A life shared …..

By Emmanuel Kasomba 

Quite often, we despise the power and impact of a simple touch, a listening ear, a smile, an honest compliment, a simple word of prayer, a small act of sharing and caring, but a combination of these creates the ability to transform and turn around a life. Nurse Benardette and volunteer Joan, in the picture above attend to Petraline during the RIBHO monthly home visits. She is an 80 year old lady who is so happy about the services extended to her by the RIBHO volunteers. Some time back when we had just started visiting her, she was so lonely because she stayed alone at her small house. But one visit after another, one food package and then another, a prayer here and there …we started noticing incremental positive changes. Then one time we went to visit her as usual, but found everything totally different. She was clean, smart, happy and healthier, and even more, God had sent her daughter in law and first grandchild to visit. She now has family to share her goodies with and lives an extremely happy life. Truly we serve a God of wonders and miracles.

“God remembered me.”

By Victoria Kateme

Francen an old widow from kyamagwa village, Jinja could not believe that God remembered her. In her own words, “having RIBHO volunteers in my home with food packages month after mother is the most visible sign of God to me.” Francen, has been staying alone and struggling to make ends meet without any support for years.

At the age of eighty, with feeble knees and hands, she still moves slowly to and from her vegetable garden patch, planting and weeding whatever she can to grow to make a meal and simply survive. During the June RIBHO home visit, her blood pressure was a bit high, she reported general body pain, paralysis in her left hand, and itching eyes among other pains and aches.

For two years now, RIBHO has consistently visited her every month with groceries and a nurse to give her a medical check-up and provide pain and blood pressure medications. Following RIBHO volunteer visits, other locals took interest too, and started helping her as well.

France is very appreciative and always grateful to God for choosing her among the many people that RIBHO supports. Sometimes she even dances for us, the volunteers upon arrival at her house. The support, love, care and prayers given by the RIBHO volunteers has enabled her to live a better quality of life. What she says she appreciates the most is, “helping me to have a renewed image of God as loving me, and accepting again that Jesus loves me and care for me, and will receive in glory when my time comes. I prayed for a sign for God to remember me in my old age, and you young people came with food, smiles, medicine and you still come. If God could do that, I am now confident that Jesus will also receive me in heaven when my time comes. I am happy. I am very happy.”

For a long time Francen lacked a personal pit latrine. Her kind neighbors sympathized with her and allowed her to use their latrine for many years. However, last year, following RIBHO’s example, a Good Samaritan in the neighborhood constructed a personal pit latrine for Francen, and she was saved from that embarrassment of having to go to the neighbors. Her home is now lively with a good number of grandchildren who have resumed visiting.

Two years ago, Francen was a community reject. Today the favour of the Lord draws people she does not know to support her. She has been a blessing to behold.

Happiness prolongs life

By Emmanuel Kasomba 

Studies show that a genuine smile contributes to your health. It can lift your mood, alleviate your stress and relieve any pain you are feeling. Did you know that it can even regulate your blood pressure? Thank you RIBHO for the smiles that you always put on these (in the picture above) and many other elderly members of the Kabembe community through the RIBHO Senior Nutrition and Health Assessment Program. From left to right are: Felista, Oritiya and Beatrice looking so happy and grateful after being administered to vital body checkups and health assessments by the RIBHO volunteer team as well as sharing the word of God, prayer, having Holy Communion and receiving a food package from the Organization at Kabembe Health Centre II.

A smile regained

By Victoria Kateme

“It is possible to forget how to smile… or how to smile.” This is very true for Hasfa, who is about 75 years old and lives in Jinja. You see, Hasfa doesn’t remember when she was born, but interestingly she always says, “I was born during the time of the great famine”.

When we first met and registered her as a RIBHO home health-visit client, Hasfa was ill, lived alone, and by the mercies of whoever could help her. A few months later, her daughter came to take care of her and she improved a little, walking on clutches and or with support, but still remained very weak, and experienced severe body itching.

Hasfa also has vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose its pigment. Consequently, she has discolored patches in different areas of the body, especially her face. Needless to say, she has faced a lot of stigma and discrimination in the community. Adults and children alike stare at her, point and gasp.

