Feb 18, 2015

I won't believe you

It hit me all of a sudden.

The beauty of the moment wasn't in the lights or the music.  It wasn't in the view, the fireworks, or the fancy food.  Yes, all of that was beautiful and extravagant.  Don't get me wrong.

But all of that couldn't compare to the parents.

The parents who lovingly held their children. The parents who picked up their children and danced with them on the dance floor. The real beauty was in the way a whole community surrounds these parents and each of their precious children.

Over 90 children.  All with special needs. All loved. Cherished.  Wanted.  Just for who they are.

I've never seen anything so beautiful.

So don't tell me that Ugandan families don't love and care for their children with special needs. 

I won't believe you

Jan 28, 2015

When children can't stay with their families

I see the scars.  

I feel the ribs sticking out.

I hear the words "Mom told me she wanted to kill me with a panga [Machete]".

Abide Family Center is about family preservation.  We work hard to keep children in their families through business classes, parenting classes, free childcare and emergency housing. We pour time and resources into our caregivers and their children, working overtime to help them reach their full potential. 

We have helped over 70 families stay together.  Success stories are plenty and I see redemption around me everyday. I see it in the smiling faces of our caregivers and children. I believe in families.

But sometimes children can't stay in their families.

Sometimes you can't make a family work.  Even after spending months showing unconditional support and spending endless resources. Sometimes things go downhill so quickly you aren't sure how it could get this bad.  Sometimes you have to say enough.  We are a child protection agency and we will protect the children in our programs above anything else. 

Sorry, but not sorry, we are not turning our backs on abuse of any kind. 

Please keep this situation in your prayers as we move onward to get these children into a safe place.  They are beyond special and deserve so much better.  Seeing children you care about in this situation is heartbreaking.  I won't be able to rest easy until I know they are safe. 

Nov 18, 2014

It rained and she brought them sweaters

Some moments strike you as extra special.  They are ordinary moments, most people wouldn't even give them a second glance.  But for the people who know the whole story they go from ordinary to extraordinary.  

This moment was one of those times.

These two sisters arrived at Abide's Child Development Center early in the morning, like they always do. Mom goes out to work with her small business and the girls stay at the center to enjoy the free childcare Abide offers it's families. The girls are lively and loving, after saying goodbye to mom they always waltz into the compound like they own the place.  With so much swag. 

As the day progresses the sky starts turning black and we can feel the temperature dropping.  It's nothing to worry about, rain is a common occurrence.  However the sisters soon start to shiver, they had come to the center today in tank-tops. 

As the rain drops start falling and the kids dash for cover a familiar figure walks through the compound gates holding a small bundle.  She walks by smiling and holds up the two sweaters pointing to her girls. Mom came all the way from work just to bring her girls their forgotten sweaters.

Ordinary.  Typical.  Moms all around the world make sure their kids are dressed for the weather, right?  So why is this moment so special?

It's special because it almost didn't happen.

A couple of months earlier tragedy struck this mother and her girls.  I won't share details because they aren't my details to share.  But it left them without any options.  Soon the mom found herself standing at the gates of an orphanage, desperate for someone to take her girls and provide for them like she could no longer do. Thankfully this orphanage noticed that the mother didn't want to abandon her girls.  She loved them, she was just in a really tough spot.  In a country with no social supports this is common.  The orphanage told her no, they wouldn't take her girls.  

Instead they referred her to Abide to see one of their social workers. The mom was quickly enrolled in Abide's programs.  She stayed in emergency housing and her girls attended the Child Development Center while she attended business and parenting classes.  Soon she was standing on her own two feet again.  Running her own business, paying bills, sending the older sister to school....

And making sure her daughters have sweaters when they are cold.

The girls were so close to being left at an orphanage. Not because their mother didn't love them, but because she had no other choice.  I shudder to think about the pain all three of them would go through if they had been split up. If they hadn't been offered another solution.  

Orphan prevention matters.  

It matters because parents and caregivers should always be given the chance to bring their children sweaters when they are cold. 

Nov 6, 2014

I wasn't going to say this

I wan't planning on writing this. Not at all (believe me!).  But circumstances beyond my control have left me several steps behind these last couple of months.  And now I'm left scratching my head trying to figure out how to make this all work.  How to make ends meet.

So I'm just going to put this out there because people have been asking.  If you want to support me I won't say no....

Right now I'm putting every $$ I earn into buying travel insurance (about $700 for the full year) and a return ticket home (Estimating about $1000).  Once I have that taken care of I can start saving money for my monthly expenses in Uganda ($400-$500/month).  I leave in exactly two months!
I know the money will show up somewhere.  Right now I'm hopping it's from extra shifts at work although that isn't looking likely. I know I will be on that plane in January,  I just don't know how.
For the time being I'll work and sell my extra stuff along with praying and trusting.
It's a winning combination. 

Nov 4, 2014

Why grace matters

 I remember the first time I met him. It was dark and the compound had already quieted down for the evening.  He stood there clutching his teddy bear, refusing to leave his dad's side. I smiled at him and he grunted and turned his head. He knew what he wanted, and he wanted his dad and little brother.  He did NOT want the stranger who was trying to say hello to him.

Life is messy.  It just is.  And L's family was working through a lot of that mess.  The hard yucky kind of mess that leaves families struggling to find their feet.  Every family goes through it at one time or another, it looks different for each family, but it happens.

This particular situation left L's little heart broken and confused.  For the next couple of months he cried out for attention and love.  His dad worked hard to fill that need for L and his brother.  But L's little heart struggled, leaving everyone at a lose as to how to help him.

Finally we heard some wise words said to L's dad "You are a good father, keep doing what you are doing.  L just needs your love".  And that's just what he did.  Before our eyes we watched this single dad embrace his young sons in every way.  And slowly we watched the change in L.  He was calmer, happier and had more confidence.  He would follow his father around the compound helping with the chores. It was beautiful.

It was a while later that we got the news, L's mom wanted to come back.  The family could be reunited.  The dad was hopeful, he wanted to pursue the possibility. 

I'm embarrassed to say it but I wanted to yell and protest.  Things were finally calming down for this dad and the boys.  L had finally worked through some of the hurt in his heart.  What if this reunion didn't last?  What if it caused more harm than good?

I was so wrong.  Because we all make mistakes.  We have all messed up horribly.  But still, God gives us grace.  He is a God of second chances.  And it's because of that grace given to us that we can extend grace to other people.

That all became real to me the first time L cried out 'mama' and instead of responding "No baby, mama isn't here" I could say "look L, she's right over there". 

I am constantly being humbled and learning new truths.

A family united.  Grace, it matters.

"And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
John 1:16


Check out abidefamilycenter.org to see how they are working to keep families together in Uganda.  The above family is just one family who could have easily been ripped apart if they had not been offered the support they so desperatly needed.  
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