Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Bend In The Road, But The Journey Continues…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
~Isaiah 61: 1-3

I never thought I would sit down to write these words.  I thought I would be in Uganda for the rest of my life.  In fact, when Isaac and I got married, we both promised each other that we would live out our days in Uganda.  So, it came as quite a shock when The Lord began to whisper something different in our ears. 

About a year ago, my brother-in-law died and left my sister a widow.  After all these years serving and loving widows in Uganda, I now had someone who needed that same love and comfort in my own family.  It was at that time that The Lord began to move my heart back home….back to the US…back to the life I had left so many years ago.  Over the last year, Isaac and I have prayed, fasted and heard clearly from The Lord that it was time to move back to Minneapolis, but not back to the life I had left, but onward to a new part of the same journey. 

This past month, I had to tell the widows I was leaving.  It terrified me to tell them…I knew it would be emotional…difficult…even painful to say out loud what God had been whispering to me for months.  Before the weekly meeting, I met with Ruth, the group’s leader and my dearest friend, and with Joyce, another widow friend.  Sue, DWF in-country managing director, joined me.  So the four of us sat down all eyes were on me and I was fidgeting…turning my hands over and over again in my lap…my eyes were looking up…down…sideways…and I was breathing out long sighs.  Ruth then looked at me and said very calmly, “Daughter, just tell us whatever it is.”  So, as my voice shook, I told them that I would be leaving Uganda.  They were shocked at first and all they did was silently cry.  The room was so quiet.  Then Ruth said, “You have loved us so well.  We are so proud of you.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the love you have showered on us forgotten widows.  It has given us new life and new purpose.  It is okay daughter we release you into God’s hand.”  How is it that Ruth always has the most profound and beautiful things to say even in the hardest moments? 

She then stood up and matter of factly said, “Okay, let’s go tell the others.”  I stood up but felt incredibly shaky.  My hands were trembling and I was trying to slowly breathe in and out.  It is never easy to tell people you love news they do not want to hear.  I followed them into the meeting and sat quietly in “my chair.”  During our meetings, I always sit in a chair facing the widows so I can smile at them and silently pray for them as they share.  When the worship songs ended, Ruth stood up and told them that I had something important to tell them.  Reluctantly, I stood up and walked close to where they were sitting.  I was shaking…I could feel my knees knocking and my muscles quivering.  Sue held me on one side and Ruth on the other.  I took a deep breath and began to speak. 

I told them how much I loved my sister and how sad she was.  I told them that God had told Isaac and I that it was time to leave Uganda.  As soon as I said it, most of the 60 women began to cry.  They wept, blew their noses and softly sobbed.  It broke my heart and I began to sob.  As I cried, I asked the Lord, “What do I say?  I can’t handle this.”  He then whispered to me, “Kari, you always leave the 99 to go after the one.”  So, through my sobs, I started to say over and over, “I have to leave the 99 to go after the one.  I have to leave the 99 to go after the one.” Ruth then intervened and said, “Our fellow widow is broken down.  She is sad, bitter and hopeless.  We must send her to that widow.”  Immediately, a memory of 7 years ago flooded my mind.  I saw the late Jane Adikni standing amongst the ladies and Rosemary saying, “Our fellow widow is in trouble.  She needs help.  Give all you can.”  That was the moment my ministry with the Dorcas Widows started and now it was the same way this part of the ministry was ending.

I couldn’t stand anymore, so I knelt on the ground Sue was still holding me as the rest of the DWF staff came to kneel beside me.  The women stood up and gathered around us and began to pray.  They prayed in many different languages…they jumped…they clapped their hands…they shouted.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized they were not only praying for Isaac and I but for my sister.  They were beseeching The Lord to draw her close…to love her…to rescue her from the darkness.  They must have prayed like that for 20 minutes…the Lord’s brides telling their husband to go and love another fellow widow.  It was powerful…beautiful.  Then as Ruth closed in prayer, she commissioned me to follow God’s leading to Minneapolis and to love my sister as I have loved them.

A couple weeks later, the widows organized a party to show their love for me and to officially commission me as their missionary…as the one to leave their group to do ministry somewhere else in the world.  We all got dressed up in our beautiful African wear…most of them wearing the gomas DWF had given them a couple Christmases ago.  They were gorgeous. 

As we began the function, I was shocked to see so many other people there.  People from Cornerstone who had supported us as the ministry began 7 years ago, people from church who came to celebrate how far the ministry had come, as well as some of the sponsored children.  Somehow, you could see all 7 years in the faces of those people.  My heart nearly burst at realizing how far God had brought us.

Then one by one, these special invited guests came to the front to testify how God had used our little ministry to change the lives of people.  My own sponsored child, Barnabus, proudly stood in front telling everyone how much my help meant to him and how excited he was for his future.  I smiled and cried at the same time. 

