Karina Thomas (Karina Smith, as of January 1, 2008)
First, a bit of personal history: God spoke to my heart, calling me to missions when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was reading Isaiah 6 when God’s question of who could He send stirred my heart. “Here is Karina; send me,” I wrote in my Bible. I believed that one day I would “go” as a nurse and would care for children somewhere in Africa.
In May 1995, I asked God to show me His purpose for my life. I wanted a verse to stand on. God used my name and a Bible teacher to lead me to Isaiah 64:4 and Isaiah 58:12. God would use my life to rebuild the foundations of the wasted places and of the ruined generations. At the time I was working with troubled youth and families through the Institute in Basic Life Principles.
Then in August of 1997, I became very ill. Doctors couldn’t explain the cause nor cure. They stated that they could not tell whether I would ever walk normally or work again, but that I certainly would never travel. A friend gave me a small paper with a phrase, which I read over and again, sometimes with tears, until I was able to embrace it, “God has every right, and my permission, to do with my life whatever would bring Him the greatest glory.”
I was on my knees, January 26, 1999, reading and agreeing with Psalm 116. Truly God had heard my cry when I was so low. As I was thanking Him, the Lord spoke to me, “Karina, we are coming out of this valley for now.” Improvement began immediately; slowly, but surely. By summer of that year, I started Nursing School. On graduation, I was unanimously chosen to receive the “Nursing With Excellence” award.
Shortly thereafter, July of 2002, I was in Uganda, Africa, by miraculous means. It was on a public canoe in Lake Victoria, on the way to Lingira Island, that God spoke, “Karina, look around you. This is your home.” I went back to the States to an incredible job at The Oregon Burn Center, knowing it was preparation for what God had in store on the islands.
By the time I arrived on the island base for Youth With A Mission (YWAM), October of 2003, their funding had been cut and the clinic closed down. With a lot of zeal and a good deal of ignorance, I plunged into the work, opened the clinic and came face-to-face with the cycle of poverty and disease of the third-world. During this time, I relied heavily on Olive and Okoro, now affectionately known as “Mama and Papa O.”
I won’t go into details, but through the work at the clinic, I began seeing many inter-related needs. As a result of those needs and my own bout with typhoid, the water project and discipleship program were birthed in early 2005, under the leadership of YWAM and Uncle Samson, respectively. Meanwhile, I was trying to find some way to care for those with HIV/AIDS. The government did not seem to care for the islands. The only option (then and still today) was to take a few out to the mainland for care.
The death of several young men heightened my awareness of the effects of lack of education. “No hope” was the answer I always got when I would ask kids why they dropped out of school or what they planned to do in their future. Nearly the only children attending secondary education (8th grade and higher) were those being sponsored. Lingira Living Hope Secondary School started February 6, 2006, less than 2 months from when the idea had first been voiced. Today we have 100 students and 11 teachers.
Sometime in 2005, I had gone to visit Pr. Robert of Lingira, who was in university in Kampala, Uganda. He told me how God had shown him the many things I was doing and that I needed to form an umbrella organization under which the ministries could run efficiently. Then he mentioned the name, Shepherd’s Heart. I shrugged it off, stating that I was working with Youth With A Mission and promptly forgot.
Prior to that, in November 2004, I had a significant dream. I was in the States at the time, but dreamt that I had returned to Uganda to find the islands being developed. Teams of westerners had come in, building a hospital, a fancy church and some beautiful houses. I felt intimidated and stated, “Obviously, I am not needed anymore.”
Just then, a woman from the camp came running from the new hospital, “Keeky, Keeky, please come!” On entering, I found an emaciated young woman and her very ill newborn. As I picked up the baby, the woman who brought me sighed, “She’ll die…AIDS.”
On walking out of the hospital, I realized that nothing had changed. The kids still ran naked. Filthy water still ran in rivulets through the camp and the original church was still meeting in its crowded, mud-walled building. Yet the camp could boast of all the westerners had done for them. The westerners were also smug, pointing to all their accomplishments to make the islands civilized. The reality was that nothing had changed. For all the fancy structures, the foundations had been ignored. When I woke from the dream, I purposed to take heed and to not forget the lesson God had shown me.
Jumping ahead to 2006, December. During Christmas holidays, I went to Pr. Moses’ (on the mainland) to pray for direction. My commitment to YWAM was ending. Now what? During that time, the Lord impressed me with the example of Christ, who became one of us, even to the point that He was unashamed to be identified as our Brother. Although I didn’t know what I would do, I knew it was time to move outside YWAM and to continue my involvement with the community and church.
I was still at Pastor Moses’ when I was called to a meeting regarding the Water Project. Through the meeting, the men began asking what I was doing and strongly urged me to start an NGO (Non-Gov’t Organization) which would encompass the various ministries on and off the islands. They didn’t accept my refusals. Finally I stated, “I am not the one to lead any ministry for two reasons. First, I have no interest in controlling others. I just want to empower those who have visions. Secondly, I am not interested in making a name.”
