Almost Four Months!

Can’t believe that June will make four months quarantined in our compound. The only contacts we’ve had with are our workers, Salima, our kids, Salima’ sisters and Richard. Our village has been fortunate in a way that since they are mostly farmers they haven’t felt a great impact on their livelihoods. The ones that have felt the most strain are the boda drivers who really can’t work. Some public transport opened today but bodas still can’t carry people. Taxi vans can run at half of their capacity of people and have to be registered. And they can’t travel and pick up near border towns. I’m not sure if they were told they would have to do that ahead of time or if many just waited but there were long lines to get registered so not many on the roads yet. In our town because it will take time registering they cannot travel outside our area. I think it’s a good thing and they are trying to implement a system similar to city busses/bus stops so that there isn’t so much congestion with them stopping just everywhere.

So far Uganda has faired well as far as spread of the virus because of the quick response of closing the airport and at first borders. But there have been growing numbers now as they get some border points covered with the testing machines and stop cargo trucks then trucks from other borders have started bringing it as their countries covid numbers rise. We are still blessed, under three hundred hospitalized as of now, since the first cases in March there have been around eighty recoveries and no deaths. I commend the Ministry of Health and their diligence in testing. I pray that as the country slowly opens up, especially transport that the numbers stay down.

We aren’t sure when children will go back to school but have been so grateful and proud of both Salima for teaching and the children for being such good students for her! She keeps them busy both with school work and Bible study. They were reciting scripture to us today and explaining their understanding of what the scripture means. It’s not enough to just memorize, Salima is doing a great job in teaching them how we are to live them out.

Our bananas are ripening, one tree at a time! Sometimes there may be fifty or more on one tree and we can’t eat them all fast enough! So today Salima gave bananas to children around her house and to some of the widows.

We are getting a little stir crazy but really it isn’t as big of a change as for some people. I never know what day it is! I usually know my days by Sunday’s children’s services and Monday’s going to the prison. So that part is disorienting! Thankfully Richard has been able to provide us with all the food and supplies we need. We are just praying that the sacrifices of everyone for these months were not in vain and they can get back to normal soon.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

Birthday Girls

Thursday was two of our girls birthdays. They are sisters five years apart but share the same date! Their older brother and sister share a same birthday also. It was the first day we have seen them since we quarantined almost two months ago so it was a joy to see them. We got to visit for a few minutes but it was the highlight of the last two months! They are both (along with their sisters) are the sweetest girls, always joyful and have a huge love for Jesus and for their community. And us! They bring us joy but Salima is such a great and close friend to me. I think I might have been the happiest to see her!

Salima turned 25
Takia turned 20

Serving the Karamojong People

Christian and a few Pastors from Mustard Seed Fellowship Church were able to go up to Karamojo to meet people in a few different villages. In this one, which was one of the worst, they have no latrines, they believe latrines will make them sterile so they just go wherever, all over inside their “compound”. Then with the rains it is all muddy and mixed together. They have no bore holes so the water they drink usually comes from either water that runs down the mountains and makes puddles that is then mixed with excrement. A lot of the children (even as old as 10-11 walked around in shorts and no pants. The shirts didn’t cover anything). They have a Church and a Pastor who they said seems to really have a love for the people. Please pray for the Karamojong people. And pray with us as we follow God’s leading in how we might be able to help. We also pray that God will lead someone close by that can teach them about hygiene, take the stigma and myth away from latrines and teach them to grow food on such fertile land. It is from the giving hearts like you that enables us to help people who have never seen the outside world and don’t know how to live any differently than they do.

Their house walls are only about 3’ tall. The doors 2 1/2 x 3’. Easier to keep thieves out.

This is a pretty big guy going through their gate of the fence surrounding the village. There are vines intertwined with sticks

Everyone was very humble and thankful for the food that they received.

There was no pushing or shoving or fighting for food and clothing. In the background you can see their church building outside their village fence.

Giving

Many friends and family ask at Christmas if they can send us something. It really costs too much to send packages. This year has been a rough year and our vacation – and I am very grateful to our organization- was spent with me having surgery and recovering for six weeks! (So thankful I had a wonderfull place to recuperate, even though I wasn’t allowed to do anything fun!) So, if you would like to donate personally to us to add to what we already have so that we can take a much needed break. Send to Rhonda Welch 207 Jimmy Olen Rd Anacoco LA 71403. To be clear this for us personally.

Or for Christmas giving we always appreciate donations to our organization so that we can keep continuing the work we do making an impact on our village. There are many different projects or a general fund that goes towards all work including bore holes. 100% of your donations go directly to the work The Mandate does. On https://themandate.com/donate/ you can see different projects you can donate to. We have been making Christmas clothes for the children this year so if you want to donate directly to that just put a note saying Christmas. Please make your check out to “The Mandate” and mail to P.O. Box 6798, Shreveport, LA 71136.  Please specify the Project or Program it is intended for.

Always pray for us, and for our village ministry, the inmates we minister to and everyone that helps us in our work.

New Bore Holes

We went to see two bore holes we have had put in two neighboring villages. One was just put in this week so it’s not quite done. The cement is still drying. The second one we put in had a well that was hand dug and there was just a trickle that would come out so they had to walk a mile and a half to get water. Can you imagine walking that far both ways – one way carrying at least one 40 pound water can. And that much water doesn’t last very long – I know because we don’t have running water! There was a lot of joy and dancing. But there was a little bitty lady that I went back to greet her because I didn’t think she could even walk. But it wasn’t long after I went back to the others that she came hobbling up to me and wanted to know if now that we put the bore hole on what is her property are we taking it away from her. We told her that’s not what we do, we give and don’t take. Then she got really happy! It is definitely better to give than to receive for us when we see how much these water wells mean. Even when they dig their own, many times they don’t go deep enough and the water mixes with sewage and just contributes to the diseases here. Each one makes a great impact on entire villages.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 1 Chronicles 29:14

Eeew Posho and Beans!

