Scooping Seeds and Sealing Envelopes

Seed packing event

Volunteers pack vegetable seeds

This weekend, I experienced an example of people coming together for the good of others. Back in December, a church in Texas took up a Christmas offering, and they chose to spend it eight months later on a vegetable seed and school supply packing event with GAiN. This church not only offered the event to their own congregation, but they opened spots for community and church leaders, and others who have a desire to help people living in difficult places around the world.

Seed packing event

Seed teams work together

People of all ages—about 250 in all—poured through the church doors on a Saturday morning. Each received a task assignment. Families with small children were directed toward the school supply packing area. Other young children helped place instruction stickers on seed packet envelopes. Older children and adults scooped seeds, sealed envelopes, or banded packets into stacks of ten and boxed them for shipping.

After a short orientation, the work began. Chatter abounded as seed scoopers acquainted themselves with their envelope sealers. Chants echoed as good-natured taunting swapped between onion and collard green packers. Who would finish packing their seeds first? Runners, including myself, ensured seed bowls remained full and envelope stacks stayed tall. As plastic shoe boxes filled up with sealed seed packets, a runner whisked them to the boxing area. This whirlwind of activity continued for about 2.5 hours.

Seed packing event

Scooping okra seeds

When the last seed was poured and the last box taped, a total of 36,000 seed packs and more than 1300 school supply kits were boxed up and ready to ship to countries in Africa or the Middle East.

What happens next? When seeds or school supplies are requested by a GAiN field ministry partner, GAiN staff will load these items along with other aid onto a shipping container and send it on its way. (That description was an over-simplification. A lot of logistics work happens between here and the destination!)

Once received, GAiN partners will have seeds and school supplies to give to people who can’t afford to eat, much less send their children to school. These important supplies make a way for GAiN field partners to show the kindness of Jesus to hurting people. The seeds offer an opportunity for families to work a garden, feed their family nutritious vegetables, and even provide some income through the sale of excess produce.

As communities cultivate the seeds from this one event, the total yield could be as much as 360,000 pounds of okra, onions, and collard greens.

Seed packing event

Okra seeds ready for shipment

It’s events like these that paint a picture of the universal church. On a Saturday morning in August, a lot of people sacrificed their time to be part of something that will make a huge difference to someone they will never meet. This is love in action. I John 4 says, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” God’s love becomes evident when we give ourselves out of the love God gives us. And great things happen when we give together!

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Wheelchairs for the Disabled in Zambia

According to the World Bank, between 110 and 190 million adults suffer from a disability that impairs their ability to function normally. Many cultures in developing countries view the disabled as cursed. With no means to provide for themselves, and often no one to take care of them, people with disabilities fall deeper into poverty.

training for caregiversIn August 2015, a Global Aid Network (GAiN) team launched a new model for disability ministry. Previously, teams who provided mobility aids fitted
and maintained wheelchairs. This method created dependency. GAiN’s team of four therapists taught 20 Zambians the skills necessary to fit wheelchairs for those with mild disabilities and to bring encouragement and hope to patients. The newly-trained Zambians then fit 25 people, under the team’s supervision. They also learned how to share the gospel with disabled people and their families. The team left 125 wheelchairs for the Zambians to distribute.

wheelchairs for disabledA 25-year old man, Ruben, also benefited from the wheelchair fittings. An accident at the
sawmill where he worked left him paralyzed from the waist down. Although young and capable, Ruben spends each day sitting in his yard with nothing to do. He owned a wheelchair before, but it became useless because of disrepair.

Ruben’s friend and advocate learned about the training and took him to receive a wheelchair. The team encouraged Ruben, explaining that God has a plan for him, regardless of his physical condition. Because of this special training, Zambians can continue ministering both physically and spiritually to many families in their community.

GAiN sends hundreds of wheelchairs and other mobility aids to developing countries each year. Through mobility ministry, GAiN desires to show kindness and love to people who often are cast aside. With this help, Ruben and other capable people like him can find their God-given purpose and make a life for themselves.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Tanzania’s Dangerous Water

Boy digging for water

The air feels hot. The ground parched. No rain. A small boy, or more commonly a group of teenage girls or a mom, seeks out one of the shallow holes dug in a field. Has someone already gathered the water that seeps into the bottom? Maybe it’s time to try digging a new hole.

This is a typical scenario in rural African communities. This time-intensive process takes hours each day, the walk home especially difficult carrying a bucket of water – if they can even fill a bucket. All this for water that is unsafe to drink because of contaminates that cause illness, and even death over time.

You’ve likely heard similar stories. But, did you know another threat lurks around the villages of Tanzania that lie near the Serengeti?

