Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Mom would be busy baking and listening to Christmas music. Everytime "Silver Bells" was played she'd stop and dab at her eyes--perhaps remembering her past Christmases in the city of Des Moines. She'd tell stories of her Christmas gatherings as a young girl. The men--Grandpa, Uncle Red, Uncle Luther would gather in the kitchen and sneak a little Christmas cheer. She talked of ice skating, gifts, going downtown to Yonkers and seeing all the Christmas decorations and enjoying the bustle of the "city". Oh how I wish I had written down all she told us. She put the love of the season in our hearts.
Then there was the big Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street. Every year someone would donate a HUGE tree and the town employees would set it in the middle of the street and decorate it with lights--one year someone placed packages beneath the tree--I think it was our pastor's wife. Our little Baptist Church was on Main street and the tree was right next to it. After Sunday night services we'd play outside and sing around the Christmas tree. There was nothing more beautiful than looking up toward the street lights and watching the softly falling snow--we'd stick out our tongues and catch the big flakes.
Every Saturday we'd go to church and practice for our Christmas program. We'd spend hours going over and over our parts--I got to play Mary one year. . . Finally the night of the program came and most of the times it would go off as practiced. Mom told about one year--I don't remember this--when I had a loose thread on my dress and I started pulling on it and unraveled my skirt. When I stood to say my part--Mom who was in charge of the program said, "Hmm. She didn't look like that when we left home. . . "
The program was my favorite--with the Christmas tree and lights being the only lights on in the church as we re-inacted the Christmas Story. I imagined the night Jesus was born--how cold He must have been! What was it like in that stable? What was it like when the angels appeared in the heavens singing "Glory to God in the Highest"? What a glorious night it must have been!
After the program we'd get a bag of peanuts with hard candy and chocolate drops (Tom still likes those nasty things!) We'd get an apple and orange and a small gift from our Sunday School teacher. The joy that filled the little church that night would follow us home. I remember sitting in our little darkened living room with only the tree lights and thinking it was the most beautiful place on earth. Christmas cards were taped to a big round mirror in the dining room and all around the doorway between the living and dining room. we made mobiles out of old Christmas cards--snowflakes out of typing paper and paper chains of red and green construction paper. And the fun of stringing popcorn--eating half of it and pricking our fingers on the needle as we tried to push through a stubborn piece! Sometimes we would spray "snow" on the widows and mirrors--placing stencils down first --then when you took the stencils away it would say "Merry Christmas" or you'd see Christmas figures in the snow. Often the widows would ice over creating a natural snow look.
I'd LOVE to read your Christmas memories. Please click on the comments and write your favorite memory.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
My friend Angie took Rag doll patterns and materials to Uganda and the women in the Smile Africa tailoring program gave them their own brand of creativity. We are hoping to bring back dolls to sell in November. Aren't they the cutest??
There were some lucky Americans on hand to purchase the dolls as quickly as they were made!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
This was my first group bike ride—a fundraiser for bicycle safety awareness and I was so excited. Yesterday I went over my bike to make sure it was in top condition—checked the brakes—oiled stuff—checked the tires, etc. Then my granddaughter Jordan and I went for a short seven-mile ride to make sure it was in good working order.
This morning I was up by 5:30AM and ready to go by 6:30! Robert helped me load my bike onto the rack in back of my truck—I doubled checked to be sure Robert had packed enough water for me, I had the directions to the ride and I was off!
The parking lot at Pima Road and Pinnacle Peak was full of bikers. Mine was the only recumbent but I was fine with that. If those other people want to struggle on their uprights and pay thousands of dollars to look good that’s their right. I don’t even have real bike shoes or clothing but I have a helmet and I love to ride!
We all unloaded our bikes—made a final bathroom stop—checked our maps and were off. I signed up for the 35 mile ride rather than the 60 so I knew I’d have an easy day. I have no friends who are crazy about bike riding (if they are—it’s their secret) so I went alone. So while groups of friends took off together I just smiled to myself and said, “Let’s go!”
