I am a board member for Children of Uganda. In the mix of so many church-related activities I have this work with COU, a non-faith-based organization.... which is truly odd from a personal point of view, because it tries, tests, and uses my faith far more than any sermon ever has.
Right now we are preparing for a tour in September 2011. The tour allows Ugandan children to share their traditional music, drumming, and dance, as well as their stories of hope, with an American audience. We connect and re-connect with donors and sponsors, and use our public visibility to educate people about HIV/AIDS and the orphan crisis in Uganda, a country with nearly 3 million orphans out of a total population of 27 million people - where half the population is under the age of 18 and many live in child-headed households.
We need to raise over $100,000 to make this happen. That's where the faith comes in. Nine months to go, of course, but instruments and costumes need to be purchased, and airplane tickets, passports, visas, and van rentals all need to be paid for well in advance.
One of my theology professors planted the notion in my head that "faith" is less about "agreeing to some dogma" than it is about existential trust. Faith in organic veggies means not an intellectual construct about their healthfulness, but a choice to feed them to your baby. This kind of faith is a trust that allows you to step out believing that the water will hold solid beneath your feet, and to throw yourself into the arms of the world believing that you will be caught.
We're stepping onto the water. The website announces the tour... people are making donations, small and large, to bring it from dream to reality. My September calendar is completely blocked off to be with the troupe 24/7, even if it costs me my job (and it might not - they are understanding and adventurous folks at Montclair). Our little tour committee is organizing fundraisers, making connections, and pounding out the appeals for corporate funding.
The faith is hard to muster up sometimes. "What if we fail?" is the faith-killer lurking behind every corner. I'm terrified of embarrassment. I demand proof from God that this will succeed, and I'll scarcely be satisfied with proof less than a $100,000 check... I am looking not for a still small "yes" voice, but a guarantee, a shout, a billboard flashing YES.
The hidden "yes" is there, however. Even the work we have done so far (merely convening the troupe, purchasing instruments, and running several weeks of training intensives) has been transformative. I heard the tale of one girl, stubborn and severely dyslexic, who has turned into a different creature since she started training. She has found her confidence, her "groove," and is becoming cooperative at school, where she now assistant-teaches dance and music to the youngest classes. How could this transformation be anything other than a strong message of "yes" to the work we do?
THAT is a piece of water I know I can stand on.
That's me with the 2006 tour, which I blogged on livejournal... in the good old days when people used livejournal... I was a chaperone on that tour, barely a few years older than the eldest performers, and the grownups did all the planning. This time I'm a grownup, stepping out in faith, waiting with outstretched hands for the blessings to flow, dreaming of those first deep drumbeats as the first curtain rises.
Dream with me... pray with me... step out in faith... and in the meanwhile do let me know if you have connections to get plane tickets donated =)