As I went out to wash my hands for the meal, a girl came shyly up to me.  “Do you remember me?” she asked.  I took a sharp breath in and shook my head in disbelief.  It was Barbara, the girl we had rescued from the slum about 5 years ago.  Her brother had been prostituting her for money.  We had arranged for her to go to a group home for former child prostitutes and now she had graduated, was working and stood before me radiant.  I cried and held her.  She just whispered, “thank you, thank you Auntie.”  I held her and steadied my voice and said, “I am so proud of you.  You are so beautiful.  God is amazing, isn’t he?”

After we ate, we danced…and danced and danced.  We wanted to celebrate all that the Lord has done through this ministry.  DWF now provides full medical care for all women, we have now started two village banks and are working to improve the women’s businesses, we have sponsored over 50 children and have 2 full time social workers that provide emotional and spiritual counseling.  God has been so powerful…so magnificent…so loving towards these women.  All of their lives have been improved and changed as a result of a choice I made 7 years ago…I choice I made to love and to invite everyone I knew to love with me. 

At the end of the evening, I wanted to commission the widows to take the love they had received from The Lord and from DWF to others in Kampala. So, one by one I asked them to sit in a chair and remove their shoes.  I knelt in front of them and washed their dusty feet…for I am my father’s daughter…just as Jesus washed his disciples feet, I wanted to wash theirs for a servant does what his master does.  I looked them in the eye and said, “I love you and I am your servant.”  Then I anointed them with oil, put my mouth close to their ear and prayed a blessing over each one of them.  Some of the women just cried and shook their head taking the love in and letting it settle in their souls.  Others held me tight and prayed earnestly for me too.  Then I kissed each of them on the cheek.  It seemed like a perfect way to say goodbye. 

So, in a week’s time, I will leave Uganda.  I will leave the widows.  I will leave my job.  I will leave my home.  I will leave my friends.  I will leave my family.  Even as I write this, it doesn’t yet seem real.  After 7 years of making this country my home, I will leave to start a new part of the journey, but strangely not on a new path.  I am still following my savior and still loving widows.  It is a bend in the road, but not a new path.  I am just as committed to serving The Lord as I was 7 years ago and I am more in love with the widows than I was way back then.  My location will change, but my purpose will not.  For my purpose has always been to allow God to use my empathy to love others in need and I will continue to do that for as long as I live. 

If you want to know more about what has been happening with Dorcas Widows Fund in Uganda, please feel free to contact me.  I would love to come share with anyone, any group or any church that would like to hear the story of God’s great love for his women!  I will now be fully involved with Dorcas Widows Fund on the US side.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Own Land of Milk and Honey

“And we know that I all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

In this last year, I have seen first hand God’s great goodness and it is sweeter than I could ever have imagined. God met me where I was and brought me to a place of quiet rest…my personal land of “milk and honey,” From the beginning I have loved these widows not as “projects” or the “clients” we serve, but as friends. Over the last 5 years we have been through some incredibly difficult times…painful times…deaths of those we love, loss of homes and stability, crushing sickness. All these things have happened to us and we have had to depend on Jesus and on each other for support. There were days when either of us wanted to quit…wanted to give in to the despair, but somehow we carried each other and have made it through the despair to view first hand God’s tender mercy. Maybe that is why I haven’t written anything in so long…I was just too exhausted from the pain of it all and it took all my energy just to keep going.

 In December of 2010, I got to a point where I just couldn’t take the lonliness any more. Sitting in suffering…even the suffering of others is lonely. It feels so isolating and frankly was just sucking me dry. Every day I would hear of another friend’s sickness, another friend not eating, another friend without house rent. It was just too much to take onto my own shoulders. So, I decided to spend some time in serious prayer. I cried and wailed before the Lord telling him that I was at the end of my emotional rope. I played my favorite Christian music as loud as I could take it and danced around the living room crying, kneeling, throwing my hands up in the air, laying on the ground…expressing physically all my emotion. I poured my heart out to Him asking him for a helper…for someone I could lean on…for someone I could love and that could love me.

 That next Sunday, a young woman from my church asked to talk to me privately. She told me that she had been praying that weekend and felt like God had a message for her to tell me. “God is sending your husband…The man is looking over your shoulder,” she said. All the hair on my arms stood up. How did this young woman know I was praying about that? Then a couple weeks later, one of the widows told me that she was praying for me too and had a message for me. The widow said, “You have to forgive the ones that have broken your heart or there won’t be room for the one God is giving you.” Then another widow said, “Yes, God told me that too. God is sending this man soon…you need to be ready.” I was stunned. Could it be that God really did care about my heart? Was God really in the business of creating romance?

