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Throwing Mountains

Have you ever read Mark 11:23 and actually believed it?

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Yeah, me neither.  It is hard to be a bible believing Christian and admit sometimes I don’t believe the bible.  Doubt is hard to overcome, especially when facing mountains.


Hope and me at her home town of Kisoro, Uganda.  Behind us are the extinct volcanic mountains of Muhabura and Gahinga, part of the Virunga Mountain range streaching from Uganda, into Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and home of endangered Mountain Gorillas.  They look small, but they aren’t – Muhabura is a 13,540 ft tall cone.   


In the shadow of Muhabura, Hope giving out soccer jerseys from Wisconsin friends to relatives and friends in her home village at the approximate location of the hut she lived in after her mom died of AIDS.  Two of her aunts who died of AIDS are buried in this garden.  Half of Hope’s village died of AIDS when she was a child because the local witch doctor was HIV+ and demanded favors for payment from the women.

Things have been hard lately, rock hard, mountain hard.  I get overwhelmed with our problems.  I have a list, it’s ridiculously long.  Here is just some highlights of worrisome things swirling in my head at any given moment lately:  

  • Hope was diagnosed with a cyst behind her ear that at first was not going to require surgery, but the second opinion from an American doc was that it should be removed.  There is a facial nerve that may be in the middle of the mass.  This is not a surgery I want Hope to undergo in Uganda.  Hope has been fatigued more than usual and needs better medical care, but Immigration is stalled out for lack of $300 plus we need another $6,000 for airfare.
  • Nalongo has an eye infection, a hernia from a bad c-section, and needs to get better medication for her HIV treatment.
  • I have five girls who need school fee sponsors of $1,500+ and $125 of that cost is covered so far. Prostitution is epidemic here for uneducated and unemployed women. 
  • I miss my kids in the US, and not having an apartment when I am there is harming my relationship with them.  My former wife wants (and deserves) more child support for me being in Uganda so much.  I don’t know how to be a dad in two places at the same time.  
  • Debts run up in the start up of our work are eating funds we could use for better purposes than paying interest, making me feel like we never have breathing room.  
  • Fear-bola in the US is infecting donors – we had a three month volunteer I was depending on to come have to drop out because supporters were afraid of her bringing back Ebola! (Uganda does not have any Ebola cases.)
  • Faithful monthly donors signing up then dropping out just because their credit card expired/was stolen and they are too busy to sign up again.  I feel stupid asking them again and again to recommit. I hate bugging good friends for money, it’s the worst!
  • I need $4,000 in dental work when I get back and I owe the dentist over $1,000 already.  

One step forward, two back, it feels like a mountain on my chest – until I (with Hope’s wonderful loving patient help) focus on the fact WE all have a shovel and a very capable God.

Mountains seem impossible to move, especially Mt. Terrorism, Mt. Ebola, Mt. HIV, Mt. Malnutrition, and the twin peaks of Mt. Ignorance and Mt. Poverty, plus you always have to keep an eye on the volatile and explosive Mt. Crazy African Dictator.  Mt. Constant War, Mt. Disunity, Mt. Conflict, and the biggest, Mt. ME just become part of the landscape, to the point we even consider them an ideal place to live and build our house on, because the view is so nice.

But think about a mountain, it’s just dirt and rock.  If each of us take a shovel load to the sea, wouldn’t it just be a matter of time for The Body of Christ to move that mountain?  Maybe we can make a nice spiral design with the rubble?  Why not make something beautiful from OUR shared faith here and now! Let’s change what the World thinks is unchanging – Violence to Peace, Hunger to Satisfaction, Sickness to Health, Enslaved to Free!  This is the Story of The Church and OUR God doing what no one else can – no magician in Vegas can match that disappearing act!

 Spiral Jetty.  Built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah entirely of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks and water, Spiral Jetty forms a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide coil jutting from the shore of the lake  – beauty from rubble!

OUR story is about you!  You, our friends, come together from all over the world to accomplish things I never thought possible, you all have answered prayers I had only enough faith to pray, not actually believe.  We move mountains with YOU!

