Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meet 8 teenage heroes.

I'd like to introduce you to 8 of my heroes. I can't show you their pictures...and I don't even know their names....but there are 8 girls in IL who have stolen my heart, encouraged my soul and challenged me through their lives to live my life well.
**photo from Brave Girls Club....b/c I couldn't think of any braver girls than these!
These 8 girls are all growing up in the foster care system. They have known loss. They have experienced abuse and abandonment. They know pain. They know suffering. They know what it is to have very little to your name. They know what it is to feel forgotten. They are in a small group now. The official name of the group is R.E.A.D.Y. (Redeemed. Empowered. Anointed. Determined. Youth).  But these girls just call themselves "Redeemed", because you know what else they know? They know love. They know a God who adores them. They know healing.

What's REALLY incredible - is that they know that THEY have been chosen to also administer healing in this world. To be young women who will love others well. To be lovers of Jesus who pour that love out on others who have suffered.

A few months ago, these girls got together and bought a cow for 3 hurting women in Uganda. They had bake sales and worked and worked and worked to raise $200 for a cow. In March, I got this email from their beautiful small group leader, Chantel
"I have seen many changes in the girls since we've begun this journey. For the first time, they are looking past their own survival. For the first time they have been able to give, to open their tightly clenched fists that keep them holding onto moldy food, for the fear of having nothing to eat. I'm also seeing a decrease in their self-destructive behaviors. They are growing. They are healing. They finally understand they are not alone in this world.

Only God could use a cow to do that!"
**note:  This week, their mamas got their cow! I can't wait for pictures to show the girls.

These beautiful amazing souls were not done yet! They have been mowing lawns in the heat of the summer, working and working and working and have now raised the money for their mamas to go to the conference and to have a group loan. $250. All raised by a group of girls who have known loss and suffering and are choosing to sacrificially love their "sisters" halfway across the world so that they may know healing. I am overwhelmed.

Chantel sent me this a few nights ago:
"The girls have been very busy praying for their sisters, and doing yard work in very hot weather for elderly church members to raise money.

This has really been a wonderful opportunity for them to grow in compassion, to look beyond their own pain and loss to receive some healing and restoration. To see they are no longer victims, but strong young women of God who can make a difference. This ministry was the key to reaching their hearts!"

I don't know about you - but these girls are my heroes. Girls, I love you all and can't wait to meet your mamas in Uganda. I'll be getting video of us giving them their group loan and I can't wait to tell them all about you! You are so brave and strong and beautiful. You are amazing. I know Jesus must just beam with pride when He thinks about you, His precious daughters, serving His other precious daughters.

They have given me permission to share their story in hopes that the relationship between foster girls in Illinois and women in Uganda might encourage others to give and to get involved in changing the world and offering healing to the hurting world around us.  We have 6 more groups of mamas that need group loans. Would you like to take the "Redeemed Girls" challenge and support one of these groups? If so, click on the paypal link to give...and make sure to tell us that you are following the girls' lead so we can tell them!

PS: If you'd like to leave a comment on this blog....I bet Chantel will share it with them :) Tell the girls how beautiful and brave and lovely they are!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Angera Acumunio Village of Mamas

Only $100 needed to fully fund a group loan for the Angera Acumunio Village of mamas. Mamas like Asibo:

Asibo is 34 years & got married to a man who already had two wives she is the youngest wife. When her husband tested positive he resorted to his first wife leaving Asibo and the second wife to fend for themselves. Asibo too is HIV+ but has seven children who totally depend on her as both the father and the mother. She depends on agriculture and sale of her labor to educate for her first born girl now in senior one and for the welfare of all the seven children all school going age. “Jesus is my great hope” she says in a soft but determined voice to over come all odds with Jesus by her side.

click on the paypal button to give Asibo and the other 29 mamas in her group (many whom are HIV+) a group loan to start a business!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meet Jennifer, Grace and Margaret: pictures of beauty in the midst of ashes