 At the same time, a co-worker from the International School named Isaac was praying every night asking God to show him where to look for this woman that would love him…encourage him…comfort him. He continued to ask God to be with him in his lonliness and to reveal the one he had chosen for him. At the same time, elections were being held here in Uganda…things became quite unsettled and they canceled school or let school out early often. It was then that he began to ride home from work with me. The ride took over an hour most times, so we had a chance to talk about many different things…our interests, my ministry, our faith, our taste in music…He thought I was beautiful, but immediately thought that there was no way I would be interested in him. Slowly…God began to speak to Isaac’s heart…to tell him that I was the woman he had prepared for him. So, one night, Isaac got the courage to ask me if I would be interested in knowing him better. He was overjoyed to find out that I was interested in knowing him too. Some time later, Isaac stood in front of me telling me that he loved me…that he felt even a supernatural love for me…like it was from God himself. So we got engaged and started preparing for our wedding.

 It is funny when you have been praying about something for so long, it is hard to believe it has really happened. I woke up many mornings after we were engaged in total shock that the waiting was finally over. Isaac did too. We needed each other…we both needed the strength and tenderness the other had to offer. It renewed my strength and allowed me to see another side of God’s great love.

 Isaac is Rwandan, so we decided to also have an African traditional marriage on June 30th of this year. In this ceremony, a favorite aunt gives you away to your husband. So, I had Auntie Ruth, a widow friend of mine, give me away. It was powerful to listen to all 70 of the Dorcas Widows screaming and uualating behind me as one of them gave me in marriage to the one they had prayed for. It was incredibly powerful to be given in love….in marriage by the widows God had brought me to all those years ago. Another tradition in that ceremony is for the new husband to bring gifts for the bride’s family. Isaac knew I loved these widows, so he brought rice, sugar and soap for all 70 women!! He wanted to send the message that because he loved me he also loved them. Finally at the end of the function, dinner is served. This was special as well as the widows were the ones that cooked food for the 200 people who attended. I thought my heart would burst from joy!

 Then on Saturday, July 7th Isaac and I were married at our church in front of all our family, friends, church members and the widows. There were loud shouts of joy from all of those who came. It was also an intensely spiritual time as Isaac and I entered into a marriage covenant in front of everyone we know. What surprised me on that day was the great gift I received from the widows. They had collected Shillings from the group and then gone out to buy us a 47 piece dining set, silver ware, a pressure cooker and a tea set. When it came time for the gifts, the women asked for some traditional acholi music to be played then they came dancing up to the high table with all these gifts on their heads. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I would never have expected such a lavish gift from these women. After getting back from our honeymoon, we both sat in front of these gifts and just cried. It was love…it was just love.

 My first time back to the widow’s group was a joyous one. We laughed and sang. Then the women gave me marriage advice one by one. I listened carefully and tried to hide all their words of wisdom in my heart. After all the pain and sadness it was such a relief to sit in joy for a while both for them and for me. It was a reminder that God does work together for good for those that love him.

  Important: My name has now changed to Kari Rwenzo. If you want to see pictures of these events visit my Facebook page.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pressing On: A year in Review

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 10-14

The year 2011 started amidst cries of joy and excitement. Last January, the widows and I stood outside St. Peter’s Church in Nakawa singing and dancing…laughing at how much God had done for his brides. All the widows that started 2010 were now beginning 2011…we had beaten death. Those deeply ill had been pulled back from the grave. The ladies had begun a mushroom business and were starting to see a small profit from the business. Our land was fertile and growing food for the women. Life was in no way perfect or completely just, but it was better…we were moving toward abundance…a feeling of blessing swept through the women. Ruth pulled me aside and told me that 2011 would be the year of jubilee…the year of answered prayer.

In fact Ruth and Joyce both told me that God would bring my husband this year. They told me that my years of deep loneliness were soon to be over and that it was a year for rejoicing. When I heard them say this to me, I smiled and nodded my head, but inside my heart was just too afraid to believe that after 20 years of waiting it could finally be over. Ruth looked deep into my eyes and said, “You don’t believe me do you? Well, you go out and buy a man’s coat and hang it in your closet so you can physically see the promise the Lord has made to you.” You see for these last few years I have stood with Ruth and Joyce and Mary and Agnes and all the rest in their pain and sorrow and they have stood with me in mine. God does not just call us to love others, but to learn to receive love from others too. I am not in a ministry to widows…I am in relationship with women who happen to be widows. Thus the stern warning from my auntie Ruth about believing that 2011 would in fact be our Jubilee year.

To my great astonishment a short time later, a coworker of mine at the International School of Uganda confessed he had feelings for me. I was shocked as we had been friends for some time, but delighted as he was a handsome Godly man. Every day I pinched myself to see if this was really happening. I was falling in love. Then in late June, Isaac proposed and we got engaged. Idah, one of my widow friends, walked up to Isaac at church and said, “Do you know how long we have prayed for you?? We are trusting you to take good care of our daughter.” I think I had a permanent grin on my face for the whole month of June. We rejoiced together and I cried tears of happiness…Ruth and Joyce were right…God had resurrected a dead place in my heart and given me an abundance of love for one of his sons. The widows and I decided to host a big celebration to honor what God had done for their growing mushroom business and for my tender heart. We decided to have it shortly after my parents arrived for a visit. As we planned the party women were laughing and we all had tremendous confidence that blessing was just around the corner.

