Entries in Mission Trips (46)
I can remember meeting Lokina. She was hard to miss -- even as a group of Maasai women welcomed us with their traditional song, Lokina stood out, a statuesque woman draped in a royal blue kanga fabric with a bright smile.
It was only later that I noticed how she kept her arms wrapped around her middle. One of the other ladies on the Women's Circle of Caring trip with me knew a bit of her story, that she had a form of epilepsy and had fallen into a fire after a seizure. She could not fully straighten her arms, the scar tissue from burns was too thick.
Living in the bush of Africa is difficult enough. Feeding your children and managing your household while your husband herded cattle possibly hundreds of miles away is quite another. And Lokina's husband left as her condition worsened. She was truly on her own.
Or was she? One of the things we focused on with Women's Circle of Caring was how women can minister to one another. We, a group of American women from all ages and stages of life, could minister to and with women in Kenya, and we can help them see how they need each other.
In the few years that Women's Circle of Caring visited a region where One Child Matters served, we saw a true community form among the women. Their focus was caring for their children, and yet they themselves benefited as well. We saw hearts knit together -- across cultures, and across a community.
Lokina's story is a powerful one. She learned more about her own worth because others were willing to invest in her -- very similar to the sponsorship model she saw transform her own son. You can watch her incredible story below.
But if you would like to invest in a community much like Emarti, you can join the Women's Circle of Caring. They are traveling to a different community in June to continue their work -- and they are hoping to bring a few more women with them. So watch Lokina's story, and ask yourself if you can play a part in rewriting the future for women and children in Kenya!
These are only two of the amazing events God arranged on the recent trip to Ethiopia. We trust you will be as blessed by reading them as we were!
On my recent trip to Ethiopia, Africa, a dream came true. I got to meet Winta, the little 5 year old girl I sponsor through One Child Matters. This was the biggest thing I was looking forward to on the trip. I knew I would instantly be drawn to her, but I didn’t realize the instant love that would overtake both of us!
I got to introduce myself to her and her Aunt. I gave her a present with all kinds of toys, play dough, hair things, etc. As we were opening it, I was told Winta means “Gift”!
I talked with her about school, her church, her family and what she likes to do. She asked me about my family and my job, too. She seemed shy at first and the translator told me she wanted to look at my face but was too shy to do so. I told her she could stare at me and it would be ok!
I got to color with her, dance, sing and play with her for a couple hours before they had to leave. We took lots of pictures and gave lots of hugs, then turned to go. Her Aunt came back and through a translator said, “I have to tell you something before we go.” She said, “Winta is an only child and her Mom is a single Mom. She was a prostitute to take care of Winta. Because you sponsor Winta, her Mom no longer lives that lifestyle.”
That’s where I lost it.
I just cried and hugged her and said, “It’s because of Jesus!” I had faith that each month when I send money that I’m helping a child halfway around the world. On this trip and through that conversation, I got a heart-knowledge that God is actively working through the little that I give every month. It’s changing this child’s present, future and changing her family, too!
We never know the full extent of what God will do when we’re willing. All the long flights, few hours of sleep, and culture shock was worth it. Seeing firsthand what God is doing through Mission of Mercy, and choosing to do through me, is still blessing me today.
Another trip participant had a powerful confirmation of her own impact in Ethiopia:
I have come away from Africa with a concrete sense of self. Although I went to serve – and I did – I came away with so much more than that. I wasn't sure what I could offer any of those children, but she chose me.
Out of 28 people on my team, she chose me and ran up and held my hand. Only later did I find out that she was the child I had sponsored before I went on the trip! What a gift that we bonded before we had a reason to.
Once we did learn our connection, I didn't have much to say, but neither did she. She was so much like me – not much for communication or expressing our feelings. All I had to do was hold her hand every day. That was what I knew how to do.
