In honor of my son on St. Patrick’s Day

Patrick and Maddie chasing down a ball during a fierce game of soccer at my sister's house last fall.

Patrick and Maddie chasing down a ball during a fierce game of soccer at my sister’s house last fall.

St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Chicagoland–but that’s not why Patrick, our son, was named that. He was tiny, nameless, and very sick when he was rescued by Mercy Childcare in the spring of 2007 (the link takes you to the webpage, but on the page is a link to Mercy’s Facebook page, which is updated often with great pics). In a phone conversation between the dear people at Mercy and Sarah, one of their staunchest supporters here in west Chicagoland, Sarah’s daughter suggested they name him “Patrick” after of one of her friends at school.

Wilfred Rugumba, the vibrant young director of Mercy Childcare, with his wonderful wife, Vena, and their two sons. They're still rescuing!

Wilfred Rugumba, the vibrant young director of Mercy Childcare, with his wonderful wife, Vena, and their two sons. They’re still rescuing!

Not quite two years later Patrick officially became an Underwood–though he was in our hearts long before that. We pray that he, like the saint he shares a name with, will love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind and will use his incredible talents and gifts to love his neighbors as himself.

So, in honor of both Patricks, I share this prayer of the bold Englishman who returned to the land where he once lived as a slave to share the power and love of Christ.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 

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A big reason to run

Fourteen years ago I ran my one and only marathon. My husband, Dave, ran his first that day as well. It was November, and we were living in Okinawa, Japan. The course was incredibly hilly, and the weather was unnaturally hot for that time of year. With the constant high humidity, the effects were brutal. More people dropped out of that race than finished it, and several were rushed off in ambulances due to heat stroke.

I finished well beyond my expected time and thought, “That’s it. I’m done.”

I’ve never run another since.

Dave however, ran several in the next few years.

Then he had an eight-year gap.

This summer, he decided to try it again. But he needed a really good reason, one bigger than his desire to drop a few pounds and increase his endurance.

So he decided to run for World Vision.

I offered to do some of his training runs with him. One weekend, I even ran a 14-miler (he says it was only 13, but I’m adding the distance between the end of the trail and the parking lot–and padding it a bit.)

School started then, with all its weekend activities, so the next weekend, when he ran 16, I ran only 8 of it with him. The next week, only 6. The last couple weekends, a friend of his ran the first half or so with him.

But after his friend or I called it quits, Dave would grab his iPod and head back to the trail, slogging out more miles.

 

He tells me that when his hips ache, when his knees burn, he remembers two little girls from our last trip to Uganda. The first is little Comfort, abandoned in the Katanga Slum by her mother and father, placed in Dave’s arms by neighbors who didn’t want to watch her die of starvation. In recent pictures we’ve seen of her, her eyes are still somber, but her cheeks are full, and her arms have the plump roundness they should have at 10 months of age. In every picture, she’s cuddled in the arms of the nurse at Mercy Children’s Home, who looks pretty darn proud of her progress.

The second little girl is Scovia. She’s six but about the size of a four year old. She was born with damaged legs; her mother died; and her father left her locked in their shack for days at a time while he looked for work. When she was rescued by Mercy Children’s Home, she had pressure sores, malnutrition, and severe developmental delays. Now she walks pushing a wheeled contraption, she babbles happily, and she has unending, overflowing JOY.

Comfort and Scovia are healthy today because of child sponsorship, because people who are not worried where their next meal is coming from have concerned themselves with those who do have to worry about such basic needs.

Mercy Children’s Home and hundreds of other orphanages around the world benefit from child sponsorship. Two of the largest sponsoring agencies are Compassion International and World Vision.

So even though Dave is running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday specifically for World Vision, in a way he’s running it for all the orphanages in the world, for all the children who need a safe place and someone to love them. He’s ultimately running it for Jesus, who welcomes children and holds them in His arms.

If you would like to sponsor Dave, please visit this link:

http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120

All proceeds go directly to World Vision.

Thanks,
Jen

 

 

Guest writer: Anna Lindus

Anna and Shawme

Anna and Shawme

Anna Lindus is a junior at Wheaton Academy. She was part of the team that went to Kenya and Uganda with us this past July. When we were in the Katanga slum in Kampala, Uganda, a little girl came up to Anna. Anna picked her up and carried her as we trekked all over the slum, visiting homes and praying with people. At one point, Anna whispered to me, “Is this okay? Won’t someone be worried about her?”