Then in the blink of an eye tragedy struck…early one morning I got a call that Agnes had passed away. She was in constant pain from the stomach ulcers she had and AIDS had eaten away at her body until almost nothing remained. After a year of regained health, death had come like a thief in the night and taken Agnes. Our ministry grieved the loss of Agnes and were comforted that she was now in the presence of Jesus and living in a new healthy body. At the time, we felt so dejected wondering why God had taken her so abruptly.

Early in the morning of July 4, large bulldozers came into the Nakawa slum area and demolished the widows’ small homes without warning and with heavy police deployment. It was then I saw how merciful God is…Agnes could have never endured what came next. As the large graders came through they moved with no mercy breaking down homes irregardless of who was inside or what was inside. Many of the widows lost all their belongings and watched helplessly as their homes were run over. I stood with them and watched. We cried and screamed…it was unbelievable…how could this be happening? In the course of one day, over half of the widows lost everything. Even our newly founded mushroom business was in shambles…it was destroyed beyond repair. I held Grace as she cried and wailed, “What will I do? What will I do?” I had no immediate answers, but I stood with her, cried with her and held her.

Somehow I pulled myself together enough to formulate a plan to help these women. Together with many of our donors we gave each evicted woman enough money to rent a small house somewhere else in Kampala. It was enough to keep them in this new house for 3 months. We then gave out food supplies to each family. Then we gave women money to replace some of the essentials they lost in the eviction. Suzan, our social worker, was working around the clock…taking calls in the middle of night…visiting women at all hours. The women were scattered all over town and felt not only the loss of their belongings, but the deep loss of community as well.

I called Ruth and comforted her…prayed with her. Almost as an aside I said, “Let’s just cancel the party…it doesn’t seem right to celebrate right now.” After a long silence, she said, “No…God is still the same as he was two weeks ago. God has still answered your prayer and ended your emotional suffering. That encourages us to believe that God will end ours too.” I wish I could say that I sighed nodded my head and said, “yes…God is faithful.” But, truthfully, I said, “What?! You all have just lost everything…widows are crying and devastated. How do I celebrate God’s goodness to me? Isn’t that just rubbing in my blessing in their face?” Ruth cut me off, “Kari, I believe God is faithful…he is our husband…he will turn our mourning into dancing.” I cried as I hung up the phone. I was angry at the injustice of it all. How could the government be so ruthless? Why in the midst of the first time our ministry was moving forward did this tragedy happen?

My parents came in July and we held the party. Honestly, I was unsure if the women would come or if it would feel more like a funeral then a party. As I entered I saw Ruth in front organizing the ladies a wide smile on her face. As my parents entered they gave them a welcome so full of love and joy I wondered if these were the same women I held sobbing on my shoulder over the last couple of weeks. We sang, we danced, and then we ate a great feast. At the end my father stood before these dear women and said, “We know the great loss you have endured just a few days ago and our hearts are grieved. We and some other donors from the US want to show you that we are standing with you, so we are giving each woman here 50,000 Ugsh (about $23).” When the last word left my father’s mouth, the women jumped up and ran around screaming. It was as if they had just been told they had won the lottery. Then they came and knelt in front of my father and thanked him. Later that afternoon, Ruth hugged me and said in my ear, “See I told you God does not forget his brides…he will provide for us and turn our mourning into dancing!” I just cried and nodded my head.

In the months that followed, we were able to help the women with 3 more months of rent. This has tremendously helped them keep away from living on the street. But, life has been hard…harder than it was before the eviction. Mary came to the meeting about a month ago and sat down next to me. She stared at her hands and then just began to weep. I rubbed her back and pulled her close. “I don’t know how I am going to make it. The place I was selling vegetables was destroyed in the eviction. I have no work. I am trying but I just can’t manage to feed us.” Then she just sobbed. I held her and then gave her some money to feed her family. A lot of meetings are like that now. Here God has relieved my personal pain and resurrected a cold part of my heart, but at the same time these women I love have been thrown into a pit of despair worse than the one they were in before. I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why…why would you allow this? We were just climbing out of this pit only to be thrown back in?”

Finally, by the end of the year, we had replanted 500 mushroom gardens on our land in Matuga. We hope to harvest them by the end of February. It is our hope that this business can be reborn and that our women can again have hope of income. We also gave the women rice, beans and porsho flour for the Christmas season. As most of the women are now in homes with a poor water supply, the ministry was able (with your help!) to give each woman a Tiva Water purifying system. This will greatly improve their health and the health of their families.

