Monday, October 12, 2020

Challenges in a Broken World

 Before I start this blog, Edwin and I want to thank many of you who have given your hearts to help Home of Angels and the people in our community throughout the COVID-19 period.  This journey really describes life in our broken world.  On the way we encounter highs and lows,  joys and sorrows, but as a follower of Christ we will never face this journey alone.  The challenges and opportunities we face on our journey can be met confidently, for God has promised us His never-failing presence.

Uganda's COVID-19  currently is at 9,801 testing positive and 93 deaths.  Mainly because of containers coming in from Mombasa, Kenya, they are finding that many drivers are carrying the virus into Uganda.  They are being tested now through the border crossing in Busia.  With the trucks also supplying Rwanda and south plus the airport on lockdown, certain items have increased drastically.  The worst that I've heard of is a box of rubber gloves for USD $125.00/box. Can you imagine??

An update on Jessica, the lady that was burned in her grass hut and lost her two children in the fire.  Jessica had been in the hospital for a month and currently is back home in her village.  The doctor who helped her was kind enough to continue assisting her with therapy until her limbs were completely healed.

Regarding the goats, we currently have 565 consisting of 385 mature and 180 kids.  Again, because of the pandemic we're not able to sell them until the country is more relaxed and borders open up.

We had planted 200,000 conifer trees as seedlings on our school property for the government.  They were transferred to a piece of land north of us owned by a family member, but again, the rains prevented Edwin from driving that far north.  Recently, he was able to get there and discovered we now have 190,000 doing well.

We will keep you updated as best we can with pictures and information, but throughout these times with the children not allowed out to do their normal activities, we have less information to share with you.  I hope you understand and will be patient until our world heals.

Because we live outside Jinja town, the only place that Precious and Edwin can get clothing for the children is in the downtown market.  They both do the shopping for clothing and somehow always seem to get the sizes correct, especially with the girls dresses.  When Edwin purchases shoes he just calls a friend and they all arrive at the grass hut that day.

The older children are working currently inside the compound helping the aunties with cooking and the wash.  The little boys are happier....they get to go and weed the maize and beans fields.   It works out well right now with no school and even though they take turns, it seems like our 13 little guys are loving this job away from home.

This is why we're able to help a few neighbours with food.  As long as the rains don't destroy all of it, we can also help some of the hungry people in our community.

As we mentioned in the last blog, our "School of Skills" is now up and running.  So far we have
three sewing machines and with Desire phasing out from Home of Angels next year.  Thanks to Precious she has learned to make some clothes for herself.  These kids are smart and learn very quickly.

When I think of how little Hope and Desire were when they came to us, I almost want to shed a tear to think that they are phasing out soon.  These sisters had a little brother Sammie who was kidnapped, disappeared and never found.  Since Edwin and I have taken over 10,000 pictures between us, we want to put a photo album together of each child of their life at Home of Angels.  Our dear friend Hannah asked if she could have this as a project to do for her class.  Technology is not my world so this was really a blessing for me.  Thanks Hannah. 😇

Edwin found Hope and Desire on the streets selling charcoal with two blind grandmothers and a little  brother.  This was prior to building our home for children.  Both these girls were caretakers at five-years old. They picked weeds every day to feed the family but when Edwin found out, that was definitely going to stop.  Here he had brought them real food and from that day on, we helped the family survive.  Both Jaaja's died and Sammie was taken.  In 2013, both girls came to live at Home of Angels and since then, I would say they were in a way "Mamas" to the little ones.  

We still have one project left to finish and that's to build a small church.  We have the land but COVID-19 hit and we didn't get a chance.  Our Pastor Richard has been going back into the villages due to requests from the village leaders to have him explain who this "Jesus" was that gave them the food.  In the meantime until we can build a structure, we've decided to purchase solar, audible, Luganda bibles. Thanks to you, we were able to order 35 of them.  The children also received one and listen to it every night.

