Today another name was added to the Book of Life as Virginia, who is nearly 100, confessed Christ as savior. We took gifts to her and honored her with a personal tea party. She asked, “Why would you bring all these things to me??” We told her because of Jesus and His love and mercy for us we want to show that love and mercy to her. As we shared she said she wanted Jesus as her savior too.
We revisited Regina, the 110-year-old widow who accepted Christ last time. She told us since then her neighbor and grandson have come to the Lord. She was so cute as she munched on her muffin and drank her tea. When she saw her gifts she cried out, “Now I am like a Mzungu! I have cooking oil!” She was overwhelmed by the gifts and clucked, “How would I ever get all these things?” Then she worried, “these people have given me all these things, what can I give to them?” We assured her we were there to serve her but she asked the children who were surrounding us to catch a hen for us. It was quite a sight. That hen did not want to be caught and it took about ten minutes for them to round her up.
Taaka, another widow was admiring Jane’s nail polish so when Wendy was taking note of her needs I told her, “Taaka needs a mattress and nail polish.” When we return with her mattress we are going to paint her nails.
Janelle Hoffman from Scottsdale, Arizona raised thousands of dollars for buying goats so Elizabeth was there to photograph the first of hundreds of goats we will be buying for the orphans. If you scroll through the blog you will find the article of Janelle and her goat drive. Thanks Janelle! Keep watching! There will be a lot more goats bought and distributed!
When we returned to the hotel Pat and his daughter, Colleen were arriving. We had time for quick hugs and rushed their bags to their rooms because we were all being picked up to go to Scott and Akua’s house for Mexican food. They moved here with their two young boys from Texas to become missionaries to Tororo and the surrounding villages. What a treat! Pastor Ruth was there along with Patsy who works for the Salvation Army and Emily who moved her in 2001 from Minnesota to take care of street boys. We had a great time and even had Pillsbury chocolate cake!
Greg left with Pastor Wilber to meet the team in Kenya and will join them on the safari.
Robert and his electricians worked hard again today at the site.
Wendy, Jane and I visited more widows. We revisited widows we saw last time. When we reached Paulina’s house she greeted us warmly hugging and welcoming us like old friends. I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I went to her house she wouldn’t come near me and hid from us. When her son chastised her and said she needed to come and greet the Mzungu who came all this way to see her she came out but kept her distance. When Jane sat next to her she told me, “You sit over there. You are Mzungu. You might eat her!” Today she had no fear as we sat close together hugging and talking. She loved the tea and donut and when we brought food into her house we looked around and saw the food we brought was all the food in the house.
We went to Margret’s house and met her and her seven children. Her husband died of AIDS and she is weak right now from AIDS too. Her husband was building their house when he died and it’s not finished. When it rains they all get wet along with their belongings. We also found they had very little food and will need to bring more as what we brought will feed a family of eight for a couple days.
We checked on Natecha who was hospitalized yesterday. She was eating food but still is very weak.
Victoria had been waiting several days for us to arrive as she heard through the grapevine we were visiting widows. She saw us in the distance and danced and shouted until we arrived at her door. I interviewed her last November and we were retelling stories she told then. It was great fun to see her again.
Elizabeth arrived this afternoon to a great deal of fanfare as the orphan workers greeted her. She invited them all to dinner at the hotel and delighted them with new jackets.
Time is flying by quickly and we look forward to the rest of the team catching up to us on Friday and Saturday.
Today Wendy, Jane and I visited six widows. Our first was Cadija whom we befriended last time and gave her her first mattress in her 110-120 years. She was waiting for us and cried in jubilation when she saw the gifts we brought. She showed us her mattress and how she had covered it with old cloths to protect it. It still looks new!! While we were inside we looked around at the walls of her hut and realized they were going to crumble soon. Jane pointed out holes where the rats gnawed through. The grass roof is in terrible shape and she will get wet when the rain comes tonight. We brought her a new purple basin and Illiana left a beautiful pink purse with the words, FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE on it (you can see it in one of the photos). She laughed, “Now I need a new house to put these beautiful things in.” She loved the green tea and drank it quickly. Jane asked, “Is it good?” Laughing, “Have I not drunk it all??” When she opened her pink purse jammed with gifts she said, “No one had better try to steal these from me. If you are the person who paid for it-you can come and get it. But if you didn’t pay. . .leave it alone!” When she opened the packages of food she was so excited she went into her hut and immediately began cooking. We realized our visit was over and called out, “Bye.” She sat happily stirring her porridge. “Bye!”