And so 2011 ended. A year that started with such hope, excitement and joy for the women has ended with pain, suffering and heartache. It hurts to watch your friends suffer and cry in despair. We have shed a lot of tears together this year. So now at the end of this year, I asked God, “why…why give me my heart’s desire…why resurrect my heart and leave theirs more broken then they were before?” As I sat in prayer and finally stopped ranting and raving at Jesus, he quietly whispered Philippians 3 in my ear. My dear, if you or the women want to know resurrection, you have to taste death. Have you not known emotional death…heartache so deep words cannot speak of it? It is in that place that resurrection happens, so don’t despair for my brides…my widows…they now taste death, but open your eyes and be ready because resurrection is coming. It is a site too beautiful for words.

Now as we look toward 2012…the woman are forgetting what is behind…the death, the suffering…and straining toward what is ahead…a powerful resurrection of their situation that will be too beautiful to behold. We are beginning to build on our property and I know that will be part of God’s great resurrection. Oh…and we will dance at my wedding too!

Monday, August 15, 2011


“…He sent me to bind up the broken hearted…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61: 1, 3

My July 4th was very different from most of yours. Instead of picnics, parades and fireworks, I watched as one widow's house after another was demolished by large graders. These massive machines came without warning early that Monday morning and ran over house after house without any care as to who or what was inside. As the concrete walls fell large swells of dust and concrete particles filled the air. It was suffocating. People were running to get as much out of their homes as they could before the whole house was destroyed by these large unyielding machines. The military in full riot gear surrounded the quarters machine guns in hand making sure the people had no choice but to watch as their house and most of their belongings were crushed and buried in large piles of rubble. I held widows as they cried and wailed. In that moment all I could do was cry and stand in that terrible pain with them.

That night many of them slept outside on the street...homeless...without water...without food...without anything. I received call after call from them...their voices trembled...they asked me what to do...where they should go. If it was only one, we could compensate them, but our ministry had 46 families homeless overnight. For us it was a devastating disaster of monumental proportions. Suzan, Annet and I cried...large tears rolling down our cheeks for these women we love so much. It just seemed so do we find housing for that many people in one night? We felt as helpless as they did.

On Tuesday, July 5th we contacted the US office of Dorcas Widows Fund and told Lisa about the massive disaster in Nakawa/Naguru Quarters. She was as shocked and saddened as we were, but we formulated a plan. She quickly let the donors know about the widow’s homelessness and they responded. Immediately she sent $5,000 USD, which DWF used to pay 3 months rent on temporary houses for each of the women who were evicted. It took about a week, but eventually all 46 of the women were in some type of structure and no longer on the street. The women were amazed that our little ministry was able to love and support them...all of them, not just some. We rescued them in their darkest hour of need. We filled a gap that no one was willing to fill for them. We saved them from being homeless...we loved them when they felt the most unloved...we stood with them in their pain and helped them find a way out of it. I can’t tell you how awesome and beautiful it is to love like Jesus loves.

The following week, my parents came to visit the widows for the first time. Emotionally, the ladies had been to hell and back, but they remained determined to welcome them with all the love they had left to give. So, they came early that day to cook for them…to make a feast for them. They dressed in their gomesi’s they received from Dorcas Widows Fund last Christmas and greeted my parents like they were royalty from another place. They knelt and hugged them…kissed them and told them that they loved them. Even though the pain and heartache of the last week was still fresh, they chose joy. It was hard for them…it ached at times to choose joy over this painful sorrow, but they did it. They sang and danced and ate. It was an incredible display of courage. Inside my head, I was hearing the words of a chorus I used to sing in Sunday school…” WhenI am weak and he is strong, Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me.” I am convinced it is only God that gave them the courage to love and give and dance and sing in the midst of the great pain they were feeling. I knew because at that moment they were displaying his splendor and it was glorious.

As the party came to a close, I gave my parents some of the money you donated and asked them to give 50,000 Ugsh ($24) to each woman. As they announced your gift, some widows screamed…some ran around…some danced and some just fell to their knees and cried. They could not believe it. They could not believe that anyone would notice their pain and be so willing to give them so much money at one time. It was a rejoicing I will never forget.

The next week, we met with the widows again. They came ready and excited to share what that 50,000 Ugsh meant to them.

One woman, Jenifer, started her testimony by shaking her head and crying. She then told us that as she was cooking potatoes for the feast her mouth began to water as she had not eaten in a couple of days. So, she took some of the potatoes and ate them. As she ate them large swells of guilt came over her as her children were at home with nothing to eat and here she was eating potatoes. She was feeling so unworthy…as a mother, as a provider…in fact she was beating herself up inside all during the party. Then when my father announced that she would receive the 50,000 Ugsh she almost fainted. She ran to my father and put her arms around his neck and cried. She left that meeting and bought enough food to feed her children for a month. God had heard her cry and lifted her out of her pit of despair.

