Wednesday, October 6, 2021

When All Seems Lost

 Perhaps you find yourself in a season of life when things are coming at you from every direction, and it's difficult to see what's ahead.  In the midst of the millions of people in our world being afflicted by starvation, the spread of diseases and the increase of natural disasters, there is one thing that absolutely remains certain: those who are secure in the Lord are in amazing hands.  

As you all know, we live in a poor area outside of town where people struggle for every necessity of life.  The rains have washed away many mud huts; finding food and just the worry of surviving a day at a time is tragic for Edwin and Precious to witness.  Thanks to your donations we have been able to start building a church for us and 500 people in our community and we are very grateful for your help!

The latest message to the nation was about restrictions regarding COVID.  The schools will remain closed operating under the previous instructions.  We had to purchases cell phones for the older children and they have mastered this working on a special App until the schools reopen again.  The little ones are working in the new grass hut by using a projector and screen with lessons prepared by our teachers .

 We've also been able to start some other projects that we'd like to share with you, so instead of pictures of the children this time, we'll show you what's happening with the construction on the three compounds.





Our old grass hut was leaking, especially on the kids eating their meals so we replaced the eucalyptus poles and new grass from northern Uganda.  Because of the quality of the grass, it should last 20-30 years.  We also use this space for school for our twenty younger children as the pandemic has closed all Ugandan schools except universities. Our school teachers have been very diligent in preparing lessons for all of them throughout these tough times.




The main house is currently receiving a renovation.  The gutters are all cleaned and painted which not only provides a good flow of water but now we are starting to look like a new home again.




The quality of the concrete and the paint in Uganda isn't like ours.  Often it would peel so the men here are replacing the damaged areas.  The workers with the eucalyptus poles on the ground are building more ladders to continue around the entire home.





We didn't realize that many of the children had ear issues.  Why?  They were raised in mud huts so of course lots of dirt and clay would have settled over the years.  When we took Mariam and Lovisa in to have their ears flushed, Dr. Francis found a piece of metal in Lovisa's ear and it was probably the reason why she didn't speak for so long.  He then offered to come to our Home of Angels to check all the kids ears at no cost.  When it came to helping our little Yahigha here, he found a bead deep down with a piece of wood that he used to remove it with.  Never a complaint.





Ptarmigan Primary school is completely finished with electricity and cameras.  All we're waiting for now is for the schools to be opened up and to hear the ringing of excitement and laughter.



A view at night



Precious's has her own project and it's very exciting to watch it grow.  It will be a Bible school for the community and for the church.  If you're wondering, Edwin has been able to get shots for all our workers, so on sunny days the work now continues on all projects.




This building was our old Morning Star nursery school but because of new government restrictions of younger children not in a school on the same property as the older kids, we found the perfect solution.  We have 13 older children ready to be transitioned out of HOA but they first need to learn a trade.  We will turn this into the Trade Learning Center.  They have chosen baking baking banana bread 😉, soap making, sewing and brick laying.  We are hoping for donations for stoves and sewing machines if anyone would like to help us.  As soon as this is accomplished and they move out to start their new lives, we will bring in more children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.  No child from HOA will ever leave without a trade for survival. 




We need a wall on the church property too but this wall will be a little different.  It won't be as high but just as safe.  Edwin and Precious have designed it and I'm excited to see the end result. 




Ptarmigan nursery school is in the process of being built.  Now that everyone has had their shots, we will see this being completed in the very near future.  Because of land space, it is designed so that another floor can be added on top.  As we grow at HOA with young children, and if conditions allow, we will bring many other children to attend also.  



This will be the church we waited so long for.  Because of heavy rains and COVID shots, it's been a slow process.  This building will accommodate 500 people when it's completed and from what we're hearing, we needed to build one for 1,000 people.  Everyone wants to attend.  Our contractor has gone to the north again to find the same wood we used on the grass hut to build the pews and the roof on the church, so believe me, they are working hard to make it a solid and long-lasting structure.   