One of the widows was sitting outside on a mat and was too sick to rise when we approached. She sat crying in pain and was having trouble breathing. She had no money to go to the hospital so Jane went in and told them to treat her and give us the bill. We’ll be checking in on her today.
All of the widows showed deep gratitude when they received their gifts. One woman was so overcome she cried and paced around her little hut putting her hands to her head, then touching the purse- not knowing how to respond. Wendy made notes at each home of the obvious needs and when we’ve finished seeing all the widows we will prioritize what we can do first.
Thank you to those who are supporting these precious women who really have less than nothing.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our granddaughter, Jordan who turns 12 today! We love you!
Today was a great day. Sorry there are no pictures of Greg and Robert. They were doing electrical business at True Vine and Wendy and I were out all day with Pastor Ruth visiting widows.
We saw some really poor conditions and extreme poverty but out of the rot springs a hope. Of the widows we met today they were all HIV positive-infected by their husbands who have since died. One lady said she watched her husband’s first wife die, then him, then another wife but didn’t realize it was AIDS until a friend told her to go for testing. She found she was positive. Her life was devastated and poverty overwhelmed her. She said people mocked her because of her having AIDS. She was so alone-family members wouldn’t help her. She found Smile Africa and Pastor Ruth and began taking sewing lessons from her. She said during the day she was happy to be there but when she went home at night she felt so alone. Tears slid down her cheeks as she remembered. She said her little girl found Christ and encouraged her to do so too. She would lie on her bed at night and cry: “God. When will you put a smile on my face? When will you dry my tears?” Finally she accepted Christ as her savior and she moved across the street from Smile Africa. Not only does she own a sewing machine which was given to her when she graduated from Smile Africa’s class, but she has a little business selling charcoal and a sort of pancake in front of her house. She smiles through her tears. “God has answered my prayers.” She needs a little sun shelter in front of her house for her customers so Wendy and I agreed we would pay to have one put up. She was so grateful! Now she says she will have an attractive place where customers will want to come. She said her life is so different since she accepted Christ. “People used to laugh at me because I have AIDS but now when they see me they say, ‘there’s a big change in you.’ I tell them God is changing me. Even my children say, ‘you have grown fat.’”
We brought a thermos of hot water and tea bags with us and Wendy would fix each widow a cup of tea. They hadn’t had our kind of tea before and all said something like, “When I take a few sips I can feel it moving within my body!” They enjoyed it so much and along with all the gifts they received we left several bags of tea.
Ana Chacua is a 51 year old widow with AIDS. We found her to be covered with sores and she said internally she is in intense pain-at times it is crippling. She continues to work hard trying to support herself and her children. Her children are not attending school right now because she can’t afford school fees. During the day Chacua plaits hair outside her home and goes to town in the evening to sell meals she cooks over a charcoal fire alongside the street. She needed a bigger pot and some plates. I asked why she didn’t use plastic plates and she said if you have pretty plates people will come and eat at your stand because they feel special being served on pretty plates. She will be getting a new pot, plates and her children will return to school.