For example this kind of thing happens daily; my daughter, Judith, modeled bags for me at my friend’s house in Palos Verdes. I met her at a festival two summers ago.  Her family has generously opened a room to me to facilitate my move to LA to look for a new home church in preparation to go back to school, find extra work to pay off debts, and community to grow with.  An old elementary school friend living on the East Coast spotted the bag on Facebook.  She donates for a bag, sewn by an HIV+ single mom 10,000 miles away in Rwanda.  Money given by friends in California, North Carolina, and Texas, bought the fabric.  It was sewn on a machine donated by the wife of another childhood friend in Michigan.  The bag was then transported to the US by California friends serving a month with the Roths in DR Congo (we connected them two years ago), and shipped off by another California friend who is an unemployed breast cancer survivor who joyfully manages to out give everyone with jobs, good hair, and health.  All so we get another $20 in funding to help the woman who sewed the bag!  Who could organize that!? How does all that come together if not for God coordinating his Body to move in Love-fueled Unity!?


My daughter, Judith, modeling a HOPEbag.  

More rarely, in 2011 Hope and I were totally broke at the beginning of the month – not the end, that’s normal, but at the BEGINNING of the month!  Our support check arrived and didn’t even cover half of our expenses   We paid some of our bills and had no money for food, child support, or rent.  We prayed, then took any action we could think of.

I called a good friend in California, the connection was good and I got him on the first ring, told him what was up, and he put $500 directly in my bank account the next day.  That was a miracle, being able to eat is good.  Still not out of the woods we prayed all day.  The next day, we had five donations come in, one after the other over a course of 8 hours, from people who never gave before or since.  Their gifts were over $2,000!  We were floored, literally, on our faces before God crying and deeply humbled.

Remembering days like that gives me faith!  Together, with God’s help, we bumbling, blind, complaining, argumentative, Facebook cat video addicted, selfie-centered, opinionated misfits, can do the impossible when we work together!

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6);

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

How utterly UN-American is that!  But that is living a life of God-worship!

Let’s not get distracted by what does not matter. Let’s fearlessly grab our shovels, forget about worries, and head to the mountains to make a way for our God! We have work to do!

Thunder in the desert!
    “Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
    a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
    level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
    clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
    and everyone will see it.
    Yes. Just as God has said.”
From Isaiah 40

Can you dig it!?

Your Co-shoveler in Christ,

Paul

HOPE+ Africa

P.S. If you want to help us shovel our side of the mountain, we would greatly appreciate you signing up to give monthly so we can stabilize our cash flow and work with a predictable budget.  This month we are $2,000 behind! Any help would be greatly appreciated.  And please tell us about what you are facing so we can pray with you and help you dig out from under your mountain.

GIVE HERE


This little Fire Finch hung out on the roof of our outdoor kitchen at our first HOPE+ Africa house and quickly ate any rice grains that fell to the ground.  I often wondered if he had any appreciation for the donors who gave us money to buy that rice.  He certainly had no worries about his meals showing up every day!

Walking Slowly

 

One thing about Africans is when they walk together they walk incredibly slow. They do a shuffle foot mosey where the shoe sole seems to never lift off the ground. The speed of travel is not important, being together on the way is what matters.

Hope loves to make fun of American women we see walking. She will take off like a “Mzungu woman,” power walk for about 20 yards and doubles over laughing at her own joke. She then goes back to her normal mosey. With my long legs, I struggle to stay next to her and often find myself way ahead if I don’t think to stay by her side. So I put my arm around her waist to keep the pace she wants.

When the Hebrews made their Exodus they walked out of Egypt. They walked. Slaves,400 years in Africa, women with children in tow, the old and work worn, imagine the pace of that crowd. It does not surprise me it took 40 years. And God traveled with them, his arm around their waist.

If God were a non-profit organization and funded by American donors his ROI (return on investment) graphs would look pretty poor. 40 years – no results. One empire destroyed and 600,000+ lost in the desert. Even the UN does better than that!

