Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Orphans Worship

One of my very favorite things in Uganda was hearing the children worship...I'm not talking about singing - I'm talking about WORSHIP. These children have a deep inner sense of WHO they are praising and talking to - it's obvious. It's just them and their Father. I was so touched by watching them sing fervently...these children believe in the words they are speaking and more importantly, WHO they are speaking them to. So, when I ran across the excerpt below from a book called "Wrecked for the Ordinary", I was so excited because it perfectly describes what I saw.

"When orphans worship, their voices are loud, their eyes are closed tightly, and their little hands are gripped together. Your jaw will drop as you watch them physically enter into the presence of a king.

When orphans worship, their voices ache to express their hearts. Their songs are ones of desperation and admiration to a creator who they know holds them in his palm.

When orphans worship, your eyes fill with tears as you feel God all around you. Physically, you are overcome and spiritually you are one with the Lord.

When orphans worship, their last care in the world is what you, I, or their friend thinks of them. They sing loud, undignified, and with passion.

When orphans worship, you begin to wonder if this is what it is supposed to be like for us. You begin to wonder why God’s presence is so strong there, but we struggle to enter into any meaningful worship in our clean, well lit, and finely carpeted buildings.

When orphans worship, you are easily convinced that there is nothing else on their minds. Their deep expressions can tell you a thousand stories about the throne room.

When orphans worship, their instruments are their voices and the clap of their hands, but you’d probably swear you also could hear percussion, guitars, and booming pianos.

When orphans worship, they appear as though they have learned something we haven’t. While you and I find it so hard to believe that we have a God who loves and desires us, they take no interest in such foolishness."

Oh God, may I take no interest in such foolishness! May your abounding love for me move me into deeper relationship with you...may your love leave me with no other response than to love You with my life. Each breath, each word, each action - may they speak to the greatness and grace of God!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mother of Problems

We met one of the most incredible women I have ever had the privilege of knowing in Uganda. Her name was Beatrice and her story will break your heart and fill you with awe at the God who makes beauty from ashes. I think I'll let my husband, Ben tell the story from here...

We sat in a living room in a house in Soroti, Uganda. It was hot and as the fans turned the 15 of us sat in rapt attention listening to Beatrice tell her story.

“After my husband’s death I began to ask, how can I help these widows? They give you a name; of course they now call you a mother of problems. People begin to avoid you and no one wants to associate with you now that you have a lot of problems. And these widows now live a lonely life - a rejected life.”

Beatrice is a young woman, not what you think about when you use the word “widow”. Her husband was a Pastor of their community and one day was traveling by motorcycle to visit another pastor when tragedy struck. Her husband died on that dirt road leaving Beatrice with three children and another on the way. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to lose your spouse. I love my wife with a crazy kind of love. I need her every day. She is the person that I want to share my joy and sorrow with. She is the person that I have shared my deepest laughter with and the person who’s hand I’ve held as I’ve had the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. I can’t begin to know what Beatrice went through in that moment.

A widow in Uganda faces not only the loss of her husband, but often her home and possessions are taken from her. Her land which grows the food that feeds her family is no longer hers. Her friends and family avoid her. She is still responsible to care for her children but with no possessions and virtually no possibility to earn money to feed them. This is why widows are called “mothers of problems”. It is grief heaped on top of grief. It is no wonder that the sorrow of widows in this situation is deep and unending.

Beatrice told us that day in Soroti that after a while she “put away her tears” and began to wonder how she could help widows just like her. Her plan was simple - minister to these widows with God’s word and pray with them. She began telling them of the Hope that can be found in Christ even in the midst of their loss and difficult circumstances. And they listened. As they listened the widows began to see the power of God move in their homes - healing, provision of food, health, hope, and peace filled homes that had not known it for some time. She would meet with these women at least once a month and after a time decided that they needed to have a large meeting; a conference of sorts. She had no idea how many widows would show up or how they would feed them but in faith she pushed forward.

800 widows arrived, many of them days early, for this conference and God provided food for them...bags of food which should have run out never emptied. As they began to meet and pray and hope in Christ for their future, others took note. The President of Uganda recognized the power behind the Widows and gave them a grant that helped them buy goats and some land. As the goats reproduced, the offspring were given to other widows. And with help from The Children of the Nile (TCON)a farm was developed and a conference center constructed so that the widows who Beatrice had organized would have a place to meet. The Teso Widows Organization now has 21,000 widows in the region registered - 21,000!!