Luchia has been helping us as we go around to the widows with their mattresses, tea and gift bags crammed with food, soap and supplies. She has stood by smiling while we shared tea with them and carried food to them. Today was her turn. She was so excited! As we worked together we had no idea of the burdens of her past. She has a ready smile and doesn’t seem to notice the holes in her shirt that she wears everyday. When we sat down to tea in her little one room place she told us her husband died of AIDS leaving her with three children. Her in-laws turned on her and treated her badly –even trying to poison her children! She began sobbing as she remembered how dark her life had been and she thought suicide was the only answer. She had been an orphan and then when her husband died and she found she had AIDS no one would help her or have anything to do with her. She was truly without hope. She stopped talking and the tears flooded her face. I knelt on the floor next to her and held her as she trembled and cried hard. I could feel her tears running down my neck but I continued to hold on until she stopped trembling. Her voice shook and the tears continued as she told us how Ruth had become the mother she never had. She now has a sewing machine and her own and sells Irish Potatoes at night. Pastor Ruth moved her into a room behind Smile Africa. It’s small but she is so grateful. She said the first night her son lay on the floor and said, “God really loves us!” Wendy was able to comfort her and share with her her feelings of being a widow and offered words of hope by telling her whenever she feels alone to rest her head on Jesus shoulder and allow Him to comfort her. Pastor Ruth had told her that I wrote and said we wanted to help the widows but we didn’t have the money so she told Luchia to pray that God would touch the hearts of people so we would get the money. She wondered how the Holy Spirit communicates for us in America to care for the widows in Africa and how she was singled out –she knows it was the plan of God and makes her feel special that Jesus knows her in such detail. She asks us to continue to pray for Smile Africa and the widows of Uganda because there are many widows moving about but in their hearts they are dead because of all the problems that weigh on them. Continue to pray that that burden is lifted
Today was a great day beginning with an Easter celebration. After church everyone was given a bottle of soda and ate rice and beef. It was so well organized! They worked really hard and everyone had plenty to eat.
Robert, Greg, Wendy and I were invited to spend Easter in the jungle. The meal was fabulous and they made an Easter cake giving Robert and me the honor of cutting it. We just had to do the first cut as a sort of a blessing. We played with the children, making animal balloons. We hiked a ways and watched the monkeys from a distance.
Kiri, the widow who is the first in the series by Betsy Cluff was there. I gave her a framed print. She was so happy and couldn’t believe someone had chosen her to draw.
Today Pastor Ruth directed Wendy and I to the homes of three widows. Christina is a 55-year-old widow whose husband died last year. She never attended school. Her mother died when Christina was a baby and her father raised her alone until he died when she was ten. She was shifted from one relative to another. No one wanted her and finally in desperation she married at the age of twelve. Christina works for other people digging in their gardens and makes very little money. Her son who is in 3rd grade had to drop out of school because she has no money to pay his school fees and his uniform is extremely ragged. If you look up at the ceiling of their grass roof you will see an unbelievable number of hornet’s nests. We were told they can spray to get rid of them so we will see to it that gets done.
Rosemara is 47. Her husband was drinking and walking home late one night when he was jumped by robbers and murdered. There are a number of people in this particular area who have drinking problems. Alcohol is easy and cheap to make and poverty is high. Rosemara’s son, Julian was roaming the streets when Pastor Ruth found him and began feeding him. When Tom was here in January Julian was one of the seven street boys he placed in boarding school.
When we stepped out of Rosemara’s house a woman came running and calling my name. She was my friend, Modesta. Her husband went “mad” as they say in 2001 and her life has been a struggle ever since. They have five children. She thinks someone put a curse on him because he was a success in business and all of a sudden he started screaming in the night and threatened to kill her and her children-sometimes he thought people were trying to break in to kill him. He will lie in one area for days at a time. He can go a month without eating or talking-when he finally does eat she has to feed him. Other times he will run around the neighborhood naked. She doesn’t know what to do. She says she has taken him to doctors-as far away as Kenya and no one knows what is wrong with him. They say there is nothing wrong with him! She asked me to come in and look at him and with her permission I took his picture. You will see him in the photo album. Please be in prayer for this poor woman.
