When our son, Jake, was at Dartmouth College, he spent part of a summer working with ROWAN in Uganda. Read more about that here! As a result, we began our first sponsor relationship with a young man named Mugabi Cyrus. Jake met Cyrus in the village and said Cyrus was a strong and eager participant in the leadership training sessions. As we prayed about someone to sponsor, God spoke swiftly and clearly that is should be Cyrus.
And here’s the thing—while we felt good about helping Cyrus, we had no idea that he would give us far more than we could ever give him. He loves us without reservation and calls us family. As we pray for him he prays for us. He worked hard in school and got an art degree—he is very talented. He calls our sons, Jake and Jonah, his brothers, and my husband and I, mom and dad. He is our “son” that we’ve never met. He has taught us uniquely more about the love of God. His faith in the most difficult circumstances has been a light to our family.
Cyrus graduated out of the sponsorship program but he is still our son, friend, and prayer partner. When co-founder Kelsey Hargadine visited Uganda in May, Cyrus gave her a backpack he made for us—made fully by his hand. She mailed it to us in Washington state and I cried and smiled at the beautiful stitching, the hand embroidered message, the thoughtfulness of a young man who works hard as an entrepreneur and who is now a volunteer for ROWAN. We are humbled and proud to know Cyrus and excited to see how God loves and leads him in the days ahead.
Do you ever wonder if you’re making a tangible difference in the world? I know I do. Due to the nature of a 24/7 news cycle, social media, and a constant state of being “plugged in”, we are faced with information about a groaning world seeking help. We are presented with daily multiple needs and requests. It can get pretty overwhelming, even when we give money, labor, time, prayers, or other resources in answer to God’s call. Sometimes we don’t even answer because of that overwhelmed feeling. There is something that happens, though, when we obey God. Matthew 22:34-40 says:
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they met together in the same place. One of them, an expert in the Law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus told him, “”You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is exactly like it: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Amber Thurow is a ROWAN sponsor who recently returned from visiting Uganda with a team of people led by co-founder Kelsey Hargadine. Amber sponsors a widow she has never met named Rachel. Amber was looking forward to meeting Rachel in Uganda.
A little while ago, before the trip, Rachel became very ill with infected kidneys. Her condition was serious, and Amber sent some extra money to help cover her medical fees. Soon after the team’s arrival in Uganda, Amber and Kelsey were helping out in the village clinic. A woman came through the doorway and it was Rachel! She was there for her check-up—Amber was stunned to see how well she was doing! Both women were filled with joy. Rachel couldn’t stop telling them how happy she was that she was feeling better…so she can take care of her children.
Amber found out what happens when we obey God. We are first to love Him with everything we are and everything we have. And we are to love our neighbor as ourself. Amber does that and doesn’t have to worry if she is making a tangible difference. God gives blessing, joy, and peace to those who love and obey Him.
Amber, Kelsey and the team visited Rachel in her home and spent time in fellowship and prayer. Rachel shared her favorite verse, Luke 14:13:
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…”
Rose Namufuta is a mother of eight. Her husband died in August of 2016 and she was left to care for her children. Rose works hard to support her children by digging in neighbouring gardens. She brings her children along with her while she works and will earn about $0.20 a day. She is a new member to the ROWAN family and is very thankful for the love she has been shown.
Rose loves Jesus and has known him for a while now. When the team went to visit Rose in her home and meet her children they sang and prayed with her. Her children Doreen,John and Monica are awaiting sponsors, which will help support Rose, as caring for eight children can be difficult.
Please consider helping to welcome Rose to the ROWAN family by sponsoring one of her three children.
What’s In a Name?
As someone who loves to read and write, I love words. A perfectly-turned phrase can make my heart go zing. String those phrases and sentences together and we can read or listen to something that makes us laugh, cry, fume, gasp, and absorb.
In 2019, there are A LOT of words out there. Because they are available to us 24/7/365, they can overwhelm and cause us to turn away. Or cause us to only turn to memes about dog, cats, and Marvel movies.