It's one thing to talk about "precious Ugandan women" - it's a whole other thing to meet them. Today, I want to share the stories of 3 of the mamas who are in our program. Your help, could provide for these mamas to come to our conference and to get a business loan....but first, meet some women who have become precious to my heart. I think you'll love them too.
(the women from our 3rd cooperative receiving their cows and praying over them)

(stories are written from Anne, my Ugandan hero and the woman who is coordinating everything on the Uganda side :)

Margaret is 50 years old she produced 6 children all of whom are grown however she is currently taking care of 8 children. 2 of them secondary school going her own, 4 orphans left to her by her brother in law who both died of HIV/AIDS and 2 grand children left to her by her late daughter. Margaret is a widow who derives her livelihood from agriculture to cater for the basic needs of these children and their education. Her major challenge is educating the children who have passed to secondary level. The group has been very beneficial to her in that she is able to access and borrow small money to attend to the emergency needs.

 Jennifer is 27 and a single mother 2 and taking care of 1 child by her sister. Jennifer got pregnant at school while in senior 4 (15ish), the man who impregnated her abandoned her. she had to drop out of school. While at home Jennifer again got some body who deceived her and got her pregnant and abandoned her.  All of them are school going age P.7; P.4 and P.2. Jennifer derives her livelihood from agriculture. Her biggest challenge is feeding of the children and medical help especially for one child who is epileptic. She also has under gone  due to breast cancer. The group has been a strong moral support to her and she gets counseling from the group.

Grace is a classic case of how poverty is slavery. She is 34 years single mother of three and has sickle cell.  Grace was born with this condition to a single mother. She is a pretty woman but because of her sickle cell condition no man in the village can marry a woman who will become a burden. Being young  and like every body else, Grace got attracted to a young man who promised her heaven but got her pregnant and abandoned her. Reason she he could not marry a woman who instead of being hardworking at home, would cost him dearly due to her sickness. He said “ who wants a burden  for a wife, who will help me in the garden”. Well as it were still being young and now helpless with this child, grace again got deceived by another man who promised to take care of her with her child. What was the end result she got pregnant this time round with twins. The father of the twins? Could not take responsibility why he had his other two wives so he could not add another problem. Grace to him was but just another problem.

Grace is bed ridden most of the time and for many days. In her condition living in the village where survival is pure hard work her weak health makes her and her children very vulnerable. So I ask her how do you manage I mean the bills and to take care of the children? Well she says, I have made an agreement with a nurse at the centre, when I am sick, she treats me on credit and when I am ok I work in her garden as a way of paying my bills. While she is sick her older child now 10 has to trot between attending to the mother in the clinic and her siblings now 5 years old and all house hold chores. For that time she has to forget about school. What is your strength and hope? I ask her because even I in my walk of life had not come across this situation before yet I was amazed that she was still alive and having a smile.
“ I live for my children and my trust is on Jesus my solid rock” that was so powerful coming from such a frail woman yet very strong  much far more stronger than I."
If your heart breaks for Jennifer, Grace and Margaret and you want to be a part of their lives, be a part of their healing, be a part of enabling them to care for their own children - YOU CAN!!!

Each of these women would like to come to our conference....as well as 1,997 women just like them. Our conference will focus on healing from our heart's deepest wounds and believing the truth about us. I don't know about you, but I just want to hold these girls' faces in my hands and whisper to them about how strong and brave and beautiful they are. I can't wait to speak over them their worth and how much our Jesus adores them. Oh wait...I get to do that very thing! In just 2 weeks :) It costs $1.25 for each woman to attend. Click HERE to give towards helping women attend a conference.

These girls are already a part of our cooperatives as you have read. They received cows and have been benefiting already from being a part of a group. We would like to give these women a group loan for their cooperative. This would cost $250 per group.  Click HERE to give specifically to group loans!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beautiful Scars

“Nobody escapes being wounded.  We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.   The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?”  When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers." - Henri Nouwen

Hear that? NO ONE escapes being wounded....no need to live in shame or to live the rest of your days feeling broken....Jesus is there, in the dirt, asking if He can heal you, asking if He can hold you in your pain, asking if you'd like for Him to use this pain for good.