The combination of illness, the stigma, limited medical and social support left Hasfa with a lot of bitterness and anger towards everybody around her. During our first visit with her, it was clear that she was hurting both physically and emotionally. She was rude, shouted at us and refused to answer half the questions out to her by the visiting nurse but she accepted the food packages.

But we returned month after month, and with continued relentless love, care and kindness from the RIBHO volunteer team, her attitude changed. Her health, attitude and outlook improved steadily. She became very hospitable and started waiting for us to come around, welcoming us with her wide, and sweetly singing us songs from her youth. In March and April when the home visits where paused due to COVID-19, she looked up some of the volunteers in their homes asking with caring concern, “What has happened to my good friends?”. You see, Hasfa believes she got a new family – us the RIBHO family.

On occasion, RIBHO volunteers walked with Hasfa through the village, and it was made known to the community that she was now a friend with medical nurses and professional social workers. The once very weak and sad Hasfa can now be seen walking through the village, straight up with an ever broadening smiling face. She testifies, “My skin no longer itches a lot and I am happy to be regaining my normal skin color in some parts of the body though one may not easily see this.” She also confesses that she enjoys the food RIBHO gives her.

In my opinion, Hasfa had given up on life, but now she is very optimistic and sure that her tomorrow will only get better.

Who knew that the once disillusioned Hasfa would become a “smiling machine” of the community, and a warm charming host to all who enter her house!

I, praise the Lord for the people supporting this program. You are making a difference. Hasfa wanted you to know. I hope sharing this story will put a smile on your face. Many hopeless people like Hasfa become hopeful and hundreds of such people are being helped.

“The mothers have come.”

By Victoria Kateme

Growing up in large Ugandan families, we were nurtured by many mothers. A good number of them were family members, and the other half were older women in the village who cared for us as well as our own mothers would. Not a lot has changed for the younger children that RIBHO reaches with a meal or two.

“I am happy to have a mother figure”, says Ambrose an eleven year old boy primary five. The end of this year he would be moving along to primary six, but with COVID-19 school is still suspended in all of Uganda and is likely to remain that way for the rest of the year.

Ambrose was born with pediatric HIV and he also has a hearing impairment. After the death of his mother who passed on when Ambrose was three years old, he was given to the full care of his beloved father. Although the father does not have a stable job, for a while now, they have done relatively well. The father has done a great job of making life comfortable for his son Ambrose, until this March, when COVID-19 brought work to a standstill for so many people like Ambrose’s father.

Through RIBHO’s feeding program, Ambrose not only has access to nutritious foods, he has also found a “mother figure” as he says, in one of the female volunteers assigned to him as to this boy to help him boost his immunity, but also the female volunteer social worker assigned to him. “She reminds me of my mother. She listens to me, and shows mw love. She also says inspiring messages to me. I thank God for her”, says Ambrose with a large smile.

During the June home visit, we found Ambrose at home alone. His father was out looking for work. For our usual prayer time at the end of the visit, Ambrose hoped that God would heal him and enable him to hear properly. You see, it is very difficult for him to hear everything we say, which frustrates him. For those patient enough to carry on a conversation with him, Ambrose rewards with a happy facial expression of both joy and relief.

When a watchful neighbor pooped around to see who was visiting with Ambrose, we identified ourselves as RIBHO volunteers. Nonetheless, she asked Ambrose directly, “Who are these people?” to which he replied, happily, “The mothers have come.” His simple but full matter of fact statement speaks volumes, especially when it comes from such an innocent loving and brave child.

The Grace Congregational Health Network (Grace Network)

One Need. One Voice. One Church

The Church is an amazing organization and as I grow in her service I marvel at God’s ingenuity of this organism. Another thing I have reflected on in the past months is how much credit COVID-19 has gotten for pretty much every happening in the human race since February 2020 (and December last year in some places). Yes, I might add another … this global event has hastened our local partnerships, and also made us more agreeable with each other than ever before.

Our Community Benefits and Partnership’s program was launched last year, with the aim of formally recognizing, supporting, developing and equipping local community care programs to do what they do best. One such indispensable community leader in our local communities is the Local Church.

