Carpenters in the Making

Christian has been very busy trying to get the training center ready, I thought we would have our first class by May. But we don’t have a Lowe’s or Home Depot here so getting the materials for wiring the lights and electricity in the building has been a nightmare. Getting wood the he doesn’t have to plane and recut isn’t possible. So progress has been slow. He’s also been making me cabinet doors and a new cupboard because I had the bright idea when we moved here to have lockers made for our food. But, especially during lockdowns and stocking up they aren’t big enough so they are to go in the training center for the students to each have their own for their supplies.

But, Raelee’s two best friends that are here most of the time are always wanting to help him. One’s dad is in the military and gone most of the time. When you join the military here you are in until you are 65. Sula’s dad isn’t around very much because he has other wives and spends more time gone then being there. So Christian is a father figure for them. When he is trying to work he will have four little hands trying to help with everything and makes it extremely hard for him to get anything done. They can’t do a lot on their own (we thought!) and there isn’t much they can do to help with the training center. We are under quarantine again so they aren’t in school. They are getting too old to want to play house and dolls with Raelee so they always want to be in the barn with him. So Christian put all projects on hold so that they could help him build a dog house. We recently got two Rottweiler puppies after our Dobermans died of cancer. We are tired of them sleeping in the bathroom and when they get full size we need somewhere to lock them in when we have the kids for church or visitors as most people here fear dogs.

The boys were thrilled and actually did a great job even when Christian wasn’t right there. Not that he left them for very long around all the power tools and saw! But he did go to check on some other projects going on and when he came back they had one wall up by themselves. So not only giving his time that he really didn’t have, he’s teaching them early a skill that will give them an advantage when they get older. And an example to be for them. (Personally I think it should have been a little bigger considering these dogs can get close to one hundred pounds! But the boys would gladly build another one!)

In the beginning Christian said “I left them for ten minutes and came back to this. You see what I’m working with?”! He had the flap up at one time and underneath he had yellow safety glasses on!
Very proud of these boys. And I know Christian is because he actually asked to be in a picture! That does NOT happen very often! (And even though she is small Bella sacred people more. But there’s no way she’s going to sleep in a dog house outside. She barks all night anyway when outside. But she alerts us from in the house if there is anything out of the ordinary outside. She’s a brat but a good security dog!

Bring the Little Children unto Me

Its very sad baby Kamuya has passed away this afternoon. The malnourished baby. It is sad but I rejoice because this baby who has only knew a life of pain and nothingness is now running and dancing on streets of gold.

I am sad that Salima hadn’t discovered him sooner, many times babies or children that aren’t deemed perfect are hidden away. It is just in the past years we’ve been here that there are more and more ministries to help even albino children who are thought to be a curse.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 10:14

Please pray for the mother. She is not all there mentally, was not in any position to care for a baby and her mother can’t watch over her all the time, she’s an adult with a child’s mind and is deaf also. Someone keeps taking advantage of her, she is about to give birth any day now. And the circle goes on. That is the saddest thing here.

Stealing Uganda

Uganda is home to approximately 43 million people and a very young population, with an average age of 15 years old. Think about that for a minute, 43 million people with the average age being 15 to 16 years old. That is what makes such a beautiful country so poor. There are so little opportunities for such young people to earn an income. Little money for many to even earn a basic education, no college or training school and very little hope. They are exactly the ones that are preyed upon because they are easy to persuade- the old adage if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. For the desperate kids though, all they can see is an opportunity of money and employment offered to them.

Because of where Uganda is located and its beauty, it is an important destination for international tourism and trade. The routes for trucks coming and going is a hub here. It is easy for truckers to get people out of the country, especially because many young girls make their living off of the truck drivers and can form a trust with some that are just grooming them to get more girls to traffic. Tourism also doesn’t help. People that come for the sole purpose of taking someone for what they can get out of them. In 2019 laws had to be changed for adoption and”legal” rights over children that actually had families here. It previously was changed to the adoptees staying three years before adoption. In 2019 that was changed to one year. Before there were any laws, a person could come and inside a month take a baby or child back to their country. Many times the families were either ignorant that their children were missing, often the were either given money for a lie other than the fact their children were being adopted by foreigners. Or “brokers” would tell families that the children had an opportunity to go to the best schools here in Uganda, while taking money from (mostly Americans) people that believed they were adopting an orphaned child. And not all adoptions were for loving families. Many were adopted or sold off to groups who used these children as either work or sex slaves.