For some, that may sound crazy and that's ok. I know what that feels like. I know what it's like to feel so broken that you don't think you'll ever feel whole again. I know what it is to go into those deep places and there to realize that you're even more broken than you first thought! I know the overwhelming feeling that accompanies that realization. I know what it's like to say to a counselor "is it really that bad? Do other people have this amount of trauma? Was I really violated that much? This brokenness.....it's not just in my head, huh? It's really kind of a big deal" and have her with tears in her eyes say "yes. it is. I am sorry. But I promise to walk with you to healing." For a long time I thought healing wasn't totally possible. And even if it was....I couldn't imagine others loving me if they really knew how broken I was. I felt I would live with the scars forever.

But then I read about a woman in India who was a part of the horrendous act of "bride burnings" and had scars all over her body after nearly being burned alive. She is now a specialist treating burn victims. The writer talked about watching her work and talk and touch the women who had suffered like she had and being in awe of her....and her scars. How those scars were beautiful. I also think about the coolest athletes.....no, not the football heroes you may think of....the XGames stars :) the ones who do the coolest stunts. And ya know what? They have scars too. Many great adventures come with scars.

I can honestly say, after all that I've been through, that I don't regret any of my wounds. I used to read Genesis 50.... after horrific abuse and maltreatment.... 19" But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  I used to be afraid of that verse. I couldn't read it without bawling. I couldn't believe I'd EVER get to the place where this level of pain could be "brushed aside" like that. Yes, I wanted to forgive. Yes, I wanted God to use it. But to say those words? unthinkable.  But now, I think I can say that. What others (or the enemy....I don't think everyone who hurt me actually intended to wound) meant for evil....God used for good. 

I can see already how He has begun to use my wounds, to use my scars for good. Really amazing, actually. The question is....will you let Him hold you? I used to think that change and healing like this took a lot of work - but what Jesus told me was that it was ok to hurt, ok to lay in the dirt and cry. In fact, He would lay in that dirt with me and hold me. And gently, so very gently, He began to lift me out of the dirt, tend to my wounds and heal my broken places. He gave me beautiful scars where there were once just open wounds. I promise that He will do the same for you. I pray that is what He will do for the women in Uganda in a few weeks. That will be the crux of what we are talking about....asking Jesus to bring beauty from broken places. Pray with me for them? And I'll be praying for you too.

PS: If you want to help some hurting Ugandan women attend our conference, you can click here to give. $1.25 provides for one Ugandan woman to attend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Psyched up for battle

Have you ever watched a great fight? Particularly a great UFC fight? One of our favorite things to do these days is to go watch the local cage fights. It is AWESOME! (yes, I know this might make me an odd girl in your minds :) What you see just before a fight is the fighters getting pumped up. They come out to great music, with their friends cheering them on, while they jump around to get ready to fight. They know a battle is coming and they are getting ready to FIGHT.

I even do this in Krav Maga. (Israeli Hand to Hand Combat). If we are really fighting and sparring, I ALWAYS ask Jake to please turn on the best music. I need it inside of my head to gear me up to be able to fight.

This blog post is my fight music. This is me, psyching myself up for a battle.

Yesterday, I wrote about it being ok that I would get "shot at" (metaphorically speaking)....but the truth is, a lot of times I forget that. I forget that I'm in a battle. I forget that if you are on the frontlines of battles for freedom, you are going to be shot at.

I don't know what you think about spiritual battles, but I believe them to be absolutely true. I have seen them firsthand. In fact, recently, I was praying with a friend through some of the worst trauma she has experienced....Jesus was breaking down the chains of injustice in her life in HUGE ways. All of a sudden, she pulled back from me with a horrified expression on her face. Visibly shaken, with tears rolling down her face, she apologized and said that all of a sudden, as we were praying, she heard a voice tell her to punch me in the face. Battle? Yep. I believe whole heartedly that the battle to freedom is an absolute battle. I believe there is an enemy of our souls who desires to see us live in chains of oppression and believe horrible lies about ourselves. 

