JO'S APRIL NEWSLETTER
Well, I am fast approaching my sabbatical and in fact have just 2 weeks left in Mbale before departing to the UK (ash permitting ) This may be my last newsletter for a little while and I just want to round up on a few personal stories that I’ve recently shared. I’m so grateful for the last 4½ years serving the Lord in Uganda. On the whole despite challenges and sacrifices, I love it! To work in JENGA with such an incredible team of dynamic, dedicated and simply lovely people is an honour and a joy! As I reflect on the years before I came to Africa, I can now clearly see how God works in our lives to transform our characters and equip us so we are ready for all that He has prepared for us; for us to realise our full potential if only we let Him. And in that place find immense meaning and purpose. Honestly, I must say, the joy of knowing Jesus and being in the centre of His will really feels like a life well lived .
I’m so grateful too for the opportunity to now have an extended break. I’m really looking forward to having quality time with family & friends, long overdue probably, and I’m expectant of an equally fulfilling season even if entirely different to my life in Uganda. I shall miss my friends and life here immensely but I am ready for new opportunities & challenges that lay ahead over the coming months.
Update on Ronald, our JENGA patient
You’ll remember Ronald, the young boy we discovered at the Mbale Regional Hospital. He’d suffered a terrible accident resulting in a huge, infected wound to his foot and the chances were very high that he would lose his leg and most likely his life. God clearly led us to him and through His incredible provision JENGA were able to cover the costs of antibiotic treatment to clean the wound and a ‘life saving’ skin graft. Amazingly, the graft took really well & 4 weeks after surgery he was discharged. Here he is with Aunt Alice, his legal guardian, as his mother abandoned him when he was 6 months old. They came back to see the Dr. last week
for a check up as there was a small part of skin around the ankle joint where the skin had not taken but thankfully it is all now completely healed and Ronald has the ‘all clear’.
Ronald and Alice are so happy and appreciative beyond words and expressed their gratitude to Shadrack (my colleague who has also been caring for Ronald) and I by giving us 2 chickens that produced much hilarity in the JENGA office. Anyone who knows me well knows I love animals but I’m not the best at handling such livestock and this always amuses my Ugandan friends.?
Soon Shadrack and I will visit Ronald and his family to celebrate together what God has done. We are very aware we cannot invest this much into every patient we meet and therein lays a big challenge and often heartache; but we do know God loves us and sees our need and will intervene when we ask Him and trust Him. I earnestly believe the Lord led us to Ronald to help him in this crisis and it’s a huge joy to be part of his success story.
Atiak Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camp, Northern Uganda
I had the real privilege to spend Easter with my very good friend Grace in her home village in the North of Uganda. I drove us the 9 hour journey from Mbale to Atiak, very close to the Sudanese border. It was a truly amazing experience to travel through Uganda, to meet her family and listen to many of their life stories. The area has been ravaged by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) war over 20 years and suffered greatly at the hands of these rebels. Atiak itself, where Grace is from, became the 2nd largest refugee camp in the north where 80,000 people took refuge in an attempt to protect themselves from the atrocities prevalent during the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000. Even with military presence and so many people packed
into a small space the LRA still broke in on many occasions to raid supplies, kill adults and abduct children to train them as soldiers. They were ruthless rebels and seemed not to stop at any violent evil.
It was most humbling especially talking with Michael, Grace’s brother, who was abducted by the LRA when he was 15. He remained with them for 14 months until one day he managed to escape which is now 10 years ago. He has firsthand experience of life as a young rebel, desperately wanting to get out and yet being forced to do what he was told. He met Kony on several occasions, the leader of this tyranny and had many stories to share. He went through a horrific time but his has a happy ending in that he survived although no doubt has his own battles in his heart and mind to overcome as he recovers from this trauma.
Thankfully the LRA are now out of Northern Uganda and peace and security restored to the region although tragically the rebels are still active in nearby countries. The past 3 years has seen the huge task of repatriating 1000’s of people out of the refugee camps and back to their own tribal land. My trip was truly a challenging and yet heart warming opportunity I’m so grateful for; to spend quality time with my good friend, and just for a few days live and learn in an authentic Ugandan village. A priceless experience!
