Monday, December 27, 2010

For better or worse...

"The need is great—and not just in Africa.” --Those were my ending words in a newspaper article that I wrote for my hometown newspaper right before Christmas. I encouraged people to love and reach out to those around them who are struggling.

I finished writing it, and literally three minutes after clicking “send” and emailing the article to the editor, I stumbled across the blog of a family friend who lives in that very town.

As I started reading Sandy’s blog entries, I gasped and couldn’t believe what I was reading.

This young, vibrant family has suddenly been thrown into the middle of a very dark, terrifying storm: Sandy’s 46-year-old husband, Curt, has been diagnosed with Alzheimers.

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Curt has been a teacher for the past 25 years, but several weeks ago he had to stop teaching. I know his students loved him and will miss his presence at the high school; one of my teen girls at HOHC last year had Curt as a history teacher at the time and she highly respected him.

I can’t imagine how difficult and challenging this journey will be for this family (they have two teenagers: ages 13 and 16), but I know one thing: they are 100% relying on God to carry them through. Instead of cursing God, they are still saying “blessed be the name of the Lord;” I can’t tell you how encouraged I am by this! Many Christians turn their back on God during trials like this, but Sandy and Curt know that true peace and strength can only come from Him.

Here’s an excerpt from Sandy’s blog. She writes:

“I am the type of person who carries a flashlight, a tape measure, a pocketknife, and clorox wipes in my purse with me. I am always prepared for everything, I plan for things, I think ahead…..BUT having a husband who has Alzheimer’s at age 46 is NOT something I ever planned for, or ever prepared for…

…I have come to ACCEPT this diagnosis. I don’t like it, I don’t understand why it is happening to us….BUT it is what we are dealing with and I refuse to confront it with a negative attitude…

I am not prepared for this journey we are on….but amidst such difficulties I am amazed at the PEACE I have come to know!! God has truly granted me that peace during the storm of this life.”

Ask yourself….would you have the same attitude and be able to rely on God for your strength? I know how I would WANT to react if I were in Sandy’s shoes, but I don’t know how I would actually react. I watched my grandfather endure Alzheimers for several years, and it was incredibly emotionally draining (my mom and grandma set wonderful examples, the way they loved + cared for him.)

While reading Sandy’s honest and emotional blog entries, it’s evident to me that she meant the words “….for better or worse” when she stood beside the love of her life and recited her wedding vows.

Please please please, if you live locally and know this family, extend a loving hand to them and see how you can be a blessing to them. They’re an incredible family, and I’ve SO enjoyed getting to know them over the last 8 years or so. (My family met them when their son and my brother played on the same baseball team. I enjoyed babysitting their kids when they were younger—their son even gave me a drum lesson once when he was about 9 : )

As Christians, we are meant to live this life TOGETHER—not alone. So reach out to friends (and even strangers) around you who are in the middle of difficult situations.

Above all, pray for Sandy + Curt and the kids each day as they adjust to a completely new way-of-life.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas--Africa style!

Stripped.

That's the adjective that keeps running through my mind to describe Christmas time in Uganda.

Why "stripped" you might ask?

"[stripped]: having or containing the bare essentials, with no added features or accessories..." (dictionary.com)

This is the first Christmas in my life where I haven't heard a single child talk about Santa. I also have not heard ANYONE talk about Christmas sales or buying the hottest new toy for their child.

Christmas time in Africa seems so much more....focused! Focused on the baby who was born in a smelly, dirty barn. To be our Savior. Don't get me wrong, (some) families here exchange a few gifts. And they eat lots of yummy food. And they celebrate with music, dancing, etc. And there's nothing wrong with that; this is a joyous holiday! But my point is, the Christmas season is much more "stripped" than what I'm used to seeing in the U.S. (sidenote: I do REALLY miss snow and gorgeous Christmas lights in the neighborhoods....!)

At the beginning of this week, I was sitting in my apartment with all the doors and windows wide open...the fresh breeze was wafting through, yet I was still soooo hot even in a tank top/shorts (sipping lemonade trying to cool off!) So I knew I had to get involved with some Christmas-y activities to get in the spirit! Watoto's Christmas Cantata was incredible....It told the nativity story yet with an African flair (I'm so glad they didn't overly westernize the production!) African dancing and beautiful singing = fabulous. Check out this photo from Watoto's website...

