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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Incredible Story, Part 1

Dan and I have intentionally not shared many of the specifics related to our adoption. Most people generally know what we did, why we did it and where it happened, but we’ve kept the fine details – dates, names, places and so forth to ourselves.

We have our reasons for keeping quiet. Some details we don’t share for the protection of Hannah and Joseph. Some details we can't share in order to protect the privacy of our friends in Uganda.

But some details we don’t share simply because they’re private, they're our memories – and they belong to our family alone. One of those stories we’ve kept to ourselves for too long. Dan and I think it’s time to share this one because it’s a story of faith, radical sacrifice and reckless abandonment for Christ like you’ve never heard before.

Buckle up and get ready. This will rock your world. Religion that is pure and faultless is this…


That’s Ernest and Catherine. Ernest is a 65 year old Ugandan pastor. Catherine is his beautiful wife. They are kind and loving. They live very simply and they are poor because they give everything away. They are sold out for Jesus.

Ernest is a church planting evangelist of rock star proportions – he has planted over 80 churches throughout Uganda and Tanzania over the last 45 years. He does this incredible work with no resources to speak of. He has the Holy Spirit in his heart, God’s Word in his hands and that’s all he needs.

Ernest and Catherine have never had biological children. But oh, they’ve had children. Over the years, they’ve taken in dozens and dozens of orphaned children. They have fed and clothed and loved these children as their own. They’ve raised them to adulthood and found ways to pay for weddings and college and medical school and more.

And here’s how Ernest and Catherine tie into The Owens’ story…

When Dan was in Uganda in July 2010, we began pursuing adoption of Hannah and Joseph. At the time, they were the youngest permanent residents of “M.” Their living conditions were horrible, their health was declining, their safety was in question, at best. We had not even begun the adoption process in the US so Dan couldn’t bring them home. But Dan simply couldn’t go back to Atlanta and leave our two small children in that place.

In desperation, he and the Sixty Feet team turned to Ernest and Catherine for help. Dan showed up on their doorstep, unannounced and uninvited and asked them to take Hannah and Joseph – until we came back for them. And we had no idea when that would be.

Without a moment’s hesitation, they agreed. They actually rejoiced, as they’d been praying that the Lord would send more children for them to care for. Seriously.

At the time, Ernest and Catherine had 9 children. They lived in a tiny bungalow with little indoor plumbing. And they rejoiced to take in Hannah and Joseph.


However… the church Ernest worked for did not rejoice. In fact, this church responded in the opposite manner. They were horrified at the thought of having these children live on their land.

It’s one thing to take in helpless orphans. It’s another to take in children from M. Those children are truly "the least of the these" – who would want them? They’re sick. They’re uneducated. They have no social skills. By no fault of their own, they are labeled as outcasts.


I know this next sentence is unbelievable but it’s true: The church ordered Ernest, in no uncertain terms, to get rid of Hannah and Joseph. The church told them they simply could not stay. Orphans, yes. The dirty, dangerous, sickly children from M, no. “Return those children to M, immediately” were the instructions.

Ernest and Catherine refused. They stood up to their church, to the white, American-born senior pastor, to all the elders and said “no way.” We will not leave these children as orphans. We will not return them to M.

“Then you stand to lose everything,” said their church. "Either Hannah and Joseph go -- or you go. You will lose your home, your job, your income. This will cost you everything."

I imagine that most of us would lay down our lives for our children. Most of us would give up our homes, our jobs and our sole source of income for them. But how many of us would give those things up for some random, dirty, orphaned children who just show up on your doorstep one day? I like to think I would – but in reality, I probably wouldn’t.

Guess how Ernest and Catherine responded.

Well, I hate to leave y’all hanging but that’s it for now. This is getting long and it's getting late so this one is To Be Continued... Meet me here on Sunday night and I’ll finish this incredible story.



17 comments:

Chasity said...

*tears, streaming tears*

Angeline said...

And more tears. Just speechless.

Nancy said...

I love Ernest and Catherine. I have been in the presence of angels on earth, and hope to see more of them, too. God bless them and I'm so glad to learn more of their story through you. This whole loving God thing really rocks!

taryn said...

oh wow shelly. oh wow. ernest, catherine, hannah, & joseph are gifts beyond all measure. can't wait to hear the rest.

The Fruitful Family said...

Oh, girl. You know how near and dear this is to my heart!!! Thank you for giving us a glimpse.

Precious Lord, thank you for providing Catherine and Ernest to be your hands and feet. They are truly the radiance of Your glory. Bless them because they have blessed so many and protect them and the children. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to meet Ernest and Catherine when we were in Uganda. Incredible, doesn't begin to describe them.

Wild Olive said...

Oh, man...I did not know this story! Wow. I'm way too comfortable in my American world and that makes me sad. I'm so thankful for people like Ernest and Catherine who have giant hearts and are TRULY sold out! Praise God!
Can't wait to hear the rest...
Love you,
T

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Praise God for making such beautiful people. May we all take steps every day to live like that!

We Are Family said...

I can't wait to read the rest of the story God has written :)

Joshua and Hilary said...

Oh how this story makes my heart happy and I can't wait to hear how they responded! I have no doubt that there are many jewels in heaven to be put in Catherine and Ernest's crowns!

Christen said...

Amazing, what a life to be lived. Praise God and may we all be encouraged to change the way we live. I don't want to waste anymore years of my life selfishly pursuing my own gain. Can't wait to hear the rest! :)

Audrey @ The Brown Brigade said...

Wow, I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

Clint said...

Us proud "superior" American Christians with access to our mega churches, rock star pastors, multi-million dollar budgets and incredible Biblical resources are often easily humbled by those we think of as spiritually "inferior". We often have no idea what true suffering for Jesus looks like. Thanks for sharing a story like this -- and WHAT Jesus is that white Pastor from their church serving? Not the one I know. Sad.

Brian & Amy said...

AMAZING. I love having role models in this life, even if I've never met them. Thank you for sharing this incredible story! (How on earth have you kept it in so long?) Thank you for sharing this...can't wait for part 2!!

love you!
amy

jkseevers said...

way to leave us on the edge of our seats! I'm LOVING your blog... it may be my new favorite! It's awesome to see our Precious Saviour working in amazing ways!

Blessings,
Katie
myfourwords.blogspot.com

Shannon said...

Oh my goodness....so many tears. This is amazing...I can't wait to meet ya back here on Sunday and hear the rest!

Taryn said...

WOW...amazing...so ready for the rest of this story....