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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Marching against domestic violence with Mifumi!

Right, left, right, left! Here are the White Eagle team marching through Nyendo with Mifumi (a Uganda-based human rights NGO) to celebrate 16 days of activism against domestic violence. This is particularly pertinent for the White Eagles, since many of them initially came to us fleeing violence in their home environment.

According to the coordinator of Mifumi: “Nyendo is one of the places where we know that the rights of children and women – and even men – are being violated daily. Parents complain about their children’s disobedient behaviour, without recognising that they have contributed to this, by exposing them to constant fights and quarrels.
Similarly, some parents think that, because they suffered as children, their children must also suffer in life in order to achieve something – but this is a totally wrong perception. A child CANNOT be expected to study well in class if he or she doesn’t have peace at home. Don’t expect to have a better Uganda tomorrow, if we don’t create violence-free homes for our children today.”
It was an honour to be part of this event and we thank Mifumi for what they are doing to reduce domestic violence in our communities.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BIG congratulations to the wonderful Charles!

We hope you remember this fine young man, Charles, who was one of the first boys we welcomed from the streets, way back in 1999. He’s recently been part of the Leadership Academy, and has now trained in business administration, specialising as an accountant at Ndejje University!
Hard at work on our donated Macs!

“I am very happy that I have got this degree. If you had seen me eighteen years ago, you would hardly BELIEVE that I could now be in this position. I used to cause trouble at the project, but I know the Lord sees me as valuable, and loves me. He has provided for me, and changed me.

I want to thank River of Life Church for the care and love they have shown us all. We were very harsh back then, but we were accepted as we were and loved unconditionally. Thank you so much Pastor Duncan and Auntie Mary, for the good work you have done in us, and I promise to be a good and a responsible leader in my community.

Charles posing for his photo, on the left

I hope to serve as a good example to those that are still under the WEP – that they will know that everything is possible through Jesus who strengthens us and gives us perseverance. I am here to tell you that you will never have victory where there are no struggles and people are meant to be determined so as to make it through.”

We are so proud of him. May God bless all who have supported the White Eagle Project and Leadership Academy; because of you, we’ve been able to help Charles get to where he is now!

Meet Marvin!

We received a desperate plea for help at our Church, from a lady requesting money to enable her to transport a sick child home to the village. The child was initially hidden behind the pulpit, but when the lady held him up, the congregation was shocked to see his condition.

Even after a few days on the nutrition ward, his condition was shocking!

The reality was that this little 4 year old boy (whose mum had apparently died in childbirth) was on the brink of starving to death, with “lifeless eyes” and a tiny emaciated frame. On seeing the state of this child, our church members (many of whom only had enough money for food for the day) pulled money out of their pockets (NOT their tithing, as the offering had already been taken!). Together they were able to raise enough to send the child to the Nutrition Unit by themselves!

The first thing Elder Emily did was to rush to get a little milk for the boy, and apparently the little fella spotted the milk and strained his neck towards it with a look of real desperation in his eyes, as he was so so hungry. He wasn’t physically able to feed himself with his hands, nor could he walk (or even sit), but he started to heal slowly.

And just look at him now! Well on the road to recovery!

What a handsome boy!  Less than 6 weeks after he was admitted!

It’s actually hard to believe that this is the same little man. We’re so grateful to the staff who have diligently looked after him during his stay. We believe that God brought Marvin to River of Life for a reason and that this won’t be the last of our involvement with him. Please hold him in your prayers as we work out the way forward!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Just the kind of leader we like to see!

It’s been a little while since we’ve blogged about the Leadership Academy. Well don’t let the silence fool you – there’s a lot happening! Have you met Robert? He’s a student in Gulu University doing medicine and surgery. What a great opportunity to make a difference, and be a positive influence in his community.

In fact, Robert has already been taking on some leadership roles at his University – he tells us: “I very much enjoy my life at campus as a leader.. I work as a programmer in the Christian fellowship at campus and in the Medical sector, I’m a coordinator assisting students from Masaka Secondary School, a Canteen head, and a Sanitation Minister in the Guild Counsel”. Phew – all these titles make your head spin, don’t they?

He continues: “With all the roles that I play at campus, I thank the Lord for the courage he has given me to run them. I have been challenged in different ways and some of these challenges include managing my time to involve myself in different meetings, campaigns, balancing the books in the canteen and managing my own books.

