Tuesday, December 04, 2007
CONTEST AND I CAN WIN A TRIP TO
UGANDA!!! (click on the link to the right)
1) you have to enter my name under the "other" tab when you sign up on razoo and the
ask how you heard about them
2) you enter the contest and I get TWO votes for your entry
3) tell a friend!
Purpose of trip is to continue work with a group of girl child soldiers.
We will be making African bags to sell to raise money for homes
for them and their babies so they can escape the IDP camps
they are now forced to live in.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Now make tax-deductible donations directly to Zion Project!!
2424 S. Culpeper St.
Arlington, VA 22206
visit our website: http://www.zionproject.org/
Grace Akallo has partnered with Zion Project!
Grace is a former girl child soldier and author of the book Girl Soldier. To buy your copy visit:
Grace will be working with Sarita to develop programs in Northern Uganda and will be advocating for the
rights of girl child soldiers and child mothers in the United States.
I quit my teaching job to do ZP full-time. Right now both Grace and I are volunteering but hope to come on staff (if you would like to support me as a missionary to Uganda please contact me!)
We now have an amazing accountant and 11 very dedicated volunteers both in DC & at JMU
We drafted our budget and plans for building homes & a school for child mothers
Peace process continues to move forward but thousands are still stuck in camps (for more up to date news and how you can help visit one of our partners: http://www.resolveuganda.org/)
WE ARE ON www.goodsearch.com Make it your homepage and select ZP as your charity of choice. Also shop your favorite stores online with GOODSHOP and we receive a small percentage of what you buy!!!
ZION PROJECT FUTURE PLANS!
My plan is to move over to Uganda in the summer of 2008 as the country director to continue development of our work on the ground with our Ugandan partners
One of our first projects will be training & employing our girls in beautiful African purse-making and in baby-slings which will be sold in the US
Child mother PHOTO EXHIBIT (pictures they took of their own lives from the cameras we brought over in January) FEB '08
JMU Child Soldier Awareness Week – Feb 18-23 (organized by ZP)with speakers Grace Akallo, Faith McDonnell, Michael Poffenberger & others
We hope to have the website up-to-date with news soon! (be patient :)
Monday, July 09, 2007
It only takes a minute...
RESTRICT MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO COUNTRIES
USING CHILD SOLDIERS
This Thursday let Congress hear your concern for children who are used as soldiers!
A large, bipartisan coalition, including Human Rights Watch and World Vision, is attempting to help these nearly 250,000 exploited minors by supporting the restriction of US military assistance to governments that recruit or use child soldiers.
AFJN urges you join them in calling your Senators this Thursday (July 12) to support THE CHILD SOLDIER PREVENTION ACT OF 2007 (S. 1175).
Just dial the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and request to be connected to your elected representative, or call your Senator’s local office.
Check out the latest news on the signing of agenda item #3 in the peace negotiations:
Friday, June 08, 2007
"Africa is a continent of second chances."
John Prendergast made this statement last week at an event on Capitol Hill for peace in Northern Uganda. That is certainly true for one young woman named Grace Akallo.
Grace is a miracle in human form. She was buried alive by members of the LRA and dug her way out. Not only was she a child soldier, but she was also given as a "wife" to a man who she describes in her book Girl Soldier, "His eyes were always red. The ones who had turned from men to killers, their eyes were always red."
In a job where it seems every step you take leads you to an even higher step, and news from a place I love that is often filled with bad news, Grace stands out like an olive branch offering me hope. She just graduated from Gordon Conwell University and speaks out for her friends still trapped in the bush. She is what I dream of when I see the future of Zion Project and when I see this one girl walking towards her dreams, I imagine them all finding what it is that makes them feel alive again.
My dream, is to see their dreams come true.
Last week was a beautiful week. There were Senate hearings and panel discussions with names like Betty Bigombe (the fearless Ugandan woman who went out into the bush alone to meet with Joseph Kony and was able to start peace negotiations while the rest of the world sat idly by) and yes, even Ryan Gosling (you may remember him as the winner of the "best kiss" in the Notebook. And yes, I met him, and no I did not gush all over him, I actually held a respectable conversation with him before shamelessly asking for a photo :) Ryan is working on a feature film which he will direct in Northern Uganda starring child soldiers as child soldiers. Sadly, white girls from America don't qualify for a role, but I think I can point him to some amazing Acholi who could put Blood Diamond to shame. I believe it will be very redemptive for them to translate their experiences of pain into something that can transform the world's apathy.