With the support and help from others these women are now caring for each other as well as many of the orphans in their villages. As they often watch their friends die from disease, they now have some resources so that they can take in their friend's children. These women, these mothers, these widows are caring for themselves, each other, and the children who have been visited by tragedy. It's amazing, really. Each of them carries a ledger with them - a notebook of sorrow. In this ledger is the name and needs of each orphan in their community. This way, when organizations like Children's Hope Chest come into an area, the widows are instrumental in providing information about how many orphans there are and what the needs are. They have taken on the burden of the forgotten. Though they at one time felt forgotten, they know in deeper ways than I will ever know, that God does not forget them.

Sitting in that room with Beatrice that evening, I knew that we had an audience with one of the Saints. The people had called her “the mother of all problems” but God had another name for her.


The path was clear and the road was straight
Your joy in the things that last
But that dirt road devoured your Love
Left alone and great with child

In perfect sorrow you labored
Life in a mixture of blood and water
Unending need and nothing to give
All things now gray and the path obscured

Tears burning like fire stream endlessly
How can you have taken him from me?
Leaving me rejected, forgotten, dependent, alone
You hear them call me “The Mother of Problems”

The questions seem contradictions
And His plans a path of sorrow
But you were known before the dawn of time
And formed with the care of consuming love

You resolve to set aside your weeping
To move into the new path
With joy and sorrow and truth you speak
He provides and they listen

Sorrow is fuel and faith like air
Arriving hungry and expectant, He provides
Unsure and frail, through you He speaks
The wise are fools and the powerful, broken

His plan is proved true and path faithful
The season of hardship yields a bountiful harvest
The fruit is sweet and sustaining
And He has given you a new name:

Healer of wounds
Finder of lost dreams,
Repairer of the broken
Speaker of wisdom
Giver of passion
Visionary for the blind
Power for the weak
Shepherd of the lost
Restorer of dignity
Vigilante of peace
Vessel of compassion
And Mother of Hope.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rock Quarry

Well, you all loved my husband's post last week so I'm sorry to say you're stuck with me again.:) Don't worry...I'll post more from him soon. I don't know if you are sick of hearing my Africa stories and revelations yet but I still have more to share so I'm just going to do it. We saw so much and had so many amazing and heartbreaking encounters that I continue to think of things I want to process here.

We were driving back to the guest house on our last night in Soroti and Joseph, HopeChest's Uganda Country Director, wanted us to pull off on the side of the road so we could see a rock quarry. It was getting close to dusk and every night it was important that we be back at our guest home safe and sound before dark for safety reasons. Because of the late hour Joseph said that we could get off the bus at the quarry for 5 minutes and that was all the time we had because we needed to get back.

We pulled up to the quarry and here's what I saw...

There were children and women all over the place...sitting in the gravel and walking barefoot on the sharp rocks. This was their life every day. Mothers and grandmothers brought their children and grandchildren with them to the quarry so they could break up large pieces of rock to make money. In some of the pictures above you can see yellow buckets with broken up rock in them - it would take a strong, healthy woman all day to fill up one of those buckets. She would in turn sell it for approximately 80 cents to people who want to use the gravel to make the roads in Uganda. 80 CENTS a day for hard, tiring work. Can you imagine??? Can you imagine the desperation of a woman who has to feed her children and this is her only option? The women bring their older children to the quarry to care for the younger kids (like you see in the picture of the girl with the baby on her back). This means that they don't go to school and won't get an education.

I can't really describe the rock quarry to you and the pictures don't capture it all. It was a dark, dirty, hot, depressing sea of gray rock. I couldn't get over the number of little kids that kept popping out from behind rocks. I couldn't believe that this was what they had to look forward to everyday. Some of the older kids (maybe 6 and up) would help their moms by carrying over the larger rocks for her to break up. I just kept thinking...what if this was my six year old hanging out here all day, breathing in the gravel dust? Can I blame these women for bringing their kids there everyday? Absolutely not. If my choice was to break rocks for 80 cents a day so I could purchase a little food for my children or watch them go hungry I'd be breaking rock too. Did you notice in one of those pictures that the woman's feet are red and bloody? Can you imagine walking on those hot, sharp rocks every day? What these women were doing for their children and likely children who were not even their own was amazing. There was no complaining. They just sat there and pounded away with their pitiful little tools trying to break the rock. It made me want to weep. It was heart breaking.

