My 22-year-old sister, Emily, is the founder and executive director of Ekisa Ministries International in Jinja, Uganda. She doesn't like to talk about herself, but since I am her sister I get to brag as MUCH as I want!! Basically, I want the whole world. . .or I guess the anyone who would possibly visit this little corner of the internet. . .to be inspired. God created my sister extra-special. He did not make her a straight-A student, or a star athlete, or a dancer or musician. I mean, she played sports, took dance, played the flute, and mostly showed up at school (right, sis? :). But her heart wasn't into any of those things. Once, I even remember her telling me how sad she was that she wasn't really "good" at anything. It broke my heart and it was totally not true, but you know how our society measures success- ribbons, medals, grades, perfection. If you aren't the "best", then what are you? Fortunately, we were blessed with parents who didn't really give a darn about ribbons and medals, they just wanted us to be nice people. And that is something my sister is blessed with to the extreme. When God made her extra-special, he made her six feet tall, sassy, witty, goofy and with the most sympathetic heart of anyone I know. She's the best at a lot of things that society doesn't measure, and I feel so blessed that she has found her calling to share her gifts with the world.
Em first visited Uganda on a mission trip before her senior year of high school and I am not sure if any of us imagined it would turn into this! But on that trip, the seed was planted for a lifetime of service to the people there. On her first trip to Uganda she volunteered in an orphanage and met several handicapped children who touched her heart. Not only did these children have little or no chance of being adopted, they could not stay at the orphanage past a certain age. Their future looked very bleak.
Being handipcapped in Uganda is considered a curse, and not just society but their own families often reject those who are disabled. From that moment, my sister was determined to make a difference for these kids, and not long after she came home her quest to found Ekisa began. When she moved to Uganda to open Ekisa in October 2010, she was only 20 years old. I think of my priorities when I was 20 and I feel a bit like the Snooki to my sister's Mother Teresa. People thought she was crazy, or brave, or a little bit of both, but everyone can agree she has a God-sized dream. When she arrived and began to lay the groundwork for Ekisa, she realized the need of the disabled children there was far greater than she had originally imagined. The children who were being brought to my sister were not only orphaned and disabled, but simply put- on the brink of death.
Children like Zak who was neglected by his family because of his mental handicaps. 10 year old Zak weighed less than 30 pounds when Ekisa took him in and started showing him love for the first time. Or baby Natasha- physically handicapped and very ill with pneumonia, abandoned in a hospital by parents who could not afford the $13 medical bill for her care. Selina. Nam. Walter. Their stories have kept me up at night. They touch the hearts of everyone who hears them.
The children who have been welcomed into my sister's home have disabilities ranging from Down's Syndrome to Cerebal Palsy, Hydrocephalus, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Epilepsy, Autism. . .but those things don't define them at Ekisa. At Ekisa these children have hope. They have love, they have care, food, medicine, physical and occupational therapy. . .they have grace given to them freely every day.
Here's the amazing awesome-super-amazing-big-God thing about this. Ekisa has no corporate or government grants, their work completely depends on the donations of regular people. The fact that so many people have answered the call in their hearts to help Ekisa and keep them running shows me every day how good He is, and how his goodness is so alive in so many people who hear His call.
If you want to find out more or donate to Ekisa, please visit here.