“It was a different kind of laughter,” my friend Tabitha said to me recently. “It was the laughter of hope.”

She was telling me about a phone conversation she had with some of the girls who are going to be moving into the Miracle Village we are building in Uganda.
During my first visit to Uganda, in October 2011, one of the things Tabitha and I did was visit a muddy slum, not far from Uganda’s capital city, where young girls were prostituting themselves for the equivalent of thirty or forty cents, because that’s the only way they were able to survive. After talking with these beautiful but desperate young women, we knew we had to do something, and we started dreaming about building a Miracle Village where they could live and work in a safe and healthy environment. Where they would earn a decent living – for themselves and their children – doing work they could enjoy and be proud of, and where they would receive treatment for their physical and emotional injuries, as well as the counseling and training that would allow them to have a better life than any they had ever known before.

This may sound like an impossible dream. But one of my firm convictions – and it’s one Tabitha shares – is that nothing is impossible if you care enough and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen. Impossible things are being done every day by people who don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe that they’re impossible.

During subsequent trips to Uganda, Tabitha and I have spent time with the girls we are going to help, and with other people who believe in our dream and are helping to make it a reality. Here at home, too, we’ve talked to and met with many people who have the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and resources to help build this Miracle Village. There are still many, many things that need to be done and obtained before we’ll see any tangible results, but we’re getting there.
Through everything we’ve had to learn, do, build, start – and in many cases, revise and reevaluate and then start over – our thoughts, first and foremost, are on getting those girls out of the awful environment they are in, and to a better place. Tabitha and I feel very protective of them, and what we want more than anything is for them and their children to be happy and safe. But we also want to see the girls become leaders, advocates, and role models for others living in hopeless and desperate places and situations. It’s our hope that during their own transition and transformation, they will discover the joy and satisfaction that comes from sharing one’s story and experience in a way that helps and inspires others.

It’s been a long road, and a difficult struggle. There have been – and continue to be – many times when Tabitha and I just shake our heads and wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. And we worry that we’ve taken on something that really is impossible – at least for us, with our limited knowledge and experience. But whenever that happens, we take a deep breath, shake off the feeling, and remember that the girls are counting on us, and we have no intention of letting them down.

And now, we’re finally nearing the stage where we’ll have something to show for our efforts. We have access to land that already has buildings on it that can be used for housing and for some of the businesses that will generate income for the girls and the Miracle Village. Structures and set-ups are in place for farming and related operations, and there’s enough room for building a transition center, a clinic, and other facilities necessary to make this the Miracle Village we’ve envisioned. We still have a lot of work to do, and are desperately in need of a few more angels and miracles. But we’re far enough along that we are sure it’s going to happen. That’s the news Tabitha was sharing with the girls she talked to on the phone the other day.

“I wish you could have heard them,” she told me later. “There was such a different sound to their laughter. It was filled with hope. And relief.”
That says a lot, especially coming from girls who, until recently, had no reason and little opportunity to laugh at all.

I have to laugh myself when I think about it, and when I realize that just a few short years ago, I never could have imagined being a part of something like this. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. When you’re not afraid to dream, and to dream big, when your actions are guided by faith, hope, and love, and when you believe in miracles, you really can accomplish anything you set out to do.

Impossible? Don’t make me laugh!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 18, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013
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