At that, Father Alfred spoke for the first time. “Keeky, that is just the kind of leader which God wants.”
I left that meeting very troubled. On reaching Alice Kisolo’s, I found a group of intercessors in prayer. Soon after I joined them, a woman began speaking, “I see as if we are in a boat, in a storm. The waves are high and like Jesus’ disciples we have been straining to stay afloat. Yet Jesus is coming towards us, walking on the waters. He wants us to be like Peter and to say, ‘Lord, if it is You, tell me to come.’ You must get out of the boat,” she continued, “even if the winds were too strong while you were in the boat, you must get out into the waves and go to Jesus…”
A few days later one of the island students stopped me after morning prayers, “Keeky, I believe God is saying that He is opening something new for you in the new year.” Another morning, I was praying alone when I felt a very obvious demonic attack. It was the first time I had experienced that. My first thought was, “Where are the others which should be here praying?”
God stopped me before I could wake up others to pray with me, “Stand firm. Resist the devil…Greater is He who is in you…” After some time of prayer, the fear and oppression left. In no time, several others came and began explaining the dreams which had awakened them, causing them to begin praying for the exact situations which I was facing, but they knew nothing about. That morning, the Lord showed me that His power is enough to stand, even when I must stand alone. Yet, I am not alone. He will stir up His people to pray and to stand with me. For sure, I have seen that many times.
Then on Christmas Sunday, Robert preached a message aimed straight at me, though he didn’t know it. (If you are new on my email list, ask for the email entitled, “Labor Pains”.) He spoke about Mary’s role in carrying the child, Jesus, to term. “She could have refused or aborted for many reasons: How would she explain to Joseph or others? Wouldn’t they believe this pregnancy was a result of her own iniquity, not Divine intervention? Wasn’t she young and inexperienced? Nine months was long and tiring… If you think carrying the baby is bad, wait for the labor pains. What would have happened had Mary aborted? We would have all missed the Messiah. Now we have forgotten her pain because we rejoice in the birth.” Pr. Robert then likened Mary’s role to ours when God gives us a vision. If we abort the vision because of fear of people’s reaction, or because of tiredness or pain, we are destroying the blessing that God has designed for those around us. If we persevere, the vision will come to fruition. Even those who spoke ill will forget their words and will rejoice. He went on to say, “What if God has given a vision to Keeky, yet it was never fulfilled because we refused to stand with and support her, as Joseph did for Mary?”
Afterwards I asked Robert why he had spoken so directly. Had God shown him what was happening with me? I had not yet spoken anything of what was going on in my heart. As I shared with him and asked him to pray about being a part of whatever it was God was starting, Robert reminded me of the time I had visited him at the university. “I told you then that this is what God was doing, but you did not hear it.” For sure I had completely forgotten.
Later, when we asked Uncle Samson to consider being the third director, he asked me to consider what God had shown me in the dream from 2004. I had forgotten that, too. This ministry must focus on rebuilding the foundations of the wasted generations around us. Coming up with a name was the next struggle. We struggled on our own, but when Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry (SHIM) was mentioned, it just fit. We submitted several names officially, but immediately SHIM was chosen.
When Pr. Moses heard, he chuckled. “If you were to leave me here and go talk with my wife, Florence, she would tell you that I had already spoken that it was time for Keeky to start her own organization for the sake of island ministry and that it needed to be independent from other existing organizations or churches so it would be free to inter-relate with all.”
One of the first things we did was to go to Kenya for a time of prayer together. While there, it was decided that we needed land. A specific area between Kyoya and Katonga camps was mentioned. On arriving back at Lingira, God again used Pr. Moses to confirm. “You need your own land. You need the place between Kyoya and Katonga. Actually, God had already spoken to me about it and I put down some money to reserve the area.”
In April 2007, we took a few days to meet with “the team,” including the island pastors and some others who will shortly be involved in Shepherd’s Heart. It was incredible to hear each one explain what they felt God was doing and how they were to be a part of that. Pr Waboka, of the new church in Kyoya, shared how the church’s vision corresponded directly with the vision and objectives of SHIM. The excitement and unity was contagious as we prayed and discussed what God is doing on the islands.
During that meeting, we formulated our vision: Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry exists to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to further God’s kingdom by empowering indigenous leaders to help their own people promote the spiritual, economic, educational, and physical development. As an umbrella organization, we link resources, channel funds, network, give legal cover and coordinate volunteers/teams. It is not our desire to control or own every project under SHIM but to help individuals or programs to recognize and achieve their God-given potentials.
Currently, some programs are directly under SHIM, such as the Water Projects, Discipleship, Child Development, etc. Others are being encouraged or supported through partnering together, like the Lingira Living Hope Secondary School and the Buvuma Islands Savings and Credit Cooperative (BISCCO).
Please continue praying for God’s work to move forward on the islands. We have many prayer requests and many praises. We are most excited to see God’s hand at work as we seek His direction on how to rebuild the ruins.