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June 20, 2014

Mama Patrick

Uganda has been my home since I was 19.  Forgoing the traditional college education, I started a non profit organization, said goodbye to my family, got on a plane and moved into a rented house near Lake Victoria.  In my daily walks through the village I felt sure that God had sent me here to help the people living in poverty around me. I was wrong; he sent me here to change me, along the way he allowed me to save and change other lives but without a doubt, the greater change took place in me as I learned to love the very people I had come to serve.  Mama Patrick is one of the many lives that God used to change mine to be more like Him.

I ran quickly down the winding dirt path…though a field of matoke trees; the dirt beneath my feet, still damp from rain the night before… Out of breath, my heart was beating embarrassingly fast, from my failure to workout for the past decade. But I was determined, unwavering from that tiny trail that stretched out before me.

As I ran, I held a phone tightly to my ear and spoke quickly (this was not helping the out of breath situation). I rambled on, half in English, half in Luganda. The voice on the other end of the phone spoke in the same manner: with broken English, yet excited, in an almost frantic sounding way. Somehow I got across that I was coming, coming to her home; the squeal of joy that followed will forever be ingrained in mind!

I continued to run. Phone in hand…. I reached my destination and found the small mud home empty. I stood on my tiptoes and looked far into the distance, but I saw only leafy green matoke trees and the sun beginning to set. Then I heard it. The pounding of footsteps in my ear. From the phone, I heard her running, the sound of her bare feet hitting the compacted red dirt. I took off again…where I was running, I didn’t even know but as I left that small house in the distance, I not only heard the sound of footprints coming from my phone, but an echo of running that came from within the valley….

As I moved ahead, the echo of footprints became louder and louder until I turned the corner and there she was! Running full force, a smile spread wide across her beautiful brown face. Arms outstretched. As we neared one another, we collided; we both fell to the ground in an embrace that needed no words. And there we sat, tears streaming from utter and compete joy, uncontainable laughter being shared; we were simply undignified and did not care in the least. There are no words to adequately describe to you what took place in those moments. Sheer joy.

The woman in this story, I call her, Mamma Patrick. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate women I have ever met in my life! Though we come from different cultures and we don’t even speak the same language, I count her as a sister, because I have truly done life with this lady. I watched her fight harder then a burly warrior for her son who was dying of malnutrition. I sat next to her outside the OR as he endured surgery after surgery. I held her hand when she feared losing the fight for her baby boy, and when we all thought malnutrition was taking his life, I watched her pour every ounce of herself into that battle; I witnessed her carry her sword high, with a perseverance that I can only pray to one day have. I stood next to her in devastation when she lost her twin baby girls at birth; I sat on the hospital floor with her and wept for hours, holding her body, exhausted from 18 hours of labor…. One day later, I carried her bag as she walked out of that hospital, head held high, passing by beds full of healthy new born babies. I clenched her hand in mine and committed to hold onto hope for her, when she was too weak to hold hope for herself.

I stood tall beside her and celebrated the victory of winning the fight for her son’s life! I walked alongside her as she sought healing for her heart, and I watched her find that complete healing in Jesus!

Yes, we have been places, Mamma Patrick and I. We have laughed together. We have wept in one another’s arms. We have been to the hard places, and we have most certainly been to the joyous one. We have seen God’s hand at work in our lives; we have tasted and seen his goodness together!

On hard days, when I feel like I’ve failed, on the days I want to quit, I remember that moment when I collided with Mamma Patrick in her garden. I remember the joy that exuded my being, the happiness that was evident on her face and shown genuine in her tear stricken cheeks. I think back on hardness we endured together and I am beyond thankful, even for the suffering. I am thankful that God created friendship in this world and that he allows me to take part in it!

Relationships are worth the fight because relationships mold us into who we are today and show us who we want to become tomorrow. I want to become more like Mamma Patrick; therefore, I will risk the pain of walking into her battle and if she will let me, I will fight with her until the bitter end. Because if I have the courage to walk through a friend’s fire, then I will receive the honor of being refined into the kind of girl who can better walk though her own….

Thanks Mamma Patrick for letting me enter into your suffering. Thanks for letting me share in your victories and thank you for allowing our friendship help shape me into who I want to become.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

Written by Renee Bach, founder of Serving His Children