• sarah@healingeyes.org

Africa

Isaiah 54

On my refrigerator are magnets of each of the 23 kids we have sponsored through Healing Eyes and families in Michigan. When I look back at how we started and that this website was actually used be an Adoption Story blog and later a Cancer blog that it seems fitting that today it’s full of children’s smiles. It’s not what my heart wanted or desired but God wanted these children to have a chance in life and to bless our lives in the process. I wanted a traditional family with 1 or 2 kids, drop them off at school and picking them up, going to concerts and sport events cheering on my child. But sometimes in life we don’t get what we want but we get what God wants. I have to smile when I see these kids of mine on my refrigerator every day, knowing that they are a part of my life and there joys and sadness are a part of my life now.

It’s a holiday break right now in Uganda and our kids are back in the villages and perhaps some of them are changed after being away for 3 months. I hope they have learned something in school and can now see life in the village with more opportunities than before. That our little orphan ‘Mary’ will now smile more, and have more confidence because she can go to school now.

“Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)

“Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.

Healing Eyes

Proud of our Widows

There is nothing more reassuring than seeing these smiling faces succeed on their own. We planted an idea, a skill, into the minds of a few ladies and then stood back to watch if it would take hold. So far both the tailoring and now even the knitting has grown momentum. This is one of our ladies showing off the knitted caps she finished with no other help than the initial training she received back in February. We left her with the tools and the rest was up to her.

Next we have some crops that needed weeding and our very own students are helping with the work. These widows and young ladies are strong and dedicated.

The tailoring alongside the hair dressing classes are moving along at a great pace, all thanks to the team on the ground in Uganda working hard to continue our efforts. Who is this team? It’s local people from the country that understand the culture and knows how to get things done. God is great and has blessed us with a small group of men and woman we can partner with to impact lives for Christ. It’s more than handing out bibles and walking away, or even trips back and forth, it’s about these long term partnerships that will truly make a difference in the lives of orphans and widows. Time moves slower in Uganda but sometimes I think we move too fast in America and stress over every plan before just ‘doing’ something. If we can do this thousands of miles away than there is hope that through patience, endurance, and sticking to it God will continue to move mountains for us in the villages and in the hearts of people.

Healing Eyes

Faith

With success of our tailoring project we are trying to build up a community of widows and young girls in Uganda. With just 7 sewing machines we have been able to begin teaching several woman how to sew shirts, skirts, pants, and uniforms. Using just brown cement papers at first and later as they advance we are using local fabrics. How did we ever end up in the business of tailoring though when we first had our sights set on a children’s school?

Our hopes have always been to help widows and the tailoring classes have allowed us a way forward in doing that. In the mean time we do hope to someday build a school for kids but that’s on hold because it’s just not God’s time yet. As we keep waiting to move forward at least we have so many good things happening. Over 20 kids in boarding schools are getting an education, around 10 ladies are studying tailoring, and we have 10 new baby piglets born.

I think we tend to see big ideas and want to make those happen immediately but often we have to slow down and wait out the storms before making those big ideas happen. The school is a big idea and an overwhelming task that needs a whole lot of prayers and key people to come together to make it happen. Often it seems like this journey is a lot of drama and unreal events that take place, from good to bad.

We have seen strangers step up to help us in unlikely ways, such as, planting a new fence and plowing our fields. Woman coming every day to learn and children studying hard at boarding schools. We’ll get there some day with faith and perseverance.

Healing Eyes

Healing the Earth

The rains are here and we are busy planting crops and bushes in the village. This is the time of year when the land is green and the red dust has blown away revealing a ripe soil ready for growth. Thank you for helping us grow over the years. It’s amazing that it’s been 4.5 years since the journey began!

Healing Eyes

I’ll never understand

Maybe someone can explain why it’s so difficult to have parents pickup their kids from boarding school? This is one area about Uganda I’ll just never completely understand because it’s such a small request. In Uganda it all comes down to transport…the cost of public transportation. In my mind it’s such a small cost to pay for a child to study at boarding school and when it comes to holiday breaks it’s our hope parents will pick their kids up. Some of them will but the ones you expect to do it because they seem so close to their children and loving, just won’t pay the taxi fee to pick their kids up. Why?

Of the culture clashes with America this one isn’t talked about much. Usually we think of languages, food, weather, education, and so on. But the cost of public taxi, also called transport, has got to be the most frustrating difference between cultures when it comes to the children. Even when it comes to working with the government because everyone wants their transport expense paid for otherwise no business will happen.

