There are moments when God breaks into the comparative peace of our days, and reminds us that others struggle, desperate for their very bread. Others coming from very little give all that they have, in order to share love with those even more destitute. They bring hope through practical means, they meet physical needs to open the door for spiritual fulfillment, and they give great glory to the One who sent them.
Reading The Queen of Katwe, by Tim Crothers, brought me to one of those moments. “One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion” is a story of quiet hope, of realistic darkness, that felt starkly unrealistic, and challenged me to pray more deeply, to listen more intently, and to engage in any opportunity God give me, with others who walk a different journey.
The Queen of Katwe is the story of a community of people, with central characters Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi, whose lives paint a picture of Grace in the midst of darkness. It follows Katende, a young missionary, who begins a project in the Katwe slum in Uganda, using soccer as a vehicle to engage youth. As the children, who were lucky to get a bite to eat on a given day, kicked the ball in a dirty field with Katende, they came to know a man who would offer them porridge, and conversation, and hope.
Robert Katende, who served with Sports Outreach, soon found that soccer didn’t open the door to conversation for all the Katwe slum children, because not all connected with the sport. On a hunch, he decided to introduce the game of chess, and as he faithfully followed a path of teaching and engaging, personal sacrifice and creative outreach, he found a connector for the children he served, that opened their hearts and minds to Truth and Love.
As I read The Queen of Katwe, I alternated between awe at the faithfulness of God and this man, the stark contrast between what we often think of as struggle, and what struggle really means, and the glimmer of HOPE that waves its light in the darkest of places.
I fell in love with a young woman named Phiona, whose sad plight broke my heart, and whose courage and humble determination challenged me to live bigger, to work harder, and to courageously pursue LIFE where I am, while looking harder for how I can serve creatively to meet the needs of others, bringing salt and light from wherever and to wherever, God might lead.
What are you reading lately, and how has it challenged/encouraged you?