This I Know

I walked my daughter to her bus, a big charter, the last of 3, took her picture as she signed in with the teacher, took another as she climbed aboard, thankful for the camera hiding the tears in my eyes.
A myriad of moms laughed. “You’re not crying are you?” Ha ha!
Others assured me that she was going to be fine and that she was going to have a great time. I know that deep, deep down in my toes, because I’ve asked Jesus to stay by her the whole time. And He will be there… this I know. He always is.
She smiled big and blew me a kiss as the bus pulled out of the school parking lot. And my baby girl, my first big blessing, my first shooting star of a promise from God, headed out to be with her 5th grade classmates at Outdoor Ed for the next 3 days.
And there’s a sense that this is a rite of passage, that she’s going to come back a little more grown-up, a little more individual and dare we hope responsible, a little wiser, a little less in need of a good mommy. I think that’s why the tears.
I had a conversation in the grocery store yesterday with a mom also sending off her daughter but simultaneously sending off her 22 year old son… off to live his life on the other side of the country with a girlfriend. And she felt a sadness that all those nights of worry and loving and care… all have paid off and he’s done what he’s supposed to do which is to grow up and be self-sufficient… but where is her mommy role now in his life. Where does she fit in?
And last Friday at the Fall Festival I talked with a mom whose middle school son may or may not be struggling with his grades. Mom is trying to back off and let him do his thing, which is the party line of the middle school faculty anyway. But she’s shrugging her shoulders and sighing and asking, “What’s a mom to do?” And under that sigh she’s really wondering what her role is, what is her sphere of influence, does she even have a sphere of influence with him anymore.
I stepped up on my portable pulpit for a minute and preached it… God blesses us with children, they are truly a gift from Him, and it is our beholden duty as parents to lead these children even in the face of faculty saying they have to do it themselves. Borrowing a line from my husband, “as long as those children are under our roof,” it is imperative that we lead them, guide them, defend them, love them, model in our imperfect way the kind of solidarity God has with us.
So, this comes through from the Rainey’s, on their Moments Together for Couples daily devotional online…
“You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. PSALM 31:4
Try to picture this scene: With 50,000 men watching intensely, a 15-year-old young man, Trent—blindfolded and barefoot—begins stepping cautiously across an outdoor stage. Before him are a dozen steel animal traps with their jaws wide open. Each is labeled with words like “peer pressure,” “drugs and alcohol,” “sexual immorality,” “rebellion” and “pornography”—the “traps” that can
easily ensnare teenagers today.
Right beside me, on the opposite end of the platform and the traps, stands the boy’s father, Tom, anticipating his son’s every move. After two tentative steps, the boy’s third step places him directly in the path of the biggest snare on the stage—a bear trap powerful enough to absolutely crush his leg. (It had taken three grown men just to set it.)
Before his son can raise another foot, Tom yells into the microphone, “Trent, stop! Don’t take another step!” Circling the traps, he positions himself in between his son and the bear trap. After whispering some instructions, he turns his back to the boy. Trent eagerly places his hands on his father’s shoulders. Then slowly, they begin navigating the trap field together.
When the two finally reached me and we took the blindfold off, father and son hugged each other. Applause at this Promise Keepers event swelled to a thunderous standing ovation across the stadium. Above the roar, I shouted through the sound system, “Men, that’s what God has called us to as fathers—to be there and guide our children through the traps of adolescence!”
For Tom and Trent, the trap demonstration was a setup on a stage. But for you and your teen, the traps of adolescence are all too real and treacherous.
Don’t allow your children to risk the journey on their own. Grab them by the hand, watch your step, and move out together. Let God guide you through.”

This morning! As I’m packing the last of her things! For the next three days, I’m not going to be there to walk in front of her and guide her through the minefield. But that’s okay because Jesus is. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

And then I see Davion’s impassioned plea for a family. It was on my radar a week or two ago, but it popped up again thanks to Kristen over at Rage Against the Minivan. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Davion asked his social worker to take him to church one Sunday; he had a message to deliver. The message was that he wanted a permanent family; “I’ll take anyone,” he told the congregation. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” This young man has been in the foster system and he’s tired of not belonging. Just like the 101,000 plus kids waiting for a family in the US right now.