Hyenas.

Hyena Habitat near Dotuk Wita-1Because a large number of people access water from the same source, and because of the amount of time taken per person, long lines form during peak times of the day. Therefore, many women and children set out during very early or late hours to retrieve water. The rocky hills near Kilulu Village, Tanzania conceal hyena dens. During dark hours, hyena attacks become a real threat, especially during the dry season when water collectors wander further from their village seeking water.

This womDotuk Wita-14an from Kilulu experienced tragedy resulting from the danger of trekking to fetch water during dark hours. One day, about two years ago, a few of her nieces and her 3-year old daughter, Happy, headed out to a shallow well for water. Along the way, hyenas attacked and mauled one of the girls. Even worse, these predators carried little Happy away. Tragically, she was never recovered.

Another woman from Mahina Village recounts her story:

Hyena attack victimWe were waking very early in the morning. One day I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and took my bucket to go get fresh water and met a hyena. The hyena began to chase me.  I ran hard, but I fell and broke my leg. The hyena did not attack, but it is common for the hyena to chase.

This attack happened eleven months earlier, and she is still healing. The woman from Mahina smiles. She now has a clean water well in her village. Both Mahina and Kilulu recently received new water wells provided by GAiN! Now, women like these can feel safe performing the daily task of collecting water. Having water access within the village reduces the possibility of encountering hyenas on the prowl because the task is not so time consuming that they must set out during dark hours. And each woman brings fresh, clean water home to their families.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Water in a Dry Land

water well
Mtshabezi village in Zimbabwe struggled with the lack of clean water throughout its entire existence. A river serves as their water source, but each time villagers need water, they must carry buckets to the river and back – a total of 2.5 miles. To make matters worse, the water is contaminated.need for clean water

Upstream villages use this same river for bathing and washing clothes. No toilets exist, so human waste potentially washes into this river. Animals stand in and walk through the water. This is the water they drink. Illness from this water is a constant.

The church in Mtshabezi desires to take care of the people in their community and share the gospel with those around them. The church seeks ways to specifically care for AIDS orphans who live in the village. Many are HIV positive and need medication, but traveling to the doctor poses a challenge. Since 1980, the people have wanted to build a school, but they have been unable to make bricks without water close by. Over the years, they’ve managed to erect two walls. The children now meet for class within these two walls.

During their first encounter with Mtshabezi, GAiN provided seeds. The church farmed a garden using these seeds, and its success made some amazing things happen. They grew vegetables that helped feed the orphans in their community. Proceeds from the sale of excess produce helped pay for transportation to get these children to the doctor for medication. Produce also funded scholarships for four students to complete Bible school. These students now travel on motorcycles to surrounding villages to teach Sunday School to children there.

Because of the diligence of the church and the people, GAiN wanted to do more for Mtshabezi. GAiN secured funds towater well drill a water well in the village. On drilling day in October 2015, the anticipation and excitement was high, but after drilling 215 feet through rock, no water appeared. But, these disappointed people didn’t give up. They praised God and prayed that He would provide another way.

In January 2016, a second drilling attempt produced water! People desperate for clean water collected the runoff in jars and buckets. After installation of a hand pump, clean water flowed. At the sight of clear, fresh water, those gathered couldn’t contain their joy! The sounds of singing, laughter, and dancing filled the air.

clean water

Now the people of Mtshabezi can grow even more fruitful gardens, live without illness caused by water contaminates, and make bricks for buildings. And, maybe more students will continue the mobile Sunday School for years to come. God used seeds, water, and the care of compassionate people to display His love for the people of this dry land.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Camp Resident Uses Skills to Care for Neighbors

The people of South Sudan find themselves caught in the middle of a war that is tearing apart this new nation. Decades of civil war with Sudan, and now internal power struggles, have taken their toll. As a result of the violence, a staggering 1.55 million people fled their homes, displaced in their own country. More than 600,000 sought refuge in neighboring countries.1 Families desperately seek new homes, new ways to work, and a way to start over with nothing. Food, clothes, medical care, and other basic necessities elude those trying to survive.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-16One camp houses thousands of displaced families who came from the northern part of South Sudan where intense fighting and civilian deaths prompted the exodus. Tents measuring approximately 25×35 ft. fill the camp area. Multiple families crowd into these shelters, amidst their meager belongings, and call this their new home.

Unsanitary conditions in the camp promote the spread of communicable disease. Unfiltered drinking water trucked in from the Nile introduces contaminates that cause cholera and diarrhea. Human waste from overflowing latrines and open defecation washes through the camp when it rains. With too few mosquito nets, malaria runs rampant. Constant illness increases the suffering of these people.

