Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jinja is for Lovers

Today's blog is coming straight from the fingertips of your gentle giant, Tommy. (Quick side story: while walking to the soccer pitch today, an older gentleman passed us and said, in English, "You are very large! How are you doing?" It truly is great to be the biggest man in the village.)

Day 3 at TAOST brought loud noises, smiling faces, and new experiences for all. We started the morning off by singing some old favorites with the entire school, including "This Little Light of Mine" and "Lean on Me". The kids love getting into the motions, and have seemed to quickly overlook some of the team's tonal deficiencies (Mandy and Zazie notwithstanding). The high energy produced from the singing led straight into some great lessons.

The team working with the youngest group -- Zazie, Seth, Jess, and myself -- have really been focusing hard on basic English vocabulary. Today we played "charades", having one kid come to the front and act out a word we have learned during the week, while the other kids attempted to guess what was being acted out. They really loved this game, and we loved hearing the (often off-the-wall) guesses. I recommend this as a great party game for any of you parents who have planned nightly shindigs while the little one is away (like we didn't know). The book we read was "Wheels on the Bus" which, as always, was a huge hit. This just confirms what we all already suspected: "Wheels on the Bus" is the greatest piece of American literature ever produced. So move over "War and Peace", and stop complaining "Sense and Sensibility" (that was a book too, right?). We also read the day's bible story, the story of Jonas and the Whale. The little ones had the story translated to them and loved talking about fish and the ocean.

The team working with the middle group -- Cregan, Bianca, James, and Amber -- kept their group energized about Jonah and the Whale by playing a rousing game of "leapfrog". Though I must confess that I was too enthralled with the little ones to fully grasp the connection (though I have no doubt it was there). As always, their group had constant noise and participation from all. (Side note: I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but man, they are LOUD. And I mean all of them, leaders included. They really get into everything they are doing over there. It is quite impressive.)

The oldest group, held down by Mandy, Joe, Jenna and Max, really had their group enthralled with the children's bible. Mandy told a great story about the older kids asking her to read them a bible story that they had yet to hear. They really want to learn more about the Bible and this is exciting for the whole team. I can speak from my own experience when I say that I have been extremely impressed with the way that the oldest kids interact with the leaders, as well as the younger students at TAOST. They really have been a group that we have relied on to help bridge language barriers (their English is slightly better than the rest of the school), as well as to keep the younger children (somewhat) behaved and orderly. It is a credit to the staff at TAOST that all of the children are being raised in a disciplined, nurturing environment. While the facilities and the resources are sorely lacking, TAOST is on par with any Western school when it comes to the care and love that the staff exhibits. Seeing this over the last few days has solidified for many of us how imperative it is that we are able to do things, like this missions trip, to help equip this school, these teachers, and especially these kids with the resources and know-how that they have lacked. We hope that this is something we can continue to do, even when are time in Uganda has come to an end.

Lunchtime brought an all new experience for the members of the YG team. The Headmistress from TAOST treated us to a local Jackfruit. I will attempt to give you an image of what this is, but if my description is lacking (likely), feel free to google it. A Jackfruit is a giant yellow melon-type fruit that grows on trees. It is slightly larger than a pumpkin (how it stays on the tree is a mystery to me...which ryhmes, but I digress...) We were given half of a Jackfruit (or a "hackfruit", as I called it), which was enough to satisfy the entire 14 member team. The outside is much like a pineapple (though, as I learned through Seth's efforts, does not come even close to feeling good as a back-scratcher) and the inside contains several sectioned-off "pods" (our term). In each pod is a GIANT seed that, to be honest, looked sorta creepy, so they were used to throw at people. After de-creepy-seeding, you were left with a rubbery orange piece of fruit that was shaped like one of those pads you put on pencils so that your hand doesn't rub against the wood (think back to K Mart back-to-school shopping when the charges were in second grade, post-Ticonderoga). The actual fruit tasted like a banana and a grapefruit mixed together, with a rubbery texture. That was probably WAY more information than you guys could ever want about the Jackfruit, but I typed it and you read it. So here we are.