All these incredible individuals are working together to confront Congress and the United States with their lack of action on the part of the Acholi people. We weren't asking for much. Not even a special envoy. Just a diplomat to go to Uganda and be there as a representative of the US saying that we are invested in Uganda's future and this peace process. So simple right? This week with all the press and pressure, with the hundreds that turned out for the events, I feel a twinge of excitement with the thought that we can do this! We are making progress and that now is our best opportunity ever to see peace that has been absent for 21 years. I saw how God uses even our political process to bring his heaven to earth.
I met all these beautiful people who are fighting and giving their lives for Uganda, a place that does not belong to us, but a place we belong to. They inspired me to keep going when the vision still seems a mirage in the desert that I just can't reach. We are in this together. We may not wear bell-bottoms but we bear in our hearts the brand that says we will not stand for injustice. God is building something in us, this generation, that can't be taken away. We are being heard and being used, one heart at a time, one letter at a time, one Senator at at time, one country at a time and this purpose cannot be thwarted. There will be peace in Uganda. I will see girls laughing again. First in a dream, and then...clearly.
Be a part of it. To take political action visit:
This month has been a great month for Zion Project. Things are moving forward with all the paperwork (my least favorite thing :) and some amazing opportunities have opened up for fundraising and for the future. I met an incredible Ugandan woman named Patricia, she is a fire-ball and a diva. Obviously, I adore her. We've got big plans. Together we may just be unstoppable :)
July will prove to be a busy month for me (I have it off from the rug-rats) but will be focusing on Uganda and starting to fundraise to go back. If you have a church or group you'd like me to speak at, please let me know.
Don't stop following your dreams. You'll find me out there following mine.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Additional Donations End Cuts to Food Rations for Northern Uganda's IDPs
A US$6.8 million donation from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and other recent contributions will allow the World Food Programme (WFP) to restore food rations for 1.28 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda to their normal levels in June. The WFP was forced to cut rations by as much as one-third in April, due to a funding shortage. WFP has so far received only little over half of the US$134 million it will need to feed the nearly two million IDPs in northern Uganda. Read more at ReliefWeb.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Please follow the below directions to help us spread the word about the Washington DC Displace Me event to identify with and protest the suffering of 1.5 million people in displacement camps in Uganda. Please see http://www.invisiblechildren.com/displaceMe/ for more information.
1) Please go here: http://www.invisiblechildren-dc.com.
2) Please copy the HTML and video code onto your personal or organizational web sites to help bring relief to 1.5 million displaced people.
3) Please sign up for and attend the April 28, 2007 Displace Me event in solidarity with our brothers and sisters suffering in displacement camps in Uganda. To sign up, please go here: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/displaceMe
4) Please distribute this blog as an email to every web site and media outlet you have access to. Let's stop this suffering!
World Tour 2007: Displace Me Cities V.2
Add to My Profile
Thursday, April 05, 2007
On April 28th, we are going to raise our voices against this in Washington, DC. Watch the video and JOIN US: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/displaceMe/
I've never seen death so closely. This is an emergency.Next month the World Food Program will be forced to cut its food aid to northern Uganda by half, and this after recent cuts that have left people clinging to life for lack of food. This cut is will put all residents of IDP camps well below the minimum necessities of life. They are going to starve.Unless the world acts.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
UK Pledges $13 Million to Help Stop Cuts in Food Rations to N.Uganda IDPs
The World Food Programme’s urgent appeal for funds to buy food for displaced people and other refugees in northern Uganda is yielding a positive response. The United Kingdom has pledged $13 million towards the cause. The donation followed an announcement by WFP that it would cut by half the food rations it has been distributing to internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to lack of funds. Read more at The Monitor.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
no longer just a missions project but become genuine
friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream,
and struggle. One of the verses I have grown to love is
the one where Jesus is preparing to leave the disciples
and says, “I no longer call you servants. . . . Instead, I
have called you friends” (John 15:15). Servanthood is
a fi ne place to begin, but gradually we move toward
mutual love, genuine relationships. Someday, perhaps
we can even say those words that Ruth said to Naomi
after years of partnership: “Where you go I will go,
and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my
people and your God my God. Where you die I will die,
and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16 – 17).
