In writing my final blog post, I have been trying to process what all I have learned during my time here at The James Place. Instead of trying to come up with one word or instance to encompass every small moment that I have been blessed with over this whole month, I am instead blown away with how many things God has taught me through the eyes of women and children who know what it means to love God and love others.
“God loves you, and I love you, that’s the way it should be…” – these are the main verses of our favorite song to sing in “Baby Class” here at The James Place. We sing it first in English, and then a second time in Luganda (and surprisingly, I have finally mastered the words in Luganda…which the children always love to giggle at me trying). We have made up hand movements to go along with all of the verses, and the children light up the room with their joyful faces whenever we sing it during morning songs time (as you can see in the picture below).
Yes, this song is absolutely precious and simple for anyone to learn, but when you really look at the lyrics, it actually encompasses exactly what the Christian faith is supposed to be about. I have always believed that our most important calling in life is to love God and love others. If we truly love God, and understand the incredible amount of grace and mercy He has for us, it is impossible for us not to spread that love to others around us.
Mark 12:30-31 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
I have been incredibly blessed to have spent the past month here at The James Place, working as a Pre-School Intern for HEAL Ministries. The James Place is a tiny glimpse of what I believe heaven will be like one day, and as we sing in our favorite song, “the way it should be.” While women in our artisan and business program are working or in school, we provide pre-school and childcare for the children so that they can truly focus on what they are learning. All of the staff and interns play a very specific role in making the whole place run seamlessly, and I have been able to truly see the beauty in watching others serve with the unique gifts God has given them. But regardless of our specific role (whether that is in pre-school, childcare, women’s programs, marketing, social work, etc.), we are all working towards the same mission. This is exactly “the way it should be,” as we use our different gifts to make up the different parts of the body of Christ.
Romans 12:4-5 – “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Every morning as I greet the women and children, I can’t help but light up because of the immense amount of joy they bring in each and every day. There is something very special about The James Place…it feels like home to any and everyone. Not only does it provide a safe haven for women and children, but through the programs and support provided to them here, they leave empowered and ready to take on whatever life throws their way. Those who walk through the gates of The James Place every day have had far from easy lives, but their joy despite their circumstances is inspiring to everyone lucky enough to get to know them. Whenever any of us talk to the women about how we admire their strength, they immediately correct us and say that their strength is not their own, but from God. Our preschool children even made stone necklaces last week to remind us all that Christ is our rock, the one we can always depend on for our strength (1 Corinthians 10:4)! It is so humbling to hear those words from my friends here who are truly living out childlike faith, trusting God to provide and be with them every step of their journey. As the lyrics of our pre-school song demonstrate, this is exactly “the way it should be.”
Psalm 18:1-2 – “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
The whole time I have been living here at The James Place, the verse hanging above our living quarters has been such a good reminder and inspiration to me as I wake up and begin work each day, and such a perfect depiction of the way our time spent in this life “should be.”
Philippians 2: 1-4 – “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
My coteachers, Rebecca and Joanne, who have taught me the true meaning of being servant-hearted. My dear friend Rema (who is currently in the artisan program here), who has shown me what it looks like to place value in things above, not of this world. My precious preschoolers, who have taught me an entirely new meaning of joy-filled, childlike faith in Jesus. And the interns and staff here at The James Place, who have demonstrated what it looks like to be the body of Christ. Through every single person I have been lucky enough to get to know, I have seen and learned a different aspect of the way things can and should be, when we love God and humbly place the interests of others before ourselves. Yes, I have had the chance to love and serve others, but even more so, I have been loved and blessed beyond measure by the relationships I have developed during my time here.
As heartbroken as I am to be leaving The James Place tomorrow and head back to America, I am leaving with a deeper faith in the Lord and with unforgettable memories with unforgettable people that have forever changed my life.
Jinja, Uganda, you have stolen my heart.