After lunch we returned to the soccer pitch. Dave and Mandy have described for you the games we play (though we added kickball today in my effort to introduce every game that kids on college campuses play: kickball, whiffle ball, and frisbee....hackey-sack is tomorrow). I'd like to take a second to talk about the two other interesting parts of our afternoon: the walk and the newbies. The walk from TAOST to the soccer field takes us out of the village and up a large road. It's roughly a 20 minute walk (considering the little legs that are following us). This has been a great opportunity for all of us to really get to know some of the kids. Rarely is their a leader without (at least) 2 kids holding their hands, and we've been able to learn a lot about each others lives outside of school. Edgerine, for example, lives with his aunt and his two sisters. He loves to play whiffle ball and is absolutely fascinated with the animals that hang about the village. His best friend is Anthony (side note: Anthony is the child Dave referenced earlier when saying the Yankees needed to be in Jinja. I'm going to hold him for the Cubs, but that's simply due to my own preference, and not the fact that I don't want him pigeon-holed as a DH just because he hasn't learned the finer points of fielding a grounder yet...give him time).

The second point I wanted to mention about the field is the "newbies". Many of the team members have mentioned the difficulty they've had dealing with the fact that we really only have supplies for the students of TAOST, and not the hundreds of other children in the village who we have had to turn away (this has really been a struggle for our team members). However, when we are at the field, there is room, and time, for any and all kids that want to come. We have literally dealt with triple the number of kids, if not more, that we work with in the mornings. This has allowed us to share love with more kids, and to see more smiling faces. The availability of this field really was a blessing from God, and one which we are truly thankful for.

I must now be off to join the team for dinner, but we will try and give you more updates as the week progresses.

The Chronicles of the Sr. High Youth Team of Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC on their trip to TAOST school of Jinja, Uganda, in conjunction with Fount of Mercy.

Day Two of Our Five Days

Hello friends and family! Day two of our five day adventure at TOAST has ended and I (Mandy) am the guest blogger for today. The students sent us off in the van with smiles and the simple phrase "tomorrow" which then led to Cregan breaking out in the Sound of Music version of "Tomorrow." Although the students didn't understand they laughed and waved anyway. This happy and carefree attitude is shared by all the students. Many of us commented last night while sharing the highs and lows of the day that the students exude love. They run up to us fighting to hold a hand or in some cases multiple younger students will grasp a finger. You cannot help but hug, pick up, or hold these children.

Today started out with everyone making it to breakfast on time. In fact, Joe was up an hour early (after the front desk attendant gave him the wrong time). Once at the school we broke up into the same three age groups as yesterday. Tommy, Zazie, Jess, and Seth worked with the younger students who were all around 4 years old. Cregan, Amber, Jess, and Bianca taught the middle age group. Max, Joe, Jenna, and myself taught the oldest group which ranged in age from 10 to 12 years old. After teaching, reading, and playing ESL games, each group then read a Bible Story and made a corresponding arts and craft. So far the arts and craft has been the biggest hit. Yesterday's Bible Story was Noah's Ark so the students made animal masks of their favorite animal. Several of the students in our group started drawing cobras however the cobras became pretty original once the students noticed the feathers we brought along for the craft. Today the Bible Study was Jesus Feeds the 5000. We made necklaces out of clay. The students were able to paint and decorate the necklace with whatever they wished. The common pendants had a hearts, cross, or ichythus fish.

Tommy and his skit crew - Zazie, Seth, Bianca, and Amber - performed a simple play to demonstrate that Christ's love is free.

The students left the facility (which by the way is located in an old stable) to eat lunch while we cleaned up, prepared for the afternoon session, and ate our own lunch. We walked to the nearby soccer (I mean football) field for the games. We played footbal, duck duck hen (the students liked this better than the goose version), whiffleball, and a Uganda game called something that I can't pronounce much less spell but it means "shake your bones." The students seemed to get a particular laugh from watching both Seth and Zazie shake.