So much African development work fails for this exact reason. Western people have time frames and swoop in and don’t take time to learn the stories or get to know the people they are trying to “help.” They have expectations.  They don’t walk arm in arm.

This is what makes HOPE+ Africa different and better than the big organizations, we keep it African, we go slow. And I pray for patience.

The image above is of Hutu refugees fleeing Rwanda’s RPF soldiers and revenge killings going on in Rwanda. They sought shelter in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1994, only to be shelled by the RPF and harassed by militias inside the refugee camps. It is estimated that 2.1 refugees left Rwanda during the genocide. 

Chantel Can’t Sew

The above is a photo from the twin’s birthday.  Our friend, Chantel, on the right, was walking with me and Hope the day before.  She told me her story on the way.  She has been our friend for four years now, this was the first time I heard the whole tale.

In short, she survived the ’94 genocide, but all her brothers, uncles, all the men in her family died.  She survived because she was molested as a pre-teen and sent away to Uganda to have her baby.  She got lost on the way, couldn’t find her family because she lost her phone with all her contacts, and wound up in a refugee camp in Uganda.  There she was exploited by a man who was in charge of food in the camp.  He told her if she did not sleep with him everyday her baby would not come out at the time of birth.  She believed him and he left her pregnant with a second child.

She was found and returned to Rwanda before the genocide broke out only to find her entire family already slaughtered.  So she went back to find relatives in Uganda, gave her kids to her mom, and went to Kenya to work as a house-girl (maid).  She made a small fortune, started a bar and restaurant, and lost her business because she fed every poor person who came to the kitchen to beg food or borrow money.  She went to school three years total in her life, she was not a business woman.  She was from a rich family, their wealth cost them their lives, her poverty saved hers.  God used her suffering to save her from a genocide where 1,000,000 were killed.  That is Chantel’s testimony, she found God in the midst of this story.

We love Chantel, we have been feeding her and her kids, enjoying her constant jokes, boisterous praise, and fervent prayers for years.  We got a sponsor for her, a dear friend in Indiana, and tried to teach her to sew.  She is terrible at sewing.  She walks super slow.

Chantel is a beautiful lover of Jesus and therefore our sister, so we are together.  We have little hope in this lifetime Chantel will land on anyone’s ROI success story chart, especially ours.  I think that is why Jesus said “lay up your treasure in heaven” because that is where taking care of widows and orphans, the naked, the thirsty and hungry, and the sick and imprisoned, pays off.

So are we together?  Arm in arm? 

If so, consider signing up to give monthly to help us, and if you already have already, can you ask a friend or your church to join you?  We need 40 friends to sign up for $25 a month or more to meet our current expenses not covered by incredibly faithful monthly donors.

Our biggest donor has to stop helping us pay school fees in two months. We have four little girls who need schooling, school is prostitution HIV prevention for girls.  $125 a month per girl.  They are all kids of HIV+ women or AIDS orphans.

We need 8 sewing machines at $125 each to set up our new sewing school and workshop.

Thanks and God bless you,

Paul

GIVE HERE

“The worship that God wants is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. This is the kind of worship that God accepts as pure and good.”  – James 1:27

Starting Over – Leaving Hope Behind

Five years ago this month, my husband and I were brought together by God to fall in love and work with HIV+, widows, orphans, and poor women.

This month, Paul and I will celebrate God introducing us to each other 5 years ago in X.  If one pastor’s battery in his car had not died I would have never talked to Paul, but I found him on the roadside and I stopped to keep him company while he waited for the pastor to return. God made it happen!  

We worked hard to learn how to help women and children who were suffering.  You, our friends, have been helping us do what God put on our hearts.  We could not have done any of this without God’s help and God’s people coming together.

We are still working hard.  We are facing many challenges, but God always takes care of us.  We have seen too many good things happen, and God move to do miracles for our women, us, and our friends in the US.  So we won’t give up!

These are  the many women who escorted us to the airport, these ladies are such dear friends now, we all cried saying good bye.  Some are alive today because we helped them get on medication!

