Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Meet Florence

Today I have the honor of introducing you to an incredible woman named Florence. The Dignity Project recently partnered with a trauma counseling group here in Uganda called Tutapona. Florence was a recipient of our Dignity Kits. 


"My name is Florence and I am 39 years old. In 1993 when the war broke out in Burundi the rebels came to my home when I was 16 years old. The first thing they did was rape my mother. Then, they gave me alcohol and told me not to shout or scream as 20 men gang raped me. I was trying to fight back but they held a knife to my neck. My mother managed to escape to my stepsisters house and asked her to take her to the hospital but on the way to the hospital my Mum bled all over her car and so she killed my Mum.
I fell pregnant because of the rape but had many injuries to that area of my body. Because of the injuries I was in hospital for the entire pregnancy and then many months after the birth. One day when my baby was 3.5 months old the hospital was raided by the rebels. I never saw my baby again. I don’t know if he is dead or alive to this day. I went home but my step family chased me from our home because I had slept with rebels.
I eventually met a kind man and we married in 1997. I was leaking urine but not that much and we managed to get pregnant. The doctors ordered me to keep my legs up as much as I could and I finally gave birth to a baby girl. After I gave birth I had severe problems in that area such that I have had to wear adult diapers up to now. We lived in Burundi until my daughter was 8 but one day the rebels came again and I was not with my daughter at the time. My stepsister took her and I have not seen her since. I heard that they tell her we are dead. She is 16 right now. I have spent 8 years without seeing her. We fled to Kampala and I have now been in Nakivale Refugee Settlement for 3 years. 
I came to know about Tutapona and shared with them about my life through counseling sessions. They talked to me and cared for me. They are loving towards me. Before I met Tutapona I had lost hope as I thought no one cares for me, but they have restored my hope. God knows whether my son is dead or alive. Tutapona has told me that I will one day meet both of my children again in heaven." 




As I receive the kits that you all make, I ask God to open doors that will allow us to touch the lives of the women who need them most. As should be expected, He has been faithful. It is a tremendous honor to serve with you. 

[stunning images and interview by Helen Manson]



Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Trauma Of Ministry

I’m traumatized.  God directed me into the dark.  I trusted Him and I took His hand.  He led me to a place I didn’t know, to people with their problems and their pain.  His love stretches to the ends of the earth and in that end His servants toil, sharing the Gospel for His glory.  So I’m a soldier.  I’m a fighter.  I’m traumatized.
There is a trauma in ministry that is rarely spoken of.  Perhaps it is an embarrassment to some.  Perhaps it is misunderstood.  For many, it marks failure and signifies the beginning of the end.  Ministry to the Lord has stripped me of comforts and turned my life upside down.  In the evening hours I reach for a pillow but I am hemmed in by sadness, sickness and loss.  Not mine.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love.  Their pain hangs across my shoulders like dead weight, like a waterlogged carpet.  In our meal time I stretch my hand across our shiny table to a pan full of food but I find hunger and my hand is begging.  Not mine, though.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love.
In this ministry of love I am caught up in the whirlwind of wanting but not having, hurting but not healing.  Their pain is my pain.  Their trouble is my trouble.  When I look at my ankle I see the foot of James.  His was crushed by a father with a hammer in a drunken rage.  When I look at my children I see them wandering the streets, sifting through piles of fly covered refuse in search of anything with value.  When I bathe in the comfort of my home I’m covered in street runoff that provides the only water source for whole communities in our city.  Their pain is my pain.  It’s the trauma of ministry.
In the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry he saw and heard much.  In his humanity, surely he felt the trauma.  Countless numbers of sick and diseased people flocked to the face of Jesus for help.  Imagine what he thought as he laid down each night; their desperate faces flashing in his eyes.  He felt the pain of being hated.  He felt the deep distress of confrontation and public hostility.  He carried the enormous burden of love and compassion toward a people wallowing in a broken world that groans for deliverance.  Jesus endured the trauma of ministry.
I saw a truck on the side of the road.  The cab was collapsed from a head on collision.  A short distance further was a second truck with a similar appearance.  These two giant forces hit each other so hard that they were both crushed.  Trauma goes both ways.  Yes, there is a trauma in ministry.  The weight of the broken world hits the minister so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  However, the trauma goes both ways.  The weight of the Gospel hits the broken world so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  This collision sparks with light and draws the eyes and turns the necks of everyone who is near.

So, I’m traumatized.  This ministry has hit so hard that my pieces are broken.  My fabric is torn.  In my prayer I ask God to pick my head up out of the pain around me.  He says, “No.  Keep your head down.  Stay in it.  I’ll hold you up.  Let’s love them together.”  To God be the glory.  Great things He has done. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Our 2nd Easter In Uganda

Happy Easter from Uganda!  


Here's a peek into our weekend...

 On Good Friday we went to the village to visit James and his family. Normally when we visit them Maddix, Sophie and Ezra are in school. It was really awesome to have all the kids with us this time! 


We played soccer and jumped rope together. :)


We brought our Congolese 'son' Serge with us to join in on the fun. 


Time to hide the Easter eggs. Close your eyes! :)


How cute are they?!



video

[press play] They could not get to the eggs fast enough!



We had such a blast together! We shared the Good Friday and Easter message with the kids and even acted out impromptu play led by Maddix. What fun! 


