This post is from Katharine Wright who has been serving with us in Uganda for the past 7 months assisting our counseling staff as they expand their services and provide more comprehensive care to the children we serve.
“When I started working for 60 Feet 7 months ago, it was days like last Friday that I hoped to see. Friday was a day of celebration! Some days working here are hard, and progress is slow, but the hard days are necessary for us to learn and for the good days to be even more amazing. On Friday the hard work paid off as we celebrated not one, but two graduations of counseling classes at M1.
As a counseling team we believe that one of our purposes is to create a safe space for children to share. We want to build good relationships and let the children know they are individuals, that they matter that they are not just a number or a problem that needs to be ‘fixed. Along the way we want to equip them for the future and we do this by providing education sessions to develop life skills.
Over the last month Bibian has been working with a small group of students to tackle issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and teach more about this topic to increase awareness whilst addressing common misconceptions. Three centres have now received this teaching and it has proven to be very valuable. Our medical team provides HIV testing and our counseling staff are on hand to help deliver results and provide extra support for any who need it.
Alongside this, Tomson was teaching our Resettlement counseling curriculum. This begins a month before a child is due to go home from the facility. The lessons cover basic life skills from anger management & career guidance to important spiritual lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation. As one of the students from the last course said “I have learned how to not repeat the same mistakes again.” It is our hope that through the teaching they receive, the young people that leave M1 are equipped to be reintegrated well into society and share the good things they have learned with others.
Each child graduating receives a certificate and gets to share what they have learnt with the class. Last Friday’s graduation was the culmination of lots of hard work that I have seen the counseling staff put in over the last month. Whenever I walk into a counseling session it is clear to see that the children enjoy being there and are building vital relationships with our counsellors. For me, that alone is a huge cause for celebration.
We want the young people we work with to be reminded every time we see them that they matter and that their future can look different from their past. Thank you for allowing us to do this important work through your financial support and prayerful encouragement.”
This post is from Emily Ryan who has been serving with us in Uganda for the past 18 months. While she has been here, Emily has been involved in nearly every aspect of our ministry and currently focuses her efforts on reuniting children with their families through our resettlement program.
“I see heaven invading this place. I see angels praising your holy name, and I sing praises, I sing praises. I give you all of the honor Jesus.
I see glory falling in this place. I see hope restored and healing of all disease and I sing praises, I sing praises. I give all the glory Jesus.
We give you praise and all of the honor. You are our God, the one we live for. We give you praise, all of the glory, God. “– I See Heaven” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt
Last Tuesday night I received a call from one of our social workers. 108 children were expected to arrive at M1 that night. 108; the population of M1 was going to increase by 30%, in a matter of minutes. 108 children coming from the streets – maybe with clothes on, most likely without shoes, and definitely hungry.
Our staff at M1 were preparing; they needed money for food, clothes, blankets, and mattresses so the children didn’t have to sleep on the cold, hard cement floors. Hours later, 43 children climbed out of a pick-up truck (we are still expecting the others any day). Terrified, lonely, away from their moms, cold, and hungry.
And we were in Kampala, an hour away. The only thing we could do was pray. Pray that these children immediately experience the love of Christ through our staff. Pray that these children see Jesus as our staff mobilizes to treat their medical needs, comfort their sorrows, find out where their families are living, tell them about Jesus. All we could do was pray that the Lord would provide the financial resources for SixtyFeet so that these 43 young children could eat, sleep under a blanket, and receive necessary medical treatment.
When we showed up to M1 yesterday, eager to hold and comfort scared children, we saw the Lord answer each and every one of our cries for His help and provision. The LORD, through generous donations, allowed us to provide for these children’s basic needs. Our medical team was amazing and met every child, tested them all for HIV, dewormed them, and entered them into our system. But, above and beyond, these children experienced Jesus. They cried out to Him in fear and met Him in those dark places. Our staff sang songs of worship with them, prayed with them, and taught them about Christ.
In a government-system where we never know when a child is going to arrive or depart, the greatest gift we can give them is a hope beyond this world. A trust in a God who sees them, knows them, and promises to fight for them.
We will never understand why these children are forced to fend for their lives on the streets, rounded-up and taken to prison, some only 2 years old. But, I know that the LORD ordains the desert and the valley in our lives to show us more of Him. And I have seen Jesus in one of the darkest places; I have experienced Him at M1- in our staff, in the children’s lives, in children who have been resettled and now are leaders in their communities and churches. Jesus is working.