As the whiffleball and soccer game continued Jenna, Zazie, Lori, and I ended up sitting with some of the older students. They entertained us with songs we all knew like "Swing Low" and "This Little Light of Mine" then taught us some of new songs as well. The girls then went on the teach us some Lugandan words (the common language spoken here). I think they mainly enjoyed laughing at us as we butchered the words.

We're all looking forward to Day 3!

The Chronicles of the Sr. High Youth Team of Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC on their trip to TAOST school of Jinja, Uganda, in conjunction with Fount of Mercy.

From Jinja with Love

Hi everybody.

David here, blogging after our first day at the TAOST school in Jinja, more on that in a minute.

Travels went fairly smooth - the team only lost one bag on their way through Dubai to Entebbe, which we're still hoping will show up soon. Highlights of the very long flight included a game where people were not allowed to say any words using the letter "s." A flight attendant asked Joe about the team and what they were going to do, which he tried to answer sans "s" - to the enjoyment of everyone.

I wasn't able to meet up with the team as Air Tanzania decided to cancel my flight from Kilimanjaro to Entebbe without bothering to tell me, so while the team spent their first night in Jinja, I flew to Dar Es Salaam and then Entebbe on Sunday, where I caught a ride to Jinja. The team, meanwhile, attended a local church service that they enjoyed very much and then got all (let's hope) of their curios shopping out of the way in Jinja on Sunday afternoon.

Last night we all went to dinner with the wonderful Lori Acton, our main point of contact with Fount Of Mercy, the organization that works with TAOST here. Lori's been taking good care of us with all of our spread out arrivals and so forth. Also with us was Julius Wamimbi, one of the older students at the school (19 years old) who has been helping us get the hang of things. Julius says he hasn't played football (soccer) in 4 years now but he made us all look pretty terrible today on the field.

After a nice dinner at a pizza place called 2 Friends, we returned to the hotel to unpack all the luggage packed for the school, organize the supplies, and repack into bags for the week's activities. After a devotion from Cregan, we hit the sack and all met early the next morning for breakfast at 8:30.

Just kidding! Only a few of us were there, certain unnamed individuals needed specialized wake-up calls, and might not have had time for breakfast...

And then we were off in our matatu (taxi van) with Lori and Julius on our way to Day 1 at the school.

Upon arriving we met with the teachers and headmistress for the school, and once all the kids were finally sitting down and somewhat quieted, we did formal introductions of first the teachers and the older students at the school like Julius, and then our group as well. Then it was time for VBS! The groups were split up into youngest, middle, and oldest, and the teams had different reading programs and games to teach each group about reading in English.

After the first stories, we then moved on to our Bible story for the day - Noah and his trusty sailing yacht, and this story culminated in a general focus on the animals he took with him, which was a convenient transition to craft time: Animal Masks!

After crafts it was time for lunch - the children leave the school and we had our sandwiches, and in the afternoon we all walked to the local soccer pitch (field) where we split up for football, duck-duck-goose, wiffle ball (somebody tell the Yankees scouts that they need to start checking out the youngsters of Jinja), and various other games. Cregan was called late in the soccer game for intentionally handling a ball that was clearly going in for a goal. The referee (yours truly) set up the penalty kick but unfortunately the shirts team could not convert, although the game ended in a 7-6 win for them anyway.

The teachers and students at the school have been incredibly welcoming and friendly, and we're all excited about spending the rest of the week together, which is already going much too fast.

After the afternoon games, it was back to the hotel, where the popular vote was for swimming. Cregan of course was the dissenting vote for golf, and I would have joined him had it not been raining here - I generally try to avoid holding metal sticks in the air during thunderstorms. Tommy might have been talked into a game by Cregan, and Mandy looked pretty tired as she hasn't been feeling too good.

Amber is on her way from the Entebbe airport where she arrived today and was met by Lori, and will hopefully join us for dinner as a complete team. Joe, Max, Seth, James, Zazie, Jenna, Bianca, and Jess are all here, healthy, and accounted for (although we're trying to keep the peanuts away from Joe, and everyone's been advised not to bite any mosquitoes). Mandy wanted to swim in the Nile river, which our hotel is on the banks of, just before it empties into Lake Victoria. She decided not to after learning that Hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa and are known to live in the river. The swimming pool at the hotel will have to do.