When we think of human trafficking we often first think of only sex trafficking. While this is highly prevalent, there are almost as many or the same in the trafficking and selling of children and vulnerable people as “slaves”. Used to make money off them by sending them out to work – sometimes not even bad jobs – but keep all of their earnings and their passports so that they have no choice but to depend on their kidnappers and associates.

Recently there was a man who recorded a confession and was later arrested because he said over the last twenty years he had been illegally trafficking children for the equivalent of about $14,000-20,000 USD. Over twenty years that may not sound like a lot to an American but when you consider that many were probably sold for just a few dollars you will then look at it differently in terms of the amount he could have sold off.

The 2020 Police Annual Crime Report indicates that a total of 666 persons were victims of Trafficking in Persons compared to 455 victims in 2019. Of the 666 victims in 2020, 497 were victims of transnational trafficking – many from trucking, import/export “business covers” and the many ads for great paying jobs under excellent conditions as hotel maids, models, mechanics and the like.

It was just in 2009 that the 2009 Anti Trafficking Act criminalised sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 15 years imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to life imprisonment for those that involved children.

Human trafficking has become a major problem in Uganda. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report from 2020, estimates determined that traffickers are currently exploiting 7,000 to 12,000 children through sex trafficking in Uganda. The report also outlines how human trafficking in Uganda primarily takes the form of forced physical labor and sexual exploitation, both in the male and female population. I personally, see ads all the time on FB or through the newspapers for jobs overseas. Usually “no experience needed” and sound like good jobs. These are mainly in middle eastern countries. It is so sad to make because I know how desperate these young people are.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” 2 Corinthians 11:14

There have been some actions and investigations, not enough, but it takes more manpower and police when you consider how many countries border Uganda and the total of flights coming in and going out each day.

Last month, anti-human trafficking detectives arrested a woman accused of defrauding 200 girls of over Shs 90 million in fake job promises. (Approximately $255,000 USD) She was trying to lure girls from various parts of the country on promises of securing for them jobs in Kampala city. The victims had been exploited under “Alliance in Motion Global Uganda Limited”. The girls told police that they were charged 450,000 each in order to secure jobs that would pay them between Shs 650,000 and Shs 1 million per month. There are many stories of people being asked for large amounts of money that they have to borrow or make in “any way possible” to get the money in hopes of a good paying jobs that will support themselves and more times than not these young girls already have at least one child.

Also in March 30 females all from Burundi were found locked inside a house in Uganda. These people were trafficked here and were going to be given to shady labor exporters to illegally take them to Arab countries”.

There have been many groups of woman and girls stopped either at the Entebbe Airport under suspicious circumstances with tickets or visas that were going to middle eastern countries. Or at the borders of Kenya and Uganda. Since 2018 both countries are trying to work together to stop trafficking at the borders.

I know this isn’t just a Ugandan problem. It is a worldwide problem; it’s the vulnerable, desperate and isolated people that are the most targeted. And though it is happening more and more in the States, third world countries have previously been the biggest targets. Especially a country like ours, Uganda, where the population is mostly teen agers that have babies early and most of young girls only other option is to be married off to the highest bidder to what he will give to her family. So the promises made to them by unscrupulous people sound much better than the other options.

When we go to talk to the girls for Hope for Girls we do talk about the risks of trafficking. One thing we’ve found, even in the educated young ladies is that Americans are all good. I think the reason for this is the times they are in contact with either mission groups or people that come to help and assume all Americans have their best interests in mind.

So it is very easy for an American to sway these young ladies. We tell them that there are people in this world that consider women, girls and sometimes even boys as property. Some people steal girls and women for many reasons, not just sex or slavery but sometimes as drug mules. They lie to get them and by the time they realize they are in trouble it is too late for them to escape. Or they are just taken by force – kidnapped.

We tell them some of the lies people will tell to trick them into coming with them, offering money or other rewards. School fees are something everyone needs because although government schools are available and “free from tuition” many can’t even afford .50 notebooks or $5 uniforms. And in many rural areas the teachers don’t care, or don’t even show up. So many children go to boarding school. So a lie like this would definitely get a child or parents attention and desire.

Another thing we tell them to watch out for is the offer of a ride or food. Promising a job in another place, promising to pay their parents so that they can be taken for a better life or threatening to kill, or worse, a family member.

Anyone is vulnerable and anyone can be a trafficker. We tell them to be safe before taking any offers. Talk first to someone they trust and see if they can check it out. Usually adults are more suspicious and can guide a young person.