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This is devastating news for the people I have come to love living in camps and unable to return home to grow their own food, which is their one dream. My friend James who works in Gulu said that his own friends who live in the camps don't know about this---that in two weeks they are going to starve.
What are we going to do about it?
I'm contacting people I know to see what can be done. Keep looking for more information from me on next steps. Please pray.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
CHECK OUT OUR LATEST PHOTOS!!!!
These were possible thanks to my dear friend Jo, an amazing photographer who traveled with me up to Gulu and donated his time and talent to Zion Project. Thanks Jo! Check out all of his photography. It's amazing!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
MY TRIP TO UGANDA
I never know where to begin to talk about my experiences in Northern Uganda. It's as if when I come back, my heart is still over there and mouth has not yet caught up with my heart. Gradually stories will come out of me as I regain touch with that part of my heart that is reserved for that place and those people, but my processing is often slow. I come back almost paralyzed by the mountain of things I would LOVE to do for all those girls and by the vast chasm that separates that dream and my actual life. Change is slow. Loving those who have not been loved and are suspicious of it, is often painful. And yet….there are the Knightey's of this world who live in IDP camps only to become impregnated again, who smile at you and remember your name. The fact a simple visit could give someone hope is beyond me, and yet that is the power of human connection.
WHAT DID I DO OVER THERE? (the brief version :)
*I spent time encouraging the girls I met before and met a whole lot of new ones
*I visited programs that I can partner with in the future to love and counsel girl soldiers. One in particular was very similar to what I'd like to do in terms of Income Generating Activities for the girls and creating community for them. The major difference being they did not offer long-term Christian counseling support or a follow-up program for after girls leave the Child Mother Village.
*I went to IDP camps that are possibilities for beginning the project and looked at the needs and pro's and con's of each one
*I learned the process of becoming an NGO in Uganda and reserved a name for Zion Project in the registry
*I went on a week-long counseling retreat in Jinja for myself and also to learn more about helping girl soldiers in their healing process. It was incredible.
That was it in a nutshell. It was a GREAT trip and much needed for figuring out future steps. So all my prayers were answered. Much more was done in me than I believe that I did, but that is pretty standard in my experience of Africa.
I was utterly moved by the girls and even the men who ran up to me to give me hugs as though I had been gone a day, as though I was someone important. I was saddened by the girls I had met last time who were now pregnant again, possibly by rape, possibly by necessity for food. I lost hope at the fact that so little have returned home because peace talks have once again fallen through. I am regaining it slowly by degrees as I watch movies like Amazing Grace, or see resolutions pass that I have called my congressman about. I see that the fight may be long and hard, but it is still worth fighting.
Am I willing to spend the next thirty years of my life working towards a cause I believe in? Is the slavery that if we had been alive we would have fought against, any more than the slavery 2 million endure every day of their lives in a war zone? Aren't we still saying through our inaction that inhumanity is o.k. and Africans are not as important to us as our own? Aren't we still saying that injustice is ok as long as it doesn’t affect OUR lives?
Katrina hits and we rush to give money to the Red Cross, but thousands more are displaced in Uganda and we cannot drum up the same compassion for them? Do we really believe Africans our brothers and sisters or do we still have the same kind of slave mentality that William Wilberforce stood up against? It's a question we have to ask ourselves.
I realized I was enthusiastic and impulsive in my belief that I could begin a non-profit in Uganda in a month, but I am no less determined that someday it will be. I’m excited now rather, at the prospect of joining an already miraculous ministry that I fully believe is changing Uganda one person at a time. Favor of God is beautiful to me in its sense of family. The mornings I spent worshiping with Ugandans and white people who truly live with the people, as one of them, like Jesus lived with us, were some of the most precious of my life. And the night I saw a room of huddled children on their knees, skinny arms outstretched to the sky, or faces pressed to a dirty floor with tears of worship to a God they truly believed in, I knew that revival is coming to Uganda and it is coming through children. They gave me hope that Uganda will not always be at war, but that they are already rising and there will be peace, not only of a country, but in suffering hearts.
