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February » 2008 » Hope 4 Kids International Blog


Team says Goodbye
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Sunday morning Robert and I stood waving sadly to the fabulous widows’ outreach team as they piled into a bus and began their long journey home. We had such a great time and were so busy. The classes for women were a hit and on the last day I walked around watching, taking photos of the classes. I stopped to listen as Rukia read a story about Nelson Mandela and other members of the reading class showed off their skills. The knitting/crocheting class had grown large and Mae and Bonnie were stretched trying to teach last minute methods. LaVerne joined Stacy and Jodi as they wrapped up their business class with a crowd of eager women. Cathy and Amanda’s overflowing Bible class gathered to glean knowledge one final time. Lizanne and Debi were flooded with questions about health as they wrapped up their visit. The women were so pleased with the sessions and hated to see them end.

The team has probably arrived home or at least on US soil by now and you will be there to welcome them home. They will be tired and their days and nights will be turned around so if you wake up at 3AM and your wife is eating pickles and ice cream don’t be alarmed—she’s just making up for food she didn’t get in Uganda and is her stomach is still on Uganda time.

Robert and I will remain here until Friday while I interview women for my next book and we tie up loose ends.

Sunday afternoon we went to the jungle to see my Wazemba. She was so happy. She told me: “My sister is here and we have waited three days for you to come. I thought you had abandoned me.”
I assured her I had not.
“I kept telling my sister, ‘I have a friend in America’”
She asked, “Do you know the road to America?”
“No. But I have a friend there. And now at last you have come!”

My friend Betsy has donated widow’s prints to be sold for the widow’s program and did one of Wazemba. When I presented it to her she was astonished and the neighbors crowded around to have a look. Everyone said, “It looks just like her!”

I gave her a doll and told her she could name it Rachel and then whenever she was lonesome for me she could hold her doll. She liked that and had a great time playing with the doll. Then she gave me a list of needed supplies and said if I wanted to buy her a little meat that would be all right too. I promised the food would come the next day—perhaps she would find some meat amongst her supplies.

Her 100-year-old sister arrived and was a bit surprised to see Wazemba really did have a Mzungu from America. We chatted about her life and she said she was not a Christian but wanted to become one so we prayed together and she accepted Jesus as Lord of her life.

We couldn’t have asked for a better way for the day to end as we were already missing our teammates.


Sewing Machines for Widows
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Lord of Life Lutheran Church of Maple Groove, MN sent money for ten sewing machines for Smile Africa. In the true spirit of sharing Pastor Ruth called together five groups of women who are working together in surrounding villages and communities and donated two machines to each group. Such rejoicing as women from each group attended a ceremony to receive the machines. Smile Africa’s goal is for each group to have ten machines and for women to come together to learn tailoring and empower women throughout the outlying areas and eventually throughout all of Uganda.

Kent and Laura Dirks alerted their church of the needs at Smile Africa and the women of Uganda so when they sent the money we felt it fitting that Kent’s mom, Bonnie who is on this trip, should distribute the machines.

Also, Geraldine from Hermosa Beach raised money at her Christmas party and asked us to spend some of it on sewing machines for women. Today an American missionary and the women leaders in his organization came to receive those machines.

Thank you Lord of Life and Geraldine for the hope you have provided to women through these machines. You are giving individuals an opportunity to earn a living as well as giving groups of women the ability to work collectively—and we know a collective group of women cannot be stopped and change is inevitable


Totes for Widows
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Sue from the Lighthouse Church in Rosemont, MN got her friends together and made totes for the women of Uganda. Our team held a tea party way out in the bush—some women had never seen a Mzungu (White person) before and were amazed to be treated so lovingly after fearing White people for so long.

Our team brought out some of the totes and you can check out the photos labeled “totes for widows”. They LOVED them! Thank you Lighthouse women!