All we had left at this point on the bus were Dum Dum suckers so we pulled them out and gave them to the kids. I wish I had a picture of their faces eating those suckers...they were precious. I later found out from one of the women traveling with us that those suckers were probably the only "sweet treat" they'd ever had in their life. Their faces just lit up. How sad...a Dum Dum sucker that my kids would think was no big deal was probably the highlight of their month.

Five minutes certainly did not feel like adequate time to talk with the women and children but it was all we had. We got back on the bus to head home. My heart was heavy over what I had seen as I sank down into my seat. The bus lurched and then died. It wouldn't start. I wasn't worried at first but then I saw how concerned Joseph was about it and realized that this could be bad. All week Joseph had been so insistent about us being safe and sound at our guest house before dark and here we were with a huge African thunderstorm brewing, out in the middle of nowhere with the sun going down and a bus that was going nowhere.

The children all gathered around the bus once they realized that we weren't leaving after all. We had our windows down and were talking to them and watching them enjoy their suckers while the guys worked on the bus. About five minutes into all this I started to actually get scared. I was picturing us stuck at this rock quarry all night in a storm...totally susceptible to whatever or whoever.

I turned around in my seat to one of the guys traveling with us. Somehow he had managed to have internet on his iphone all week. I asked him if maybe he could ask people to pray for us - that the bus would start and we would be kept safe. I'll never EVER forget what he said so kindly and gently. He looked at me and said "I think I'd rather ask people to pray for the people outside our bus right now who have to come here every day". I said something profound like "good point" and turned back around in my seat.

I felt like I'd been hit in the stomach. Tears stung my eyes. Here I sat in the comfort and relative safety of my bus having just moments ago come face to face with people in extreme poverty and dire circumstances...and my concern was immediately for myself. Immediately.

I'll never forget that moment and the revelation I had that night. How quickly I turn toward myself! What a good reminder of the fickleness of my own heart and my utter need for God to help turn my eyes and heart toward others first. So, tonight as I write this I am praying for these people who are struggling so much right now. I am asking God to provide for them, to give them peace in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances and to continue to turn my heart of stone into one that loves as He does.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Poverty of My Heart

Guess what? I finally found someone who writes blog posts just as long as mine! And you'll be shocked to know it's my sweet husband, Ben. :) He wrote some of his thoughts down from our trip to Uganda the other night and I thought you all might enjoy them. He is such a blessing to me and there is no one else I would rather be on this journey with. So...enjoy!

How do you begin to make sense of events that brought you sorrow revisited upon sorrow, bonds of friendship that are deep and true, laughter and hope? How do you put those emotionally charged thoughts to paper? Amy and I traveled to Uganda with two of our best friends and a team of other folks to work among orphans. The plan was to visit villages to help create supportive relationships between people here in the States and communities in Uganda. After countless shots and a short anxiety attack we arrived in Uganda.

So as we departed from the airport towards the hotel I was taking in the sights of Entebbe. It was evening and the darkness had set in. It was dark in a way I was not used to. I could smell the spicy sweetness coming from the roadside stands and noticed the men gathered in the dim light at the open markets. For each stand and market that we passed I found myself wondering about the stories behind the people who work and shop there; each story a novel in itself. We arrived at our hotel weary (not to mention what I smelled like) from too many hours of travel. The morning would come soon. This was my first night in Africa. I determined that I would soak in every moment.

I started on this journey for many reasons. I felt that God had brought me to Uganda through many different conversations, relationships, thoughts, prayers and some slight coercion. I knew that I couldn’t escape this trip, and once God had made that part clear to me, I had to decide what I wanted out of it. Simple. I wanted my church to get involved in helping communities of broken and hurting people in Africa. There were three reasons for this.

1) God says clearly to care for the widows, the lonely, the poor and the orphans. In my mind, there was (and is) no disputing that fact. I could spend countless hours talking about why this is, or the theological justifications for it, and the ramifications for not doing that. But that’s not the point…I simply knew that God said to do it and that I wasn’t really caring for the “least of these” in any meaningful way. I knew I had to change that. So that’s reason one… God said to do it.

2) I had some level of awareness of the crisis that much of Africa was currently facing. Just like any mildly disgruntled critic of our culture, I had “taken note” of how life in America is unlike most of the world. I listen to enough U2 to read through the lines and see the disparity between our life and life in other parts of the world. In all sincerity, it was the process of adopting our son from Ethiopia that really took me from a spectator of the crisis in Africa to a soldier in the war to overthrow the oppressive regime of poverty. Though we have yet to meet our son or bring him into our family, I look forward to thanking him for opening my eyes to what is going on in Africa. So reason two… I was aware that this crisis is affecting places like Uganda and if it persists unchecked will wipe out entire populations of countries.

