Friday, October 18, 2019

My African Brady Bunch blended family

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 70’s, most generations know of the Brady Bunch and its theme song. “Now, here’s a story…..” and the lyrics continue later with this:

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group must somehow form a family
That's the way we all became the Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch, the Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch is an iconic show that was one of the first that showed blended families. Well I have a story of my own, that in many ways mirror those last lines….”till the one day when the lady met this fellow and they knew it was much more than a hunch, that this group must somehow form a family…”. My story begins in Africa in 2011, and it was definitely more than a “hunch”—it was a divine appointment from our Holy God—King of Glory.

My Ugandan “son” Godwin has been here in San Diego for the past two weeks. He left this morning and I am still reflecting on our beautiful time together.  We met when he joined our group to drive eight hours from his home in central Uganda to the war torn region of Gulu in the north. We were on a trip to learn and serve with a village in the area called Guru Guru. We were all green and new to this and it was a trip that would begin a relationship with many in what our family now calls our second home—Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. For eight years now I have had the honor and privilege of preparing and leading teams to work in partnership with Godwin and my other Ugandan sons—Hibu, Mark, and Muky, Even when I haven’t been able to go myself due to my cancer battle, it has been a joy to empower others to use their gifs and lead and learn on these trips. As everyone knows who has ever been on one of these trips—it is forever life changing. And it isn’t because WE Americans are giving or serving—it is because of the joy, love, and grace that our Ugandan family extends to US as they show us through their lives about authentic faith, true joy and the sufficiency of Jesus. I could write a book (I probably will) about the people, the stories, the songs, the partnership, the friendship, the prayers, the heartbreaks, the joys—of knowing these people—my blended family.

Last year Godwin received his first Visa ever to travel to the USA and it was an eye opening and eventful trip for him. With God’s provision and blessing, he was able to visit again for some much needed training for his work in his school and basketball ministry. I could go on and on about Godwin with so much mama bear love, but here is a short synopsis. First, he is a child of God, loved and chosen, and he has used his God given gifts for God’s glory. Both of his parents died of HIV within two years and at 11 years old, he was an orphan. He was adopted into a relative’s family and was raised by an amazing family and his new father was the pastor of a church. He is wicked smart, but also has the most compassionate heart. By the grace of God, he was educated and went to university, and worked as a social worker at a school partnered with through Children’s Heritage Foundation. Then he moved on to start his own boarding school called Nation Changers, that includes a specialized program to help jump start young kids in the sport of basketball, with the intent that their skills will help them earn scholarships in high school and university. (Big shout outs to Risen Church, Venture Church, Canyon Springs Church, Santa Fe Christian and CHF for their partnership with him. And many other personal supporters). He is married to Ester (Queen Mama) and before he was married, he had already adopted several children. Together they have ten children—eight adopted and the two youngest, their biological children. They are a beautiful blended family and we get to be part of it. His youngest is named Kirsten Grace and I have the honor of being Jaja (grandma) to all his kids—good Lord, am I really old enough for that???? Greg is Papa Greg or Big G as our son Hibu (in Guru Guru) lovingly calls him.

Here is the beautiful good news. The teams we take to Uganda don’t go there to work in a mission field. We go there because of the relationships we have formed—eight years strong and continuing for eternity. I learn so much from Godwin and the rest of my Ugandan family. I learn about compassion and sacrifice and trust and grace. I learn how to pray, how to sing and dance with joy, how to communicate even when we don’t speak the same language. When I am with my Ugandan sons and families, they point me to Jesus. All the time. They know the true meaning of “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all I need.” They remind me of the freedom found in the grace of Christ. They love me without strings attached and I love them with a fierceness that burns with passion inside my heart. In fact, my heart bursts with pride that I get to call Godwin my son, as well as the others who I call son. Our relationship points me to God—that He chose me and calls me his daughter, not because I chose Him or loved Him first, but because he earnestly sought me out and called me His own.

My family is so blessed that all of us-- Greg, Noah, and Micah as well-- have been to Uganda—many times. We will continue, because it is there that we have our Brady Bunch blended family. Yes, we will serve, we will give—but they serve and give us so much more. They show us a relationship with Jesus in a way that we do not see in America.

I am forever thankful that God gave me this beautiful blended family—one that makes me better each day, one that shows me new perspectives, one that loves unconditionally.

“Till the one day when this lady (Jaja Kirsten) met this fellow (Godwin)….and they knew that this was much more than a hunch…that this group would somehow form a family…” It was a God connection—a blended family for all eternity. All praise to our King of Glory.  

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