Today, we are in Uganda in the new HOPE+ Africa house.  We left many friends in X who we have been helping to go concentrate on helping our women in Uganda.  After five years, we felt it was time to go and see how our women in X would do without us being there for them every day.

Jesus used to do this to his disciples too, teach them, leave them, then check back to see how they are doing with what they have been taught.  Sometimes they failed, many times they failed, but they also learned how to be “fishers of men” like Jesus.  We have taught them how to fish, by teaching them sewing, the bible, and how to love, then we left them with the nets to catch their own fish.

I am so happy to report that the women we have loved have formed “Hope Society” to join together to visit the poor helping them, visiting the sick people in the hospitals, and they will be meeting once a month to bring their money together and pray to decide which poor people they are going to help next.  They were excited to continue doing what we have been doing together.  It was hard to leave them, in fact I am still missing them, but I am proud for them doing this work without me!  And I can not wait to return to them to see them succeeding!  Please join me in prayer thanking God for his daughters of “Hope Society” in X.

So I appreciate the friends and donors who supported us with prayer and money so we could work in X and leave our women with skills, tools, and the desire to please God.  May God bless you!

Now, we are starting over in Uganda.  We left almost everything in X, beds, chairs, sewing machines, blankets, clothes, almost everything.  Moving from X to Uganda is not easy, but we did it, God provided!  We got a good house for the same money.  It is bigger and has more room for more women and a bigger sewing room too. The house is almost empty, but our hearts are full!

Me, healthy and feeling good the day after everyone prayed for me!

Last week, many prayed for me when I was sick, thank you so much.  The next day I recovered.  Today, I am working and strong.  Thank you for your prayers! They worked!!!

Here is what I need you to join with me in prayer about today.  We pray and then we lift our butts, then God lifts his butt, and good things happen when we all get up and work together with God.

We need so much, but this is the one thing that matters most to me, my girls.  I want to see God help us with the girls we have been caring for, sending to school the last four years.

From left to right,  our daughter Jojo, with Nyakato, Nalongo, Faith, and Nyangoma, with new backpacks sent by HOPE+ Africa friends on Facebook.

We need sponsors for four of our girls to continue to go to school.  Nyakato, Nyangoma, Faith are the kids of my sister, Nalongo, who is a single mother and HIV+.  She is the first women we started working with to get on medication and help with developing job skills.  Nalongo left school and married a man at age 12. He married other wives and infected them all with HIV, then abandoned them and the kids.  The girls and their mom live with us in Uganda and we help and love them everyday as their Aunt and Uncle.

This is Janet.  Janet was given to me to be my daughter by my cousin, Florida, when she was dying of AIDS.  I was just a girl at that time, maybe 12 year old.  Florida took me in because my mom had died of AIDS.  I loved Florida so much, she loved me too.  So I love Janet, because she has no mom and struggled to go to school, like me.

Janet is the orphaned daughter of my cousin who died of AIDS when she was taking care of me when I was a kid. Janet lives with another cousin.  She lives in my home village and I consider her my daughter.

One of our donors has been sending all the girls to very good schools.  They are so happy now, Janet used to not go to school and the other three went to the worst school.  They have improved their marks and are advancing in their studies, from the bottom of the class when they entered to the top 10%.  Now that sponsor can not help us pay their school fees anymore.

We need sponsors to promise to help us send them to school.  They would be so sad to have to quit their good international level school and go back to the poor quality school they were attending before.  The cost for all four is $1,500 every three months.  That means we need $125 per girl each month.  This will help them to stay in the best school with their teachers and friends they love.  Education is not free in Uganda like the US, the schools are poor, good schools are few and hard to enter.  We don’t want our girls to go back after they have come so far.  We want them to have a good testimony about God’s people showing them God’s love when they needed help.

The girls need:

20 friends to sign up here to give $25 a month  

OR

4 friends each to sign up here to give $125 a month

Anyone with lots of kids knows it is very expensive to raise them well. We love our girls so much.  We want them to move ahead, not go back. They praise God everyday for their new school, we want them to continue to see God’s people willing to help them.  They are praying for their new sponsors now.  Good bless you for helping them and sharing with your friends and church the opportunity to help!

