From the Vatican to the Village


Fireworks in human form.

Jake Casale is a student from Dartmouth and had the opportunity to visit ROWAN Uganda two summers ago. He has a tremendous gift in journalism and recently wrote a blog about the people of Mawanga. It paints a beautiful picture in words.
“I recently had the opportunity to visit the Vatican City and marvel at the glorious works of artistic and architectural achievement that lie within its walls. My day in the shadow of Michelangelo’s Pieta was couched at the end of a week-long visit to Italy, during which I was blessed to see some of the biggest masterworks of Western art history. As I traveled, I was struck anew by the pre-eminency of the Biblical narrative in these works: a plethora of sculpture and painting depicting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event steeped in extreme sadness and joy, the lynchpin in God’s cosmic plan to liberate all from the bondage of sin and death. European churches are known for their immensity and overwhelming beauty, and they were purposefully constructed in this way to reveal the grandeur of God’s character and grace. I’d experienced this grandeur throughout my Italian voyage, but the last destination delivered the greatest sense of awe: St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. No words could do justice to the basilica’s interior, so I recommend a quick jaunt through Google Images to get a sense of my surroundings. Suffice it to say, I was filled with such a great measure of joyful appreciation for the Lord that I couldn’t contain myself. My friend offered to take a picture of me, so I went to the basilica’s center and threw my arms toward the ceiling in an expansive, triumphantly happy posture. Yet no sooner had two seconds passed before I was sharply jabbed in the shoulder by an older woman, who said angrily, “Church! Temple!” She left only when I put my arms down and resumed a somber walk throughout the basilica.
Now, I understand that there are a myriad number of cultural differences in how people express devotion to God, but I couldn’t help chuckling to myself imagining what this devout woman would think if she were dropped into the middle of the tiny church building in Mawanga. I remember, on a hot Sunday in the summer of 2014, seeing nearly every arm in the building raised as the presence of God pulsed magnificently throughout the tiny, enclosed space during our worship service. Women dressed in traditional attire danced with reckless abandon, smiles wide and voices whooping. Men moved just as energetically or bowed in prayer over an orphan suffering from malnourishment or a widow whose sickness had just progressed further. It seemed as though every heart in the building was unshackled, all pains and worries and fears colliding with the incandescent joy of the salvific promise. The result was fireworks in human form. To me, an American college student, this was the true liberation that Christ came to offer. The grandeur of God revealed not through what man builds with his hands, but through the very souls of His children. That’s when I knew that my brothers and sisters in this remote African village had a very special gift: intimacy with God. The kind of intimacy that comforts and enlivens the heart in the face of the hardest trials and circumstances. I saw women alight with joy who had broken down into tears just days prior as they recounted their life stories to our team.

Untouchable joy does not erase suffering, but it whitewashes it.

And I could see that from that whitewashing was emerging a transformed community. Shards of the same joy were evident in the faces of the women who gave us a tour of their passionfruit garden, the result of agricultural and business skills gained through partnership with ROWAN and personal ownership of the vision God had sowed in their hearts. One could see it percolating between members of a savings group as they successfully took another step toward financial stability. It was present in Pastor David Wafula’s exuberant preaching to the crowd that had gathered to listen to our sessions on leadership skills, and it animated their laughter as they engaged our team in a dialogue about prioritizing tasks and replenishing spiritual fuel. I am convinced that the children in the village are the unbridled embodiment of joy, for I have never seen so much zest for life expressed through a soccer game as I did when I was roundly trounced by several pairs of little legs that wouldn’t let me keep the ball for more than a second at a time. And I believe the hope in Christ from which this joy springs will continue to enable the partnership between ROWAN and the village of Mawanga to empower the region and challenge accepted notions of what international development partnerships look like, as my notions were challenged and reshaped during my blessed two weeks in that little corner of Uganda. Hope doesn’t disappoint because Christ doesn’t disappoint—and that is a promise worth celebrating.”
Watch latest ROWAN video here.

Up next, Ezeresi for Sponsorship!