Thank you everyone for following our amazing story of how God took an old lady and a loaf of banana bread to start a project such as this.  Our Home of Angels has become a home full of love and hope for these children and we could not have done it without your prayers and support.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you








Saturday, August 14, 2021

Life Through a New Lense

It's been almost two years since I've returned to our Home of Angels in Uganda.  There isn't a day that goes by where I don't miss them or Edwin and I don't speak and pray over the many unsettled issues occurring in our community of Mpumudde.  

COVID-19 along with the variant 2 has spread across Uganda as it has around the world, but only one percent of a population of 48 million people have been able to be vaccinated.  Edwin has been elected to be in control of the task force for our community of 32 villages.  These people have no idea what is happening to them and can't understand why only 5 people are allowed to bury the dead.

Uganda has been locked down since the election violence in January 2019.  Maybe a few reprieves, but not many.  Because of these lockdowns, there is now extensive famine.  Each day many come to our compound gate weeping for help because there is no food and they've gone days without eating.  Most  stores around us and community markets are closed and with the rainy season on, there is no food growing anywhere.  For Edwin and Precious to have to witness starvation daily.... I have to tell you that they do it with such grace.  

President Museveni addressed the  nation again hours ago stating that the government will provide all shots for teachers and staff by October.  In the meantime, older children will be doing online learning with a cell phone.  Our little ones will learn in our grass hut by screen and projector.  Our teachers have had their shots and will be able to assist them at home.  

Now comes the most important part....our "Angels".  Everyone is doing fine, locked in and learning a new way to live.  Hope and Desire will be the first to leave their home of 12 years and are preparing a plan for how they will live. With the help of Mama Precious, they will be just fine but until the country settles and opens up, we will keep them with us for safety. 




With all that is going on at Home of Angels, we haven't been able to get a recent picture of the children.  We chose this one because even though it a year old, they are still this happy every day.  Junior at the back is a head taller than Edwin now.  We promise to get more for the next blog.





The rains this year have been hard on the compound.  Our grass hut had to be redone as water started seeping through the grass on to the kids eating their meals.  The eucalyptus poles are at more of a slant so the rain will be able to run off.  We should be good for 10-15 years now.




Can't wait to see this finished




It will be exciting to see Ptarmigan primary school full of kids next year....the trees are growing so fast and I remember when they were planted not long ago.  Your choice of trees are really beautiful Edwin.



Precious had a dream to build a Bible school where people could come and learn at anytime.  We will use it as a Sunday school and whatever comes in the future to do with our church being built on the other property below.  Everything has been interrupted with COVID, but we are not letting that deter us.  




On the compound with Ptarmigan nursery school and the church, the wall will be completed as soon as we can get shots for our workers.




We have again been blessed to have a donation of food for the elderly that are suffering so much.  Because of lockdown, the village leaders have agreed to deliver it to the most needy.



Thank you Tsawwassen Rotary Club for donating enough for us to purchase a CCTV camera setup.  We have 8 cameras installed both on the school and home compounds.  Because of the famine, the violence has escalated in our area and many are losing everything they have.  When people get this hungry, they will do almost anything.  This way, with a monitor for Edwin both on his phone and in the house, he will know if they try anything.



This picture just came in as I was finishing the blog.  The rains have been heavier than they've seen them in a long time.  Last night, most homes on our road that had iron sheets for roofs, had them blown off; people in the low marsh areas were swept away and for us...we were also hit.  The lower wall of concrete blocks on our school property fell on top of 2 homes on the other side.  Both homes were totalled.  Everyone was sleeping and in the brick home, 2 children, ages 12 and 16 were knocked unconscious by our blocks falling on them.  The parents made it out.  Edwin rushed both children to the hospital where they are currently.  Our staff put the parents into the nursery school under cover for safety.  The other home was a mud hut and it was completely demolished and they were also helped.  Our wonderful long time employee Sula has volunteered to rebuild their mud hut.  


We'd like to ask you all to include in your prayers for all the suffering people in our area.  The mamas having babies and because of no food, cannot give them milk; the people with polio that struggle to crawl to place where there is food; the people with HIV/AIDS that can't take their ARV meds without food; or helping the sickle cell anemia people that can't find food.  Please will you also pray for Edwin and Precious who are the "Rocks" of Home of Angels that they won't get sick from stress.  