Little did I know that this ride was an UPHILL ride!! Oh—my—gosh! I’d get to the top of a hill and there would be another hill!! My ears actually popped! At ten miles I stopped at the first rest stop—took a potty break—ate half a banana and then as an afterthought took a power bar and stuffed it in my pack. Refreshed and ready to climb more hills!! Ten more miles of hill climbing. People were dismounting their bikes and walking! I followed their lead.
I was pushing my bike up a very steep hill and watching the faster bike riders coming back down and oh it looked like so much fun. I was hot and sick of climbing steep hills! I called back to a group behind me, “There is no shame in turning around!” and did it! Oh the joy as my speedometer clocked my going 35MPH!! The rushing wind cooled my overly heated face and I know I smiled all the way down.
Now. I’m not the best at reading a map. I have no sense of direction and before I got my GPS I was lost much of the time. They had little markings on the road pointing to where you were supposed to turn so you didn’t have to take your map out each time. I saw the yellow marking—turned and continued to fly downhill. All of a sudden I realized I was in the middle of the town of Cave Creek! I had no idea of how I got there—I knew it wasn’t part of my route. Oh well. It was so nice just to be going downhill and I’ve always wanted to go to Cave Creek. . . I came across a couple of guys and asked, “Are you guys on the long route?”
“How did I end up on the long route? I was following the markers.”
That’s when I learned that the markers for the long route were yellow and the markers I was supposed to follow were white!!
They suggested I continue following the yellow markers and that would take me back to base—they guessed I had about twenty miles to go. I glanced down at my odometer. Thirty miles. . . Did I mention how hot it was? Okay. I rode about five miles and saw an arrow pointing left—there was no left turn but it was a turn around point so I figured that’s where you turn around and go back to base. No other bikers in sight. I had no map for the long route. Only some stupid markings painted on the road to follow and they were few and far between so most of the time I just guessed—which when you have no sense of direction that is not the best way to go about it.
I rode back through Cave Creek. This time it was up hill! I was hot. I was really struggling. Then I saw the steepest hill in front of me and pulled over. I was about to find a shade tree and cry when a car stopped. It was the SAG car—I don’t know what that stands for but I knew they helped you if you got a flat tire or whatever. The man asked, “Do you want a ride back to the base?”
“Yes! I don’t know how I got on this long route but I’ve had it with these hills. And I’m hot!”
“Well, I don’t know either but do you know that you are heading the wrong way?”
I stared at the extreme hill looming in front of me. I was about to tackle that thing and it was the wrong way??
He was very kind and loaded my bike up along with another weary biker and took us back to the start point which may I tell you was way more than 20 miles away!!
I do believe God sent that Angel—he wasn’t even supposed to be on the road I was on—since it was the wrong way!
I’m sorry I don’t have an “end picture”—you wouldn’t want to see it anyway. I’ve been home for two hours and I’m still hot!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
“Rachel,” Robert burst into our Ugandan hotel room as I was finishing the day at my computer. “Do you want to meet Anna, a 140-year-old widow?”
“Yes. I was just talking with Pastor Amos and he says she lives in his village. Even when he was a young boy she was very old. And he believes she is around 140 years old.”
I grabbed my phone and dialed our Uganda partner, Pastor Ruth. “Pastor Amos says there is a 140-year-old widow in his village. Do you think that is true?”
“What is my schedule like tomorrow? Do I have time to see her?”
“The Honorable Lydia will be at the hotel to meet you at eight. We have a meeting with the Red Cross at ten and at mid-day we have to go see Rayne at the deaf school. I think after that we should all go see this 140-year-old woman.”