In the past few weeks since I have been back in Uganda, the Lord has revealed His work and His power to me. There have been days that we have woken up with little funds to treat children who need to go to the hospital, no money to follow-up on a resettled child or even buy gas to travel to the prisons. But each time, as we daily bow our knees for His provision, He has met our needs. There truly is no better place to be then completely dependent on the sovereign God who provides.
So each time He shows Himself mighty, strong, and full of love, we praise Him. We praise Him for His faithfulness, His provision, and that He reveals Himself to these little children.
And we continue to pray. We pray for the short time we get to know these children, that they will experience Jesus and His love, that they will come to know the God who sees them when they are scared or alone; the God who protects and sustains them, even when its in a situation, like at M1, that seems so broken.
And we pray for SixtyFeet. We pray for our staff who daily minister to the children, we pray for donations to be made, but most importantly we pray that He would be made known, revealed, and glorified in our lives and in our work.
When you look at Sixty Feet and the work we do on the ground in Uganda, it may seem overwhelming. We work in many different areas of ministry throughout the country, but our focus is simple: immediate needs and long term restoration. One of the ways that we provide hope and restoration is through recreational games and events at the centers where we serve. These typically include games from a great organization called Right to Play. These games and activities are designed teach children about their basic rights according to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Child. Uganda has signed this statement by the UN that expresses the rights that every child should have; from the right to protection in a family to the right to development and education.
As part of our recreational ministry, we recently hosted a 5K race for the children at M1 along with a team from Sixty Feet USA. This was an event that the children anticipated and talked about during the weeks leading up to it. Even the staff at M1 participated and enjoy these large group events. It gives a chance for children and staff to have fun together and build meaningful relationships. Our top 5 finishers received medals (and bragging rights) and everyone got a ribbon for finishing the race. After the race, the US team, Sixty Feet staff, M1 staff, and the children all got to party together with fruit and drinks. It was a testament to the way events like this can bring people together regardless of the circumstances that bring them to a place like M1.
Listening to some of M1’s staff speak, they are very encouraged by our presence there. We are teaching the children life skills that will be with them forever. More than anything, we are showing them what hope feels like. I am not speaking of a general hope, like hoping that we get ice cream today, but rather a Biblical hope. Bill Johnson of Bethel talks about Biblical hope as a joyful anticipation of good. This is what Sixty Feet provides the children we serve. We present them the Gospel in so many different ways that give the children a joyful anticipation of good. Sometimes that looks like running a 5K, other times it looks like getting healthy after visiting our clinic, and sometimes it comes full circle and it looks like children going home to a family that loves and welcomes them.
Enjoy these pictures of our fun, rainy race day with the kids and some special guests. Please also consider a one-time or monthly donation so that we can continue to serve these great kids.
Sixty Feet has been continually blessed with high quality men and women who love God and desire to serve him in extraordinary ways. When we began searching for a new Operations Director to take the place of our good friends, the Ferrells, we knew God would bring the right person at the right time. So we are pleased to let you know that once again God has provided for our needs by sending us John and Debbie Houchens.
John brings more than 20 years of non-profit leadership to the position of Operations Director. Most recently, as Senior Vice President for International Operations for Walk Thru the Bible, John led a team of 12 international partners responsible for recruitment and training of live event instructors and distribution of Walk Thru the Bible resources in more than 100 countries worldwide. Experience in program and marketing, in both domestic and international contexts, made him a great choice for Sixty Feet.
“This role is a great fit for me. Working in a developing world context requires you to be a great listener, nimble, flexible, and most of all clear about your calling. My 25 years in non-profit environments have prepared me for this specific opportunity. Debbie and I are thrilled to be a part of the Sixty Feet team!”
Sixty Feet has grown by 400% over the past four years. John will be tasked with putting processes and systems in place to allow the organization to continue to expand and meet the physical and spiritual needs of thousands of more children in Africa.
John will spend several months in Atlanta working closely with our board, getting familiar with our state-side processes, and meeting as many of you, our faithful supporters, as possible. He and Debbie will move to Kampala early 2015 and overlap several months with the Owens Family in order to transition in-country duties as smoothly as possible.
Please pray for John and Debbie during this period of transition and as they begin preparing for this new direction from God.