I cried as I watched them, even though I tried not to stare, I could hardly help it because it was like seeing the glory of God in shining faces, with a passion that I longed to have, with a desperation many of us have forgotten. At first I thought maybe they were performing for their white visitors, but their eyes were closed, and when they danced they did it with such intensity and such joy, I knew they’ve experienced God in a way I am still yearning for. That's why we must go. That’s why we must love the girls and boys we can and draw them out of their suffering—to believe again in joy and in the dream that a life can be redeemed. One boy used to run away when he first came to the orphanage. He was so used to the camps and to alone-ness he did not know what it was like to be loved. He jumps higher than them all now. It can happen. Lives can be changed for the good, hope restored to the destitute, even when peace agreements fall through. The children taught me that. And given the chance, they could teach their country and the world that too.
Go to http://www.favorofgod.org/ to find out how you can help sponsor a child in Northern Uganda. I have been there and I have seen the children loved and I have seen how much they have done with so little resources. They truly give everything back to the people.
As for me and as for Zion Project, I still keep moving things forward here but no longer care whether I love those kids and those girls through my organization or another one that is truly accountable to their calling. We are knitted together in our love for the Ugandan people and our desire to see healing and life come to them. We are under God's banner, not our own. I believe that when I go back to Uganda I will partner with Carol with Favor of God and learn from her because I know she is doing it right. I know I will continue to love and fight for the dreams of girl child soldiers but only God knows in what way it will happen. The funny thing about a dream is that it requires it be surrendered over and over again to something greater than ourselves because otherwise we will get in the way of it.
But that doesn't mean that we have to lose momentum.
The peace agreement between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Gov't of Uganda fell through on February 28th. They have not yet resumed negotiations. This is devastating to those of us who have been fighting for the people of Uganda.
Positively, a resolution passed Senate on Thursday which stated that the US would recommit to urging both parties to resume peace negotiations. This was a small victory but one which I celebrate because I called my representatives about it and because we take every inch we can in this battle. To find out how you can become more politically involved visit:
Also on April 28th, Invisible Children is asking us to again raise our voices for peace by putting our own comforts aside. I’ll be volunteering for this movement in DC. If you're interested in volunteering please contact me.
And lastly something I'm very excited about! In June a book will come out that gives the account of a girl child soldier, Grace Akallo. It was written by my friend Faith McDonnell. It will have pictures that I took of girl child soldiers in Northern Uganda. It is a very important piece of work as so little is known about the inside lives of child soldiers, especially girls. You can preorder it here:
I want to leave you with something my friend James who works for Invisible Children in Gulu wrote. I have been to this camp and cannot believe that they have endured such suffering and yet can still reach out to help others. It is gorgeous and gives me hope:
What if government kicked you out of your home? And what if they forced you into a neighborhood where all the houses were in shambles and told you to fix up a single room and move your family into it? And what if a fire started in the neighborhood and all the houses on your side of the street burned down because the government had turned the water off? How would you feel? That's what has been happening to residents of northern Uganda's IDP camps for the last 10 years. The camps are filled with thatched roof huts, the only housing affordable for displaced families. Many huts are packed so tightly together that their roofs touch. Come dry season, a single spark can set any one of dry grass roofs ablaze and the flames will bound from hut to hut, destroying all the belongings of thousands of people with startling efficiency. Just last week it happened to my workers in Koro-Abili IDP camp. Fire swept through a portion of the camp, destroying over 400 huts. Ten families that worked for me lost their homes and most of their belongings. When I heard I was crushed for them. Forced into a long and torturous displacement, left to die by the thousands for lack of basic care, and then as a deadly side effect of this offense fire comes ripping through their lives, consuming what little they could call their own. My head shook itself. The next day I organized a meeting of the leaders of the Bracelet Campaign – the chairpersons who are themselves from the camps and make bracelets alongside the rest. I asked them if their bracelet makers would be willing to contribute to the rebuilding of the homes and lives of the fire victims. They said that they thought so and would ask. As of now the bracelet makers of Invisible Children, giving out of their relative poverty, have contributed over 400,000 shillings to their fellow workers, though some have never met each other. Though by American standards this is not much, for them it is sacrifice. Many gave more than they would spend on food for their family for a week, or two weeks. Invisible Children has agreed to match that sum, and many Invisible Children employees, moved by the generosity of those workers, have offered to give from their meager salaries to see that these families are restored to some vestige of normalcy, or what normalcy is possible in an IDP camp. So remember when you are faced with need that sometimes needs are greater, and are met by those who have less to spare. Let it be known that poverty won't stop grace, that hope doesn't kneel to oppression, that love overcomes war. [PS - Today I found out that when the fire started, all of the bracelet makers ran to the homes of their fellow bracelet makers that were in danger and saved what they could from the flames. That's community.]