We can get desensitized to what we read and hear and it’s understandable. This can cause us to take in diluted meaning and truth, or put a hand up to say, “Stop”. Sometimes a break is good. And sometimes forcing ourselves to slow down and ponder the truth of what we are reading is also good. We’ve known for a long time now what AIDS is, but have you read the definition lately? I looked at the meaning of each word in the name ROWAN and it stopped me short. Please read what each of the words in the ROWAN title means. From Webster’s Dictionary:
RURAL: of or relating to the country, country people or life, or agriculture
ORPHANS: a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents
WIDOWS: a woman who has lost her spouse or partner by death and usually has not remarried, or whose spouse or partner leaves her alone
AIDS: a disease of the human immune system that is characterized cytologically especially by reduction in the numbers of CD4-bearing helper T cells to 20 percent or less of normal thereby rendering the subject highly vulnerable to life-threatening conditions (such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) and to some (such as Kaposi’s sarcoma) that become life-threatening and that is caused by infection with HIV commonly transmitted in infected blood especially during illicit intravenous drug use and in bodily secretions during sexual intercourse
NETWORK: a usually informally interconnected group or association of persons; a fabric or structure of cords or wires that cross at regular intervals and are knotted or secured at the crossings
Whether you are part of the ROWAN family or just learning about Eastern Uganda, to pause and understand what ROWAN is, what each word in the name means, is a good thing. It helps us remember in the 21st century glut of words that we can look clearly at the people in the village, at their pain and their hope, at their knotted and secure relationships with God and each other, and know the truth. The words of ROWAN allow us to learn and help and not turn away.
This week the world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, caught fire. Part of her centuries-old structure was destroyed, and her grand spire burned away.
Historian Yvonne Seale writes at vox.com:
Notre Dame de Paris was never the preferred cathedral of kings. Notre Dame was instead the cathedral of ordinary Parisians. Since the Middle Ages, it’s been the backdrop against which the city’s inhabitants have lived their lives. The building, which stands on a small island in the Seine River, was a constant amid the upheaval of the French Revolution and the terrors of the Nazi occupation. As one 14th century scholar wrote, the cathedral was “like the sun among stars.”
There’s been a church on the site now occupied by Notre Dame since at least the sixth century. In 1163, Bishop Maurice de Sully launched an ambitious project to build a new cathedral for the city’s growing population. For centuries, the cathedral has been a tourist draw, a meeting spot, a place of refuge in times of crisis. It fostered both the beginnings of the University of Paris and, quite literally, the city’s abandoned children in the orphan home it ran.
“It’s just a building,” some say. “It can be rebuilt.” This is true. However, people bond with places. And the longer a building exists, the more memories are housed there and in the people who make it part of their lives. The cathedral has stood for centuries as a symbol of beauty, help, and refuge. Sometimes a building matters.
ROWAN is building a Hall of Hope. Why build a hall? Ten years ago ROWAN began under the Ugandan trees. Most organizations start up and fairly quickly look for a building. Widows and orphans began gathering with ROWAN staff under the trees, in harsh weather, rain or shine, with no thoughts of a building. But God began to bring more women and children to ROWAN and ten years later the family is overflowing! The Hall of Hope will have two large classrooms for tutoring, literacy, Bible studies, tailoring, jewelry-making, and much more. There will be additional office space; most of us know the value of a desk or table to work from. What might be most exciting though is that the Hall holds 600 people and will be able to house the entire ROWAN family, at once. The ROWAN family has never had a place where they can all gather together. In the past, it was difficult to even get people to come on the property, as the word AIDS is in our name. The shame and stigma are high. But God lovingly brought dignity to those who came, and more came, and it became clear it was time to give them a place, a beautiful building, their “sun among stars”. They can look at their Hall of Hope now and think, “WOW, that is for me.” People will pass by and see who this beauty is for.
We know that Notre Dame began as a place for ordinary Parisians to worship God. “If anyone is worth a beautiful building, let it be the widows and orphans. ROWAN is their family and the Hall is our family room.”— Co-founder Kelsey Hargadine
The Hall of Hope will be dedicated on May 26, 2019.