I didn’t think that I would have changed her life one bit, but when I saw those goodbye tears I realized that I didn’t have to be anybody but me. Me, with my oh-so-controlled and shelled emotions, touched her life. She felt my heart even though I refuse to wear it on my sleeve. And as she hid her tears I knew that feeling.
That seven year old little girl taught me it is ok to be who I am. That I am enough just the way I am. She still saw the light I thought you couldn't see and it made a difference. My God knew she was for me and I for her. I miss her face and that smile that I got to watch come out slowly. She broke down my walls. She showed me so much more than I can even express. Missing Ethiopia.
We love to hear the stories of mission trip participants because God moves in such unique ways to connect the hearts of his people.
For some, the desire to go to Africa started in childhood. One woman shares her experience of the first few days:
When I was young, I saw a television program with African people dancing. I remember it striking a chord with me and I believe the desire to go to Africa was born at that time. When we first arrived in Emarti, the ladies were lined up in front of us in their beautiful colors--clothes, jewelry, headdresses. They began singing and making short jumps toward us, a traditional dance of greeting and celebration. When they got to us, they kissed us on both cheeks. They completely enveloped us with their bodies and with love. They then turned around and we all sang as best we could and jumped (danced) our way to the church! It was absolutely incredible--an experience I'll never forget.
We found out later that they had come together for two nights to pray for us, meaning they walked there and back each night. I asked my sponsored child how long it took her to get there. The answer: 2 hours.
One of the traditions of Women’s Circle of Caring is painting the Maasai ladies’ nails. It’s a simple way to pamper them. We gave two ladies 20 bottles of nail polish along with cotton balls, remover, and nail stickers which were donated so they could each start a business. The lady to whom I gave my kit gave me a necklace.
Guess what God did with that? I signed up to sponsor another child right there in Emarti, and I was able to meet her later in the week. I wanted to give my sponsored girl bottles of nail polish as a gift. Guess who her mother was -- it was the lady I'd given the nail polish to the other day! Now she has even more that may help her with her business.
Isn't God so good? He honors even the smallest of gifts. We've posted more photos from the Emarti trip here. When the teams first visited Emarti four years ago, the children were meeting under a tree. Now thanks to the women who served with the mission teams and several generous donors, they have a wonderful building that serves as a community center and church when the project isn't using it. They also started a community garden that has provided abundant harvests. Even though this was the final trip to Emarti, the impact will continue for years to come!
If you got the chance to walk through your sponsored child's community, what would you see? How would your understanding of sponsorship change after you've sat in your sponsored child's home?
Kristina Garrison just returned from Mozambique, where she walked with other sponsors to visit children in One Child Matters programs. She describes the impact of one visit below.
What an incredible experience to see a child's face light up when they meet the man or woman who is making a LIFE CHANGING difference by providing food, healthcare, and educational help for the child.
Walking through the village was stunning. To see the shacks (as we would probably call them) that they live in was inspiring. They build the walls out of sticks, bamboo shoots, mud, clay, rocks and leaves. The roofs and doors are made out of scraps, tin and whatever else they were lucky enough to find.
Their homes consist of one, maybe two, 6 foot by 6 foot rooms where they eat, sleep, play and live. If they are lucky enough, few have kitchens separate from the house.
The kitchen is maybe a 4-foot by 4-foot room built also of found materials where they cook the meals over an open fire. The bathroom is usually a separate structure made of cement blocks that one has to crawl into and squat over an open hole.
People in the village were so kind as we walked through, peeked onto their property and greeted them. We even got to see children stomping corn to make corn meal.
One of the girls that was sponsored in my group walked hand in hand with her sponsor the entire morning. She kept smiling from ear to ear and giggling every time she looked at her sponsor – she was so so so grateful and it showed all over her face.
When we neared her home, she ran with excitement, then stopped to wait for us, before running again. She couldn't even stand still. She was thrilled to show us her home and introduce us to her family. Her sponsor was a blessing and brought her a backpack of gifts, which she was able to open with us, and be shown how to use some of the items.