So, I’ve prayed over Clara, who is afraid of bees and bee stings and is apprehensive that she might get stung while she’s at camp and no one will know what to do. I’ve packed a surprise for her… brand new pajamas with the school logo… the ones she has been yearning after. I’ve labeled everything, right down to her socks and unmentionables. It’s all

organized, prayed over, loved on, even those smelly shoes (Heaven help her cabin-mates when the shoes come off).

And it dawns on me.

There are children for whom there is no Outdoor Ed, no mom crying on the sidewalk, no paparazzi photographing every move for posterity sake. There are children for whom no one is praying, for whom there is no soft bed laden with pillows and a mother’s gentle kiss and a father’s blessing. There are children who don’t know the kind of love and joy of a parent who marvels at their accomplishments, who cheers for them, defends them, leads them through the minefield of life.
These are the Davions of our country. And the Scovias of the world around us.

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Scovia is a 14 year old girl living in Uganda. Her mother and father were both dead by the time she was 5; her father was killed by the LRA. Scovia now lives with her aunt and her family. They eat one meal a day… posho and beans. And Scovia is hoping to go to high school, if her grades are good and if she has the money, if she has the sponsorship. There are actually several thousand Scovias in Uganda, children who have seen their parents die of disease or be killed by the LRA, who have been rejected by family because they were abducted by the LRA, who run the family of younger siblings despite their own tender age. It’s estimated that 66,000 children were abducted during the 23 year war in Uganda. Millions have been displaced, killed, and maimed. Read the sponsorship page at Village of Hope sometime. Watch this video.

Oh my gosh. The children.

So I sit here on my knees, praying for Jesus to be with them too. Because Jesus loves them, too. This I know. But do they? Do they see that love daily in the face of a mom who would split the waters, race the desert, climb to the heavens if necessary? Do they hear it in the instruction of a fatherly voice? And if not… how do we… teach it, preach it, lead, guide, and defend?

Davion said, “I want someone who will love me until I die.” Don’t we all? Jesus, come and rest by these children.

(For another really good perspective, read Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan’s thoughts on the matter.)

Village of Hope

The medical hut at Village of Hope

The medical hut at Village of Hope

A number of photos from Village of Hope, Uganda, came in over the weekend and we thought this might be a good way to share them.

Mike and Janelle, on the left, oversee Village of Hope.

Mike and Janelle, on the left, oversee Village of Hope.

Mike and Janelle run Village of Hope. They manage the 200+ children, their homes, and everything else including farming, water, latrines, piggery, corn shucking, tractor driving, mango planting, hosting visitors, Beads of Hope jewelry project, budgeting, and ordering the medicine.

Wendy has really enjoyed meeting the children and learning their stories.

Wendy and Scovia

Wendy and Scovia

This is Scovia. Wrote Wendy, “Scovia is sweet and very smart. Her mother died when she was young and her father was killed by the LRA. We are staying in a hut like the one behind us.”

The children danced a special tribal dance for the Bjurstroms. Here they are doing their Acholi dance.

Children doing the Acholi dance

Children doing the Acholi dance

The Acholi dance

The Acholi dance

Stina has been happily helping Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan in the clinic.

Stina and Nurse Susan hug. That's Dr. Mac in the background.

Stina and Nurse Susan hug. That’s Dr. Mac in the background.

A boy named Fred broke a bone in his elbow. Wendy wrote, “14 year old Fred (with brace on his arm) had broken a bone in his elbow. The girls were very worried about him and came into the clinic to pray for him. The girls prayed and sang and cried for him for 15 minutes. After Dr. Mac put a splint on his arm, his house mom, Beatrice, went with him on the back of a motorcycle (with the driver) to Kiryandongo, about a 40 minute drive on a mostly dirt (bumpy) road, to get an X-ray. He will have to go back to get it in a cast after the swelling goes down.”

