Sponsorship or Destiny?

Over 20 years ago I found an organization I felt I could trust and sponsored a child. This child was in Haiti and was a little girl I sponsored through Compassion International. As she grew up and left the program I asked for another child but wanted to switch to a boy that was a bit older. I thought older kids might have a harder time winning the hearts of new sponsors since the younger ones are so doggone cute. A young teenager named Kaboko Samson from Uganda was sent to me. I enjoyed sponsoring the Haitian girl as I knew what a difference my money made in her life but I never really connected with her personally. Kaboko and I were a different story! He and I wrote long letters to each other. He was quite a blessing to me. He read my letters ingesting every word and even shared them with his village elders. I shared my heart and what wisdom I could. I grew to love him dearly and that connection was what led me to Uganda in the first place. I had no idea when I asked for that child to sponsor how it would change my life. I had hoped to change his, of course, but it was actually my life and now the lives of many others that has been, and is being, changed. I am incredibly thankful to Compassion for connecting me to my destiny.

 This last week I spent some hours reading reports from the Social Worker, Ritah, in the Help School. She had identified some children that desperately need sponsorship. As she sent pictures and her handwritten short biographies of why they had been chosen my job was to rewrite the stories to help them be easy to read on the web site as interested people considered sponsorship. I spent several years being an Advocate for children in the Compassion International program. I would get packets of pictures and stories of children all over the world, go to an event, set up a table and talk to everyone about why they should take a child to be their sponsored child. I would try to get them to realize how little it was at about a dollar a day to them, maybe a soda a day or a lunch once a week, but that dollar a day was life giving to the children. And how helping the sponsored children helped their parents and siblings as what little resources that family had wouldn’t have to stretch so far. It was always hard to put away the packets that were not chosen as I knew these kids were waiting and in dire circumstances. But I was hopeful someone else advocating would be able to find them a sponsor next time.

The kids Ritah sent me are more personal to me as there is not a big organization with lots of Advocates working on their behalf and I have actually met many of them, seen their homes and know their village. There are only a very few of us and a school of over 500 kids needing help. Our sponsorship program just started about a year ago. We had our hands full trying to equip the school we had started. It needed a feeding program, classrooms, teachers, furniture, uniforms, latrines, administration staff, school supplies, etc. How could we also help each family? After finding some of these darling children sick with malaria, full of jiggers (bugs that burrow into your feet and eat away your flesh), sleeping in filth and cared for by elderly grandmothers that didn’t even have the resources to cook food we gave them, or not cared for at all (some didn’t eat from Friday noon to Monday noon when we fed them at school) we had to do something! So we started. The big hearted woman that pours herself into this program has done a wonderful job as around 70 kids now have sponsors of their own. They now have a bed and bed sheets to sleep on, a mosquito net to protect from malaria, their school lunch fees paid, a uniform and extra clothes, access to medical care and weekend food. They are being educated at the Help School so they have a future to break this cycle of poverty. They have a social worker paid to watch over them and teachers who watch and care for them. Exciting for us to see but I still have that sinking feeling as I still have to “put packets away”.

 As I typed Ritah’s stories tears welled up. Their stories are tough. One little boy’s father had died so his mother took him to a hair salon and abandoned him. Now one of our teaches has taken him in but needs help to care for him. Margrate never knew her father as he disappeared when her mother got pregnant. The mother was in the 6th grade when she conceived. Now she tries to take care of her daughter by selling tomatoes along with dozens of others trying to sell the same thing. Majidu’s mother is mentally disturbed and the father is unknown since the mother was raped by anyone due to her mental condition. The grandmother cares for Majidu but has many grandchildren she must provide for. She has trouble feeding them all and paying school fees. Majidu is 6 years old. 11 year old  Bant’s mother died in 2011without showing him who his father is. A sister cared for him until she was married. At that time he was left with a neighbor. That neighbor has chased him away now so he is staying with a PTA member who requests assistance. I know Joan pretty well. She is the one in 6th grade that makes everyone laugh. She is a leader of her peers and loved by many. She has lived with her grandmother since early childhood. Her parents divorced and when the mother remarried she left Joan with the grandmother. The father disappeared in 2010. The grandmother has no job so she struggles with paying for food and school fees. 14 year old Gloria’s mother died last year around Christmas. Recently her father sent 3 of her siblings to their home village for relatives to care for. He kept Gloria so she could help care for her one year old sister. When he has work he has to leave for a time so Gloria misses school to take care of the baby. If the father doesn’t go for work there is no food or rent.

