She was timid but had a smile that spoke the depths of her heart.
I had been with the African Children’s Choir six months when a new Auntie joined our ranks. Holly’s sweet spirit and kind heart endeared her quickly to the members of our team. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. She loved teaching the kids, and as a dancer, she taught some different moves to our rhythmically gifted children. She always had a servant’s heart, and was always looking out for ways to help others. She truly lived out Philippians 2:3-4:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Holly and I bonded quickly. She shared of growing up in Wyoming, and how she had seen the African Children’s Choir at a young age. After the concert, she told her mother she was going to move to Africa one day. I don’t know if her mom realized how prophetic those words would become, but that was the dream that fueled much of Holly’s life after that.
Holly and I bonded even further when we were asked to go to another choir to help them start their tour. It was a tough decision to leave our kids, but Holly and I felt certain that God was leading us. One sad morning, she and I climbed into a stranger’s van on our way to the airport and a new adventure. I was a mess, sobbing and using up half a box of Kleenex. Holly was deeply saddened, but a lot stronger than me.
We entered into our new adventure excitedly, and found a new group of kids to love on. I figured we’d both stay with this choir for many months to come, but within six months, Holly was asked to join another choir. She once again felt God leading her. I was sad to watch my friend go, but so impressed at her faith.
We kept in touch through e-mail. Her long time vision of going to Africa was soon fulfilled. Her new choir was wrapping up their tour and heading home to Uganda. Holly went with them.
She’s been there ever since.
After landing in Uganda and helping her last choir get adjusted to life back home, Holly found some volunteer work in a nearby town called Jinja. There was an orphanage there, Amani Baby Cottage
, and she jumped right in, gladly loving on these abandoned babies and children.
Meanwhile, I wrapped up my time on tour and went home. A few months later, I had the chance to go back to Uganda. While there, I saw Holly. I traveled with another choir chaperone. When Holly saw us, she enveloped us with big bear hugs. She proudly showed us around the beautiful town of Jinja, and my jaw dropped as I watched her ride a boda boda side saddle. (A boda boda is a small motorcycle used for public transportation. Local women ride side saddle, something I never could work up the nerve to do.) She even expertly haggled the price with the drivers, refusing to be taken advantage of. That timid girl I had met years ago had grown up into a confident young woman. I was so impressed.
She introduced us to her new children at the orphanage, and I was amazed at the work the volunteers did. It took lots of patience and love. I don’t know if I could have done it.
God was still working in Holly’s heart. She felt a burden for AIDS orphans. So she did something about it. She bought a house and began to turn it into her dream; a place for AIDS orphans to call home: Our Own Home.
While we were there, Holly took us to the house, which was still being remodeled and made ready for the children. The workers there greeted Holly with hugs and big smiles. I could tell how much they loved and respected her. The place was beautiful. Even though there were no children under that roof yet, I knew it was going to be amazing.
That was six years ago. Holly and I kept in touch through e-mail and Facebook. She continued to build up Our Own Home. She met and married a local Ugandan. They have two children of their own, along with the fifty or so other children they care for. Two of my fellow chaperones from tour visited and told me of how well she and Our Own Home were doing.
Unfortunately, life happened, and we fell out of touch for a bit. I still thought of Holly often. When I decided to start this Behind the Scenes Worship series, she was one of the first people I thought of. I looked on Facebook, but because of not great internet there and her busy schedule, she hadn’t had a chance to update much. So I googled “Our Own Home.” I found the website
, and was amazed at what I saw.
This place is incredible. Holly took this small house and turned it into a beautiful home for these children that otherwise would have no place to go. I sent Holly an e-mail through the website. She replied, telling me how well they are doing. They’re in the process of building up a new property, because they’ve outgrown the one they have. If you’d like information on how to donate to this building project, click here
I am so proud of Holly. A vision planted in her young heart has grown into an amazing ministry. I know Holly’s heart. She does all of this out of worship and her love for God. In her last e-mail, she stated:
It is hard to think of myself as someone who is worshiping in an unconventional way, because the path that brought OOH <Our Own Home> into existence was so much God’s making and not my own! I was so scared to do this when He first started putting it on my heart. To be honest, I didn’t think I wanted to do it! The thought of being responsible for children’s lives, the fear of exposure to HIV (I didn’t know much about it then), and the reluctance to dedicate my life to staying in Uganda (culture shock had given me a hard time and I didn’t like the country much at first), all of those were factors that concerned me. But, it was HIM, so how could I say no? Then God started opening the doors in remarkable ways and, where else do any of us want to be except right where He is working? He has been so good and I feel so blessed to be a witness to His work in these kids’ lives. Maybe it will encourage someone reading your blog to know that God does not exclusively use individuals who are so bold and courageous on their own, but His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
I hope that you find encouragement from Holly’s story, and I hope you will visit her website to see all the things that Our Own Home is doing in Uganda.
Do you know someone who is worshiping behind the scenes? Leave a comment or send me a message via the contact page.