CompassioNow and Compassion Tea Company are thrilled to be supporting the work of this clinic!

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

A Clinic Day….

We’re here; they’re there. We’re asleep and their day is underway. What happens in tandem with our busy lives, what happens on the other side of the world? What goes into the Thursday clinic at 1000 Hills, what goes on, who is helped, and who is loved?

Wendy and Stina arrive at the clinic at 7 AM this morning ready to serve. Dawn, founder of 1000 Hills Clinic, has been there since 5. Even before she arrives, patients begin lining up outside the gate. Karin, Dawn’s daughter, opens the gate and allows people into the waiting room. 0-19Before the other doctors and nurses arrive, Karin begins to triage the patients, running tests and determining who needs a doctor and who could benefit from a nurse’s touch. 0-41One of the first patients is this 12 boy. He lost his mother in March and is now cared for by his gogo (grandmother). Yesterday, he burned his leg while trying to cook an egg. He is taken to the treatment room to be bandaged.0-42

8:30ish: One of the health workers starts singing a hymn. Almost all of the waiting patients join in. Then, they begin praying their individual prayers out loud. 0-46While waiting for the healing of this world, it makes sense to pray to the Great Physician. We are thrilled that His love and salvation are shared with every bandage, pill, and check-up!

Nurse Joyce and pharmacists Jimmy (82 years old) and Peter arrive to man the pharmacy.0-47

9 AM: There are no seats left inside the clinic. Patients arriving now must wait outside in the muggy weather. 0-35Dr. Kirstie (chief doctor) and 2 volunteer doctors from the UK are now here too. 0-33Over at the kitchen, it is time for morning porridge and for the bread line. 0-31Many of the patients line up outside the kitchen to receive two loaves of day old bread which would otherwise have been thrown away. 0-32Also, local school students are asked to bring an extra sandwich to give to the less fortunate. These are also distributed through the bread line.

Time is awash now. So many people need treatment and the day is creeping, scampering, fleeting. Next patient… 14 month baby Thando. Thando was badly burned on Saturday when she was scalded by boiling water at her aunt’s house. There are many burns in the clinic because most of the cooking is done on the ground. Thando was taken to hospital but, like so many people who can’t pay, was released way too early, before the wounds can begin to heal. Her mom needs the bandages changed. Infection is a fear. Wendy explains, “The mom and health worker were trying to get the bandages off with warm water. It was a long process and we all cried with little Thando.”0-43 0-44 0-45

Stina treats a woman with an ear infection.1234546_10151600495771791_842250301_n

Patients continue to pour in. Scabies-like rashes, coughs, lung infections, stomach ulcers are common complaints. People needing TB treatments also arrive. 8 year old Spellilli has an abscess on his tummy that needs drained. His courage during the process earns him some stickers Wendy brought with her. 0-37The pharmacy hums with busyness.0-39

Wendy takes a break and heads to the nursery to check on Zowakha, a one month old who was brought to Dawn. “You’re lucky I didn’t chuck him in the toilet. Here’s one for you,” said his mother.  1045059_10151597323681791_89119693_nHe has gone to hospital for a thorough exam. When he returns, a new infant is in the nursery. Okuhle, an girl, has been brought by her mother this morning. “I can’t take care of her any longer.” A third infant wails nearby. Asiphile, Zowakha, and Okuhle will spend their days in the nursery and their nights with caregivers… for now.0-34

Back in the clinic, another line forms. Each person is given two pieces of fruit. In another line, patients can pick out items of used clothing. Dawn hands out condoms.

110 patients today. 0-36110 stories of strife, deprivation, injury, hardship. 110 opportunities to heal, help, share. While we slept on the other side of the world. Simultaneously.

