Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Know Who I Am

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praise of He who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” – 1 Peter 2.9

When I arrived in Uganda I was met at the airport by a very nice guy with a sign which had my name on it. I travelled up to our ministry site in Lira with a lot of excitement about seeing old friends and new with my feeling of being one seriously lucky traveller only being increased when Richard, who was driving, said, “We are about to cross the Nile.” Having already seen Lake Victoria that morning I couldn’t really believe that the Nile was also on the list. I strained my neck to see as much of the furiously rushing water as I could, taken aback somewhat by the power of this famous river. In its youthful arrogance it was pushing forward as fast as it could like a sprinter who had inadvertently found himself at the start of a marathon and hadn’t yet realised. It would be three months before that water reached its Mediterranean destination.  We joke in Sierra Leone about how Uganda is paradise. The stories that we hear from there and from those who have visited are always so glowing. My introduction to the country did little to dispel the myths.

At Children of the Nations we enjoy honouring our guests with little welcome and farewell programs, bookending their stays with words of thanks and songs of appreciation. If you’re lucky maybe even a dance of awesome. I arrived on the same day that some dear friends were also leaving and so their farewell and my welcome were combined. We sat together in the middle of our home in Uganda and I had the opportunity to hear from and speak to members of my family I had never met before. When I introduced who I was and mentioned who my brother was there was a ripple of recognition and a few bursts of the shrill cry East Africa uses to express excitement. We were about to finish when one of my friends who was saying her fond farewell put in a song request. And boy, am I glad she did.

What happened next will stay with me for a long time. All of the kids and staff present got up and treated us to a rendition of a song that I had never heard before. Excitement and joy seemed to build with every line and the kids danced as they sang. The lyrics pounded on my heart, their truth only highlighted by the stories of those singing:

We are a chosen generation
Called forth to show His excellence
All I require for life; God has given me
And I know who I am

At COTN we believe that we were called because children in desperate need prayed. And in response to their prayer, God chose to use COTN as part of how he would answer. It started with the faith of the children. The rest of us are seeking to be obedient to the call that they initiated. And when we are successful in doing so an amazing thing happens. These children orphaned by war, injustice and brutality, become children once again. No longer orphans, they once again live as part of a family. They discover who they are and they are known by others. They belong.

I know who God says I am; What He says I am
Where He says I’m at; I know who I am,
I’m working in power; I’m working miracles
I live a life of favour, Cause I know who I am

When I then travelled to Malawi I was once again welcomed with a number of programs and once again, I was welcomed by name and with warmth. I was known. I had been expected. I was welcome. And once again in Malawi this song was sung and danced as part of that welcome. Later, one of the school choirs, “Citizens of Heaven”, would treat us to their own rendition and they went down a storm when they sang for a big, local church. The COTN choirs are pretty amazing in Malawi and these girls are no exception. At my favourite part, Daphless (pictured above) strains her voice to cry, “Everybody shout out,” and the girls join in with “oh oh oh, I know who I am!”, knocking their chests as if to dare anyone to challenge them. Then everything gets taken down a notch as we hear just who it is that they are…

I am holy
I am righteous, oh
I am so rich
I am beautiful

Orphans? Destitute? Poor? Hopeless? Broken? No. These are young, confident, African women who know that they are the children of God. Daphless steps forward to cheers from the crowd and raps a little more explanation...

Take a look at me, I’m a wonder
It doesn't matter what you see now
Can you see His glory?
Cause I know who I am!

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