Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tea Parties in Uganda

Several years ago Hope 4 Women International began holding tea parties in Uganda. These vary from a few women in the bush to as many as 175 women beneath a large tent. The object is to bring dignity, joy, health and God's love as Hope 4 Kids International has strived to do for the past 35 years.
We gather the women and set a basin of soapy water before them. As they soak their feet they sip tea and munch on tea cakes. A Ugandan leader presents the gospel using an evangecube (from the Jesus film people). Team members then go around to each lady and paint her fingernails and ask, "how can I pray for you?" We give the ladies colorful headscarves, lip stick--flip flops or clothing if we have them. Many ladies in the bush have never seen themselves in a mirror so we carry a mirror and when they see themselves for the first time they are shocked--but their shock turns to smiles and they will pose and make faces in the mirror. Team members kneel before them and dry their feet; rub lotion on their feet and calves; place their feet in plastic bags and bring out battery-operated foot massagers. The women are overwhelmed that someone would kneel before them and perform such loving acts and the massagers are a joyful hit! After we empty the basins of water we fill them with bags of rice, garden seeds, and other practical items. We give them the opportunity to receive Christ but assure them: "We are not here to buy you. You will keep the items whether you recieve Christ or not. We are just here to show you a small portion of God's love for you."
These tea parties have been the object of some criticism and have been called frivolous. My friend Jodi was a critic but changed her mind. Here is an article she wrote about the tea parties.

"I have shared with some that my first reaction to the tea parties held for widows in Uganda--well--I just didn't get it. I thought. . . these ladies need food, medicine, beds,etc. Seriously--lipstick, nail polish? How are these things important in their lives? Well, I have changed my mind based on the witness of the people involved and have seen the hope & dignity this time with the widows brings.
Yesterday I was reading a book, Sex God--Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality & Spirituality. Hey. I bought it at church. . .
There was a story about a concentration camp in Germany where a British soldier described the disgusting, tragic conditions that they encountered while liberating a camp called Bergen-Belsen. The horrors he saw designed to strip people of their humanity was unbelievable. He said: "It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we wanted , we were screaming for hundreds & thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it. It was an action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets & no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the postmortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. at last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.
Because sometimes, the difference between heaven & hell, may be a bit of lipstick." Wow! So, when you see pictures of us loving on these women & putting otherwise frivolous cosmetics on them, just remember that we are a part of this--We will be meeting their needs of food, shelter, etc. but, first & foremost, we will be reminding them that they are human beings! They are not objects or numbers in the vast expanse of widows in Uganda that appear to be forgotten by the world. They are beautiful children of God. Created by Him in His image!
'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10)' "

To see more you can browse my blog. Off to the left are links such as the recipe book, youtube videos showing the women at tea! Click on "Rachel's videos" to see them. Enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Little cookbook for Hope 4 Women International

I'm so pleased to announce our little cookbook honoring the women of Uganda is now available! It's so cute and filled with stories from Uganda, recipes from women who have worked with the women of Uganda as well as their highlights. It's a fun little book and best of all the proceeds go to our projects with the women of Uganda. Just click on the book on the left side of my blog. It will take you to a preview. From there you can order a soft cover, or hardcover with images imprinted or a hardcover with a jacket.
Thanks for helping the women of Uganda and enjoy the little book!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pillow Case Clothing

Today was a fabulous day at Smile Africa. My sister, Joan and I arrived with a loaded suitcase of pillowcases and supplies donated by the women of Grace and Community Church of Joy. I showed the women in the Smile Africa tailoring class how to make a dress out of a pillowcase. They gathered around and watched my every move as I sewed on a treadle sewing machine. I remembered teaching myself to sew on a treadle when I was eight or nine years old. Little did I know I would use those skills all these years later.

Joan dumped a bunch of pillowcases onto the table and we told each lady to choose one and they could do whatever they chose to do with it—make a dress for their daughter. . . or create something else. It was fascinating to see them create with no pattern. Some chose to make the pillowcase dress while others decided to make skirts for themselves. Another designed a little skirt and top for her daughter. There was much laughter and fun as we all worked together and delighted in one another’s creations.

The rest of the pillowcases will be made into dresses for the Karamojong girls to wear Easter Sunday.

My friends Mae and Audrey sent cloth place mats and a sample handbag to make. So we included that project too.

The women showed me some of the crafts they have been working on. I bought 10 pair of slippers and three patchwork (with African fabric) bags to take home. Joan and I left our floppy hats for them to copy and we are hoping next time we come to Uganda they will have made floppy hats with African fabric.

Thank you so much to all who contributed. What joy you have given! I can’t wait for Pastor Ruth to send me the Easter pictures!

