For those of you who are not familiar with Ekisa Ministries or my passion for special-needs ministry let me share why I have a heart for these children and why I choose to volunteer with Ekisa.
When I was very young, about 6 or 7 years old, God planted a desire in my heart to serve with children in East Africa. At the time, I shared this dream with friends and family, although, as a child, I didn't really know what that would look like or entail. A few years later, I began volunteering with children with disabilities in my school and decided that I would be a special-needs teacher when I grew up. As a teen, preparing to go to college, I knew that God was going to use my life in a very special way to make a difference for children and families affected by disabilities, but I had no idea the unique and challenging path that God would lead me down in the coming years.
When I was eighteen years old I sustained a spinal cord injury from a tumor that was growing within my spinal cord. The tumor was surgically removed along with a piece of my spinal cord and the doctors told me that I would never walk again. Overnight my entire world changed. Instead of going to college I was on my way to rehabilitation. Because of my limitations I thought that I would never be able to fulfill any of the dreams I had to go to Africa or work as an educator for children with disabilities. I lost hope for my future and I was depressed, for a time I even contemplated suicide.
But God had another plan. I started attending church with a friend who was also a paraplegic and I gave my life to Jesus and was baptized a couple years after my injury. When I did, my life changed again. This time for the better. God revealed to me the purpose in my disability and gave me hope for healing and wholeness in every part of my being. By God's grace, my life was now full of purpose and joy.
For the next decade I was thriving, and, although there were many challenges and I dealt with chronic pain everyday, I remained faithful that God would fulfill his promises in my life and he would honour the desires that he planted in my heart so long ago.
In 2012, twelve years after my injury, I went back to college and trained as a special education assistant and I began making plans to volunteer at a children's home in Uganda. At this time, while praying and discerning with friends, God laid the date July 2014 on my heart. In early 2013, I was invited to join a team of volunteers for a summer 2014 trip. I completed my schooling, began working as an education assistant and started saving money and making firm plans to visit Uganda the following summer. There would be many obstacles to travelling and volunteering in a developing country but I had a great team of supporters who were determined to help me. As things were coming together, my journey would take another surprising turn.
In October of 2013, I started having vivid dreams that God healed me and, miraculously, I was suddenly able to walk again. These dreams continued for about ten days, each one becoming more detailed and real. After one particularly vivid dream I awoke in the night crying. I called out to God, praying for complete restoration of my mind, soul and body. Then, I asked God to give me a sign that he was healing me. In complete faith, I tried to move one foot. For the first time in over a decade I was easily able to move one foot and then the other. With tears flowing down my face, I praised God for his goodness and commited to continue serving him and to use my life and my experience with disability to bless others. Over the next few days, I prayed with friends from Church, my entire congregation surrounded me in prayer as the healing continued and my legs grew stronger each day. Miraculously, within just a week I was walking! Less than a month later I donated my wheelchair to charity because I was completely healed!!
As I rejoiced and gave thanks to The Lord for my healing, every obstacle was removed and the doors were flung wide open for me travel to Uganda.
Just months after I began walking again, I set foot in Uganda and instantly knew that I was standing in the place that I would call my heart-home. Although there were some challening moments and big adjustments to living in a new culture, I loved every moment of my time in Uganda.
I returned home to Canada and immediately began making plans to return. My second trip would bring me to a new ministry, Ekisa, where I would spend my time helping teach at their brand new school and loving on some incredibly special kiddos with disabilities.
When I left on my second trip I was not sure how long I would stay, I was hoping that I would be able to stay for a couple years, but I felt the need to return after just 4 months. Why? Because I had fallen in love with Nathan just weeks before I left and being apart was difficult. Also, my family was going through some difficult times and my attention was divided between my concerns for my loved ones at home and the work I was doing in Uganda. I needed to come home. Nathan and I were married just a few days later and for the past couple years we have been carefully discerning how and when God would lead us back to Uganda to serve together.
A few months ago, we were able to discern together that this was the time to go. Nathan will only be able to stay 2-3 weeks because of work commitments, but I will stay and serve at Ekisa for 3 months.
The word "Ekisa" means grace in Luganda, one of the tribal languages spoken throughout the region, and grace is exactly what you see when you step through the gates at the Ekisa compound. The mission of Ekisa Ministries is to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families, to fight cultural stigmas and to provide education and support to communities so that children with special needs can remain in their families rather than being surrendered to orphanages. Ekisa's focus on family preservation, reunification, and their community care programs are one of the primary reasons that I feel good about supporting this ministry. (You can learn more about this ministry and their work on their website: ekisa.org or on their Facebook page.)
If you believe, like we do, that all children are fearfully and wonderfully made, we invite you to partner with us in ministry. We need your prayers and encouragement as we finalize our plans and prepare to go and we also need financial support to make this trip possible. Will you consider joining our team of partners? You can send us a message to join our mailing list for updates and specific prayer requests during this time of preparation and to receive photos and stories throughout our time in Uganda. Also, if you feel led, you can make a donation right here on this page which will help cover the costs of our travel to and from Uganda. Lastly, you can share our page and help raise awareness about our missions trip so that we can expand our reach and build our team of supporters.
We thank you so much for taking the time to read about our ministry and for prayerfully considering how you can partner with us to improve the lives of special-needs children in Uganda.
Jamie and Nathan Tinsley
- J E
- John S
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