Imagine if you woke up this morning and the entire state you lived in was transformed into what can only be called ‘sheer desperation’.
(Please have the perseverance and courage to read this entire story)
When you awoke, you were sleeping on a piece of foam 4 inches thick, 4ft wide by 6 feet long. The foam was crumbling from rot and dirt. It is more of a barrier from the hard floor than a comfort. The blanket you are under is tattered and full of holes. You wonder how you could possibly be comfortable. Then you recognize that your comfort and warmth was coming from your spouse and four children sleeping around and on you…on that one mat. As you lay there wondering how this has happened you focus on the ceiling and you recognize that your home is now the one room mower shed that is typically in the backyards of most American homesteads.
As you quietly get up to try to understand how you are in such horrible circumstances you first see the ants and the cockroaches scamper from under your bed and the one chair in the corner. As you open the door to outside, all you see are others in the very same circumstances. Your TV’s are gone, your beautiful home is not there. Your car is not there and if it was, you realize $3.50 for one gallon is more than 3 days wages that your husband brings home.
As you peak outside, you smile a little, when you see in the yard, a mother Hen with 8 little chicks scampering around her. They are very cute as they chase that little grasshopper in hopes for some breakfast.
As you step out of your home into the light of the new day, your stomach growls. You know that you are going to need to eat, but even more you know your spouse and children will be rising soon and they too will want to eat. So you peak back in your new home…the garden shed. You see a very small blue plastic bag. Your are curious. You find beans and some rice and one nearly blackened banana. As you look around for other food items, hoping for a nice bowl of cereal and cold milk, or bagel with cream cheese, or fresh bacon and eggs on toast…you recognize there is not even a stove or a microwave to prepare such foods. You stare at the walls and understand there are no cupboards with dishes, no drawers with utensils, no sink for washing, no water to wash or to cook with.
You discover an aluminum bowl with a stick resting in it. You figure you could cook the rice and beans with some water so your spouse and 4 children may have some breakfast. You accept this reality and you take the cooking bowl, rice and beans, and prepare to cook it. You first look for the stove. It does not exist. It cannot exist in this new house…there is no space and even if I had the space it would take nearly a years wages to pay for a stove and even if I could pay for the stove, there is no electricity or natural gas lines to power it.
You feel like panicking. You are overwhelmed at your new reality. You look around your one room home…You see your other 2 outfits to wear, and the one or two sets of old clothes for each of your other 5 family members. There is no room. You can barely see the floor of your home because it is so small and there is no room for anything you possess and it is all just stacked upon each other.
You realize that in order to have some moving around space, you must try to create some living space outside. You have no lawn chairs or patio furniture, so you think to yourself that you will buy a floor mat that you could sit on and your children could play on. You hope it will be big. You go inside your home to find your money stash, or at least your debit card, or possibly your password so you can get money from your bank accounts. You soon discover they do not exist. The only money you have is 2 quarters, a dime and 6 pennies. You realize you are lucky, because that is the price of a small mat. But you pause and recognize that if you spend those coins on the mat, you will not have any money to buy beans and rice for your family tomorrow. You begin to cry because you now know that there is not enough food for lunch and dinner for that day. Just beans and rice for breakfast and you hope the school will feed your children. But you feel a sense of desperation because you know you cannot afford for your children to attend a school.
You tell yourself that you will worry about that later. For now, you need water to cook the rice and beans, for you can hear the kids stirring inside and they will soon be asking for breakfast.
You seek water for cooking the rice and beans. The only thing you find is a yellow gas can in the back of your house/shed. You grab it and look for the sink. It does’t exist. You look outside for a water spout to turn on so you can get a gallon or two of fresh water to drink and cook with. You notice your mouth is dry and you too thirst for water. You glance across the street and you see other people in the exact same circumstances. There is a group of ladies who are all filing in single file line, chattering with one another as they walk down the hill for a 2 mile walk to fetch some water for drinking and cooking and maybe washing.
If you are the mother of the family, you must decide if you want to go fetch water or send one of your older daughters or possibly one of your younger boys. Your 2 year old boy, now sitting on the floor with the ants scurrying around him just smiles and gazes at you with true love. You cannot believe that you do not have any pants for him, so he sits on the floor with ants with only a shirt on. He does’t mind. He doesn’t know any better.
You pick him up and give him a squeeze and you recognize that you need to pick up the ‘house.’ So, you awaken your other daughter…now 13 years old. You ask her to take the yellow gas can on the 2 mile walk to bring back some water. She doesn’t complain, gets up, rubs her eyes and sets off on the journey. You pray for her safety as she makes the journey. You pray the 17 year old boys of the town will not rape her and you pray that she has the sense to stay with the group for safety. You also pray that she has the strength to carry the 40 pounds of water back up the hill to your home on the 2 mile walk back.