Your sister in Christ,

Hope Phillips
HOPE+ Africa

GIVE HERE

P.S. Remember what James 1:27 says “The worship that God wants is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. This is the kind of worship that God accepts as pure and good.”  We are inviting you to pure and good worship of our good Father with us!

What God Can Do With Small Things

This is Hope.  I want to share some photos with you of what God can do with little things.


This is our daughter, Jojo. Last week, she learned to cross her eyes.  Jojo is learning many things these days, like how to read English, and how to take care of others.  We often see her showing compassion to the poor children in our village, asking us for things to give those who need, like soccer jerseys and food.  She loves sharing the toys and stuffed animals her daddy brings.  We are so very happy to see her, even if she is small, love others in Jesus name.

This is our friend Chantel, she is fooling around in our sitting room with the knickers that one of our donors sent to us. Last week, she was so happy to receive 8 knickers.  Many women here do not even own one pair of underwear.  They are too poor to afford them.  John the Baptist once said;

“If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”

Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them be able to put on clean knickers?

Chantel and Dada celebrating together.  We got so many pairs of very large underwear, most women could not fit.  So we were able to share knickers with the very fat ladies in our church.  They became so happy and cried when they received them. 

This is Chantel, Dada, Denise, and Jojo in our sitting room picking the soccer jersey they wanted.  I love these women so much, more than i can’t tell, because they are so fun to stay and work with.


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Chantel is a genocide widow who takes care of 8 children.  She had no education and no job. When I started working with her she came to our home in bad condition.  She used to eat Posho and a little beans every day.  Posho is a cassava root ground to flour and boiled. It is thick and hard to eat. It can also be used to cement bricks in houses!

For most poor people, Posho is the only food they can afford.  It stops their stomach from paining, but is hard to digest.  Chantel could not go to poop for six months. We started feeding her a balanced diet.  I taught her how to eat salads and drink water too.  Many Africans do not understand the need to drink water and fear water will make them sick.  After we helped her eat and drink in a healthy way she started going again.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them be able to poop!?


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This small house is an example at Saint Jude’s Family Projects Farm near Masaka, Uganda.  They showed us how anyone can use cassava flour used in making Posho to set the bricks of their home instead of using cement.  This saves a lot of money.  This house has been standing for five years.  Imagine what can happen to the body of those who only eat Posho every day.


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I love Dada so much! We bought Dada into our home about three years ago.  I met her when she was living on the street and she has become like a daughter to us.  Dada grew up with no mother because of her mom being poisoned in the genocide.  I have taught Dada many things her mother would have taught her.  Being an orphan she missed those lessons; like how to shower, wash her clothes, match her clothes., and take care of her self during her monthly visitors (period).

Dada is like a kid, I have to remind her what I have taught her.  She sometimes gets busy and forgets to shower.  My husband got her deodorant to help her with her bad smell.  It works well, but it failed Dada.  The deodorant worked too well.  Dada thought she did not have to shower everyday since she had the deodorant.  Chantel and I had to teach her to do both – everyday!  When she remembers she smells so nice because I also bought for her perfume. She now has more friends and people sit next to her in church. Before I taught her to shower they wouldn’t even hug Dada.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them not go around stinking!?


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Denise is a very good girl.  She is twenty years old and she has a child that lives with her jaja (grandmother) in her village.  A boy pregnanted her in school so she missed her chance to get an education.  Denise used to be a stubborn girl, because of hunger and poverty she would abuse her mom and brothers and sisters.  We brought her to work with us to learn to make bags and now she has enough to eat.  She is so happy because her stomach isn’t making her feel crazy.  She uses the money we give her to buy clothes and food for her baby. Her mom, Chantel, is very happy to see Denise changing and becoming good. Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them just have a full stomach!?


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These are some of the kids in our village.  Every time my husband comes, he brings soccer jerseys from some of our wonderful friends in the USA.  You can see how happy the kids are to have new clean clothes.  Some of the boys have been wearing the same jersey we gave them at Christmas every day up to the day we gave them another one.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them have a clean shirt!?


