Book Review| Wait for God to Notice by Sari Fordham
September 2022 by Judy Dederick
A mother from Finland……a father who spent his childhood in and out of foster care…. herself born in Indiana, where her father was an Adventist minister…..THAT is the background from which Sari Fordham arrived in Uganda as a missionary’s child. AND it took place during the murderous regime of Idi Amin. Sari’s memoir of a happy, adventuresome childhood, under those circumstances, must be read to be believed.
We watch Sari and her sister, both endlessly curious. “ You are never safe. You are never too young to die.” “Those were the lessons, clean and simple. But my sister and I would not learn them. We were children, fearless….. and there were many interesting matters.” A snake falls on her father, and her mother addresses another in a laundry basket. Mischievous monkeys drive her mother to tears while her father fails to scare the monkeys away with a slingshot. Sari has a life-threatening illness, but there is no gasoline to drive to a hospital. We watch as Sari and her sister learn, grow, explore, debate, laugh, and cry, and also as they are sent to bed chanting, “Shadrach, Meshach, and To-Bed-We-Go.”
We see Sari’s parents: her mother, embroiled in the day-to-day home and parenting challenges, while her father is safely at the school, teaching adults how to be missionaries. “Uganda’s food had been vanishing….We were lucky for the beans and rice, the tropical pumpkin, the avocado. … “Yuck,” we said, but she said, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Risking the drive into Kenya to buy soap, flour, and candles, Sari’s mother chatted with the border guards about their wives and children and charmed their way across. She hid her fright, determined to get supplies. Later she wrote to her parents, “The borders were hell.” Most of the missionaries left, but Sari’s father was determined to stay, and they did.
We learn about living under a violent dictatorship. Tens of thousands of elephants and rhinos are slaughtered by soldiers for no known reason. Whole villages are found empty, and many people simply disappear from their homes, never to be seen again. Everyone is afraid because Idi Amin uses his absolute power in unpredictable ways, at one time ordering Sari’s and other families to appear before him for a filmed “welcoming ceremony,” and at other times attacking, arresting, and expelling missionaries. Sari’s father is determined to stay, but her mother is terrified for herself and her children.
I loved reading Sari Fordham’s memoir. It gave an almost visceral sense of what that life was, not only for the adults but also for the children. I learned-–about politics, coping in a foreign world, forging a life in a foreign and threatening place, and the strength that faith, commitment, and determination can give. I feel grateful to know those stories.