You pray that the water source will not have any animal feces in it or that the rain from last night, as it washes to the water source, doesn’t encounter any dead animals and carry more disease to the water you must drink everyday. You pray that maybe today the water will be less milky colored and more clear. You pray to God that He will protect the family from all the disease that this water brings with it. You feel overwhelmed that it is the only water you have to drink, period.
If you are the wife, you do all you can to keep your mind off of your daughter journeying to the water source, so you get the others up and ask them to clean up around them, you send them off to the school that you hope will let them attend without paying and maybe even feed them.
You are beginning to become so desperate that you and your husband actually consider having you go into town at night, where the truck drivers park their trucks and pay 2 or 3 dollars for sex with you. You know if you do this, your kids will eat much better, but you worry about HIV. You know it will embitter your husband even though you both agreed it’s the only way to provide for the family. You haven’t caved in to that temptation yet, but you are growing ever more desperate every day.
You hope the dollar your husband makes that day will be stretched further as you encounter others in the same circumstances at the market. Maybe some trade and bartering can take place. Instead of buying a mat for the front of the house for the kids to play on, you can be resourceful and pull some of the local reeds that grow nearby and find some old string and tie them together and make a flat mat, so that the kids aren’t directly in the dirt.
If you are the husband, you get up, frustrated, that you are headed into town or down the road where you might find a farmer who will give you 50 cents…maybe up to 2 dollars for your day of working in his fields. You know that amount of money will barely sustain your family with the rice and beans so you at least may not starve to death. You are losing weight because you forgo some meals, hoping the farmer might provide a small meal for your work, so your children may have a little extra food as they are growing.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU FACE THAT DAY?
You have no stove, so you cook your rice and beans behind your house over firewood.
You find out your kids are not allowed to attend school because they do not have a uniform or school supplies, or the administration fees for them to attend so the teachers may be paid even a little.
You wait for your husband to come home, hoping he made a little extra money that day.
You pray and hope that your children do not get sick, especially from Malaria from mosquitos, because you have no medicine and cannot afford to go to any hospital.
You pick wild bananas in hopes that somebody, maybe even a tourist, would journey past and pay you a quarter for some bananas, but you recognize that everybody is selling small bunches of bananas. You pray someone buys yours.
You hope there is water left over from breakfast to feed the tomato plants on the side of your house, so you don’t have to take another 4 mile trip for dirty water. You hope you can trade your tomatoes for some corn or an onion or a mango.
You pray to God for this all to change. You are working very hard, there just is not income.
You pray to God that a Christian from a more prosperous part of the world might choose to give and help and serve. You pray that thousands of Christians around the world would sacrifice as much as they can every month to help conquer this injustice.
You met an American missionary today who asked you what you hope would happen first so that your life might be less desperate…you reply…I beg that my children could go to a good school, where they can eat, receive a good education and change their future. You say that you can get by, but you are praying to the Lord that your children’s future will be better because they learned new ways of life through their school and education and world exposure.
You thank the missionary for coming to visit you and you hope that he will preach at the church you attend on Sunday.
You sing to the Lord nearly 10 times a day… songs like… “God you are good, God you are good, God you are good, you’re so good to me.” You sing it with a smile knowing that you will join Him for eternity and it is there you will have no tears, no starvation, no hurt, no thirst and pure joy.
You are joyful, even amidst all this day’s injustice.
READER…IF YOU WANT TO BE A SOLUTION TO THIS INJUSTICE….PLEASE START BY DONATING SOME OF YOUR MONEY MONTHLY. www.ReturnHope.com I am asking you to consider sacrificing eating out one time a month as a family. You can take that $40 and give it to the least of these through Return Hope International. The 40 comes from Matthew 25:40. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, that which you do for the least of these, you do unto me.” Just click the ReturnHope Logo and donate.
It’s not the 40 that is such a huge amount that helps so much…it’s the power of many of us giving 40 dollars each a month. Call your friends and have them join you in giving 40 a month for the least of these. I will come speak and tell stories and show pictures at any group you request me to join. We must do this together. The eternal impact is huge!
THEN PRAY ABOUT TRAVELING OVER TO UGANDA WITH US AND MEETING THE AMAZING UGANDAN PEOPLE.
YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Please remember what Jesus said…
“Where you treasure is…there you your heart is also.”