Ezeresi 147
Friends, we have 44 more women and children to sponsor and then we have done something significant. That will mean we have sponsored all our direct ROWAN members to date! What does that mean?

We can ensure every child gets an education, and every widow receives the support she needs.

Let’s get Ezeresi sponsored today!

You raised $9,000 in 3 days!


Family IS more than blood.

Two years ago I took Pastor Paul’s hand and danced around this dream land. Then only a few weeks ago the March Team was dancing around this same 5.5 acres! The land is fertile for crops, flat for building community centers, and a place I felt God’s presence. We prayed over it, declared that in one month’s time this land would be ours. I knew God could do it, but little did I know He’d give us three days to do it!
We got home from the trip, exhausted from all the good memories and BOOM. I got an email from Pastor Paul. It said, “Kelsey, the landlord is demanding the $8,800 for the land by March 31st. What should we do?”

This was the beginning of my faith being tested.

I threw my phone across the room. My first thought was to give up. $9,000 in a few days? That is too much for me. And that was exactly the point. God wanted me to HAVE to depend fully on Him. And He invited me to share this need with others. Now let me be honest, I don’t like asking for money like that. I’d rather poke my eye out. But when I’m asking for funds for the land that will leave a lasting legacy for ROWAN, God gave me total strength and excitement!
So I sent it out into the Facebook and Instagram world. “$8,800 in three days needed for land!”
And I waited. Quickly I saw some funds coming in from friends, family and new-found friends! The number started to drop. $7,500….$6,800….$5,700. I could not believe my eyes. By March 31st we only had $2,750 left! I reviewed all the numbers because that just couldn’t be right. But it was.
Yesterday 20 people stepped up to get us down to zero. And by 6:00 pm, we had reached $8,900! Even more than we needed!

I love when God shows off.

I want to thank each and every one of you not only for giving, but increasing my faith. You believe in this ministry, you believe in me. You believe in the God we serve, and together we CAN do the impossible.
Wherever you are today, whatever you’re doing, just drop everything and do the happy dance with me! God saw us dancing with hope years ago..and sees us dancing together today!

Reflections on #MarchTeam from Co-Founder

From the HOPE Mural, to the soccer games, to the home visits, to the praise dancing, to the house building, to the rich conversations under the stars- this trip was laced with memories of a lifetime. God blessed us with an amazing team of creatives, entrepreneurs and justice seekers which made for a colorful group of world-changers.
As the one who started ROWAN with Pastor Paul under a tree 13 years ago…I was in constant amazement at what God has done. It is a rare gift that I am able to look back that long ago and see Hope grow out of pure faith. Pastor Paul has the faith that can literally move mountains. And it has. Faith has moved the mountains of suffering…depression…sickness…and despair. In the past Mawanga was a village known to be full of drunkards and illiterate farmers, but today people come from across the globe because something revolutionary is happening. Families are now empowered. Children are now educated. Village life is now full of tangible hope…because of faith. God’s word never returns void. And His word now lives in Jane, in James, in Matilda… in them all.
God was gracious enough to connect us with BC Serna, a talented videographer who will soon complete our ROWAN video! In the meantime, stories will begin flooding our website and a ministry that started with tears of sorrow is now moving with tears of joy.
When I asked Pastor Paul what brings him joy as this ministry grows he said,

Kelsey, ROWAN has earned the right to be heard.

Our ROWAN voice is getting louder and the district, region and nation are now supporting our vision. We are believing for the First Lady of Uganda to visit ROWAN this summer. Believe with us as we have faith that she will come and not only see….but join us.
Kelsey Hargadine