3) I knew that if you were born in America you would have more than most people in Uganda could ever hope for, even if you are considered poor by our standards. If you could look at a map that only showed wealth of people and not land, you would see most of it pooled in North America, and Europe. It is not by chance that resources have pooled into places on the map while others are experiencing a drought of resources. In my mind it was one of two things: One possibility is that our culture (knowingly or unknowingly) in the quest for more, drained resources from other places on the map. If this is the case, it is likely the natural outgrowth of our modern times. The other scenario that seemed possible to me is that God chose in His wisdom (that I very often don’t understand) to bless certain groups of people more than others. In either of these cases, I concluded that we have a responsibility to readjust the scales a bit. Either we drained their resources, and they now do not have enough to survive, or God blessed us. If God blessed us, it was not so that I could hold onto the blessings while others suffered. The intent would have been to bless others. If we unwittingly drained the resources of these countries, then we have a responsibility to make that right as well. As I worked through this problem in my head, I kept hearing that still soft voice say “who is your neighbor?” I knew the answer. They all are. So reason three is my conclusion that we have a responsibility to care for the hurting.

The rationale was simple:

1. God said to do it.
2. There is a great need.
3. I have a responsibility to care for others in need.

It seemed like a great case. I could pitch this to our pastor and how could he not get on board? Well, that was all before I stepped on Ugandan soil. God has a way of taking our plans and shuffling them like a deck of cards. You usually end up with a full house even when in the moment it feels like you have a bad hand.
I heard the stories that confirmed my justifications, BUT I also had moments where the people I came to “help” showed me wisdom and dignity like I’ve not seen before.

I watched as a 10 year old boy protected the 3 year old he was raising. He gave up the opportunity to play with a new beach ball to ensure that the 3 year old could have many turns to kick and throw it. He knew that this was a unique opportunity to have some real fun but he set aside his play for the sake of his sibling.

I watched as children who rarely if ever received candy would return the extra sucker that they had been give to ensure that everyone got one. I listened to a widow tell the story of her own sorrow as it turned from grief to rejoicing. How she had given hope and a place of meaning to people that had been cast aside and rejected. These people didn’t need my help. I needed theirs.

I quickly began to recognize that as we had fed the starving bodies of the people in these communities they had been feeding my starving soul. They were infested with micro-organisms from polluted water. I was suffering a polluted heart from excess and ease of life. They had a lack of knowledge because of limited access to education, I had a lack of wisdom from useless and corrupting information overload. They are often gripped with fear from attack by the LRA or others, and I was ignorant in my lack of real fear of a just God.

I knew that as I participated in the redemption of the people we met, I was redeemed in the process. It was clear to me that the things threatening the people of Uganda can kill and destroy their bodies. Starvation, flood, drought, war, pestilence, rape, disease. The things that I was being freed from were destroying my soul. Matthew 10:28 says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body”.

To be clear, there are wicked and vile things that are happening in Uganda that serve as evidence that the one who can destroy both body and soul is at work. For instance, there is a real problem with child abduction for sacrifice. Witch doctors tell people that they need to cut the head of a child off and bury it in the wall of their house to protect themselves from evil spirits.

I met boys who had been forced to commit horrid acts of violence against their own families and countless others. Rape is a common tactic of warfare. And even the Ugandans on our trip acknowledge freely that it can be a brutal and unforgiving land.

So where did this leave me? I realize that I will not willingly “settle back into my culture” if I can help it. I also know that I have found a group of people in Kapelabyong Uganda that I want to continue a relationship with. I will advocate for them and attempt to educate people I know about what life is like there. I do this because I know that God is at work there.

I reflect on my “brilliant” 3 reasons for getting my church connected to a community in Uganda. I still know that God demands that we care for the hurting and the broken, the widow and the orphan. If my walk with God does not reflect my care for them than it is not full or genuine. I am more aware of the crisis that the people I met face. It is truly astounding and overwhelming. And I very much still believe that we have a responsibility to help set things right, but those three reasons now have nothing to do with my desire to see our church participate in this work.

