Really! It was always said as a statement, never as a question. There would always be a certain musical playfulness to her sarcasm as she spoke with a British influenced Ugandan English.
It didn’t take long and this young lady of 23 was feeling very comfortable with the dozen “mzungus” under her care. Laughter, joy, depth, passion and love filled the conversations and time we spent together. And, at the end of our stay, some “leaking” as well. You know what leaking is, right? It’s when water leaks out of your eyes… 🙂 We would all learn a lot from Justine; and Justine would also learn a lot from us:
When the 12 of us showed up at the Katuba Care Point, it was clear Justine was the person in charge. It was also immediately clear that she loved the children at the care point – a lot. And very quickly, it seemed, Justine developed a great love for the 12 of us – and I think that caught her by surprise.
Abandoned by her father so early in life she never knew him, Justine told herself a story that he had died and that’s why he wasn’t around. When she was only 11 Justine’s mom died leaving her and her sister to beg neighbors for food.
But God’s love wouldn’t leave Justine and her sister on the streets and they became sponsored through Compassion International where Justine was clothed, fed, cared for and discipled into a relationship with Jesus. It was a hard life with lots of pain and heartache.
But Jesus was faithful to his words in John 6:39 that he will “lose none” that the Father would give him!
Justine, would eventually graduate from college with a degree in social work, get connected to a ministry called Reach One Touch One Ministries through which she was called into Children’s Hope Chest and the Katuba Care Point. (Ok, so that was a couple of decades of life summarized in a few paragraphs!)
With some pretty deep wounds and a low level of trust for others – especially men – Justine began the difficult work of establishing a discipling care point in the village of Katuba for 118 children being sponsored by people she didn’t know. And she fell in love with the children. Raising up volunteers from the village, recruiting a cook, working with teachers and care takers, creating a discipling process and managing all the day to day details – Justine has sacrificially created a vital ministry in partnership with the Holy Spirit.
And mzungus from Haven Church.
I learned what sacrificial love looks like by watching Justine and hearing her story. I saw how she cared for each child. I also saw how each of the children knew, with confidence, that even if nobody else did, Justine loved them. It also became clear early on, that Justine loved the 12 of us. Just as deeply as she loved the kids. And I think that happened by day 2!
Even though the people who were supposed to love and care for Justine left her early on, while we were in Uganda with her, Justine discovered it might be okay to love and trust a group of people who would also have to leave. She experienced the deep joy that comes in risking it all in relationships.
The night before we left, Justine had a letter for us she knew she couldn’t read, so she gave it to Nanette to read (one of us). Nanette “leaks” with a good tv commercial, so she passed it, and her reading glasses, to me to struggle through. In her letter Justine shared her heart with us, what she saw in, and learned from, each one of us.
Because God is redeeming the broken places in Justine’s life, she is one of the brightest, smartest, funniest and gifted leaders I know.
In the book of Philemon, Paul talks about being a spiritual father to Onesimus. Because of God’s grace, I get to be a spiritual father to Justine.