Because I am regularly walking with women who are in this battle for freedom, I think I might not be the enemy's favorite person :)  Add to that this upcoming Uganda trip and things have been ROUGH around here! This should make me excited because I'm guessing that God might have some MAJOR plans for our sweet Ugandan mamas while we are there. I see healing coming to their precious, traumatized hearts. I see mamas who will be able to feed their families. I see hurting women hearing the TRUTH about who they are. I see the oppressed being set free all around me.

So of course....things are getting rough. Sometimes it's big things like losing my phone last week and then damaging a new one this week (through no fault of mine!). Those seem like nothing - but I don't want to pay $200 to fix a phone while I'm trying to raise $10,000 for the women of Uganda! Sometimes it comes in new people not liking me....in case you are wondering, I'm not super popular with abusive men either :) Sometimes it's a trigger for me to fall back into pain because of people or situations of my past. Sometimes it's just waking up sad. More doubt than usual. More pain than usual. More longing even than usual. I have had trouble sleeping and have been waking up with a hurting heart this week. I'm exhausted and each day seems like a struggle for some reason or another......

So this is my psych myself up blog. To say to myself, "yeah Brandi it's hard....but that's BECAUSE it's worth it. That's the enemy. Are you going to let him win? Is $200 really a big deal to your God? Is $10,000 more than HE has? Are you going to listen to those lies? Do you really believe that about YOU anymore? You KNOW the truth. You know the promises God has given to your heart. Hold tight. He WILL COME THROUGH.  This is HIS. You are HIS. The women who have been abused are HIS. The Ugandan women are HIS. The Indian girls you want to see rescued are HIS. He IS big enough for all of this"  Do you see me jumping around? Psyching myself up? Listening to some fist pumping fight music?

Whatevs, enemy. You will not win this girl. I have already been set free. I am called to walk others to freedom. Get out of my way. Leave me alone. No matter what you do - I'm not falling for it. I will still serve. I will still praise. I will still go. I hate to break it to you, but I know the end of this story and psssst....you don't win. My God wins.

Want to battle with me? For the girls I walk with? For the women in Uganda? For the girls in India who need rescuing? For me?

Monday, July 23, 2012

To hide or not to hide.

Blogging is actually quite scary for me. There is a time to hide and a time to speak and be free.

When all of life came crashing down around me almost 2 years ago....I went into hiding. I crawled into Jesus' arms and hid in the shadow of His wings. I needed His daily care. I need His protection.

So I stopped blogging, I stopped FBing, I stopped tweeting.....I drew away to be alone with Jesus. Or maybe, better said, the Lord stripped me of everything but Him. I'm not saying it was easy. Actually, it was the hardest months of my life. But the Lord used that time.

He taught me how to hide.

Hiding isn't always a bad thing. When people are shooting you left and right....getting a bullet proof vest is actually a GREAT idea!

Eventually....I went back to FB but got VERY good at blocking people :) I teasingly say (though it's wholly the truth) that my FB is actually pretty open because "I'm not afraid of strangers, I'm afraid of people I know!"  FB became a place where I could gently emerge out of my shell. And often, it became a place of healing for me. I would get the most random emails from people all across the world encouraging me and telling me that they were praying for me.

In blogging - there is no blocking. This is an open space.

But ya know what? I think I'm ok now. I think I'm ok to stand up in the field and not be scared of the bullets. Will they come? YEP! I know that fully. The bullets have actually never stopped. But I think Jesus has given me a pretty precious little bullet proof vest in the form of REALLY knowing what He thinks of me now.

The truth is - bullets will always fly my way. I am called to stand in the gap and fight for justice. I walk with women who are walking away from abusive marriages when others tell them to suck it up and stay. I fight and raise awareness for victims of human trafficking. I work in Uganda and am on the front lines across the world, kneeling next to people in the dirt and showing them that Jesus is still right there with them. So....of COURSE... I'm going to get shot at....

And that's ok, because it's worth it. I am thankful for the journey Jesus has called me to walk. I am not ashamed of who I am or of my story. I love my Jesus and I KNOW He adores me.