Part 2… The Hope Part

“I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)”

I wrote and published that two weeks ago and I owe you the rest of the story. Here, I’ve added a story from a woman named Rose. I thought about condensing it but it is so powerful that editing it down would destroy its power. (taken from the Village of Hope website)

English is not Rose’s native tongue, but we have reproduced her story here verbatim so that you can get a sense of her personality and her passion. -Ed.
It is year’s back, when I strongly got inspired to work with the children while I was still a child myself. I was eight when the 20 year war in Northern Uganda began. My family and I were tortured and displaced from our small village called Acholibur. My father had several arrests and each time he was arrested, he was badly beaten to the point of death. Our hearts were always so torn apart. Being a man, our father also got detained with so many others, who were all killed, but God spared him every time. This caused his legs to be paralyzed, till today.
We then fled to the refugee camps and it was there that I made so many friends. Realizing our vulnerability as children, I wanted someone to come and rescue us, but there was no one.
I then wondered whether God could guide me to make some difference in our own lives. During this time all schools were closed down, many young girls were raped and defiled, many children kidnapped and abducted. We would go hungry for days without food, in fear of being found getting food from our own gardens. We would sleep out in the bush in fear of camp attacks, many were bitten by snakes during the night, heavy rains hit us, and others still met these rebels in the bush and were killed.
At the age of ten, being someone so thirsty to serve my peers, I began to teach my friends about God and I would encourage these girls to boldly reject the elder men’s’ proposals for early marriage. All this happened under a “big mango tree” and as I think back, it brings tears to my eyes. But my consolation is that, it is so amazing how God used me at that early age and I must say it really worked out. The children had a change in their lives as a result. They had every reason to refuse to attend the “mango tree Sunday school” teaching!! Besides, I was just a young girl then. But God is so amazing, none of them rejected to come and we were such a huge population. It’s now that, I can see how great and good God is. He used me in my innocence to bring some change in the life of my fellow suffering friends
.
During this time, we started expanding our mission outside the “mango tree”. We would minister with our parents door to door within the refugee camp. As children from a traumatized community though, it’s now, that I can define what the problem was then. Many families had broken up and most children had been separated from their parents and were now on the streets. They would spend nights anywhere they wished and others were already involved in theft, prostitution and so on. We went and prayed with them, and I got so impressed, because so many of these street children got transformed as a result of this ministry. Many went back home and were reconciled with their parents, and we kept following them up till they settled into their homes. This made me feel that God could also strongly use me to do bigger things despite being a child.
The war then intensified and so many of these friends with whom we prayed did not survive. Some were massacred by the Rebels, others abducted and so on.
We continued fleeing. I went and joined my elder sister Jessica and her family where we were safe. She took care of us and put us back in school.
My heart remained behind because my parents and my friends had remained in the danger zone. This fills me with guilt to date, because I fled and left my friends who never made it.
Since my heart remained back at my roots, having experienced what it felt to be caught in the war, I kept praying that God would empower me to help my people some day at school, I always targeted a course that would help me go back and work better with the suffering people in the northern part of Uganda. I then decided to do social work and social administration, I later added counseling because the war has caused a huge untold level of trauma in people’s emotions, therefore they will need a lot of psychosocial support and that, I promise to offer as long as I live.
After my education
Immediately after my education, as promised, I went back to Northern Uganda. But this time, the rebel activities were more intense. Many from the other part of the country wondered why I was moving back to this region, given the security situation. I only told them that God will take care of me.
This seemed one of the worst times. The attacks were more frequent, many children were killed and others abducted. Thousands of children would walk long distances in search of safer places within the heart of the town, where the government soldiers guarded and so the rebels feared to reach.
Lots of risks rose as a result of such kind of sleeping because they slept at the shop verandas just mixed men, women and children. In the process many children were raped and tortured.