Another woman, Justine, told us that her daughter had been abandoned by her husband and was about to give birth. Before receiving the 50,000 Ugsh she had no money to pay for the birth of the child. In fact the daughter’s due date was the date of my parent’s party, but her daughter was still feeling no pain, so Justine went to the party. In receiving that money Justine knew it would cover the birth of the child at the government hospital. So, a couple days later a baby girl was born in a local hospital, but with no outstanding debt. Justine was so happy and so grateful that she named the child after my mother. When she finished testifying she danced and sang and marveled at how God provides.

Each widow has her own story and I could write for pages if I told them all, but please know that God is using your dollars and donations. Real lives of real women are being rescued and loved. Thank you so much for all you have done for these women. However, we are not done yet, we are still hoping to build a more permenant widows community for these women. If God so moves you, please consider donating to the Dorcas Widows Fund and make this a reality.

May God continue to bless you…God is using you to change the lives of those he loves!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Promise Kept

Yesterday morning Agnes lost her battle with AIDS and cancer, but regained her freedom from pain and is now in eternal peace. Agnes had been sick for many years and in the last year her pain had become unbearable. She had multiple ulcers in her stomach from the cancer drugs which caused a great fire in her belly anytime she ate anything. Her head ached daily from lack of food and her digestive system either was blocked or would cause her to have diarrhea for hours at a time. She had become bone thin and finally could no longer take care of herself. For the last 2 months she has been bedridden in the hospital. Her daughter who is 15 has been taking care of her. She slept on a mat below her mother's hospital bed wondering which day she would see her mother die. It has been a painful road for both of them, but God has held them close every step of the way. The day before Agnes died, she was in pain but full of peace...a strange only possible when you are in the palm of God.

Her daughter was at her bedside crying...begging her mother not to die...asking her what she will do with her will I get a coffin? how will I transport your body? pay for the burial? Calmly, Agnes looked into her daughter's eyes and said, "Don't worry about any of that. Jesus told me that he will provide the coffin, that a car will be sent with petrol already in it and there will be nothing you have to do." Her daughter just shook her head and thought that her mother was talking nonsense.

The next day Agnes died. Shortly after her death, Meeting Point (another NGO that helped Agnes with her HIV treatment) paid the bill for everything in the hospital including preparing the body for burial and the coffin. Another woman from Agnes' church was prompted by the holy spirit to give her family's truck free of charge in order to transport her body to Northern Uganda. And like Jesus promised the woman put a full tank of fuel in the truck before handing over the keys to Agnes' family. The only thing that remained was to find a beautiful dress to bury her mother the girl looked in her mother's things, the only nice dress Agnes had was the Gomesi given to her last Christmas by Dorcas Widows Fund. Just like Jane, Agnes was buried in the beautiful dress we provided for her at Christmas. She looked so beautiful...mostly because she was at more more only the joy of heaven. Dancing with the savior at the wedding feast in the most beautiful dress....

Her daughter was awestruck to see the miracles God see how much he loves the widow and the orphan. Now the girl will stay with a priest who was close to the family. She will be taken care of and loved by the family of God. Isn't it amazing to watch God keep his promises???

In loving memory of Agnes Oyio...a widow who was dearly loved by God.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lost and Found

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

I know what it’s like to hope for something for not just months, but for years…to spend over 20 years hoping that God will fulfill my deepest desire. My desire has yet remained unfulfilled and I can attest that my heart has been incredibly undeniably sick. It is a pain only fellow ‘wait-ers’ can understand. Your heart literally hurts every day all the time. There is no relief…no comfort until that longing is satisfied. Maybe that is our human nature or maybe that is the curse of hoping for something that may never be ours. Those of you who long desperately for a child…or to be married…or to have a stable job…or to have peace in your family…know what I am talking about.

Since, I know what it is like to be nearly 40 and unmarried, I know what it feels like to be heartsick over a hope deferred. Maybe that is why I connect so deeply with the widows…I know that pain of longing for something to be different…I know how hopeless life sometimes feels. Most of our widow meetings, we focus so much on what it feels like to have our hope deferred that we sometimes miss the second half of the proverb…”but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” It is the hope that Jesus will provide a “tree of life” for our deepest longing that keeps us hoping in the first place. I mean isn’t Jesus called “the tree of life?”

Last Thursday, Rosemary got her “tree of life” and it was spectacularly beautiful.

Around this time last year, I received a frantic call telling me that Rosemary had tried to kill herself. I was heart broken to hear that she had felt so alone and so discouraged that her only option seemed to be to end it all. Several of us went to see her after she was discharged from the hospital. Her suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but it was clear that her pain was still real and overwhelming. Her oldest son had fallen into the wrong crowd and had been stealing money from her. When he came home drunk, he was beating her up. The aunties on her husband’s side had kidnapped her first-born daughter and she hadn’t seen her or heard from her in 25 years. All her attempts to find her daughter after all these years had ended in heartbreak. One of her young nieces had just been raped while staying in the village. Her other daughter had gotten pregnant by her boyfriend and now her and the new baby were living with her. Not to mention that her own diabetes had been causing her much pain and discomfort. All these intense problems were just too much for Rosemary. She had long since stopped coming to the Dorcas Widows Meetings, as she just couldn’t get the energy to come. Fortunately, several widows had taken to visiting her. They tried to encourage her as best they could, but that fateful night she just lost hope…her heart became sick and she just gave up.

