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Ester As the van trudged through the bumpy roads of Jinja, the tires greeted each pothole with

a fierce hello. She gazed out the open window at the faces staring back at her. Some young, some old, some filled with hope and kindness, while others were plagued with defeat and bitterness, but all staring back with a haunting beauty. The van jerked to a halt and her body lurched forward. She had arrived at the rural village of Budumbuli, a slum by the closest description. Taking a deep breathe, she found her courage in the One who made this all possible. Greeted by a mass of brown, smiling faces, her foot met the dusty ground, forming a small red cloud beneath her. As soon as she was out of the van, a timid, nine-year-old orphan by the name of Fatuma clung to her pale hand. The contrast of ebony and ivory as beautiful as the daybreak after a long, restless night. This is what I was made for, she thought to herself. Making her way to Northern Lights Ministries, the sun beat down hard on her skin. The muddy streets were laden with trash and soiled clothing. Children ran around barefoot, with torn rags as protection on their skin. Her heart ached a deep, throbbing ache for these people, while the hope of what could be clung hard to her hand. She looked at Fatuma, speaking a universal language as they shared a smile accompanied by the sweet sounds of laughter. The woman leading this group of orphans, Ester Kabanda, greeted them at the doorway. Upon meeting Ester, the presence of God seemed to emulate from her very being. Her eyes bright and perspective hopeful, she instantly sensed the strength this woman possessed. Her heart filled with love as the group of orphans sang and danced for their visitors. While she did not know these children, she instantly loved each and everyone as if they were her own. All the while, Ester watched proudly as each of these children showed their gratitude with memorable singing, intentional movements, and contagiously joyful smiles. She spent the rest of the day with Ester and her family at Esters home in the Budumbuli slum. Their house was made of brick and had more than one room, deeming it the wealthiest in the village. In reality, the house was simply a shelter to take refuge. With a piece of worn, patterned fabric as the only door for protection, the house was filled with practical objects that could be used resourcefully. While Esters sons, daughter, and others in her group were conversing in the main room, she was able to talk with Ester alone in the kitchen. The kitchen was a bare room with hard floors and walls. Dishes were piled in the corner, along with a dirty bucket of water for cleaning. The family cooked over a pot filled with coals along

the side of the far wall. She took in the surroundings and was taken aback by the simple lifestyle. Or was it so simple? She helped Ester prepare for the meal of matoke, talking comfortably to one another. As they opened their hearts to the ears of the other, Ester told of the trials that life has brought to her family. She explained an easier life in the city of Kampala when her husband provided for her and their four children. She told of the rights that women did not have in Uganda and when her husband died in 2000, she was forced to move to Budumbuli with her children because she could not support her family. As Ester spilled her heart, she tried to imagine what her life would be like given the same circumstances. Would she have the same sense of hope? Would she hold on to her faith like Ester has? Would she commit her time to the education and care of orphans, or would she wallow in self-pity? Ester has overcome every difficulty that life has thrown at her with both unbelievable hope and enduring perseverance. Esters unfaltering faith in God and his plans for her life both encouraged and challenged her. She felt encouraged that, even in the midst of total poverty and devastation, God remains good. She felt challenged to see God in every situation, no matter how hard life knocks her down. From this incredible experience, she was left with a chilling thought that has stuck with her ever since. What do I need to be okay? What do I need to be joyful? Is God enough in my life or do I depend on other things? Ester. An amazing woman, with an inspiring heart for God. A woman that can be learned from, that teaches without the intent to, and that faces each day with a God-given peace and trust in His ways. She will always remember the name. Ester will forever be in her heart.

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