“You are lost” is the expression used in Uganda when you haven’t seen or heard from someone in a while. Yes, with turning-point changes happening in both our occupational and personal lives, it has taken a while to find my way to another post.
In August we traveled back to the USA, leaving behind daughter Rebekah to start her first year at Bryn Mawr College. Back in Uganda in September we celebrated her 18th birthday via Skype, marveling at the changes in her from birth to adulthood.
While adjusting to the feel of an empty nest our return to Uganda hit us with another major change; all funding from the founders and main contributors of Glad Tidings Bible College are to stop in 2012. It isn’t hard to read the handwriting on the wall; to ease the financial burden on Glad Tidings it is time for us to go. The silver lining is seeing a former allumni of the college step in to fill David’s shoes having qualified herself by pursuing a PhD in the field!
Changes are necessary, unavoidable and usually good for us though we may struggle with even the best of changes because we fear the loss of what was.
Within WOW changes have been happening over the past year, much like the maturing process in a child, so this as this “mama” can let go. WOW is taking off in a direction and identity all its own. There will still be WOW, the women’s ministry of Hope For New Life Foursquare Church (formerly called Kampala Foursquare Church) but to distinguish the roles of ministry and business, the handcrafters have formed a women’s cooperative called Gifted Hands, a name the women chose themselves. “Gifted Hands” beautifully captures who these women are, richly endowed both spiritually and skillfully to serve . . . as bread earners and caretakers in their homes and communities.
It is exciting to see the women not only being the crafters of products but being crafters of their own business! From the moment of choosing their own name, Gifted Hands have been defining their mission, setting their goals, finding their markets, setting their own prices, emailing correspondence, keeping accounts, doing banking, even pursuing developing a website! Check it out at GHwomenscooperative.com. My functions are taken! For that I am so grateful.
Let me introduce to you Gloria who will be your contact from now on when you want to order products. She is a lively young mother interested in all kinds of fashion, gifted in design, and hoping one day to develop her own line of African style clothing. She’s articulate in English and much (if I could figure out how I’d underline, italisize and make that word bold) more computer literate than me. Her email address is email@example.com and she is ready to take your orders!
My long time friend Pauline Kamanzi (and a graduate of Glad Tidings) is doing a wonderful job coordinating the women’s ministry (WOW) of Hope For New Life Foursquare Church along with overseeing the church orphan homes. Though the orphan homes project is sponsored primarily through Warm Blankets (www.warmblankets.com), the goal is to see the orphan homes become self-sustaining. You can help in that effort by ordering beads through Pauline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas a year ago marked the transition of Growing Tree Preschool to new management under a new headteacher, Christine. Through her effort the school has more than doubled in size. This forced a healthy growth spurt for Gifted Hands when this past November they found another accomodation in a nearby storefront.
With departure from Growing Tree Preschool, cooking classes ceased as the cement and bricks of our local made oven were impossible to relocate. However Irene so enjoyed helping lead the classes that she decided to look into what she could do to make cooking classes continue from her home. She’s sucessfully applied for a grant that will enable her to start her own cooking school, soon to start in the new year! Irene also has a passion for sharing Bible truths with the women; this adds to my joy of seeing her continue the cooking classes.
Over the past couple years WOW received an abundance (well over 120, I lost track counting!) of gorgeous wedding dresses through the efforts of Jireh Women, a UK based ministry that encouraging women in entrepreneurship. Many gowns found there way to 10 village churches, possibly initiating some business among the women and certainly adding to the festivities of newlyweds. The dozens remaining transformed a room in my house into a wedding boutique while the search was on for a better location. For more than a year nothing even remotely possible surfaced, yet within a week of our decision to leave Uganda, it all came together – an ideal location (a busy commercial street in easy walking distance from Gifted Hands), an adequate shop (spacious with a storefront window), the right price (free because the woman who run the shop owns the shop) and above all a well qualified person to run it! Robina is a highly trained skilled seamstress and experienced business woman. To me she was a miracle, yet when I began showering her with wedding dresses she exclaimed, overwhelmed, “I’ve seen miracles in my life, but this is the biggest one yet!”. Is it any surprise that we discovered we were in the same Bible study group (over 400 women attend so it is easy not to know everyone there)?
It amazes me when I see how many things have fallen in place for this unexpected return to the USA. As I am handing over administrative duties to the women, David is also relinquishing his duties as academic dean of Glad Tidings Bible College. Even the the struggling church we’ve served in for years opened the doors of its own new building in October and is thriving in a new location.
I can’t think of a better Christmas gift as we depart Uganda than to see our efforts move on to better things without us! It has been God’s work and He is still working. The year ends with the close of a good season in our lives and the opening of another with the promise that as we follow Him, His presence is with us. John 12 :24,26 says it well, “Unless a seed falls to the round and dies, it remains a single seed; but if it dies it bears much fruit . . . whoever serves me must follow me and where I am there will be my servant also.”
An underlying theme to this post is knowing when it is time to quit. For two weeks I’ve been trying everyday to attach five more pictures to this post and all I’ve been able to come up with are the 2 above. . . . time keeps passing while my frustration mounts. I’m getting the sense those pictures are not as important as getting this post out and move on.
Before I hit the “publish” button, I have read an email from a woman I haven’t heard from in 5 years. Furaha was a Congolese refugee with WOW 7 years ago before returning to Congo. She writes that her husband is now pastoring a church in Kinshasa and that she started a WOW group first in the eastern Congo town of Bukavu and now in Kinshasa with a total of about 500 women interested or involved! (Can that be?!?) This news gives me such joy! “Furaha” is the swahili word for “joy”.
This ends this season of blogging as “women of worth in Uganda.” If a new season starts, under another name, I’ll keep you “posted”!