Being a single mother isn’t easy—especially if you’re just 22 years old. Now imagine being the single mother of 14 children at that age. Seems impossible, but “with God all things are possible.” But wait, how could it be God’s doing for a 22-year-young woman to be a 14-time single mother?
Meet Katie Davis, mother of 14. When Katie was a junior in high school, she went with her mother to Uganda to serve a couple of weeks at an orphanage (OK, you guessed it!). She was immediately captivated with the people and the culture. After graduating high school, she went back to teach Kindergarten at an orphanage. As she walked the children home, she was shocked to see the sheer number of school-aged children sitting idly on the side of the road or working in the fields. She learned there were very few government-run public schools in Uganda, and none in the area where she was working. Most schools in Uganda are privately run and therefore require school fees for attendance, making impoverished children unable to afford an education.
God laid it on Katie’s heart to start a child sponsorship program, matching orphaned and vulnerable children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors anywhere in the world. She didn’t go intending to start the non-profit organization Amazima (which means “truth” in Luganda), she was just responding to God’s call on her life. She saw needs, she wrote friends and family, she blogged, and as friends began to give financially, the ministry emerged. Since that time Amazima has grown exponentially, serving through sponsorship, community outreach, medical care, discipleship training, and vocational projects. In her post as executive director (not bad for a 22-year-old single mom), she continues to look at the needs around her as she lives in Uganda, building relationships and problem-solving, working alongside a team of nationals, and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide her in Amazima’s outreach.
In three short years, Amazima has developed the following ministries:
Education Sponsorship: Currently, Amazima sends approximately 400 orphaned and vulnerable children to a Christian school through an education sponsorship program. These children receive three meals a day, school supplies, medical care, and spiritual discipleship.
Masese Outreach: Amazima feeds lunch to over 1,600 displaced children in the slum community of Masese every Monday through Friday. A majority of these children are from the Karimojong tribe. The people who live in Masese are the poorest of the poor. Providing lunch keeps many of the children from begging on the streets. With Amazima’s help, some of them also attend school free of charge and all of them receive free medical treatment. Once a week Amazima also sends food home to their families.
Community Outreach: Amazima hosts Bible studies, worship services, meals, health training, and gardening at the Amazima chapel and fellowship site. In the slum community of Masese, Amazima offers a free clinic where basic hygiene education and HIV counseling is offered once a week. It also has a preschool where the children get a jump on early childhood education as well as receive nutritious food.
Vocational Projects: Amazima partners with the local Ugandans, implementing self-sustaining vocational programs so the people can have the joy of providing for their own families. In one such initiative, women from the Karimojong tribe make Ugandan bead necklaces and sell them in the United States.
Discipleship: Amazima fosters spiritual growth activities and Bible studies in six villages.
And in 2011, Amazima plans to open its own school in Uganda.
OK, so who’s tired just reading this? Building a nonprofit of this scope seems like it would be all a person could do in three years, but right alongside the organization, Katie was building her own family as well. Katie became a mother for the first time in January 2008 when she adopted three orphaned girls. “If you’ve never considered the miracle of adoption, I would highly recommend it,” Katie says. Now she is mother to 14 daughters ranging in age from two to 15. And in 2010, she did the unthinkable for most moms—she started homeschooling!
“My family is all things unconventional. But it is real. Real because God has knit our hearts together in a way that only He can and real because no matter what else anyone says, or thinks, I am their Mommy and they are mine.
“People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me ‘good job.’ Well, here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”
Fourteen mouths to feed at home and a couple of thousand more in the neighborhood is a heck of a lot of sheep to feed. “It can be overwhelming (at times) knowing that so many children rely on us for food every day. But we love to see the joy in their faces as they receive food for their bodies and food for their spiritual hearts. God is always faithful,” says Katie.
It’s not all joy on faces, however. In the stark reality of underdeveloped Uganda, Katie has born witness to starvation, untimely deaths, the injustices of the lives of children with disabilities (who in that culture are deemed cursed) and the effects of corruption. The latter she felt acutely when one of her own heart daughters was taken away from her. Katie’s blog, Kisses from Katie (see excerpts below), is rich with real-life joys and heartbreaks and is wonderfully illustrated with the faces she has come to love.
“Sometimes God gives me these assignments and I wonder if He knows what He is doing. Shouldn’t He choose someone older, or at least wiser? Someone smarter or more patient or… something? But I offer all that I have to the greatness of His plan,” Katie remarks, alluding to Amy Grants “Breath of Heaven.”
Katie is an amazing example of the impact that one person surrendered to God’s will can make. If you’re thinking, “I could never do that,” I challenge you to contemplate why not. If we are honest with ourselves, we may find that the reasons could also serve as a checklist of aspects of our lives we don’t trust God to handle, or things we have not yet surrendered to God’s will. What might God be able to do in each of our lives if we were ready to surrender our career, plans for family and marriage, “me time,” our comfortable environs and every last cent in our pocketbook to Him?
Blog Except to Box:
My darling Karimojong sister Maria, who is battling severe, gripping alcoholism, and her sweet baby are living with us still. People wonder, even gasp, that I would let her join us at our table. Isn’t she a poor example? Why would I subject my girls to that?
I want to see Jesus.
Newborn baby Noah snuggles to my chest as his mother lays dying in a hospital bed. He cried through the night and I feed him and kiss his pink toes and pray over his little life. Why do I do it? Don’t I have my hands full enough already?
I want to see Jesus.
Zulaika, her severely malnourished baby and her 8 year old daughter move into our home while we teach Zulaika how to care for her children and find her a job so she can continue to do so. They have lice. They do not bathe. Fear creeps up the back of my throat and I wonder, what if all my children get sick? But we have taken in sick people before, and each time He hedges us in protection. People ask, do I feel that I am being responsible?
I want to see Jesus.
Jane and her birth mom spend the weekend in our guest room. I figure if I cannot parent this my daughter, the least I can do is teach her mother about our Savior, invest time in their lives, pray over them while we love them. My heart breaks in two as her high pitched, breathy giggle once more fills my home and the pain threatens to paralyze me, but I won’t let it.
I want to see Jesus.
Strangers eat at our table, bathe in our showers, sleep in our beds, share our everything. And I fleetingly wonder if it wouldn’t be better for my girls if I maintained some semblance of normal, but He shows me that HIS definition of family is not at all limited by my own.
I want to see Jesus.
I want to see Jesus and if I don’t step out, how can He come in? If I don’t give all of myself, my home, even my family, how will He be magnified?