Like her God and LORD, she is also the only organization I know to reveal herself under a new name to meet the new need in her community.

The local church has confronted and met head on every problem and need known to human kind, and if she has not succeeded at some, it’s not from lack of trying. In the very least, her ministry of presence remains legendary, and with every growing meaning for every generation she cradles in her arms.

And now by a new name for the new need, 10 local churches have come together as network of local congregations under the umbrella coalition “The Grace Congregational Health Network (Grace Network). They are working to address the hunger, medical and educational growing needs as just a few of the challenges in their local communities during and beyond COVID-19. To learn more about this initiative, read more here.

By Dr. Pam

How are you doing?

lake victoria

If you are like me, you have probably been surprised at the many responses COVID-19 has evoked in you. Perhaps you have seen similar or different responses in others.

On the inside and outside, we go around in circles that often have lament, cursing, fright, trembling, … and then hope, laughter, catching up with family and longtime friends, praying, fasting, … and we dial back to 0 …and on and on …

I am concluding that’s it’s okay not to be okay, for as long as we maintain some sight of hope. Just a little bit of it, every day.

With everything down and almost running out (if not already run out) this coronavirus lockdown continues to shake our individual and global lives. Here in our rural Uganda communities, the sting of bitter paralyzing days is beginning to set in and affect everything. Not to be negative. We are learning that calling things out by name helps us better deal with what we are able to name.

People are still off the streets, the usual Sundays gatherings are no more, learning institutions are still closed, shopping malls and restaurants all not functioning, public transport means no more …, and no where close to returning to normal as we had hoped the President would announce in his last address to the country.

In the last few weeks we have scripted messages of hope for ourselves and others.  As lazy and self-serving as it may sound, we are letting people know that taking care of themselves is now the first line of protection against this cononavirus. For us who are still blessed to live in low risk communities, our major issues will likely continue to be concern about having enough food and mental health.

As self-absorbing as it might sound, some days your best job and service to humanity will be taking great care of yourself. Please do just that.

So, a question to you friends, what measures have you put in place to ensure your safety, as well as that of your loved ones and neighbors?

Please share your tips with us, and if you have yet to figure these measures out, we are more than happy to make some helpful suggestions.

Stay well…

Emmanuel Kasomba

Piggy bank giving: To small a gift, for so great a need?

piggy-bank

It seems to me that our world seemingly finds itself in greater need than are resources. If you have been tasked with the ministry of giving, like me, perhaps you find yourself a bit overwhelmed, and very aware that your tiny COVID-19 response is so small, and almost too embarrassing to give to those whose needs are so much greater than all your best efforts to supply.

Even worse, perhaps some of you have experienced what I have. You have presented 1 kilogram of sugar to a family of 6 that needs so much more than your meager gift, and they in frantic despair have pointed out the obvious to you, “Madame, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but how do you expect me to feed my family on just this?”

And you go away with mixed feelings. Should you continue to make this very small gift available, or feel ashamed and embarrassed that you have so little to give, and unable to meet a need so vast?

Well, this morning as I pray for all the people that I wish I could bless with so much, I am grateful for the witness of the Holy Spirit, that calms me and reminds me to submit my smallest gift to God, and look to Him to use it to present more than I ever can. Beyond sweetening tea, and giving that much needed energy to a hungry body, I pray that God would add His value and unfailing fragrance of hope, peace and love to a small gift that demonstrating expressed care and concern. Long after the sugared tea has been digested and wasted, I pray that the warm feeling of hope will linger much longer in each fearful heart.

And so I sing on, because I too have experienced these mixed feelings – as often I come to God’s table, asking for more, demanding for more even, before I express gratitude for what He has already done for me. It’s not that I do not appreciate my Fathers expressed love and care for me. It’s that I am too over burdened by the fear and doubt concerning tomorrow needs, my gaze, transfixed on tomorrow’s giants, skips over today’s supply placed in my hands now.

But my Father knows and sees all this, and loves me deeply still in this experience of my mine – needing to believe and hope on Him, whose unfailing love is already much greater than ever a need I can present Him with.