The Chronicles of the Sr. High Youth Team of Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC on their trip to TAOST school of Jinja, Uganda, in conjunction with Fount of Mercy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All Five Senses

It's one thing to look at a picture, or hear a story. You're able to connect, at least on some level, with your senses. Whether it be your eyes seeing something beyond comprehension, or your hand touching something unfamiliar, or uncomfortable. However, the remarkable happens... when one is able to fully engage in something with all five of their senses. As lori said, Africa is a place where one can engage life with all five of their senses. And this was Africa to me. My senses were on overload, if you will. I saw things I never imagined, I felt the tiny hands of a baby orphan and had the tears of a widowed woman dying of AIDS fall down my neck... I tasted the culture and enjoyed the hospitality of a beautiful people, I smelled differences in appearance and in hygene and heard the laughter of contentment, the voices of children singing, "wel-o-come to our visitors..." and I was captivated.

To be perfectly honest... I do not easily adapt. Though raised in a family that traveled... I think that change is something I have grown to dislike. =) On each of my previous trips, I had a moment of intense culture shock in which I adamantly longed to find myself in the conforts of home. However, this was not the case in Uganda. I felt safe, comfortable, and content. I loved the dirt, the chaos, the bright colors, and curious glances. I loved the dancing, the hugging, the immense joy that exuded from even the loneliest of souls. I treasured the prayers, and was amazed at the talent... and was so broken to leave. Though happy to be home... a piece of me truly was left in the little village of Iganga and with the people of Wiraika.

As I settle into reverse culture shock, I am amazed that it was all real. It already appears as a snapshot in my mind. I write this to say that this trip is not over. I cannot stay silent about the things I have seen, what I have heard, the strange things I smelled, the tastes of africa that are still left in my mouth, and the touch of the widows and orphans.... and so I remind you... that religion that is pure... is to visit widows and orphans (James 1:27). Do not miss out on it! =)

I cannot go back to who I was before this trip... as that perspective has been shattered. So gear up... i've got something to say... and I won't stop sharing. =)

Rebecca, 25

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fell Silent

There was a moment on this trip when the world stopped spinning, heaven stood silent and I beleive the angels were appalled. A young women was sharing how her father had just died from AIDS and she was infected herself. Before finishing her story, she broke into a puddle of tears. In that moment, I wondered how anyone could sit silent, remain unmotivated and choose disobedience over action. As I sat with her in my arms, her tears falling on my neck, I knew the heavens were quiet. I knew in that moment that every step it took to be here was worth it. And for me this is just the begining.

Rebecca 25, Hillcrest Church Team Leader


On our first day, Jeremiah and I taught a class at the orphanage. Very quickly, I noticed one girl, Ruth, had a big open sore on her ankle with flies constantly on it. It broke my heart that she was unable to do anything about her wound. I realize now that through this whole trip I have been very affective by everything medically wrong... I am deeply affected by the lack of health care. Latter Ruth and I formed a relationship and she has became my friend. These kids are so strong.

Julie 18, Hillcrest


The things I've seen you could never truly understand unless you've been there and experienced it. But my one snapshot from this trip that I'll try to put into perspective is the time I spent in the oprhanage. When you first arrive you are in awe of the vast diffeences in culture and lifestyles. Being an American, one would think the people and kids would be in terrible shape
emotionally becuase of these differences. But its not true. They are joyful and seem to find contentment in their lives. And when their faces light up and they yell "Mzungu", it gives you a feeling I can't explain becuase happy isn't good enough. Just when you don't think you can feel better the kids run to you, just to say hello and hold your hand. But there are hard parts in every situation and thats saying goodbye. You've been spending a week spending time and gettting to know these kids. Getting close to them and sharing who you are with them, and the relationship you've built has to be put on hold, until you return, if you return.