I know that I will do this work regardless of what our church decides. I have absolute faith that the needs of Kapelabyong will be met and that I will play a part in that. But now I want the church to participate because I know that as we care for the abandoned and broken, God shows up in a way that we don’t experience anyplace else. I don’t want them to miss out on what He is doing through the very people we come alongside. God has used their poverty to serve as a mirror into my own heart to expose the poverty within me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


This post is going to serve two purposes...to tell you about 18 year old Elizabeth who I fell in love with in Otuboi, Uganda...and to tell you about how together with my friend Sam Henry and his organization HopeMongers we can help Elizabeth and other students just like her.

My week in Uganda ended on a high note for sure. Our very last stop was to visit Otuboi Secondary School. We were running a little late and when we got there, about 40 students who live at the school were sitting in the grass waiting for us. After meeting mostly younger kids all week long, this group of older kids was striking. They had a certain strength and beauty about them that I know I won't be able to explain properly. Most of them were boys but there were a few girls too. We shared with them what our hopes were for them in a formal presentation of sorts and got to meet the teachers of this school. Then we had some time to talk to the students and get to know them and the school a bit more. Don't they look joyful?!

Turns out that this school had been closed for periods of time because the Lord's Resistance Army had been active in the area and it wasn't safe for the children to walk to school etc. Due to the instability it was difficult to attract and maintain teachers. Most of the teachers I met weren't getting paid what they were supposed to because the funding isn't there. This leads to a problem of frequent turnover among staff because the pay isn't consistent, if at all. To the 40 or so students I met, this is problematic at many levels. Without teachers they obviously do not receive the education they need but they also lack the nurture, guidance and encouragement that the teachers provide. Almost all of the 40 students I met were orphans with no one else to care for them. The role of the teachers is so important because they really are parental figures. Here's the group of teachers that we met at the school:

They were so sweet and very clearly loved the students. And rightfully so! These kids were phenomenal. They had such good manners and were smiling and laughing - they had joy.

One of the girls caught my attention from the beginning and when I had the opportunity I asked if I could hear her story. She graciously agreed. Her name was Elizabeth. She shared with me that she had lost her mother to AIDS when she was six years old and that her father is no longer in her life because he was an alcoholic and abused her. Her life was very hard when she lost her mother at such a young age with no one to really care for her. It was a dark time for her. I asked her how she survived and made it through that and she said "I know God and I know that He is a Father to orphan and so He has taken care of me". Powerful. She said that she LOVED going to school and that her sister couldn't take care of her but tried to send her money for her school fees so she can continue to get an education.

I asked her what she wanted more than anything and her answer? To serve the Lord and be prayed for. And if she could have anything she would want a Bible to read. WOW!! I tried to encourage her but mostly I felt floored by her faith, her strength and her perspective. I told her that I could at least pray for her, so I wrapped my arm around her and prayed through my tears for sweet Elizabeth. The whole time I prayed she fervently agreed with me in prayer with "Yes, Lord" and "Hallelujah!". I was so moved by Elizabeth who was so firmly rooted in her relationship with God. It wasn't until the next day on the bus that I realized I had a Bible I could have given her. Thankfully, one of the Ugandan widows traveling with us said that she visits the school monthly and would take it to Elizabeth for me. So, I have such joy knowing that a Bible with her name on it and a letter to her is on its way to Elizabeth! Wish I could be there when she receives it!

Here is a picture of Elizabeth in their dark school room - literally the only light they get is the light that comes in the windows and I can tell you it's not much!! She just looks radiant, doesn't she?

So, enter my friend, Sam Henry and his new micro-giving organization, HopeMongers, which is launching today!! Sam traveled with us to find projects in Uganda that people like you might be interested in helping to fund. Great idea, huh? Here's a picture of Sam in the school at Otuboi getting his inspiration for one of those projects!

The cool thing about HopeMongers is that you don't have to just give to a general fund somewhere...you can pick a project that moves your heart, give to it and watch it all unfold. So cool!!! Well, one of the many HopeMongers projects in Uganda is to fund the teachers at Otuboi! Woo-hoo!! I could not be more thrilled with this choice because it will provide stability in so many ways for the children who attend this school which is SO important!! I would ask you to consider giving to this project if your heart is moved. The beautiful thing about Hopemongers is you can give anything from $10 on up - whatever you feel like giving. To give to this project simply click here.