“News travels fast,” I told her. “Whoever cares for her knows she is with us, and they know we can be trusted because we have come with Pastor Wilfred. You are showing love to this little girl–and by doing that, you are showing love to others here.”

Not long ago, Anna gave me a poem she wrote about Shawme, that little girl. I think it is beautiful, just like Anna and Shawme are, and I wanted to share it here.

“Shawme” by Anna Lindus

Little hands wrap around my neck

and sweet eyes peer into mine.

Just three years old, her life is a wreck.

So young and small, she’s all alone,

having to face the world on her own.

She says no words, but speaks with actions and her gentle touch.

Abandoned, helpless, and oh so young,

In order to survive,

Anna and Shawme

Anna and Shawme

she must push her innocence to the side,

tattered and torn, it’s not just her clothes that are worn.

Her eyes say it all to me: she is as tired as could be.

But there is no nap time for her

Because time is precious, can’t I see?

Food is scarce and she is hungry.

Fighting hard to survive and belly expanding each day,

Little Shawme’s life is astray.

Little hands wrap around my neck

and sweet eyes peer into mine

as she tells me her story.

Mercy Childcare Video

This is Angel, whom I've known for nearly six years now. Angel was also rescued by MCCM. She is now studying to help communities fight poverty and its effects on children. You go, Angel! I'm so proud of her.

This is Angel, whom I’ve known for nearly six years now. Angel was also rescued by MCCM. She is now studying to help communities fight poverty and its effects on children. You go, Angel! I’m so proud of her.

I have written much about Mercy Childcare Ministries (MCCM) here on my blog. MCCM rescued our son, Patrick, and worked with us as we adopted him. Dave and I and our oldest child, Emily, along with a team of 15 other people, visited MCCM this past July and had a wonderful, God-blessed time there.

The director of MCCM, Wilfred Rugumba, just posted a link to a video about MCCM, and I wanted to pass it on.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

The Eternal View

This little one fell asleep in Molly's arms. When I think about how many children never know this sense of safety...

This little one fell asleep in Molly’s arms. When I think about how many children never know this sense of safety…

Katie has seen more people die than many Americans do in an entire lifetime. She knows that for every person she is able to help, there are hundreds more in similar conditions. All of this has given her an eternal perspective. She says this on page 192: “I may never see the end of horrendous situations on this earth, so instead of trying to fix the situations here and now, I will focus on helping these people come to heaven with me, so we may say together: ‘Death and sadness have been swallowed up in a victory.’ … Christ has overcome the mess that is in this world and I am humbled to get to witness His salvation on a daily basis.”

It is easy to focus on the physical needs of the people we see, but many have the same ultimate hope we have—and they often have a better grasp on it because they don’t have a whole lot to hold onto here on earth. They sing more about heaven than we do because they truly would be glad to trade this life for that! (Sometimes we’re not so sure!)

Remember that Christ saves for eternity. Providing physical necessities is GOOD—and we should do it—but it’s worth very little if it doesn’t open doors for the Gospel that reaches beyond death and gives LIFE that never ends.

 

Side note: Some of you may be feeling that your sense of “home” is being disrupted on this trip. In some ways, this is good. God wants to prepare our hearts for our true home, and part of this process is making us dissatisfied with belonging here on earth. He wants us to long for our home with Him, where all His beauty, righteousness, justice, and love are revealed in full glory.

 

Questions for thought/discussion:

  1. Spend some time thanking God for His eternal gifts—things that will last forever.
  2. Have you heard your Ugandan friends talk about heaven? Maybe in church? How was it different than the ways we talk about heaven?
  3. The Gospel doesn’t only provide us with an eternity spent with God, it also has the power to transform us NOW. Has any African told you their transformation story? How are YOU being transformed by the Gospel? (remember there is no “small” or “big” in God’s eyes)
  4. The long view also encompasses the ability to look past creature comforts and the years of this life to an eternal perspective. How can we live for eternity—not just on this trip but in our at-home lives as well?
  5. We long to “belong” with people. As Christ draws us closer to Himself, we will find our hearts drawn to others who are also nestling close to His heart. When all the members of Christ are joined completely in heaven, we will know belonging as we never knew it here on earth. Have you ever felt a hint of that kind of kinship with someone?

Africa Devotions, cont.: Not “right/wrong,” just different

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

One of the first lessons cross-cultural travelers need to learn is that cultural differences are not usually “right” or “wrong.” They are simply different. Every culture—including our own—has both “good” and “bad” things about it, “beauty” and “ugliness.” As we learn to break through cultural divisions through genuine friendship with people of other cultures, we will begin to more clearly see our own culture’s “beauty” and “ugliness.”

