From the Other Side: Knitting in the Mission Field pt.1

I’m finally home, home in Kansas City that is, not Arkansas. After months of anxiety and what if’s, we’ve finally moved to Kansas so Jon can start his new job. And in the middle of that move, I went to Uganda for a mission trip. Because if life is going to be up in the air, let’s throw it all the way up in the air. Between packing up boxes and Jon driving back and forth every week, I was also attending mission meetings and trying to find a place of “spiritual preparedness” before going on my trip. I did not find that place. I was a wreck up until the day I stepped onto the plane. With two giant suitcases stuffed with yarn and knitting needles and the delusional idea to teach women to knit in seven days, I knew from the start that any good that was done on this trip would be all God and zero Morgan. Morgan can’t even keep up with her stitch markers.

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Cooking huts in Restoration Gateway

My team ended up in Karuma, Uganda at Restoration Gateway, an amazing orphanage that not only focuses on orphan care but community rebuilding, job training, and ministry teaching. The facility was an amazing oasis. The orphanage is set up as a series of three semi circle pod houses. Each house has up to nine children and a “house mama” who is a local widow from the neighboring villages and is paid to live on site full time and care for the children’s day to day needs. There are fifteen house mamas in total and they were who I was hoping to teach at the orphanage.

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Arial shot of Restoration Gateway

There was also another group of women who I’d heard about in Karuma. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the women, about sixty in total, are often forced to prostitute themselves to make ends meet. They have organized themselves under one woman, Dorkus, in the hopes of finding alternative forms of income and helping support themselves and their communities. Many of them often meet on her store porch. I was hoping to be able to meet with these women as well and hear their stories.

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View of the Nile from Restoration Gateway

After two days of traveling, we finally arrived at the orphanage. That night, while everyone unpacked and got settled, I unloaded all of my yarn and needles and started to sort through all of it. I nearly started crying. We’d only been in the country one night and the impossible-ness of what I was trying to do had already overwhelmed me. What was I doing here? Why did I bring two suitcases of yarn to Middle of Nowhere, Uganda? Who exactly did I think I was going to teach? What good would it do them anyway?

The other members of my team were very supportive and encouraged me to just do what I knew best: knit. Let God do the rest. The first day, we woke up bright and early and took a tour of the medical and dental facilities (where three of the team members would be) and the rest of Restoration Gateway’s beautiful campus. The tour was led by two long term U.S staff members who I’d had the pleasure of meeting before the trip. They were both excited about my knitting and I would be with Joyce and Clark most of the time so they could introduce me to all of the women. As everyone else fell away to go begin their duties, I was left to watch the child of one of the local workers so she could have dental work done.Despite baby Ezekiel’s adorableness, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and out of place. We played in Joyce’s house while she baked cookies for a birthday party.

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Just when I was starting to wonder if I would do that all morning (Ezekiel was asleep in my arms at this point), Joyce announced that his mother was done with her check up and we should go into town to meet some of the local women in Dorkus’ group. Three of us loaded up in her jeep with a suitcase of yarn supplies and started off into Karuma.

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We found our way to a row of shops where a group of women were sitting and braiding hair, they were very welcoming to me but I still felt very awkward. I pulled out a few supplies and sat next to a woman having her hair braided.

I smiled awkwardly and held up the supplies. “Can I show you something?” No reply. I felt a sinking feeling

“Oh, she can’t hear, her name’s Sarah” one of the other women chimed.

I tapped the woman on the shoulder and she smiled at me. I handed her yarn and a needle and started knitting. She watched for a while then I handed it to her. Using my fingers as needles, I mimicked the knitting motion and walked her silently through the steps: insert, wrap, pull, push off, repeat. She knit a stitch and looked at me. I nearly fainted. After a few more minutes she was knitting, quickly, and finished a row. Dumb struck, I turned the work and showed her how to begin again. She knit another row.

By now, other women on the porch were paying attention. I grabbed more supplies and passed them out and sat in the middle of a circle. Together, we pulled off a length of yarn for a long tail cast on, cast on, and started knitting. It seemed like only minutes had gone by before Joyce told me we needed to head back. I told the women to keep the supplies and come back tomorrow. I pointed to Sarah “make sure she comes back too”.

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Sarah!

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That night back in camp, I felt completely overwhelmed by what I’d experienced that day. I just felt amazed. At our group devotional, one of my teammates mentioned “not putting God in a box” or to put it plainly: you want something from God, yet you pray for less because you doubt that He’ll give it to you/that you deserve it. When we pray for less, we are neither being honest with God, nor are we allowing Him to be master over our lives. It’s His job to decide what we need and deserve, it’s our job to ask and wait.

This hit home pretty hard for me, during all of the preparations for this trip I doubted (up until the week before the trip) if I was supposed to go/how would I raise the money/ who am I going to teach/ will they learn/will they care…and the entire time while I was busy praying for peace of mind and stillness (which are good things to pray for) I neglected to  refused to pray for results. I wouldn’t pray for me to change lives or to make an amazing difference because I was afraid God’s answer would be different from my desire. The fear of hearing ‘no’ kept me from even asking. In trying to go on a mission trip for God I was also trying to take power from Him through my doubts and insecurities.

That night, and every night to follow, I prayed for perfection. That’s right, perfection. I prayed that I would teach perfectly, the ladies would understand perfectly, knit perfectly, retain information perfectly, and have a desire to knit be planted in their hearts, perfectly.

As crazy as it sounded, I figured that since I was already out in the middle of Uganda, sleeping under a mosquito net, I had already invited God into my life to do insane things, I might as well ask for it…

To be continued in From the Other Side:Knitting in the Mission Field pt.2

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