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This is Patience.  Her mom is Topista.  We helped Topista have a home when she was pregnant with Patience.  We tried to train Topista in sewing, but she did not want to work.  Many  want God to feed them while they sit and pray.  They do not want to lift their butts to go work.  So we showed Topista from the bible that she had to work, learn to take care of herself, and become able to help others.  She said God told her in a dream not to work and that we would be punished if we made her go.  So we told her it was time for her to go live somewhere else, that the HOPE+ Africa house is for women who want to learn to work.  Since she left she has become like a skeleton for lack of food and Patience was suffering.  It broke my heart.  Sometimes I would get angry at Topista for not taking care of Patience. Patience would come walking to our house without her mom knowing and we would feed her.

Two weeks ago Topista came and apologized and asked that we give her a job.  Apologizing is very hard for Rwandans. She was getting chased away from her home for not paying five months rent.   It was a struggle to forgive Topista and to know what God wanted us to do for her.  We wanted to help her without hurting her.  Last time we made the mistake of letting her live with us too long before we asked her to work.  We prayed and decided we would feed her and Patience and allow them to shower and wash clothes at our house.  We told her we would watch Patience while she went to find work.  Last week, the day of this photo, we were celebrating Topista got a job!  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be saying “NO,” but watching and feeding their kid!?


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Jojo is wearing a Wonderbag on her head fooling around for her dad.  A friend bought us this bag to help us cook our food.  We put the cooking pot in the bag and the food keeps cooking without being on the fire.  It helps us save money and the environment.  We are now buying less charcoal, which is better for the forest and our breathing.  Now that all our friends are seeing that it is working, they want a cooking bag too.  We are making plans to learn how to make these bags and teach our women how to make them so they can save money on charcoal.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them learn a way to save money!?


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This is Gaju, with our daughter Jojo and her little friend Juju.  Friends in the US send us money and we have been helping Gaju afford her medication for HIV. We are counseling her how to keep taking her medication on time and eat properly.  She comes from another city and stays with us when she goes to hospital to see the doctor.  She has added on weight and is looking so beautiful. The ARVs are really working! Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them have medication and a friend to talk with!? 


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Jojo  took this photo of her Aunt Nalongo. Nalongo is HIV+ and has three daughters.  She got married when she was 12 and her husband left her.  We have been helping Nalongo learn to work while a HOPE+ Africa donor pays school fees for her kids and other friends help us make sure she has food.  We have also taught Nalongo how to be kind to her former husband.  She used to (verbally) abuse him seriously by being rude when he would call or try to visit the children.  Now she is speaking respectfully to the father and she has made peace with him.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping her to speak respectfully to her ex husband!?


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This is my cousin’s daughter, Janet.  She is 13 years old.  Her mom left her to me when she was 8 months old.  Her mom was dying of AIDS and told me I had to take care of her.  So HOPE+ Africa sponsors help me help her to go to school.  Now she is in Primary 5 (fifth grade).  Janet is like me, she did not get to attend school until she was old, so she is behind, but improving.  We came to Kisoro this week to check on her and my cousin to make sure Janet had everything she needs for school.  Janet told me she wanted to touch my husband’s skin because she thinks it is a strange color and thought it would feel strange.  I told my husband and he gave Janet his arm to touch.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be letting them touch you!?


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This is our daughter Jojo with her dad and her birth father, Sam.  We prayed for four years that Sam would allow Jojo to immigrate to the US with me.  Jojo has always lived with me, but in Ugandan culture a kid belongs to the dad, even if the dad does not care for the kid.  We had to ask his permission to take her to the US.  Yesterday, he gave us a document saying it was okay for us to take her.  We prayed for four years for this to happen.  Reconciling with Sam is a real miracle from God.  Many friends in the US were praying with us and celebrating with us on Facebook.  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be praying for a friend in need on Facebook!?