The look on her grandparents' (guardians) faces was so beautiful. They were filled with joy that someone was going to help them take care of the girl. They thanked the sponsor over and over and hugged her frequently.
Before we left the little girl hugged the sponsor one more time and said "Goodbye Mother" in Portuguese. It was so beautiful, many of us who were nearby broke into tears.
How crazy that only $39 a month gives these kids so much. Not only do they get cared for, but it lifts some of the burden off her grandparents and siblings who normally would have to share the rations with her. Sponsorship in this village is an amazing gift and true blessing to these children.
A mission team is in Mozambique, ministering at the One Child Matters program in XaiXai. The internet is spotty at best, so they cannot send pictures -- but we don't think it's necessary the way the team shares about its first day at the project!
Today was a very emotional day. There are few words that can express the emotions you're filled with when you're surrounded by 100+ kids with outreached hands all trying to welcome you into their community. This is what we experienced today while our hearts raced a mile a minute as we were greeted one by one by with tight hand squeezes and the beautiful sound of children singing.
Our bodies were filled with smiles and joy as we were surrounded by wide eyes and large beaming smiles. The children were as intrigued by us as we were by them. We took half an hour to feel each other out and realized that we were all excited to be in the each other's presence.
In this village, it is custom to be welcomed by a song -- little did we know the song would be sung BEAUTIFULLY by a small boy who could've been no older than 11. He brought tears to our eyes and warmth to our hearts as he praised God and welcomed us into his world.
We danced, sang, and listened to the ministry as the children battled over who would hold our hands and take the seats next to us. After the service, we played patty-cake with the girls, took pictures with all, and made the trek back to the bus hand-in-hand with our new tiny friends.
We went into the day nervous about the language barrier, but were quickly put at ease upon realizing that a smile or a hug means FAR more than any words. The day was overwhelming, but in such a good way. When we went to leave, no one wanted to. We cannot wait until tomorrow to start our work, hold more hands, and spread MANY more smiles in hopes of changing even just one life while we're here.
Here's an update from the mission team in Honduras. After a Sabbath day where they worshipped in a local church, the team began construction. Janelle writes of the experience:
Today was a serious workday. We had floors to pour, walls to build, bathrooms to finish, and sponsor kids to visit. The team of 35 divided and conquered.
The teams mixed bags of concrete, water, and rock then sweat together to make a kitchen floor, a cinder block shower, some bathroom walls and walls for some classrooms.
This team in which most of us didn't know each other three days ago worked together like a well-oiled machine to make the living conditions of families better. Even though we loaded up with our best tools and muscles, we know that God made the projects possible but also worked through each pair of hands and each pair of feet. I love it when a plan comes together. God made much out of our little. There is more work projects planned for the next two days.
So another treat for some of the team members was meeting our sponsored kids. Although I don't have a child in Honduras (yet, insert smiley face here), I had the privilege of meeting Christian, a friend's sponsored child. It was very encouraging to meet this little boy, and then also see his home and meet his family.
Here's what God did...we walked in and the grandfather was holding his well-worn Bible. We met the entire family living there, including the great-grandmother of 84. Christian was very proud to show off his family. He showed us a letter from his sponsor. They keep the letters too! So I took the opportunity to ask the grandfather his favorite verse. He shared Hebrews 12:5. I shared Proverbs 3:5-6 with them and told them why. It was a blessing to exchange our thoughts about God's word. We filled the room with some English translated prayers and I felt God's presence in that small tin-roofed home. That was a great opportunity to encourage hearts and share faith. I like it when God's plans come together.
Tammy, one of the team members, met her sponsored child too. It was life-changing for her to be able to meet her child's family. In fact, she was out of descriptive words about how it affected her. To glimpse into a child's life after being connected by prayer is incredible. Consider sponsorship today then maybe God will take you to their home and you can see how important and life-changing your $39 a month can be.