Then we met Fatuma Achieng! Achieng means sunshine. What a delight she was! Pastor Ruth had sent me her photo and told me her hands and toes had been eaten away by leprosy. She had the most beautiful face and immediately my artist friend, Betsy decided she would draw her for the second of her series of three of the widows of Uganda. I knew I had to meet Fatuma so Pastor Ruth arranged it. When I told Fatuma how Pastor Ruth sent her photo to me she said, “Thank you for receiving my photograph.” I told her, “Betsy is working on drawing you and when I return I will bring it to you.” She said she hopes she lives that long and added “God is good-that is why you’ve come.” I told her we brought gifts. Did she want them. She laughed and raised her hands. “Yes! God has given me those gifts. I can’t refuse them. Will you come back before I die?” “I’m coming back in June. Will you stay alive until then?” “If you lived closer I would come to see you.” “If I lived closer I’d invite you to dinner.” “ I couldn’t leave my house for that long because thieves might break in while I’m away!” She said she gets money by going into town, begging. “Do people give you money when you beg?” “Yes. At times they give me money.” “Mzungus?” “Blacks and Mzungus and an Indian.” I asked her about her leprosy. She said she got leprosy when she was around 20 and the Mzungus from Britain saved her life by giving her 12 injections daily. She married and her husband didn’t fear getting leprosy. They had a good life with her being his only wife. “Shall we go get your gifts?” “Heh!!” When she saw her large tote filled with rice, beans, porridge, soap and other things she raised her hands in praise. THEN the mattress came! She was so overjoyed. “A person who cares about poor people-God knows that person.” “Are you going to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday?” “I pray at the mosque.” “I guess you won’t be celebrating Easter then. . .” She laughed and hugged me. I hope she lives long enough to meet Betsy.
Wendy, Greg, Robert and I arrived safely in Tororo. We had a smooth trip and were happy to meet up with our friends. Illiana and her sister, Elizabeth had been in Tororo and we had just a few moments to spend with them before they returned to California. They along with Pastor Jane jump started the widows’ program and were able to visit 30 widows in the bush bringing them food, mattresses and purses filled with basic items. Among the items was a box of matches. One of the widows cried when she saw them and said, “I know that God has shown me favor today. I prayed last night for a box of matches! Today I have seen God face to face!” Another widow overjoyed with the gifts they had brought danced and said, “Poverty has left my home today!” Illiana and Elizabeth purchased a bed for a 65-yr-old lady who had never slept on a bed in her life. They also gave each widow a small package of meat. Overjoyed with such a treat they immediately began frying it. One had not tasted meat in three years! These women have strong hearts for the widows of Uganda and we hated to see them leave. Robert and Greg have been meeting with the electricians. Along with working they have been holding classes and trying to raise the bar for the young men who are learning the trade. Wendy brought some labor balls to the clinic and showed them how to use them to ease labor. Everyone wanted to try! Even the men. There was a lot of laughter over them. She also gave the nurses new blood pressure kits-for adults, children and babies. We then went to Grace’s house and visited with her and the children who were home from boarding school for the Easter holiday. We are so proud of these children. Two of them are the “head boy” and “head girl” at school. The teachers pick children who they think are deserving and the kids vote. Godfrey and Tina, two of our orphans were chosen. They are all doing so well in school-those who were failing are now excelling. Two of them will be moving on to secondary school next year! Today Wendy and I will visit some widows with Pastor Ruth. Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter at True Vine and after church everyone will get to eat meat! Thanks for your prayers!
Today Robert and I along with Wendy and Greg Stokes will travel to Uganda. A fabulous team will follow on April 11th. We have been collecting purses and gifts for a tea party to be held in Uganda for 150 women on April 21st. We will also be holding tea parties for widows in the bush. Betsy Cluff, a local artist has designed a series of three “Widows of Uganda” prints. They are signed and numbered-limited to 500 each. She has donated her work to Hope4Kids with every cent from the sales going to support our widows of Uganda projects.
People from across the United States have pitched in. Please enjoy the video and watch the website as Hope4Kids makes a difference in the lives of widows as well as the many orphans in Uganda.
This video is in memory of Jennie Lapier Smith who was an inspirational example of strong women as she lived her life independently until a few weeks before her death at the age of 101. Keep us in your prayers!