I can't resist this....No, this isn't Joseph with a gun to Walter's head.  Walter is our new school guard and has come to speak to Edwin at home.  Everyone must wash their hands and have their temperature taken before they can go any further.  We do it on the forehead, they do it at the side of the head.

Thank you all once again for following our story at Home of Angels.  The people in our community have  been truly blessed with your love in making a difference in their lives through COVID-19.  Many a tear was shed.  The children know that they have never been abandoned by Jesus or by you and because of that, they are all growing up knowing how to share love and hope with others.  

Thursday, August 13, 2020

When The Poor Became Our Family

What happens when a pandemic such as we're currently experiencing pushes millions into extreme poverty?  What happens to the people who had nothing before COVID-19 started?

As a Christian, I've learned that we are not saved by works alone but by faith.  We live out our faith by loving others less fortunate and caring for their needs also.  I honestly believe that everything we've done at Home of Angels is not only caring for our own children but also for the poor, widows and orphans in our community.  Because of this, our kids at HOA have witnessed what a heart full of love and hope can do for them in their future.  They will carry on doing this exact same thing, helping the less fortunate.  I do want to make it clear though, any donations coming to Home of Angels is for HOA unless otherwise specified.

Thanks once again to everyone for helping the people in our community to have something to ease the starvation .  We were able to feed 6,000 families because of you.  Even for Edwin's wife Precious, who now lives in our community instead in the city of Kampala is seeing how devastating it is where there is literally no food in the areas they went to deliver.  It's a traumatic thing to witness.  The country is on a very strict lockdown and until this week, there had been zero deaths of COVID-19.  As of today,  there are 9 fatalities.

I found this on a mud hut and never forgot it.  This tells it all.

We have always believed in helping the poor and I want to share this picture with you.  Whether it's food or whether it's water, there is lack of both in our community.  These children are now grown and still our neighbors but they never forgot how we shared our well water with them.  Anytime we need them, they are there for us now.

Precious bringing food to an elderly woman in a village north of us.

Many children are also smashing rocks in the quarries so they can sell them for a little money to buy food for their family.

This is Jessica.  I remember her walking past our gate selling avocados in a basket on her head.
She had 3 small children and a husband.  Because the husband couldn't feed them and out of shame, he decided to set their grass hut on fire and run.  The children all died but Jessica got out and survived severely burned and had lost one eye.  Because Edwin had the medicine in our clinic that our dear friend Thomas donated, he was able to help her.  A donor then came forth and Edwin was able to get her into a hospital in Entebbe for surgery.  Both arms and legs were locked but the surgery was sucessful.  She will have nothing when she returns home to her village, but here again, someone gave her a tent to live in and Edwin and Precious have given her sheets.  As poor as they are, many people will help her through this trauma.

It's now mandatory that all children housed in an orphanage must leave at 18-years-old.  We've started a "School of Skills" to train them in different ways for survival.  The first idea was to make soap.  This soap will be used to clean everything except the body.  Edwin's friend has come in to train them and they've mastered it already.  With the new school restrictions recently put out, they have produced fifteen 20-litre jerry cans so far at a much less cost.  This is not to be sold but for our compound use and a business for them one day.

When the time comes, this will be something the kids can use for advertising their business.

The older kids are learning to make doughnuts.  Precious is teaching them how to make different kinds and has purchased a pot and oil to cook them in outside.  All these things will not be shared outside Home of Angels.  It's only to teach them, perfect it and when they are off on their own, they will have some skills under their belt.

Learning to prepare dough for Ugandan treats  

Sam and the older boys love soccer, but because I can't get there at this time with the balls, they are making their own out of banana fibres and old clothing that was going to be trashed.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  

The next thing planned will be sewing.  We have purchased the machines and the classes will start depending on the school schedule.  We have some other ideas coming also and we will guarantee that when each child departs, they will have a skill.  Nobody will go back to the streets to live.

Thanks for being patient for this blog.  Many of you have wondered what has happened as our followers have watched one per month for 9 years and haven't seen one lately.  The reason is because of these unsettled times and it's been difficult to get pictures and information as we used to be able to.  