Martha and Dao, and Caleb
Recently I shared about the birth of Caleb, the son of my very good friends. Well, these dear folk are having a good 2010! God basically gave them an incredible opportunity to purchase their own land thanks to the unbelievable kindness and generosity of a number of people. I have known Martha and Dao for several years and employ them both in my home. They are currently living in a rented room which is no bigger than 3 metres square and in that they squeeze a small bed, a 2 seater sofa, a single chair and a few other items with no space to swing a hamster let alone a cat! They are so delighted now to be able to build a simple house and start investing in that and securing a better future for their family rather than ‘throwing away’ rent money every month. Buying land and building your own house is the ultimate goal of every Ugandan in terms of material stability as it provides some financial and personal security in a fragile and volatile environment. Martha was a Muslim in a deprived family in the village and when she became a Christian 5 years ago she was thrown out of her home and has had no contact with her family since. Dao comes from a fairly simple background too with no significant resources so they really are on their own. It really struck me how in the Western world, many of us have a helping hand in life to better ourselves and improve life for our families. I have had much help from family and others all my life and I can’t imagine where I would be without such support. It is people like Martha and Dao that I know here in Uganda, who are honest, genuine people trying to better their lives and yet stuck in poverty, and who are called and gifted to demonstrate God to a needy world; that I really love to invest in, facilitate and see them grow. This is one of my greatest joys in living here and I regularly thank God for such wonderful opportunities to sow into people’s lives; people who in turn will make a big difference in their own communities and share the love and hope of God with others.
JENGA Ministry Centre
It is with huge excitement that I can share we are continuing to progress with our plan to buy land and build our JENGA Ministry Centre. You may recall 2 years ago; God gave me what I would call a vision of this facility which will hold all our administration offices with multipurpose conference hall for 300 people, prayer and ministry rooms, on site accommodation and restaurant, and plenty of beautiful grounds to retreat to. This will be a haven for rest and refreshment, training and equipping for leaders and community members. I had a very specific image in my mind of what appeared similar to the cloisters of a cathedral with a central courtyard edged by arches and covered walkways interconnecting all the above. I am extremely thrilled that the JENGA team believe with me that this is from God and so we are taking small, tentative steps forward to see this vision become reality. One of our new volunteers David, a retired architect has put these images onto paper and Mark, another volunteer has produced a computer generated view of our proposed centre. We have a local leader on the lookout for 10 acres of land and a Christian organisation based in Kampala who offer professional design services about to start work on creating a business plan to form our fund raising initiative. It’s a real blessing for me to leave JENGA for my sabbatical at this point, knowing the dream I had 2 years ago is starting to take shape. Watch this space and see what God can do; I am!!
Hospital feeding programme
One of my last tasks within JENGA has been to help in the early stages of a new programme intended to provide a vital, highly nutritional meal for every child, every day admitted to Mbale Regional Hospital. The vision for this programme was birthed in a young man who visited JENGA with a team last summer. When he saw the dire need of malnourished and sick children in our local hospital he was moved by compassion and has initiated this fantastic project. I’ve met with the executive team of the hospital who are in agreement with our proposal and we are currently waiting for donor money and then we are virtually ready to proceed. This is a brand new programme but one that will have big impact on the health and general prognosis of children in the hospital. This is a prime example of how one person can make a huge difference and inspire others simply by putting love into action.
There are so many other projects, programmes and partnerships within JENGA and the communities where we work, and countless ways you can be involved. Please see www.jengauganda.org for details. We send out regular JENGA News & Prayer Updates (these are different to this which is my personal newsletter). These are great presenting current news in an informative and inspiring manner. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list for one or both of these updates and we’ll email to you directly.
Thank you for supporting me and JENGA in countless ways; you are truly impacting many lives for good. I can hardly believe I have lived here for 4½ years and it has been an incredible joy and privilege developing wonderful relationships, learning so much about Ugandan culture and myself and of course serving Jesus by serving people in need. I really value your friendship in my life and look forward to seeing many of you soon and hearing your news.
With much love, Jo x