“I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: they hold the unshakeable conviction that individuals are extremely important and that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.”
In 2006, at age 18, Katie traveled from her family’s Tennessee home to Uganda. It was love at first sight for Katie with regard to the nation known as “the Pearl of Africa.” Within a year, Uganda became her permanent home. Fast forward four more years: Katie was a 23-year-old mom to 13 girls whom she had adopted. She started by meeting each of these girls’ basic needs and then loving them as her own.
Over the past 11 years, she founded and has established Amazima Ministries which strives to empower impoverished Ugandans through education, discipleship, medical outreach, and vocational training. Thirty-one women gather together weekly as part of the Amazima Beading Circle to create jewelry out of paper beads. Amazima illustrates how selling these necklaces in the United States has provided the means for these women to not only abandon lives of “prostitution, alcohol brewing, and trash picking” but has enabled them to look past their immediate needs for survival and provide for those around them. The ministry also noticed that despite being surrounded by the most fertile soil, due to poor farming practices, many were starving and struggling to sufficiently feed their families. In response, Amazima teaches sustainable farming techniques bi-annually and helps ensure their students receive fair payment for their crops. In Kisses from Katie, Katie also shares stories like Grace’s, a three-year-old misdiagnosed with “ascending paralysis,” who after only two weeks as part of Katie’s family, walked 10 steps for the first time in her life.
Jinja, Uganda, a two-hour drive from Kampala, the capital city, has been Katie’s home for more than a decade and is the headquarters for Amazima. She lives there with her husband Benji, their 14 adopted daughters, and their two-year-old biological son.
In addition to her work at Amazima, Katie spends much of her time writing, which has included an extensive blog and two books, Kisses from Katie and Daring to Hope. Each piece invites the reader into experiencing an honest account of both the trials and triumphs that confront her daily. Kisses from Katie describes her journey from senior class president and homecoming queen to a single mother and founder of a nonprofit on the other side of the world. Against her parents’ initial wishes, she traded in a life of ease in Nashville for a far less glamorous home in a Ugandan village. In Daring to Hope, she recounts her struggle to maintain faith when one of her daughter’s biological mothers returns to reclaim her. Nevertheless, she perseveres in caring for the needs of her children and the community around her. In one blog post, she laments that sometimes her work begins to feel like “emptying the ocean with an eye-dropper,” but the heart-gripping smiles that greet her each day make the struggles abundantly worthwhile. Laced neatly throughout her writing is her clear, relentless love for each person she encounters. In her own words, that love is “consuming.”
As detailed in Kisses for Katie and Daring to Hope, Katie continually succeeds in focusing on the individual, striving to not save the entire world but to “change the world for one person.” Each person propels her forward to create a further wake of change that will spread like a ripple from its core, transcending poverty to create opportunity.
Rather than assessing the magnitude of global poverty as if from a birds’ eye view, Katie addresses the problem by reaching out her hand, extending her home, and offering each moment of her day to be there for every person.
We ought to approach the trafficking epidemic in a similar manner by reminding ourselves that behind the ominous estimation of 24.9 million victims around the world today, lie 24.9 million individual stories. Even if we cannot immediately eradicate this crime from the globe, we can begin by stopping one perpetrator at a time and demanding justice in every case that comes forward.