Ted, 16, Hillcrest Church


Hey Everyone,

I know I've waited long enough to send out this first update, but things have been really busy around here. :) Our first volunteer team of the summer has already come and go. The Archer City team was here for a little over a week working with Orphans Rescue Ministry (ORM), one of our grass-roots organizations in Kampala, Uganda, as well as Grace Ministries, also in Kampala. While at ORM, they clothed around 75 kids with 2 t-shirts and/or a dress or shorts, had each child fitted for a new pair of shoes, and provided a refridgerator for the feeding program that they started last year. I am happy to say that the kids are looking much better and happier each time we visit them due to the generosity of this team.

While at Grace Ministries, the Archer City team went out to Buganga, a remote village past the equator, which consists mainly of widows and orphans. Like last year, the team provided food for basically the entire village, as well as about 15 pastors from the remote areas surrounding Buganga. This year, they provided about twice the amount of food, and blessed the outlying elderly and widows who are unable to walk the several kms to the church building.

Before the team left the States, a man and musician who wishes to remain anonymous, donated one of his best guitars to Grace, knowing that instruments are needed in this village. This was not just any guitar, but among his very best. Once we arrived in Buganga and presented the guitar to the worship leader, we learned that he had just sold his only guitar to pay for his children's school fees. He was elated to receive a much, much nicer guitar in place of the one he sacrificed for his children.

On their last day in Uganda, the team enjoyed an ATV (all terrain vehicle) safari which took them down by the River Nile and through some remote villages. Everyone had a blast driving their own ATV as they experienced a new part of Uganda. As the children heard the ATV's, they flocked to the roadside to yell, "Mzungu!! How are you?!" Mzungu is the Luganda word for "white person or European." It's not meant derogatorily, but I find myself wanting to reiterate the sentiment we so often see on t-shirts that says, "My name is not Mzungu." :)

We are now in Jinja with a new volunteer team. I'll write more about them at a later time. I think this is enough for one email. :)

I hope you all are doing well and thank you for your support!

Vanessa, Fount of Mercy

They Have Captured My Heart

Jambo! This trip has been unbelivable. The intensity of the extreme poverty surrounding us has been unlike anything i can put into words. Honestly... this journey has left me speechless. As one of our leaders with Fount of Mercy puts it... I have experienced Uganda with all five of my senses... this inculdes seeing, feeling, touching, hearing, and smelling the poor, the broken, the widowed, the orphans.... the lost. It has been more than i can bare at times.

On a team note:

The youth are doing an amazing job. They have engaged these kids... and as Jack put it last night... "Can we stay for a month?" I loved it... it revealed that these students have long forgotten their ipods, they have forgotten hot showers and familiar foods... and they have only eyes for the orphaned kids they've bonded with. They have kids hanging on them from the minute we pull up to the orphanage to the second they leave... and even then, the kiddos are chasing them down the road. Julie has connected with a little one called Rita, Teddy with Moses.... Kendal loves little Winnie, and Jack... Marium. =) On our first day, one of the oprhans Daphne came down with Malaria and our team agreed that we could afford to take some of our support raised and buy her some medicine. It took $10.00 to see her get well. The following day as we arrived to the orphanage, Kendal discovered that her little firend Winnie had also come down with malaria. Good thing we had purchased 5 doses of medicine. =) It was amazing to see in an instant that money and resources was being put to life-changing and life-saving use. I know... at that moment... something changed in my youth team.

We definitely come back exhausted each day... but no complaints. Not one. After the first day of strange smells, dirty living, and different food... these students have come forth shining. It is unbelievable to see them truly serve... with no looking back.