And the stories go on…. And my heart breaks……But I have hope there is a sponsor somewhere for each of these dear children who will love them like I loved Kaboko and whose lives will be touched more than they can imagine. Maybe they too will find their destiny as I have mine.

African Camp

Sometimes kids just make you proud! If they are teens and young adults it is even sweeter!
I was in the library just having returned to the Ugandan village in East Africa I have come to love. A bus drove up and unloaded some of my very favorite people. They were just returning from a church camp we had sent them to over their Christmas break. The camp is called SALT and stands for Saved and Living True. I was impressed with their itinerary:

  • Morning Devotion [Quiet Time]
  • Drills & Chores & War room
  • Break Fast [See Menu Attached]
  • Teaching Sessions and Discussions [Sexual Relationships, Pride, Missions & Evangelism, Goals & Ambitions, Attitudes, Obedience to Man, Love &
  • Accepting myself, Personal relationships, Career guidance, Growing through failure, Temptation, Addictions, Anger & Personal rights]
  • Out door Games & Sports
  • Club House/ Campaigners/ Obstacle Course, Bon fire, Roasting
  • Lunch & Dinner & Tea Breaks
  • Chores

I remember camp well. I loved the fun times, inspirational times and the friends I made. I ask them to tell me all about their experiences. I was expecting to hear about the music and athletic competitions, the new friends and social times they had enjoyed. Instead they were excited to tell me what they learned. Each one gave a short report and all agreed that the lessons learned were the best part of their time.  (I think the food came in 2nd )

  • Harriet learned how to not give into temptations.
  • Hillary learned he could defeat Satan by prayer and fasting and keeping God’s Word in his heart.
  • Jackie learned that sex is good inside of marriage but leads to death outside of marriage.
  • Fauzia learned to put God first in everything.
  • Margaret learned that even Jesus was tempted Matthew 4: 1-5.
  • Elvin learned that if tempted you can discern and if the temptation is bad you can leave.
  • Juma memorized the books of the Gospels and found out gospel means “good news”. He also learned there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 29 in the New making 66 in all. In addition he knew the first 5 books of the Old Testament were written by Moses.
  • Betty  L. learned that if she is tempted she can put God’s word in her heart so she can overcome the temptation.
  • Betty Ajello remembered 1 John 15
  • Annette learned more about love. To love your neighbor as yourself
  • Betty learned to worship God through singing.
  • Henry learned that Satan is the tempter and to resist Him.
  • Billy learned to overcome temptation by filling his heart with the Word of God and listening to the leading of the Holy spirit. He said that if we don’t then it will be like we are building our houses on sand rather than on the Solid Rock. Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 4:5
  • Joel G learned that to believe in Jesus you can escape for sin and can overcome temptation. He wants to make God the center of life in all that he does. He also learned that it is important to keep our bodies pure.

Now you can see why I am so proud! I pray they can follow through living their lives in God’s everlasting love and knowing He is a forgiving God if they do fall into temptation.