Today was our second time feeding the kids at Global. I heard they were all excited about getting rice again but on Wednesdays we make posho (which is maize flour made in the consistency of mashed potatoes) with beans on top. Not a favorite! So we added an orange in each box. Man! That made a big difference in attitude about posho! There was excited screaming and many thank yous! I told them I knew they would t be excited about beans and posho so I gave them a treat to go with it. Then I told them beans and rice are on Friday’s it was pandemonium! I just love being able to do this! We also gave them wash stands with antibacterial liquid to wash their hands since they were eating oranges. It was a good day!

A Big Challenge

This Friday we will start feeding lunches twice a week to two hundred fifty plus children! I’ve had a rough time sleeping the last few days thinking about this undertaking! I know that once we get a system down we will be fine.

300 lunch boxes! Salma wrote Mandate on all of them!

I am so thankful to our board and to all that donate that we are able to feed the children at the school across the street. They get porridge in the morning but these children go to school until 5 pm. This lunch may be the only or the most food they get all day. Definitely the most nutritious. I am excited and nervous and praying that they will see that it is not The Mandate but it is God that supplies ours and their needs. We are just His tools.

I know my cooks are quite nervous – they’ve only cooked once for this many people and they had a lot of help. Salima and I will be helping the first few weeks and then Salima will help each week. I will help some, I also have to keep an eye on a certain student to make sure she does her work.

This week we have a praise report about some of the women in prison. Two had court dates and will be released next week. They need a lot of prayer because after being on, their families have abandoned them, they have no homes to go to and one doesn’t even know where her children are. I love it when I am with them, and they say that they feel loved and not forgotten when Salima and I come but it is extremely hard for me some days to get up and go. It hurts, I know some are innocent and are victims of the culture. But I go and let God speak through me and even though many times I cry most of the way home I am still blessed to be with women who truly love Jesus. My prayer for the ones released is that they take with them the things we’ve talked about, keep reading their Bibles and when they get their children they raise them to walk with the Lord.

Today is Independence Day here so the gates will be locked after 9 am – woohoo! We can stay in our pj’s all day!

The Season For Matoke

Right now our trees are becoming ripe with bananas and matoke. More matoke than our little bananas unfortunately! We don’t eat the matoke ourselves but we love the tiny bananas! And I am thankful we are able to give it away to those who don’t have any. Before, our workers would often take it, along with mangoes and avocados. I haven’t seen an avocado or mango of our own in a year. We will watch and watch a tree ripen and then “poof” the tree is bare of any fruit and no one knows where they went! Haha! But we’ve had to add some more rules and crack down and let go of some of the help so fear has led them to make sure we get the matoke.

Salima was able to give more to the widows this week. They were so excited. She has also gone to get all the requirements she needs to register her own community based ministry. She plans on counseling parents on proper nutrition for their children and why vitamins and a good diet are important while pregnant. She also wants to do what she can for the widows and to help out orphans with school supplies. In the future she plans to have a training center for seamstresses and have classes for soap making. Her sister Takia was able to go back to her instructor for more training so that she can teach women here in our village. I am proud of her for taking both my and Salimas advice about continuing to learn. While she is getting extra training she is sewing clothes for the children at church for Christmas. And sewing some adult clothes we are going to try and sell, especially to the Mzungus! She made me pants and I already have orders from America for them! There have been many expats in Kampala asking where they can get pants made out of the fabric that is made in Uganda. So I have her working on that right now. I pray that they are both successful in their chosen fields.

I think she gave matoke to twelve widows total. Different ones than the last time. She is learning as she is helping. We give her advice that we have learned over the past four years. Try and help all widows, if they have already gotten solar or other things, move on to others and try to help. She said she learned from the last time she gave out the matoke, we weren’t here or I would have said something (I’m not shy about pointing things out and trying to teach others). But there were two “widows” that seemed to be quite young – probably in their twenties. Before I could say anything about it she came to Chris and told him she thought she made a mistake but tried to correct it. She said after realizing these two were young, and they were quite rude, trying to pick out the best looking matoke, she told them they are young enough to get out and grow their own food or find a new husband! We told her that it is hard to be discerning and have to tell some people no but we are so glad to see that she is aware and humble enough to admit her errors and come to us for advice.

And here I am modeling the first of Takia’s pants she made for me. She said her instructor told her the Mzungus like to wear pants! And it is very hard to find pants made from the fabric made here, which is called Kitenge. A lot of white and foreign people buy this style pants in Jinja as souvenirs from Uganda but they are all made in India! So I pray we can sell many pants and also her other designs in dresses and children’s clothes. I sent her back to school to make at least six more pair, with and without elastic at the bottom. (I prefer no elastic but fell in love with these pants!)

Please pray for Salima, Takia and their sisters. Haria just found out she passed her exams – we knew she would! And Salima will officially graduate Nov 7 with her degree in Social Work. Takia graduated and they have another sister in nursing school. They are all good girls with a love for Jesus and making their community a better, more educated place.

Psalm 5:12: For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.