Thursday, November 29, 2012


For the last few days, my mind and heart has been on this little boy.  And about the injustice of the world that allows sick children to linger in an orphanage day after day.  About the suffering of children when death separates them from their parents.  And about the beauty of new families forged from this pain, that somehow, redeem it.  Tonight I'm thankful for adoptive parents who bring into their families little ones that would otherwise not have a family.  I'm thankful that love of a child goes beyond shared blood.  I'm thankful for compassionate hearts who reach out to others and try to ease burdens.  I'm thankful for listening ears who don't judge, but somehow look to the heart.   Tonight, I'm so full of gratitude for the family that brought Howard Patric home and loved him as their own.  I'm thankful for other families that have now become good friends who have welcomed other children that I love into their arms with complete love and acceptance.  I'm thankful for these children now have homes and families to call their own.  Sweet dreams, little ones.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

and who will watch over the least of these

My husband and I have been talking a lot about Congo the last few weeks.  We've talked about our friends that live in Bukavu, the city we called home for 4 1/2 years.  We talk about the recent upsurge in violence and the take over of Goma.  We talk about the constant ongoing war, insecurity, displacement, poverty, death, and suffering.

Today we talked about the fear of knowing that if you are an average person in the area we lived in, there wasn't anyone to watch over you, to protect you.  Any given day, in times of increased conflict (like now) or times when the level of violence was constant but not in the public eye, you might find yourself targeted by petty thieves, by military, by police, by rebels.  And there wouldn't be anyone to call to come to your aid.  Fear.  Some resort to vigilante justice.  And honestly, I can understand why.

Protests in the areas where we lived were fairly common.  Protests that sometimes turned violent.  Anger about the lack of protection and basic human rights.  Anger about the lack of water, the lack of electricity.  Anger about promises broken, corruption, constant bribery, government failure, extortion.  Anger about the lack of trust in each other.

When there is a general lack of security and infrastructure you already don't have a buffer.  You are already full of worry and anxiety every night walking home.  You already are thankful for each day that you are given where you find your children healthy, your job intact, enough food for that day, water to cook with and maybe a little extra to send your child to school.  You don't take life for granted and you mourn and grieve for those that have died as passionately as you celebrate a marriage of those you love.

You learn not to trust your government, the police, the military, or any other group that should protect you and your family.  Violence is a normal way of life.  You have seen take overs before, you know what it can bring and you know what it could mean to your family.

And if you live in a village outside of the bigger city, this may be your daily life.  You may have planted your crops and seen them grow only to have a military or rebel group come through and steal the fruits of your labor.  You may have evacuated from one village to another only to have your children and wife die of cholera within a week.  You may be eking out a life in a refuge camp only to have a new group come and you flee for your life again.

The recent violence in eastern DRC is not new.  It is ongoing for so many.  It is complicated.  There are not easy answers.  But we must not turn our eyes away from this beautiful country and its incredible people.  Who are people just like us who want security and safety for ourselves and our families.  Who deserve dignity and respect and equal human rights.  We are a necessary part to making change happen, we need to listen, we need to not stay silent.  We need to support those working on the ground and around the world to help stop the violence and to work towards lasting peace.

If you are a praying person, here is a wonderful guide to praying for Congo which was put out from the Anglican Church in Congo.

There are so many organizations on the ground doing wonderful work in eastern DRC.  Here are a brief few.  Feel free to post comments linking to more.

Heal Africa
Women for Women
Panzi Hospital 
City of Joy
Food for the Hungry (this is who we worked for in DRC)
Eastern Congo Initiative 

the children of congo

For all of you who support our work in eastern Congo, the orphanage is in a remote location not threatened by the new violence at this time.  If you are interested in what we are doing, we now have a facebook page.  And our website is

Monday, November 19, 2012

unexpected happenings

This will be a bullet type update as it is very late tonight.

--First, and most importantly, please pray for peace in eastern DRC.  As you all have probably seen in the news, the ceasefire has ended and there is increased fighting in the last week which has reached Goma.   There have been evacuations in Goma and large movements of terrified populations.  This is tragic and completely heart breaking.

This blog has very good analysis and news about eastern DRC and is a good resource to understanding this very complicated conflict.

--Two very good friends (long time missionaries) from our time in DRC (we shared a large house with them) came to a city that was 6 hours from where I currently live.  So, I very unexpectedly packed up the two older kids and drove to see them.  We all miss them so much.  Isla said, "I did remember Aunt Sue.  I miss her so much.  I love her so so much.".   It's very good to be with them right now and it will be hard to say good bye tomorrow.