In the past, the sponsors would get letters from their kids and report cards, but that is going to be difficult until this pandemic ends  I'm in the process of sending you all updated photos in the mail. 
Your kids love you all and worry you will forget them. 

As Dr. Bonnie Henry says:

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Invisible Enemy - The Visible God

Uganda reported their first known case of Coronavirus on March 22, 2020.  President Museveni was quick to close borders, many markets, churches, all gathering places and no transportation on the roads without a permit.  As of today there are still no deaths, 507 are infected with 82 having recovered.  The only country in East Africa with zero death.

Villages north of us are deep in the bush and difficult to access.  They have no idea what's currently happening in our world.  All they know is they can't access food and they're going days without eating anything but weeds. One father we know of killed his children to spare them from starvation.

Edwin was able to find a friend that had a car with a speaker on top.  With  Pastor Richard from YWAM, they together devised an audio tape to play as they drove the dirt paths describing this worldwide pandemic, the potential impact and why the markets were closed.  

Our immediate community consists of 285,000 people.  They are currently more scared of starvation than they are of COVID-19.  Edwin was contacted by the Resident District Commisioner, a representative of the President of Uganda, to lead a task force in our area distributing food to the starving.  He knows the people that are most suffering in our community and he would be given security to pass the food out, if he should accept. After talking it over with Precious and listening daily to the many outside our gate crying for help, they felt he must do this.  It says in Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry, and you fed me."

This past month, we have been blessed to have donors to help feed many of these people.
I also received a call today from an 11-year-old boy named Isaiah who wanted to send us $15.00 of his very own money to be able to help too.  I have to tell you, Isaiah melted my heart today.

Thank you everyone for your generous hearts to provide meals for the suffering in our community.

Meet our 2020 baby class.  All schools have been closed in Uganda but they wanted to meet you by getting their uniforms on and having a picture taken with their teacher.  We have grown by seven children from the poorest of the poor in our neighbourhood.  I see little Joweli in the red dress in the front and cannot believe how tall she has gotten. It seems like yesterday that our LITTLE Joweli was only 3-years-old.

This is the vehicle that will spend 7 days at 8 hours a day going through areas where they are really suffering and don't understand why the world suddenly stopped.  Pastor Richard will also be prepared in case a death and the family needs prayer.

Edwin found a room to store the food and with donations coming in, he's calculated they may be able to feed around 2,600 families.  What you see in these pictures is about 1/4 of the amount they will be handing out with the military.  In the meantime Precious, with an escort will be giving to the really needy within walking distance.  The thing is, they can't wait to get all the bags together as these people need it quickly so they try and pass out 100 bags a day.

Filling up slowly

This lovely woman was sitting outside our gate and Precious gave her a bag of pocho.  She explained that this food was from Jesus and the woman wept hard.  Later that night, Edwin went to her home and explained who Jesus is and gave her a Bible.  If you're wondering what has happened to her skin, she has a disease called Vitiligo where the black skin peels off.

This family are our immediate neighbours and mama is alone with 8 children.  As you can see, one of the girls has picked weeds to cook for dinner, but now they will have a wonderful meal of pocho and weeds.  This treat was a surprise and very appreciated.

Edwin delivered maize flour to a group of hungry people he knew in a village close to us.  I've witnessed this myself and I can just visualize the tears of joy right now.  Thank you donors from all these people.  They can only express their gratefulness though Edwin and I and I want you to know they are very very thankful.

And then we have the elderly that have absolutely nothing. Precious again knows exactly who to give out food too.  The old, the alone and the ones incapable of caring for themselves. What you see here is probably all she owns besides a cooking pot.

Pastor Richard helps a group of people that have been cleaning leaves to prepare for dinner.  To their surprise they were given a large bag of beans and another of pocho to mix with them. We have been blessed with this man coming into our lives right now.  He is a very caring man who loves his people and will do anything with Edwin to help them.  He also will be taking our three older kids to YWAM when they age out of Home of Angels.