My busy day seemed to move at a snail's pace as I eagerly awaited our meeting with Anna and prayed she would still be alive by the time we got there. When we finally arrived Pastor Amos asked Robert and I to stand back as he went to prepare her for her White visitors. Sometimes people who have not seen White people are frightened but Anna said it was okay and came from her hut to meet us. She was so tiny—maybe about three feet tall and frail. Her large eyes had a film covering and she reached out bony flour saturated hands in greeting. The left side of her dress was torn exposing her skeletal shoulder. Her gaunt face held lines and wrinkles yet her skin appeared to be stretched tightly, making her teeth leap forward as though they were too big for her mouth. She walked with no cane and her handshake was strong.
A quick glance inside her crumbling hut revealed she was in the middle of cooking. Her battered pans and crude cooking utensils made us glad we had new saucepans for her and seeing her delight when we presented them along with a lantern and food really made our day.
Our little group sat on the ground with Anna and Pastor Amos informed her I was interviewing widows and would like to hear her story.
She said: “My house is falling down and when it rains I get wet. I always fear the rain because my house leaks. I have no blanket and the rats crawl over me at night. All my children are dead. I cannot remember stories from the past.”
Pastor Amos suggested that as we build a relationship with Anna the past will come to mind so I turned off my tape recorder and enjoyed the moments.
Robert placed his sunglasses on Anna and she seemed to be at ease wearing them while we chatted.
I brought out a doll as I had done for other elderly women thinking she would get pleasure from it as the others had. She said: “Please don’t give me that Mzungu (White) baby. I’m too old to take care of this baby and the rats will eat her.”
“This baby is not real. She is just a toy to hold.”
Anna had no idea as to what a doll is so our explanations were in vain. She kept handing the doll back saying: “Please. The rats will eat this baby.”
I offered the doll to a girl standing nearby and assured Anna, “this girl will take care of the baby.”
Pastor Amos asked, “Do you know Jesus?”
“I remember Jesus.”
Rising to her knees she shook her finger at her curious neighbors as they circled her. “See how much Jesus loves me? All of you who ridicule me and despise me—do you see these people who have come from far to look for me? Sometimes when I cook my food and lie down to rest and when I wake someone has eaten my food. Now. See how much Jesus loves me and don’t torture me anymore.”
Standing Anna began to dance and shout and thanked God for visiting her.
Since Robert and I would be leaving Uganda the next day I pressed money into Pastor Ruth’s hand and begged her to return as soon as possible with blankets, sheets and a mattress for Anna. She promised she would and they would continue to check on Anna making sure she had food and anything else she needed.
I wondered if her delicate body shivered at night with no blanket to cover her. How creepy it must be to feel those sharp toe nails of the rats crawling over her as she tries to sleep. I imagined her lying in mud when the rains came and asked if we could fix her crumbling hut. I prayed that one day we would be able to build a center where people like Anna could live and be cared for.
We have a team going to Uganda next month. They were planning to build Anna a new hut but Anna doesn’t need a hut anymore. She has gone on to her Heavenly home where she will never be hungry, cold, or ridiculed.
I am so grateful we were able to meet Anna and to give her a few comforts in her final days. Most of all I am happy that Anna knew God had not forgotten her and that she believed God had visited her home that day.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
She talked about her childhood friend who found a raspberry in the concentration camp where they lived. Her friend carried that raspberry in her pocket all day to give it to Gerda. Her only possession and food and she gave it to her friend. It made me ask myself "How much would I be willing to give up for a friend? How much is too much? How much is not enough?" She could have eaten that raspberry and enjoyed it immensely but the love she had for Gerda caused her to hold onto it and allow Gerda the coveted treat.
The gift impacted Gerda greatly. She writes: "Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me at night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend."
I've seen this kind of love in Uganda many times as people come forward offering us their only chicken or goat in thanks for our coming to Uganda. They don't stop to count the cost or wonder if I give this away how will I get another? Many times we have been invited to dinner at the homes of the poorest of poor and I have often screamed inwardly, "don't slaughter the goat! I'm a vegetarian!"
