18 year old Katie Davis had the “perfect” life. She was homecoming queen, class president, drove a sports car, had a cute boyfriend, and owned all the material possessions to suit her comfortable life.
But her love for Jesus and the compulsion she felt to do something meaningful, led her from the USA to Uganda for mission work. Katie was immediately captivated with the people and the culture. The following year, in 2007, Katie returned to Uganda to teach. Walking the dusty streets, Katie stepped into her destiny, establishing a non-profit organisation, Amazima Ministries, which seeks to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those in Uganda who need it most.
Now, at the age of 24, Katie is a mother to 13 adopted daughters. A best-selling author lauded for her work, Katie is unaffected: “I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”
This Mother’s Day, in recognition with the high calling that mothering requires, we celebrate Katie’s ministry and spoke to her about the journey thus far…
How did your upbringing prepare you for your unconventional life in Uganda?
My father taught me that people want to be heard and understood, and he encouraged me to be genuinely kind and respectful to everyone who crossed my path. My mother taught me to be grounded in what I believe and to cling to my faith no matter what. They were both incredible examples of our Heavenly Father’s self-sacrificial love, and I am truly blessed to call them my parents.
I spent a fair amount of time in high school volunteering at domestic violence shelters and halfway houses in Nashville. I cherished my time with the people there and carried many of the lessons God taught me during that time with me to Uganda.
You’re the founder of an international nonprofit, a single mother of thirteen, and a care provider to more than 600 needy children. When do you sleep?
Well I don’t sleep much! Truly, God has blessed me with so many people who help me carry out this calling. I do not do it alone. I have an incredible staff here in Uganda, a great board and staff in the States, and many volunteers. I have wonderfully supportive friends and family, both here in Uganda and in the States, and an absolutely unbelievable Saviour whose power is made perfect in my weakness.
As a rule though, I fill up on Jesus first, serve my children and run our household second, and then meet all the other needs that are thrown my way. My children are awesome ministry partners and love to serve alongside me.
In my life, there is no separation between job, ministry, or home life – everyone is family and everything is done for Jesus, all the time.
To what extent have your family embraced your life’s work?
I am so incredibly blessed by my family. They are hugely supportive and encouraging. Mom gets to spend the most time here, sometimes several months at a time, but my Dad and brother Brad visit as often as they can.
When they can’t be here, they call often and text nearly every day, just to let me know that I am loved, supported and prayed for. They adore the girls and it is mutual. One of their favourite things to do is Skype with Jja Ja and Papa (this is what they call my parents.)
You’re constantly giving of yourself. To whom do you look to for inspiration?
Jesus Christ the Risen Lord and Saviour. I try to live selflessly and to love others as God loves them, and I still fall short. I would absolutely not give myself to such torture as a cross for this crazy, broken world, and I am so thankful to serve a King who did.
He made Himself low, touching the sick and washing feet. I strive and I beg to be a little more like Him with each breath.
You believe poverty could be eliminated if faithful people gave more of their surplus to those in need…
God is faithful. That just as He has intended, so it has happened, and just as He has planned, so it will stand. (Isaiah 14:24). While I think Christians are called to be doing more about the world’s hurt than many of us are doing, I also fully believe that God sees all who are hurting and suffering and knows what is right, and He will use all of this mess for His good.
So in my book when I talk about people giving more, I am speaking to people who look at poverty and hurt in this world and ask, “Where is God?” God is right here living inside the hearts of all who believe. So maybe the questions is, “Where are we?”
You describe the adoption of your daughter Grace as a moment when you had to rely even more completely on God. Can you talk a bit more about this experience?
So much has happened since then that I hardly remember that time in my life as being difficult. In the last nine months, I have had a child I intended to adopt, return to her biological mother; I have fostered newborn babies whom I fell in love with and then gave to another mom; I have had at least 12 different homeless people or families live in my house and two of them die of terminal illness. I have held mothers’ children in my lap as they breathed their last, and I have had to walk thirteen precious souls through all this pain.
Life just gets more difficult, but there is a purpose in those challenging moments. That is how God’s grace works, I think. I believe that I am at my wits end, that this must be the hardest moment of my life and He carries me. Then I reach the harder moments, laugh at myself for once thinking I had lived the hardest moment of my life already, and remember how He carried me. He always carries us.
The broken places, the desert places, they mould us and teach us who we really are – broken and completely dependent on God’s grace to give us one more day.
How do you combat the inevitable spiritual droughts?
I believe that the Holy Spirit lives in me and with me, and I talk to Him throughout each and every day. I murmur my thanks and my frustrations and my joys and my sorrows to God, who is alive and with me always. There are always difficult moments and then moments that are harder still, but there are no droughts when we drink from a well that never runs dry.
What would our JOY! readers be surprised to know about you?
Most days, I am kind of a mess. People who read my blog assume that because I am able to express my heart well, I have it together, This is not true. The laundry piles and I go to bed with dirty dishes still in the sink. My tongue hurls unkind words at my children before I have even thought about what I am saying. I can’t even find my keys some days.
We do not have it together around here, but my prayer is that as we invite people into our home and into our mess, they feel free to be real – to express their weakness and their filth and know that they belong because we too are broken and in need of a Saviour’s grace. I pray that in our brokenness we would shine and be an example of His redemptive love.
I also love to cook. The more people around my table, the better. Some days, it is just me and my thirteen daughters who circle our huge table, but more often than not there are at least five or six extra – a homeless person in need of a warm meal, a family who has taken refuge in our guest room, a lonely grandmother in need of a family, or maybe a friend of one or two of my girls.
This kind of hospitality was not always easy for me (nor was learning to cook for twenty or thirty people at a time!)This lifestyle of sharing and inviting others in – to sit at my table, to rest on my couch, to shower in our bathrooms, and to sleep in our beds – goes against everything our culture teaches about valuing personal space and privacy. I used to find it inconvenient, disruptive and even uncomfortable.
But God continued to stretch me more and more and to teach me that this interruptible, public lifestyle is the way he desires me to live and to love. So we welcome all to our table. And I smile while I chop vegetables, praying that as people are filled physically at my table they will be filled spiritually in our home.
You have written that we are called by God to “love with abandon.” How has that path changed you as a person?
There is truly no greater gift than to give yourself away. The more we give, the more He fills, this is fullness of joy. I give and I trust Him, and as I trust, I overflow with joy and peace.
Finally Katie, few people would change their lives as you have. What would you like readers to take away from your book?
I would like them to know that God uses us in our brokenness. We simply have to be willing. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my life would look like this – I am a normal, flawed, selfish, ungraceful human being. Why would He use me?
Because He created me in His image and delights in me and can pour out His wholeness and perfectness and extravagant grace into any open hand or heart that is surrendered to Him. If He can use me, He can use anyone.
Compiled by Jenna-lea Kelland