We had to let our staff go until everything gets back to normal with the pandemic, but Sula, who has been with us since 2009 is still helping the elderly.  He's helping my old friend here who has cataracts so badly, I'm not sure she can see anymore.  This is the Jaaja that our "God's Little Angels Ministry" (the children) helps often.

Precious is really a good person to do this job because her heart is so big and she loves the Lord so much. We may not have been able to get the church in time before the pandemic hit but we have a church on foot ministering to many people.

Helping Hands will love this picture with their hand-made toques.  Thanks ladies for helping these boys with their favourite head gear.  I sure do miss these beautiful faces and afraid one day, when I can go back, I won't recognize them because they are growing so quickly.

Thanks again to all of you who have followed our story over the years.  We have come so far but couldn't have done it without you.  Whether it's been a donation or a simple comment to encourage me here in Canada, thank you.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Living in Extraordinary Times

In the past couple of months, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has gone global affecting people worldwide.  It has created fear, starvation, loss of jobs and without a vaccine controlling the infection, it has left all of us to change our lives.

This pandemic reminds us here in Canada, that we are - deep down - spiritual beings, whether we realize it for not.  Compassion, sympathy and kindness are on the rise.  It has aroused the spirit of community in the health system, families spending time together and has united people in an emotional and spiritual way of taking care of each other.

On the other side of the world, in Uganda for example, things are very different right now.  I can only speak for our Home of Angels and immediate community consisting of  285,000 people.  The President has done a very good job of protecting all these people from the virus and as of today, there are 121 cases of known infections, the lowest in all East Africa.  No one has died that they know of.

But, the pandemic in our Busoga Kingdom is unthinkable.  It's called the "Starvation Pandemic" and many are dying.  Grandmothers crying for help to feed their many grandchildren, fathers killing their children to spare them from starvation and domestic violence on the rise.  Many are coming to our gate crying for help, but out of respect for Edwin and Precious, who are well known in our area, they eventually leave peaceably.

All of us at Home of Angels ask for your prayers.  The virus, for some reason, miraculously has not killed anyone in Uganda but the people are listening to witch doctors now on how to survive until they find food.  Please pray for our home, children and staff that they stay safe in these scary times.  Also for the people we love so much in our community.  Thank you so much.

This is what I've wanted to focus on through these difficult times.  The children, Edwin, Precious and our staff.  Some of the older girls are not in this picture as they are helping our wonderful aunty Joy with the workload.  There were times when a 3-year old child would come to live with us and right away, they were doing chores.  I could never understand this in the early days, but now it all makes sense.  This is a very good example why they are taught so young.  To survive.

The children are listening to the rules concerning this virus and that is mostly about washing your hands.  They don't go outside the gate and no-one comes in, but they need to know how serious this is.  They are learning but still able to play and have fun.

The people in our community are very poor.  They have learned to invent and make masks themselves to try and stay safe.  

The food is in the market downtown Jinja, but for the elderly to walk that far is very difficult.  There is no transportation and besides that, there is no money for them to spend.  Crops were bad throughout the rains again and they are currently in a dire situation.

This is only an example of what the Ptarmigan primary school van will look like.  Thank you once again to the Ptarmigan Foundation for purchasing this vehicle and giving us permission to put a logo on it.  Edwin was designing this when the virus came upon them so the pictures are not the ones they will use.  

The nursery school was all ready for school to start but the virus pandemic hit and we will now have to wait until the President gives permission for the schools to open again.

The Ptarmigan primary school was almost completed, but within weeks of the lockdown, once again the workers had to stop.  They are unable to return until this is all over. We do have an advantage though.  The principal and teachers are working together to make lessons for the children in both schools. They send the lessons to Edwin and Precious to photocopy and distribute and the children's education is monitored from home.

A view of the nursery school and the office

I have to share this picture with you.  One afternoon my doorbell rang and to my surprise two girls were standing there with a box and bags of food.  At a distance they carried it all upstairs and I had enough for two weeks.  I am so thankful for my good friends.  