So that's it. No more hiding. This is am. I am me. No hiding. No apologies. I'm not claiming to be perfect in any way. I am me. Broken and yet loved by my Jesus.

oh yeah...and I AM moderating comments...so even if the bullets fly...I'll just delete them :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Struggle with Struggling (what I learned on the Incline)

**this post isn't about Uganda :)  If you came looking for Uganda details, click HERE to learn more about the trip and HERE to learn more about our funding needs! Thank you!

I am proud of this girl. She is a precious friend who spent the last week with me. She has been through a lot.....and she is strong. And brave. And incredible.

We spent a whole week doing crazy hard healing work and spending hours on our faces with the Lord. At the end of the week, we did the hardest thing yet (physically :)  We did the incline.

The incline is a Colorado Springs staple and probably one of the hardest exercises ever! It is a one mile hike consisting of railway ties that span a 2,000 feet elevation rise. It's kind of like doing the stairstepper for an hour straight....at 9,000 feet elevation :)  The beauty of it is that the path down is a 4.5 mile trail run which I ADORE!

I do the incline pretty regularly. It's always hard. At some point along the journey, pretty much everyone wants to curse the stairs and themselves for attempting it. You hate it and love it all at the same time :)

Pretty much every time I hike this particular trail, the Lord speaks to me.

This time, He used my dear friend. You see.....not only has this been the worst month of her life....she also is from sea level (which makes doing the incline a tad MORE tricky), and she hasn't had the opportunity to work out a ton lately, AND she has a heart condition which means she has to be very careful when exercising.

On the way up, we took our time. She hated this. She wished she could go faster. She wished it wasn't so hard. She wished she didn't feel like passing out or throwing up the whole time. And then, of course, she shamed herself for slowing me down and for it being so hard.

About 4/5 of the way up the incline you reach a summit - but it's not the real one - it's the false summit. You still have about 15 more minutes of hiking/climbing to go. This last little bit can be tricky on your already weary body. As I was putting one foot in front of the other and trying to make my way up this section, I felt Him remind me "this is where you are Bee...you've made it this far. Turn around and look and be amazed. And look, you still have a little bit to go. It's ok to be tired at this point"

At the top, we paused to catch our breath, take in the absolute beauty and to ask Jesus to speak. He did. He told me, through my friend, that it is ok to struggle. It's ok for some things to be hard. It's ok for some hurt to still be around. It's ok to long. It's ok to doubt. It's ok to even be upset with Him for taking so long or choosing this path if I need to be. It's ok. 

I didn't EVER feel upset with my friend for struggling on the incline. It's the incline for heaven's sake! AND we had done a 4.5 mile trail walk with the kids earlier - making this a 10 mile day! Of COURSE she was struggling. Of COURSE it was hard. Of COURSE she wanted to quit. I never once thought "she should just take this and smile. I wish she'd just finish the dang thing" Nope. Not once.

Too often, I try to be strong. I shame myself for struggling...still. I am just past the false summit and I convince myself that I should be totally fine. But ya know what? Some days, it's still hard. Some days I question and doubt the promises of beauty that the Lord has spoken. Some days I hate being a single mama. Some days I get overwhelmed by the pain of those around me. Some days the pain in my own life still takes my breath away......and that's ok.  My Jesus has spoken to my heart that it's ok to be weak some days. It's ok to cling to His hand and beg for Him to make the pain go away. It's ok to long for my life partner and ask Him to bring him to me. It's ok to be overwhelmed. It's even ok to pound on His chest in frustration and anger. He can take it. He knows more than anyone that He's taken me on the "incline" and it's a hard, hard journey. He never expected it to be easy.

But....He does keep promising that there is a top to this mountain...and the view will be worth it all. So I will keep hiking, Keep clinging. Keep struggling. Keep praising.

Do you ever struggle with struggling?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ummmmm....how exactly is this going to work?!

I leave in 19 days. This means we need to wire money in 15 days. $10,000 worth of money.  That's $10,000 more than I have right now. Sometimes....I won't lie....That scares me a tad!

The thoughts begin to flood....
"YOU can't do this"
"this is too big for you"
"You will let all of them down"
"Who do you think you are?"
"This is too much"

But then....just like that....I remember. I remember Him. I remember the great big God that I serve.