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The other week, I helped throw a Christmas party for about 60 street boys (who live in the slums.) I have recently started helping another missionary with her weekly outreach in the local slums. I can't even describe how fulfilling it is to love on these boys! They had such a blast at the Christmas party. I was asked to share the Christmas story, and although I was a bit nervous, I prayed that the boys would understand and receive the hope that only Jesus can give. Several boys accepted Christ at the end--totally a God-thing.

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It started REALLY feeling like Christmas on Thursday, when Julie (another missionary who recently moved into the same apartment complex) and I spent allllll day baking Christmas cookies which we handed out to the kids/adults in our neighborhood this morning. Our power went out last night, so I had to frost the sugar cookies (with my homemade pepperminet icing. yum) by candle-light at 11pm....oh, Africa. (We also didn't have running water the last 8 days. But as of today, we have it! Just in time for Christmas....now I can wash clothes, wash dishes, wash my hair.....yaaaaaaay!)

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It "cooled off" to about 60+ degrees, therefore I take any chance I can get to wear a hoodie! [Baking is so much more fun with music. Thanks to Brett, I've had Dave Barnes' Christmas album on repeat since November. FANTASTIC music.]

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I hope all of you are enjoying your Christmas Eve. I sure did! I attended a Christmas carol service at my church and brought a few of my Ugandan neighbors along which was fantastic. As I sat in the service and listened to a Ugandan guy play "Silent Night" on his saxophone, I was overcome with such joy. Yes, of course I miss my family and our Christmas traditions! But without a doubt, I know this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm excited to experience Christmas in Africa tomorrow with my dear friend/co-worker; her family has invited me to celebrate with them--Ugandan style! :)

I'm not sure why, but I keep thinking about the role the Shepherds played in the Nativity Story. I love the fact that they were the first to hear the news of Jesus' birth....the shepherds weren't wealthy; they weren't well-respected by others. They were truly common people. Yet God wanted the angels to appear to them FIRST. Also, I've never thought about this until this year--but the shepherds were the FIRST missionaries! After worshipping baby Jesus, they returned to their village/homes and told everyone about what they had seen.

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

8 Things You're Not Likely to See in the States...

I've been writing a monthly column for my town's local newspaper (back in PA), so this is the one I wrote for November. It gives a colorful glimpse into my daily life and the crazy things I see in Kampala!

8 Things You're Not Likely to See in the States
After five months of living in Kampala, Uganda, the unique, quirky cultural things I witness around me become more and more normal. Yet for you reading this in Pennsylvania, this is not the norm, so please be entertained by this glimpse of Ugandan “normality.”

You name it, a Boda can carry it!

Bodas are a motorcycle form of transportation, but they carry much more than just people. I’ve seen bodas transport a large bed (frame included), crates and crates of bottled soda, a refrigerator, and my personal favorite: at least 20 chickens. Don’t tell PETA! Since the chickens weren’t even flinching, I thought they must be dead, but my Ugandan friend assured me that they were still alive and kickin’. It was quite memorable to see chickens strapped to a Boda, tied together like a bouquet of flowers. That can’t be comfortable or enjoyable.

Communicating Via Eyebrows

When conversing with a Ugandan, you must be astute. If you ask them a question to which the answer is “yes,” then there’s a good chance they will give a simple eyebrow lift instead of verbally answering. Amazingly enough, this also comes in handy if you need to signal a Boda for a ride. A quick eyebrow raise and they somehow see it from down the street!

The Truth Hurts

Ugandans can be very blunt about things that we Americans tend to sugarcoat. For example, if they think someone is gaining weight, they’re not afraid to tell them. But that’s also because, in general, they mean it as a compliment. If someone is large in size, it shows they eat well which means they most likely have money.

Of course, it’s not ALWAYS meant as a positive compliment. A few weeks ago I walked out of my apartment complex to a little shop across the road to buy some eggs. The following conversation took place between the shop owner and customer (both Ugandan women).

Customer: “Hello, I’d like to buy some posho” (a local food).

Shop owner: in a critical tone of voice exclaimed, “You’re THAT size and you want to eat posho?? Don’t you care about your figure?”

I felt quite awkward and just stood there twiddling my thumbs, wondering what would have happened had the conversation taken place between two Americans!

Unbelievably Cheap Produce

Kampala’s fresh, local fruits and vegetables are spoiling me. Not only are they incredibly cheap to purchase, but they taste far better than what I buy at the grocery stores back in the U.S. When the pineapple truck pulls onto my dirt road, I eagerly choose a ripe one for approximately 50 cents, depending on its size. Tomatoes cost about 8 cents apiece, mangoes 10 cents, and a large avocado is no more than 20 cents.

Ugandan Men are Not Shy

To state the obvious, women from western cultures stand out here. When such women walk down the street, Ugandan men often shout bizarre things like: “Come here, my wife!” (usually their voice rises about three octaves which never fails to make me giggle.) I’ve been “proposed” to multiple times, and my American friend almost sold me off to a young man for three cows (as a practical joke, of course.)

I’ve found that ignoring is usually the best policy, but if I’m in a feisty mood, and they overstep their boundaries, I’ll tell them, “Tonta wanya!” which is Luganda for “don’t disturb me” and that usually does the trick.

African Time

It didn’t take me long to realize that if an event (a work meeting, a wedding, etc.) is scheduled to start at a certain time, it most likely won’t. If you’re lucky, it might begin 30-60 minutes after the original start time. The culture here is laid back, so if you’re running late, most likely everyone else is, too.

As I write this, I’m wondering why I leap out of bed and rush to get to church on time, because the reality is it “begins” at 10am but at that time there are only the other Westerners (who are time conscious) and a handful of Ugandans. By the time our 40 minutes of worship is over, then MOST of the congregation has arrived.

Run, Don’t Walk

At times, I think it’d be safer to walk blind-folded across a New York City street than to dodge the taxis, bodas, trucks, and people in downtown Kampala. When crossing the downtown city streets, you literally have to run or you don’t stand a chance. My trick to surviving is to find a Ugandan who is crossing and then follow in close proximity. They’re more aggressive and much better at crossing the busy streets.

You need it, the taxi park has it!

In the city of Kampala, you will find two separate taxi parks. Each contains a maze of hundreds upon hundreds of taxi buses which is a common form of transportation here. But you can shop while you sit inside the taxi and wait for it to depart. Vendors forcefully shove their goods through the window in hopes that you will make a purchase. Craving ice cream? Need a book that translates Luganda to English? Want some apples or bananas? You can buy it all through your taxi window!

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[Just a small portion of the massive taxi park--each time I leave the city to head home, I weave my way through the organized chaos!]

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[Cheap veggies/fruit at the market!]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Look at that smile! [video post]

A few months ago, Dwelling Places assigned each staff member two children as part of the "holistic care program." (We have hundreds of children on our program, but many of them don't live nearby--either at boarding schools, with foster families, or even with their own families in villages. So the Holistic Care Program is for the DP children who live nearby.) The goal is to give the children one-on-one time on a weekly basis: to encourage them spiritually, love on them, etc.

I was extremely blessed to be assigned Filbert (the handsome boy in the video!) and his older sister, Balbina. (Their younger sister, Emai, is also on our program and is a doll!!) Their story really touches my heart....their father died several years ago in the village, so then the mother brought the kids here to Kampala. They ended up on the streets, which is when DP rescued them. Unfortunately, their mother fell sick and died exactly 2 years ago (shortly after Christmas.) Even though his mom's death was extremely difficult for Filbert, he is living his life with enthusiasm. I'm incredibly proud of him, because he came in #3 in his class (the best school around) this past term; he's incredibly bright, and I can't wait to see how God continues to use Him in the future. His smile and loving hugs always brings joy to my days.

My family recently started sponsoring Filbert, so he made this video for them to say hello and Merry Christmas! I wanted to introduce Filbert to you all, as well.

And remember, DP still has children who are waiting to be sponsored! Contact me if you're interested (only $25 a month.)


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Overwhelmed by Needs...

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While people in the U.S. are consumed with buying the hottest new products for Christmas (and waiting HOURS for stores to open on Black Friday….), I am living in a completely different world here in Uganda. And sure, I’m a typical 23 year old girl, so I enjoy shopping…but I have to say, I don’t miss the western world’s push to buy the latest, trendiest things this holiday season.

It really puts things in perspective for me when I talk to my neighbor friend who is 18 and a single mom of a 1-year-old baby; she’s struggling for money and yesterday literally ran out of food and is completely on her own to provide for her baby. I also am finding myself trying to encourage a girl whose mom is ready to give up on life and is daily telling her children, “it would just be better if I ended my life….” because she owes the landlord a few months’ rent.

The last few days, I have been overwhelmed by the needs that I see around me. It’s easy to ignore the need and make excuses. I’ll be honest, one excuse I find myself subconsciously making is: “If I help this person by giving them food, etc---then the entire neighborhood will be knocking on my door, and I can’t help everyone.”

But over the weekend, God keeps reminding me that I can’t sit back and do nothing. He has blessed me with more than I need—so how can I not give to others?? Even if I can just help a few individual people, that’s what we’re called to do! I find myself worrying about the results—“what if this happens?” or “what if this person does this?” but the results are NOT up to us. If we’re obeying Him, He’ll take care of the rest.

Really take a minute to read the excellent John Piper quote below. Be challenged. Be encouraged.

These photos show children whose parents have either abandoned them, given up on them, or have died. They’re “the least of these”—even the government hardly wants to deal with them. But He thinks they’re beautiful. [please notice how thrilled they were to receive a simple TOOTHBRUSH.]

James didn't say "True religion is converting orphans." He didn't say "True religion is making orphans mature and successful adults." He said "True religion is visiting orphans." Results are God's business alone. Obedience is ours by His grace- by faith in future grace. When we grasp this we will be freed from our earthbound way of thinking & released to minister to the ones who are least likely to thank us.

– John Piper

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Friday, November 26, 2010

"Welcome home, eat some grasshoppers..."

My poor, neglected blog! I will try to faithfully update it more often....!

It's definitely not easy to be away from family during the holiday season. Pennsylvania -----> Africa is slightly far! My family was at the forefront of my mind all day, but I refused to feel sorry for myself. Even though I miss them, I'm thankful that I have a family to miss. Skype is a fantastic invention, and I took full advantage of it yesterday...it almost felt like I was in Pennsylvania with my 15 family members (extended fam too). Thanks to a relative's webcam, I saw my family for the first time in nearly half a year!

My Thanksgiving menu this year was....unique. Wednesday night, I returned home to Kampala after a 10-day trip to Kenya (absolutely fantastic; many photos will be posted soon). My Ugandan neighbor greeted me Thanksgiving morning and said, "Welcome home, we missed you! I made you something special...." and before I knew it, she was handing me a plate containing grasshoppers. Don't believe me? See the photo for yourself....!

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I took a deep breathe and told her, "I'll be honest--I need a minute to mentally prepare myself for this, but I'm gonna do it!" and before I knew it, I had eaten about 15 grasshoppers...there was no way I could finish the entire plate, though. Surprisingly, they taste somewhat sweet, and if you can get past the fact that the eyeballs are staring at you, then it's fine. Although maybe next time I'll dip them in Nutella!

Here in Uganda, I was blessed to celebrate Thanksgiving with two American friends, plus a few of their Ugandan friends + German friends. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner without power (we lose power quite often here)--as the sun was setting, I was outside the flat (taking advantage of the remaining natural light) mashing potatoes with a glass jar. Everything came together well, and we had a blast.

Today, I had the opportunity to see a familiar face from my hometown in PA! My friend, Andy, is Ugandan (but currently lives in the U.S.) so he's here working on a neat photo project. It was great to catch up with him over lunch. You may be interested to see Andy's brilliant photography (Ugandans expressing their voices, re: the upcoming election)! http://www.voicesofuganda.com/

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You may or may not know this about me, but I absolutely love live theater/dance performances/etc. Tonight, my roommate and I went to a Modern Dance festival in the city. It featured dancers from Rwanda, the Congo, and of course, Uganda. The dancers were quite talented, and I can't help but wish God gave me a bit of dancing talent so I could move like them! ;)
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Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

[Will You] Start With One?

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(I write a monthly column for my town's newspaper back home. I'm so thankful for this opportunity. I know this looks long, but I think you'll be intrigued! Thanks to Aisha and Richard for sharing their stories! Please carefully read the last few paragraphs and consider "starting with one"! So here's the article--because the above is just a screenshot, so you can't really read it.)

[WILL YOU] START WITH ONE?

As is the case in any culture, the children represent a future generation who will one day lead their country. For the African country of Uganda, the alarming reality is that the children face unspeakable challenges such as extreme poverty. 10,000 of this nation’s children are “street children,” lacking a stable home and begging on the streets. To state the obvious, this street life prohibits them from receiving the tools (an education, for example) needed to one day lead their country.

You may be tempted to toss this newspaper aside right now, thinking, “I wish I could make a difference in Africa, but…” and then insert a string of excuses. But -- what? You feel you lack resources? You believe you can’t meet such an overwhelming need?

After reading this article, I hope you’ll discover that you can certainly offer hope to Uganda’s children, starting with one life.

During my nine months in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, I am volunteering with Dwelling Places (DP). DP’s founder, Rita Nkemba, recognized that Uganda’s children at-risk are the future generation and decided to take action. Formed in 2002, DP exists to change the lives of street children, abandoned babies, and families living in the slums. DP’s goal is to find a safe, loving home for each child on their program. Currently, more than 300 children are supported by Dwelling Places.

I could quote statistics about street children until I’m blue in the face, but most likely the numbers would quickly escape your mind. If you’re like me, your heart is stirred by personal stories, and you’re more likely to share a story with your friend than a quoted statistic.

When I first met 17-year-old Aisha, she was energetically singing songs on our bus-ride to the River Nile in Jinja. At first glance, she appears to be your normal, social teenager. Yet her childhood , before she was rescued by Dwelling Places, was anything but normal. At age 12, Aisha had not learned to write her own name because she never had the opportunity to attend school. Aisha grew up living on the streets, along with her siblings and mother.

“Life on the street is very difficult because you face many challenges.,” recalls Aisha. “We slept on the streets, and at night we looked for boxes to cover ourselves.” Aisha’s mother became pregnant with triplets and gave birth to them on the streets. The babies fell sick, and the mother rushed them to the hospital, but due to the unsanitary conditions on the streets, two of the babies died. Young Aisha was the one begging for money on the streets to pay her siblings’ hospital bills.

After an exhausting day of begging under the blazing African sun, she only made about $1 to $2. When she was twelve years old, Aisha found a job serving drinks in a Ugandan bar, which is not an ideal situation for a young girl. It was at this point in her life that Dwelling Places discovered Aisha and brought her off the streets.

“When I began Dwelling Places’ catch-up school, I wanted to give up, because the four-year-old kids could write their name, but I could not even at age 12. Auntie Maureen (DP staff) encouraged me, and I slowly learned!” Five years ago, Aisha could not read or write; today, she is a motivated student who is excelling in a prestigious high school.

While spending time with Aisha last week, I inquired about her dreams for the future. With bright eyes and a huge smile, she answered: “If God helps me become a doctor, I’ll be treating the poor. I also want to take care of street children. Like Mama Rita, I would build a big home to give the kids a place to be happy, like Dwelling Places did for me.”

A four-step Holistic Care model is used when moving a child from the streets into a loving home. This is a process that can take anywhere from several weeks to two years, depending on the individual. “Rescue” is the first step; DP’s social workers make connections with impoverished children on the street or in the slums. When brought onto DP’s program, the child begins step 2: “Rehabilitate.” DP brings the child to live at their Transitional Rehabilitation Center. Here, the individual learns basic daily living skills and also participates in empowerment and counseling programs. If necessary, the children are enrolled in DP’s interim school until they are caught-up with their appropriate grade, in which case they enroll in a local school. In step 3, “Reconcile,” the DP staff traces the child’s family and then strives to improve the child-to-family relationship. DP’s Family Empowerment Program encourages the family towards self-sustainability by helping them begin income-generating projects. If the child lacks a responsible relative, then the options of foster care or adoption are pursued. “Resettlement” is the ultimate goal, and even when the child is placed into a caring family, DP continues to financially support the child until the age of 18.

Richard’s life is another story of hope.

At age 20, he displays remarkable insight and maturity because of his experiences. We’ve been friends for several months, and last week I had the privilege of hearing his story while we took advantage of a mango tree’s shade on a hot day.

When Richard was just a toddler, his father threatened to kill Richard’s mother. Perhaps displaying God-given wisdom, young Richard urged his mom to flee, so the two of them fled to the slums in Kampala. They later found out that Richard’s father was indeed planning to kill his mother the next day; it was a miracle that they ran away when they did.

Growing up in the slums has been extremely difficult for Richard. He recalls that his mom walked two and a half miles each way to her job at a factory. The little money that she made went towards an education for her son. Here in Uganda, all education costs money. Richard remembers, “My mom would tell me, ‘My son. I didn’t go to school, and your brother didn’t either. Now you’re the person to make the change in our family. I’ll do the best I can to send you to school.’”

“Life was very, very hard. I grew up sleeping on a cement floor, no mattress. And we couldn’t afford for me to eat at school. So I remember coming home and crying from hunger. All mom could afford was to buy me two small donuts (10 cents each), and that was my dinner. I would eat that, and it would have to last me until the next evening.”

When he was fourteen years old, Dwelling Places did a slum-outreach near his home, which is how he became enrolled on the DP program. With DP’s help, Richard successfully completed his remaining years of schooling. Last year he graduated from high school, and although DP can no longer financially support him, Richard has aspirations of beginning and completing university.

In the meantime, Richard is currently volunteering in the Dwelling Places’ office. He is grateful for DP’s positive impact on his life and is giving back to their ministry.

My respect for Richard grew as I listened to everything he has endured throughout his life. He is currently living with his mother in the slums, so he is still fighting to completely overcome poverty. This young man recently decided to strive towards becoming a social worker in order to positively impact children at-risk, as he once was.

Richard is enthusiastic about sharing his story with all of you. He sat across from me and earnestly shared from his heart, “By choosing to help one child in Africa, you are actually helping a lot of children. Because that one child may grow up, see that there are children who are still suffering and feel they should do something.”

So let’s get practical. I want to extend a call-to-action to you, the reader.

1) Consider sponsoring a Ugandan child through Dwelling Places. Sponsorship is more than just writing a check each month. Rather, it’s a relationship with a child—an opportunity to motivate him towards positively impacting his society.

Not sure if you can financially sponsor a child alone? Consider networking. Gather a few friends, your classmates at school, or a small group from church and together you can offer hope to a child.

Choose to sponsor the child in one (or all!) of the following categories: food, housing, or medical ($25 a month for one category) or education ($30 a month).

I know finances can be tight, but you may discover a frequent indulgence that can be eliminated. For example, coffee! A medium Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks costs around $4; drink one less latte a week, and you’re well on your way to sponsoring a child!

2) DP’s founder, Rita Nkemba, will soon be traveling to America and will be in Pennsylvania in mid—late November. She’d love the opportunity to come speak to your church, small group of friends, or wherever you’d like. I’ve been privileged to work alongside of her, and I know you would enjoy her first-hand accounts of rescuing children from the streets.

Please send me an email if you want to take action on either of these opportunities.

You may not be able to single-handedly change the plight of Africa. But I’m asking you: will you start with one life?

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[richard]

New sponsor! [and prayer request]

Hooray for people who are willing to sacrifice and sponsor a child! I screamed out of excitement today in the office when I received a Facebook message from a friend of mine at LU. Last night she was challenged by a sermon on generosity. She remembered my blog post from a few weeks ago where I mentioned sponsoring a child. My friend shared,

"[sponsoring a child] has always been something I've wanted to do, but I have always used the excuse of 'I'm a poor college student.' So anyway, the Lord really challenged me to contact you so I could start sponsoring a child in Uganda! Let me know how to choose a child."

That completely made my day, because when God provides sponsors for our kids, it's worth all the stressful moments here in the PR office!

How can you resist these darling faces of a few of our kids?
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That reminds me....20+ of our kids will be "resettled" in December! The goal of our organization is to find a safe, loving PERMANENT HOME for each child. Living at an "institution" is not the ideal for a child. Many of our kids have been at our transitional home for quite a while (even a few years), but in December most of them will be placed in foster families or resettled with their relatives (if they have loving relatives who can support them.)

Please pray for our social workers as they are working on finding families for our precious kids. And pray for the kids as they transition from their friends and comfort zone (Dwelling Places) to a NEW home. That can be incredibly challenging for young kids!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"autumn" happenings...

Despite the fact that the weeks are FLYING by (not a good thing in my book!), October in Uganda has been awesome. However, I wish I could experience some Fall loveliness right now. Ya know--pumpkins, colorful leaves, sweaters, jeans, apple cider, crisp autumn air, pumpkin bread, fall-scented candles, the usual Fall decorations on our back porch (my mom's a decorating pro!) Autumn is my favorite season, so I'm a bit jealous every time I log onto Facebook and see 20+ statuses that contain words like "drinking a pumpkin spice latte" or "getting ready to go to the corn maze."

Next month, I'll be traveling to Kenya (Nairobi and Mombasa) with my dear roommate. I'm excited to experience (and photograph!) another African country. If any of you happen to have suggestions for lodging, please let me know...(a missionary family, hotel, etc)..we're planning the trip this week hopefully. Talk about last minute ;)

God is really working here in Kampala; I can't possibly explain everything via a blog. But here are a few random photos and thoughts on my mind...thanks, everyone, for your continued prayers for this beautiful country!

The low-point of October was saying farewell to my dear friend, Carolyn, who was another AIM missionary here. Ever since day #1 of my time in Uganda, Carolyn was here too. So it's weird adjusting to life without her...but I'm thankful for our friendship. I'm blessed to have friends here from all around the world, but there's something comforting about having a fellow American around to share specific humor with, etc. Bonding over "Nice" coconut cookies, Friendship Club, heart-to-heart talks, sharing struggles/fears/dreams, laughing until we cry...yeah I'm missing her!
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There's a wonderful Ugandan family who lives in the flat below mine. Each evening when I return home from work, the young kids are outside and greet me with huge smiles and genuine hugs. Love it. They often ask: "ash-uh-lee! Tusambe omupilla!!" (let's kick the ball) I found out they are Christians, which is extra exciting. Today, the mom (Mama Trudy) came up to our flat and taught Grace and I how to make Ugandan cakes (similar to muffins.) I'll let the photos do the talking...
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Catching Grace in a silly mood! We get along well ;)
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I failed to buy paper muffin holders, so I had to hand-make some out of foil. Wasn't as easy as it would seem!
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mmm they were delicious with a bit of Nutella on top! [thank you, HOHC, for your wonderful care package!!!]
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On a completely different note, Dwelling Places' newest child is absolutely adorable. He captured my heart from the moment I saw him....a few weeks ago, we rescued him at Kampiringisa (NOT a safe, happy environment.) Let me show you a before and after photo. When we first met him, he was incredibly solemn and didn't smile for at least a week or so. (He's still VERY quiet, but cracks smiles every once and a while!) I believe he was traumatized and in shock from the conditions at Kampiringisa (he lived there for a month :/ ) It's incredible to see God refining him as he comes out of his shell and interacts more and more with the other kids!

Before [day of his rescue]: at Kampiringisa with one of our staff members. Afraid, solemn, hurt-filled eyes...
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After rescue: at Dwelling Places. starting to show his lovable personality. hope-filled eyes...
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Here's a photo I took yesterday which shows you what my life will be consumed with over the next few weeks: Child Sponsorship letter-writing!! We have about 150+ kids on our program who need to write letters (and Christmas cards) to their sponsors...so about 400 letters. whew!! I somehow landed the role of co-ordinator for this project. Thankfully, I've had some help! We've been working non-stop on this, and we have lots more schools to go to (schools are the most sensible place for us to find the kids....if you want to sponsor a child, it's easy! Contact me.)
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

He'll wipe away their tears

Some days I’m overwhelmed by the suffering that plagues the world around me. When I come across innocent people suffering, I’m thankful that this world is not “it.” [How often I forget that simple truth, though! Each day, I need a kick in the pants as well as God shouting the following through a megaphone: “This world is not about you! Your permanent home is still to come.”]

This morning while spending some time with the Lord, I read a passage in Revelation that makes me incredibly excited for Heaven. I love the imagery of Christ stooping down to wipe the tears from the child’s (adult’s) face.


Never again will they hunger,
Never again will they thirst...
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to the springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
-Revelation 7:16-17

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Max Lucado writes:

“The same hands that stretched the heavens will touch your cheeks. The same hands that formed the mountains will caress your face. The same hands that curled in agony as the Roman spike cut through will someday cup your face and brush away your tears. Forever.”

I wish I could scoop up all the suffering children in Uganda and give them the hope of what’s to come: no sadness, no hurt, no pain, no hunger, no tears, no rape, no theft, no sickness, no HIV/AIDs, no LRA, no war, no child-headed families….

Sometimes my selfish heart asks God "um hey, could you wait a few years before you come back for us? Ya know, give me some time to _____ [get married, raise a family, travel, etc.] But when I read His promises (like in Rev. 7) of what's to come, I think of the suffering souls on earth and then can't help but think to myself, heaven can’t come soon enough.


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[All images were shot by me in the slums: Jinja, Uganda.]