The Least of Us…

So, Yes. We have been hiding behind a tree.

And yes, this blog (formerly Ramblings of an Alien) has been silent for the last several months apart from a few updates here and there, but we’re back in action with a lot of updates and future plans to share. After an incredibly successful Christmas fundraiser for the Bukedea and Ogoloi CarePoints, I decided to take a few months to recoup. Well, recoup, and move house, and travel to the sex slave capitol of the world, read a few dozen books, and spend some time with my family.

But today I was kind of shocked back into action and energized to get back in front of the blog after two distinctly disparate (things so unlike there is no basis for comparison – Websters) events transpired that set my head spinning and my heart back into a highly motivated gear. One was good, the other…well?

The “good”, was a sizable check I received from one of our marketing vendors (through our real estate company) that we will be receiving as a part of a marketing agreement that will be redirected towards our new Moldova initiative for girls rescued from brothels around eastern europe (more to come in this blog). The discussion about the intended use of the funds had initially led to a tear filled conversation with the not to be named representative, and then today, evolved into her desire to sponsor one of the kids in Bukedea or Ogoloi. What an incredible deal, and how rewarding to be able to engage the mundane day to day of business in a way that draws God’s Kingdom into sharper view. A true blessing 🙂

The other, was to come home and learn that a family we have known for years who have sponsored a few kids at the CarePoints in Uganda elected this week to quietly drop the sponsorships of these absolutely incredible children. One of the kids is by far one of my favorite little guys in Ogoloi who never leaves my side while we are on the ground, and has been eager from day one to meet his “sponsor” – (they affectionately pronounce it “sponsa”, and the word in aTeso literally means “friend”)

My disillusionment at this latter development was quickly overshadowed by a fiery and motivated resolution to get back into gear and find “friends” for the remaining 37 kids before our upcoming trip to the carepoints this July. Even more so, it served as a reminder that God continues to provide in ways that we sometimes least expect. And, sometimes not in the ways we do…

So here we go. A new year, with new work to be done. How thrilling and exciting to be able to give our time and energy and resources towards making a true and lasting impact in the lives of those who Jesus affectionately referred to as “the least of these” – those abandoned, neglected, and forgotten by our societies, systems and busy schedules, but amazingly loved and cherished by the creator of the universe. Thank you father, Abba, Daddy, that you don’t give up on the “least of us” – myself included.

Here are a few updates, and then I look forward to many more in the weeks to come:

“Sex Slave Capitol of the World”
Not many of you know that Joe (my business partner) and I headed out to Moldova in February to spend some time on the ground learning as much as we could about a new partnership that we will be launching in the coming weeks with an incredible organization focused on both preventative and restorative work in the area of human trafficking. Moldova is a sex trafficking hot bed, and more than 30,000 young women (teens) have literally vanished from the face of the earth in recent years, sold and enslaved in local and international brothels to “serve” the sexual desires of the men who pay for their innocence.

The trip was a massive eye opener, and I am eager to fill everyone in both on what we learned and on the upcoming partnership with this ongoing work through the “Beginning of Life” ministry. This, like our work in Uganda, will be in partnership with HopeChest, and you will all have opportunity to support the ongoing work as well as journey with us to see the incredible results and see the faces that are being transformed through the collective efforts of the team on the ground and those of us who support them. There is no time to share too many details tonight, but here is a quote from a facebook post from several weeks ago that I thought I should share.

4am Moldavian time. Wide awake. Can’t sleep! Stories and faces of teenage girls I’ve spent the last few days with, who have been manipulated, trafficked, and then systematically raped for months and years running through my mind. Not statistics. Not “accounts”. But people. Young, sweet, fragile little girls whose trust in people and innocence have been crushed. Running numbers in my mind over and over again on how to fund this project, and how to communicate the need to friends and family and colleagues. Imagining the responses. Imagining some of the let-downs. “We would love to help but…”, “We think it’s great that god has given you a heart for this, but…”, “fill in the blank, but…”, “but but but”

But NOTHING! Once again I simply don’t have a choice but to fight through all of the reasons why people cannot help, and to find those who will. Once again I recognize that the luxury of standing still no longer exists, and the idea of remaining silent has been taken from me. I suppose that’s why I came. Because I knew that this would mean being unable to turn back. Or sleep.

