No Longer Forgotten – by Hannah Eloge

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of traveling with my co-worker Rachel Andrews (HopeChest’s Program Manager) to Ethiopia and Uganda to collect stories for our sponsors and donors.

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I had been to Africa many times, but this was my first time visiting Ethiopia and Uganda. I was so excited to get a better idea of what our programs and projects look like, and to be back in the country that makes me feel fully alive.  Uganda greeted with me a warm breeze, a bright blue clouded sky and red dirt roads that mingle beautifully with the lush green landscape. We had a long, 8 hour drive from the airport to the town of Soroti. The next morning our first CarePoint visit was going to be to Ongongaja. I had been hearing a lot about this CarePoint – because it was our newest one in Uganda. As we traveled hours down bumpy dirt roads, Sam, one of our Ugandan staff members told us that where we were going is known as the “forgotten land” – and as we kept driving and driving, I understood why. We were miles away from any type of market or school building. The landscape was becoming more desolate. You could barely make out the tops of thatch roofs in the distance.ongongoja-blog-new_0002
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When we pulled up to the CarePoint we were greeted with handshakes, high fives, laughter and of course, song. “We are happy, we are happy, we are happy to see you. We are happy, we are happy we are happy to see you. In Ongongjaga land of Teso” and the song continued as we entered the building for a welcome program.

Song after song welcomed us.

As the program went on, we heard children recite their favorite bible verse. The kids did a few skits that demonstrated people from different walks of life finding Jesus. They sang more songs, but this time instead of happy welcoming songs, these songs dealt with their realities.. hunger, pain, loss, and grief, but how God remains faithful.

“Sometimes we pray as if he doesn’t hear

Sometimes we cry as if he doesn’t care

But out there when all your hope is gone 

He remains a faithful God

He is faithful early in the morning 

He is faithful late in the evening

He is faithful all of the day

He remains a faithful God

When trouble comes your way, believe in the Word

When you are persecuted, trust in the Lord

But you there when all your hope is gone

He remains a faithful God.”

These kids are no longer forgotten. They are claimed. They are known.
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After the welcome program we interviewed a few kids about their stories. My heart was breaking hearing about Mary, who was burned by her step-mom on purpose as a child 7 years ago but never got the medical care she needed until the CarePoint started.
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And Sarah who’s dad killed her mother, and then tried to offer her as a child sacrifice.
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We had the opportunity to walk to Stella’s* home. Stella is HIV positive. She lost both of her parents and now is living with her grandmother (and her grandpa’s other wife) and her many cousins.
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Before the CarePoint started in her area, Mary was ill and weak. Every day meals were not possible because her Grandmother has no income. Once and a while her Grandma would work in someone’s garden and in return receive food for the children but when food was scarce her family would eat tree leaves from the tree near their homestead. Mary’s head used to be covered in open wounds.  But once the CarePoint started she was able to receive daily medical treatment and now her wounds are all healed and the hair on her head is starting to grow back. In addition to medical treatment, she is receiving a daily nutritious meal.
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Transformation is already starting at Ongongaja CarePoint because you decided to say “yes”. Yes to proclaiming that these kids are not forgotten. That they will not be left behind. That they are loved. Sarah, is now receiving grief counseling. Mary is getting the medical care she needs on her foot,  and Stella is getting the holistic care she needs.
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Jesus comes through a person that decides to say “yes”.
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Consider saying “yes” to sponsoring a child at Ongongaja today. Tell them that they are loved and they are seen, they are claimed and they will not be forgotten. They are going to be so full of joy to learn that there is going to be someone that is praying for them, thinking about them and counting down the days until they can come visit them.

I can’t wait to see what God does in the community of Ongongoja through this partnership. He is going to make beautiful things. It has already begun.

– Hannah Eloge, Creative Director | Children’s HopeChest

*Stella’s name was changed for protection

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