Firewood and a Mother’s Heart

As I am about home, I see her. She’s walking along the side of the road, slow but graceful. On her back, her baby. On her head, a bundle of firewood for cooking. She stands out to me more than the others.

I’m driving home, dodging the potholes and mud along the way.  People are out on their bikes and traveling by foot, doing their daily tasks.  As I pass by, I’m wondering what I’ll do with my few free afternoon hours.

As I am about home, I see her.  She’s walking along the side of the road, slow but graceful.  On her back, her baby.  On her head, a bundle of firewood for cooking.  She stands out to me more than the others.  Probably because I too am a new mother.  Probably because I can’t imagine walking this road carrying a baby on my back; much less with a whole bonfire of wood bundled on my head. How in the world do they balance that much wood on their heads, anyway?

Before I know it, Im pulling my car over.  And I sit there.  Then, I get out and stand along the road.

“What am I doing?” I wonder.

Okay, so I’ll take a photo of this unsuspecting mother as she passes by and I’ll share with others how hard motherhood can be here in Uganda.  Yea.  Is that what I am doing?

Here she comes.  She’s about to pass by.  I am about to snap a quick picture with my phone.  But I don’t.  Instead, I look up and my eyes make contact with hers.  And she begins to speak.  Hmmm, that’s not Luganda.

“Something something something, Boda, something something.”

“Oh, boda money.  I can give you boda money.  Wait here,” I tell her.

I go to my car and I get some shillings to give this lady for a boda (motorcycle ride).  And as I am returning there are two more ladies there with me.  I don’t even know where they walked from.  And they begin thanking me for helping this woman.

“Sure, no problem.  So glad to help.”

But, my heart was not allowing me to leave.  I found myself with the strong desire to help this lady right there in that moment. But how? What am I to do?  That’s when I realized one of these ladies were speaking to her…and to me.  She knows English.  She can translate!

So, begins our conversation.  I ask her name.  She drops her load of wood to the ground for a rest.

Carolyn. And her son, Samuel.

I tell her mine.  And I walk her to my car and show her Kaliyah.  ”See, I am a mother too.”

“Can I help you take your load somewhere?” I ask.

Carolyn looks so puzzled. She wipes the sweat that’s running down her face.  The other two ladies smile with joy.

“Where are you going? Are you passing this way? I can put your sticks on top of my car.” I tell her.

Carolyn agrees. “Ch-Karamoja,” she says.

The two ladies start right away putting the load on top of my car while I show Carolyn to the passengers seat of my car.  She holds her son and rests in the seat.

“I have a second bundle to pick just up the hill.” she tells us.

How in the world was she going to carry all of this wood, I wondered. And to Ch-Karamoja? That’s more than a mile away.  Maybe even two, and mostly uphill.

The two ladies poke their head in the car and ask, “Can we also come? We are traveling that way.”

“Get in.  You can come.”

So, My three new friends, Kaliyah and I start up the hill toward Ch-Karamoja.  We stop along the way and pick her second bundle and then continue to travel.  ”So, are you born again?” I ask my English speaking friend.

She smiles.  ”Yes, I am! Even her! (motioning toward her sidekick).”

“Oh that’s very good. How about Carolyn?” I ask.

She begins talking to Carolyn.  After a bit I find out that Carolyn is not saved.  But, she thinks its a ‘good thing’ to be saved.

My heart beats a bit faster.  ”Lord, are you going to save this lady today?” I wonder.  So I ask Carolyn to tell me about Jesus.  What has she heard? What does she know?

My translating friend begins to laugh.  She is so happy.  Then she tells me…

“This is a very good testimony.  She says, even this very morning, she woke up and asked God to show her the real way.  The real truth. And then she began her work.  She didn’t know how she was going to carry this wood on her own, and with her baby.  But God has brought you to help her.  And she sees that God is real, and you are showing her the real truth.”

I am praising God in my spirit.  ”Wow, Amen! That is very great!”

We continue talking and praising the Lord together because we both know this is God at work.  And it was a very joyful moment.  I tell Carolyn about grace. About His death and His resurrection.  About His great love for us.  And she tells me she is ready to be saved.

We begin to arrive in Ch-Karamoja; I know this place, and I know this road.  It’s more of a pathway really, with huge holes and water streams running through it.  I drive slow as to not lose our load up top.  Kaliyah begins to cry, and we lose a few sticks.  I jump out and grab them, throwing them back up top.

“She says her house is just there, but we can’t reach by car.  So we can drop her just ahead, by the gerry cans, and we’ll unload there,” my friend tells me.

We park by the small hut with the gerry cans, and I get Kaliyah from her chair to console her.  We are all sitting there, handling our goodbyes, and I ask Carolyn to pray with me.  There, with puzzled onlookers, we begin to pray in our multiple languages as we breast feed our babies and hold each others’ hands.

“…Lord, Save me.  Help me to follow you every day…”

As I open my eyes, her son Samuel is smiling and my friends in the backseat are so joyful.  Carolyn is quiet and peaceful.  She is so thankful.

We get out of the car and the ladies begin unloading the firewood while I place Kaliyah back in her carseat.  I quickly become the sight to be seen and touched by all the local children.  One girl stands by Kaliyah’s window; “Something something Baby,” she says.

I shake hands with Carolyn.  We exchange eye contact and smiles, and I tell her goodbye.

As I tell my other friends goodbye, my English speaking friend joyfully says, “This is God. That’s the only way this can be explained.  This is God.”

I agree with her.  We shake hands.  We smile.  And we share our praise and joy of our Creator.

As I drive away, my heart is full.  And I know in that moment, I serve a Great God.

Even as I have set aside my ‘ministry’ job to be full time at our Jinja home, He has seen me and used me.  He intentionally chose me.  He knew, even before I did, that I would be willing to share in Carolyn’s load.  And so He ordained this moment.


He allowed me, chose me, ME, to bring this daughter to the Father.

How humbling. 

And so I am reminded, right here, right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I am enough.  And my obedience in my day-to-day is my ministry, whether at our home in Jinja, in a village, or even driving home on a hot, African afternoon.

Thank you, Lord.

– Kelly Via

Carolyn Uganda


Smooth and Kelly Via serve as missionaries in Jinja, Uganda. Formerly the student pastor at Journey, Smooth led his family to follow the call of God to Uganda when their 2012 adoption came to an abrupt halt. Since he couldn’t bring his daughter home to the U.S. from Uganda, he took home to her. You can read more about their life, ministry, and amazing journey by going to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *