Moving On

“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.

Saying good bye to Rebekah at Bryn Mawr College

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.

women of GIfted Hands looking smart!

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 gnssali@yahoo.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 kamanzij2000@yahoo.com.

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”!

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Bead Beauty

I hope you’ll say “Wow!” at the creativity you’ll see in this post.  WOW first began bead making with small colored stones strung daintily into necklaces of single, double or triple strands

Stone necklaces

"Stone" necklaces come in a variety of colors but black has always been the most popular in single, double or triple strands with matching earrings

These simple but elegant necklaces with matching earrings are still a favorite with WOW to make and  those who buy them often return for more.

In the early days getting the stones from Nairobi was a hit and miss ordeal so we began making or own beads from paper and fashioning the likes of these:

single strnd paper necklace with earrings

#3704 SIngle strand paper necklaces come in lengths of 18 inches and 36 inches with bead sizes medium, medium-large and large. The one pictured is 18 inches with large beads.

button bead neecklace

#3707 Called “button beads” because of their flatish disc shapes, these 18 inch necklaces are strung with graduating sizes of beads.

Katogo long

#3692 "katogo" translates to "stew'" and thus the name for this colorful necklaces made of different shapes sizes, and colors of paper beads. The one pictured is 56 inches long and can be double or tripled or knotted stylishly around the neck.

3695 triple katogo and triple uniform necklaces

#3695 Triple strand paper necklaces come in uniform colors or in "katogo" mixture of colors, shapes and sizes.

4908 single short katogo

4908 Short single strand katogo necklaces are popular for thier attractiveness and simplicity.

4793 lawala necklace

#4793 These handsomely strung paper beads are called "kongawala" meaning "berry" for the way they hang like berries on a branch.

4875 Lawala chocker with spacers

#4875 The "kawala" gets its name from the "target" that Acholi hunters use for shooting practice.

. Be sure to click on our link to see more in the way of paper beads , , ,earrings and bracelets of all sorts.

Traditionaly African jewelry is more often made from small colored glass beads (sometimes called “seed beads”). Take a look at the “twisty earrings” and the red and black multi-strand necklace in March’s post. The fashions the women come up with are endless! Here are a few more:

4819 a combination of small stones and small glass beads bracelets

4819 A combination of small stone beads and glass beads woven /strung together make up this bracelet.

4882 hammock necklace

4882 The "hammock" necklace swings beads on many wire strings.

4885 Royal stone and glass bead necklace

4885 another intricate combination of stones and tiny glass beads is the "royal necklace".

Anne with double circle earring

4840 Beadwork brings lots of smiles! (two tier beaded circle earrings)

I’ll end with  Anne’s beautiful smile showing off more tiny bead and wire work in the double circle earring she is wearing. Keep posted for the next post when I’ll concentrate more on bracelets and earrings.

If you would like to order please email me listing your choices by picture number and description and I will get right back to you!smadams@imul.com

“Clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.”                          1 Peter 3:4     New Living Translation

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On your mark, Get set, Go!

‘Tis the season of graduations, commencements and moving on! Recently my husband David, who is academic dean of Glad Tidings Bible College in Kampala, officiated as 48 diplomas and degree certificates were received by graduating students. Meanwhile my daughter Rebekah looks forward to her big day in July when she graduates from high school and moves on to the bigger world (I almost wrote “worries”) of university in the USA.

An embrace of joy for dean and student on graduation day.

Important transitions and changes are happening for WOW too. The nursery school is well established at the Growing Tree and needs more space. The sewing class women have passed the stage of making patterns and sew garments and crafts on their own. One by one computer students leave to hold jobs in town using their acquired new skills.

To make more rooms available for the nursery children and to help the women venture on their own, WOW is moving on to a new level. This past week WOW gave away 9 sewing machines enabling women to sew and sell their work from their own homes. To 14 others WOW gave capital to begin bigger challenges with what they have learned in computer training or bead making or other skills. It is an exciting time!  We haven’t left Growing Tree completely. The shed we built for the cooking oven with it’s spacious table and sitting arrangement will still hold cooking and Bible Study classes as well as be a place to gather and make beads, jewelry, soap, swap sewing tips  and receive any craft orders I (or you) may have for them.

Some of the WOW women who received sewing machines or business capital. Their smiles tell how happy they are to be moving ahead. We are standing in the work shed where they will continue to meet.

As an outreach to women under the Foursquare Church of Uganda, WOW moves in harmony with Foursquare Uganda’s church planting strategy. That strategy at present is to establish orphan homes inside of churches. Since April two orphan homes have opened with 20 children in each home,  and a third is about to open.  The strategy is working as each community has gladly recieved the orphanages and fill the new churches with eager congregants. WOW has become involved by purchasing some mattresses and providing some blankets and furniture for these homes. As WOW at the Growing Tree takes off on its own, the new challenge is to start new WOW groups with new women in these new locations that will help sustain the orphan homes in their communities.

Jungo Orphanage church open day

Waves of celebration on comencement day for the church/orphan home in the village of Jungo.

Jungo bunk beds

New bunks with misquitoe nets in the Jungo orphan home.

Jungo outside kitchen

The youngest orphan entertains herself in the outside kitchen while the others attend the local school. There are plans to construct an enclosed kitchen with a dining area.

Graduations are a sign of growing up, maturing, going on prepared new challenges.