As we reflect today on the actions of Jesus in his last hours, we consider the way we approach our own lives. Can Jesus' sacrifice also affect the way we approach sponsorship?
One sponsor shares how meeting even the simplest need during a mission trip to Kenya gave everything new meaning.
Mission of Mercy has several mission trips still waiting for your application. If you're wondering if you can make a difference -- if the work that a team takes on can change the heart of a child -- please read this post.
The writer, Lois, just returned from the women's Cambodia trip. She will be the first to tell you that she's a photographer, not a painter, and that she was not excited for the service portion of the trip.
So how did God change her mind about the power of paint?
We continue to receive updates from the women's mission trip in Cambodia (some of which you can read in the post below this one).
But instead of relaying what they are experiencing, we thought it best to show you the children they are meeting. Perhaps you'll be as captivated as we are.
Click on the photo below to go to the photo gallery. These amazing photos were provided by a trip participant, Lois Solet. Thank you, Lois!
Over the weekend, a group of women with full hearts (and very full suitcases) landed in Cambodia. This week they will serve two very different projects with a shared mission. The Mechrey Floating School and the Dream Center are instrumental in giving children the chance to break out of poverty.
So what are they learning about God and the ways He is changing the country of Cambodia?
So much is happening all over the world -- here's how you can join us in prayer for our projects and the areas we serve.
PRAISE: Confounding all storm path projects, Tropical Cyclone Irina HAS TURNED AND HEADED OUT TO SEA! We had asked for prayer late last week as initially Irina looked to hit our projects in Swaziland and Mozambique.
To our amazement and, frankly, God’s glory, the storm is no longer a major threat. This is fantastic news because it is harvest season in this region, and the heavy wind and rains from this type of storm could devastate a much-needed maize harvest.
Current forecasts show that Irina is weakening as it spins over the colder waters of the south Indian Ocean. We are praying that Irina continues to weaken and stays far, far away from our children and projects in southern Africa.
TRIP PRAYER: A women’s mission trip to Cambodia leaves on Thursday, March 8. This diverse team of 40 women will serve Mission of Mercy’s Mechrey Floating School as well as the projects in the Siem Reap area. We are praying for safe travels, and that all of their supplies arrive safely in country!
PROVISION PRAYER: We’re also praying for our projects in Lebanon, as more and more refugees flee the violence in Syria. One of our projects is especially close to the Syrian border, but many of our programs serve the refugee population in other areas of Lebanon.
As the influx of exiles grows, so too does the strain on infrastructure, increasing the chances that refugees will face discrimination from established families already struggling to get by. In addition to praying for a quick resolution to the violence in Syria, we are praying that the fleeing families are finding sanctuary, and that those receiving them are able to provide help to them.
When you want to truly show love to someone, how do you overcome the barriers formed by years of war and brutal indoctrination?
One woman shares how God reminded her of His mission in the world as she prepares for a mission trip to Cambodia.
Ever wonder what goes into a new library? Check out this time-elapse video to see how the kid-driven mission team and the community came together to create a space that will invest in the kids in Moca, Dominican Republic, for a long time to come.
We have much to be grateful for... and looking ahead, a lot to look forward to! Do you know how you can take your ministry to the next level in 2012? Check out this timeline to learn more.
As you may have heard in news reports, a large 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippines. The epicenter was on Negros Island, to the southwest of Cebu Island, where many Mission of Mercy programs are located.
Our staff reports that the earthquake was “so strong. Everyone went out of the building to an open space. But everyone is alright.” Thankfully, a social worker was present and was able to provide counseling to children who were frightened by the event.
A dental team is also in the Philippines providing dental care to children in our projects. They experienced the trembler and several aftershocks. They will travel to another city tomorrow and ask for prayers for good weather, as much of the travel between islands involves ferry boats.
We have two very different mission teams leaving this weekend.