God bless you all







  

Friday, June 18, 2021

Act or Perish

 Can you imagine?  With a population of 48,000,000 people in Uganda, only 175,000 COVID-19 shots from France and 100,000 shots from India have been donated too date.

The pandemic is increasing in 10 African countries, Uganda being one of them with a spike of 30% in the past week.  Three major television stations had a joint news bulletin with the theme "Act or Perish" and today, President Museveni announced to the nation revising ALL the directives spoken on June 6th.

I won't go into everything but the main new restriction is no more cross boundary movement of people on foot, public transport or private vehicles.  Everyone must stay where they are until further notice.  

I've written a blog a month for twelve years and this one is the most difficult.  I'm realizing, sitting here in my comfortable home, what this means.  The meaning behind this announcement is translated to thousands of people unemployed with no immediate way to provide for their families.  A health care crisis of this country's hospitals and clinics remain ill equipped to handle plus no oxygen left in hospitals to help the dying.  Today, it was announced that if you become sick, you stay home.  

Presently, there are 100's arriving at our gate daily begging for anything to eat.  As much as it breaks Edwin and Precious' heart, they cannot help due to word spreading.  I want to let you know how proud I am of Edwin.  As they are crying for food at the gate, if Edwin goes out to talk to them calmly and explain we have nothing to spare, they thank him and they leave quietly. 

Our story is only one of many and we realize this.  Precious and Pastor Richard tried so hard to go to the the many villages requesting them to bring Bibles.  These villages were where the soldiers delivered food in the latest famine and told them it was a gift from Jesus.  We had started our church and Edwin figures there would be 1,000 people from our community wanting to attend. Precious used her own finances to start building a Bible School where she and others could teach the people right on our property.  This was our dream for Home of Angels.  Please pray it comes to fruition and we will be able to help as many people as we can before it's too late.

In the meantime, I do have a few pictures to share with you.  In all this sadness, we want to share some happy times also.



The children are growing so fast that I hardly recognize them, especially now in masks.  They are vigelent about wearing them and understand the seriousness of COVID-19.




We'd like to introduce you to Aunty Betty, our newest employee.  She has had many years experience working for Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja until our friends Danyne and Serg left Uganda.  




Ptarmigan primary school is ready to be painted when everything opens up again.  They are currently deciding on a colour that will withstand the red dirt.  




When the soldiers delivered food in the famine a few months ago, they told the people in these poor villages that the food was from Jesus.  Weeks later, the village leaders started calling requesting we bring Bibles to their villages.  On this particular day, 48 out of 60 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. You might be asking yourself, how can poor people like this dress so well?  If you go to church anywhere, you dress the best you can, even if it means you borrow clothes or shoes.





Here we have a picture of our own church being started.  Today, the foundation is down and the walls
will be going up as soon as we can start working again.  You can also see the concrete wall in the distance going up.




Under very sad circumstances, Precious had some money come into her possession.  She decided to build her dream and that was a Bible School.  They didn't tell me until I discovered a building going up in the distance of the school and called them on it.  Oh my, I destroyed my own surprise.  Precious is an amazing team partner, not only in marriage but in the operations also.  She works with Pastor Richard in the villages and really has a control with what's happening at our Home of Angels and with the children.  





I'd like to introduce you to our "Love Project"!  Precious is again handling all details allowing Edwin to work on the building projects.  A few years ago when I was there, 32 families with mentally and physically challenged children came for a meeting in our grass hut. We wanted to help them and with
the help of Edwin's friends, they were able to grow food on their land for one year.  Of course over the past few years, these children have grown and Mamas can't carry them anymore, so we got involved again. Today, this group of women and one man have grown in size to 81 families and Precious has established a committee with a board of which she is the head.  This won't be a bandage effect, but a way for them to be self-sufficient from now on.  They are learning with their children at their side to be able to raise money for food and survive as a community together.






We again have been truly blessed and have partnered with Galcom International in Ontario.  They have developed a solar, audible, very lightweight Bible in many languages, one of them being Lugandan.  I let Edwin listen to it online and he was amazed at how clear it was and that for the people in the bush he could visualize 20-30 people sitting under a mango tree listening together.  As soon as cargo is again allowed into Uganda, we will have many on board one of those planes.  Thank you Galcom for helping us help others in the Busoga Kingdom.