One of the hard parts of Kenyan and Ugandan culture is the number of street children and orphans. Another is the many children who die from preventable causes. These problems seem overwhelming.

But there is also beauty. Often the people who have absolutely nothing (especially by U.S. standards) welcome others into their homes and into their lives in extraordinary ways. They share in ways U.S. citizens find shocking. They embrace a different pace of life and a strong commitment to community, and they place much less value on appearances. In these same countries are people (like Mary and Wilfred) who love orphans and street kids with their whole hearts and do all they can to help them.

As Katie Davis (of Kisses from Katie) lived in Uganda, she began to have a more critical view of American culture, specifically of our materialism. (Read page 23 of K from K). When we (as U.S. citizens) encounter developing-world cultures, some of us feel the same way Katie did; others feel more tempted to defend U.S. culture and find fault with the third world. Both are normal reactions. We need to be gracious with each other as we process the differences, and we need to be honest with God as we wrestle with this. There are no easy answers.

But in the middle of our wrestling, we can hold tight to a beautiful picture God gives us in Revelation of people from every tribe, nation, people, and language gathered in equality around His throne in joyous worship (Rev. 5:9 and 7:9). Someday the titles “haves” and “have-nots” will be obsolete, and we will have complete, perfect unity.

Questions for thought/discussion:

  1. How do you feel about the differences between U.S. culture and other cultures you’ve experienced?
  2. How do we let go of cultural differences and see people from different cultures as simply another expression of God’s incredibly creativity—another facet of His image?
  3. How does the passage in Revelation bring us hope as we continually process these issues?
  4. Pages 219-224 of Kisses from Katie: How does God’s picture of the body of Christ—the family with brothers and sisters—fit into Katie’s insistence that we should treat everyone God brings into our lives like family?

Kisses from Katie devotionals

DSC_0028Before we went on the trip to Africa, Dave asked if I would write devotionals for the team to use while on the trip. We had asked the girls to read Kisses from Katie, a wonderful book about a girl from the suburbs who went to Uganda after she graduated high school and who now, in her early mid-twenties, has adopted 13 Ugandan girls and lives there full-time. I used Scripture and Kisses from Katie and wrote short devotionals that, I hoped, would cover at least some of the issues and opportunities for growth we would encounter in Africa.

Well, I think doing the devotions IN Africa was fine, but, for me, they seem more necessary back here in the U.S. As always after I return from being in Africa, I feel like I’m stuck in no-man’s land, wondering… well, lots of things.

I don’t know if these will be helpful for anyone besides me, but over the next few days, I’ll be posting the devotions, which I’ve adapted to fit a broader audience. Some are pretty short, but all have discussion/for-thought questions.

 

Everybody Act Medium

Pastor Chuck Swindoll once told a story about some kids who built a clubhouse. They put a sign on the outside that read, “Nobody act big; nobody act small; everybody act medium.”

Those kids knew that harmony and fellowship aren’t possible when people think they’re bigger than others OR when people believe they’re lesser.

But when people view themselves—and everyone else—as “mediums,” equals, there can be fellowship.

Looking from God’s point of view helps us to understand ourselves as “mediums.” Though WE see our human distinctions of wealth, class, education, strength, and beauty as really important, God doesn’t. We all “rate/rank” the same with Him.

Questions:

  1. Read Philippians 2. Paul takes the idea of “medium” to another level. He says to think of others as “better than ourselves.” What does this look like when we’re working/living alongside people from different cultures/backgrounds?
  2. How do we look for similarities rather than differences?
  3. One generality about the American mindset is that we consider ourselves the heroes. This is a particular temptation when we are entering into situations with people poorer than we are. How can Philippians 2 help us to relate correctly to people in these situations?
  4. What are some ways we see Katie doing this in the book? What can we learn from her example? (page 7 “…saw myself in those little faces”  and page 12 “This is the place where…”)

 

Africa Connections Info

Dave and I have mixed feelings about missions trips.

That’s a weird statement considering we just got back from leading one.

On one hand, you spend a LOT of money to get there that could be used instead either by the organizations you work with or by full-time missionaries. Sometimes missions teams go in with the idea that they’re coming in to save the day (not exactly a Philippians 2 attitude).

