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  • Apr 08 / 2014
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Protecting vulnerable children by diversion.

A few years ago I worked for a company that helped organizations communicate their strategies using visual metaphors. These visual metaphors were often a top down look at the organization, its processes and systems.

It was by viewing challenges at a different altitude that companies, departments, and even individuals could see things from another perspective and ultimately gave them clarity about how to solve the issues they faced.

We are extremely blessed to work alongside professionals who not only care about the present needs of the imprisoned children we serve, but the “big picture” as well.

Working to stem the tide of vulnerable children finding themselves in a prison facility, our legal director Aaron Murphy has designed a curriculum that we have rolled out in partnership with the Church of Uganda.

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During this pilot program, our team trained juvenile advocates. Advocates who were chosen for this role are leaders in their community and have influence with the juvenile justice process. They will work closely with the Uganda Police Force to mediate and divert petty offenders from the formal justice process towards restorative, rehabilitative measures, such as Church of Uganda counseling programs.

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The program’s objectives ultimately focus on the reduction of the number of petty offenders on remand at the remand facilities, community sensitization to child rights issues, and a number of related issues.

We are only able to do this kind of holistic, big picture work by your support. If you would like to learn more about this and other programs that we are developing, please visit our Current Programs page. You can also do your part by assist us in continuing this preventative work financially. Thank you!

  • Mar 18 / 2014
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Trust.

(Today’s post is from Emily Ryan’s blog, she is one of our staff serving the children in Uganda.)

Being here, seeing so much injustice, staring at poverty, has caused me to desire Christ’s return in a new way; His redemption and renewal of this earth. And we work for that redemption now, today. We work to bring justice, love, and hope to children…whether it is binding up wounds, making sure a child goes home on-time, providing counseling or a set of clothes, Christ calls us to serve in love and in grace.

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However, there are situations where I can’t see the redeemed picture. I know a precious little girl and we plan for her family reunification. It is best for a child to grow up with their family, not in an institution. Then we move forward and witness evidence of trauma and abuse. It is hard to watch, and harder still to process. Yes, there are options, but her story is heavy and the future is unknown. I struggle to trust that the Lord will continue to provide for her.

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We talk with government authorities about a 16-year-old girl. She was forced into marriage and has a 4-month old baby. But now we can’t figure out if she is legally married or if it was all done in the name of money. She hasn’t finished her education and here, education is your future. She is in extreme poverty. Again, there are options, but it is hard and complicated. There are no easy answers, no easy ways to help.

It is weeks like these that leave my head spinning and my heart hurting even more. How do you know what is best for a child? We pray for discernment and wisdom. We always work for the best interest of the child. We seek counsel. But I am left longing for Jesus to come make every broken system right…the curse has left its handprint on everything. And some things are so broken, I don’t even know what “right” or “perfect” looks like.

So we try – we try to trust and we pray for more trust. Trust in the God who is faithful. Trust in the God who will never leave His children. Trust that He holds all things together. Trust that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. Trust that He sees things from eternity and has a plan for EVERY CHILD.

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As the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, everything was going to be more wonderful for once having been so sad…the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.”

He cares for this kids and He knows their needs and their futures. So, when I don’t understand and I don’t know, I rest in His amazing love; He loves these children more than me – their suffering cannot be because He does not care – He came for them.

(If you are interested in more incredible stories from the field, you can find Emily’s blog here.)

  • Feb 04 / 2014
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Her story is not finished.

(Today’s #10outof10 post is from Emily Ryan, one of our staff serving the children in Uganda.)

One of the very sad realities at many of the prisons where Sixty Feet works is the percentage of children who are sexually active. What this means, for us, is that we encounter teenage girls who are pregnant. Child-mothers are one of the categories of critically vulnerable children. These girls are 14, 15, or 16 years old, living in a prison cell, and pregnant.