A Story of Grace and Healing


Recently the power of God in healing has been demonstrated on an extraordinary level in Mawanga. A caregiver named Tappenesi, who has been dear to ROWAN for 10 years became very ill late last year. So ill that most thought she would pass away. Through God’s grace she received the attention she needed by being sent to a hospital in Kampala. She went from not being able to move, talk, or eat to sitting up, holding conversations and eating solid foods! However, this story is not that simple. Tapp’s daughter Veronika was by her mothers side and tried anything she could to heal her mother. Read Veronika’s testimony, entailing the trials and tribulations and ultimately the strong power of healing through Jesus Christ for her mother.
Veronica’s testimony:
“My name is Veronica Alowo, I am 29 years old and live in Bisambira Mawanga .
I am a single mother with three children, two boys and one girl. My mom is Tappenesi Omara and my dad is Moses Omara and they live in Mawanga.
When my mom was sick I left my home and started taking care of my mom. My mom’s sickness worsened day by day so ROWAN decided to take her to the hospital in Jinja for a check up. While in the hospital the doctors tried to  find out what was causing her problems but  they could not find anything. After that they decided to bring her back home.
As a family we thought that our mom was being bewitched  so we decided to go to the witchdoctor in Nnodwe. When we got to the witchdoctor, they told us that our mom did not shave her hair when she lost her mother [ our grand mother ] and he told us that was the reason as to why our mom was feeling pain in the neck and in the head. So he told us to bring 4 goats, 2 sheep, 8 chickens and 380,000 ug shs. We went home and I wanted to sell my house but when pastor Paul’s wife heard about it she came to me and told me not to. I didn’t hear her so I sold my house which I had bought at 1.8 million and I sold it at 1.2million. We took the things to the witchdoctor and he slaughtered the animals, corrected all the blood and washed our mom after he covered her to sleep. Pastor Paul asked me where our mom was, I lied to him and said that she was in Iganga in the hospital. While all that was going on our mom could not talk or eat. Our father had not allowed us to try the witchdoctor because our father never believed in witchdoctors.
After two weeks we came back home in the evening with some necklaces and some other things from the witchdoctor to use. The next morning Jane, Pastor David’s sister came and found our mom wearing those things we got from the witchdoctor I was ashamed because I thought she will go and tell Pastor Paul so I did not even greet her. Church members used to come and pray for her and she was greeting better but wherever they moved out we applied our things from the witchdoctor and the situation worsened.
After one week pastor Paul came in the morning and took her to another hospital in Jinja for check up but still they could not find the disease so I told my aunt that these doctors were lying so we went back home and we as family still believed that our mom was being bewitched so we continued using and following the instructions from the witchdoctor but the church members never got tired of coming and praying for her.
On the 24th of December pastor Paul sent his wife to come and tell us that ROWAN was taking our mom to the hospital in Kampala.I personally refused because I thought they were going to kill our mom so we opposed but my father had accepted. At 5 pm, pastor David came with the ambulance and they took our mom to Kampala and I remained crying for my mom at home. On the 29th of December I went  to Kampala to the hospital to see my mom. I found her feeding in the tube. I was there for two weeks  and some born again Christians used to come and pray for her. One day a certain pastor came and told my mom to only believe though she was not talking. The pastor prayed for her and he left. At evening I was seated in the room eating some rice and my mom was looking at me surprisingly.  She asked me “does Morren know this place?”  [ Morren is our last  born]. Instead of answering yes or no I just ran away and went to the reception called the Doctors and told them that my mom was TALKING. We went back to the room and I tried giving her some food in the mouth and she ate it. I was extremely happy for my mom. After a long period of  time without talking and eating GOD made it happen.
After she told me that she wanted to talk to Morren. I rushed and bought some airtime and called Pastor David and Pastor Paul. I told them that mom was talking so joy was everywhere. I called my brother and asked for Morren. I put my phone on the loud speaker and mom said hello to morren. Morren answered and even told mom how she passed her  primary leaving examination. From there I began believing in the prayers and that GOD is ABLE. I started feeding her and since then I was the happiest person and people started calling me TAPP JUNIOR. But all along I had not confessed CHRIST as my personal Lord and Savior but I  used to go for fellowship. My mom has even started making choices of the foods she wants to eat and she is even feeding herself, GOD IS GOOD.
One day when we were in Kampala, Pastor David came with his son called Solomon and I told Solomon that one day I will stand and confess Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. After some time we shifted and came to Jinja to another hospital and my mom is improving day by day. On the 28th of January 2015 in the hospital I decided to confess and take Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.
With God all things are possible. My mom and ROWAN are not of a clan. It is because of the GRACE that GOD has and ROWAN has treated my mom well and she is getting better everyday.
Thank you so much Kelsey, Pastor Paul, Pastor David and the ROWAN family for the support and love you have demonstrated towards my mom’s health.
May the mighty God bless you abundantly”

What is ROWAN really like in the village?

