There are multiple ways to use the word “miracle”. In one sense a miracle is an act of God that defies the laws of nature as we understand them. The parting of the red sea. The walls of Jericho falling. Water turned to wine. Loaves and fishes multiplied. The blind seeing. The lame walking. The dead raised to life. I have yet to personally see this kind of miracle.
Another kind of miracle happens within the bounds of the natural laws, and yet presents a clear demonstration of the power of God bringing about victories that could not have been attained by human power. The story of Gideon is my favorite example of such a miracle. Gideon, who had lost faith in God’s power and presence with Israel, and who describes himself as the weakest member of the weakest clan in his tribe, is called by God to lead his people and defeat the Midianites. Judges 6:34 says that “the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon”, and he called the people to gather and join him in battle against their oppressors. But, since God did not want the Israelites to think that they had won this victory by their own hand, he instructed Gideon to tell any who were fearful to leave. 22,000 returned and 10,000 remained. 10,000 was still too many, so God told Gideon to take the men down to the water and had him divide those who lapped from their hands from those who kneeled down to the water to drink. Only the lappers were aloud to stay—300 men.
I can only imagine but that all the men thought Gideon was a little crazy, yet by the grace of God the chosen ones stayed. Then, after a personal word of encouragement from the Lord (I love that God did that!), Gideon arms the 300 men with trumpets, empty jars and torches. They surround the Midianite army during the middle watch of the night with their torches hidden inside the empty jars. At Gideon’s command they break their jars, blow their trumpets and cry out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” The Midianite army is thrown into confusion and attacks itself—fleeing before the 300 men who are later joined by the rest of the people.
This is the kind of miracle I am seeing this week in Kampala, Uganda. Several months ago the Sweazy family received confirmation that we and the Buxton family would be joining them in the work here. As I have written about before, they began to look for suitable housing for four families, several singles and frequent guests. The goal was for the community of believers to live as close together as possible while maintaining distinct family living space. I won’t go into much detail about God’s provision of housing as I already did that in another post, but I will say that when I told the story to a cousin of mine, he responded that the four townhouses (all available March 1) seemed to have “popped up like mushrooms,” which pretty well sums it up :). When Elodie and I visited in December, we were able to see the houses. It was also on that trip that the group made contact with Ivan and Melissa Bennet and visited the Sonrise Baby and Children’s homes and Mirembe Cottage for the first time. Following that visit, the Sweazy’s began volunteering regularly at the homes and communicated their desire to foster and adopt. Non of us even dreamed how quickly God would fulfill that desire and use and transform their family.
Within a month of working with the children’s home, the Sweazy’s were asked if they could consider bringing a sibling group of five into their family. The three girls were already living in the baby home and cottage, but since the children’s home was too full to take the boys, this was the only hope of keeping the siblings together. After prayerful consideration, this family of five embraced the plan to become a family of ten. The children were to make the transition in mid-March—about the time that we were due to arrive. I thought that this timing made sense, because the Sweazy’s would be moved into their new home and we would be there to help and support them. But God had other plans. Perhaps, once again, he wanted to make very clear that this endeavor would not be accomplished by human strength. The very week that they were scheduled to move, Charlton and Natasha received an urgent request to take the children right away. Moving (or “shifting” as it is called here in Uganda) is very stressful for any family—especially with small children. Adopting five children at one time—thus going from having a five-year-old, three-year-old and one-year-old to parenting an eleven-year-old, seven-year-old, two five-year-olds, two three-year-olds and two one-year-olds—is something that most of us can hardly fathom. To do both in one week is utter insanity—something like confronting an entire army with 300 men.
That was God’s unthinkable call, and our friends obeyed. We knew all this was happening as we prepared to come, and (along with many others) we prayed fervently for them. Wednesday night somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m. we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, and there were the smiling faces of Charlton, Natasha and Joseph Ssemanda waiting to greet us, load our many boxes into a rented van and drive us an hour to our new home in the Makarere district of Kampala, Uganda. The next morning we were told to sleep in, which we did, and awoke to find a breakfast cake, fruit and an array of teas waiting in the kitchen that the sisters had cleaned before our arrival. Lunch that day at the Sweazy’s was when I knew that I was seeing a miracle. Natasha, who had only gotten about four hours sleep, cheerfully served us rice and beans while all twelve of our combined children chattered at the table. A peace and joy filled the house that could only have been the work of the Holy Spirit.
Since then we have been served non-stop. The Sweazy’s and Ssemanda’s have taken turns cooking delicious, simple Ugandan food (tonight I am breaking the trend and making spaghetti since I don’t yet know how to make Ugandan food, and Natasha told me that noodles are a huge treat for the kiddos). Charlton has spent hours taking us on errands to get our home up and running—internet access, propane for the stove, household items, etc. Wanda and Rehema have helped me clean and unpack and Natasha showed up yesterday morning and asked for all of our dirty laundry!
I look forward to being able to serve these dear brothers and sisters as they have so abundantly served us and to reach out to the local community, but at this moment, when we are jet-lagged (it’s currently 3 a.m. and my body has no intention of going to sleep) and disoriented by the details of “doing life” in a new country and culture, I am so grateful for the Lord’s tender care through this Christ-led community. Some of the highlights for me so far have been…The moment at the airport when Greg (exhausted and overwhelmed) realized that the man helping him stack his boxes was brother Joseph. He lit up with joy and they threw their arms around one another…Unpacking boxes in my new living room with eleven children contentedly playing around me… Watching AnaSofia and Carol (the oldest of the Sweazy’s “new” children) knit together on Ana’s floor, walk from house to house together, etc… Micaiah’s precious bond with our new dog, Lester… Calling at Natasha’s door and never knowing what smiling face will appear at my door… The children, oh the children! Running red-faced and sweating in the sun, playing happily for hours with legos spread across our living room floor. Parents letting each other know who is where as they roam from house to house. Ethan and Boaz occasionally getting into a little mischief like turning on the outdoor spigot and getting their clothes wet. The big girls letting us know when someone needs a little instruction ;)… Meals together… Singing together in English, Luganda and Swahili… Setting up my new kitchen (at 2 a.m., of course :))… Hearing sister Rehema say, “Bambi!” (Luganda for “Sweet!” or “Poor thing!”) and watching her draw Elodie out of her new-to-everything shyness… Elodie calling Blessing, who is four days younger than her, her “baby”… Elizabeth popping in with a smile on her way home from volunteering at the crisis pregnancy center… Meeting “Mama Junior,” a beautiful young woman who runs a shop across the street. (In Uganda “Mama” is a title of respect for women. She is “Mama Junior” because her oldest son is named “Junior.”)… Greg and I and the older kids singing the little ones to sleep in a new place that seems suddenly scary at bed-time…Praying for this place and its people who I already love.
Praise be to God that he searches the earth seeking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully his! (2 Chron. 16:9) Thank you for your prayers.