The greatest injustice of all, would be having a world full of well fed men, women, and children with no disease, fresh water to drink, a rich supply of clean clothes, every orphan and widow provided for, yet all of these cared for people, still facing a reality in Hell because we didn’t give them Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
That is the ultimate injustice. That would be the greatest trick of the devil. To have all this good work take place, but none of it matter eternally for those who were cared for.
ReturnHope wants to do something about this “greatest injustice.” However, this injustice can only be conquered by using a specific strategy that will impact not only women and children eternally…but men too.
It seems to me that there is a lot of ministry taking place around the world. Good ministry work. It seems most of this good ministry work is focused on the care of the women and children. I haven’t met anybody who is okay with watching women and children suffering. But if we want to solve the problems of the world…it is going to have to be through the changing of the lives of men all around the world too. Let’s admit it. Men cause war. Men have testosterone. Men are the muscle of the world. World problems are caused on a majority basis…by men. Change the men…change the world! Change the men…and women and children will be blessed too.
Injustices can only be fully conquered when the man is impacted along with the entire family for Jesus Christ as Lord.
ReturnHope wants to take on the impossible task of being used by God to change the hearts and minds of the men of our world and turn those hearts and mind towards the Lord Jesus. In this endeavor, think of how blessed the women and children of the world would be too!
In the American Church…there is a comparable man problem that relates to my point. If your Church reaches the mom of the family, the mom and kids will become the church, but the man of the family, more than likely, will stay home and not become the church and miss out on the growth opportunities that being the church creates. If the kids are reached, then mom will likely join the church too, but dad will end up staying home. What this creates is a frustrated mom and child(ren) because the heavy influence of unchurched dad outweighs the influence of the church on the mom and kids. (One hour of Church added with another 2 hours of small group influence for the mom and kids cannot compete with the other 168 hours of the week controlled by unchurched dad’s influence.) So, a church that aims to reach the man for Christ, can be confident that mom and the kids are highly likely to come too. It’s a whole family philosophy of how to design a strategy of the church…and the same should be for a world mission’s strategy!
The last 15 years of my life I have been privileged to travel to places like Peru South America, Uganda Africa, Jerusalem Israel and other amazing places. In these locations, I’ve encountered injustices that are ruling that culture. The same cause is evident in all these locations. The cause is… men aren’t leading or being impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ. Men are not being partnered with, or challenged to become responsible to their God given purpose to work, provide and steward the family that He gave them. Men seem to have been given up on, and I think, that is a perpetuator of injustices.
So much good work is being done around the world towards the injustices of lack of clean water, nakedness, lack of shelter, disease, orphan and widow-hood. A majority of this good work is being focused on the women and children. Now, understandably, it is a very good thing to help the women and children. ReturnHope International is going to do a lot of ministry for women and children everywhere…But…I beg of all people involved in the family of ReturnHope to be focused on being used by God to change the lives of the men of the villages around the world too. As we do all our work, I beg of the ReturnHope family to always be thinking about how our work is being perceived by the man of the family, or the men of the village we are impacting. If we are not careful we can easily create welfare situations where women and children become dependent on the American difference maker. Please Lord, don’t allow ReturnHope difference makers to mistakenly fill the position of the man of the family in the foreign culture! We want the native man to step up into his God designed role for him to be the provider and care taker of the family that God asked him to steward. As we do our work for women and children, let’s never stop thinking about the man and how our work might be affecting his heart, mind and self esteem. Let’s involve the man by walking alongside him as we do good work together for women and children!
We must go after the grown men too.
This is an impossible task. This is a task where we must begin by only praying and planning and then moving forward with what will be trial by fire. Chuck Swindoll said that when there is an impossible task that needs to be tackled, He will find an impossible person…crush them…and then use them to take on the impossible task. I’ve been told by quite a few that, “I’m impossible!” 🙂 The last 3 years, God has been crushing me and allowing me to be crushed by others. (I wrote about this on this blog site if you’d like to read it…click the following links…its two part and its called “The Crushing part 1” and then “The Crushing part 2”) I believe God has allowed this crushing to bring me to the point of right here..right now. He is asking me to take on the leadership of ReturnHope and team with you to use our talents to begin this impossible ministry. I imagine that when this life is over…our efforts will have been fully worth it…whether we failed or succeeded. Let’s spend the rest of our lives in this pursuit and then we’ll do high fives together about it all in eternity together…red, yellow, black, brown and white….male and female!!