As if the above trauma and torture was not enough, the children traveled very long distances both mornings and evenings. Then later to school, most times without food, if any, then one meal a day which made most of them look so weak and vulnerable to diseases.
On seeing the above risks, we as volunteers wanted to see that a change is made. We advocated to the district that something must be done to make sure the children are separated from the big men who were taking the young girls at such risks of early pregnancies, HIV/aids exposure etc.
We decided to spend nights out with these children so that we could guard them from the rapists. This helped some, though these same risks were also experienced on the way to these sleeping places and besides, the children were so many and scattered, meaning the three of us only wouldn’t really monitor their safety so well.
Due to this demand some NGO’s started opening the night commuter centers which helped to safeguard the children from these risks because most of them restricted the age to 17yrs maximum. We sorted out these children and we allocated them to the different centers, out of the streets.
It didn’t take long, when I got employed by Medicines Sans Frontiers {msf swiss} in the night commuters’ center as a center counselor.
Here, it seemed like it was just the beginning of everything.
Over four thousand children came to this night commuter center every night. So scared, helpless, tired and most of them, so hungry. I was the only counselor to handle all these children every night.
It was a big challenge. Because all of them wanted me to at least listen to them, given the different problems at hand. Most of these children were so torn away from their parents, because they had very little time for each other. Since the parents would leave their sleeping places, and immediately try and search for something to eat for the children, they move from the night commuters centers, back and right away to school without seeing their parents and during the evenings, they leave school, and most times go straight to the centers. Because if they moved back home, it gets late and risky for them on the way since the rebels would also trap them on their ways when it gets late. That is why they would choose to go hungry, rather than get abducted on the way.
It wasn’t easy for me myself, to listen to all these heart breaking stories. Many times I could first lock up myself into the counseling room and weep, before I could go on again. It was so terrible seeing and listening to very heavy stories, from a baby. So young to even carry the burdens of life but they are already doing so.
During this time, I made individual and group counseling.
Through this, I was trying to lift these children back on their feet, but the situation here was so tricky. Reason being, it was very hard to terminate a session with these child. Their problems were always retriggered immediately they leave the center. Some of the perpetrators are the guardians, frustrated parents, and the rebels themselves. So I had to carry on with all the clients on board.
I then decided to design another method of work. I started working 24hrs day’s planed a day schedule from 8:00am-6:00pm and from here I moved direct to the night commuters’ center. During this time, I made follow ups and family/school monitoring. I also made door to door counseling to both the children and their family members affected by the war. This seemed to work, because then, I was available for them whole day and even all night from the center. All in all I thank God for the strength he gives me to serve the children. On my own, I know I could do nothing.
After a year, I moved to World Vision, though still worked with the same children, but this time under another organization. On top of that, I had more vulnerable children to deal with this time. The formerly abducted, others could have spent as long as ten years and above in abduction, has under gone a lot. For example: children who had killed several people including their own close relatives, psychological torture, like killing their own parents, cutting the stomach and removing her intestines, then it is rubbed all over ones body and one is forced to stay with it that way, for a week, in the name of initiation to wipe away all the fear and make one bold to freely kill as many people as possible. I think you can now imagine the level of trauma we had to fight out.
Within the community, I went ahead with the group method, here I was trying to reduce the stigmatization of the formerly abducted and former soldiers, enhance proper reintegration, through the kind of forgiveness we got from Christ, so unconditional!. We decided to mix these formerly abducted with the none formerly abducted so that we could give them a clear understanding of each other, and it’s the same them, who help us sensitize the community through music, dance and drama. Before this, the formerly abducted were rejected from the community, with a wrong perception that they are the ones who have caused all the suffering people are under going in the North. So this made many parents reject their own children, with the fear that the other community members will attack them. This provoked many of these formerly abducted to move back in the bush and join the rebels. With all the anger, they have been the worst in making serious vengeful attacks to these community members. But when the anti stigmatization campaigns went on, the community started understanding and now as I talk, it has really worked out well. We are still moving on with these sensitizations from camp to camp and the community response is really good, thus more corporation between the formerly abducted and community at large.