Please stay safe during this difficult time and we thank you in advance for your prayers.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coping Under Lockdown

This blog is written in very unsettled times but Edwin and I think it's necessary to always update the good and the bad.  Many of you have followed our journey for years and supported us to help the Home of Angels children experience what a family atmosphere really feels like with hope and love.  You have not only enabled us to grow, but to help these children develop into beautiful little human beings.  Thank you so much for that.

Currently, we are experiencing the COVID-19 in Uganda.  We are in an area outside the town of Jinja where they don't have much chance with the poverty and the new regulations put upon the people by President Museveni.  For us in the modern world, we understand that this has to be done, but for people that really don't understand the global situation, it will be devastating.  Please pray for them.

HOA has had to make some drastic changes to protect everyone.  We had a meeting with the children explaining the pandemic.  Aunty Joy decided to stay for however many months it took for it to end and every child is assigned jobs to help her.  Both compounds have large signs outside the gates saying "Out of Bounds".  We still have our two guards; each one showering on the school compound before work and putting on a new uniform before entering our home compound.  Uniforms will be left with us when their shift is completed.

Until today, Edwin was planning on driving to Jinja for anything he may have missed when he was informed that there will be no cars, bicycles or any form of transportation allowed on the roads.  Everyone now must walk.

On a brighter note, here are some pictures that will make you smile.

In 2018 Andy Steiger and Power to Change came to our Home of Angels to do a documentary on the Human Project.  They did such a good job that it went worldwide and they were granted 5 International Awards.  We'd like to share these with you.

Winner Best Short:  Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival 2018
People's Choice:  Compassion Film Festival 2018
Bronze Award:  Inspiration Short Film:  Christian Family Festival 2018
Official Selection:  Human Rights Film Festival Barcelona Spain 2018
Official Selection:  North Dakota Human Rights Film & Arts Festival 2018

And what would we ever do without our Aunty Joy?  She is a woman who considers each child as one of her own and feels every pain they go through.  She will be with us throughout this difficult time and continue to keep everything in order.  The children will help her at all times.

The children spend a lot of their time making bracelets.  Barbra is teaching Elijah and Yahigha how to make them.  Over the years they've raised their own money to purchase the one thing they love the most and that's anything to do with music and singing.

We couldn't have had a better picture of Mariam sorting beans.  

Joweli, our new compound teacher explaining to David and Sam how to count.  They may be under lockdown but they are still making sure that their studies are getting done.  School is the highlight of all their lives and without it, they continue their studies on their own.

This little one was always doing crazy things.  I went to the avocado tree when I was there and we noticed nails hammered up the tree.  David, our most fragile child thought he could get an avacado if he climbed high enough.  A hard lessoned learned not to do things that can hurt him.  He has decided to stick to learning schoolwork instead.

Eddie and Elijah helping Yahigha carry his bath water.  Yahigha was severely malnourished as a child and has difficulty lifting heavy objects.  Thank goodness for his brothers who are always by his side helping him.

Thanks to our friends Graham and Annie, the children are now able to tell their sponsors things about their life at Home of Angels.  They love to write to their sponsors and believe me, it's well received over here.

When I first met Edwin in 2009, he used to walk to Jinja Town every day to the internet cafe so we could discuss business.  He did that for almost a year until he got a bicycle.  Those were simple days but now, he will be walking again as the President has forbidden any other way to move around.  Thanks to our dear friend Thomas in Hong Kong, he has received masks that will keep him safe and if they obey the rule of staying 4 meters away from anyone outside the compound, they might have a good chance of getting through this pandemic.

As Easter will be upon us very soon, we must always remember that because of love, Jesus came to earth and was born a baby.  Because of love, He received the abuse of the teachers of the law, the crowds, and the soldiers.  Because of love, He suffered and died to be the perfect sacrifice, standing in our place before the Father.  We all live because of love and we can never forget that.