--And I am saving the most unexpectedly wonderful news for last.  In the past, when I have new babies that need sponsors, it usually takes me about one month to find one sponsor.  If it's a good month, I find two sponsors.  When I posted on here that I needed 14 sponsors I was hoping hoping there might be some miraculous way to find them before January.  Then, I heard from a woman who told me that she believed God would provide them by the end of this month!  And, you know what, it took three days!  Three days.

I have been humbled and amazed by the outpouring of support and interest, not only from this woman's amazing community of friends and family, but also from others around the U.S. that want to partner in our work.  I am so thankful for this testimony of God's provision and faithfulness.

And not only does this mean that we will be able to bring up formula and milk, but we will be able to fundraise in some other areas we have desperately needed to fundraise in for some time.   What are these areas?

We need to hire more mamas.  There are too many babies these days for the number of caregivers and they are in cribs or bumbos too long.  My goal?  Six mamas.

We need to develop a role for a social worker to help us get the kids home sooner and then do more work with the kids that have been moved home (that we provide school fees for) to make sure they are being taken care of well.

We need to set up sponsorships for the school fees of the 82 kids we support (who have moved out of the orphanage over the last 15 years) who wouldn't be going to school without the support.  Right now, we have had amazing people come alongside us every trimester who raise the fees or give to the school fee fund (it is about $1500/trimester and then $1500 for school uniforms and notebooks once a year).

And there are more projects, but I am so excited and thankful to be able to provide for some needs that are essential and vital to the childrens' health and well being.

Thank you!

I love this photo, all the mamas are encouraging little Rachel to take her first steps.  This is from a training done by some friends on attachment and care (of the mamas and of the children), it was amazing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Exciting news and little babies that need sponsors

It's been awhile since I have posted about Tumaini and children that need sponsors.  I have waited because I finally can share our exciting news.  We received our 501c3 status which means we can directly accept donations rather than working with an umbrella organization.   We still have to get a new website up and running (it's in process) so we are still thankful to Children's HopeChest for accepting our donations over the next month.  

The other news is that we have made the decision to change our name from the swahili name for hope, "Tumaini" to "Reeds of Hope".  We felt that Tumaini is a difficult word to pronounce and spell.  The name "Reeds of Hope" (based off of the biblical story of moses when he was placed in a basket of reeds to save his life) still reflects the hope with which we do our work, hope which guides the families that bring the babies to the orphanage when their mothers die, and the hope that comes from the love of God for all the orphaned and vulnerable children in DRC.

Other wonderful news is that we have had many children move home back with their families.  I will post their photos in the next post.  This is what makes our work most worthwhile, seeing children with  families and out of institutions.

Here are the babies that have arrived over the past three months and that need sponsors.  Also two children who still need sponsors who have been at the orphanage for about a year.  We provide formula for all the babies, powdered milk that is fortified for the older children as well as extra women to hold and care for the children.  Each child needs one full sponsor ($50/month) or two partial sponsors at $25/month.  Please feel free to email me if you are interested in sponsoring one of the babies below (email is top of blog on the right) and I will give you further details.

Chikuru Isenge needs two sponsors ($25/month) or one full sponsor. Fully sponsored!  Her story is also written here.

Bruno, born Sept. 29.  He needs two sponsors is fully sponsored!   Please pray for this  tiny vulnerable little one.

Furahisha, born Oct. 5.  She needs two sponsors is fully sponsored!  Please pray for this precious little one.  

Samueli, born Aug. 26.  Another sweet baby that needs two sponsors is fully sponsored!.

Maajabu, he was born 8/29.  He needs two sponsors. if fully sponsored! 

Chanceline, she needs two sponsors.  is fully sponosred!  

This sweet boy is Lukogo, he needs one more sponsor is fully sponsored!  He is 11 months old.  
This is sweet Consolat, she needs one sponsor is fully sponsored!.  She is 17 months old. 

Sometimes, I think of the families that bring their babies to the orphanage.  I was there one day visiting when a family brought a little one.  They were still in mourning, grieving their sister who had died.  They handed off the newborn she had given birth to, because they had no way to keep him alive.  It was completely heartbreaking.  I think of the small hope that brought them to the orphanage, the hope that perhaps the baby may live when so many do not in that area of Congo.  Hope can sometimes seem as slim and fragile as a reed, but often that slender bit of hope is enough to save a life and work a miracle.  Thank you for supporting our work.    