One blind lady walked to the tea party. Our team wondered how she found her way so far out into the bush but when these women learn there is a tea party nothing will stop them from getting there. They will walk many miles if necessary


Bring Light To a Widow
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Last year we began a program called bring light to a widow. I carried soy candles with me to speaking engagements; Community Church of Joy sold them in their book store; Carol Pratt, Carolyn Griebe, Cathy Ballard, Lisa Witham and others sold them to their friends. For each candle sold we would buy a kerosene lantern for a widow in Uganda.

We told our donors:
For each 14 oz soy candle in a mug you buy ($20—suggested donation) a widow will receive a kerosene lantern. The mug will remind you of the tea parties we hold in the bush to raise the dignity & bring joy to the widows. When you light your candle you will imagine the widow lighting her lamp and thanking God because she knows He is the True Light and He has not forgotten her.

The program has been a success and when we saw the boxes upon boxes of lanterns we were able to purchase and distribute it was amazing! The rejoicing of the women whom have never received such a gift. . . We were able to equip each widow attending tea parties, the widows at Mumutumba, and those attending the sewing machine distribution at Smile Africa.

Pastor Ruth said along with all the joy lives are being saved because those who are able to purchase small candles for light have health issues from the toxins released from these poorly made candles. And of course we have seen the devastation of fires destroying homes when the flame gets too close to flammable fabrics.

Thank you for all who participated in this program and made this possible.
The Ugandan widow has suffered much. Not only has she lost her husband but often her home, her livelihood, and her dignity as she is rejected and despised by those around her. She cries for her children whom are forced to the streets to find food. Her tears fall because her deceased husband’s relatives think she and her children are a burden and try to poison them. She cries because prostituting herself or worse-her children becomes unavoidable. At night she weeps wondering how she’s going to make it. Maybe if she ran away she wouldn’t have to watch her children suffer. Most of all she believes God has forgotten her.

Each time you light your candle you will be reminded of a widow in Uganda lighting her lamp. Imagine her tired face lighting up as she sighs, “Today God has remembered me!”



A Day in Mumutumba
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By Cathy Ballard

This morning we headed out to our Mumutumba. (Hey Seaside, did you know there’s another road out to Busia-and it’s PAVED!) It was a beautiful day and Pastor Jessica was very excited to show us her new home. She gave us a tour of her house, the pig pen and the chicken coup which was made out of the old church. (nothing has gone to waste)

We held a widow’s tea for 30 women of Mumutumba and it was great fun to work with our other sisters in Christ on this trip, and to share our village. We served tea and cookies while we washed their feet and prayed for them. When we were done, each widow took home her new wash basin, 2 kilos of posho, 2 kilos of beans and seed packets for planting.

Some of us also visited our orphans in Mumutumba while the rest of the team played with the village children. We had a great time coloring, blowing bubbles, and playing with frizbees and soccer balls. We handed out candy and discovered the kids didn’t like Tootsie Rolls. They say they stick to their teeth.

It was a beautiful day and we were so happy to see all the buildings, animals and newly planted trees. I only wish our whole Seaside family could have been there to share the day.

Rachel’s note:
Seaside is a church in the Huntington Beach area and they have sponsored a village—to sponsor a village you pay for the land, church, a small clinic, the pastor’s home, a village well and a sound system for the church. I’m not sure of the cost but know that all this is around or less than $35,000. Is that incredible?? If your church is interested contact for details.



Valentine Party
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“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Today we had a valentine party for the karamojong children. We brought and hung decorations. The widows gathered together first and we taught them to make dolls of fabric and yarn. They designed valentines for their children and friends and decorated their own cookies with frosting and sprinkles. How they loved it!

We along with the widows joined the children whom were anxiously awaiting their portion of the party. The widows sat next to one or two children each teaching them to make the power dolls. What a sight to see these women sitting with children whom have been rejected and despised by society and lovingly teach them. It was a tremendous statement for all involved. While half of the children worked with the widows the other half lined up for decorated cookies. Be sure to look at the great photos we have of them eating the cookies.

