New Babies!

So far this month we’ve had four of the women we gave mama kits give birth! All girls!

There were two others that lost their babies that were stillborn, including a set of twins. We pray for those mothers but they thanked us for all of the other things in their kits that helped them so much.

One mama brought her baby born June 2 to see us last week. She was so tiny. She said she was so thankful to have the mama kit when she went to the hospital as they didn’t supply them.

Baby Katherine

Another had her 9 1/2 pound baby at home by herself! I couldn’t even imagine having to do that and be all alone. She was taken to the Dr the next day and mama and baby are doing fine.

Here are two more of the babies that were brought to show us, one was just born this past week and is our “Ugandan Granddaughter”. Her mother is one of our girls that went to tailoring school and will be teaching at our training center. She has a little time anyway to rest and be with her baby – we are under full lockdown here in Uganda. Takia and baby girl are doing well and at home.

A certain little girl was determined our Takia name her baby after her middle name Noelle. I don’t think they knew how to spell it but named her in R’s honor!

Nowelyn Blessing

And baby born June 7 is called Shemora. Her mother only had a midwife to help her so she was very very thankful to have everything she needed so a safe birth.

Baby Shemora

I thank all mothers who have received the mama kits for bringing their babies so that we could see. And so thankful they are all healthy and Mamas’ are happy! We will be having 25 mothers ready to receive their bags July 1 but since we are on lockdown they will be delivered to them individually.

Everything in the tote bag, including the important Mama kit plus other things a post natal woman needs.
We are thankful to Takia that she got so many tote bags done before she had her baby!

Knowing But Not Seeing

We (The Mandate) support one of our Ugandan daughter’s community ministry. We sent her to college to be a social worker and this past year and a half since she graduated we have been able to support widows, orphans and those that have the most urgent needs. She loves her community and puts her all into helping wherever and whenever needed. Our ministry has really grown and supporting her and mentoring her for the future has been a joy for us.

When we first moved to Uganda we met a very educated Doctor and I was so discouraged, we didn’t know the culture, found we were being taken advantage of and just really didn’t know where to begin or what to do. It was a little embarrassing to fall apart on his office. His words have stayed with me in everything we do here “what are you going to do that will have a lasting effect even after you are gone?” The water wells are definitely something that will last but investing our time in teaching, mentoring, parenting these girls we have will go on long after we have gone. (He also said we are working among a very stubborn people where we live!)

We don’t leave our farm that often to just visit in the village. It’s hard, we want to make relationships but because needs are so great it usually just ends up being people after people asking for money. We know it’s hard but for us as a ministry we want to get to know people and not just be looked at as an ATM. That is why we are so thankful for and why we support Salima. I and our daughter were able to go and visit with the people Salima has been caring for and people along the way so that they can see we are real, we want to be friends and we don’t feel like we are above them. Even after six years we are always learning and today I learned a lot. It was also good for our daughter. Even though she is growing up among the poor she is usually on our compound and hasn’t really seen what real poverty is.

I want to add that I am usually behind the camera, I don’t like to be the center of attention or feel worshipped. It makes me feel that I am better than them. And I don’t. But their customs are to show their gratefulness by taking pictures of us giving the food and things we have. I would rather take a picture with them rather than pictures that highlight what “we are doing for them”. So I try to balance my humility with their customs. Not always easy!

Besides just being widows, which there are sixty two, some have grandchildren that have been orphaned and they care for. One of the things today that got to me the most was a widow that has a granddaughter and grandson that are around twelve and thirteen and the conditions of where they had to sleep. Their entire house was about 12×15’ and the two kids slept at the end of the grandmothers bed on a torn up 4’x4’ piece of foam. We gave them a mattress and blanket and it was like Christmas to them. It was like Christmas for me. No matter how the ones we visited today have to live and do without they have joy. And it is infectious!

This piece of foam is what the two children were sleeping on at the end of their grandmothers bed
She was so happy to have a “real bed” and blanket.

I’m thankful for Salima, now I feel I can get out of our little bubble and get to know people. Which has always been my prayer.

We are under a quarantine again but the past couple weeks there have been more things of God happening than in six years. He is bringing so many good things out of this awful pandemic we find ourselves in.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

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

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.

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!

Lunch Success!

We fed the children at Global School. Everything went so smooth, didn’t even need the restless night of worry the night before! Everything was finished early, kids fed on time and God blessed us with extra – there turned out to be less kids than we were told – so we were able to take food to Ms. Joyce’s family! Just like I would say to every classroom as we went in to see them eating “God is good” and they would say “all the time”! And He is!

I am thankful also that my advice to the cooks about soaking beans overnight worked out. They don’t always think us Mzungus know much, and we do learn from them. And they were skeptical at first but after cooking they were so excited that it took half the time to cook them! I was relieved they saw the difference!

Ms. Joyce’s family

When Does Serving Stop And Enabling Begin?