One by One

One by one they won hearts. They weren’t exactly handpicked. They just won our hearts. It is usually our first trip to Africa that gets us woven into their lives. Sponsoring a child in Africa isn’t by happenstance. Sometimes I think it is God pairing us up and sometimes I think it is some wise mother. Usually I just think it is just the way it should be no matter how it got that way. Hillary was the first, along with Henry. They found their place in my husband’s heart. He didn’t really ever figure out just what it was. A lump came in his throat and tears usually followed when he would remember Hillary. With Henry it may have been his shy smile and eager eyes. We really don’t know. Then there were the two girls Stephanie couldn’t get off her mind, Fauzia and Harriet. Billy was a surprise as he had been volunteer teaching in the school even though he hadn’t even finished his high school education. He just loves teaching kids and was willing to do it for free. He was a shoe in for winning our hearts! Just hearing about him inspired Susanna (a young girl with only an allowance) to send him to school. The next trip brought Boo and Elvin together and Betty took on cook Betty’s girls. With witnessing a sharing of lunches Cory lost her heart to two boys, Sam and Juma. One winter Joel impressed Lynda and she committed to helping him finish school so his dream of becoming a lawyer could be a possibility. Jackie had a dream that a white man she could only define as Jesus told her help was on the way for her schooling. She was distraught because she had just lost her school funding and didn’t know what she was going to do. Just one more year and she could apply to the university.
Like I said, one by one they became part of the HELP family. These are all kids who are not in the HELP School since they are older than our students but kids that are being “sponsored” . In this case that means their schooling is getting paid. Schooling involves school fees, school lunches, uniform and school supplies. This can run as little as $10 a month (more like $30 a month for high school students) and makes a world of difference to these young people. Many of them have sat out of school so much that they are way too old for the class they are in but that doesn’t seem to matter much. They are so very grateful to get to continue their education. We are grateful for the chance to give them hope in their future and be a part of their lives. 
I have been particularly involved with this group of kids. Some of the sponsors have changed. Some are not still being sponsored for one reason or another. But most are a few years further along in their studies than when we first met them. I can’t help but be really proud of them. I am the lucky one. I get to meet with them and call them my friends. They are maturing. Their number has grown. We now have Pricillar, Annette Peace, Michael, and Joel the artist numbering the group a dozen. . Five are in boarding school which is a bit more expensive but the only solution we could figure out for the circumstances they were in (one was being strangled by a step parent, one was a street kid mortally afraid of his father, one was sleeping with animals and not eating unless he was at school, one was sleeping in a church rejected by his mother). All have won our hearts. I think I can speak for the sponsors in saying we receive more than we give. It is so good to give a young person a chance! It is so rewarding to know you have made a real difference in a young life! It is very personal when you receive a letter telling you they are praying for you and eternally grateful for your help. You become their heroes even though all you may be doing is giving up some small unimportant thing to be able to send the money they so desperately need. In some cases they would not still be alive today without this intervention. In all cases they would not have the schooling and promise of a future. God says He has plans for us. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give us a future and a hope. We are getting to play a part in God’s plan for these 12 children. Just wonderful if you ask me!

Girl Without Knickers

Faces can blur in crowds. When there are lots of eyes on you it is harder to see the individual ones. However Elizabeth stood out from the beginning. She was a bit older and obviously delighted to be in school. Not having the chance to attend even the “free” schools in Uganda she was now having a chance to learn. She wasn’t the only one. There were 50 to start with but she caught my attention from the very first. She didn’t know but I watched her. I watched her sit in front of a computer for the very first time. I watched her learn to read and to dance her traditional dances. I watched her become the girl prefect of the school as she had the highest scores. I watched as her body first grew healthy and then began to mature. Somehow she had become the embodiment of them all, at least all the girls. [Another time I’ll introduce Juma, the prefect for the boys.] Aisha has been a special girl and had no knowledge of it.

This year has been a hard one for her. While her family was visiting grand parents in Kenya their belongings burned in a fire in Masese. When they left for their trip they stored their belongings in a locked, rented room as there was not even a door on their hut. Theft is rampant among desperate people so they thought this was a good plan to protect all their worldly belongings. No one knows how the fire started. Some say witchcraft but the more likely culprit would be a combination of wind and a cooking fire. All their meager property was destroyed. Totally unable to rebuild and replace, the parents left to live with family in Kenya. However they thought it best to leave two of their children behind requesting the Help School to watch over them. If they were taken to Kenya there would be no way for schooling. So Elizabeth and her younger brother became a ward of the school. Teacher Ben took her in but after an altercation with the mama of that house Elizabeth was shuffled to Irene’s and then onto Teacher Lydia’s which is where I found her this trip. Her grades dropped dramatically in this time but were back up since being at Lydia. She sleeps on the floor as do all the kids since there is no room at Lydia’s but she seems relatively happy there. 
One day Elizabeth and 3 other girls approached me telling me they had started their periods. They needed pads and knickers. Lydia had them using tissue paper since there were no pads but they also had no underwear. Finding instant sympathy with our team visiting the school, panties and pads were bought that very day. However as they were given out Elizabeth and a friend missed out. Theirs were stored until the next day but before we could get them given out Elizabeth, encouraged by her friends, claimed I said she could come get them herself and took them. Well, as I saw it she had lied and stolen. Definitely behavior that needed to be addressed. Quite possibly I would have let a staff member handle this if it had been another student but since it was her I decided to confront her myself. In a group, including the friends who had encouraged her, Lydia, the school social worker and the Project Manager, I told her how special she was and had been since the beginning. I told her I loved her but my heart hurt to see her lie and steal. I asked her to trust me and not feel like she had to take matters into her own hands. I told her how disappointed I was in this behavior but that I have high hopes for her future. She cried big tears hiding her face behind a folder and asked me to forgive her. My mother’s heart melted. I went over and held her as she sobbed. I cried to think a young girl would need to steal to get sanitary pads and underwear! The bonding that passed between us may even have been visible! Her mother is far away and I have just told her I love her. She clings to me and I to her. I believe her life took a huge turn in those minutes. Life changing! I never stop being amazed at God’s plan to use me in this work. Showing His grace and forgiveness is easy when I think of all the grace and forgiveness He has given me.
The day I left she was waiting to be the last to say good bye. Her hug was tight and heartfelt, as was mine. I am already looking forward to our next trip to see her again. I want to see this girl graduate and change her world!