They Call Me Abua

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a small glimpse into my 2011 internship with ROWAN
When Kelsey asked me to guest blog about my summer internship with ROWAN I was suddenly overwhelmed with amount of stories and moments I wanted to share. I had no idea how to describe on paper what was felt and experienced so fully in the heart. However, I want to share with you guys a glimpse of my journey to and from Mawanga and my hope is that it inspires you to be apart of the ROWAN family and GO.
I was born with a heartbeat for social justice and that part of me came alive in high school when a teacher mentored me towards a better comprehension of so many human rights violations occurring in the world every single day. During that time I learned about the evils happening in Uganda and the only thing to follow was activism. I was blessed with incredible parents that let me sleep in New York City parks, skip school to lobby in DC, and rescue ride in vans with total strangers so we could spread the need for change with resilient hope. The end goal for so many of us was to go to Uganda and be in person with the people we were fighting for.

Little did I know that goal was not the end, but the beautiful beginning of something I now carry with me every day.

When Kelsey accepted me to come along as an intern there were no words to describe how excited I was to finally go meet and help them. Oh how naive I was! Naive to think that I would show up and change their lives, when the exact opposite happened. I arrived in Mawanga and without hesitation the people welcomed me to their table, into their lives, and they called me Abua. It was my life that was changed and I traveled home a few months later knowing so much more grace, love, healing, joy, and feeling fiercely alive!
There are so many reasons why I left that special village changed, but one thing I will always carry with me is how we began and ended our day as a family. We would wake up to find that Pastor Paul and Mama had already been up before the sun praying for the day ahead and preparing breakfast. We would drag ourselves out of bed and meet them at their humble breakfast table and this definitely-NOT-a-morning-person would begin her day with popcorn, a sense of full presence, and a vision for the day ahead. Then we would be sent out and our job as interns for the summer was to collect stories, observe, gather information, and brainstorm self-sustainable programs that would practically empower and support the orphans and widows.
For me, the absolute best part of our job was to love the orphans and the only gift we had to give them was our time. So the majority of our day was spent breaking the language barrier with dance and trying to play soccer in our skirts. When that golden African sun came up we were apart of their day-to-day routines and when the sun went down I had never slept so well in my entire life. We worked hard all day and slept hard all through the night. Well, expect for one night when a spider bit Kelsey on the face and I crashed a boda-boda in the village center. I can’t paint a picture of the entire summer being blissful and perfect. No matter the scale, every day there was something challenging that came our way, but we would learn from what was thrown at us and our own mistakes as a team.
The end of our day was always book-ended back at the table as a family with tired bones, heavy eyes, bug spray in our pockets, and potently smelling like wet-wipes. I remember so clearly how we would spend that time sharing about our day, reflecting with so much gratefulness, and in stitches at Pastor Paul’s hilarious little stories that can bring even the groggiest of interns into eye watering laughter.
For me the internship was everything I hoped for and more because of the orphans’ infectious joy and that humble little table in Mawanga, Uganda.

Wherever you are in life I hope that you have a table where you gather with your family; and if you don’t I hope that you that you seek or create one! So that you can be filled up, challenged, loved and then sent out into your day/life/dreams/moments feeling fully known and fully loved!

Maybe you did not spend years dreaming about Uganda and maybe it is not a journey you need to take to discover yourself. However, wherever you are in life I hope that you always always always take the chance to bring yourself, just as you are, to gather around the ROWAN table. If you have the chance to GO I hope you say “YES!” to visiting Mawanga to become apart of this beautiful family!
– @Aubrey_Ford
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