We teach a little self defense and tell them if at all possible don’t be put at night alone. My daddy always said “nothing good happens after midnight”! We tell them to implement the buddy system and try and travel in groups. But most importantly watch out for each other.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. John 10:10

Never Early…Never Late

Don’t give up!

If you’ve followed my blog for long you know all about the rabbit project. About four and a half years ago I felt God put it on my heart to raise rabbits to help with all the malnutrition here. The plan was to have a training class, to show how rabbits can be raised easily and inexpensively and they can feed their children and themselves meat every day. Because it was something new I was laughed at and if it wasn’t going to make fast and easy money then most people weren’t interested.

It is such a frustrating thing to see so many children that only have a corn flour porridge everyday, even when the family has chickens and eggs. But they are sold for school fees or to buy the flour so that they can make it stretch. There is no nutritional value in maize flour. And though the focus on education is important, hungry and malnourished children don’t learn as well if they aren’t healthy.

What I would like you to get out of this is, just when you are ready to give up, as I have been, God shows up. That’s the hard part, patience through the times you don’t see things happening in the way you envisioned or even thought was the vision God gave you. I’ve been struggling whether I was mistaken, that maybe the idea was just my own. I spent forty hours a week in the first few years trying to do all “I” could to at least sell some to help keep feeding two hundred to sometimes four hundred rabbits!

Then God gave me the answer and the blessing of seeing my dream of feeding those most vulnerable come true in a big way just as I was ready to give up!

The same Pastor friend that is working on the school for orphans and is already caring for about 134 teenagers and the few small ones found out we raise the rabbits. He was so excited he wanted to start training right then! And we were leaving in two days to see our son for two months! But the excitement he had that there was a way besides chickens and agriculture they could have their own food to feed these children was infectious!

Taking notes and soaking in as much information as they could!

Pastor and a teacher or two and some students started coming in the end of March for two days every week. They went through all the training of feeding and sicknesses, how to recognize and treat. And the fun parts of cleaning the cages and how important that is.

For the last three to four weeks they have built their own cages and are ready for some rabbits! I am so excited for them but I am blessed beyond measure that even though “my plan” didn’t go as I expected and on MY time frame, God knew. And this will be a blessing not only to the kids there at the school but prayerfully to their community once they see that they too can raise rabbits for meat easily and inexpensively.

We are thankful we have been able to bless this school, and these children who have no one else but this man who has been Pastor/Mother/Father to them all. As much as we can whether it is through the Hope for Girls or helping with raising rabbits or their school as they come along, we want to walk with them.

Thank you Lord and Hooray for Pastor Emerson and Global High School! As you have been blessed, you don’t even know the blessings you have given us!

Don’t give up. If you feel God has given you a calling, a project or a ministry just know it’s not always (rarely is!) in our own timing or understanding. But if we are faithful and keep at it unless He tells us to quit the blessings are beyond measure!

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

God’s Appointments

I was going to write a different post but I got some news yesterday I want to share. I want to share for two reasons, one is you never know the fullness of God’s plans, even on what we would think is a small scale. The other reason, we sometimes don’t even think about the way in which God works. Our vision of Gods kingdom is so small we can’t fathom the mystery and greatness of His works. We only see one thing but God sees all and not only is He working on you and what He asks you to do but he is already putting other plans in place so that it all comes together when you least expect it.

My last post mentioned that smiling little boy – Suluman – I wanted so much to take home with me. The one that had been abandoned at a young age (he is four and I think I said he was three) I had even asked Pastor Emerson if any of the children are ever adopted out. Apparently there were more people around listening (something that is common here I’ve found many times. I’m not going to say busybodies, but….In our village especially!) I turned to Chris and asked him if we could pray about it. I will just say, I am 57 and am raising an eleven year old girl so I already have my hands full. And they say this one is a little firecracker! Of course Chris said we could pray about it if that’s what I wanted to do but there would really have to be confirmation it was God working it out!

I believe God has a sense of humor, along with His plans and not mine. I have said many many times I don’t even like kids – except my own and grandkids! (Don’t judge me!) Once they hit 3-4 you can have them! I also say that especially here with so many beautiful children that have no families, that is why God gave me Raelee. To remind me that cute little baby does grow out of that cuteness and dependence on you and one day grow their wings and fly from the nest! . (That’s why I’ll stick with animals!) But since I got saved He has put me with children. Most times because I was the only one around to do it and a lot of times it wasn’t willingly but I always was blessed. (Unless it was teenagers – I just don’t know how to relate to them!) But here knowing the things these girls, boys and babies go through, my love for them all has grown.