Some of my fondest memories as a child are holiday mornings. My Mom would always do them up, even if we were on a small budget.  On Easter morning she would put out a trail of eggs leading me to a wonderful Easter basket. I've tried hard to create these fond holiday morning memories for my kids like my Mom did for me. This morning for breakfast I made colorful egg shaped pancakes with strawberry (a treat here!) syrup. They loved it! 


Last year we passed out Easter eggs from the car window on the way to church. It was so fun that we decided to make it a yearly tradition. 


Franco, one of our boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers, got an egg.  


As we passed out the eggs we said, "Happy Easter! Mukama Yebazibwe (Praise the Lord)! 


Nathan preached an Easter sermon about the joy of God's salvation.  He referenced the sin of David and the famous Psalm 51 where he asks for a clean heart and a restored joy of salvation.  Nathan explained that the joy of salvation is the only reliable power that allows us to go through every day with our chins held high.


We also had an Easter egg hunt for the children at church today. Many of them were at last years egg hunt and remembered it. Even the adults were excited to run out and find the eggs!


What an awesome weekend! 

We love you all and hope you have had a great day worshipping our Risen Lord! 





Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Dignity Project Update

Who is ready for a Dignity Project Update?! Me! Me!

In January we were invited by our Assistant Bishop Reverend Martin to do training at his church. The ladies had been using our products for a few months and were eager for us to teach them how to make the reusable pads. 


Here we are with Rev. Martin, his wife and 4 of his 6 children. Just minutes before this photo was taken I (Jade) was asked to name their newborn son. What an honor! I named him Caleb which means 'whole hearted'. I pray he serves Jesus with his whole heart all the days of his life.


My good friend Caroline (the woman on the far right) and I had a great day training these ladies! Caroline has been such a blessing to me. She helps me shop for sewing materials, speaks fluent Luganda (which makes the trainings a breeze!) and is a pro at sewing!

video

     Here are the ladies shouting in praise over their new sewing machine! 


 I was so impressed with this group of women. Some of them had never used scissors before...let that sink in for a minute. They went from never using scissors to making a completed pad! Awesome! 



The 2.5 hour drive home from the training was made a whole lot better since I got to sit next to this hunk.... :)

***


In February my good friend Andrea came to visit us. During her time here we traveled 7 hours away to a city called Kasese for a Dignity Project training. We were invited to come by fellow WGM missionary Meg Rambo and a group called Chalapi Uganda. Chalapi aims 'to see a better living environment and dignity for prisoners, ex-prisoners and the underprivileged population'.  How perfect of a fit are we?!?!


Friday evening we trained 10 people from Chalapi how to make the reusable sanitary pads so that they could teach inmates how to make them as well as women rehabilitated from prison. 


It was such an honor getting to know this amazing group of people! Their hearts are definitely burdened for this cause! During our time together one of the Chalapi ladies said to me, "We are the only friends of many of these inmates. We are the only ones who visit them". The next day I saw evidence of that statement being true as we visited the prison together in Kasese.


[No photos were allowed to be taken inside the prison]
The vast majority of prisoners here don't have access to things like snacks, extra undergarments, books, toiletries and feminine hygiene products. Women go through truly unimaginable circumstance on their monthly cycle; using things like dirt and scrap cloth to get them by.  I could hardly even type that sentence I just wrote...it is just unbelievable. 


Our intentions were to train the 16 female inmates how to make the reusable pads. But God had something else in mind! The Holy Spirit took charge from the minute we walked into the prison.  I am in my 'grace zone' when I am loving on women. I could not get to the inmates fast enough! We gathered together under shade frees and sat on woven grass mats together. We gave each woman 2 packages of resuable pads, new undergarments and a hand stitched cross. I wish I could adequately describe to you what these items meant to them. The huge smiles. The deep sighs of relief. The tears freely flowing. It is so incredibly humbling to see a woman's dignity restored. For several of them, it was the first pair of new undergarments they had received since they were arrested.

After giving the ladies their Dignity Kits and Bibles, I shared my testimony with the ladies. "There is nothing you can do that God cannot redeem," I spoke out of my personal story.  "When we accept Christ as our Savior, He replaces our guilt and shame with a spirit of peace, joy and daughter-ship," I was bold and they responded with cheers.  Then by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, one-by-one eleven of the sixteen women stoop up, repented and accepted Christ as their Savior! It was overwhelming. 

Our Chalapi friends are now discipling these women! God is so good! 

***


After we visited the prison, Chalapi asked us to train fifty men and women from the community how to make the reusable pads. Meg and Andrea excelled during the training! I love how we each have a part to play in the Body of Christ!



video

This group of women won 'best completed pad'. They listened to our instructions carefully and took their time making the reusable pad. Ask anyone, I am a strict teacher.  I love their laughter and joy here! They were so proud! 

***


During Andrea's visit we also got to spend time with Meg's Bible study women. Josephine (the woman to the far right) is an amazing seamstress and has really taken an interest making the Dignity Kits. 
  

***
God continues to keep me busy with The Dignity Project. This week I met with a missionary named Anthony who has a program that helps children who suffer from malnutrition. The mothers and caretakers of the children stay at the clinic with their kids for 4-6 weeks. Anthony realized that these women were suffering through their period due to the lack of supplies. He wanted to find a solution and that is how we connected. Now that he is aware on how to make the reusable pads and has the supplies, he is going to train a woman in his community how to make them. That woman will then train the ladies who come to the clinic while they stay with their children.  So cool, right?! In the weeks to come I have been invited to teach and distribute Dignity Kits to women in a local mental hospital. Please pray for me as I serve these precious women. 

We love you and appreciate your partnership!