Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Father's Divine Love - Part 1 (Peniel House)

This is the beginning of our deep dive posts into the people and places that we visited. Our trip took us to Jinja, Uganda for the first week to Father's Divine Love Ministries. I was introduced to this organization last year. It was on my heart to go to Africa and I had done a lot of research on where to go. Uganda popped up as a place that had tremendous need and the orphan population was large. It also was a place that was politically stable, welcomed visitors and generally is a very safe place to go. I have 3 kids who I kept at the forefront of my planning to make sure they weren't orphaned in the process of me going to help others. I had finally decided what organization I wanted to visit - Nyaka school in western Uganda. But that very Sunday after I had made my decision I went to church and heard about how the youth group had started a relationship with a ministry in Jinja that was helping orphans and they had been raising funds for them. I was sitting in the pew and my heart started to race and I was shaking (God's way of telling me to pay attention) :) I knew then that I had to visit FDLM as well. I was very happy that Third Church had started building a partner in Africa. I had read several books including "Global Soccer Mom" that was critical of the lack of Christian response to the AIDS epidemic and had been dissapointed that Third wasn't supporting any ministries in Africa- until now.

So FDLM was on my list of places to go. I contacted Pastor David Livingstone Zijjan and he was more then willing to welcome mom and I there. They had asked if we would commit to supporting a widow home before our trip. We were more then willing to do that and through friends, family and Peoria UMC were able to fund one of their homes.
                                  Google Map of the Places we visited in Uganda
When we got to FDLM they shared with us their program and we got the privilege of meeting the beneficiaries. FDLM has many different "arms" of the organization. They care for about 90 orphans - 50 of the older children are at the base of FDLM where they have a room and are cared for by "Momma Lillian" who is pictured below; isn't she beautiful?! Lillian has 2 boys and 2 girls of her own and they live on the base. Her 4 year old son Feva was a constant source of entertainment and fun. We have a bunch of pictures of him posing for the camera.
One core value of FDLM is the concept of not just caring for orphans with shelter, food, education but to love them! This is best done in a family setting and not in an instituation and it's critical that young children who have no parents to feel the love of a parent. Because of that they set up "Peniel" to live out that value.

Peniel is a 3 acre plot of land on a beautiful hill that has amazing views of Lake Victoria. Right now they have 3 homes built on those 3 acres. Each home has 3 bedrooms (one for momma, one for the girls and one for boys). It also has a large sitting room. These homes have a Mom and up to 10 kids. The mothers have their own children and then take on orphans to care for. At Peniel the children get the love of a mother, siblings, food, shelter and a built in community. It is within walking distance to the base of FDLM. The mothers of Peniel share the duties of cooking at the base for the larger group. Below are pictures of the mothers (Jessica & Nakagolo or "Auntie Naka") that we got to hang out with. They are beautiful too! Jessica is sitting by her kitchen and she is a fantastic cook. They were our first glimpse at how much work the women of Uganda do. They wake up very early and start their day preparing breakfast and don't end the day until supper has been served for the family at around 9pm. They also take care of their 10 kids, get them off to school, tend the garden, and of course general "mom duties". As a mother myself this amount of work is not lost on me.

Both Jessica and Nakagolo were always welcoming to us, filled with gratitude and had the Holy Spirit glow to them. Such fine examples of God's love!

Their vision for Peniel is to have 10 houses in the area. FDLM is doing a great job creating and supporting these family units. It takes about $150 per week for each family to provide for them. There are so many more children that could benefit from this and it would be such a great blessing for them to be able to expand. If you are being called to give to FDLM you can do so on the left hand side of this blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What a trip!

We will be highlighting specific stories of special people that we met and had the pleasure of getting to know more intimately. For this initial post we wanted to share the overall trip and how it has impacted us personally.