It’s Easter break tomorrow and children are free to go home for 4 days to visit with their family and friends. Now here in America parents will pick their kids up daily from school or we are blessed to have public buses drop kids off too. In Uganda kids in boarding school are gone 3 months at a time and live at school, the school becomes their second home. So when you get a chance for a 4 day holiday break in my mind I would want to get my kids bright and early and spend time with them. Some parents do this but the majority never seem to go, giving the excuse of transport.

On the flip side the taxis over these holidays will charge more and take advantage of the increase in travelers. We do the same here in America over the 4th of July when gas prices go up.

Definitely one of the more frustrating obstacles in Africa when working with the parents and children who are sponsored.

Healing Eyes

Marching forward

As we move through the month of March we are seeing some great steps forward in our newest location started for sewing thanks to the donation of 2 more sewing machines.  It’s great to see our newest teacher is also proving to be a great find, we have a 3 teachers but or newest teacher seems to be the best. Part of our work is to help people grow in the skills they are great at and so we hope all 3 teachers will come together and share ideas to help each other. Prayers are needed for more teamwork and collaboration between the two sewing classes. It isn’t in the nature of people to want others to succeed because of the tendencies to become jealous when others are successful which makes programs like this so important. We are encouraging team work and sharing of ideas to give these widows and young girls the opportunities they want. Christ says you must teach others to ‘fish to eat’ and in time we hope and pray this tailoring project will accomplish just that, empowering the next generation in Uganda.

It’s the season of plowing and planting with the rains finally coming back to Eastern Uganda. We hired some oxen and workers to plow the land and prepare it for planting. Please keep this new project in your prayers.

All of this work can’t happen without support from you. We truly are dependent on your help to keep pushing forward for Christ in a foreign land. Thank you to everyone for praying and financially giving to Healing Eyes in 2017. This year don’t forget us as you think of a charity to support. Our organization is small but our footprint is growing, we are registered as a Community Based Organization in Manafwa district of Eastern Uganda. We have 22 children in boarding schools and none of this would have been possible back in 2015 when God founded us under the mission to Make A Difference in the Flavor of the world by Going and showing compassion to widows and orphans.

Donate today

Healing Eyes

Stop giving shoes

The hardest part of missionary work and working in a foreign country is finding people to trust even when you know it might be impossible because we will always be foreigners in their country. We sat in a restaurant while waiting for the plane to take us back to ‘home’ aka Michigan and their were these other mazungoos sitting at a big table dining with locals. We over heard their conversation and they had been working in a remote village and were helping build a school. Ha what a cliche really because that seems like what all foreigners are there to do, build a school. Does building a school really help these people? Is it really making a difference? The one woman was talking about how the poor children had no shoes and that they could send over boxes of shoes to the children. The local people nodded and said oh yes that would be great, those poor children need shoes. Ok so if you ever stayed long in Africa you’ll come across this often, giving away free clothing and shoes because it’s an easy thing to do. Send boxes of stuff that will bring a temporary smile to a child but after you leave those shoes fall apart, get stolen, or worse jealous kids might beat up another for them. In boarding schools some kids might destroy what the other child has out of pure jealousy and then that child is left with nothing again. Now the next time a mazungoo comes through they will now beg for a handout because that’s the message we just sent them…the cycle continues.

Giving free shoes also takes away from local people making a living off selling new shoes, shoes that might be better quality if there market wasn’t flooded with used shoes. If you walk through the markets of mbale you will see piles and piles of used shoes being sold on the market and those same shoes will fall apart a month later after the black shoe polish wears off them revealing how poorly made those shoes were. The stores that have nicer shoes are passed by because of all the piles of used shoes offered up as a cheaper solution. If you look closely into those piles of shoes you’ll see brands you’ll know, like Clarks and Adidas, second hand shoes that keep cycling through the market. Shipping boxes of shoes is when helping hurts, but they will take them because who wouldn’t turn down a freebie?

Africa… a continent full of poverty but also strong people that need more than handouts. It needs more than handouts and our second hand throw aways. Education for the children and perhaps more importantly education for the young adults that now outnumber the old. The young adults need something to do instead of hanging out at the trading center drinking booze and playing games, they need encouragement and opportunity to learn, to learn the value of a hard earned shilling the honest way. Half of these kids are just bored and need a push in the right direction. Trade schools can begin to open doors, primary schools can help young children to gain a firm foundation and succeed in their adult lives. Unlocking potential the long and difficult way instead of quick easy fixes of free sandals for kids.

Let’s hope and pray in time the handful of kids we support today will go on to do important things in their communities instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for them. Let’s pray in time we can reach the young adults who get caught up in doing wrong merely because they are bored and have nothing else to do. Let’s pray the children can see honesty as a better option than lying and cheating their neighbors to get ahead.