But on the other hand, often the money spent to go on the trip is like an initial investment. It opens up the team members’ eyes and hearts–as well as the hearts and eyes of their friends and family members–to needs and Gospel opportunities they had no idea of before so that future support gets funneled in directions it would not have otherwise. Mission team members find that they are “mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by … (the) faith” of the people they meet. (Romans 1:12)

My hope is that those of you who have read my blog have, in a sense, traveled with us and been impacted just as we have. Some readers have already asked me about ways to contribute to some of the ministries we worked with, so what I want to do in this post is provide links to all of the different organizations we worked with while we were in Kenya and Uganda. You can learn more about these organizations and donate to them at the website links provided. I’ve also included the link to the specific blog post I wrote about our experience at each organization.

1. Kibera Girls SoccerAcademy:

http://www.kiberagirlssocceracademy.org/

This is a FREE secondary school in the heart of the Kibera Slum (the second largest slum in the world) that provides girls with a quality education so they can continue on beyond secondary school to universities and colleges. Great program.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/11/day-3-in-africa-a-gift-of-a-day/

2. Springs of Hope Orphanage run by Kenyan Mary Musyoka:

http://www.entertheventure.com/

Venture Corps is a U.S.-based non-profit that advocates for several non-profits run by Kenyan and Ugandan nationals. You can find more info on Springs of Hope on Venture Corps website and donate specifically to it or to the Venture Corps general fund.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/10/meet-mary-day-2-in-africa/

3. Mercy Childcare run by Ugandan Wilfred Rugumba:

http://www.mercychildcare.org/

Mercy is dear, dear, dear to my heart. Our son, Patrick, is from Mercy, and I lived with Wilfred and his wife, Vena, for five weeks during our adoption process. Almost all the ministry we did in Uganda was through Mercy and its founding church, Light the World Church in Kampala, Uganda.

Blog links:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/15/seeing-ugandans-light-the-world-day-1-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/16/beauty-from-the-awful-day-3-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/22/final-days-in-uganda/

4. UAPO (Ugandan American Partnership Organization) (In Uganda, known as the Akola Project):

http://www.theuapo.org/ (this site has information about the UAPO)

http://akolaproject.org/ (this is the UAPO’s shopping site–beautiful jewelry and very soon, some amazing woven bags)

Blog link:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/19/our-gifts-gods-purpose/

 

 

 

Final days in Uganda

playing with babies while others painted

playing with babies while others painted

Wilfred and his wife, Vena, left for the States this past Tuesday, leaving us in the very capable hands of Angel and Rachel. Before he left, he and Dave talked about the painting he wanted us to complete at the babies and toddlers’ home: two accent walls, a mural (of our design) on one of the accent walls, and the entire living area (a BIG room). He wanted us to paint it in a gloss coat rather than the current flat paint so the walls could be cleaned.

Dave looked over the entire job and said, “We’ll try, Wilfred, but I am almost certain we will not be able to complete all of this. That’s a lot, but we’ll do what we can.”

Britta with a couple of the little ones

Britta with a couple of the little ones

We had good reason to be proud of our team of girls (we’ve had good reason this entire trip) because they completed the entire job. Some girls played with and cared for babies and toddlers (keeping them away from the painting areas); some painted; some planned and painted the mural; some cleaned paint drips (Deb Smith was on her knees for probably three hours!); some cleaned rollers and brushes so they could be used for different colors. In the end, it was completed! They worked HARD!

naptime!

naptime!

We wanted to get the job finished, but we also wanted to give the two ladies who work round-the-clock there to have a bit of a break and a fun day, so when lunch time rolled around, Angel, Lauren, and I went down to the nearest chapatti stand (a pancake/crepe made from flour, oil, salt, and water and fried on a griddle [don’t hold me to that recipe; I’ve only watched them do it]) and made the cooks’ day. Their eyes grew a little round when we said we need FORTY rolexes (that’s egg fried with salt and chopped vegetables rolled [hence the name] in a chapatti), but you could tell they were a little excited to make such a big sale. One guy began making more dough by hand, up to his elbows in it as he kneaded, and another began chopping veggies and then frying eggs with them. The main guy had on a pristine Starbucks apron J and thanked us for our patience.

Deb's knees were red by the end of the day b/c she spent so much time on them! What a trooper!

Deb’s knees were red by the end of the day b/c she spent so much time on them! What a trooper!

