Katie Davis believes that Jesus “wrecked” her life. In her eyes, however, that’s a good thing.
A few years ago, the Tennessee teen served as class president at her high school, enjoyed shopping for shoes, and planned to attend college. But Katie had also grown up admiring Mother Teresa and the radical love with which she served the poor. At the age of 12, she started taking her Christian faith more seriously and slowly realized that she felt called to back up her beliefs with action.
On her 16th birthday, Katie told her parents that she wanted to spend a year doing mission work before going to college. They reluctantly agreed to let her volunteer at an orphanage in Uganda over winter break of her senior year, thinking that might get her new goal out of her system. Instead, Katie’s convictions were confirmed.
In her Christopher Award-winning book, Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, Katie writes, “I left Uganda in tears at the end of our trip, the country and the people now a part of me…I knew that someday I would return. I was forever ruined for comfort, convenience, and luxury, preferring instead challenge, sacrifice, and risking everything to do something I believed in….My heart had found its joy as I served the beautiful people the world calls ‘poor’ but who seemed so rich in love to me.”
During her stay, a pastor had offered Katie a year-long job as a kindergarten teacher for orphans. She accepted his offer and moved to Uganda after her high school graduation. Katie’s father, who accompanied her on the trip, tried to convince her to return home with him at the end of the week. But he came to see how happy she was there and finally gave her his blessing.
Life in Uganda was definitely an adjustment, though. Her room was only three-by-six feet and the conditions surrounding her weren’t as sanitary as we Americans are used to. But to Katie, that didn’t matter. She writes, “I think many people would have looked at [the orphans] and seen only their filthy clothes, the ringworm on their heads, or…the orphanage with its smooth, hard cement floor where rats and cockroaches made themselves at home…[God] blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them…I have one purpose, in Uganda and in life, and that is to love. I could ask for no greater assignment.”
Katie’s one-year commitment soon turned into something more. She created a nonprofit called Amazima that helps feed and educate more than 2,000 Ugandan children. And now, at age 22, she acts as a mother to 13 foster children who have no living family members able to care for them. Having interviewed her on Christopher Closeup, I can attest that her joy and enthusiasm are genuine.
Katie is living the Christopher ideal. She saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it. And to her, the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” isn’t just a lofty ideal; it’s a practical reality—because her electricity sometimes goes out, and she literally has to light a candle! In doing so, she also finds a spiritual lesson: “My candle is lit; I am on fire for God, for this place, for these people. My purpose here is to spread His light. One candle can light up my entire room. Jesus can light up this entire nation, and my flame can be a part of that.”