Thanks for helping the children of Otuboi - you really are helping to change their lives!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Father to the Fatherless

My last post included a video from Kapelabyong where we visited on our last Sunday in Uganda. This village holds a special place in my heart as we are trying to find sponsors for the children there. We knew that we would be going there for church on Sunday and Sarah and I were asked to teach the children Sunday School. We were told there may be about 100 children. FUN!! Well, as it turned out there were closer to 300 children. Hello!!

So, we split the kids up into two groups by age. I took the older kids and Sarah took the younger kids. As I was walking up to the group of children I was going to speak to I realized that I hadn't really prepared anything for this age group. Gulp. I asked my translator how long I needed to speak for. He smiled and said "Oh...maybe one hour or one hour and forty minutes". Oh, is that all??

So I had my "O God, O God, O God" moment right there on the spot. As I looked out at the sea of faces sitting quietly and expectantly in front of me I did what anyone would do who's trying to stall for time...I asked them if they had any questions for me. :) And they did...they wanted to know what I ate and if there were any black people where I lived. It was cool to be able to tell them that yes - there were people who looked just like them where I lived. And then they wanted to know why I was there. Um...loaded question. Why was I there?? My answer to them was that I had come to meet them and get to know them and remind them how much God loved them. Clearly there is so much more as to why I was there but I felt like I should just leave it at that.

I asked them to raise their hands if they were an orphan. And oh my. About 80% of the kids raised their hands. Immediately I just wanted to weep. What in the world could I say to all these orphans that could even touch their pain? So I prayed, opened my mouth and just started talking. God just showed up and gave me the words to say. I would a finish a sentence and have no idea what was coming next but suddenly there it was. And it went on like that for about a half hour. I don't remember all of what I said but I do remember being compelled to communicate to them that they were a treasure to God...that although they may be alone God will never leave them...that God has plans for them - to give them a hope and a future...that they should not put their hope in people, but in God...that they need to be compassionate toward each other and help each other.

There were several times where I just started crying as I was speaking. As I was talking about how much they are treasured and loved I just really FELT the truth of that deeply...I glimpsed the Father's heart for them and it was just beautiful and it moved me. And oh did the kids just soak up that truth! They listened so intently...their eyes held my gaze...they smiled huge bright smiles when I asked them if they understood what I was saying to them wasn't just words - but that it was God's truth for them.

I was initially disappointed not to be able to be part of the church experience that was going on inside the hut (how selfish can I be??) but as I stood outside under the sun with these kids I realized there was no other place I would rather be. After I spoke I tore off a piece of notebook paper for each child and handed out a crayon or marker to each one. And oh my gosh...how these kids lit up when they saw a crayon and marker! Understand that most of these kids don't even have a pencil, much less a colorful crayon or marker.

I asked the children to write their names at the top of the paper and to draw a picture or write a note...whatever they felt like doing. I explained that I would collect the papers and take them home to give to my friends. I told them that they would be hung up in our homes (couldn't exactly explain hanging them up with a magnet on our refrigerators!)and that they would be prayed for by name every day - that they would NOT be forgotten, just as God had not forgotten them. They really engaged with the project. I thought they'd enjoy it, but I had no idea how hard their papers would make me cry as I read through them later on the bus. I believe I'll let them speak for themselves.

There were over one hundred papers all asking for help with their school fees. Then some went on to say that they needed help getting proper sanitation, food, mattresses, sheets, but over and over again school fees were at the top of the list. They recognize that without an education their future is bleak. But most of them are orphans with no one to care for them or provide them with school fees (which range from $65-$300 a year depending on if they are boarding at school). I just kept thinking...how different the lists of our children here in the States would look from these. These kids just need their basic needs met. The most frivolous thing that was mentioned in over a hundred letters was a ball. A ball. Because right now they wrap a wad of garbage with twine and use that for their ball. Can't you see the list from our kids now? A Wii, iPod, cell phone, laptop...oh the difference.

And then there was sweet James' note. "I love Jesus Christ because He died for me on the cross. I am an orphan but the Bible says that God is a father to the fatherless and a mother to the motherless. I trust in Jesus Christ for my needs." Even the difference between his letter and the others was profound. He wasn't asking me for anything. He wasn't listing his needs. He really IS trusting Jesus to meet his needs. I am still humbled by James Ocen every time I look at his paper. And I'm compelled to pray that God will meet this sweet boy and strengthen his faith and meet his needs just as James is trusting Him to do.

If this group of children stirs your heart, just let me know as there are many ways for you to directly impact their little lives and hearts.