While they worked on the rolex, the three of us walked down the road to find a fruit stand. We bought two big bunches of mini bananas for about $2 and then bought several sodas for Aunt Josephine and Susanne as a special treat. When we got back we picked up our hot, steaming rolex and took everything back to the home. The babies and toddlers ate nearly as much as the adults, and the mamas shared the extra sodas with the kids and by the end they were sticky, almost comatose but happy messes. The girls on baby duty pulled their mattresses into the main room and lay down with them so they could take naps. One girl said she lay there looking into her baby’s eyes and began praying for him—for his future, for his health, for his relationship with Christ and even his future wife.

the mural the girls painted on one of the walls

the mural the girls painted on one of the walls

Dave was still trying to get enough cash to pay for the guesthouse so I went downtown with Angel to visit ATMs there. We rode a mutatu (like a mini-bus), and I had fun watching all the different passengers. Then I had a new experience: I’ve always ridden bodas (motorcycle taxis) while wearing pants (so I could straddle them). This day, though, I’d put on a skirt because I’d thought I was going to the hospital with the new baby, so I had to ride sidesaddle. I’ve always admired how the women balance so gracefully, but I have an even deeper appreciation now. I was a little hunched over from gripping the underside of the seat–probably not graceful at all!

Christy with Susanne and Aunt Josephine, the two ladies who selflessly care for these little ones day in and day out.

Christy with Susanne and Aunt Josephine, the two ladies who selflessly care for these little ones day in and day out.

Angel and I caught up with the team at a game they played that afternoon. Though a “football” match played by an official girls’ team had certainly drawn crowds in Kenya, the Kenyans weren’t really surprised. It was very different in Uganda. We often had to convince people that they really played. We didn’t play any “official” matches in Uganda simply because there aren’t any girls’ teams to play, and when we told people the girls played “football,” the Ugandans assumed it was a genteel version of the game. So when the girls played a friendly-but-competitive match against some of the older boys at Mercy Childcare home and their friends from the neighborhood, the guys were really surprised. “They really play!” they said, and we would laugh, nod, and say, “We told you.”

the whole painting/baby care team--after the project was finished!

the whole painting/baby care team–after the project was finished!

So the boys had told more of their friends, and some of the guys from church wanted a final match on Wednesday afternoon. They played on a field near Light the World church and had a great time. Fortunately I was finally able to catch up with another friend, Ronnie, who helped care for Patrick before we adopted him. So fun to connect with him and hear what he’s been up to. When Jody lived in Uganda, she cared not only for Patrick but also for another baby named Grace. When Jody left, Ronnie continued to check up on her and, eventually, when her home situation grew worse, he moved her into the home he shares with his mother. Then he moved in another child.

Ronnie, Em, and I

Ronnie, Em, and I (while Angel and I were downtown earlier this day a woman selling crafts on the street dropped these beautiful blue beads around my neck. When I protested, she said, “but I like you!” Angel then bought some from her.)

Ronnie’s story—told simply and without any fanfare, full of his joy over getting to be a dad to these two kids—reminded me of something Wilfred said to Dave a few days ago. They were talking about the book Kisses for Katie and all the work Wilfred and the other pastors at Light the World had done, beginning when they were only 19 years old. Dave said, “Wilfred, you could easily write a book!” Wilfred laughed and said, “But what we do is just normal. It’s simply what we’re supposed to do.”

Shelby and little Scovia--joyful together!

Shelby and little Scovia–joyful together!

Wilfred, Ronnie, Deo, Vena, Angel, Rachel—this week our girls have gotten to see young Christians who are “simply doing what’s ‘normal’ for those who say they follow Christ, who do ‘what they’re supposed to do.”

Wow!

We finished the game and went back to the guesthouse, where we ate another of

Em with Rita, one of her friends from the orphanage

Em with Rita, one of her friends from the orphanage

Mama Cici’s wonderful meals. Then it was packing time. The girls had several items of clothing, etc, that they wanted to give to the wonderful women who cared for us, so we made a pile in the courtyard and then enjoyed watching them try on different dresses and skirts. Christmas in July, and their joy was infectious. What added to the fun was that little Scovia from the orphanage (she’s six but has CP and is the size of a three year old) spent the night, and she is a bundle of laughter, so she had us in stitches.

Angel, Dave, and I--last morning together

Angel, Dave, and I–last morning together

The next morning we drove one last little time down the deeply rutted red roads to visit several of the older orphanage kids at their school. Then we made a quick craft shopping run, grabbed some lunch, and then headed toward Entebbe (the airport town).

