Interview with Uncle Chelangat Elly
At the end of 2012, the family parents of Ebenezer family moved to Jinja to start a ministry. In January 2013, Uncle Elly became the family father of Ebenezer family. This transition is a challenging one for parents and children alike.
In Ebenezer family, I am right now the family caretaker, so I play the role of being the father of the children here. Therefore, any family responsibility and anything related to the family, I am the one responsible now. Outside of Ebenezer family, I’m part-timing at the primary school as a teacher of P7 English. I have been at Ebenezer family for three months now.
Can you give us some information on Ebenezer family?
The family father that I succeeded is Uncle Godfrey Masambo, who served here for five years. Before him, Aunt Lydia was the mother here for nine years. Now, in Ebenezer family, we have 18 children in which 11 are currently living in the family. The older boys (those who have finished S4) stay with the Peterson family and the older girls (also, those who have finished S4) stay with Aunt Jennie. I am the one responsible for the 11 that are now living in the family group. We have four of them at secondary school and seven of them in our primary school and among them we have four boys and seven girls.
What are you enjoying about being family father?
Since I came to Ebenezer family, I have enjoyed serving, only by the grace of God, and I have enjoyed the reception and the way I am received by some children; it motivates me and gives me a heart of desiring to serve more as a family parent. When we are working together, I enjoy seeing their abilities. I even enjoy seeing their responses when they are confronted or challenged. Also, [I enjoy] their daily interactions, as in about what they are or who they are and what they want to be, that brings me joy. What excites me most is when I begin seeing positive relationship growing, that is a child becoming free and responding to me positively, smiling, and playing around me. The strong support from the Ebenezer family associates has motivated me and encouraged me. There is a lot that they do; devotions, gardens, and mentorship; they really work so hard and that is what is supporting me and has caused a great change in the lives of our children.
Goal number one is for my children to be able to honor God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. How we can accomplish this goal is through relationship building, which leads into the second goal which is to build relationships and be united as a family. This is what will send a spark out to and affect the community around us. Our third goal is to see them grow in responsibility, accountability, stewardship, and ownership of our family. This goes for whatever belongs to the family and taking care of it whether it’s garden or domestic work or anything, we want to steward it unto the glory of God. This can be measured in the other activities we do as a family. Another goal we have is to get them involved in the different ministries at the church, such as prison ministry, hospital ministry, outreaches, etc. Also, we want our children to excel in their academics and for every child living in the family to be known and cared for. These are our family goals.
What are some of the challenges you are facing as the new family father?
Challenge number one is identity. I realize that when I came in, I appeared new and they didn’t know who I was. That made it quite hard for them to identify with me and for me to identify with them. So, it looked like their identities were somewhere very far [away] and it became hard relating with them. Another challenge is in the area of responsibility; having children do their work together as a family. I found it quite hard to get done with the domestic work in that there has been a way they have been doing things that is quite contrary to my expectations. So, when I lay down my expectations and put down my boundaries it affected our relationship so much because it looked like I was changing everything in the family. They were fighting against my authority, so I could be intimidated even by the comments they were making. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not. When they comment negatively about me, it affects me and challenges me so much.
Another challenge is discipline. When I am administering discipline, the way I get affected is sometimes it may not be received well and I may not even find repentance. Therefore the challenge has been in the children owning the sin they have committed, or the sin could be owned but the consequences have not been accepted. So, there is a lack of knowledge of the consequence of sin and forgiveness. They feel that if I have forgiven them then I don’t have to discipline them. It’s a big challenge to explain that forgiveness doesn’t take away the consequence, but that it restores the relationship. But, the consequence of the sin is the parent’s decision and not the child’s. The challenge I get is that the child wants to decide how they should be disciplined, which becomes an argument when we are explaining two different things.
Another challenge has been how to build relationship with them. The challenge I have found here is I don’t know if it has been relationship or what, but it has been hard to receive greetings from them or for them to receive my greetings; sometimes when I greet they don’t respond. So, they choose to greet me at his or her own time when it is convenient in their eyes or when their heart is willing to do it. This becomes a challenge on my side because I love to greet people and I’m free to greet anyone. I have found it hard here because I don’t know a certain order which they have heard previously before I came in or if it is an attitude of rebellion. It could possibly be that one of the things is that relationship isn’t growing. Another challenge has been dealing with teenage children. I realize that I have more time with boys than girls and so meeting the needs of our teenage daughters is a challenge to me because we don’t have a family mother that lives with us to help shape the character of our girls. I find it hard because I end up not even communicating what I want to communicate because of their age. I try to do my best, but the challenge is we don’t have a family mother that lives right in the family, despite the fact I have associates.
As you can see, this unnatural transition of family parents presents many difficult challenges for even the best earthly parent. The greatest triumph is we aren’t reliant on any earthly being, but on our perfect heavenly Father who will put all of the pieces together according to His perfect will.
How do you find God working in the family?
The way God has been working in my life since I have come to the family is that the work I do is only done by His grace. I don’t have any binding document that affirms me as a family parent, so when I was talked into coming over, responding to the need of having a family parent, I didn’t need any document because God is my document, my security, my hiding place, my comfort, my strength, and my pillar. Since I have been here, whenever I get discouragements and feel like giving up, I really see him speak to me, “Do not be afraid, be strong and courageous, I will always be with you and I am with you now.” I have seen Him create happiness within me, even when I don’t know where it is coming from. He also helps me to have self-control when I am exercising discipline, because that is a hard area. He has given me the strength to go to the gardens with them and do different activities for the family. Even the things I don’t know, I just find His knowledge coming. He says to do it this way and it happens. Simply, I can say that my only qualification I need to be family parent comes from Him.
How can we pray for you?
We need to be prayed for on how we can grow together in relationship as a family in unity. That is between children and the parent and parent and the child. My prayer request is to grow together in relationship and unity so that we grow together as ‘one’ in the family. My second prayer request is to have a family mother who lives right in the family. Please pray for God to soften the children’s hearts to grow towards repentance and for them to have a heart of repentance whenever they have done anything wrong. It is a requirement as a believer to be running to the cross everyday for repentance, so that is a great prayer need and would appreciate any prayers for us to understand true repentance. Another prayer request is for strength from God, that He will provide for us in all aspects and encourage our strength that we may continue to work harder. Thank you for all of your support and prayers.
Only God can be the perfect Father that these children need, but we need to praise Him for sending Uncle Elly during this difficult transition. Please join us in prayer for our Ebenezer children as they grow closer to Uncle Elly and ultimately to their True Father.
Interview by Emmanuel Ocakacon
Written by Devin Hiller