Thank you for all your love for our Home of Angels.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Canada to Uganda with Love

I arrived back into Uganda almost a month ago with a team to find everyone in our Home of Angels well and happy.  Lots of hugs and chatter about school, their "Angel" family and what they've been doing to help the less fortunate.  It's been devastation for many in our community putting up with the rains for the past 5 months and losing their homes.  Not only losing homes but electrical storms that killed many.  It will now be mandatory to have lightening rods on each building to protect the people inside.  When we are faced with difficult circumstances, whether it be sickness, poverty or loss, we place our faith and trust in God.  He is with us in everything that confronts us and He is our strength.

 Edwin and Precious are living on the compound until they can get their home built and maybe, since the school is also being constructed, it's a good thing for them being that close right now.  The children call Precious "Mama" and that's especially good for the older girls to have someone to talk to about girly things.  It's all working out the way it should be.

We have also devised a plan to train the kids for a trade in the future.  We have a few years before they leave but it's on our agenda now.  We want to be one step ahead.

Meet the team that recently came to Uganda with me.  The "Radiant Rachels" and Janet who are being given a tour by our lovely Precious.  We arrived into Entebbe airport at 2 am with all our 8 suitcases missing.  By the time we filled out the forms to recover them, it was around 4 am and off to the hotel we went.  Thank goodness they all came in on the 10 am flight that next morning so we were able to get to Jinja by afternoon for our welcome performance.

With the help of both Rachels, Hope and Desire made 4 home-made birthday cakes for their annual family birthday celebration.  It was good to see how happy they were home with everyone.  These two girls have been with us for 10 years and we've watched them grow into lovely young ladies.

There was a time when each child could hold a knife to frost the cakes but as you can see, its now quite a challenge.  When these kids are older, the birthday party will be the one memory they will never forget.

Eddie, David and Sammy showing off their cake and sodas

"Good Seeds Will Prosper" is what will happen in this school.  If we have teachers as good as the nursery school, these children will thrive.  The little ones in Morning Star have gone from no English to carrying on a conversation in one year.   Why?  Teacher Aidha and her assistants are very experienced and they personally care about each child's education..  

Ptarmigan primary school will be completed for the first day of school with a second floor currently being built.  There are 20 workers doing their best to make this happen by working 12 hours days, 7 days a week.  We have been blessed to have the best contractor in the area and many of the same crew who built the homes in our other compound.

The Ministry of Education has advised us to have an office for the principal and teachers.  We were able to convert and extend the existing building on the property that we used when we had chickens.

The clinic, better know as the "Aide House" is almost completed.  The septic is in and the water tank is ready to be installed.  The only thing left to do are the floors in two rooms.

The clinic will only be for malaria testing and for burns. This past week I was there to witness a woman coming to Edwin for help.  When the floors are approved by the health department, we will be open with a good doctor to help our neighbours.

 One of the planned activities with the Rachels were to make paper plate purses with pipe cleaner ties. This event took most of the morning and it was the little boys that carried everything from toques to chapati in them for the rest of the day.

Thanks to Graham, our new cartoonist friend, the children were able to write letters to their sponsors.
Each sponsor received not only a letter but a copy of their report card and an updated picture.

And a big thanks to Doreen for making all the little people blue shirts.  They didn't take them off until they were forced to wash them.  It was hot and it was the only cool shirt they had. They love them.

As you can see, we have been very blessed with what has been happening in Uganda.  It's because many of you care and all of us at Home of Angels are very grateful.  We've almost made it, but the one big thing yet to do is our church.  Our dream will come true in time but it will be in God's timing, not ours.  By just looking at these faces above, you can see the effect our home has had on these children and they truly call themselves a family.

By the way, The "Radiant Rachels" have a website with the most amazing food.  We sampled it every night as they cooked and Janet and I did the dishes.  They made everything from cinnamon rolls, braided bread, pineapple upside down cake, caramel corn and much more.  Can you imagine the tears when these girls leave?