Please start praying with me about our first encounter with a group of village men in Uganda. These men will be sitting in a big circle most of the day in a distant village. In the middle of the circle will be a large bowl of home made alcohol. Each man in the circle will have a long straw that reaches from the bowl to his mouth. This drinking begins in the morning and goes all day. At night…well…this is when evil reigns. These men in their drunken state rape their wives and abuse their daughters, beat their kids and fuel injustices towards total hopelessness….does this cause you to hate them? If so, then I ask you to pray for them and change your heart towards them. The men in this picture are only doing what they have been taught by their fathers, who were taught by their fathers… Pray that ReturnHope will break this vicious cycle by also reaching the men sitting in these circles. What is exciting for me is to explain to you what you cannot see in this picture. All around this picture are groups of other men who are not drinking and being responsible, groups of women singing and playing with their children and/or cooking lunch or dinner. Children are playing soccer or climbing in the trees and they all want to know you, and spend time with you. On every trip ReturnHope goes on, you will be able to choose which group you want to get involved with and interact with. It is truly an amazing adventure and trip that will change your life.
ReturnHope has a man on the ground in Uganda right now who is scouting out our very first village. We will enter this village by providing a fresh water well (Money is already raised for this well!) and beginning a relationship with the village leaders…the men, and also the women and children! The date isn’t set yet, but we are getting ready to go! I personally am going to be working on the men of the village. ReturnHope will need people who want to do good in the villages for the other people all around the village too. My gut tells me that this first trip might be more spontaneous that most of you are prepared for, but that is just a hard reality of the first trip ReturnHope takes. Once the first trip is complete, we will be able to plan ahead a bit more!
In the mean time I am asking you to pray specifically for the men we will encounter in this first village. Please pray frequently, so that when we arrive and meet these men, they will have been prayed for by hundreds of you…Hopefully thousands of you. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will help us pick God’s first circle of men that He wants us to influence. Pray that these men’s hearts will be prepared for our encounter. Pray for a man in the village who is a pastor who ReturnHope will equip with material and training to be even more impactful in his ministry work for the Lord. Pray that as we encounter these men, they will give their lives to Jesus and accept the challenge to work alongside us to conquer the injustices they face in their own villages and country! We as Americans cannot do the work ourselves, we must walk alongside the foreigner and team with them. We must be learners alongside them as we teach each other.
This will not be a one time encounter. When we enter a village, we enter into a life long covenant and relationship with the people of the village. We will return on occasion to continue with these villagers as our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who someday will live lives that are not controlled by injustices. The relationships that we build with these men, women, and children will last an eternity. We will all impact one another in a mighty way. It really is a beautiful picture of returning hope to one another. I believe it is what God intended for the Body of Christ to be…aka…The Church.
Every time you eat…I’m asking that you would pause and pray for this endeavor. When you read your Bibles, pray again. When you meet for your Bible study, ask the group to pray specifically for our success in impacting this first village of men, women and children that we encounter.
Again, we (you & me — ReturnHope) are beginning in Uganda Africa. As soon as we pick our first village…I will inform you of its name and location and when we are planning on leading a group over! Our trips will consist of impacting Men, Women and Children. I will give updates all along the way. I pray that you will share this post with the people in your life who are looking for a purpose to get involved in that lasts eternally!
Will you pray everyday about all of this? Will you go with us over there?
It has begun.
Let’s ReturnHope to places that are imprisoned by hopelessness…and then ask them to pay it forward by returning hope to others too!
What a cool and challenging adventure!
My brain hurts and my body is numb. I can’t remember what time it is in the U.S., yet I know I still have a 10 hour flight from London Heathrow airport to Entebbe Uganda. Riley and I during our first flight to Detroit found out that our connection to Amsterdam was delayed two hours due to bad weather. Finally released to fly from Detroit to Amsterdam, we soon discovered that we would miss our connecting flight to Uganda. When we arrived at Amsterdam I quickly got in line and was told that we wouldn’t arrive in Uganda until late Wednesday night. At first I accepted that horrible news and prepared to spend the night in Amsterdam in some hotel. As I contemplated the whole scenario a bit, I began to doubt the lady who curtly told me that there were no other flights. She must have been tired or just plain impatient and rude. As I used my free 30 minutes of WiFi I discovered there were multiple ways to get to Uganda…I would just have to get creative. So…I marched back to the same lady, showed her my iPhone App and asked her if she really tried her best. She apologized and forwarded me to an official desk…instead of kiosk…and Riley and I were off to London! As I type this I am currently sitting in the London Heathrow Airport with Riley and we are using our electric converters to charge our ever important Smart Phones!! We are tired, but excited. Our plane leaves London at 9PM tonight and arrives in Entebbe Uganda at 7:30am. I’m going to watch a couple of movies and try to get some sleep. We arrive just a half day in front of the majority of the group. Hopefully we are early enough to help Hope 4 Kids International prepare for 50 Plus people eager to make an impact for Jesus Christ in Uganda.
