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!

Mama’s Day

On Monday we hosted twenty-four expectant mothers. We were expecting twenty-seven but some had already went into labor, one had a sick mother she was caring for and one had given birth the night before. (The ones that had already had their babies were still given the tote bags, we just took out the mama kit) They came so that we could give out the Mama kits that have everything they need when giving birth. Jenifer also gave a message to them about pre-natal and post-natal care. (This is what she does for the government.) She also tells them of the importance of immunizing their babies and family planning shots. She is qualified to administer both.

In Uganda (and other third world countries) a woman in labor is expected to bring her own supplies for birth. The hospitals don’t even get them the sterile instruments they need. The current maternal mortality ratio in Uganda is 336 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Infant mortality is 43 deaths per 1000 live births, with 42% of the mortality occurring during the neonatal period. Many of these deaths are related to either poor health of the mother when pregnant, not having regular visits to a doctor or unsanitary conditions during child birth.

A Mama kit has everything a mama needs for giving birth, and is all packed in a sterile package they are not to open until it is time to use. It has both a plastic sheet for mother and one for putting the baby on. There’s a scalpel and string to tie off the umbilical cord, and cotton. We have been asking $10 donations for the kit. That is at cost, we make no profit from these, we just want healthy births for mother’s and babies.

I have spent a lot of time on different projects to find materials but when you live in a culture that sometimes call things differently (I ask for a thermos and will never find. It’s called a flask). But during quarantine I can say something awesome came from it. I became friends with someone in Kampala that could send some things we needed. For five months we weren’t allowed on the roads. Only food deliveries or medicine. People even needed permission from their chairman and local police to go to the hospital in an emergency.

We still talk and he still gets me things I can’t get here, and when he found out we give girls kits and mama kits along with all the other things we do, he and his wife want to help. She is looking for fabric for me, he has gotten me the mama kits at a price that we can now give not only the mama kit but also a receiving blanket, pads for after delivery, soap, panties (knickers), washcloths and a very nice tote bag that our seamstress sews. I’m not one to be prideful but after years of trying to do as much as I can for women and girls this has really excited me and I am proud of myself! I am very thankful that meeting my friend at a terrible time during covid has brought about blessings I didn’t know would come. I am thankful God put us together. And I am so thankful to be able to do more for mothers. The mama kits are so important but other things get forgotten that they also need right after birth.

All of this plus money for the seamstress of the bags for the same $10!

I did tell them they better bring me babies to see after they’ve delivered. I’ve either bought mats, given transport money to get to the hospital or mama lots over four years and only two have ever brought their babies to see me!

Our tags are on the way to see on to the bags! We know it may be a small thing to some but for us and our Hope Ministries it is a big deal! We can’t wait to be able to have these on so that other expectant mothers may know where they can come for mama kits and education!
These are 16”x18” Same fabric doubled. They look expensive! But cost about $1.50!
Takia is a wonderful young lady. Just goes with the flow. She was working on forty girls kits and I came in and asked her if she could stop that and sew 30 tote bags – oh yeah, in three days! She just said “No problem” and went to buy the fabric. She had them done in two!

If you would like to support mother’s or girls please go to 100% goes to the ministries, all administrative fees are covered by our board members.

She’s getting prepared!

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.

Christmas Joy

Investing in others’ lives is not always easy or painless. But being a living example of the love Jesus has for each of us encourages others to move near Him and give love to others. Children learn by example. We have testimony of the young women we have discipled, loved and taught by example that are now being role models and passing it on. Thank you Salima for making these children’s day today. I want you to look at the faces of joy that $15 each gave them for Christmas! And what really makes us proud is that they make the most with what they are given. These are the joys that give me hope and keep me going on the hard days. Four years of investing of our time, love and money has not been wasted! The love and knowledge of Jesus is being paid forward!

And the message I got when I told Salima thank you.

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.

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

Ms Joyce

Isaiah 1:17 says ““Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

We try and meet the needs of widows in our community. Ms. Joyce is one of our more colorful ones!” She tells us (through an interpreter) some pretty funny stories! And she is persistent that I open a medical clinic to take care of people. All I do is give her Acetaminophen for her aches and pains!


Heartbreak And Hopelessness

This week has been a great story week, Raelee has kept us and many readers of Facebook entertained. Today was no exception but with a sad reason.