Soon the meat we had added to the meal of rice and beans was ready and they all ate and celebrated together.

Our theme this week has been unity between the organizations of True Vine and Smile Africa. We did not realize God was at work unifying tribes, people of different faiths and walks of life. As our bus shuttled the widows they sang making up their own words. “God is so good. He allows us to sit with Americans. . .” and went on to list all the different tribes represented. “. . . and even with children. God gives us meat and good food. . .” On and on they rejoiced.

After lunch we met up with Elizabeth who had arranged for us to meet our sponsored children. Jodi was overwhelmed as she met her children for the first time. There is something so amazing that flows over you as you realize this child who had no hope for the future—often not even for the next day as they wonder: What will I eat? Where will I live? Will I live? You think about how your $26 per month takes away some of those concerns then you began to dream for this child. If I placed her/him in boarding school he/she would learn to speak English fluently; would be able to concentrate on studying rather than worry about working the gardens and all the other tasks that pull children from their studies.

Robert and I sponsor several children in boarding school and to see these kids blossom and feel like they are special because they go to boarding school along with kids whose parents can afford to send them is incredible. I spoke to Grace, the mother of two of our sponsored children. She said, “If you had not put my children in boarding school two years ago I believe today they would be thugs in the street.”

This is a great trip—a fabulous team—we are trying to cram in every experience so we’re busy.
Keep us in your prayers!



Internet Problems
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I’m sorry you have had to log on and not see much of what we are doing here but as always the internet gives us fits–this time seems to be worse. But the good news is that we now have wireless at the hotel!! It’s not on all the time but between Jodi Potter, who is helping me and I we will catch up as best we can!


Sunday and Monday
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Mae Jackson, one of our fabulous team members will be turning 80 on this trip! Pastor Ruth along with her friends planned a birthday party for Mae in the jungle! What a party it was! When we arrived there were over 200 guests already waiting to celebrate with Mae. She was met with much shouts of joy, hand clapping, dancing and singing. Two of the grandmothers escorted her to a special seat of honor. They put a necklace of banana fiber and a ring upon her finger representing long life and good health. Pastor Ruth approached Mae and asked her to follow her and led her to a mud hut which held four beds in preparation for those of us spending the night. Mae thought I guess they want me to take a nap before my party. Pastor Ruth told her to remove her clothes—so she did! She took off her top and was told, “Okay. That is enough.” They then brought out a traditional African dress and dressed Mae in it. NOW she was ready to party. Oh the noise as she walked the path back to the guests. They crowded around her dancing and celebrating as she was escorted back to her seat.
She and her grandma friends cut the birthday cake and the party began. There were speeches, blessings and many hugs. Mae asked us to give 200 cross necklaces out to the adult guests as her gift to them. There were just enough and the timing was perfect because by the time we were ready to serve the meal there were close to 300 guests!
There was such joy and no one wanted to leave.
Some of the team members returned to the hotel and eight of us spent the night in the jungle in the mud huts. It was such a blast. We roasted marshmallows, sang and danced and heard stories. The neighbors stayed on singing and dancing long after we snuggled down in our huts.


Monday morning the team members from the jungle were brought back to the hotel to shower and prepare for the widow’s training at True Vine. A rough count of the attendees was almost double from the first day of training. Cathy shared her testimony and the ladies cheered her courage and faith and thanked her for sharing her life with them.

We, once again, split into the different groups for training. In the Bible lesson group we had a woman, Victoria, who stopped the group in the middle of the study and prayed to accept Christ. Another reason to celebrate! There was progress in all other groups as well.

Later in the afternoon, a team went to the bush (deep into the jungle) and served the widows a tea party and blessed them with pedicures and scarves, etc. One thing we are learning quickly on this trip is that when we invite people to any of outreaches, we should plan for twice as many to show up.

