"I quit my life… I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important."
Katie Davis, then an 18-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen living in Nashville, Tennessee, quit everything she knew, and chose to leave behind her family and friends in order go to Uganda for a year-long mission trip to follow God's calling on her life.
Now, almost six years later, Katie is the 24-year-old single mother of 13 adopted girls, founder and director of Amazima Ministries, an outreach that reaches hundreds of children in Uganda, and author of Kisses from Katie, a New York Times best seller. It all started with her saying four simple words: "Yes, Lord, send me."
Katie has always liked helping people. She was the kind of teenager who loved to spend her free time helping at the local homeless shelter, and getting her friends to help too. Given her passion for serving others, it should have been no surprise when she announced on her 16th birthday that she wanted to spend a year doing missions work before she went to college, but her parents were shocked at her desire to go to Africa. "As most parents do, both my mom and my dad wanted to do everything they could to guarantee me a successful, comfortable life, and they felt the best way to secure a 'good' future for me was to provide me with a college education that would prepare me for a career," Katie says.
Katie's parents may not have been sure in the beginning, but their faith has grown since then, and now they are very supportive: Katie's mom is on the Amazima board and participates in speaking engagements nationwide, while her dad commits his time to fundraising.
Constructing Amazima Ministries
After finishing high school, Katie convinced her parents to let her spend a year in Uganda— as long as she promised to return home to attend college. That was 2007. In 2008, after spending a year teaching children at a Ugandan orphanage, Katie founded Amazima Ministries, an organization whose main program is child sponsorship.
"Starting a ministry in Uganda wasn't something I had in mind when I came here," Katie admits. "But it seemed the only logical next step as people approached me needing help and I said yes to meeting their needs."
Hundreds of children are now able to go to school because of Amazima's financial support. Shortly after Katie got Amazima up and running, she realized the children's needs went far beyond attendance at school, so she decided to expand the ministry past educational scholarships. Every afternoon Katie began to open her home to show them the love of the Father through tutoring, treatment of simple illnesses and wounds, and running errands to the local health clinic. Every Friday, Amazima children gather to sing praises to God, hear the Word of God, eat and play together, and take home a package containing a dry ration of food and some soap. For some children, their family's livelihood throughout the week depends on the provisions of that package.
Katie's desire for Amazima is to continue to expand in order to help more children, but her main priority is to create a deep, lasting impact on the children they already have sponsored before expanding the organization outward. Amazima is exploring the idea of building a Christian high school in the Jinja area because not many exist there. Amazima also hired more mentors this year to make sure the children they have are being discipled to the very best of their ability.
Forming a Family
It didn't take long for Katie to fall in love with the children she helped on a daily basis. She did not initially plan on adopting 13 children, but God brought each one of them to her, and confirmed she should love them and give them a home as her very own. Katie started researching the process of adoption, and found out she needed to be at least 25 years old, and have fostered each child for three years before adoption could be made final.
"Believing that we had exhausted all other options and this is what God was asking of me, and knowing that I was willing to commit my whole life to these children, I began the process to foster them and, later, the longer paperwork process of legal guardianship," Katie says.
In six years, Katie has transitioned from working full-time founding Amazima, to working part-time with Amazima and part-time as a mother, to transitioning into a role as full-time mom as her family continues to grow in size. To help her fulfill her roles with both Amazima and in being a single mother, Katie depends on the help of her community around her.
"I feel like if I need anything—a run to the grocery store, or someone to watch the girls—I always have someone I can call to help," Katie says.
Katie admits she and her 13 children are an imperfect family.
"Usually our house isn't very clean," Katie says. "A few things are not picked up and in the order I would want them to be . . . and sometimes my children are late to school because I lit the toast on fire."
Some days Katie feel discouraged, but she is grateful knowing that, at the end of the day, her children know Jesus Christ, and that God's love for them is enough to cover the mistakes Katie makes as a parent.
Katie has learned during her time in Uganda that sacrifice can be a form of obedience. While she admits she is not always good at obeying, Katie understands that God knows what is best for her life, and what is best for his glory. In her book, Kisses From Katie, Katie recalls how Jesus expected everything of his disciples, and she wants to live out that call every day of her life.
"I want to give everything, no matter the cost, because I believe that nothing is a sacrifice in light of eternity with Christ."
To read TCW's exclusive interview with Katie Davis, "From Africa with Love," open Today's Christian Woman's May/June digital magazine at this link. You need to be a subscriber in order to gain access. To become a TodaysChristianWoman.com subscriber, click here. Also read an excerpt from Katie's book, Kisses from Katie, at this link.