The canteen that we handle as the medical students helps us to raise money to enable us reach out to different communities in Gulu, as we preach the gospel in action. The action includes treating the sick, helping out to clear bushes around homes so as to destroy the breeding areas for mosquitoes, and sweeping roads to improve on the sanitation of urban areas. We are so thankful that the Lord has enabled us do all those things.

I also take this opportunity to thank River of Life for supporting me and for structuring me into a good and responsible leader that will make a positive influence in my community.”

Well that’s the sort of leader we hope to raise as part of the Leadership Academy. Keep up the good work, Robert!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

United we stand; Divided we fall!

The young people at River of Life have always had a good time at their youth meetings, so they chose to occasionally invest whole Saturdays to attend (and organise) special Youth Events. These events include sports and games, doing community work so as to bless others, learning about business, and many other things. Their motto is: “United we stand and divided we fall”, as they hope to really see young men and women working together to achieve God’s will for their lives.

Preparing for serious work - and a little bit of silliness too!

The events can be tiring, but it’s well worth it, as the young people really see their lives, and approach to life, changing – their hearts becoming more and more open to working for others, and helping those who have a hard deal in life.

As for business, some of our youths have started simple businesses, whilst others are employed by other people. But the key is, they try to put God the first in everything they do, to honour their bosses, as well as caring for their customers. The young people encouraging each other to maintain integrity is exactly the kind of peer pressure we love to see!

Persist and Kellen get stuck in with building!

And when it comes to sports and games… well, it can get a little competitive!! But it’s great fun nevertheless.

Participating in these events teaches a lot about team work and organisation.  In a recent event, the young people bought pork and travelled up to the Misaali Prayer Mountain together for a cook-out… no small feat! The young people assign the different duties amongst themselves: some organised and sourced the equipment they would need, some made fire, some prepared the meat, whilst others were put in charge of cooking.

Tonny prepares the wood for the fire

It might not seem like a major learning opportunity, but in fact, the way they learn to communicate with each other is very important – we all end up working with many different people, in different situations, and learning to communicate well within a team sets you up well for the path for success!

Team work from chefs du jour: Kellen & James

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Teeny tiny miracles at the Baby Unit!

Asiimwe’s baby was in haste to arrive, popping out before her mother had a chance to reach the labour suite, at just 27 weeks gestation (one week below the official Ugandan “survivable gestation”). This did not bode well!

Nkozi Hospital gave the baby oxygen, but realised they were ill-equipped to provide for all her needs, so this cute little girl was referred to Kitovu Hospital. On admission to our baby unit, she weighed in at just 760 grams!

We provided warmth to her (via an Embrace warmer), antibiotics, aminophylline (to help prevent her from stopping breathing) and intravenous fluids – and closely monitored her blood glucose levels. On the second day of the baby’s life, we introduced small amounts of breast milk, and she grew slowly with the addition of breast milk fortifiers.

Some 38 days later, baby Fortunate weighed a stonking 1.26kg, and was discharged home with her very happy mum! Here she is on her day of discharge with Cathy (below). And on review a week later, she has grown even more! We as River of Life want to thank the nurses, headed up by Cathy, who work tirelessly to help more mums go home with healthy babies. And another big thank goes to those people who support the Baby Unit (and even specific babies!) in prayer, finance and tangible things such as equipment for the Unit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Multiplication of blessings!

These young people have received so much over the years from River of Life, and it was great to see them blessing the community around them, in Bujja village (the site of the River of Life church plant). They tirelessly collected firewood for the elderly ladies in the area, fetching water, and digging in the gardens. It’s all part of putting faith into action, and it was wonderful to be able to bless these new church members – they left some very thankful jjajas behind!

Despite the fact that such activities involve a lot of energy, the youth reported that “it’s cool to bless other people most especially the old ones – they hardly have any people to help them out with such heavy work”. They report that they’d like to do the same thing at least once every holiday – something that brings them to work together as a body of Christ, as well as an opportunity to enjoy one another’s company.

What they ALSO said was that they found they didn’t have enough tools to use for digging, jerry cans to carry water, and pangas to cut firewood. So if you would like to support this work, or help other aspects of River of Life outreach work (there are many!), then do get in touch!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Till we meet again!

The 28th of October 2015 was a day of sadness and mourning for River of Life Church, and a day of gladness and rejoicing in Heaven, as our senior pastor Duncan Kibaya finally went to Glory after 5 years of battling multiple myeloma (a kind of cancer of the bone marrow).

As most of you know, Pastor Duncan and his wife Mary are the founders of River of Life Ministries. His vision at times seemed so BIG as to appear impossible to our mere human minds, but he has achieved great things in his life for the glory of God.