“Then we will no longer be infants  . . . Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15

alice holding graduation certificate

a young WOW mother shows proof of her completion of a course in leadership development

 

After my last blog post people asked how they can order crafts from WOW. I’m working on a link to explain all that, in the meantime you can email me directly with your questions.

smadams@imul.com

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Discovering the New

WOW is ever in a state of change looking for new ideas, new skills to learn, new products to sell, going from one way of doing things to another. New people come in out our doors; new relationships are developed, new points of veiw expressed. Challenges come in choosing between old and new.

In recent weeks, Ugandans voted in a new mayor for their capital, Kampala, but chose to go with the “old” by re-electing the  president of the country. City streets were heavily patroled by both police and soldiers while tensions raged whether to keep old or choose new.

While WOW continues to rely on our “old” mainstay paper beads for income, we are developing new avenues of income generation.

We are trying new styles of handbags…

"Lucy" models the handbag she has sewn. It is made from kikoyi material, a hand-loomed fabric of Uganda.

Tablecloths from WOW tie and dye….

and new kinds of jewelry like these hooped earrings, necklace and bracelet made with small glass beads.

"J" wears a new WOW earring style made of tiny beads on a twisted wire hoop.

This lady patiently strung twelve strands of tiny beads to create her attractive necklace...

....she's also made this bracelet from the same tiny glass beads.

One of my favorite excuses for visiting a home is when a mother has given birth. Here’s our latest addition to the Growing Tree family…

Precious baby girl Shamla at 5 weeks.

Through such visits I discovered that it is common to bathe the infants in a homemade concoction of brewed leaves. Mothers claim these baths fortify the health of their babies. In our “newest” learning endeavorWOW is experimenting with soap-making and incorporating such herbs into the recipe.

Many hands get the job done quicker . . . preparing herbs for soap-making.

New things capture our interest and curiosity. We desire them to enhance our well-being and self-esteem … but none of the things, old or new, the world has to offer can compare with what the prophet Ezekiel meant when he wrote:

“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”      Ezekiel 18:31

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Real Worth

struggling with blogging

 

Does more struggle for something give it more worth? If so, this blog will be very valuable to me. I have ranted and raved, said things I shouldn’t have said, given up and walked away, prayed for electricity and inspiration, tried  until I swore I would not try again .  .. until at last I actually have a post! In the process my admiration for Cate Frazier-Neely has soared. She generously gave of her time and energy to initiate and run the blog for the past year (past posts can be which can be veiwed under a slightly different username womenofworthuganda.worpress.com)

Has the struggle been been worth it?  I hope that we can journey together in a give and take of thought, observations, opinions and even crafts as we explore and discover what brings real worth to our lives. Most of my examples will be taken from everyday life of Ugandan women that I live and work with in Kampala, Uganda.

bead making

WOW (Women of Worth) evolved  in response to urgent requests I so frequently got from women convinced that the chance to earn some income would be the answer to all their problems. I had no employment to give them but together we explored income generating possibilities and became fairly successful with a few. What I discovered was that jobs and income were not the most important contribution to these women. Instead what was most uplifting to them were the relationships built and the hope instilled by sharing faith together. A sense of identity and value was added to their perception of themselves.
To review some of the activities of of WOW I’ll begiin with the morning hours when  The Growing Tree (the name we gave the house we rent to meet in) is a buzz with 18+ pre-school children noisily playing and persuing their “studies”.

happy Growing Tree kids

By 2:30 pm women are arriving for training in either sewing, computers, or bead making with an additional class in soap making about to start.  Life Skills/Business is a helpful supplement to all the the other classes. Friday is a particularily fun day with inspirational Bible teaching and a cooking class using our own homemade oven.

cooking class

In my home, a couple minutes walk from Growing Tree, WOW has a bridal shop filled with gorgeous wedding dresses donated by women in the UK, Sicily and USA. The hope is that as the bridal shop takes off it will create other job opportunities – cake baking, catering, decorating, gown tailoring, videography, tent rentals . . .  possibilities are really limitless given hopes and dreams. A major step will be to move from my house to a real shop location.

A recent bride in WOW fashion

Sometimes we equate worth with wealth; a Ugandan woman might respond to “worth” with reference to her bride price of so many cows or acreage in banana trees. Learning new skills and setting up businesses may bring income to the lives of the women but has it brought more worth? An incident occurred this past week to have me ponder what true “worth” is. A parent came to the nursery school to register his child for school. He pulled out the only bill he had, a large 50,000 shilling note, took the 40,000/= change and said he would be back the next day with the child. The child never showed up and repeated attempts to call him proved futile. Later I took took the crisp new note for change at the the bank, feeling good along the way that I had enough in my pocket to do the days businesss (50,000/= UGS is about $25 USD). Imagine my dismay when the teller told me the bill was a fake. It was worth nothing, yet it looked so real! (I can think of four other incidences in the past 2 years where I have received fake money.)
 

A real 50,000 Ugandan shilling note is worth about $25. Unfortunately fake bulls, like this one, are common and only add to peoples misery and poverty.

 

In WOW we emphasize that as much as we struggle for skills, education, wealth, positions, occupations . . . they can give a false illusion of what is truly valuable. True “worth” is a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ that opens up a whole new way of living life.

“Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain. Turn my heart away from worthless things; perserve my life according to your word.” Psalm 119:36-37

“You are the stabiility of our time, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. Fearing you is the key to this treasure.”  Isaiah 33:6

 

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