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Sixty Feet lives every part of its mission to bring “immediate relief” and “long-term restoration” for these child-mothers. Our care starts upon learning that they are pregnant. We immediately work with the medical team to supplement their diet with nutritional food. We also take the girls to the hospital for check-ups to ensure both their health and the babys’ health. At the same time, our justice team works to get the girls out of prison on bail. Once the girl can legally leave the prison, we then work to identify crisis pregnancy centers, where they girls receive counseling and health care services, and have a safe place to live. At this point, Sixty Feet continues to aid in their girls resettlement process by identifying relatives and working to restore the girl to her family and community.

When working with Child Mothers, Sixty Feet enacts all parts of our ministry to bring justice, love, and restoration. One of the girls who received such counsel was Diana. Sixty Feet was able to sponsor her in school until she received permission to leave M1 and go to Wakisa Crisis Pregnancy Center. There, Sixty Feet and Wakisa worked together to bring the mother and daughter together to complete family counseling. During this time, Diana was able to graduate primary school under Sixty Feet’s sponsorship program. Diana is now living at Wakisa, waiting to give birth.

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However, her story is not finished. Through family counseling, her mother desires for Diana to come home and live with her. However, the mom’s house is tiny…there is not room for a baby. The mom lives day-to-day and cannot imagine feeding two more children. Our team is working to find more ways to help Diana and her family. Our work is not yet done. We will not abandon Diana or her new family. We will not leave them until we see completion for the work the Lord has called us to.

Our work here is messy; there are rarely any easy answers. The problems of poverty and vulnerability run deep. But the Lord has called us to this place, so we respond by walking faithfully in this work…in the gaps, in the messy places, in the hard, and in the places where we have no idea what to do next. And He shows Himself faithful and strong, so we trust and continue in the works He has called us to. Will you join us in working for justice, hope, and redemption in these critically vulnerable children’s lives?

UPDATE: Diana gave birth to a precious baby boy! Please continue to pray with us that God guides and directs them and they get the support they need.

UPDATE #2: We were able to get Diana and her baby boy to a ministry that supports and cares for young mothers and their children. We are so glad to report that Diana’s relationship with her mother has been restored, she has found forgiveness and love, and is being supported in her new role as a mother by a fantastic organization in ‪Uganda‬ called Kupendwa Ministries. To God be the glory!

  • Dec 26 / 2013
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Looking back at 2013.

(Today’s post is a reblog from Emily Ryan, one of our staff serving the imprisoned children in Uganda.)

When I look back over the past year, two things stand out: the Lord is good, and the Lord is the One who lifts my Head.

The Lord is Good

I stare evil in the face everyday. There is pain, injustice, unrighteousness, corruption, poverty, and bondage everywhere I look.

An 8-year-old child’s father would rather that his son remain in prison than come home.

A two-year old baby girl is dropped off by relatives, completely malnourished and HIV positive.

We trace for a child’s family, but are unable to find anyone – the family has moved-on and we cannot locate them.

A mother cries tears of fear, not knowing where her child, who was on the street, was taken.

Children with special needs remain institutionalized and no one knows anything about their family; there is no long-term plan, they are the despised of society.

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For a long time, I questioned God’s goodness. I did not understand how He could be good and sovereign and allow all of these things to exist. They are children after all – what could they have done to be so neglected, hopeless, and hurt. But, slowly-by-slowly the LORD SHOWED HIS GOODNESS. Families were reunited. Children seizing because of malaria were healed. Children without anywhere to call home were welcomed into foster families. Children with special needs were removed from the institutions and given a hope and a future; they know they are loved and cared for in their new schools. Pregnant girls were welcomed into crisis centers where family counseling restored relationships.

In these stories, everyday, I saw God at work. I saw Him redeem creation. I saw Him heal, counsel, love, and restore children. Through this, I have learned to TRUST. I have a very limited, non-eternal perspective; but when I see the Lord working in some places, I can trust He is working everywhere. I believe His Word is true; I believe the truth of the story of redemption throughout the Bible, from long ago. So, if history shows that God is sovereign and good, and my experiences show that God is good to His children, then I can trust that He is good even when I do not see it. His ways are not my ways. I cannot demand that He work according to my dim, limited perspective. But, I can trust in Him and I can believe He is at work, sovereign and good over all things.