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This is David.  He was the former school headmaster of my primary school.  I was so happy when we met him in my home village, Kisoro, last week.  He helped Compassion International to register kids for their sponsorship program.  I was not allowed to go into the program because I was too old, but he found a way to get me a sponsor.  When I saw him I was so excited because I had taken long without seeing him.  He saved my life!  Did you ever think showing someone the love of Jesus would be helping them by breaking the rules!?


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Here I am in Compassion International’s sponsorship photo. It was my last year.  I was in Senior Three.  Even though I was too old and my grades were poor the local directors of Compassion found a way to send me to a Teaching College to learn to become a teacher.  From there I became a teacher and that is how I met my husband, Paul, when I was teaching in Rwanda.  He walked into my classroom while I was teaching with my baby Jojo on my back.  So I went from nobody to somebody, from nowhere to somewhere.  I am now helping women like my mom, my aunts, and orphans like me.  It was God’s plan!

This is what we do with HOPE+ Africa and together in the family of God. Sometimes we show Jesus’s love by sharing what he gives us to share.  When he gives us food we share his food.  When we have his breath in us, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering.  We share his good advice, his encouragement, his forgiveness, his grace, and sometimes we share his love by sharing an extra jacket or… knickers!

Please, I beg you kindly, if you can help us continue, sign up to help us by giving something of what God gives you each month.  Small things can make big things happen.  Even one dollar can help us make a difference in people’s lives here.  $1 buys a bar of soap, or we can buy two cabbages, or 1 kilo of beans, or three kilos of Matoke (cooking bananas), or a kilo of Posho (Paul says “not Posho!?”).  We can feed three friends for just $1.  How much more can we do with your $20 or $30?   

Please give here.  Thank you!

If you want to join us  you are welcome in our home.

We love you so much, may God bless you!

Hope (and Paul)
HOPE+ Africa

Our Valentine’s Day Love Story

Valentines day 2010 is the day I received a gift that changed my life.   February 14, 2010 was the day I learned I was infected and there was nothing I could do to go back to February 13, when I was not.

My life, my hopes, my dreams, my assumptions, my plans, all obliterated in the instant of time it took for three words to travel from Hope‘s lips to my ears.  “I am positive.”  As the sound waves of those words hit my brain and heart like the thud of an assassin’s bullet, my life ended.  It did not ebb away, it just stopped, it flat lined, gone, over.  I began to cry.

I did not stop crying for three days.  I kept crying and crying.  I was furious at God. I kept asking him with gritted teeth, “What did I do to deserve this?  What did Hopedo to deserve this? What did anyone do to deserve this?”

I did not get HIV of the body, Hope and I had done nothing more than kiss.  I got HIV of the soul.

Valentines day night around 6 pm on 2010, I learned I would no longer be immune to the plight of my HIV+ brothers and sisters here in Africa.  My once healthy immune system, constructed of ignorance, apathy, indifference, self-righteousness, and selfishness was going to slowly be destroyed, until all those invasive thoughts of conviction, like “pick up your cross” and “when you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me” were allowed free reign to obliterate all resistance.

The beautiful woman I wanted with every fiber of my being to marry and spend the remainder of my life with, had just told me she was HIV+.  After knowing her for four short months, I knew God had put her in my life and me in her life for a reason. I assumed to marry her, not bury her.

Yet Hope had not been willing to discuss marriage.  She always cryptically responded “God has to do a miracle for me first.”  She had finally told me the awful why behind her non-response. “I am positive.”

I felt betrayed by God.  The woman I loved was going to die of AIDS.  I was crushed completely.

Before those three words, I would say, if anyone bothered to ask, I cared about people with HIV, as in I felt sorry for them.  I sort of wanted to help them.  But, ultimately, HIV was just one of thousands of unsolvable problems in Africa.  I assumed nothing could really be done about it.

Even though I knew a dozen or so HIV+ parents who I believed would soon die leaving their kids orphans, there was little motivation to actually find a solution for them, beyond helping their kids after they were gone.  I believed nothing could be done, so I did nothing.

