How a 60-Year-Old American Woman Learned to Dance in Africa

3 Lessons from Leaders at an Orphanage in Uganda

[Guest Post] Kathy and I were a love-at-first-sight couple who have been married for 38 years. We have four children ranging from 22-34 years of age. We have one grandchild and another on the way. Kathy is my best friend and soulmate. She is my advisor and confidant in all I have done, do and will do. We are truly “one flesh.” Kathy sees the world from a mother’s perspective. I learned from her how to tell a good story. There is a lesson for entrepreneurs in the story she tells here. Enjoy! —cp


At the Hands of Love orphanage, there are only leaders. Not children. And never orphans. Pastor Elijah Sebuchu insists the children be addressed as leaders. Whether they are being called to a meal or to chores, they are all leaders. Teachers, house moms and administrators at the Hands of Love orphanage understand the power of words to shape a destiny.

And so when Charlie and I decided to go back to Uganda, Pastor Elijah invited me to speak. However, I had no idea who was going to be in my audience. The only thing Pastor Elijah said was, “You will speak to the girls.”

The morning I was to speak I walked into a building that just 24 hours before was filled with 5,000 young people from all over Africa. Now I saw an empty conference room with a handful of empty chairs.

“Oh!” My escort exclaimed, “They didn’t know what time you were coming so they have gone to lunch.”

Time and schedules are suggestions in Uganda. He made an effort to go round up the girls, but I suggested we let the girls eat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are not always available at orphanages. The orphans receive one meal a day.

However, relationships and experiences are more important to these girls than a meal. My escort knew this. Soon the girls were interrupted from their rice and beans, and they practically ran to meet me.

Lesson 1: Give up Lunch to Meet Someone New

We introduced ourselves, and I found out from them that I was speaking with teenagers. They ranged in age from 15 to 17 years old. They were the orphanage leaders and were selected to be the singers and dancers at the conference.

The Youth Ablaze conference hosted youth pastors and leaders who were met by this beautiful “hospitality committee.” These young ladies led the worship service with singing and dancing. Despite having just finished working night and day at the conference, rest did not seem to enter their minds.

I fell absolutely head over heals in love with these young women leaders. They looked refreshed, no signs of fatigue from dancing and singing for eight hours a day for an entire week. They were enthusiastic and respectful, and I was honored that they gave up their lunch to meet me.

Lesson 2: Answer Questions with Enthusiasm

The second lesson I learned from these young women is they answered my questions with enthusiasm, smiles and took the time to make sure I understood. We had more cultural than language barrier issue since each of these young women spoke very good English.

They are hospitable and loving whether they are hosting a conference or hosting a white lady (mzungu) from the United States. We spoke of their futures. The age old question that old ladies always ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” No one shrugged their shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” That’s because leaders know. They said doctors, accountants, actresses, flight attendants, and even run an orphanage in Uganda.

Lesson 3: When You Become Restless…Dance!

We talked for longer than hungry girls should ever be asked to sit still. After some time I asked, “What do you want to do now?”

Their enthusiastic response, “Dance! Let us teach you how to dance.”

I had been watching these girls for a week during the conference. We had been smiling at each other, and I had been applauding their dancing. I had been trying to dance as they danced during worship.

I think they realized that I could use a little help. I immediately said, “Yes! Let’s dance!” Two girls jumped up and began singing. Others got up and began clapping and humming with the lead singers. These were the voices of angels. No instruments, just their voices. No solemn church music here, just happy, energetic, joyful and fun music. Beautiful music. And the dancing began.

Two girls grabbed my hands and pulled me to my feet. One of them tied her sweater around my hips as a sash. They told me to follow them. I would have followed them anywhere.

These precious young women were the highlight of my 10 days in Uganda. A leader makes you want to follow her. Why did I want to follow? They gave up their lunch for me. I was more important to them than food. They took care in answering my questions. They took their time to understand exactly what I was asking them. Most of all they showed their love and respect for me by letting me into their lives.