I remember how He parted the red sea. I remember how He saw the Israelites in their oppression and rescued them. I remember how He set me free. I remember how He provided manna for so many. I remember how He chose Noah to build a boat. I remember how He rescued His people through Joseph, the one that others had thrown away. I remember how He lived and died. I remember how He loved. I remember how He healed. I remember how He's healed me. I remember that I once thought I was too broken...and how He has healed those broken places. I remember how He raised the dead, healed the lame and spoke life into broken places. I remember how He continues to speak life and hope into my hurting heart. I remember watching Him heal my friends and the beautiful, broken people around me. I remember WHO HE IS.

And I realize. He is JUST the kind of God to bring in JUST the amount of money HE needs for HIS work among HIS precious women. Yes, I am broken. But He's the kind of God who uses broken vessels for His glory.

For some CRAZY reason, He has chosen to let me be a small part of His story of redemption and healing and life in the midst of dust and ashes for the beautiful, broken women of Uganda....and I'm ready to watch Him work! $10,000? That's nothing to my God.

Click here to learn more about our trip
Click here to learn more about giving...and being a part of HOPE. Just $1.25 will send a woman to the conference and another $1.25 will train her to be in a cooperative!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Uganda trip - T minus 20 days!

 20 days. I can hardly believe it. In just 20 days I leave for my beloved Uganda. Oh how I can't wait to get off of that plane and breathe deeply of the African air, hug my Ugandan family and friends and spend a week soaking up God's presence in this place that I adore.

As you may know, we've been working with the most amazing woman, Akwango Anne Grace Elotu, since November of last year. I've known Anne for years and she is the most amazing woman you'll ever meet. She and her husband Joseph serve the people of their country with passion and sacrifice. Maybe one day, I'll have them both write a little of their life stories to share here :)  Since November, we have had the privilege of seeing 300 women join cooperatives (small groups that help the women to work together, pool their resources to help each other achieve sustainability more quickly, learn together, grow together and support one another). We started by raising the money to provide one cow for every 3 women in a group (10 cows for 30 women). What a privilege it has been to watch God work and to see the beautiful pictures of these women receiving their gifts!!!  Well....now we are going to meet our girls!!!!
The plan is changing now though....and expanding...a LOT! On our trip we will be launching cooperatives for 3,000 women! We will visit the girls already in our program, run a conference for 2,000 other women and do an official launch for 3,000 women! Please click here if you want to give to make this happen!

Our schedule for the trip:

Thursday night (8/9): Arrive in Uganda, stay overnight in Entebbe. 
Friday (8/10): Drive to Soroti (possible stop to visit Katie Davis in Jinja)
Saturday (8/11): Cow Delivery Day!!!  Deliver cows to 3 different villages as well as spend time with these precious women and hear more about their goals and dreams for themselves, their families and their villages.
Sunday (8/12): Church (you know I love preaching in a mud hut in the middle of Africa ;) and visiting more villages that have already joined the cooperatives
Monday (8/13): Conference begins! We will be hosting a conference for 2,000 women. I will be the keynote speaker (yes, I know that is CRAZY - start praying now!)
Tuesday (8/14): Conference. Loving on and praying with and watching God work among the women of Uganda and completely change us in the process :)
Wednesday (8/15): Official Cooperatives Launch! We will be launching this for 3,000 women!
   We will offer the following:
         1. Connection: starting or joining a cooperative
         2. Training: organizational training and vision casting for cooperatives
         3. Initial Investment: Our way of saying we love & believe in you! 1 cow, 2 oxen for each group
         4. Group Loan: once assimilated and trained, each group will come up with a proposal for a group project and receive their first loan as a group.
Wednesday (8/15) pm: Drive to Jinja to stay the night.
Thursday (8/16): morning boat ride on the Nile river, visit to Kampala, leave Uganda at 10 pm :(

Join us in praying now! If you want to pray by name....our team includes: Terri Goff (my mama!), Lisa Stepp, Nancy Cox, Kristin Walls, Kylie Walls, Kim Marchese-Kieffer, Abby Mortenson and Me :) We have a couple of people who are still considering joining too!