I was just thinking that one of the challenges in each of our training sessions is the language barrier. There are many that speak English, but many tribal languages are spoken, and finding an interpreter that speaks English AND their tribal languages has been the challenge. Each time we manage to finally get it all arranged, but I was wondering if the women really understand our words. Then, I was comforted by this verse:

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.: 1 John 3:18



February 2008 Trip Update
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So much has happened since we arrived in Uganda.

We arrived in Tororo on Thursday evening and hit the ground running. On Friday morning we were at Smile Africa to begin training women. 75 – 100 women were waiting for us.

Jodi and Stacy taught a finance/business class. Information was gathered so that we can be better able to help them organize their existing businesses and we introduced the idea of working together. This is a new idea for them. They were a little reluctant with this idea, but soon were sharing some ideas. This is a great step! Bonnie and Mae taught crocheting. Debbie and Lizanne held informational/medical session in which women asked questions ranging from leg pain to HIV. Cathy and Amanda led a Bible class, while Wendy did a grief workshop. Esther, Carol and Laura taught a beginning reading class. Our 6 students were very attentive and eager to learn. They loved copying our vocabulary words and wanted us to give them smiley faces on their papers every time that they had written a few words.

All of the women were receptive and left looking forward to Monday when we will once again gather at True Vine.

After our session with the women, we helped serve the Karamojong children who arrive at Smile Africa daily. A number of months ago these children would rise early in the morning to dig through the trash for rotten potatoes and other produce thrown out by vendors. One day a 10 year old girl, Maria, was picking through the trash for food. She found a piece of meat in the mouth of a dead rat. Within hours she died a violent death. We knew we had to do something and began helping Pastor Ruth to feed the Karamajong children. They arrive daily and are fed two meals, they are bathed, their clothes are washed, and wounds are treated. There are teachers on hand teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic. These children whom were regarded as parasites to the community are now filled with the love of Christ. They know that they are valued and loved. As the team served the children, we were humbled and teary realizing 382 children have been rescued. Please pray with us this week as we petition for food from the world food bank for Smile Africa.

Most of the team returned to the hotel but Robert, Amanda, Laura, and I went to Pastor Ruth to shop for Mae’s birthday party. At the end of a long day we were ready to head back to the hotel. Just then I spotted a tired looking woman walking slowly down the street. She had a baby on her back; another hanging from her side; and a toddler walking behind her grasping onto her shirt. She carried a large cloth bag which appeared to be stuffed with personal belongings. I asked our driver, Georgie, “Is she homeless?” Immediately he and Andrew, another Ugandan brother jumped from the van and went to her. She was confused and said that she was a refugee from Kenya and she was going back. The children looked sick. George and Andrew were concerned by the mother’s mental condition. So, after much coaxing, they got her and her children into the van and took them to a nearby clinic. The babies all had malaria and were hooked up to IV’s. The mother and babies were there to stay for a couple of days. When they are released on Monday; if we can’t figure out where she belongs, she will be taken to a refugee camp. Pastor Ruth said, “This is like a dream. When this woman tells people about this, they won’t believe her because nobody does this.” We left thanking God that He allowed us to be a part of this mission.

Saturday— What a day! We had our first experience of a Ugandan wedding. We arrived to a beautifully decorated church and found many people dressed in their finest, waiting for the arrival of the bride and groom –“bride in hand”. When the caravan carrying the groom is a long way off, people began running down the road waving palm branches and shouting in jubilation. They surround the groom’s car which is decorated with white netting. They threw rose petals, sing and wave branches as the car slowly pulls up to the church – the groomsmen lead the way and perform a type of dance/march moving toward the church entrance. People place palm branches on the ground in front of the groomsmen. Then we wait for the bride. She arrives in the same fanfare as the groom and the wedding begins. A lengthy service follows which is rich with tradition and then on to the reception where there are many speeches and a great deal of food.

More updates will follow, please check back ocassionally. We appreciate your prayers.


Hope 4 Kids International is 501c3 faith-based non-profit committed to help children around the world that are suffering from extreme poverty through Dignity, Health, Joy & Love.

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