I left with provisions for her to be fed but I really wish I could bring her parents back to her! A micro business loan and some money to buy essentials to start their humble home would be so wonderful!

When Necessary, Use Words

St Francis of Assisi ‘s quote, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” has made a profound impact on my life. I was not a born preacher, or evangelist and often wondered if I was missing the mark in some important way. I felt better when I learned that God gives different gifts to each of us. Even though I am not shy I am a little introverted which can make me more comfortable somewhat in the background. When Jean and I go together she is the “preacher”. I speak to groups when called on but I wouldn’t call it preaching. Jean has a gift I don’t have and I am OK with that. However, it is very important to me that I “preach” with my actions. I am described as a humanitarian sometimes and that is OK to a point. Mostly I am just trying to be what God has made me to be giving Him all the credit for who I am and what I do. I really want to be His hands and feet when He needs me to be.

I have been asked, by one of the readers of my newsletter, to say more about the spiritual impact HELP is having on the Masese community. Of course this is hard to quantify but it is ultimately important. We are not ones to keep count as our direction is not to bring any glory to ourselves by bragging on how many “salvations” we have brought about. We are well aware that God gives the increase. We may be planting or watering and that is OK with us! It is all for the Kingdom.

Our school is a Christian School. It is well known for that. We sing Christian songs, pray every morning before school, teach Bible stories and Christian values. There are Muslim children in our school who are learning about Jesus. They are allowed to go to prayers in their Mosque on Fridays when we have Christian Studies if their parents want to take them. We love them all the same.


One day we were walking near a classroom where Billy was teaching math. We were surprised to hear him explain that the plus sign in addition was to remind us of the cross of Jesus. He said that every time they use the plus sign it should remind them that Jesus is a good addition to our lives. Never thought of that before. Our teachers are all Christians and are encouraged to live above reproach since they are ambassadors of a Christian School.

Jean has been preaching in both small and large churches in the area since before I ever came there. As soon as a church finds out she is in the area they start trying to get on her schedule to speak at their church.  Now there is a group of 29 pastors in the Masese area  we are partnering with. The leader of that group is the Spiritual Oversight Pastor of the HELP Project . Not only does Jean meet with them each time we are there but together they put on a Pastor’s Training conference last year. After we left we heard there

had been 67 baptisms resulting from the conference. There are also 50 churches started in other areas as a result of this conference. We concluded with a one day women’s conference ministering to 160 women.

An interesting realization is that we actually get more from the faith of the Believers in Uganda than we bring. Because they often have nothing to rely on except for God they rely on Him. As Americans we have our doctors and our money and opportunity to eat well and live in healthy conditions. We don’t “need” God quite like the Africans do. Of course that is a misconception but until we are in the proverbial foxhole we don’t turn to God like we would if the bullets were flying.  In Africa poverty, malaria and all kinds of “bullets” are flying. God is being petitioned and worshipped and given the praise better and more abundantly than anywhere I have ever been before.

Three times Jesus ask Peter “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:16-18. I love Jesus and endeavor to feed his sheep in the village of Masese. We help feed them physically and help feed them spiritually and help feed them emotionally. Body, soul, and spirit are all important to the Kingdome of God!

30 Pieces of Silver or A Million Ugandan Schillings or $400

Have you ever wanted to ask Judas what he was thinking? We surmise different motives but I would just like to talk with him and see what on earth he was thinking.

I often look at babies and wonder what they are thinking.

Well, Judas is dead and babies can’t tell you what they are thinking so I should just give it up.

However, certain situations really make me wonder. Derrick, the 13 year old street boy I wrote about, stole money and ran away from the loving home he was invited into. For a bit of money he left safety, love, provision, education, opportunity, family and maybe a future. Now he is back on the streets and in a more dangerous city. Now why would he do that??? Is it just immature thinking? Is there something about the illusion of freedom of the streets I don’t understand? Is there a spiritual struggle going on here? Are drugs involved? I simply can’t imagine what would take a seemingly fine young man who had just been given a chance in life back to a way of life that was so very hard. Did he think money would buy him better than what he was leaving? Did Judas want the money? Or was he trying to prove some unimaginable something? Look what he left behind? The Lover of our souls. The one who offers eternity with God the Father.  Goodness, mercy, forgiveness, power and restoration were traded for a bit of money. Is that what Derrick walked away from too? It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil. I can sure see that in this instance. What a shame! Makes me want to throw up! I would really like to know what he was thinking. Then I’d like to shake him until his teeth rattled! I pray someday he returns to his Father as the prodigal son, repentant and ready to live the life His Heavenly Father yearns for him to live. Then we will rejoice. Now I am worried sick.