I hope you will stay tuned over the next days as I will blog about this incredible journey. It has already started off with some shifts and I know that we will have to remain flexible throughout this whole trip!
Lesson I’ve learned so far….Never take NO as a blind answer without looking into the possibilities yourself. I’m convinced most people are not trying to promote your progress or your purpose and are only trying to get home from a long days work. I don’t blame them…but I pray that we as followers of Jesus Christ will always be about promoting other’s progress and purpose. (I think I should give a disclaimer here…not for bullies.) If you are bully, followers of Jesus will behave like Jesus and make a “whip” and without sinning, put you in your place!.
However…for everybody else…followers of Jesus should be about promoting other’s progress and purpose!
If we do this…I believe Jesus will take care of our progress and purpose!
He’s one we can count on!
He can handle our progress and purpose better than we can!
Uganda…Here we come!
By the way…Riley is a stud. He has a great attitude and is enjoying the journey so far. He’s as tall as I am now and we are suffering cramped quarters together. However…as we venture into Africa together….we will soon be reminded we have nothing to complain about!
Lions, Elephants and Floods…Oh My!
If you’ve been keeping up on this African Adventure that I’ve been blogging about, you noticed that I didn’t blog yesterday. The reason is because is was a travel only day. We drove 9 hours from Torroro to Fort Portal Uganda. It was a long ride.
We arrived in Fort Portal Uganda for our process of re-engaging into America. We got into our rooms at the Mountains of the Moon Hotel. All I can say is whoa! This is an upscale place. Incredible food. Amazing rooms and the grounds are in perfect shape. After spending the last 9 days in a place that didn’t have running water most of the time…this is a true delight. Tonight will be our last night here and tomorrow we head for the airport and I will arrive home at 6:30 pm at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix on Monday.
But before we call this African Adventure a wrap…please let me tell you about a really cool and fun day.
We got up this morning at 6am and had an amazing breakfast. Then we headed for something I have only ever dreamed about doing. An African Safari. Unbelievable. We drove 2 hours to the Queen Elizabeth National Park where we had a two hour boat ride where we saw wild hippos, cape buffalo, all kinds of wild birds and just had an amazing time in the middle of wild Africa. After the boat ride we hit the land in our bus and we went on the lookout for two major animals that we wanted to find. Elephants and of course…Lions!
We looked for hours driving through the Safari Refuge and then our guide spotted a Pride of Lions laying under the African bush in the shade. They were about 200 yards out and you could barely see them. The guide got on his phone and before we knew it we turned off the road and drove straight at the big cats. They didn’t budge until we pulled up beside them…I kid you not…10 yards away! The pictures I got with my iPhone are amazing. There were 2 male lions…big manes and all that stood up….seemed to pose and then just looked at us and walked around a little bit. I’ve never been that close. There is something surreal about seeing a massive lion in the African wild. I mean, the Phoenix Zoo is cool and all but…Africa?….wow!
After spending about 10 minutes next to the big cats…we started whining about how we hadn’t seen any Elephants. So we drove around for about an hour more and then gave up and headed for our hotel. On the way out of the park…we literally almost ran into a herd of Elephants. They walked right at the bus…and then…walked around the bus. I’ve got some decent shots with my iPhone of the big bull, but everybody in the bus was out of their seats trying to grab a great shot.
After about 10 minutes of just watching the Elephants we headed home. We made a quick stop at the Equator. Pretty cool to stop and take a photo. After everybody got their photos we took off and about 20 minutes into the drive it began to rain in the only way Africa seems to do anyting…BIG!
The road ahead of us began to flood out. The water came rushing over the road and all the people from Uganda began to get out of their cars and it looked like a huge traffic jam . Our bus was just sitting on the highway and all these Ugandans were just walking around talking to each other. So…we got out. It looked like we were the only white people in the world. I started talking to people around me and I had my iPhone and began to video people. One guy got in my camera and yelled…”Its happening to us…this is a Ugandan Tsunami”…and he just began to laugh out loud.
These are the friendliest people I have ever met.
This trip is the most emotion evoking trip I have ever had.
I pray that you will go to Africa someday in your future.
When you go to Africa…you must go with Hope 4 Kids International…
God has something to tell you when you are there!
Thanks for reading this.
I will be back in the USA on Monday.