Grace

Her name is Grace. Actually, that’s my name too. Not my American name, my Ateso name. Yep, I have an Ateso name! Almost everyone here has a hard time saying “Amber”, so Suzy’s mom named me Asianut (A-she-a-noot) which means Grace-and to be honest I’m so proud of it that I think it has gone to my head a little. =) I’m getting off track, though.

Our Grace was the last one to join our women’s group. We actually met because of her baby Gracious. Gracious just had her first birthday, but she looks like she is about 4 months old. She cannot sit or crawl or babble like most 1 year olds. The doctor told them she has a heart condition, but perhaps other problems as well. He recommended lab work as well as extra nutrition like milk and eggs, but Grace’s struggling family could not afford any of these.

As I looked at Grace with her beautiful, kind face and her baby who was obviously not growing normally, I wondered how she came to live in such poverty that she could not even afford milk or eggs for her baby. She did not personally ask for anything, but I could see her need was genuine.

Sometimes in Uganda the needs are so great, and there are so many requests for help or money that it is hard not to shut down a little. It can be difficult to know when to say, “Yes” and when to say, “No”, and so my prayer is that God would lead me to the ones He wants to help. Grace is one I felt God wanted to say, “Yes” to.

Grace and her husband Charles have 8 children and one is already disabled. Their family lives in a TINY, one room house with no running water or electricity. The house is so small that I’m amazed they are all able to sleep inside without piling on top of each other.

The couple married when Grace was just 16. Neither of them was able to finish school. Grace studied through primary (similar to our elementary), but because she came from a large family her parents could not afford to finish her education. Charles went through Senior 3 (similar to high school in the States), but his studies were interrupted when an insurgency destabilized the area in the 1980’s followed by Karamojong raids. The Karamojong stole all the cattle and killed those who did not have cattle to give. In the villages, this often left nothing for the people to sell in order to pay school fees, so many teens were not able to graduate. Because of the unrest in Uganda at this time Charles moved from the village into Soroti town and married Grace.

 Once Charles arrived in Soroti he began looking for work, but jobs are very scarce in Uganda, and since Charles had not finished high school no one would hire him. He tried to dig and farm to make enough to keep the family going.

They soon had their first child, then their second and third. Their fifth child was disabled. They tried their best to get medical care to find out what was wrong, but with their very limited income they were not able to find a doctor who could diagnose the problem. Now, their son is 14, but is unable to feed himself or talk. Their fear is that the baby, Gracious, will have the same problems. Unfortunately, their financial situation has not improved much over the years, and because of their disabled children it is hard for both of them to go to the village to farm since one has to stay back and care for the children.

Hopefully, things have started to improve for this beautiful family, though. A very good friend has been writing to Grace and recently has helped with school fees for the children as well as set Grace up in a business where she can sell clothes. (The children were so excited to be able to study this term!) We are hoping the profits from the sale of the jewelry that Grace and the other women made will be enough to cover medical care for Gracious. *

*If you didn’t read the last blog and live in Nashville, we recently sent around 200 necklaces back to the States that Grace and other ladies made using beads from rolled paper. (This was our first batch of jewelry, so please excuse the mistakes.:)My church (Calvary Chapel Nashville) is helping us sell them at the International Festival on October 7th.  If you can’t make it to that, but still would like to buy one, you can contact me or my church to see if any are still available. One hundred percent of the profits go towards helping the women in our women’s group and their children as well as towards helping other impoverished women in this area.

If you would like to contact me, my email is amberdinman@yahoo.com . You can also visit our website for more information about the women’s group at www.amunministries.org .

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Karibu!

I was at Betty’s house today. Betty inspires me tremendously, but right now my heart is heavy. It has been a struggle to learn what life is like for those living in severe poverty, and even more difficult sometimes to accept the reality of it. As I am trying to process things, though, I wanted to invite you to learn with me.

Two of the ladies from our women’s group have agreed to share their stories to help us get a better idea of what life is like for them. We would love to have you join us as they tell them!