Healing Eyes

A day in Africa

A day in Africa is a day like no other. It’s mixed with many highs and lows. There’s an odd satisfaction one experiences here when accomplishing a task that in America would be so simple to do. For example…

  • Going to the grocery store is twice as difficult in Uganda than it is in Michigan.
  • Going to children’s homes is an ordeal. It involves parking the car and then walking far distances on dirt paths thru a blazing hot desert.  All so I can just share a report card and remind parents to buy school supplies. In Michigan this task would only entail a simple phone call.

Sigh…I’m tired and missing home. The simple conveniences of

  • Driving my car in a familiar city.
  • Fitting in and being unnoticed by people.
  • Sitting on the couch with my husband.

In Uganda, I’m being pulled in all directions. I’m visiting politicians , signing papers, designing a future school building, leading widows in a start-up tailoring program, and caring for kids that aren’t my own.
It’s all moving faster than usual in Uganda and I can’t help but think it’s God pushing me to hold up my end of the bargain. He’s calling me to actually build a school in a foreign country! Imagine that….too impossible and frightening for me to swallow whole..so I’m taking it in bites, one piece at a time.

nikki

Two extremes in our lives

It’s snowing and freezing here but in Uganda it’s blazing hot. Everyone always gives an overview of what the year was like when the new one starts and honestly 2017 was amazingly productive. When you think of a missionary it’s often the image of a married couple going off to a far away country to witness to others about Jesus, they go for years on end and come back to the states to fundraise every once and awhile. Missionaries give up a lot in life and sacrifice personal comforts to follow ‘the call’.

So when you look at Healing Eyes we don’t quite fit that image of ‘missionary’. Our work primarily relies on local Ugandans doing the day to day activities, running projects, and updating us back in the states of concerns and stumbling blocks for the project. We go to Uganda and check on projects started to see if they are sustainable, then we leave and see what the local people will do with the opportunity given to them. We maintain a base of operations in Tororo Uganda and use the internet to stay in contact and keep business running from abroad. Technology has opened up a new type of ‘missionary’ that doesn’t go for years on end to make a difference. Is that bad? Or is it allowing a shift in how we help the poor… by enabling them to take action to help themselves by planting little seeds of opportunity and seeing what grows and what doesn’t.

Our tailoring program is one of those seeds that was planted in June 2017 and since that time it has blossomed into a big blessing for 5 young woman who have taken advantage of a training program that they can use in the village or town. We hope this kind of ‘helping’ will cause a shift in dependency of a foreign NGO and put more power back in he hands of the people. It’s our hope to expand the project to another village and see what God does with the people’s lives affected by the program. Time will tell if it’s a success or another learning opportunity for us.

Our pig project has been slow lately and in need of a revitalizing approach. We have had successful pig litters but making any money off of the venture isn’t there yet. Prayers for what to do next with it or if it has run it’s course and will become self-sufficient.

Missionaries are always under the eyes of others and the need to be transparent in what we do is important. However, one thing that is not easy is the giving up of personal comforts, security, and freedom. The next time you see a missionary fundraising remember no one finds it comfortable to rely on others for support, it’s never easy asking for that donation, and it always weighs heavy the responsibility that comes with the donations to not let the donor down.

This past year we have endured some physical ailments and went through a couple surgeries for health but God has used those opportunities to allow Ugandans to do the work for God too. Missions isn’t about going off and telling other people what to do or how to act or to be hands on with everything.. it should be more about going and sharing ideas and beliefs and seeing what the people do with it. In our case the people we work with in Uganda are working hard on their own and collaborating on projects to take ownership and show us foreigners how to survive in their country. Along the way God shows himself through our actions and reminds us we are all weak and all need some compassion and love to make it in this life.

Here comes 2018 and we pray it bears more fruit for God and opens more eyes to the healing God wants to do in their lives. Even in our own lives we need some healing eyes:)

Healing Eyes

We’ve come so far

We finished our first term at our modest tailoring school. 5 students showed off their shirts, skirts, and dresses for the final exam. I even got to talk to them on the phone to hear how they were doing while I wait for answers on my medical issues before returning to Uganda. What a journey Healing Eyes has been on since starting back in 2014! Cancer, grieving a loss of my husband, leaving my paid job, moving to an island, moving to Uganda, getting cancer myself, and surgeries. But all along we started this tailoring program 6 months ago, we also have 20 kids in boarding school, bought land to build on, and just keep on persevering when it sometimes feels like all is lost. How is all this possible? Because God did it! He is behind every tear shed and every smile brought by showing compassion to His orphans and widows. We couldn’t have come this far without support from donors in America…. and Did you know that we are funded mainly by individual donors?

Big Thank you from all of us in Uganda and Grand Rapids:)

Healing Eyes