With Hope‘s revelation, I was finally motivated to do something about HIV.  I chose to yell at God about it.  I was so furious I swore at him.  I told him many things unfit for print.  “If I were you, if I had your powers, I would heal these people!  If I, being as weak, unloving, selfish, and utterly human as I am, care enough to want them to be healed, then why would you, a supposedly loving God, withhold from them the healing you are so capable of providing on a whim!?  Do Africans not have enough problems without this?!  Why would you take Hope from me and leave Jojo without a mother?”

It was while I in this type of tirade, a homeless HIV+ mother of three, who I hired to do laundry, just to give her a job so she could eat, entered the bedroom where I was “praying” and began putting clean laundry away.  She saw my condition and turned away pretending to not notice, saving me from embarrassment.  As she opened suitcases and put the folded clothes inside, I was curled into a ball on opposite end of the bed, trying to fake sleep.

I lit into God.  “You see Mama X.  You know she has three kids, no job, no husband, no education, and is positive.  You know her kids are going to be orphans on the street if she dies.  Why don’t you heal her?  I would, if I had your powers.  Why do you do nothing?!”

God never answers me, no matter if I pray nicely or with the venom of Job.  When I read the bible I see he values honesty over formality, so I usually just let it fly and apologize later.   Almost forty years of being a Christian, twice I know God has spoken to me. Ten seconds of talking in forty years, so I did not expect an answer.  Somehow, in this semi-dysfunctional relationship, we are still friends.  I have not been hit with lightning yet, and somehow I know he is listening.

As I was venting my rage in tears, this time he spoke, “You are closer.  Why don’t you get off your butt and do something about it?”  It was then, in that instant, I realized I was accusing God of inaction, while I myself sat on my butt ignoring my own inaction and not making use of the few talents he put in my care to invest in his absence. Mama X was, in fact, within arms reach.

God created me, he sent me, I was to be the miracle to “the least of these.” There would be no other sign or wonder sent, just inept, unorganized, unqualified, totally ADD me.  I am the pathetic miracle from God.  I am proof God seems to love dealing for himself the worst hand imaginable after betting everything he has!

I dried my eyes, thanked God for calling me and not smacking me, and got to work researching HIV.

I learned Hope did not have to die.  I did not have to live without her.  She did not have to leave Jojo an orphan.  She could see her grandkids.  I could spend the rest of my life with her.  All she had to do was take some pills called ARVs everyday and eat right and she could live a full life.

I learned HIV is as manageable as diabetes and not easy to catch if treated with respect and ARVs.  I learned we could have a fairly normal romantic life.  So I toldHope “Nothing has changed, I still love you, and want to marry you.”  Thankfully, this time, she knew I was serious.

I was the second person Hope had ever told about her HIV status.  The first was her former fiancé, who was negative. In Africa, an HIV+ single mom who grew up an orphan is not exactly considered prime marriage material. This is why she lost her fiancé and remaining extended family a few years prior and why it took her four months to tell me she was positive.   When they found out they all disowned and abandoned her, tried to get her to abort, and drove her from her own house.

I know how that family rejection feels.  I was no prize in the world’s eyes either, solidly at the bottom of the marriage-material pile, so I understood.  Thankfully, God sees us so much differently than our relatives and the world.

Grace is a gift that we receive only when we give it.  I saw Hope is a gift from God, there was no way in hell I was going to miss out on what he was giving me; a new life filled with real love, real devotion, real self-sacrifice, and living out together what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “costly grace.”

In the two weeks that would follow, we got Hope on ARVs.  We got her then 2 year old daughter, (now my daughter) Jojo, tested.   Since Hope found out she was positive in a routine pregnancy check up, she just assumed Jojo was positive frombirth.  Jojo tested negative.  Hope and I cried and praised God together in the doctors office when we heard the results.  It was a miracle, Jojo tottled out of the grave like a baby Lazarus.

In the two years since our love story began, we married and began answering God’s directive to show the love of Christ to the HIV+ as best we can.  Thankfully, with the help of a lot of friends like yourself.

Last week, I went in for an HIV test.  My blood is negative, but my soul is now uncurably HOPE+.

Happy Valentines Day!

Paul

baby laz

Hope and Jojo, March 7 2010.