After the suicide attempt, we all became very involved in Rosemary’s life. We helped her keep food in the house, we helped find a way to keep her safe from her son, and we tried to help her find a place for her niece to receive treatment. We also encouraged her to get back involved with her church and with the Dorcas Widows Ministry. She did both of those things and slowly by slowly we saw Rosemary come back to life. The overwhelming spirit of despair that hung over her life was sent away and replaced again with hope…the hope that Jesus would stand beside her…that he would comfort her…that he would begin to unravel all her problems.

So, it was that Rosemary stood in front of the women on Thursday…stretched her hands toward heaven and just cried. At first, I was concerned that her heart had become too sick again, but when she began to talk I realized that these were now tears of overwhelming joy. She said, “Ladies, God had done a miracle…something I never, never believed possible. What I wanted most has happened.” Then she put her head in her hands and cried. We all sat there dumbfounded wondering what had happened that had made her this happy. She looked up again and said, “My long lost daughter is alive and has been found.” All our mouths dropped open…all eyes became wide…then almost all at once a loud cheer erupted from all of us. She just stood in the midst of us looking up at the sky with huge tears rolling down her cheeks.

After we quieted ourselves down, she began to tell us what had happened. “My pastor encouraged us to spend 3 weeks fasting and praying. So I decided to fast and pray, but the only thing I asked God for was my first-born daughter. I haven’t seen her for 25 years and I just wanted to know where she was and if she was fine.” At the end of Rosemary’s fast, the pastor’s wife came to her house. She had rushed there and seemed out of breath when she arrived. Rosemary invited her in not knowing what had caused this sudden visit. The pastor’s wife smiled and shook her head, her eyes filling up with tears. Rosemary asked her what was wrong. The pastor’s wife then said, “You daughter contacted us and wants to talk to you, but we had no way to reach you as you don’t have a phone.” Rosemary said she felt immediately weak and fell into the chair behind her. “Please, please don’t tease me about this. I am not strong enough. Are you sure? Are you really sure she is MY daughter?” The pastor’s wife then confirmed the name of her daughter and several other details that would indeed leave no doubt that she had found her long lost daughter. Rosemary couldn’t believe it.

Then the Pastor’s wife gave her a phone and told her to wait, as her daughter would call her shortly. A while later the phone began to ring. She was so overcome with emotion, she had her other daughter answer it. It was her long lost daughter calling from Sweden as that is where she had been finally found. Rosemary took the phone and just wept calling her daughter’s name over and over. Her 30-year-old daughter also wept saying “mommy, mommy, mommy” over and over again. After they had cried with each other, they began to unravel what had kept them apart.

Twenty-five years ago Rosemary had left her then 4-year-old daughter with her sister while she went into town. A group of men showed up at the sister’s home and kidnapped her daughter by gunpoint. The sister almost died at their hands trying to protect Rosemary’s daughter, but it was no use. They took her and that was the last time anyone had seen her. Her daughter explained that it was the aunties of her father that took her immediately to Sweden. The aunties then used her passport to kidnap other children and bring them to Sweden. The aunties mistreated her and kept her drugged most of the time. Whenever the daughter would ask about her mother, the aunties would tell her that they had no idea who her mother was and no contact information for her. Finally at 18 years old, the daughter ran away from the aunties’ house in Sweden and was found by Swedish social workers. The daughter was incredibly sick when they found her. She had sickle cell anemia and needed immediate intense treatment. These social workers probably saved her life. They helped her get educated and find a job. Now in the last few years they have been helping her find her mother. During the time when Rosemary was fasting and praying in Uganda, one social worker in Sweden asked if she could send her name to a pastor she knew in Uganda on the outside chance he might be able to find a woman named Rosemary Amony. The pastor that Swedish woman sent the daughter’s name to was in fact Rosemary’s pastor.

As Rosemary finished telling this incredible story, we all had big tears rolling down our cheeks. It was unbelievable…after 25 years God had managed to connect a widow without a phone with her daughter living thousands of miles away in Sweden. I watched Rosemary as she cried…it wasn’t a defeated cry, but one of incredible power. As she reached her hands to heaven and smiled through her tears, she really did look like a tree of life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A True Warrior

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” Ephesians 6:12

When you think of a warrior…you think of bulging biceps and of a menacing face. Someone you could count on to protect you in any and all situations…someone fearless and aggressive. To a warrior fighting is just like breathing…as natural to living as eating and sleeping. They are born to dominate and to never take no for answer. Hollywood reinforces this definition of a warrior, but I am beginning to think that it isn’t really who a true warrior is. This week God showed me a different kind of warrior…maybe the truest kind of warrior there is.

