The James Place is a beautiful, eclectic campus tucked away just a few blocks from Main Street in Jinja, Uganda. When you walk through the gate you step into a deceptively large playground pulled right out of every child's dream. Continuing along the path, you pass a swing bench and breakfast shack, a poetry kiln and wheels, sewing room, administrative building, and house for nap time and baby class of preschool. Next, there’s an open shelter where the jewelry design women and the widows work during the day, a laundry house, and an outdoor kitchen. The interns and the Director of HEAL live smack dab in the middle, in a two-story house that doubles as the preschool space for our older kids.
No two days have looked remotely the same. Two days a week I work in the social workers’ office. We sort and organize files, interview hopeful parents and employees, and check in on women in the program to see how their life situations are progressing. Sometimes we visit the homes of children in our programs to see what their living situation looks like. The other days I have been switching back and forth between our childcare program and all of our artisan trades. I spent a day in pottery burnishing and waxing the designs our potters had made (with them quickly correcting my mistakes). The next day I was in the sewing room, organizing their workspace so that the seamstresses could be more efficient in their work. One afternoon I sat in jewelry design, stringing beads with our women as they taught me words in Luganda. In between, I pushed children on swings and carried them to nap time.
What I’ve been learning over the past two weeks is that I was not called here to do things for people, I was called to be here with them. In all honesty, there is nothing I can do that they aren’t already doing for themselves. I am not a skilled potter, and I don’t have a degree in social work. I don’t want there to be any misconceptions - I am here learning beside incredible, talented women. I am blessed to get to hear their stories, and honored that they would teach me their trade. In return, I do what I am needed. I’m learning and building relationships.
The James Place is a physical representation of the body of Christ. Many parts, one body, each working together to glorify God through their own strengths. I came not knowing what I would do, and I am here being humbled with the lesson that sometimes God is calling us to just be, in suffering and laughter, and, most importantly, in love.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:26-27