Together, he and Mary started up the Church, and then (responding to a real need that they saw), welcomed a number of children who had been sleeping on the street, and the White Eagle Project was born!

He has been a big inspiration to many Pastors, and non-Pastors alike, all over Uganda. He hated tribalism, and worked hard to promote unity amongst the body of Christ. He reunited the leaders of Full Gospel and Elim Churches, helping to heal a previously acrimonious split, and bring harmony.

He was a man that loved and accepted everyone, regardless of where they were in life, and spoke positively towards everyone, and this drew many to follow his example. Not to say that he wouldn’t challenge behaviour – he DEFINITELY would. But with love!

On the 1st of November, we held a Thanksgiving Service to honour Pastor Duncan’s life – and as you might expect, the church was rammed! Many pastors from the region came, and spoke of him with great fondness. They described him as their role model, and spoke of the way that he cared for all people of all ages.

At River of Life, we thank God for this man’s life because he gave us a true and reliable example to follow. The fact is that we are going to miss him a lot, but we are going to move on with the ministry because he trained us well. He was never selfish with his skills, and instead used them to inspire others.

There’s a big Duncan-shaped hole in the world now, but hearing all the amazing testimonies about his life reminds us of the fruit left behind – and spurs us on to continue his good work, so that when we head to the Father, we too might be able to leave a legacy behind us.

Thank you everyone that has prayed for Pastor Duncan, but we now know that it was time for him to go Home and join the party!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Witchcraft wisdom!

Whatever you think about Harry Potter, witchcraft is no laughing matter here in Uganda! Pastor Nick is now safely back home in the UK, but before he left, he got a chance to visit some members of our church in their houses, as part of Betty’s community outreach.

The first person that we visited was Florence (seen in a photo below, on the left) who was happy to see us. She served us tea so Nick got a taste of our local Ugandan tealeaves. She then told us a story of how she got saved...

“My name is Florence, I have spent nineteen years in salvation and this is how I joined the journey…. I was married to my lovely and hardworking husband, who bought us a piece of land where we built our simple residence. After some years, he passed away, leaving me with three children. After his death, his family members wanted to take my house, and started doing all kinds of witchcraft. I discussed this with some friends, and they directed me to a witch doctor in a certain village. I set off right away, and as I reached this village, I found a lady by the roadside digging. I asked her whether she knew where this witchdoctor lived. She called me close to her, and warned me that all this woman would do would be to take my money. She explained that only Jesus could help with all the problems that I was facing.

I took her words to heart, and on my way back home, I found a group of Christians doing outreach. I stood and watched. I was convinced that Jesus wanted ME. I moved to the front and accepted Jesus as my Lord. After that I faced a number of oppositions from friends, but in the end I found a church to fellowship with. After some time, I got re-married to a man from River of Life, and that’s how I joined this church. I would like to thank the elders for being so loving and caring, and thank you again for sending my daughter, Veronica, to school.”

It was a narrow escape for Florence, as witchcraft is rife here in Uganda, and leads many people down a dangerous path. We’re really glad to have her with us at River of Life!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

No-one likes an angry woman!

We recently held a teaching session about anger at River of Life Church, inviting women from the local area to join us. We heard about ways to control our anger, how to understand our children better, and the importance of having a healthy relationship with our children. 

We’re really chuffed about this day, because several of our White Eagle staff had just been on a training course called Counselling Skills for Youth Workers – they were brimming with enthusiasm to share the material that has been so practically useful in our Children’s Home.

Leading the session was Auntie Sarah, who used a variety of art and craft activities to teach parents ways of dealing with anger in their children. This involved equipping parents to communicate better with their children, emphasising the need to help their children to express their feelings in a healthy way, and exploring ways of counselling them.

Many of these parents had never had the opportunity to do these kinds of activities in their own childhood, and they were absolutely delighted to learn new strategies. There was a lot of laughter and cheering – anyone listening might well have suspected that the parents were just having a load of fun, rather than discussing a serious issue!

We learnt that behind anger, there may be shame, sadness, anxiety, hurt, jealousness, embarrassment and many other things. An angry child isn’t simply “stubborn” but is often desperate for help. As Sarah said: “Creating a beautiful and healthy relationship with your children is an excellent investment, because you will never know when your child is upset if you aren’t on good terms. Do encourage them to talk about the way they feel – and find time to listen, so you can find out what is happening with your children.”