A couple weeks ago, Nancy came to the widows meeting and sat near the back. During the meeting she didn’t say much, but her face spoke volumes. The stress and pain in her eyes was screaming out her trouble. After the meeting, she pulled Suzan aside and told her that she had not eaten yesterday and that she would not be able to feed her children that night either. In an instant Suzan put her arm around Nancy and without any fanfare or many words, she gave her the equivalent of $15. Nancy stared speechless at the money in her hand for a moment and then started to cry. Not a sweet cry, but one of incredible shock and relief. Big tears streamed down her face and she buried her head in her hands. That $15 gave her relief from the agony of not being able to feed her children and of not eating herself. You see Nancy is HIV positive and taking the drugs on an empty stomach causes her incredible discomfort and pain. Not the mention the pain a mother endures as she watches her children suffer. As I watched her hold Susan and cry, I cried too. It was beautiful to see someone in pain be comforted.

I met Nancy again last night. This time she entered the widows meeting with her mouth twitching as if the words were just fighting to come out. After greeting each other, she immediately asked if she could share a story with the group. Nancy began to speak very quickly in her language and with great expression. She said that about a month ago an elderly woman had been chased from the home she was renting because she had fallen sick and could not pay the rent. The old woman walked out of the little room she could no longer afford and sat in the dust and cried while the neighbors looked on. Nancy broke through the crowd and asked the woman what had happened and tried to comfort her. The woman told her that although she was 65 she had started to bleed again. She tries to keep herself clean, but she seems to weaken every day. Nancy immediately wondered if the woman had cervical cancer. Nancy lives in a two-roomed house with her children, as it is they live on top of each other and they struggle to eat every day. But that never entered her mind.

“I follow Jesus,” Nancy told the woman, “So you can stay with me and I will take care of you.” She then picked the woman up and helped her into the house. After entering into the house she realized that the woman smelled of dried blood and urine. With her daughter helping her, she bathed the woman and washed her clothes. Now for the last month and a half, she has been caring for this woman every day…all the time. She has tried to get some little extra money to bring the woman to the hospital to get tested for cancer. So, here she was at the meeting begging the Dorcas Widows Fund to help this poor woman. Nancy looked at us and said, “This woman is the one who is truly suffering.” I wondered how she defined suffering…Nancy gets sores from HIV and is sick often, she struggles to feed her family, pay house rent and take care of her children. She continued to plead of this woman. She told us that as of now the woman’s only health care is her prayers over her at night; which, as I was about to find out are as powerful as any medicine any doctor could give.

After we agreed to help her help this woman, Nancy said, “Oh, I have one more prayer request.” She said as if it was a commonplace prayer request…something people always ask for. “At about 9 o’clock last night I heard a commotion outside my home. It was so loud that my daughter and I decided to find out what was happening.” As Nancy, stepped outside she was horrified to see two men beating a 15-year-old girl with their rosaries. She ran to the girl and asked the men why they were beating her. The men said, “Stay back. This girl is possessed by demons. She is talking in many different voices and is trying to hit, kick and bite other people. Just let us handle it.” Nancy stood her ground and calmly said, “Gentlemen, please let me handle this for you. I am born again and I can rid this girl of the demons.” The men shook their heads, but allowed her to take control of the situation. At that point Matilda, another Dorcas Widow, joined Nancy and they began to pray in full force. The demons first laughed at her and told her that “We are 30 and you are only two. What can you do to us?" She responded by saying that Jesus had given her full authority over them and that the blood of Jesus was enough to battle them with. Matilda and Nancy prayed and battled for this girl’s soul until midnight. Finally, all the demons left the girl and the girl came back to her senses. At that point both Nancy and Matilda shared the love of Christ with the girl and her mother. They both decided to become followers of Jesus. “So, please pray with Matilda and I as we continue to share Jesus with this girl and her mother.”

I stared at her in complete amazement. At first I didn’t even know what to say. Then I asked her if she was scared when she encountered this demon-possessed girl. She looked at me strangely as if my question was completely bizarre. Then she said, “No, Kari, God told us that we have power over demons. There is nothing they can do to us. Isn’t that what Jesus told us we should do?” I just nodded my head.

I spent the rest of the meeting looking at this HIV positive woman wearing old worn out clothes realizing that this is what a true fearless warrior looks like. She battles hunger in her house…sickness in her body…sadness in her inability to provide for her children and demons in the community…but the key is she doesn’t go into battle alone. Jesus…her protector, her lover, her friend, her powerful ally goes with her everywhere she goes. With human eyes she is only wearing a faded blue skirt, a blouse missing a couple buttons and shoes that barely fit, but in God’s eyes she is covered in the full armor of God. She has a beautiful belt of truth buckled around her waist, a shiny golden breastplate of righteousness and a solid shield of faith, which will extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. She is one of the most beautiful warriors I have ever seen and also one of the most fierce.