(By Tara)

I’m not going call it a "once in a lifetime trip" because I’ll be back.  This trip is the beginning of my relationship and love of the people of Uganda. One of the most resounding memorable things to me won’t be the suffering, won’t be the poverty, won’t be the conditions but it will be the welcoming unconditional love that we received from the people in Uganda. It was a universal feeling that we got from both areas of Uganda. Everywhere we went they began with “you are most welcome” and that wasn’t just something that was said but what was demonstrated. They welcomed us into their homes and into their lives.

The trip couldn’t have gone more flawlessly. We had many vaccinations and heard about the ebola outbreak so we were a little nervous about picking up something but neither of us for the full time got sick – not once! That is such a blessing and actually a rarity when it comes to any international travel, travelers’ diarrhea is almost a given. We ate very well and even though I’m a vegetarian I only had chicken once and that was my own fault for not ordering the right thing. We were also blessed with having the travel arrangements coordinated by Sam Mugisha of BIC travel. Magambo Michael was our driver for the whole trip. We got to know him very well and he us, we felt safe and in good hands. He couldn’t provide smooth roads but he navigated what was there without fail. He also made sure he was aware of where we were at at all times and that we didn’t do anything unsafe. Mom wanted to go for a walk but he told her that she could go for a walk if he is driving behind her J We even got in a safari at Queen Elizabeth’s Park. That was not the purpose of the trip but it was a pleasure to see all the animals that I love to see in a zoo in their natural habitat.

We spent about 5 days at Father’s Divine Love Ministries in Jinja. We stayed at Sarah and David’s house who run the church and ministries. They have 4 great kids and we got to know very well (Rapha-8, Melody-6, Maranatha-4, and Mehitabel-2). They have a wonderful home and were for hospitable to us. Sarah is an amazing cook and we appreciated that. We spent the days at the base site of the ministries where they are taking care of many orphans. They have also built houses for mothers and grandmothers as well as a village for family groups. The staff at FDLM was so welcoming and our first glimpse into the Uganda spirit. The first day we were there the children would see us and not really interact but by day 2 we were like family, playing and cuddling. The children love Muzungus (Uganda for “white person” – in a good way). FDLM also got us acclimated to the standard ritual in Uganda. Breakfast is at a normal time – around 7-8am, lunch was at 2pm and supper was at around 8pm. Tea time was 3 times a day, a leftover of the British influence. We were also introduced to the common gecko and very large cockroach J There are many times I appreciated my many camping trips as a child. They prepared me to get over the fact that I didn’t bath every day and that I’m out of my normal element.

Our 5 days at FDLM came to a close with a special feast at the base camp with all beneficiaries. They prepared all sorts of Uganda dishes. The food in Uganda was delicious; chappati – grilled flat bread, beans, rice, matooke – plantain type of banana and g-nut sauce). I’ve already looked up the recipe to g-nut sauce because I liked it so much. It will be hard to beat Sarah’s but I’m gonna try. Oh and eating lots of beans when you aren’t use to it has some side effects ;) Peter, Field Operations Manager told us that with all those beans it “makes funny sounds come out” and Noah said that it “comes in like rain” – we laughed and laughed about that.

The trip to Nyaka was about 12 hours long. We got to see the countryside of Uganda and even got to view the rare zebra’s from the road, what a treat that was. Nyaka is very rural, I knew it would be but didn’t know to the full extent of that. The roads were horrible the last 2 hours of the trip. Magambo kept telling me it’s the “African massage” but I need another massage to counteract that one.  Muzungus are more rare in these parts so whenever we’d drive by kids they’d shout “Muzungu” with smiles on their face and some even ran alongside the car. I felt like Justin Beiber!

I spent the week taking pictures of all the kids at school for the sponsorship program. Mom spent the week giving the head grandmothers a finance lesson. I’ll let her share that part but I’m so proud of her for doing that. What a lasting impact she will have on those grandmothers.

I wrote last time that I felt that God was going before us to prepare our trip and that certainly played out to be true. With the help of those that contributed we had given money to support homes at both locations as well as sold the grandmother’s baskets. These allowed us to be contributors to them before we even got there and had a natural vested interest in these programs. God has blessed us with the ability to go on this trip and we are grateful for all the hospitality that we were shown.