A message like this is so pertinent to many of the families in our community in Masaka. Many children report leaving their homes to the Streets, due to the lack of understanding between them and their parents. In encouraging strong relationships between parents and children in our surrounding communities, we at River of Life Church hope to see unity within families. And it doesn’t matter where you live or who your children are – we can all learn something from this session. Good work, Auntie Sarah!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Footballers? Or Brainiacs??

At Synergy Sports Strategy, our aim is to use football as a vehicle for helping our young people to they reach their God-given potential: mentoring and discipleship as an important component of what we do. But it doesn’t stop there, as football can also be the gateway to an excellent education!

Thanks to their super-silky football skills, many of our players now have scholarships to primary and secondary schools, and even to University. Blessing Junior School, based in Masaka, is just one of the schools that offers football scholarships, and here are their lucky (or skilly?) recipients. It gives us great joy to see these young people developing both their football talents, as well as their academic studies, because we want to see our players developing into well rounded individuals. It’s an honour to be able to help influence their lives in these different areas.

Watch out Mourinho, because we’ve got some pretty Special Ones of our own… with Synergy Senior team raring to start the next season in Big League (the second tier of football in Uganda), there’s no reason why our players shouldn’t be reaching for the sky! But we’re most proud of those important things that mark our players are different; their moral code, and sense of discipline, allowing them to be a shining light in the murky and corrupt world of football.

As we write, 13 of our boys are preparing to sit for their Primary Leaving Exams (these three smiling faces below are just a sample!), so please do remember them in your prayers. They say: “We are indeed privileged to be part of Synergy. The training can be very tiring, but know that good things come after sweat! The best time we have experienced is when we win matches: as well as making Synergy and our Coach Abbey proud, we also feel happy for having really challenged our opponents. Allow us thank our dear Coach for the great work he has done in us, and those that had the vision of starting this Academy.”

Synergy is such a great investment in kids' futures - it IS football, but it's so much more - so if you want to be part of it, let us know!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Musings from our Bombastic Bredrin Ben - part 2

Ben Kiang continues from his previous blog about his time with River of Life Church...

Community Visits
Visiting Buggya village with Elder Betty was an interesting time and a great opportunity to go right into the heart of the local community. I was introduced to a number of women just to meet with them and pray together. All were visibly happy to see us and invited us into their homes. Each week Betty asks them for prayer requests and then encourages them with a word or a prayer. Many who we saw were newly converted Christians from all different backgrounds; one woman was formerly a muslim and another was even involved in some kind of witchcraft. Many were grateful for God transforming their lives but they also experience daily challenges of sickness and poverty. One woman we met simply asked us to pray that she would be able to provide financially for her children. A common desire among all the women was for themselves and their families to draw closer to God and form a deeper relationship with him. The River of Life is a source of light in Buggya. Not only do they visit residents weekly, but they have also planted a small church which now has a congregation of around 12 adults and 15 children, and it is growing.

White Eagle Project
The WEP is an amazing scheme which provides a home for boys and girls under the age of 18, taking them away from dangerous family situations and giving them a safe place to enjoy their childhood and youth. I’ve had such a good time getting to know the young people there. They have such energy and joy and in the short time I’ve known them I can see they are growing into strong men and women of faith. Some of my favourite memories of my time here have been spent with kids, whether it be visiting a crocodile farm, or playing cards, or joining them for meals, praise and prayers in the evening.

They have some keen video gamers, and so I suddenly became very popular when they realised I have spent far too many hours playing MarioKart Wii. Subway Surf on the mobile is also apparently a firm favourite, thus I often went long periods without ever seeing my phone. Such a range of characters, but all so friendly and welcoming. They seem to be a tight-knit group but welcomed me straight away, as if I was family. In many ways, it is easy to forget that these children have all come from difficult and often damaging backgrounds, such is the sense of happiness and hope they embody. This is testament to the constant work of the staff and how God is using the church to transform lives.

Heading home
All in all, I’ve had such a good time soaking up the new culture and having all sorts of different experiences. It has been a privilege for me to get involved with the River of Life, and everything they have to offer. Taking into account all the different ministries (including schools and prisons), the number of people that the church is reaching and the impact it having on the local community is really inspiring. As I leave to head back to London, I pray that God will continue to enlarge their territory and increase their sphere of influence in Masaka, and in Uganda. Mukama yebazibwe! (Praise God!)

‘Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.’ Psalm 2:8
See ya dude!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Musings from our bombastic bredrin Ben (part 1)

As I’m sitting to write this post, my final days in Uganda are fast approaching. I arrived almost four weeks ago from the UK in order to visit the River of Life Church. Having just finished school, this is my first time travelling on my own away from home. I wanted to spend some time before starting university, and going into another three years of education, to challenge myself and do something exciting… I have not been disappointed; drawing alongside the church here in Masaka to serve God and reach out to the people of Uganda has been an incredible experience and one that I will never forget.