So, it seems the word was spread around that some mzungus had come to their school and wanted to know if they could take him home. Whispers that mzungus were going to adopt him and take him away. (No offense but rumors can spread so fast that we find out what we are doing almost before we even do it in our own village!)

A lady came to Pastor, seemingly upset. He said she had often come around and sometimes would bring him food or clothes and even as we were there had bathed him and dressed him and he had walked off holding this lady’s hand. Pastor Emerson said there were times he wondered about this lady’s affections for this one boy. She told him she had heard that mzungus might be taking him away and she was very distressed. She told him she was his mother. Her husband had left her and she couldn’t care for him as a baby so she had left him there. But through the last few years had still been in his life and did what she could to help when she could. She was so afraid that he would be taken away by the mzungus and she wouldn’t see him anymore.

Through his own tears, of joy and amazement of God and God’s timing Pastor Emerson told me this story. And through my tears I said “Well, I got my answer to prayers pretty clearly”! A child belongs with his mother and I am so thankful that she was courageous enough to step up and say she was the one who left him because she knew she couldn’t care for him. She had pictures of him after she had him and they had it checked out with the Chairman of their area. She has a new husband and I don’t know their situation but either they still can’t fully care for him or she feels he has become at home there she still wants him to stay with at the school. She still wants to give him whatever she is able to. We pray there will come a day she can take him home and they will be a family.

It’s an amazing story of love, between the talk with Pastor Emerson and how his girls need the help of Hope for Girls to how it also gave a woman the courage to say she gave her baby up. God is always working situations but we don’t see the fullness. He knew exactly what would happen and in His timing. We sometimes get so wrapped up in what “we” are doing for the Kingdom that we don’t realize what He is doing all around us when we obey and GO!

I have the joy of knowing I will still see him when we go there but not all the work of raising him! And great joy he will know he is loved by many, especially his mother who was scared and just wanted a better life for him than she thought she could give.

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

Studies And Fun!

Salima has been teaching our six children so they won’t fall behind. She has started teaching in our big building. The government also has classes on TV twice a day according to their grade levels that they watch at her home. We are proud she has taken this on by herself. We don’t know yet how schooling will be handled once quarantine is over since children have missed pretty much an entire term. And they also have Bible class. The girls were telling me so many scriptures and stories in the Bible today. Salima brought them to clean the apartments next door – she usually cleans once a month so it doesn’t get overrun by spider webs. She said they need to learn how to clean!

She has them separated by their grade levels
Phiona at the board, Naomi and Becca watching
Elisa and Musale
Masale and Becca
Having fun after classes! Elisa (the youngest) is such a funny little guy!

Visitation Day

Saturday we got to visit our kids at school. We haven’t seen them since the end of January. They are all doing so well and we had a great day. The youngest is Elisa and he is a character. We’ve been caring for them since he was just a baby. He keeps us laughing! They get excited because we bring lunch, goodies, and pocket money for the canteen! I want to commend the school for taking precautions, before we could enter school grounds we had to get out of the car and wash our hands.

The oldest, Phiona will be leaving primary school at the end of the year and we have to make decisions about where she will go next. She has struggled all through school and is now 17 and is in what we would consider about the seventh/eighth grade. Secondary school is tough and we don’t think she’d do well so she is thinking about going to tailoring school instead. She wants to be a clothing designer. And luckily we have already put Takia through tailoring school so she could be a great mentor to her and she won’t be far away. It is going to be very hard either way for her to leave her siblings because she has been mother to them for the past five years since their mother died. We were encouraged that their father had started to come around but were just told he married his third wife and left. He left the second wife with them (here on the village) and she doesn’t like them. When they are home for holidays she cooks her own food and the girls have to prepare food for the six of them. Pray with us about Phionas future and the decisions we will have to help her make.

For once I am not just behind the camera!

Elisa put so much food on his plate!
He stuffed it in a bag for later and put it in his locker. Hopefully he ate it that night!
Salima gave them cookies and juice!
They are all growing so much!
Musale
Elisa
“Posing” with the three girls! Rebecca, Naomi and Phiona
Masale
Elisa the wild child. He opened and drank from three sodas for the kids lunches before we caught him!
Naomi is the second wild child, so hilarious! She is trying to use each of Salimas fingers to unlock her phone. They love to take our phones!
Naomi
Phiona

As it is harder to make blog posts there is sometimes more stories on FB. You can follow us on The Mandate Uganda on Facebook.