Written by Britany Mann
On a warm, muggy day in the African bush, I found God. I saw Him. His Spirit captured in the love displayed by a little girl, Doreen.
I met Doreen on a dirt road as my team and I carried Bibles through the village and prayed with families there. I was easy to spot in my bright mint green striped shirt tucked into a black maxi skirt, sporting a Kavu backpack, pink Chaco’s and a camera strap slung around my shoulder. I was snapping a picture of a rambunctious group of boys when she came to my side and asked, with hand gestures and pleading eyes, to see the tiny screen. Once I let her get her hands on my camera, that was it, we would become friends. She grabbed my hand, escorting me down her familiar roads, the roads of her everyday.
Upon arriving at our destination, Doreen squeezed my hand tighter. I gave it a squeeze, reassuring her I wouldn’t let go as we talked with an older woman, a jja jja, as they are called in Uganda. I was called on to pray for her, something outside of my comfort zone. Mustering up the courage I asked for her prayer needs as beautiful Aggie, one of our Ugandan directors, translated to and from Lugandan. We bowed our heads. Little Doreen’s hand in mine served as constant encouragement; she even gave my hand tiny squeezes of reassurance until the end.
We packed up our remaining supplies and started up a hill toward our van. I had Bibles in my right arm and Doreen in my left. She stopped me and opened up her arms, offering to help share the load I was carrying. I reassured her I could manage just fine, but she insisted. I handed her the Bibles and we continued walking.
Farther up the hill she pointed to my camera and offered her shoulder. I waved my hand to signal my competency in carrying my own possessions but she persisted. I reached for the strap, pulled it over my head and gently placed it over hers. Now her burden was much more than mine, but she seemed delighted. We continued climbing the hill.
Once again she stopped me, pointed to my Kavu bag and offered her back. Again, I told her she had enough to carry, but she maintained her posture. I helped her set the Bibles down and held the camera as she situated the bag on her back. I placed the strap of my Nikon on her shoulder and picked up the Bibles. She opened up her arms and I placed them against her tiny chest. We walked up the hill, Doreen loaded down while I walked empty handed, every so often resting my hand on her sweet, bald head to show her my appreciation.
The van in sight, the road flattened out and Doreen bumped my side with her full arms. She gestured toward her home offering my items back one at a time. I helped her unload, gave her a good-bye hug, and she skipped away. I was left speechless. Who knows what look I had on my face when she turned around to wave one more time. I managed a smile, realizing the extent of this small act performed by such a little girl.
Doreen was young. She was poor. She didn’t speak English. She burdened herself until my burden was relieved; All she asked in return for her kindness was love and to hold my hand. She may not have even known, but she was the most perfect picture and emulation of Jesus, more so than I had been in my entire life.
So many times as a short-term missionary we think we are the ones packing Jesus in our suitcases, sharing him with outsiders and strangers of other countries and cultures, but we couldn’t be further from the truth. We forget God is-has been and will be- in this world, loving His children and seeking redemption for all of creation. He uses us as His hands and feet when we are willing, but we don’t supply Him. He is always at work, stirring hearts and leading lives to Him.
My experience in Uganda changed me. My perception of Christianity, love, service, worship and community shifted as I learned from those I journeyed hours to serve. They left me craving more:
More devotion and study
More quality time with people
The kids and adults I encountered demonstrated a life in full dependence on God—they live like Jesus. As I evaluate my own faith I realize if it closely resembles theirs’, it will resemble Jesus. The joy of truly loving, truly relying on our Savior binds us together across countries and time zones. I pray more people get the opportunity to meet Doreen or any one of the Sozo kids and have their life rocked in a good way, a way which points and propels them toward Jesus.