A Journey to the Village

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Happy Monday! Traveling to Mawanga for the first time can be quite the culture shocking experience. Below you can read an eye opening encounter of a summer team member’s first time in Uganda. She tells us the stories of the local people and her biggest takeaway from her visit, HOPE.

Jambo (Hello) Friends!

Wow, what a journey the past two weeks have been! I had expectations coming into this trip, but all of those expectations were broken when I actually got to Uganda and met the people there, who under oppressions we cannot even fathom having in America, are still joyously praising God day after day.

People such as Aisha, whose husband died two years ago, which left her a widow and mother of eight children. After their house burnt down, they moved into two tiny rooms in Aisha’s brother-in-law’s house, but they are fearful of being removed if the brother-in-law ever returns to the house he abandoned. However, despite the pain and loss Aisha has encountered in her young life, she still came to our leadership seminar (which we held the first two days in the village) and smiled and laughed. Oh, how this woman makes me so cautious of my own actions. How can I complain about not having any clothes to wear or any food to eat when I can open my refrigerator or closet and see abundance? How can I complain about sharing a room with my sister, when the size of my room is half of the living space that Aisha was living in? I came on this trip ready to experience firsthand hardships that I had only previously heard and read about-but I ended up being drawn in and connected to these beautiful people in ways I could never imagine. Though our circumstances may vary, we can both be united in that we worship the One true God who restores all hope in us.

“Because Hope doesn’t disappoint…”

The above phrase, which is the motto of ROWAN, the organization that I served alongside with in Mawanga, was the key phrase of the trip. We saw how ROWAN has supported some of the widows in the community by empowering them to start a passion fruit plot and then sell the fruits to earn money. Also, with the help of sponsors from around the world, we saw how kids were receiving a means to an education, medical services, and Bible instruction. The village of Mawanga is truly on the move and is creating such an example for the other villages. After 10 years, ROWAN is serving people in over 30 villages! I’m excited to see how God uses ROWAN and Mawanga to bring light to the saving grace of the Gospel! Please continue to pray for the efforts of those involved with ROWAN in Mawanga and throughout Uganda. Pray for increased resources to meet the many needs of the people (everything from health care to food to education to jobs) and for ROWAN to continue to strive to represent the love of Christ. Pray for the stigmatization of those infected with HIV/AIDS to disappear- the stigmatization is greatly debilitating to families and to the psychological health of the infected.

While in the village, we stayed at the home of Pastor Paul and his wife “Mama”. We got to experience true village life…which means bucket showers and pit latrines! Definitely a new exposure for myself and the rest of the team, but what better way to connect with the people than to experience part of how they live life there!  I arrived back in the US only wanting to eat local Uganda foods, such as Mendazi (fried dough-similar to a donut), chapatti (thick tortilla like bread), Gnut sauce (similar to peanut sauce), and more. However, most of all, I missed the loving people I had met.

I want to end this letter with HOPE. Throughout the trip, people I met would talk about how the world only hears the negative side of Africa. In many ways, this is true. The only time we hear about Africa on the news is when a new war breaks out or a government falls apart, or a disease claims the lives of many. However, these beautiful people of Africa showed us just how loving, resilient, strong, passionate, and most importantly, committed followers of Christ that they are. I was so amazed at how many men of the community were actively involved in their church and how passionate they were about God and about the hope that ROWAN has brought back to their community and people. Pastor Paul and his congregation are planning on building a bigger two-story Center (called the “Hall of Hope”) that will also function as a meeting area for literacy classes, vocational training, health training and more. In fact, the center has already begun to be built. However, the construction had to stop because the funds ran out. Many people have asked Pastor Paul why they would start building if they can’t finish it. But Pastor Paul simply replied, “God told us to start building it.” These people have tremendous trust and appreciation for God that I think can be an example for all of us to grow in our faith. They may not know where their next meal will come or if they will be able to afford their child’s education fees, but they are trusting and depending on a God who will provide. How encouraging is that?!

Michaela Garretson
 
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Album Release: The Reid Phifer Project gives 100% to ROWAN

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ROWAN has recently had the great blessing of having a worship album dedicated to us: our widows and orphans. Through the joy of praise and worship, women and children are empowered and our community is lifted up.
Reid Phifer is a worship leader and song writer who is originally from the great state of Arkansas. He currently lives in Lakewood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) with his wife and two kids. There in Lakewood he serves as the Worship and Operations Pastor for Cross Point Church. Cross Point is a church that he helped to plant approximately 7 years ago. Back in 2011, Reid released a solo album recorded in Nashville, TN. titled “The Reid Phifer Project.” Reid and his wife Stacey had a unique approach in the recording, marketing, and sale of the album: First, Reid’s desire as a songwriter is simply to be faithful with the songs that God has given him. Second, 100% of the sales went to raise funds and awareness for a ministry that helped to rescue children from the sex trade industry.
Fast forward 3 years and Reid again found himself with enough original material to begin recording a full-length album. Reid and Stacey wanted to have the same approach to this new record and they began to pray about who this new album could be used to support. Reid says that “James 1:27 just kept coming to mind when praying over this project. It was pretty clear that God was telling me to use this to support Orphans and Widows. I wasn’t sure of a specific ministry but God made the focus he wanted me take very clear; Orphans and Widows.” That is when God allowed Reid and ROWAN’s paths to cross. Knowing Reid is an avid and passionate outdoorsman, one of his friends asked him if he had ever heard of Antlers For Orphans. He hadn’t but he began to check them out and the more he did, the more God began to stir his heart. That’s when he contacted us on Facebook and asked us if we could have a conversation about the operation of Antlers For Orphans. It was on that phone call with Kelsey and Thaddeus that Reid learned about ROWAN and their ministry to orphans and widows in Uganda. It was also on that phone call that he realized: “this is it. These are the folks God wants me to support with this album.”
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Fast-forward another few months and Reid has just wrapped up the new album. Again he was blessed to record in Nashville at Big Matador Studios with producer and musician Curt Ryle. Like the first album, Reid again is recording under the name of The Reid Phifer Project. This new album has a title name of “Songs of the Redeemed.” Reid says that “my prayer for this album is that God would use it to bring His redemption into many people’s lives. Certainly this will be tangible for what it is going to do for the Orphans and Widows through ROWAN. Even more importantly, this album is so centered around the Gospel and an invitation to receive it.”
Consider supporting ROWAN and investing in hope by purchasing the “Songs of the Redeemed” for only $8.
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