PS....I'll get to see these kiddos too :)  Remember when we raised the money on FB to pay their school fees?

Fundraising Needs for Uganda!

Fundraising needs for Uganda:

Conference for 2,000 women: $2500. This includes rental of the facility as well as mats for women to sleep on and food for the women.

We will be launching cooperatives for another 2,700 women, bringing the number of women in cooperatives to 3,000 women. (with the average Ugandan woman bearing 7 children, this has the potential to reach close to 25,000 Ugandans!)

The final day of the conference will be the official launch of the cooperatives ministry. We will offer the following benefits to women:

1. Connecting existing women's groups to the greater coalition of cooperatives. Starting new groups in villages that have not organized the women into groups.

2. Training each group in what it means to be a part of a cooperative. This includes organizational training as well as vision casting for what it looks like to work together to help one another, build one another up, learn and grow together and reach sustainability. ($1.25 per woman / $37.50 per cooperative = 90 more cooperatives $3,375 )

3. An initial investment in their future sustainability. Initially, we have offered 10 cows to each group of 30 women. This provided 1 cow for every 3 women. We have done this for 10 groups since November 2011. This was getting to an overwhelming capacity, as the cooperatives grew! Instead, from here on out, we will be offering 2 oxen and 1 cow to each group. These oxen will be used to plow the ground for all of the women. The cow will be used for milk, especially for women who are HIV+ and cannot breastfeed their own babies. As the cow reproduces, it will help the group more and more and will eventually provide cattle. ($800 provides one cow and 2 oxen)

4. Once they are assimilated into the cooperatives organization, trained and organized and have received their initial investment gift, they will begin to work on a plan for a group project. Internationally these are called IGAs(income generating activities). Based on their skills, locations and field of interest, the women will propose to start a group business and will be given a business loan to kick start their sustainable future.

**the beauty of cooperatives is truly how well they will run and work without western interference. The women can begin pooling their resources and borrowing from that fund to help grow themselves to sustainability without us. We, however, have the opportunity to hit the "fast forward" button on their sustainable future! It would take them MONTHS to gather the resources necessary to start a business. We get to help them do that! Once the business is in place and earning a profit, they are quickly able to repay the loan to be loaned out again as a group loan to further grow their business or to start individual businesses!**

At the conference, we would like to announce that we have funding in place to begin 90 more cooperatives and train them. (2,700 more women, for a total of 3,000 women).

Furthermore, we would like to gift a group publicly with their initial investment of a pair of oxen and a cow.

For the 10 groups that have already formed, been trained and received cows, we would like to present them with a group loan!

Conference: $2,500
Training for 90 groups: $3,375
Initial Investment for 1 group: $800 (we could always do more groups though if more money came in!)
Group loans for 10 groups: $2500 (approx $250 per group with some receiving less and some receiving a bit more).

Total Needed: $9,175.  We are also giving one last group 10 cows. This funding is almost completely in place already ($2,000)

Thank you for considering being a part of the opportunity to provide hope to the hurting women of Uganda. Thank you for considering empowering them! They are strong and brilliant and ready to work :)

Tax Deductible Giving Instructions Below :)


Brandi McElheny on behalf of the beautiful women of Uganda

Giving Instructions:
We have partnered with Psalm 82.3 ministries which allows us to take tax exempt donations with ZERO dollars going to overhead. The only money that you give that will not directly affect Ugandans is the paypal fees if you decide to give via paypal. Psalm 82.3 can process donations through paypal (credit card), checks or bank transfers. (checks and bank transfers allow for every single penny to go to Uganda :)

Please let me know if you'd like to wire the money directly to Psalm 82.3 (fast and easy :) - I will get you the account and routing numbers!

to send a check,
Psalms 82.3 Ministries
1021 Stagecoach Trail
San Marcos, TX  78666
Initial Investments:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A love letter to your body

A challenge to write a love letter to your body. A challenge by SheLovesMagazine that I read about on Sarah Bessey's blog. Ouch. I clicked through some of the submissions, finding myself in places in all of them. Mostly though, in one woman’s confession that she despises few, save herself. I know this is true. Never would I treat another the way I treat my own body. Never would I say or think the things about others that I think of my own body. I love extravagantly. It’s who I want to be. It’s who I am asking Jesus to form me to be. And yet….I have nothing but shame and blame and words full of death for the only body I will ever have. I think this may be a part of my brokenness, a part of my wounding, a part of my soul that my Jesus may want to heal. For she is me.