 

So…tomorrow we jump on a plane. Back to “normal” life. Back to work, bills, soccer practice and the hamster wheel. Back. But I can’t take back what I now know is going on here. I can’t take back what I know needs to be done. And I don’t want to. Will you join me? 

 

More to come soon.

 

July Bukedea and Ogoloi Trip
As mentioned, we have our travel plans being finalized for our next trip to visit our kids at the CarePoints in July. We are set to travel from July 2nd through the 14th and will spend 4 days at each of the CarePoints. It has been almost 8 months since we last saw the kids (11 by the time we arrive) and I miss them incredibly. After all these years they seem a part of my family, so I am becoming quite excited to get to July.

Our team of 8 will include my 8 year old son (travelling for his second time) and a couple of people returning for their second trip which will be a lot of fun. I’ll post the team with pics and bios in a few days so watch for that. Oh, and if you want to join us, it is not too late. We are happy to share details of the trip with you if you would like to join us.

 

CarePoint Updates
Our trip in July will be in part to profile new kids in need of assistance, but also to celebrate with the community and kids as we open the new phases of the CarePoints that have been completed as a result of the fund raising efforts in this years “Change their Story” campaign. The more than $32,000 raised this Christmas has been used to make significant improvements to both carepoints including a fresh water well at the new Ogoloi site, building improvements, and fences at both locations facilitate the sustainability initiatives such as the chicken coups and small scale farming plots used to teach the kids practical and sustainable life skills and farming methods.

We will be very eager to see how far the sites have come in the last several months, and to continue our celebration with the joyous and thankful community members who consider these changes to be life altering provision from their heavenly father whom they sing about for hours on end – eYalama eYalame – Jok eDeke

It will also be exciting to spend time engaging the community and learning more about the progress that is being made through the micro-finance and micro loan initiatives started last year at both sites.

 

Iowa’s “Least of These” 
On a personal note, we have agreed as a family to take a brief break from having a foster kids living with us as we settle into our new home. For those of you who have been foster parents, you recognize that the commitment of having kids with troubled backgrounds join your home as part of your family for months at a time is a big one, and can wreak havoc on your family. So we are excited to take a little “selfish” time for us, to enjoy the summer together as a family and prepare for the next round 🙂

We are however, excited to be re-engaging with a local organization that we have worked with in the past called “Mentor Iowa“. The local non profit matches children who have been recognized by the local court system as “Children in Need of Assistance” (CINA) are matched up with local mentors who commit to spending some quality time just hanging out with these kids. It’s a great system, with a very low level of commitment in time or money for Mentors (Mentor Iowa even provides free fun monthly events for mentors to take their kids to – a few months ago was the Blue Man Group, and sometimes its something as small as miniature golf). But there is nothing small about the impact that can be had on these kids’ lives through these relationships, which sometimes are the only good role models in their lives.

We are working on a more formal relationship with Mentor Iowa for CENTURY 21 Signature Real Estate (our local real estate company) as well in the hopes that we can gain some awareness for this great program while encouraging as many of our agents as possible to jump on board and get involved in making a difference. Once again…more to come

And, with that, its time for bed.

As always, a huge thanks to all of you who continue to support our work to try and make a difference in the world through your support and prayers. You are rock stars! There is nothing quite like knowing that despite the disappointments and let downs that we all encounter as we do our part to live out the good news, that there are many around us that share our heart, drive, and compassion. It is an honor to serve alongside you to bring about his “kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven”, and to live out our lives to the best of our ability as imitations of a servant king who took on flesh to love even the “least of us”

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