Let me start by saying I love my life, I love the place I live and the people I live with. I love God and I love serving Him. I am humbled that He chose me to be a light and help to the people here. And even in the hard times here (which are far out weighed by the good times)there is still joy and many things to be grateful for. We are at seventeen months here and I still pinch myself sometimes because I can’t believe our wonderful, crazy life! But there are struggles and I think one of my biggest ones right now is that line between God’s command to love and serve others or enabling and spoiling others.

I know that so many of the cultural norms can’t be changed just because I wouldn’t do things the same. My ways are not necessarily the best way and their ways are not always the wrong way.  But because I try to live my life by the Word of God and His leading, and I am trying to point people to Him, there are things that I have to try to teach a different way of doing. The struggle right now is with parents who give up all responsibly to their children if we give any kind of assistance. A wise man once told me when I was trying to help a friend get out of the drug life, you hold your hand out so that they can pull themselves up, you don’t hold out your hand and pull them up. That’s what he did with me, and then helped me help myself. And I’ve always remembered that and try to do that with others. Help them to help themselves, give a helping hand but not a handout. It is extremely hard to do that here, and I pray I don’t get to the point that I don’t want to help anyone.

I’m tired, emotionally, of being appointed Mother to too many kids that have a parent who, because we want to HELP them, as soon as we do they totally wash their hands of all responsiblity. And when I try to teach them that this is not right, I offend them and cause hurt feelings. Friends of Mandate are paying for college for an exceptional young lady. Essentially I am just the executor of the money to get her through school. But her mother now won’t take any responsibility in any part of her life now. Even at the college filling out enrollment forms with the mother there, they insisted my and Christians names were put as the parents. I pushed back and said no but it caused major embarrassment and tears. So we did. I’m sure partly, the mother fears if there is financial problems they would come to her for the money, but we have denied them nothing financially. Ever. If there are calls for parents to meet with school officials it is now considered our responsibility, not the parents. Look, I raised two young men, I sacrificed time and energy and everything in me to help them succeed. I am raising a little girl now at my older age, like the saying goes “been there, done that” and really don’t want to do it again! I am not going to another parent\teacher conference lasting six hours, especially when I don’t understand a word of what’s being said!

Chris asked me once when I voiced my aggravation what service means to me. I do believe I was sent here to serve others but what good am I doing if I am perpetuating cultural values that are not beneficial to the culture. How do I help someone when that just leads to them becoming dependent on me? Its a problem here, shirking responsibility for your children, having too many to be able to care for. I cannot be a true mother to 18 kids when half of them actually have a parent. I will be a help to work with them to better their lives, get an education but just as they are unable to do all for their child, I can’t do it all either.

And put on top of that the headaches of raising teenagers. Definitely already lived through that! Trying to teach them that I am here to help them with their education, living expenses don’t include satellite TV and internet! Learning to be responsible for themselves. The two girls that are in college do very, very well with the money they get each month, usually having a little left over each month. The boy we are helping through high school hasn’t done so well with his money and we are working on that. He does not have any good influence and the half-brother he has is definitely not teaching him how to prioritize. The brother lost his job, comes to us begging for money for food yet makes sure his TV and internet stays on. I don’t have much sympathy in that situation – I know what it is like to scrape together grocery money and I can promise you when we went through those times we did not have TV, internet and I didn’t get to have my nails done! I do want better for them, but I want them to learn you have to start with the education and use that to go on to be successful – you don’t start out with all the “stuff” while borrowing money for food.

I never expected when moving here to be mother to so many, to be “Mama Raelee”, it has many joys but also the same pain and aggravation as raising our own kids. The seven orphan children don’t ever give us any problems, and lately their father has been doing what he can to help in feeding them and just being around. He married a woman who won’t have anything to do with the children, even though she lives there. But the next parent/teacher meeting, he WILL be the one going!

I still have one more of my own to raise. Never dreamed I would be this age and raising another child while being a grandmother! But she is such a gift from God and joy to our lives. That does not keep me from waking up in cold sweats thinking about her teenage years!

This morning we are waiting the arrival of the two hundred rabbits, so much excitement here with the workers. They are excited because the will get to see the fruition of the job they have been working so hard on the past month. They are very excited that they found out yesterday they will still be working for the next month or so on another building and plastering our building and the apartments. We have been very proud of them, they have all been giving a part of their pay every week towards medical – without us even asking. And a few have been giving us at least half of their pay to save up. Some want to get solar panels so they can have lights in their homes. We made a deal that when they save half we will match the other. They also pool a part of their money and give that to someone in need in the village. It is so awesome to see how they will work together to accomplish goals and to give part of what they have to help someone else. We have seen so much progress in them in the year and a half we have been here. Sometimes we wonder if we make any kind of difference, if we are a light that shines here for God’s Glory but in the past few months we have seen the fruit of things we have done. Little fruits, but fruit nonetheless, that we will feed and water and watch it grow.

I promise you there will be pictures of the rabbits when they get here – hope you have a very blessed day!