We often visit while sitting outside on floor mats here, so we’ll scoot over and make room for you; and maybe even have some tea with milk and mandazi. =) Typically when you come to visit in Soroti you will hear a chorus of voices greeting you by saying “Karibu! Welcome!”.  So, welcome to Uganda, and to start with welcome to Betty’s home.

It is a bit of a walk to Betty’s house-past town, down a dirt road, then finally turning into the slum. Her home is one of many very run down, tenement-type houses packed together with crumbling mud walls. Charcoal stoves are outside for cooking, and children are playing all around. When they see you they might start shouting, “Muzungu, hi!” and run up to greet you.

Most of the time cooking, dishes, laundry and visiting are all done outside rather than inside, so as you meet Betty she will greet you with a beautiful smile and bring chairs (mostly borrowed from the neighbor) outside for you to sit on. She will probably bring the best one for you- a green plastic chair. You might look at the squalor around you and then look at Betty’s beautiful, character-filled, smiling face and wonder if she really lives HERE, but she does. As you talk with her, you will never hear her complain or mention any of her needs.

That experience was very much like mine the first day I met Betty. On that day, as the children ran up to greet me (partially bribed with gumballs =), I noticed one child was different from the rest. He was an adorable boy with enormous eyes.  As he tried to greet us and reach out his hand for the gumball, I realized he put his hand in my general direction, but not right under mine for the gumball like the other children did. He looked in the direction of my face, but not right at me, and I saw his huge eyes were slightly clouded.  Suzy’s sister said something to her in Ateso, then Suzy quietly turned to me and said that the little boy was losing his vision, and he had to stop school last year because he was no longer able to see well enough to study.

As we stood to leave and I watched the little boy go off to play, my heart was sad and a little overwhelmed. Later, I learned that adorable boy was Betty’s son. He was born with a serious eye condition, and the doctor had wanted him to have surgery over a year ago, but because Betty was unable to come up with the $60 needed for the surgery the little boy had gone blind in one eye and was quickly losing his vision in the other. Oh, that reality is hard to grasp! A mom had to watch day by day as her son lost his sight because she had no way of possibly coming up with $60, and a little boy has to live mostly in the dark because of that reality.

I wondered how such a beautiful, intelligent, character-filled person like Betty came to live in these circumstances, and why she was unable to rise out of them.  She has graciously opened up about her story, and as horrible as it is, her story is a fairly common one here.

Betty grew up in Soroti and was fortunate enough to graduate high school, but she did not have money to continue to University. In Uganda there is a lot of pressure for women to marry if they are not in school, so Betty married soon after graduating. She had three children and was eventually able to go back to school and obtain a certificate which would allow her to work in a records department, but, as is so common here, she was unable to find a job once she graduated.  (About 80% of University graduates are unable to find work, and it is even harder if you only have a certificate.)

Betty’s husband became very abusive and then married another woman, so Betty decided to leave. She moved back to Soroti, but with three children and no job she was unable to afford anything other than a tiny, run-down apartment in the slums. She tried to sell chapatti (which is a common bread here), but this brought in very little income; and, tragically, these were not her only trials. Her son Jesse was going blind and she was unable to afford treatment.

This was the condition their family was in when I met them, and I wish I could say everything turned out OK. Jesse has had two surgeries now, but I think they were too late. His vision is even worse than when I met him a couple months ago, and it grieves my heart so much to see him like this. I wish someone could have been here a few years ago, but I know God loves Jesse and has a good plan for him.

Through all of this, Betty continues to have the most beautiful faith and a strength under trials that I am in awe of. She is part of our women’s group, and dreams of having her own business selling used clothes someday.

I’m telling her story because I know many of you back home are involved in ministry to these women, and I wanted us to catch a glimpse of the realities of what life is like for some of them. May the Lord allow us to walk alongside them-at least in a small way-as they struggle under the weight of these things!

* Betty and the other ladies in our women’s group have been making jewelry with beads of rolled paper. If you live in Nashville and would like to buy one, my church (Calvary Chapel Nashville) will have a booth with the jewelry at the International Festival on October 7th. All the profits go back into helping these women and their children or other impoverished women and children in the area.

 

You  can also visit our website for more information about the women’s group at www.amunministries.org .

 

 

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