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world…the weak things…the base thing…the despised God has chosen, the things that are not….’” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

The One who Lifts my Head

There are days that are hard. The work is tiresome, endless, challenging; the culture is different, unknown, and it can be frustrating. In this struggle, I see more sin and brokenness in my life than ever before. Relationships and community look different in Uganda; it takes an hour to go 15 miles…meeting up with friends is hard.

But, one thing I have learned is that once my focus is on the Lord, everything falls away. I am reminded of His goodness and His love when I put my eyes on Him. When I have a resolute focus on Him, my circumstances fall away and I remember His goodness, His grace, His faithfulness.

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His salvation alone causes me to stop, praise and thank Him. He gave the greatest gift, His Son…how can I not trust in His steadfast love for me, always. He is my “exceeding joy” – beyond the daily struggles, beyond the evil we see. When my eyes are on Him, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

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When we look to the Lord, our Shepherd, Father, Savior…our faces are Radiant, they will never be ashamed. For the Lord, our God, seeks us out, He is jealous for us. He delights over us, encamps around us, holds our hand.

It is easy to crowd out the song of praise with a song of discontentment. It is easy to want instead of resting in what He has done, what He has given.

I have learned that when I focus on the Lord, who is faithful, steadfast, long-suffering, sustainer, Creator, Almighty, He lifts my head above my circumstances and helps my heart to trust in Him alone. I can rejoice for He has come to save the world; heaven is coming.

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” Psalm 3:3

  • Dec 10 / 2013
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Caring for orphans.

(Today’s #10outof10 post is from Emily Ryan, one of our child advocates serving the children in Uganda.)

The term “orphan” is complicated. Statistically, the majority of children living in orphanages are not orphans; almost all children have at least one living parent. Most kids on the street have families; most of the kids in the prisons have families; the majority of kids at M3 have a family.

However, we do serve orphans. Are the majority of children we serve true orphans? No. Are there orphans in our care? Yes.

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Research proves time-and-time-again that the best place for a child to grow is in a family. So what does Sixty Feet try to do? We help set the lonely in families.

Meet Pastor. His father died at two, and now has been the father (by adoption) of hundreds of abandoned children. He has been abandoned, excommunicated, exiled, compelled by Christ to harbor children he didn’t have the space to keep, and through all of this, and by all accounts, he has loved one wife and many many children deeply.

Meet Boaz. He is our service coordinator for our foster homes in Bwerenga. He shuttles children to get ARVs, immunizations, school supplies, and so much more. He helps coordinate our work at the church, the school, and everything in between. All the while, fathering 10 kids (one of which is just a few months old). He laughs, plays, and treats every child as his own.

Meet Rebecca. She grew up in Pastor’s home. She moved from Tanzania to Uganda with Pastor, her family. And now she has felt the Lord’s call to extend the same love, grace, and acceptance to orphaned children that she received as a child. God’s work is big; His plans are amazing. (oh, and did I mention she is a GREAT cook!).

The Lord changes lives through these incredible servants. Amy was found on the street, rounded up, and taken to M1. We had no information on her; her family was nowhere to be found. Our nurse team treated her with malaria, worms, and malnutrition. We then were given permission to take her to Bwerenga. She now runs around joyfully shouting “daddy” and “mommy” in Boaz’s home.

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We met Sammy at M3. Unable to find any relatives, we took him to Bwerenga to live with Pastor. He immediately gained weight, became healthy, and now runs around with all the other babies. He is in a family.

Children who have no other family grow up in Bwerenga with a loving, rock-solid Christian family. They have brothers, sisters, and friends. They go to school, do homework, complete their chores, sing in the church choir, and play in the water.

As I mentioned, the term “orphan” is complicated. But we know one thing is not. That these children truly need the love, care and attention that a family brings.

And today, they are loved, they are chosen, they are treasured…they are in a family.

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