As I watch the women strut around the beach in bikinis with stomachs bigger and flabbier than mine, I inwardly groan with jealously. I see their self confidence and it makes me shake my head in wonder. I cannot imagine NOT thinking at all times about how my tummy looks. It, if anything, is my nemesis in flesh. I’m pretty much fine with the rest of my body….except my stomach. It is not flat enough, not muscular enough.

I approached this issue in counseling a few weeks ago, entering into dark wounds of my soul with Jesus about how my body was used. In that dark space, in the place where I began to despise my body – my Lord came and told me that it was valuable. He told me that my body should be cherished because it encases my soul. And then…I was told the most shocking thing….I was told that my stomach could be loved. I was told that my stomach was a microcosm of me. It bears the scars of 2 children who each gave little me little stretch marks and provided areas of my stomach that just won’t tighten. It is as flat as it is (though certainly not flat enough in my mind) because of the work I put into exercise and the joy I have found there. It is as flabby as it is because I love my McDonalds and Chickfila and because when I am overwhelmed and stressed out, I drink my beloved coke. It is me. So then why do I hate it?  Does this mean that I hate me? One could say, “if you think your stomach isn’t flat enough, than do something about it!” And yet, on the inside, I am ok with me. I am ok with my love of fast food. I am ok with putting my time into loving the hurting around me and sometimes not having the time to make a proper meal. I am ok with me. So maybe it is time to make peace with my body. Maybe it is time to love her too?

So here goes nothing….

Dear Body,

I love you. Ok, maybe that’s not entirely true. But I want to love you. I want to be kind and gentle and nurturing to you. You were given to me as a gift and will be the only body I ever have. And don’t get me wrong, there are parts of you that I don’t mind at all….

Your legs aren’t bad. In fact, they remind me of my mama. All chicken legs in the Anderson family. We don’t have to work at that at least J

Your arms have been a source of contention in the past as they jiggle…but they also are the places that show the most growth. Those boys at Krav making you do push ups have paid off and the jiggle is less these days.

I actually love your shoulders, all bare and tanned. I love the feeling of sun beating down and the process of browning as the summer progresses.

Your neck. I once had someone tell me that I had a nice neck. I didn’t know necks could be nice but I think I’ll own that one. Sure. I’ll love your neck.

I do love your hair as it lightens over the summer days. The blonder it gets, the more I know that summer has been had and enjoyed.

Your eyes are nice too. I have never minded their color of blue. And they work when I wear my favorite blue shirt. They sparkle and dance when I find joy in the moments I’ve been given and I know they are a window to my soul. They also have cried many tears. Tears for pain so deep it took my breath away. Tears for others who have faced and are facing oppression and pain. Tears shed with friends who so graciously share their deepest wounds. I am thankful for those tears that allow me to physically manifest my soul at a given moment.

Your fingers and toes and nose are all little and actually kind of cute.

But my favorite thing about you is that you know me. I have learned over the past 2 years how well you know me. You speak to me about what it going on in my soul. I cannot ignore my soul, for you tell me. You allow me to feel nauseous when my wounds are stirred up inside. You shake when I am scared. And I am learning to listen to you. When you shake, I know I need to ask Jesus what it going on inside of me. When you are sick and nauseous and your heart races, I know there are wounds that I’d rather leave untouched but that you and Jesus have decided that I must face them and find healing. For this I am grateful. It would have been easy to ignore and push aside so many of my wounds, had it not been for your persistence.

Your stomach, I will work on loving J It is a work in progress, but I commit to this one.

You know me. You are me. You are worth cherishing because you encase my soul. I promise to work on loving you and being kinder and gentler to you and about you. You are worth it. I am worth it.