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

in his own words

I wanted to share this post that was written by Dr. Mukwege after the attack on his home.  I wrote about it and my own experience meeting him here.

Here is an excerpt from what he wrote.  Please take a minute to read his words.

"The dedicated and courageous staff who work at Panzi Hospital are scared, and my thoughts are with them. I want them to respond to this hatred with love because I think that it is the only way we can make a difference. If they continue to do what they do with love and care I have to believe that peace and justice will prevail. Violence can only create violence."  Dr. Mukwege

Friday, November 9, 2012

a letter to my daughters' mother

"I have thought of you all day, actually all week.  Well, the truth is, you are never that far from my thoughts.  Because I am raising your daughters.  I wasn't supposed to be raising your daughters, you were.  You never gave them up for adoption, you never relinquished them because you couldn't take care of them.  You didn't abandon them on a dark night on a road or in a crowded market.  No, you fought for them until your last breath.  I know the story of your death.  It is sacred and completely heart breaking.  Because I know your story and how it ended, I know that you gave every single part of you to try desperately to stay alive and care for your girls.  Somehow, I think you knew what was going to happen to them if you didn't.  I think deep down you knew they would then be abandoned, relinquished to others that weren't you, weren't even family, to keep them alive.   I think you knew that you were their hope.

I imagine myself in your shoes.  Dying giving them birth, and knowing they could very well die also because of your death.  I imagine fighting with everything in me, begging those around me to get me to the hospital, to get me help.  Begging God to keep me alive.  The utter fear and anguish.

Not going gently.

I am not supposed to be raising your beautiful daughters.  You are.  You are the one that should be wishing them happy birthday today.  You are the one that should be celebrating their joy of life, their laughter, their singing.  Sometimes I wonder if you sang to them all the time when they grew inside of you, because they wake up singing, laughing, yelling and they go to bed that way.  They are so full of energy and enthusiasm.

You are the one who should be hearing their "I love you mamas" and you are the one who should be hugged so tightly every day.

Not me, you.

Your girls are wonderful little girls.  They make everyone smile and laugh.  They are not shy at all and love to engage anyone that comes their way.  Mia talks non stop and will make herself laugh at anything that strikes her as funny.  Ellie notices everything and is sensitive.

They are so extraordinarily special.  There is a light inside of them that does not dim.

In fact, your story has not ended. It continues on in them.  In the light that shines in our house every day.

I always pray I will love them enough, that I can somehow try to be their mother too, even though I was never meant to be their mother.  I pray that somehow you know that I love your girls so much.  I pray that you know you are never forgotten and always remembered.  Even now, so young they know about you, their mama.  I can never take your place.

This day is hard for me.  Because we celebrate their birth which also was the day they lost the most important person in their lives, the person that should have been celebrating today with them.  They don't understand this yet, the joy, pain, and loss mixed together.  Somehow I hope that when that day comes, when the pain and the joy is felt by them too, I can wrap my arms around them and whisper that you loved them more than life itself, that we love them and will never stop, and that you also wrap your arms around them and remind them that you live on in them and your love will never leave them."



I share parts of the story of their birth and mother's death only because the orphanage they were adopted from only accepts babies whose mothers have died giving birth to them (and I have stated this many times on my blog and on our website).  The rest of their story is for them to share one day if and when they choose to share it with others.  

Last year's letter can be found here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

a challenge for orphan sunday

Lovely and challenging words for today, the day called "Orphan Sunday".

So much resonated with me when I read this post.  And one little girl's face came to mind.  A very special little girl that I worry about a lot.  Who lives on the other side of the world.  When I received her most recent photo, my heart broke all over again.  When you pray for orphans today, would you pray for her?  Her name is Chito Wambili.  This little girl is loved by all those have met her.

If you want to read her story, start here.  But read all the follow ups if you read her story, then you will understand even more the love I have for this little girl and why I started Tumaini in the first place.  Children do not belong in orphanages.  They should be in families.  The children that live at the orphanage we support have known families.  More have been going home to their families than ever, but not enough and not fast enough.  Living in an institution, in an orphanage, does harm to children.  We support the children and then we support the work of the orphanage staff to reunite the children with their families.  Again, to those that have supported our work--thank you.