Saturday, January 13, 2007
(maybe National Geographic will hire me ;)
Heading up to Gulu tomorrow and then Kitgum after that. This is where the real stuff starts so keep us in your prayers. I'm taking my Ugandan pastor friend Edgar up with me as well as a photographer who is willing to take pictures for Zion Project. We're expecting big things. We're staying at the Favor of God house like I stayed at last year where every morn you get roused to the wonderful sound of drums and Ugandans dancing in worship. And yes, I do get up for it :) They're a great organization. Check them out at www.favorofgod.org
I'm excited. I reserved Zion Project's name in the registrar here in Uganda so I' m pumped no one can steal it now. :) I've got a letter we're going to be taking to local leaders to let them know about the project and have them sign on, so we really need favor with them big time.
Oh and send me some love on the comment line folks.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The other great thing that has happened is my friend Edgar has been helping me get set up as an NGO. Today I just reserved the name Zion Project at the Registrar's office. I'm still praying through whether I will start off as my own NGO or partner with another one in Gulu, but either way I think it is good to begin the process so when that time comes I will know how. There have been so many just God-given appointments with people. Edgar knows a woman on the NGO board who makes the decisions about who becomes one and who doesn't.
I go out to the Ndjee community tomorrow to visit Linds and see the projects they are working on with the refugee community there. And on Friday I head up to Gulu again on a rickety bus :) I've been enjoying the hot water in Kampala but am ready to get up to Gulu, even for the freezing showers and bad food :) I'm taking a photographer up with me who just volunteered to come with. He might want me to write captions for some of his photos. Talk about crazy opportunities :) I'm so excited. Since I brought cameras with me he is going to teach some of the girls how to work them. It should be a great time.
I need prayer for discerning which IDP camp to begin working with. Awer has been heavy on my heart and I have connections there but its really up to God. I appreciate all you who have been praying. I have felt them in the last few days.
Monday, January 08, 2007
She rises still.
I do not know what will become of me here, only that I am drawn here as the wild geese to a warmer spring, the trout who swim upstream, and the wolf to the studded moonlit darkness. There will be many failures but maybe there will be one life utterly transformed, catapulted into redemption. I used to think that I could bring something, that I could save the many, but I think more now that this is about God doing something in me.
Some say God left Africa a long time ago. The tribal wars clash on, the governments steal and crack the backs of children in mines for money they will never see, Aids spreads, malaria consumes, and girl child soldiers seem beyond repair. But I find God in Africa---in the midst of the most destitute of places, in the least ones whose lives have been given up on, in tiny acts of grace and raw human need. He is close to the poor. His world order is very different from our own. Here is where revolution will not come through the wise or powerful, but through the children who stretch their arms to the sky. And I realized that all I can give is Him through love that never says enough is enough but cracks on through the middle of the most painful places. Its not that they need Him more than we do, but its because He is at home here, He flourishes here, He is making a way because he is wanted. Here we live close to our desire. Close to want for more in life and close to disappointment. We befriend the lack of things meeting up to our expectations. We sleep with dreams of possibility in our heads.
It is never as we think it should be. It is harder than we thought it would be. But here we are being born and baptized over again with light and with fire.