Raelee went outside. Usually we hear her playing, if there are other kids she is screaming constantly. If there’s no kids she is usually singing at the top of her lungs or running around yelling “Elsa come back”. When all is quiet for 20 minutes I go looking. Today she was at the guardhouse with Sharifu. (He usually knows exactly where she is!) I see her shut the door of the guardhouse and then open it saying ” Well, that didn’t work” She goes in and comes out with a screaming baby. “Why is that baby here?” “He walked here” (he’s barely a year old). “Take him home” He lives next to us so she took him home but his mama wasn’t even there. Raelee left him with their neighbor. I asked her later what was the purpose of shutting him in the guardhouse and she explained she was laying him down for a nap. I told her that we, nor our guards are a babysitting service and the babies have to be taken home. There are two women, the neighbors who will come to get water and leave their babies. One of the women we have had that problem with her many times. He is always crying and our Dr says he is malnourished. We and others from the village have talked to them about the importance of feeding their baby. Now, she is pregnant again. Even though we got a laugh about her shutting the baby in the guardhouse trying to placate him, it is heartbreaking to hear babies cry all day and all night because they are hungry. And I’d like to feed them but that’s not teaching them to take care of their own. If we fed them once, we would be expected to feed the whole family everyday. If it were up to Raelee and I, we would keep the babies!

Over two million children in Uganda under the age of five are chronically malnourished. It is the cause of nearly 60% of infant deaths and 30% of the death of mothers.

Malnutrition is caused by vitamin and iron deficiency in their diets. It is extremely hard to understand when I look around this beautiful green country that people die from malnourishment. Our Doctor here told us that if the baby I described above could have one egg a day he wouldn’t be sick all the time. The family has chickens but I think they are kept and eggs probably sold for school fees, and/or less expensive but not as nutritious foods… I think a big part is not being educated about what is good for the babies. One mother has given Raelee the porridge that she (and others) feed their children. It is basically corn flour mixed with water – not big on nourishment. One of our workers who is also Vice-Chairman of the district is involved with a program that is trying to educate pregnant women and mothers about what it takes to keep their children healthy and clean. Educating them that getting dirty water out of a ditch does not constitute good hygene. Because the world you and I have been raised in has been so blessed, we take for granted and don’t realize there are people in this world have to be educated on the basic neccessities of everyday life. Granted, when you only have dirty water to wash in what else are you to do? And when your grandparents taught your parents in a time that there was rarely clean water, you are just doing what has been handed down. That is one reason The Mandate is so appreciated here is because of the bore holes (wells) that have been drilled every six months, bringing water to all parts of the village.

Christian and I have been researching and praying on what we can do as God’s hands and feet to reach out and make a difference that is lasting, that doesn’t make people dependent on us but to help them with dignity to be able to care for themselves and families. There is such poverty and struggle here that is it rare for community  to reach out to their neighbor because they are barely surviving. We have found a couple of groups in and around Kampala that have been overseeing projects such as our farming project and we have contacted them to ask their advice on the things that have worked or not worked for them. There are a few things that we see helping, with very little cost to us but great impact on the community. The key is training and teaching rather than giving freely. Giving would be much easier but wouldn’t help anyone in the long run. As the old phrase says

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch a fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”

That is a big problem with many organizations who want to help – and are honestly well meaning – but actually end up hurting because once the organization or the money is gone then people are more likely to be worse off than before.

We have found in our year here that what God is showing us is to walk with our community, have relationship with people and live out His truths. Be honest and have a realistic picture of what we can do and what we shouldn’t do – especially if we don’t have His leading in it. We came here with no experience and no personal vision on what to do to help, but as God leads us everyday, more of the picture of His plan develops before our eyes. We have seen so much gratefulness in the farmers with this project, even though we have made mistakes and have learned along the way;; even though these same farmers have grown crops before, getting the good seed and fertilizer has made a difference in their crops. We have seen one farmer who had the best harvest now looked to for advice on what he did to achieve that. We’ve had opportunity to pray with them and give testimony that everything we do is not of ourselves or our organization but because of God’s plan for this village.

The year has plenty of ups and downs, tears and laughter but we have grown through the many trials and joys. I don’t think we would change any of it even if we could, knowing this is where God put us and He has plans not only for the community but for us also. We joke at times that we feel we are actually here because of Raelee, but I don’t doubt it. The joy that she has brought to the people here, and the example of unconditional love she has shown for everyone has probably made more of an impact than anything Christian and I could do. She isn’t shy about making friends or telling about the love of Jesus and because of that many seeds are planted for a great harvest.

We don’t know what this next year will bring, I’m sure many more surprises, twists and turns! But I also know God will bring us through richer than when we started!