Jengo**, displaced from his home, lives in this camp with his family. He saw how contaminated water, uncontrolled waste, and lack of protection from infected mosquitoes created preventable illnesses. Instead of fixating on his own suffering, Jengo took action, using his medical skills to run the camp clinic – with very few resources.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-121Jengo described the frustration he feels when a patient lies before him that he cannot help because medicines or supplies are unavailable. Jengo says, “It is very straining if you know what to do, and you don’t have the right material.” Through GAiN and their partners in South Sudan, the camp clinic received medications and supplies for treating people who flock to the clinic.

The antibiotics included in one shipment of donated medications treated at least 200 patients in the camp. Because of the great need, the clinic quickly ran out of supply. Jengo desires to foster preventative habits. Therefore, his staff instructs people to wash their hands so that cholera and diarrhea occur less frequently, reducing cases for which treatment is required. With fewer preventable illnesses, available medications can be used for more severe diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, and TB. Because of help from GAiN and Jengo’s dedication to his new neighbors, the internally displaced people in South Sudan have a chance to be healthier and happier.

Manga Ten Refugee Camp-4

** A pseudonym

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

School Supplies Aren’t Just for Kids

School supplies in Liberia

In developing countries, people understand the importance of education. Parents want their kids to attend school in the hope that they will break the cycle of poverty. Even children desire the opportunity to go to school. However, in poor communities, often children miss out on education because parents can’t afford to pay school fees or purchase pens, paper, and colors. School supply kits, or CarePacks, are frequently requested from GAIN in-country partners. We and our partners want to show communities that children matter, and their education has great potential to facilitate change for the better.

In one Liberian village, a newly formed Christian church found a different use for CarePacks. With a fresh, faith-filled outlook on life, the women from this new church have a zeal for learning to read and write – especially in English. Because of this desire, a Women’s Literacy program formed. They realized the CarePacks were perfect for increasing the learning experience. Armed with their own notebook, pens, and pencils, these women have the tools for practicing their new writing skills. When they received their CarePacks, these happy women proudly began singing their ABCs! They couldn’t wait to show off what they learned.

CarePacks for adults

Learning is fun for all ages! You can help provide education opportunities by simply helping GAIN get CarePacks into the hands of children (and excited women) in tough places in the world. Visit the GAIN gift catalog, or learn how you can host a CarePack drive in your community!

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Refugees in My Backyard

Worldwide, almost 60 million people have no choice but to leave their homes due to war and violence. These people generally flee to other parts of their country or to neighboring countries. Imagine running away with only what you can carry, ending up in an unfamiliar place with no home, no job, and no food.

Managing to flee to the United States seems like a dream come true, right? But, consider the struggle even here – securing a place to live, getting a job without knowing the language, learning to use the transportation system, grasping new customs… Even purchasing food at the market is an overwhelming experience.

I recently learned of a local organization that resettles refugees, helping them in all aspects of making a new life in a city half the world away from their home. This week, I visited four resettling refugee families who live a 40-minute drive from my home. A co-worker and I took a practical money-saving gift to families with daughtersLuoPacks, washable reusable feminine hygiene kits.

A woman from Eritrea discovered a little over a year ago that she has ovarian cancer. Since living here, she has received treatments that seem to be working. Her husband had to quit work to take care of their five children. Now that she’s getting stronger, he hopes to return to work soon. Where would she be if she had not come here?

IMG_4883Feeding seven children and keeping a roof overhead makes money very tight for one Iraqi family. The mother asked desperately for a solution to the monthly needs of her and her four daughters. Disposable hygiene supplies are expensive, especially when you’re simply trying to keep food on the table.

We visited a family from Congo. Three sisters, probably in their late teens or early twenties, greeted us and somewhat shyly accepted our gift after we did our show and tell. One girl in particular was giddy when we asked if we could take a picture with her. Giggling, she took off her jacket, and smoothed her shirt. Then, she put on a customary solemn face for the picture. Their hospitality, despite their meager resources, showed such kindness. One of the girls quickly began preparing a meal, but we only had a few minutes to stay. I hated that we had to decline. I’m sure she was disappointed, too.

IMG_4886

Our final stop took us to a complex where we found our new Somali friend in the laundry facility. She took us to her apartment where she made sure we each had a chair and a bottle of water. As I began to pull the items from the bag, her eyes lit up and she excitedly began digging in the bag in her hand. This simple item we women take for granted was a major help for her and her girls. We laughed as she exclaimed, “Gracias!” over and over, not realizing her new vocabulary word was not English.

Her sentiment was fully understood, and You’re Welcome! My prayers are with these precious people and with those dedicated to helping them find their way.