On a Rebecca note:

Yesterday, as the youth and Dana, Jeremiah, and Jon played with the kids.... I had the opportunity to join one of Fount of Mercy's leaders and share with 15 or so widows in the village of Iganga. This moment forever has changed me. What I thought would be an hour of time with these women, turned into four hours of learning who they were, hearing their stories... and briefly sharing mine. They danced with me (seriously... best moment in my life...) and embraced me as one of them. I have never smiled so much and laughed so much. These widows... they have captured my heart. I had a million thoughts running through my head as they shared their husbands died of cancer, aids, war, etc.... and they were left caring for 8, 9, or 10 children... sometimes taking on their brother's kids, or their siblings as well. I was overwhelmed by their journeys and impressed by their strength. I was humbled at how grateful they were to be given a bar of soap and a kilo of sugar. As I handed out these "gifts of encouragement"... they kneeled at my feel in thankfulness. Ah.... I am a changed person. I have so many stories and much to reflect on. It may take me years to unpack the last 5 days.

In closing the Ugandan people are beautiful. They carry themselves with grace and soft spoken mannerisms. They are friendly... undeniably patient... and strength carries their burdens. They are a giving people... and though they have seen much trial and deep pain.. their straight posture and their firm steps reveal their passion for living.

Under grace, Rebecca, Team Leader for the Hillcrest Youth Team

Spontaneous Celebration

We are currently working with our second volunteer team (a youth group) out here in Uganda. Yesterday, we all had a really special day- most of the team was having a blast working with the children at Hope Home school in a village called Bulubandi. As for me and the youth group leader, Rebecca, we were with the sewing and tailoring group that is intended for widows in the community. We were spending the day with them hoping to give them encouragement in some form. The class began with us watching them work - all of the women gathered around and worked on creating a dress, a skirt and a blouse together. They also told us how they were the designers in their community - this statement came as a fact and with such pride, I would have done just about anything to affirm them in their work.

After their class, Rebecca and I heard their stories and and encouraged them. We learned that many of these women had lost their husbands and were struggling to raise several (around 6-8 children - one woman said 11) children. No matter what hardship a woman had to share though, she always began with praise and thankfulness - they were encouraging me! After we finished sharing, Rebecca and I gave out sugar and a bar of soap to each woman. This is a relatively small gift, but they were so grateful that they sang and danced with us for about an hour. It was such a wonderful spontaneous celebration - you couldn't help but be joyful. Their smiles will be with me forever.

Lori Acton, Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Gift of Tears

Good morning!

Its 8:00 am here and just beautiful! We had a good rain last night. The thunder was so loud. I have never heard it as loud and it just echoed through the hills and valleys! It was tremendous. I have so much to tell you all, but want to tell you first what has been happening in my own heart.

Africa is like no where you can ever imagine. It’s a beautiful country, tropical like Mexico, green and luscious; the possibilities are endless except there are not the resources to develop it like in other places. There is no cement, everything is dirt. When I go home in the evening to shower and dry off, the towel is still dirty. It seems you never get it all off. I feel like I could blend in with the natives in time! There is burning always everywhere and the smoke of the burning stings your nose. It was the most memberable smell from last year and yet the stinging doesn’t bother me. Pollution is so bad. When you blow your nose it’s black from all you breathe in. In spite of all that, I have had no problems with my asthma.

I have been praying for some time for the gift of tears. I feel like I have lost touch with so many things and even worried about things like my memory. My heart has become hardened and callous. Since I have been here, I have found that I can’t stop crying. They say tears are a silent language, and for me I believe they are healing. I have found that when I talk to people here, I remember their stories and problems. I am so busy at home in the states; so much of it is that, just busy. We are like ants in the ant farm, always moving about and looking for things to do. The easier we make life, the more we find to do to occupy our time. We tend to focus first on our own needs and somehow miss the needs of others. People talk to me and then I don’t remember their needs the next time I see them. I realize it’s not my memory; it’s just that my brain is on overload!! I think I am in defrag mode here. I don’t have to worry about clothes, or makeup, or a car, or house. These are all part of our life and I can’t come home and ignore it all. It’s western civilization. But I am learning that I worry about so much that is unnecessary! The people here have nothing and I mean nothing. And yet, they are content and joyful and happy!
So as I see the enormous needs of the people here, food, water and shelter, and then mine seem so insignificant. Anyway, I thank God for this insight and pray when I return I can hang on to just a shred of it!