Well, that is what I’m still doing up to now. Though the government ordered that all the night commuter centers get closed, last Dec 15, 2006. And so now that the security was a bit calm compared to before, most of these children now sleep at home. Through some still went back in some verandas due to the fear of abduction and besides, most of these displaced families have limited space at home so the parents/guardians don’t fit in the small huts rented so the children are sent out to look for where to sleep.
When time had come for me to leave World Vision, because my contract with them had ended, I told myself that the end of this contract does not mean the end of my work. So I just continued to do the same kind of work with the children. Looking at their faces calling out for help, I really couldn’t let them go, because they are so precious to me. What I do with them, is so little, but they have made me understand that this little thing means a lot to them. Being there for them whenever they need me means a lot in their lives. And I thank God who still enables me to be around them.
As usual, God sees miles ahead of our sights. During this time we surely needed some support beyond what I was providing for the children, so I always shared this with friends so that we can pray for God’s provision, besides the counseling and follow up I’m doing. To my surprise, one day, an organization called ALARM came with a team that was ready to provide to the child headed house holds. I remember that day; I was just from visiting a child headed household. They are five at home, the eldest is 13yrs, she was so sick that day and so the family had spent some three days back without food, there wasn’t any drugs for her to take, so she was just waiting for anything to come her way. When i reached there, she felt so relived and was sure that as usual, I have either brought them food or some money for upkeep.
Unfortunately, I had nothing that day because I was so broke myself. On seeing the condition, I decided to rush home so that I could get them even the little I had, plus some medication. That is when God opened for us a way. I got this call that the child headed families will be supported in terms of school fees, meals and medical care and this money was already sent to my account. I just sat down in the middle of the road and wept with joy. Though this seemed just a drop in an ocean, but it means a lot in the heart of these few beneficiaries their lives are changed because of this and so many out here are still looking for the same.
Never did God stop here with his surprises, he went ahead and introduced me to someone so loving and caring to the chidren and that is a sister in Christ Cindy Cunningham.
She then came up with even a greater dream for these children, just like I did but I couldn’t afford at my level of course. This dream is that of a children’s’ home fully equipped with the basic needs like a school.
And this village is called “Village of Hope”
When she shared this idea with me, I felt it was God’s calling. And as I speak I’m already working for “Village of Hope”. I must confess I’m so glad that I can work to fulfill the children’s’ dream through Village of Hope, I pray God gives me more strength to make his will be done for the suffering children of Northern Uganda.
Many of these children were born within this war time and so they have never seen what a peaceful home is like!!!
They get surprised when they hear of a warless land, to them it’s strange and unrealistic all they know of is war, fights, fleeing, abductions, killing and seeing loved ones get killed, family separation and losing hope for any good, happening to them at all.
This gives a great opportunity to Village of Hope to operate and see to it that, this need is addressed by the grace of God I believe these children will see the other side of the coin. We will struggle and together fill this gap.
Our cry goes out to any heart that feels for these wounded children who lost their childhood, the same way we do, to come and join hands and together we will make the total healing in their lives. For it doesn’t take a millionaire to bring this transformation, because we serve a big, big God. Even the poorest is most welcome into this battle. Remember!!! A Thousand years from now, it won’t mater the expensive fancy cars we drove, the big mansions we occupied, the heavy bank accounts we owned, but many generations will know about the transformation you brought into the lives of these wounded children in Africa.
We need your continuous prayers! May God bless every reader.
Love from the very bottom of my heart and that of the children I work for they love you big— time.
We are all praying for you too.
May God bless you always.
Rose.