I read a Bible verse this morning in Isaiah (58:6-11) that resounded in my heart. I’m not a politician and I don’t even watch the news everyday so I wonder what impact I can have. But I find comfort in knowing that God has called me – called all of us to not turn away from those that are in need.

6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail

(By Lynette)

Red soil is what I remember of the trip to Jinja.  Today (Monday, September 9), was still cleaning the red dust off my body after arriving at Nyaka.  What I will remember of the trip to  the Nyaka School  is the lush, tropical paradise and roads worse than ones that Sarah and David took us on in Jinja.  Magambo, our driver, told us they would be worse and we should have listened. But the scenery was amazing. What a contrast from Kampala and the congestion.  

Our visit to Uganda has been amazing and I will share my personal thoughts with anyone asking , but this journal is about the children.  Their voices, their stories are what we came for and it is our love for and commitment to each of them as to why we journeyed here.  Pastor David shared at the feast at our last day at Father's Divine Love Ministries the saying that is it takes a village to raise a child.  However, he feels that it takes a world to raise a child.  We witnessed at both FDLM and Nayaka personal commitment to children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and the ability to meet the significant need constrained by adequate resources. Both Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and Pastor David Zijjan are working diligently to share knowledge of the children's need and, at the same time, minister effectively to them.  Please join us on this journey as we share the children's, widows', and grannies' personal stories, deep appreciation for giving people they have never met, and their hope for a brighter future.  It is impossible to share these stories without weaving in widows and grandmothers who have taken on loving responsibility for orphaned children that may or may not be related to them but they love them and draw them in as family.  And Tara and I hope you are moved to support these organizations.  

These stories are not to gain sympathy but to encourage you to share your abundance and give hope to those needing it.  My greatest sense from those I met in Uganda is that they value community, love and, above all, faith in God.  They live sparsely, work hard, and value people.  They are immensely grateful and appreciative of human kindness.  Their need is great and these youth and young children have hopes and dreams that depend on resources, and we share the belief that God will provide.  

Next steps for us in this journey:
  • Share with you the stories of the people that we met. Lynette will be detailing our stories from Nyaka and Tara be doing the same for Father’s Divine Love.
  • Pulling together the trip information and presenting to our circles of influence. Our goal is to get all the secondary students at Nyaka sponsored. That’s around 50-60 students. If you want to sponsor a secondary student please contact Tara, and she will get you hooked up with that. It is amazing the impact these students will have in their communities when they graduate college. The cost to sponsor a secondary student is $500 which provides for a secondary student’s school fees, meals, medicine, and transportation for one school year.
  • Sell baskets that we brought back that were made by the grandmothers. If you are interested in buying a basket please let either Lynette or Tara know.
  • Support the FDLM family by sending pictures and letters to the kids there. They love to build relationships with visitors and knowing that we still care and are interested is important.
  • Support FDLM with resources/funding for general and education expenses.  You can do that through the Peoria United Methodist church.  Options are on the left side of this web page.
  • Plan the next trip there. Tara is thinking right now early 2014 and would love to take others with her. Will you join her?

A special thanks to the team at FDLM that made our trip comfortable and memorable (Sarah, David, Peter, Peter, Noah, Lydia) and the wonderful Mammas - Margarite, Nakagolo, and Jessica for their endless energy preparing tasty food.

And the Nyaka team (Daniel, Agra, Christine and Martin) for their endless love of and concern for the welfare of the children as well as Priscilla and Fiada for keeping us fed and full of welcoming love.

Thank you most of all to the youth and children for their inspiring stories.

Our purpose for continued blogging is to share our experience with you so that you can get to know, through us, those that are in need by hearing their story and not just reading it but participating in it with us.  We hope that you will be encouraged, enlightened and moved by the stories of amazing people in Uganda in our upcoming posts.