Africa can be absolutely beautiful. It is not at all what I thought it would be before my first time here. I had the Tarzan stories in mind. You know; monkeys, jungle, swinging through the trees, snakes and all that. Some parts of Africa may be more like that maybe but this part isn’t. It is green but I don’t see vines to swing on. There are some rolling hills around us but no savannahs where we are with lions and elephants roaming around. I have only seen monkeys in parks. They were running loose and very fun but they aren’t plentiful in this area. We do drive through a jungle looking area that fascinates me as we drive to Kampala. I bet there are monkeys there and maybe even vines to swing on but from the road we are traveling on we see nothing but dense green. My imagination is fueled with the possibilities! The safaris I have gotten to experience have been amazing with lions, elephants, giraffes, exotic birds and much more but that is not the day to day Africa where we are.

Every day we travel over the Nile River. I love that! It is beautiful for sure. The Nile has such Biblical and historical importance that I hardly can believe I am actually viewing it in real life. I have been to a part of the Nile where the alligators and hippos were numerous but tonight I saw people swimming in it.

We decided to eat at the Black Lantern Restaurant as a treat. Not only is the food good but the main draw is the view. We sit out on a patio high on the side of a hill overlooking the Nile.

The sky was glorious through the greenery. Bright red flowers bloomed on a nearby tree. Lovely white flocks of birds flew through the air. The river was wide with currents and small fishing boats creating patterns on the surface of the water. For just a bit peace permeated our beings. Ahhhh! Africa!


Mar 20, 2012

I am in the process of gathering stories. Some of the stories I am getting through interviewing and some I am living. Both are powerful. As I am interviewing the women of the bead group to get their stories I am seeing a pattern that disturbes me. Many grandmothers are raising their children’s children. The parents are nowhere to be found and don’t help support their children. Many women have left their children to remarry. They have had to make a choice between their children and their new spouse. Seems like most men reject the children of the former husband. Many of the women feel like they need a husband to take care of them so they leave their children to their mothers. At the same time a new wife can reject her husband’s children from his former marriage. The step mother stories I hear make the wicked step mother of the fairy tales very real. The step parents are more scary than being abandoned.
Once abandoned or driven off, the street children have it pretty rough as well. They band together in groups similar to our gangs. The older boys take the money of the younger ones and beat them if they don’t give the their money or if they are playing instead of working the street. It is not safe to sleep at night as that’s when the violence happens.  

Concrete is not very friendly to a good night’s rest nor are the chilly nights without blankets. Rain makes it even more of a challenge. There are organizations help feed street children. And some even offer some medical help. But it is a big problem. Many of the street kids prefer the streets to more restrictive environments but the danger can be deadly. It is tough to know which to fear most; the homes you ran away from or fending for yourself. Looks like the children can’t win! Mothers won’t keep them, step mothers don’t want them, fathers are abusive, the streets are dangerous and orphanages are few since the aids epidemic has left so many parentless kids and there are even still witchdoctors that steal children and sacrifice them
Interestingly enough I just about caused a riot at a parents meeting at the HELP School when I told them we had forbidden the teachers to cane the students. More than 3/4s of them were adament that we could never teach without caning their kids. Supposedly there is a saying that a black man cannot learn without stripes on his back. I thought I would be sick . I hope to show a better way and prove kids can be taught and taught well without being hit!

I know there is another side to this story as there are certainly parents in Africa that love and care for their kids but today I have been submerged in the dark side. The Michael that I wrote about and his 13 year old friend, Derrick, spent the last 36 hours with us. They had been beaten the night before. The adorable 8 year old Michael had a huge lump on his head and was limping. 

Ugh! Derrick had been hit when he tried to stand up for his friend. We could no longer walk away! We kept them with us; fed them, bathed them, bought some clothes and got them shoes and haircuts, made them laugh, cuddled them, listened to their hearts. We fell in love! I’ll write more later when I am not so tired but let me assure you that they both are in better places tonight! We can’t rescue the whole world but each one God brings us is precious.