The place Rose mentions here, Village of Hope, has a clinic on its campus. The clinic is staffed by Nurse Susan and Dr. Mac and serves the roughly 200 orphaned children living at Village of Hope as well as children who attend school at Village of Hope and the staff members and their families. Nurse Susan and Dr. Mac provide care for complaints such as malaria, typhoid, syphilis, epilepsy, bacterial and fungal infections, coughs, allergies, asthma, abdominal complaints, and ulcers. Many of the children at the orphanage, and those served by the clinic, are suffering from major trauma, both physically and emotionally.

About 10 years ago, Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow and Compassion Tea met Jessica, Rose’s older sister. Jessica shared with Wendy the plight of the children in northern Uganda in a way that touched Wendy’s heart. She began following Invisible Children’s efforts, and through Jessica and her work with ALARM, began supporting a child financially. Through these efforts, Wendy met Cindy Cunningham, founder of Village of Hope. Their paths continued to cross over the years and in early April Wendy brought the clinic at Village of Hope to the CompassioNow board of directors and asked that CompassioNow begin financially supporting the clinic. The clinic was approved and the first check has gone out!

CompassioNow now supports the work of rural clinics in 5 African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, and Uganda. We are so excited about this addition! Ed and Wendy will be traveling to Uganda this year to ascertain first hand the needs of the clinic and to lend further support.

Village of Hope and its clinic are remote, about 60 miles from the nearest city and hospital. Therefore, the roughly 1000 residents of the surrounding area do not have easy access to quality health care. When asked if she would like to open the clinic up to more of the community, Village of Hope founder Cindy Cunningham responded, “That would be AWESOME!” It is our hope for Village of Hope’s clinic that, through your support of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow, one day the clinic will be able to serve the broader community. For now, we are thrilled to be helping the children at the orphanage and their caregivers. Thanks to you, we can!

But I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed!

“But I don’t wanna go to bed!” Sound familiar? Irritatingly, we have this conversation nearly every evening. Usually, it revolves around the fact that the kiddos want Mama to read another chapter of the book we’re reading together. Right now, we’re reading The Chronicles of Narnia series, and quite frankly I could stay up all night reading these books. Nevertheless, that is not wise for any of us.

Over the weekend, Clara uttered her little nightly complaint once again and I found myself launching into a mini tirade about the privilege of going to bed. I expounded on the beauty of her warm, soft bed layered with clean sheets and quilts and fluffy pillows, in a dry room, safe and snuggly, loaded with stuffed animals, soft classical music playing in the background. Kind of makes you want to curl up right here, right now, doesn’t it!

Did you see the photo shoot that made the rounds of Facebook and other social media outlets recently? The one focusing on children around the world and their treasured possessions? Many of the children are posing on or near their beds. Take another look! Here’s the link.

Reading through posted comments is one of those vacuum cleaner activities… I hate it but I get sucked in. So, I read through some of the comments. Many were complimentary of the photography; some commented on the similarities between countries while others were shocked/disturbed/amazed at what was considered a treasure. And then there were a few snarky comments regarding the photographer’s choice of subjects… particularly regarding the photos from Malawi and Kenya. Why choose only “the most heart-wrenching” subjects? There are wealthy Malawians and Kenyans. Why choose these subjects? Why choose only a seemingly wealthy child in India? Why not visit the slums of Calcutta? Or the cardboard camps in Honduras? That probably has more to do with access and money more than some grand social engineering on the photographer’s part. But I think the point has been lost. There are children around the world living in grand luxury and children around the world living in abysmal circumstances, children with amazingly comfortable beds and children with a cot or a mud and straw mattress or nothing, children with hundreds of toys and children with 1 or 2.

Then there are the children of Uganda. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 children have been stolen from their homes in the middle of the night, have been enslaved by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, and have been orphaned by the 20 + year war he perpetrated on the country of Uganda. Do you remember Joseph Kony and the Invisible Children video calling for his arrest that went viral last year? He’s still out there. According to the Invisible Children website, he is moving north toward the Sudan where he is finding more friendly governments, but he remains at large in the Congo. And in his wake, he has left thousands of children. Some children join their parents on a daily hike to the nearest city… sometimes over 10 miles away… so they may sleep in the streets, protected by the largeness of the city, and avoid being abducted. Others have been uprooted from home all together, living in dire refugee camps. Other children have escaped from the LRA but live with the terrors of being abducted in the middle of the night; of being beaten nearly to death; of having to kill brothers, sisters, parents; of being used as sex slaves; of being a tiny soldier. There are children who have returned home to find no parents, who are heading the household at tender ages, responsible for the food and safety of the smaller siblings. I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)