In Entebbe we made one detour at my request. A dear friend of mine, Florence, had just lost a baby at 7 months of pregnancy and was still at the hospital in Entebbe. I was able to visit with her for a while and meet her husband (they’ve been married about two years), and I was able to introduce her to Dave and Emily. We chatted and prayed, and then we had to leave.

Rachel

Rachel

At the airport we said our final goodbyes. I will miss my Angel. I will miss Rachel. (I’m grateful for Facebook!)

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing trip, and the opportunity to re-connect with so many beloved friends from my earlier time in Uganda. May the entire trip be used for Your glory in the lives of everyone it touched.

Our gifts, God’s purpose

Two days ago, Tuesday—Jinja

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys:  baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We'll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys: baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We’ll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Jinja is known as the source of the Nile River, so it’s a bit of a tourist spot. When Wilfred suggested several weeks ago that we should visit there after the day in Kitenga and the hospital so the girls could see the Nile River, we first got excited because that is where Katie Davis (the girl who wrote Kisses from Katie) lives, and we thought just maybe we could visit her. Dave sent her a Facebook message, but we never got a reply (probably because she is way too busy to spend time on Facebook!).

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Then I realized that my friend Sarah Contrucci (a marketing department buddy from our time at Sterling College in Kansas) also works in Jinja. Sarah grew up on the mission field and is a wonderfully free spirit. Through her master’s work in an Eastern University program that partners with Uganda Christian University, she learned of UAPO (Uganda America Partnership). UAPO combines the beautiful jewelry made by Ugandan women with an American market. Sarah was hired as the lead designer (she’s a wonderful artist) and, eventually, DSC_0064was also named the director of the Akola Project (what the UAPO is called in Africa). She lives in Jinja, travels from there to other areas to discover new crafts and ideas, designs the jewelry that the women will make (it’s sold online), and runs the workshop and the vocational program in Jinja. It’s a busy job, but it combines all her amazing gifts.

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO's master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO's looms!

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO’s master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO’s looms!

So I messaged her and asked if we could come and tour it. She said yes, and she thought she would be there herself, but was out traveling and was delayed coming home so we actually missed seeing her. Her very capable American assistant, Elizabeth, and the Ugandan office manager, Helen, gave us a tour instead, showing us the jewelry workshop, the weaving room (incredible! Their master weaver also built the machines!), and their offices. She told us how they teach the women they work with to budget and plan, to set up savings accounts for unexpected problems, to prioritize their kids’ school fees. Akola employs roughly 200 women (well over one hundred actually make the beads in their villages). That’s 200 women who are making a livelihood that allows their kids to go to school!

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

It was very cool, and I think it accomplished our goal: to show the girls that God has designed their gifts for a purpose, and He will use all their talents, even things like their artistic ability, for His glory—anywhere in the world!

The later afternoon was spent being tourists. We ate a Ugandan lunch of motoke (boiled, mashed plantains), posho (kind of like cream of wheat; a grain made from the cassava/ugali root [I think I’m using all the right terms]), rice, and a choice of either beef, chicken, or fish. As has happened several times before, I was offered the eye of the fish (a delicacy), and, once again, I turned it down. I always think, Oh, I’ll try it, but I just haven’t been able to get myself to do it. Plus—this is my copout—I KNOW the Ugandan offering it to me will LOVE it, so why should I deprive them? (though I know I’m depriving them of some very real fun in seeing me eat it!). After lunch, we did some craft shopping in downtown Jinja (SO much less congested than Kampala! And so full of mzungus! [white people]), and then went to the source of the Nile. We took a little boat ride on it (many of us dipped our feet and hands in—such a welcome feeling).

The girls' boat.

The girls’ boat.

We drove back to Kampala at dusk and ate a late dinner of beans and rice that Mama Cici prepared. This night we had water but no electricity, so we ate dinner by candlelight!

DSC_0138It was a good day.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

-I’m a day behind, so this was actually our Tuesday. Yesterday we painted at the babies and toddlers home—the girls accomplished SO much! I’ll write and post pics as soon as possible. I cannot believe today we head home! I’m very ready to see my younger three but there’s also a part of me that’s not quite ready to go.

-The little baby from Kitenga slum IS a girl. The nurse who works for Mercy took her to the hospital, so I was not needed, but they gave her medication. Today she gets tested for HIV. We have not yet heard from Eugene (I’m sure he doesn’t have easy access to Internet).

-I will also post all contact information in an upcoming post for any of you who would like more information about all the ministries we worked with