A dental team is traveling to the Philippines to provide much-needed cleanings, exams, and other services to our projects there. This may be the first time some of our children have seen an actual dentist. Please pray for a spirit of trust to form between the team and the community, and for an absence of fear for the little ones getting their first cleaning!
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
On Sunday, a very special team of elementary and middle-school aged kids (and their parents and grandparents) are leaving for the DR. In response to the need in one of the communities we serve, the team raised funds to build a library.
The project expects to use the space to help children (like the sweet little girl pictured above) study and help their parents learn to read and gain new skills. We are quite excited to share more about their trip with you when they return. In the meantime, please pray for their travel and the work ahead!
More reflections from the Medical Mercy team in India. Although the internet is too intermittant to allow for many pictures, we are grateful to nurse Anne Braudt for the word-pictures she paints. Here are a few haunting glimpses into the clinics and the surrounding environs.
A new update from the medical team in Orissa, India, who are seeing just why one child matters.
Expect the unexpected. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. It’s never what we think. And that is what the day was like. Not the flow of the clinic, nor the attitude of the team, or the dynamics of seeing another 300 patients today, but it was the patients.
Smaller in stature than yesterday, a little sicker, and their stories that were far from the norm. There were a lot of wonderful ones, children being seen, hugged, sung to and with, prayed with, and played with. That was the majority. The evidence of compassion and love for the children we saw was everywhere.
But like it or not, it is the occasional unexpected encounter or worst case scenario that puts the whole day into perspective. That things happened and whether we like it or not, we are faced with it to deal with. Three children stood out:
One child whose only complaint was that he was depressed. He lives in boarding house for children who are single or double orphans (one or both parents having died). He received news in the manner of a letter addressed to him that his father died recently.
Another child had with him a picture of his parents taken a while back. He was 10 years old. He showed me the picture and asked me if I had seen them or knew anything about them. He hadn’t seen them in 5 years. He woke up one day and they were both gone. He lived in the street until he found a home in the village that we were in. He was taken in by a kind family. I looked at the picture and couldn’t find the words to speak. I simply shook my head no. He shook his head as well as he silently cried. I hugged him and prayed with him. He left, the picture still clutched in his hand.
And the third child 6 years old. I asked her if I could take her picture and if I could show others to witness to her that she was as much a child to be valued and recognized by all. She was hesitant at first, but then said yes. Burned by falling into a pot of boiling water at the age of 3, she survived as you see her here. She told me that she won’t look in the mirror. She is the daughter of a fisherman and his wife, the lowest class of a caste system in this region. Poorer than poor.
She was not a One Child Matters sponsored child, but one of the children in the village who came to us for medical care. I realized that if she wasn’t embraced and surrounded by a loving community, she would be lost to the world. Never marrying, being ridiculed, and maybe even worse -- being taken advantage of, or even taking her own life later on.
One Child Matters has a vision and mission to care for those children who are less than fortunate, to prove that one child matters. This child is one of them. She is now a One Child Matters child, and sponsored. I am humbled to be able to be part of her life from now on.
In all things give thanks,
Each mission trip sponsored by Mission of Mercy has a special purpose, and none more so than the Women's Circle of Caring trip to Kenya.
The theme of this year's Circle of Caring trip was LOVE -- and God's love was certainly evident in this experience. To learn more about the trip, watch the video below. And don't forget to check the upcoming Mission Trip list on our website to learn how you can see God's kingdom in a whole new way!
The Kenya Women's Circle of Kenya team safely returned late last night. Their last few days in Kenya were filled with travel, Nairobi traffic, and more walks through communities such as this one, where one brother helped his younger sibling avoid the barbed wire around their home.
One team member shares, "We want to thank you for your prayers -- they were felt every day as we worked and learned and cried together. The Lord is doing a great work in Kenya and we were blessed to meet and encourage the people who serve Him so diligently."
More posts will follow as the team begins to process their experiences. We are grateful that the Lord brought them back with many tales and photos to share with us.