of Wisdom Home from Uganda

In a country with such needs, such poverty and despair, for those inclined to compassionate service, Uganda can be overwhelming. Where do we start and how long will our resources, financial and otherwise, endure. So many hands reaching. So many sad and deserving stories. Stories of have nots seeking responses from haves. Though I am not considered a have in the US, here I am wealthy. People who need what I do and don’t possess have reached out to me. I feel great weights on my heart. I want to help everyone, but of course, I can’t.

People here deserve help. Like the people of Kiterridde about whom I’ve told you. They aren’t just sitting by, waiting for a hand out. They are doing what they can. All they ask is a hand up. And the Bandera Farmers Network, the place where little Sophie touched my heart, the home of people that danced for us, fed us, and showed us the power of love and community. And the Honorable Dr. Ndiwanlana Maama Bulamu (Honorable Christine), who hosted us in Bukumansimbi, who is a member of the minority party (and continues working hard anyway). We visited her farmers, rode the bus together, and danced and sang karaoke (“We are family, I got all my sistas with me…”).

And the Changemakers, Denis, and Elly. I love them for their big hearts and compassion for us and their countrymen. They have visions I’d like to help bring to pass. I care about the men and women who work in the hotels where we’ve stayed. They’ve given us letters explaining their dreams, their challenges, and have asked us to intervene for them. People we’ve met casually have asked for help in getting jobs outside of Uganda. They’ve tried to better themselves here but know it’s a dead end in the current system. I’ve felt guilty because I can’’t give what they need or want.

Honorable Christine wants an irrigation system for her farmers. They waited for our significantly overdue arrival patiently and showed us their soy plants, their coffee beans, and their processing plant. The things they need are beyond Honorable Christine’s ability to provide, and she’d like help. And the eleven members of Parliament, women all, who were beaten by police outside Parliament on the streets for observing (and encouraging their people to assemble to celebrate National Women’s Day). What can be done for them?

And what of others? I watched a crippled boy dragging his legs through the mud on a city street in Kampala. I heard the siren calls of women in souvenir shops smiling hugely, calling in sing song, “Welcome! Come in here. Come in here. I have t-shirts!” I’ve seen winsome children with big bellies and small hands reaching for candy, people standing in the doorways of tiny houses with curtains for front doors and windows. And everywhere, women (and men) with a seal of resignation on their faces.

I’ve listened to the hysterical cries of a child in the night, her parents’ loud voices – first a woman’s, also crying, and the shouts of an angry man. I heard the revved engine of a boda boda (for hire) motorcycle carrying one of them away at the end of their fight, the deafening silence left in their wake. So many hurting people.

Aren’t these entitled to help? And if so, how do I help them? The answer, I’ve decided, is that I can’t. Not all of them. I’m nobody’s Jesus, nobody’s Mother Theresa.

This morning, Linda, a Roots-Africa teammate and I were grappling with these questions. I told her I was frustrated in not knowing how to meet all the needs and requests for help. I’ve never been truly hungry. Never so desperate. What must that feel like? Again, where do I start?

I once heard a missionary explain to a group of students that “There will always be more needs than you can fill. If you try to meet every need of every person who presents himself, you will burn yourself out, and then you will not achieve the other things, the ones that are set before you.” He spoke pearls of wisdom.

Trying to meet everyone’s needs is a form of  unsanctified mercy. Waiting for a Nudge that says, “this is the one, help him, help her” ensures that my efforts will bring just what is called-for and no more. It will help others without exhausting me. Just because someone says they have a need doesn’t mean that I am the one to fill it. I need to be ok with that. Trying to be everyone’s savior not only consumes energy and resources that might have gone to others, it robs someone else of the opportunity to give.

I have just two days left in this wonderful, beautiful, desperate, tortured country. I wish I’d unearthed these pearls of wisdom a week ago, though they’ve arrived just in time. I’m taking them home with me where there are also very many needs and where I’ll be ready for some (but not all) of them. And that too, will be enough.


  1. What an amazing trip this has been for you. It was something you needed to do and I am so glad you took so many of us along with you. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. I know in time you will write about your experiences and it will be wonderful to read. Love you, have a safe trip home.


    1. Thank, Judy. I’m going to go home and find Dad’s letters. So many familiar things. I think Africa made a bigger impression on them than I remembered. Yes, processing now!


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