Yesterday we went to the village Buganga. It was where we fed the people last year and helped the old man who lost his house. We had a glorious time with them and distributed 1300 pounds of food! Over 200 dresses and about 75 t -shirts and shorts. Today we will go back and our pastor will be teaching a seminar to pastors who will travel by bike and foot, some for days, others for miles to hear the teaching and words of encouragement. We have a surprise for them! We have purchased study bibles for the pastors, and 12 bicycles for the most needy! It will be such a joy to see them receive the gifts. This will enable them to minister in places we can’t begin to imagine! It definitely is more blessed to give than receive. I wish you all could experience it.

We will go to the huts of the older people in the village and the sick today and bring them their portion of food and encourage them. We had an encouragement service yesterday for the sick. I can’t even begin to tell you of the problems here. But one that was so painful was a womann who was pregnant and the baby died about 5 years ago. She never passed it and she still looks like she is about 8 months pregnant. They say the baby calcifies in the body after so long and now to remove it would kill her, because the calcification attaches itself to other organs. Only if she could have had it removed at the time of death! But if you can’t clothe yourself or buy food, health care is definitely not a possibility. We began treatment on a child at the orphanage for malaria as well. We are hoping to hear of her progress, if she doesn’t get well in a few days, we will need to get her to a doctor. It’s overwhelming to see and hear of all the needs. We can’t begin to meet them all. Not even a fraction. But I thank God for all he is allowing us to do.

Kathleen and Bill, First Baptist Archer City

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So Much Good in One Year!

Hello everyone! There is so much to tell. I love Africa so much. For some reason it just feels right when I get here. I know it's where I am meant to be and already am thinking about next year.

We have spent the last 2 days at the orphanage and also doing a lot of shopping and getting the things we need. Today we had a refrigerator delivered and everyone was so excited. The kids have made a remarkable amount of progress. Last year we brought over 2 sewing machines. They have a tailor that comes in and teaches the girls sewing and they actually are doing an excellent job. Some things are made of fabric, others of empty cement bags! It seems that they may actually have a contract in the next year to make school uniforms! This is so good because it means it will bring money in to help with support. It is amazing to see how much they have learned. The feeding program is also doing well. The children all are so healthy looking and all smiles! I have gotten so many hugs and love from the kids. I just love it! Hopefully as each girl graduates we can get a sewing machine to her a gift. Then she can make a living with it.

Tomorrow we will be teaching the girls that are older how to make cookies. They in turn will teach the younger girls. This will be another means of support for them. They will be able to sell the cookies as well. We are going to start working on child sponsorship. This would mean that someone will sponsor the child one on one. There are about 50 children that are not in school. It cost to be educated here. The amount varies from about $50 a month to maybe a hundred if they are a full time boarding student.

We have one boy from last year who is being sponsored now by a good friend of mine. His name is Peter. His was a special case and a sad story. But we now have him as a boarding student. Last year he would not let me even hug him. This year he came up to me and gave me a hug and had tears in his eyes!!! He is such a good boy. He is 12 or 13, never been to school but now is in 2nd grade. He is beginning to speak English and smiles all the time!!!

I will tell more later about him and all the children. Tomorrow we also will be painting the girls fingernails! It will be a first for them. The shoe store will be coming out and measuring each child’s foot and we will purchase new shoes for each child! Clothes will be distributed and shoes given and it will be our last day with them. I will take more pictures and share them when I return.

One of the main goals of our mission is to help these children become self supportive, by teaching them skills they can use to maintain life. It seems as if we are making progress.

I almost forgot! We work with a village in the bush and last year there were about 9 or so pastors that traveled more than 10 miles on foot and bicycle to attend a pastoral training seminar. They wanted to learn form our Pastor as he did a teaching session with an interpreter. This year we will be blessing them not only with food like we did last year (we fed the entire village with a food distribution for about $300.00) but with 12 brand new bicycles so they can in turn go out and minister to others! We also will be bringing clothes this year and having suits made for about 7 pastors.

Kathleen and Bill, First Baptist Archer City