She was unlike any other mother I’d ever met. Her mile-wide smile made her molasses eyes sparkle. The labor and delivery of her son (her fourth child of eleven) took place in a mosquito-infested swamp. She was married to one man along with 11 other wives.
Her name is Eseza and she’s one of the most amazing moms I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.
My husband and I boarded three planes, a subway, a van, and two cars to interview our Ugandan friend, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu, and visit his mother’s remote East African village. Before entering her cinder block home we walked past her “kitchen,” a fire and some pots set up under a crude palm-roofed hut.
Eseza welcomed us with hugs and bottles of water as if we were royalty. I turned on my digital recorder to begin the interview for the book I’m writing about Elijah, who sat close by translating her Luganda words into English.
My heart ached as she spoke of the utter horrors of raising a child in the bush country of Uganda. Starvation. Disease. No medical care. Tribal massacres that forced her and her tiny children to flee their huts and sleep in a jungle creeping with machete-wielding soldiers, venomous snakes, and hungry tigers.
Listening to Eseza describe Elijah’s childhood was surreal, especially after getting to know him. I glanced over at the tall, polished, articulate, intelligent man beside her. A man who:
- pastors one of Uganda’s fastest growing churches (270 church plants)
- presented at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and The Church at the invitation of best-selling author, Dr. Rick Warren.
- hosts a weekly radio talk show that reaches approximately 30 million Ugandans
- serves as Founder and President of Hands of Love Foundation, an international organization that supports, empowers, and educates 1,800 of tomorrow’s finest Christian leaders
- serves as Founder and Leader of a youth empowerment conference in Uganda that drew a whopping 7,150 delegates last year
The crazy contrast between this world changer sitting across from me and the terrible awful that permeated his childhood was perplexing. It made me wonder, and perhaps you’re wondering too as mother’s day approaches. And so I asked.
“What’s the secret? How did you raise this internationally known man of God who is raising up pebble throwers and saving lives every day? How does a mother raise such a miracle?”
The next 20 minutes of our interview ranks among the top ten most impactful conversations of my life. This mom, who had endured tribal violence, starvation, depression, torture from her husband’s wives, witchcraft, losing children to malaria, you name it … This ferociously strong, exceedingly exceptional woman proceeded to share other-worldly mothering wisdom unlike anything I’d ever heard. To this day, it is some of the most sacred parenting advice I’ve been given. And you’ll have to buy my book to hear all of it 🙂
My brain and recorder had collected dozens of golden nuggets for my book and I was full. Almost satisfied. But I had one final question before placing a period at the end of our interview.
“What’s the thing that mattered most in raising Elijah?”
She sat and stared in silence and we waited.
“I always prayed to God and laid hands on Elijah asking God to give him wisdom, patience, love, kindness, generosity. I always laid hands on him and spoke into his life, ‘you are going to be a national leader, touch many lives, be a giver, be generous.’ I always advised him and prayed for him. But if you want a person to receive what you are speaking to him you need to love that person. And I loved him most.”
A huge lump formed in my throat as I heard her say those three words.
“Love them most.”
The glue that bonded all her pebble-throwing efforts to shape Elijah into a powerful man of Godly character was love. Love trumps all.
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
“Love them most.” It’s my mother’s day gift to you as you endeavor to raise children who put love into action. As for me, if I pray eloquent, powerful prayers for my children and speak all kinds of truth I learned at Bible Study, but nag and guilt them, and stare at my iPhone more than I look into their eyes, then my words are fingernails on the chalk board of their hearts. None of us gains anything. We are all bankrupt. It’s all held together with love. Not love the thought, but love the verb.
Need a mother’s day gift? Please consider honoring your mom and Eseza with a donation to help open Hands of Love’s infant orphanage which was built and named in her honor. These fabulous young pebble throwers are making it easy for you. Just watch the video and consider throwing this very significant pebble to save little lives in Uganda.
Click here to see some amazing pebble throwers in action!