Believe me when I tell you that you are all in our prayers.  So many of you have followed our story for 12 years, sponsored children and helped us in huge ways that we could never have handled ourselves. This story is not about Banana Bread Barb, Edwin and Precious.  This is about God and how He used this old lady and a loaf of bread.  Who would have ever dreamt it would have come this far?  And I'm not joking about the "old" part.  Thanks everyone. 💝




Friday, April 23, 2021

Food from Jesus

I want to apologize for not sending out our monthly blog through this "new norm" we're all going through.

These are unprecedented times for everyone worldwide and we are all experiencing something that is very difficult and unpredictable. Besides the COVID-19, Uganda also had an election that turned out to be quite violent and most people evacuated back to their villages.  If you remember, at that same time, some of you had helped raised funds to feed 6,000 families and the army helped Edwin distribute it.  He had explained to the soldiers to tell them that this food was from Jesus. They did and with a smile on their faces.  

Even though these were terrible times for many, it was very obvious that God had His hand in it.  We were able to hire a pastor from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and he is currently working with us.  Village leaders were calling Edwin asking for our pastor to come to these villages to explain who this Jesus was that gave them the food.  One particular leader called last week and asked Edwin if he could bring 60 bibles.  Precious and Pastor Richard went together and at the end of the day, 46 people out of the 60 had given their lives to Christ. This is a start of great things to come and we are so excited to share with you.


Like I said before, there was really nothing I could have shared with you in a recent blog since we had very little communication and all technology had been shut down.  The one thing our big family in Uganda wanted to share with you was their gratefulness for giving them a real family, a home and your love.  Look at the difference you made in their lives...from coming into Home of Angels so scared, malnourished and dirty to these happy faces.  This was their way of saying thanks to all of you.




The rains came hard this rainy season and our grass hut roof was destroyed.  Edwin found some better grass this time and it's currently being dried.  



In the process of repair




Remember our Morning Star nursery school?  After the election was through, the President made a new regulation that the children in nursery schools must be separate from the older kids.  We had just finished building our Ptarmigan primary school on the same property so we had to move elsewhere. Thanks to the wonderful people at Ptarmigan who have once again helped us build another school. 

This building will be made into apartments for whatever will come in the future.  Hope and Desire will be taking a six month course for teaching Sunday school at YWAM and this will give them a place to live until the church is built.




The crew has started to build Ptarmigan nursery school on the piece of property where we are going to build the church.  See below.

 


As school had been delayed for the nursery children until the end of July, we decided to build only one floor now.  This will be big enough for our children.  They will make a slab roof instead of the normal iron sheets so that when time allows, another level can be added.  The rules have also changed to one desk per child along with only 15 students per room.



We thought we would use chain link fencing to encase the property, but we are advised by officials that because of street children stealing the links to sell to the scrap metal companies for food and glue, it would be unwise.  To make the blocks was the only other way to build a wall.  Edwin's brother was kind enough to lend us the machines to make them and these boys made 6,500 in 2 weeks.  The next step will be to construct the actual wall.  



We were able to purchase Luganda bibles both in book form and solar audible.  We have also been advised from YWAM and the local radio station that we should be donating some of them to churches that can't afford to purchase them.  The parishioners would use them in the service, leaving them behind when they leave.



This is where Pastor Richard and Precious were requested to come last week. (end right)  This church wasn't deep in the bush where so many of them are, but all the same, these people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and possibly more will want the same in the future.



You can visually see our three compounds on Google Earth.  We have the home compound that we worked construction for the first 4 years.  The middle compound that now holds Ptarmigan primary school and the playground and the newest compound where the current nursery school is being built and our dream of a church.  

When Edwin started clearing the home compound in 2009, there were only 3 homes around us.  The rest was bush. Now, because of HOA, many have moved here and we include everyone into our life.  They were able to come to us for water; if injured, Edwin would wrap their wounds; we use only community people to work for us; we feed the widows and the poor and of course, take the children who have no one.  Our children have their own "God's Little Angels Ministry" and help a widow every Sunday.   (before the pandemic).  