Many of the things Gerda said today touched my soul but one of the things that caused tears to spring to my eyes was when she said; "Even today --I'm 84 years old and have lived in America for 60 years--sometimes I think the gestapo is going to knock on my door. Then I tell myself 'that won't happen here in America.'"
Each time I leave this country and see the atrocities around the world I thank God that I live in the United States and pray that it will always be a place where people are safe from the Hitlers of this world.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Currently our donors have provided funds for a state-of-the-art kitchen named Marty's Kitchen in memory of Marty Griebe. His wife Carolyn collected funds from some of Marty's friends and as Pastor Ruth said, "There will be no other kitchen like it in all of Uganda." It is now complete. Please see the attached video.
I spoke to Pastor Ruth this morning and she said the kitchen is sooo wonderful. When they cooked over an open fire for the Karamojong children they would use one load of wood per month. With the new ovens they use five to seven pieces of wood per day and the meal for 420 children is now ready by 10AM instead of 2PM. They are all marveling over the difference this kitchen will make in saving time, wood and there is no more smoke filling the air from open fires!!
Another Hope4Kids donor wrote a check for Smile Africa to build a clinic on their property. I will update you on the construction of this exciting, life saving project as it happens. Saturday the city will arrive to approve construction--then the work shall begin!!
Our shipment of food from Feed My Starving Children is on its way. We are hoping either the October or November team will be in Uganda to greet this shipment which will feed the Karamojong children for at least fifteen months.
In that time we will be raising funds for Smile Africa to grow crops in order to become self-sufficient in their feeding program. We will need to provide seed and laborers for this project.
They also desperately need a van as they have to hire transport each time they go visit a widow, take a child to the hospital, etc.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
My Purpose Driven Bucket List
1) I turned 55 in June. For my 55th year I decided that I would do 55 things for the women of Uganda before my 56th birthday. So in the next ten months I want to come up with and complete 55 things.
2) I want to complete my next book on the women of Uganda.
3) I want to write Pastor Ruth’s story.
4) I want to finish my novel on five generations of women.
5) I want to see Lisa realize her dream of working full time for Africa.
6) I want to see Jordan graduate from Valley Christian and become the beautiful woman of God she is meant to be.
7) I want all my friends and family to know Jesus as savior.
8) I want to meet Willie Nelson.
9) I want someone to say I inspired them.
10) I want someone to say I made a difference in their life.
11) I want God to say, “Well done” when I see Him.
Robert’s Purpose Driven Bucket List
1) Fly in a private jet over Africa with Rachel and Bono.
2) To have enough money to meet the needs of many.
3) Live by the ocean.
4) Learn to surf
5) Have a great granddaughter
6) Do track meets until the end.
7) Have a 50’s car
8) Be a good speaker
9) Have much vision and wisdom
Monday, July 28, 2008
While Rachel makes her home in Chandler, Arizona she travels throughout the country speaking to churches, civic groups, and conferences alerting people to the plight of the Ugandan widow and her children. You will be moved to laughter and tears as she relates such topics as:
1) Don’t Slaughter the goat! I’m a Vegetarian!
2) What am I going to do with Jesus?
3) In Japadohla Culture women don’t eat chicken
4) Walk where Jesus walked
5) Bring light to a widow
6) The Plight of the Karamojong children
7) Moms of Uganda
“Rachel, Thank you for being on our show. May God bless you in all that you” Michelle, TV 45, Orlando
“It was such a blessing to have you share about the Widows 2B Won ministry with our church family. Please know that our hearts and church are always open to you. We love & appreciate you! Pastor Doug Domokos, Word of Faith Church; Lake Mills, IA.
Rachel offered our MOPS group a glimpse into the lives of mothers around the world. The women of Uganda are so fortunate to have such a loving, enthusiastic advocate. Rachel has a gift for story telling and each of our members were deeply touched by her words. Emily HarryCoordinator, MOPS of New HopeGilbert, Arizona