We are continuing to collect pillowcases, elastic and double fold bias tape. Some of you are actually making dresses for us to take. God bless you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Several years ago I dropped in on my favorite baby care facility in Jinga and met Jeremiah. He had been fished out of the bottom of a 90 foot latrine. Sad to say this sometimes happens when a young mother has a baby and no means of raising it so she will toss the baby into the latrine. Unfortunately Jeremiah ingested waste into his lungs and body before being rescued and has multiple problems. He is now six years old and is learning to walk.

He’s a precious little boy and I know there is a loving home waiting to adopt him so please keep him in your prayers.

Sunday in Uganda

Kingdom Preparation Center is a wonderful small village church pastured by our dear friend, Pastor Peter. It opened in January of 2008 –meeting beneath a mango tree. They hung a piece of an old tent to block the view of the street so people wouldn’t be distracted by those passing by. They had four chairs and the rest of the people sat on the ground. After some months they asked the railroad people for permission to construct a small building as they were meeting on land owned by the railroad. After paying $50 to the railroad they were given permission. They constructed a church with thick tree limbs and poles. Then nailed rusty tin panels taken from a torn down building to them forming walls. There were poles down the center aisle of the church supporting a new tin roof.

We sat near the front of the church with our plastic chairs planted firmly on the cow-dung-mixed-with-dirt flooring. The room was warm and crowded and we were grateful for the gaps in the walls that allowed the breeze to sweep over us. There were beautiful freshly picked flowers tucked here and there into the tin panels.

Everyone rejoiced with the assistant pastor who was presented with a bicycle so he no longer has to walk the long distance to church.

People stood to tell of God’s faithfulness. One woman told how she had come out of a family heavily involved in witchcraft. They say she has gone mad because she became a Christian.

When the offering was collected they presented two baskets. One for the church and the other for the “needy”.

When it was time for Pastor Peter to speak the whole church applauded. He stood and said, “If you have decided to clap your hands to the Lord you can continue to clap.” Pastor Peter challenged us by saying God wants us to do something now. He said: “Many people are still waiting on the Lord since they were born! They are nothing doers!”

After the service we assembled in the village of Juba. They had two shallow wells that would dry up during the dry season. When the rains came and the wells filled up the water would be contaminated with worms. The water would need to be boiled but since firewood is expensive people didn’t bother. The only source of water would be a tap where the inhabitants would have to pay and many could not afford it. Scott Forman of Anthem, AZ, president of Water for Our World, was touched by what Pastor Peter has been doing in Juba and when he witnessed the conditions of the people there he signed up 30 runners for the PF Chang Marathon. With the money raised Water for Our World teamed up with Hope 4 Kids International and paid for a deep new well allowing the village access to clean, free water!

There were many local politicians attending the dedication, including the mayor of the Tororo district. Each one gave a speech. One said, “You can not claim to see God when you ignore your neighbor who is sleeping on the ground.”

We then dedicated the Vision Nursery School in Juba that was begun by Pastor Peter. Juba is a poverty stricken area with great needs. It’s kind of a remote area where people were not aware of the value of education and didn’t send their children to school. Pastor Peter and his friends went house to house speaking with parents on the importance of early childhood education. They then called a village meeting where they expressed their views more fully. A few children came and the school began. By the end of the first term there were 36 children attending. Parents weren’t able to pay the fees but he children were allowed to come anyway. Kent and Laura Dirks of Minnesota were touched by what Pastor Peter was trying to do and came alongside him and along with their church Lord of Life Lutheran; Peter was able to build his school. Another team member, Gwen, helped out with the teacher’s wages. More children came. Kendra, the Peace Corp worker gave the community a seminar on health and hygiene and HIV/AIDS awareness. The attendance is almost 100 children today.

The children are fed lunch at school. Those who can’t afford to pay for lunch are asked to bring maize. That seems to work out for them. The children all wear uniforms and find great joy in attending.

We went back to our hotel rejoicing about what God is doing.

Smile Africa and the Karamojong

This figurine was purchased for me by my brother Tom. He found it at a shop located on the Nile river. Why did he buy it? It's called "the Suffering Karamojong".

Nineteen months ago Pastor Ruth introduced me to the Karamojong people. She said the are among the despised population and are considered to be filthy thieves—viewed much like the gypsies of Europe. They appeared to be a people without hope. If you scroll
through my blog you will read the full story of little Maria in her search for food in the
middle of the trash heaps and how she discovered a piece of meat in the mouth of a dead rat and died within hours of eating it. We knew we had to step in because no child should die for a piece of meat. We partnered with Pastor Ruth and began feeding the Karamojong one meal a day. Recently Feed my Starving Children partnered with us and donated enough food to feed 600 children for one year.

What a joy for us to step onto the Smile Africa property and take part in feeding the 420 children who come daily. Their skin has improved as well as their mood. They are finding the love of Christ at Smile Africa through the teachers and cooks. They arrive early in the morning—children as young as three years old walk alone from their homes to be fed breakfast and to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. They sing and hear about Jesus and how He values each one. Now instead of being despised—other children in the community wish they were Karamojong.