Our dream now is to build a church on this property.  When I think back to praise and worship that the  children have every night before bed and how many people would line the wall outside listening.  Also, playing the Jesus video in the grass hut on Saturday night. We were only able to have one hundred people inside, so again, many outside listening.  How wonderful would it be to have a place for them?  

If anyone would like to help us build a structure that we could call their church, we would be so grateful.  Please contact me at barb@jaajashomeofangels.com if you'd like to help us.  Thanks.

Please be safe in these uneasy times and God bless all of you.




Monday, February 1, 2021

Overcoming Challenges


Since the pandemic first began spreading in early 2020, its changed life for everyone worldwide.  All of us are definitely overcoming many challenges.  We're separated from extended family and friends and learning new ways to cope with the isolation, stress, and anxiety that's come with this new normal.  The constant barrage of media news and knowledge can dominate our minds and it becomes increasingly difficult to find time to be quiet, to think and to pray. Statistics in Uganda are much better than ours.  They have had 318 known deaths since the start of COVID-19.

We recently evacuated the children to Edwin's family's home in Malindi village.  With the election violence around us, we felt it was important for the kid's safety. Edwin loaded the children into the school bus, and David, his brother followed in the van with bedding and essentials.  As you can see by these pictures, this was probably the most exciting time in their lives.  They had no knowledge of what was happening around them so besides the fact they were actually going on a real bus for the first time and a trip to boot...this was even more exciting than a soda pop. Can you imagine? 

Besides The COVID-19 and restrictions involved, plus the elections that were held recently, the country has been relatively locked down.  I've had little communication with Edwin this past month but I do know the children are safe and having fun playing on 40 acres in the village.  

Many of you are emailing me to ask if we are in trouble and where is the monthly blog?  Thanks for caring and know that everything is going to be just fine.  We just need a little time for the dust to settle from the election.  

In the meantime, here are some pictures to make you smile.




Thank you Lord for what you have done for these little munchkins.  They're so happy, healthy and full of love for each other.  This is the reason we don't call ourselves an orphanage....We are one big family.!!





First of all, I'd better explain this sign on the bus. Before evacuation, the company that made the sign had made a template in plastic.  This was it.  All the letters weren't on yet and there were errors, but all will be fixed when they return.  




Can you imagine being the bus driver (Edwin) and driving many hours listening to this excitement?





We want to thank everyone who donated towards the Bibles. These are in English, Lusoga and Luganda, but the ones previously ordered were solar, audible and Luganda. When everything settles down, Pastor Richard will be heading to the villages that are requesting him.  Why?  When COVID hit and the country was closed down, people in the deep villages had no access to food.  Between Edwin and the village leaders working together and our wonderful donors from Canada, they were able to feed many, many people.  Edwin and David accessed the food and because of the danger of starvation, the armed soldiers distributed it, explaining the food was from Jesus.  The big question for them now is....who is this Jesus?





OK, don't get excited.  Remember when we elderly people were kids?  We used to climb trees to pick fruit too.  These are jackfruit and my favourite.  If I ever get the chance to return, I won't be climbing but I'm definitely looking for this tree.




Annette, Joanne, Zakia, Marian and Eva....I'm so happy they have a few more years with us.




I'm thinking Edwin had gone to the market to get these clothes and Mama Precious is distributing them.   The one good thing is, everything is passed down and when they don't fit anyone, out to our neighbours they go.  It's been a year since I was there and the children are growing so quickly.  




Edwin teaching the kids English by singing.




Edwin and I would like you all to understand how much we appreciate what you have done for Home of Angels over the past almost 12 years.  Beginning in 2010, with a request from a person I didn't know, "Edwin" who wanted to feed some garbage dump kids.  He asked me for help!!  Long story short...I sent him some money for rice.  He sent me pictures of the dump and pictures of feeding the children.  I had never been there, but before I knew it, snakes or no snakes, I was on a plane and never looked back.




The local dump where orphans wanted to be called "Angels" 




Edwin asked the Aunties to help him feed the kids.  They did and this picture, I will treasure forever.  This was our beginning.  

Thanks to all of you for standing with us to make a difference in Jinja, Uganda.