How We Got Here
The First Chapter
I [Kari] entered college with the intention of studying speech-language pathology. My freshman year, I enrolled in the introductory course and I enjoyed it. However, as the year progressed, I questioned if speech pathology was really what I was meant to do. I decided to explore another option and enrolled an introduction to education course. After the first day, I knew this wasn’t for me. I dropped the course immediately and continued on in the speech pathology program. The following semester I began taking more courses in my major and my interest and fascination with speech and language began to grow.
Enter: Benjamin David. On the first day of class during the spring semester, Ben and I met in a communications class. After 6 months of persistent pursuit despite many turn-downs (sorry, B!) we began dating.
Fast forward to the middle of my sophomore year. As things became more serious between Ben and I, my doubts about whether or not speech pathology was right for me began to surface again, except this time it was different. Would I ever be able to use speech pathology if Ben and I were to get married and move back to his home country of Uganda? I struggled to see what purpose I could serve. I was doubtful, but Ben reassured me that there would probably be a need there, just as there was in the US. Little did we know then…
The following summer, I joined Ben on his annual trip back home to Uganda. The adjustment was hard at first, as you can imagine. Dropping a small-town girl from her Dutch bubble in Hudsonville, Michigan into the middle of a third world country is bound to be a little shocking to the system. But after the initial shock wore off, I began to fall in love with the people and culture of Uganda. On this trip we met Caleb, a boy living at Mercy Childcare Ministries. He was the first child I encountered in Uganda who was living with a communication disorder. I asked around to see if he was receiving speech therapy and was very surprised to discover that he was not. I wanted to do something because the more I saw Caleb, the more my heart broke to know that he wasn’t getting the help that he so badly needed. I emailed a couple professors back home and tried to develop a treatment program using the little knowledge that I had at that point.
Our trip to Uganda ended with a marriage proposal, and we got married in front of our friends and family from around the globe in 2013. That spring, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology and continued into the master’s program at Calvin a week later! Caleb continued to be in the back of my mind as I finished up grad school and learned more about speech-language pathology.
The Second Chapter
I almost quit the speech pathology program three times over the course of my college career, but somehow God kept pulling me back and whispering that this is where I was supposed to be. Being the planner that I am, I thought that I had a pretty solid idea about how things were going to go. I was going to graduate, get a job, work for a few years, and then have a family. I had a plan and I was happy with it. It’s the American dream, right? Well, let me tell you… God had other plans!
Four years later in the summer of 2014, I graduated with my master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Finally! It had been a long journey. Remember when I thought I would never be useful if we moved to Uganda? And Ben, even though he had no idea, had a feeling that I would? Last fall, soon after graduation, we received a call from our friend, Pastor Wilfred, the director of Mercy Childcare Ministries, the organization and orphanage in Uganda where Ben lived before he came to the States for college. Wilfred shared with us that Caleb and Scovia, another child at Mercy, were in need of speech therapy. However, speech therapy services were only offered at one place in the entire country… Yes, you read that correctly – the ENTIRE country! After doing some research, we found that indeed there was only ONE practicing speech pathologist in all of Uganda, a nation of almost 40 million people! Our minds were blown. Despite living in Uganda for all his life, not even Ben was aware of the lack of speech therapy services in Uganda.
Since last fall, we have been praying about how – and if – God wants us to be involved. We came up with as many reasons to stay and not fully accept the reality that God was placing on our hearts. We put it on the back burner but God continued to speak to us about starting a ministry. The enormity of the problem overwhelmed us. Excuses flooded our minds… the undertaking would be too great for me… I’m a new graduate… I’m not a leader… What if this fails? Where is the money going to come from? How would our family and friends respond? Are we cut out for this? The cultural differences alone would be too overwhelming… Being away from family would be too hard… Somebody else must be more equipped than me for this task. The list went on and on. The more that we wrestled with all these concerns and asked all these questions, the more we felt that God was equipping us for this and that we needed to take a step of faith and wholeheartedly trust in Him. He kept on ministering to us that He had opened our eyes to this need for a reason and that He needed us to act. We needed to stop talking about it and start doing something about it. Over and over He reminded us that this is His vision, not ours, and our job is to be obedient and trust. He will figure out the rest. So, after months of prayer and a brief trip to Uganda (another blessing and answer to prayer!), it has become clear that God is calling us to take a step of faith and move to Uganda.
We will be moving to Uganda in November – just 4 short months away! When we arrive, we will be partnering with schools and orphanages to set up a ministry that will utilize the abundant resources here in the U.S. to help Ugandans receive the ongoing speech and language therapy services they are so desperately lacking. Our mission is to increase awareness of communication disorders, advocate for those who are being marginalized, provide therapy services to these children and adults, and train parents and caregivers to implement therapy for their children. We already have 200+ kids waiting to begin receiving speech therapy services when we arrive!
Thanks for sticking with us to the end of this post! Sorry it ended up being so long. In another update, we’ll share more about Ben’s journey over the past few years and about what He will be doing in Uganda. We’re excited to get started, and we’re so grateful for the prayers and support we’ve received so far! God has just completely overwhelmed us with His peace, and we have complete confidence and faith that He has great plans for the children of Uganda.
Ben & Kari David