Synergy As a keen football player I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Synergy football programme, particularly on the academy side that works with boys aged 6 to around 15. It has been a pleasure for me to work alongside academy coach, Abby, to prepare training sessions and even see the team in action during a friendly match against another local team.
The players are motivated and talented, but most importantly they just love the game. Synergy provides a safe environment for roughly 90 boys (in the academy alone) in the local community to train and play. The coaches strive not only to improve the boys’ ability on the field but are also a positive influence in their school lives and in their development as members of society. I also really admire the club’s ethos to operate in the right way even when, given the nature of football in Uganda, it would often be easier to cut corners. The integrity of the coaches on the field, and behind the scenes, sets them apart from most other clubs. I’m always so inspired by how football brings people together. Seeing the number of young lads Synergy is reaching through their sessions is so cool. I wish them luck in their upcoming season.

Kitovu Baby Unit Visiting the baby unit at Kitovu hospital was another eye-opener. There was one baby who at 20 days old weighed only 1.74kg. She was so thin that her bones almost protruded through her skin and sores were forming where she rubbed against the bed. In the bed next to her was another girl, only 6 days old, who was having to fight hard for every breath. A nurse stood over her to make sure her weak lungs did not collapse completely under the strain of breathing. Things like that are difficult to see and I do not envy the nurses who are there each day and night. However, it highlights the vital work that they are doing and the need for continuous prayer. There were also more positive stories and a notice board displaying photos of a number of fit and healthy-looking babies; young lives that have overcome their sickness. Improvements have been made to the medical equipment with the latest addition being an oxygen splitter that is used to distribute oxygen from one tank, to up to five patients at a time.
Hospital Ministry One of the highlights of my time here was visiting the local hospital to give out food and minister to patients. Those we saw were suffering from Malaria and Tuberculosis. It was tough seeing people often very weak from sickness and I found it was difficult at times to find the right words to pray. However it was a rewarding experience, and interesting to see how people reacted to us being there. The patients came from all different walks of life. Some were Christians and were happy to discuss their faith with us and, despite their illness, proclaim what God had been doing in their lives. There were also Muslims and those of no faith and even prisoners in their conspicuous yellow jumpsuits, handcuffed by one arm to their beds. Not one person in either ward declined when asked if they would like some prayer. It struck me that there is a real desire among ordinary people for some level of faith and a relationship with God, especially in times of need. There are people all around searching for answers. I learned that sometimes it just takes a few people spending their time and showing kindness and asking who would like prayer. Bananas and bread are also very effective at getting people interested!
Stand-by for more from Ben next week….

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

And if you see a Crocodile..... Don't forget to SCREAM!!

The White Eagle Children’s Home kids nearly lost their heads this past week when they were sent on an amazing trip to the Crocodile Farm (on the edge of Lake Victoria) by Auntie Sarah’s old ballet teacher, Miss Hare!  Fortunately it was just a chicken that lost its head… and whole body, for that matter… when it caught the eye of a ferocious croc...

The day was jam-packed with activities that had the kids squealing and laughing (when their knees weren’t knocking with fear!). We learnt about crocodiles in all stages from egg to adult, not forgetting those tempestuous teen crocs. The kids even got to hold a baby crocodile (which, though tiny, was strong enough to take off our fingers, so we had to be very careful… health and safety experts, look away!).

As legend would have it, one particularly cantankerous (and very large) beastie has killed over 50 people in Lake Victoria and the River Nile. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance, but as you can imagine, we were very, very polite!

One of his protégés (Romeo, who cohabits with a rambunctious young lady called Juliet, naturally!) impressed the kids by eating a live chicken with one loud ear splitting thunder-clap SNAP! It gave us all a (healthy) fear of going anywhere near the edge of a river!

Chicken.... the other white meat!

And the day’s festivities would not have been complete without the very rare treat of a delicious meal of fried chicken (or fish) and chips, and a tender morsel of croc meat to tantalise the palate. We then played games on the field, enjoying the torrential rain shower that came at exactly that point – if anything, it made it more fun! The children went back to school with some great stories to tell their friends (and if anyone asks, the three youngest were in no way far-too-scared to hold the crocodile on their own – no, no, they are the BRAVE WHITE EAGLES… well, that’s the party line, anyway!)

Croc... num num!