The Universal Heart of “Mama Orphans”

Written by Plant With Purpose on March 10, 2016 in General

By Emma Worrall


“You can give without loving. But you can never love without giving.”
-Amy Carmichael

It’s really crazy how connected people are in this world and how much good is simultaneously happening. In the media we constantly hear about all the awful things happening—natural disasters, violence erupting, terrorist attacks. We rarely hear about the amazing things people are doing to make this world a better place. It often feels like darkness is covering the earth. But the Bible promises, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:15). My time at Plant With Purpose has given me a glimpse of this light.

Before interning at Plant With Purpose, I couldn’t have comprehended how much I would learn. I expected to learn about nonprofit logistics and how to properly market a nonprofit, which I have learned. But I didn’t realize how much I would get to see the mysterious (or not so mysterious) ways God is working in this world. I was reminded of this yesterday when I came across Pilar’s story, which caused me to tear up as connections were made. More on Pilar in a bit but first let me share a piece of my life so you understand.

This past September, I traveled to Uganda with the Heart for People Foundation (my third trip to Uganda). A dear friend of mine, Sarah Harrs, started Heart for People in 2012 to connect schools in the United States to schools in Uganda. The foundation’s goals are to fundraise for basic necessities and sustainable projects as well as foster personal relationships that cross the world.


I’m always amazed by the resilience of the Ugandans we meet despite their circumstances. This last trip surpassed anything I could have imagined. While traveling to partner schools to collect stories, Sarah and I came across many women who have taken in abandoned children. To put this in perspective, there are more than 2.8 million orphaned children in Uganda and roughly half the country’s population of 42 million are 15 and younger. These women are known as “Mama Orphans.”

When a Ugandan woman becomes a mother, she is given a new name as a right of passage. The new mom is called “Mama” followed by the name of her first born (For example, my oldest brother’s name is Donald so my mom would be called “Mama Donald.”). Each woman we met had adopted over 20 children … 20 CHILDREN! Despite the uncertainty of the future, they never say no when a child is brought to them.

Louise is a Mama Orphan. Her story pulls at the heart.


Nineteen years ago, the Congo civil war spilled over into Uganda causing many casualties. Louise lived in the city at the time but her family was in the countryside where fighting was occurring. Returning home, she found no survivors except one—a baby strapped to the back of its dead mother. She knew she couldn’t turn away. As gunshots rang nearby, Louise grabbed the child and ran to safety. This was her first adopted child. Since, Louise has committed to taking in abandoned children. To date, Louise has adopted 22 children! This number is bound to increase as the police know Louise and bring her abandoned children.

God is working, not just in Uganda, but around the world. Yesterday I met a new Mama Orphan … well I didn’t meet her face-to-face but came across her story while logging video footage. Half a world away, Pilar is taking in orphans in the Dominican Republic.


Pilar at 73 has worked with Plant With Purpose for ten years. Not only has Pilar become a leader in her community but she is an example of sacrificial love. Throughout her life, Pilar saw many children orphaned in her community. She said “yes” to God and has adopted more than 25 children! Despite difficulties, Pilar continues to take in children and is able to do so because of the security found through Plant With Purpose’s program.

In the midst of logging video, I made the connection that God is moving. He is moving in unimaginable ways—through Plant With Purpose, Heart for People, and Mama Orphans everywhere. Mama Orphans are being the hands and feet of Jesus in all corners of the world. Both Louise and Pilar saw a need and said “yes” to God. They are doing what God has called us to do – to “care for the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and to “lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13). This is encouragement to us all that God can use the little that we have to show his light even in the darkest of places.

“Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey.
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in thee.
Fulfill Thy purposes through me.”
-Amy Carmichael


P.S. If you would like to see the video Sarah and I put together based on our interview with these women, you can check it out here.

Comments (2)

  1. Beautifully written Dear Emma. I am so happy to read of your continued journey. I look forward to seeing you and talking with you when you come home. Carry on! xo

    Linda Christiansen
  2. God’s destiny and light gives us purpose.
    Purpose and strength go get up and do our destiny, given by God daily.
    Purpose to make a difference, and leave more behind than we take.
    God, and Christ, and The Holy Spirit be with you.
    Col Glenn Ekblad,

    Dr Glenn Ekblad

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