Soon enough, soon enough, His Spirit will teach my heart, to praise and thank Him as I ought. Soon enough!

For today, I thankfully acknowledge this:

“Weak is the effort of my heart, And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.”
  

Are you a minister today? More overwhelmed by lack than the awareness of God’s surplus to provide for the needs of those you serve and the world over? Be encouraged. Keep serving. Do not grow weary of expressing love, care and concern. There is a much greater force at work behind each phone call you make, each small need you help meet – soon enough, soon enough … Loves great tide building up now, will steadies us all, to keep fear away, to sooth tired hearts and minds, to cause us to sing yet another happy chorus.

As it is, you haven’t been called to do all. You have been called to BE all.

I pray you will enjoy and medicate on the words of this hymn, and be strengthened to BE in Christ Jesus.

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds | John Newton

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name! the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never-failing Treas’ry filled
With boundless stores of grace!

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.

Shalom!

Dr. Pam

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How are you caring or serving?

WHO COVID-19 Strategic Plans

For me, volunteering with RIBHO has provided a much needed outlet of my desire to so do something to help others … which I find, helps me the most in return.

Does your community have organizations that are offering safe ways for you to express the love and care I know you feel inside?

How about the numerous online serving opportunities we are hearing about? Are you able to be part of these service opportunities? I hope so. Perhaps you have no clue where, how and with whom to begin. Keep seeking, listening and looking.

At RIBHO we have had numerous opportunities to contribute to efforts in helping each other and our community members to stay above the waters. This has been done through using the seemingly small resources available in practical ways.

I have taken all the COVID-19 training courses that RIBHO has offered. I can’t tell you how much I have surely appreciate setting my eyes on those course notes, and then later sharing this wise information with others.

A few weeks ago RIBHO sponsored our community partners, providing them with resources for making face masks using kitengi fabric material that is 100% cotton as recommended by the Health practitioners. I was blessed to work with one of the recipient tailors of this initiative. She had this to say about this project.

“It was a great pleasure and opportunity to spearhead the making of masks. It was something I had never thought about but when RIBHO brought the opportunity and chose to work with me, I got the chance to learn a new skill since I was given the guidelines of making the recommended type of masks.” – Pastor Naume Biribawa.

She is a pastor, professional tailor and a RIBHO volunteer who was empowered by the organization to take on this activity. This activity was very timely, as only a few days later, the government made it mandatory for everyone to put on a face mask when going out in public places.

You see what I mean? Engaging in these prevention activities has been very rewarding for me. If you haven’t already (and I know most of you have or are on the verge of), please take on a safe volunteering opportunity, and when you do, perhaps you can share it with us. We can always use more motivation!

Emmanuel Kasomba

How are you sharing?

Hand-washing soap and bleach

In our rural communities, a bar of soap can often make a difference between life and death. This is not an exaggeration, especially now, with scientific news stating that this coronavirus can stubbornly stay alive on a surface for 72 hours (or was it 48 hours?).

In our poorest communities, as many of 600 infants will die from diarrhea, often resulting from poor hand hygiene. So you can see why I have a whole different appreciation for hand washing and a bar of soap for those who can’t always afford one.

So anyways, I was really happy to participate in handing out RIBHO’s free bars of soap to various people in the community, to empower them properly wash their hands. In such difficult times when some people’s probability of missing the next meal is more than a half, will they be able to buy soap? Thankfully, for those within reach of our project services, the answer doesn’t always have to be no.

With RIBHO’s hand washing good initiative, a good number of beneficiaries have been able to keep safe. Many of these individuals were identified by the various partner local churches, who reach out to the targeted group of people in most need of the soap. … and not just one piece of soap, but half  a bar (that is at least 3-4 pieces of soap).

With such practical love, and sharing coupled with prayers, it was wonderful to see some of these families cut off a piece of soap and share it with their neighbors. After all, their children play and get sick together. Still, love over a bar of soap goes a long ways of many hand washings.

Have you shared anything with anyone outside of your family and friends during this COVID time? if you haven’t already, or have done it again in the last 7 days, do it again, and please share your thrill of sharing with us.

Please stay well. Stay safe. …

Emmanuel Kasomba