The Scarlet Cord

scarlet cord

Let me tell you about the Scarlet Cord!

We have established our vocational training center for women this year in Kagugu, Rwanda. This area is particularly known for women in the sex trade. The objective of our center this year is to provide a place for counseling, Bible teaching, healing, friendship and community support for these women. Not only will they be learning to sew, in order to have a fair trade by which to improve the lives of them and their children, but they will be learning to work through the traumas and difficulties of their pasts which have led them into prostitution as a way of survival.

“She tied the Scarlet Cord to the window.” Joshua 2:22

The name The Scarlet Cord, of course, comes from the Bible story of Rahab. Rahab did not know the one true God, She also was a sex trade worker. Yet her scarlet cord was a symbol of her faith. She had seen the power of God, and was keen enough to fear Him and put her faith in His power to save her and her family. This cord represents that faith.

Like Rahab, many of the women joining our center, do not know God; they have not seen His power in their lives; they have not encountered the salvation He so freely offers. Yet, in their willingness to come to our center, they too hang their scarlet cord in the window, with the smallest bit of faith and hope.

No doubt these women have faced unbelievable hardship in their lives, and have reached a place of moral destitution and shame in society. At Love Alive, we are honored to be able to wrap arms of love around these women, and show them the hope found in Jesus. I dream of them finding forgiveness, restoration, and their true beauty in Jesus Christ, and watching them walk in dignity as daughters of the King.

I beg you to join us in prayer for each of these women. Most of them have not even an elementary education. A dozen can neither read nor write. The majority have no living parents. None have husbands. Almost all have children for whom they want to provide a better situation in life.

We are blessed to have a skilled seamstress as our teacher who loves each student as her own child, and pours guidance and counsel into them daily. She begins each day in a time of prayer and Bible reading. I will be heavily involved in Bible teaching, individual and group therapy, and assisting these women in their individual needs physically and materially as they see change in their lives.

The Scarlet Cord is woven in threads of hope and faith that each of these women can see their lives drastically changed through Christ. We need the Holy Spirit’s involvement and your intercession on their behalves. If you wish to assist one of these women or this center financially, you may do so at the link below.

https://lovealiveinternational.com/donate/sewing-machines/

Take Heart

It wasn’t the first time since I have lived here that I wished I had a medical background, and for a split second, I considered becoming a cardiac surgeon. A split-second later, I recalled that I am only one person, and can only do so much, that besides not actually being good around blood, bile, exposed body tissues, and various other bodily fluids, it would also cost me at least six years. Six years in which I couldn’t continue in what I am already doing, and 6 years of patients dying for lack of care. heart pic

We had already waited with Delisia, a 2 month old baby girl, in the hospital for 6 weeks before meeting the first cardiologist. Though we had known for a month she had a serious heart condition, this was the first available appointment with a specialist. I knew our resources were limited. I anticipated open-heart surgery. I was prepared to beg for a transfer to the country’s best hospital so that Delisia could obtain the best care available to her. But I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“We have no cardiac surgeon in this country.”

None? Not one? “Well, aren’t we working to obtain one? Can’t we hire someone from a more developed country?”

“It’s not a priority.”

Not a priority? I see. Only a matter of life and death.

The doctor went on to explain that as we continue to have citizens dying daily due to malaria, higher priorities in other health care matters, take precedent over the need of a team of cardiac surgeons to perform life-saving surgeries.

I was dumbfounded. I know I live in a developing country. I know that there are various procedures considered fairly routine in other places, that are not available here. The fortunate ones, fly out to other countries for treatment. The less fortunate remain hospitalized for months, even years, just waiting. But waiting for what? A miracle, or death?

While my first concern was for Delisia, I walked back to the pediatric cardiology unit, where there were no more beds available. Scanning the children filling up the ward, I wondered how many were waiting for their miracle, for a life-saving surgery that may not come in time.

There is a waiting list, the doctors told me. Anyone needing a heart surgery is put on this waiting list. When foreign doctors visit for a week each year, those who are still alive will be put on the list for treatment. …

I’ve pondered this plight ever since I walked out of that doctor’s office. I wonder why we don’t have the physicians we need here. In my home country, I know that I could have my choice of heart surgeons, that there would have been no month-long wait to see a cardiologist, that when I did see him, he could refer me immediately to a surgeon, that If I didn’t feel comfortable with that surgeon, I could seek out another professional with higher qualifications or greater experience.

I believe that God knows and provides for everything we need. I believe he often has answered our prayers long before we ask. I also believe that often the provisions he has put in place do not come about, because we fail to follow His plan. For example we pray that others would know Christ, yet we fail to tell them. We pray for the poor and needy, but we fail to give. We pray for God to meet the needs in under-developed and developing countries, but we are not willing to allow Him to send us.

I wonder if He has asked someone to take their education and the skills He has given them and come to a less-fortunate part of the world to save lives, and they have not followed His call.

What about you? Has He asked you to come?

 

Spring Update

Spring Update

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                                     5/4/2017

Happy Spring! I trust you are all doing well. I’d like to share a brief update on Love Alive ministries in Rwanda.

Quick Trip: The last week in March, I was able to fly to the USA to take part in a mission-emphasis week at my home church in Tennessee. During the time I was home, I was able to visit area churches and mission partners as well as family and friends. This was certainly a refreshing time for me and beneficial for the ministry. Now back in Rwanda, our ministries continue to grow and expand.

New Ministry: Our most recent ministry project is one that I am excited to share with you. This year, our women’s vocational training center has been strategically positioned in an area known for sexual exploitation, namely prostitution. I met with many women in the sex trade months ago, and began a conversation with them about the potential to see their lives changed through Jesus Christ, and their willingness to give up their current form of living to pursue an honorable vocation. Since then, these women have pursued us, asking why we have delayed to begin the program. My number one reason for the delay was that I was not about to embark on this endeavor alone. I know full well that the Holy Spirit will have to be very present and active for real change to come about. Last week, we held our registration with nearly 100 women applying. We plan to officially open “The Scarlet Cord,” on May 15. This will be a vocational training center as well as a counseling center, and center for Bible teaching and mentoring. I have moved my office into the center to be there on a constant basis. Please bathe this ministry in prayer. I have been researching what other similar ministries world-wide have found effective, various counseling strategies and success stories from around the globe, and I’m relying heavily on my own therapeutic counseling background; however, I do not underestimate the need for the power of Christ in this center and in the life of each participant. There are so many ways that I can already share with you that we are seeing the powers of darkness work against this ministry, but we hold fast to the knowledge that these women can find true hope and change in Jesus.

Church Partnerships: As we support local churches, it is exciting to watch them grow. One particular pastor Damour, whom God saved from a 19-year alcohol addiction, changed him and led him to start his first church in his own hometown several years ago, is being greatly used of God. When I met Pastor Damour 3 years ago, his church was in need of building a larger facility to house their congregation, and their current facility was literally leaning over, soon to fall down. Since that time, We have seen that congregation grow largely, build the facility they were praying for and start 2 new church plants. He is a true soul-winner and is efficient not only in seeing people brought to Christ, but seeing them disciple, baptized, and become active members of their congregations.

Baby Delisia: I would like to ask for prayer for this precious little girl. Delisia is the 2-month-old daughter of one of our sewing center graduates. She has been hospitalized for 6 weeks due to a congenital heart issue. We are doing what we can to provide for her care; however, we learned this week, that there is no heart surgeon in this country. Her soonest opportunity for a surgery is if she can survive until October when she can be one of many on a waiting list for surgery by visiting foreign doctors. Her case is a reminder of how much quality physicians and nurses of all types are greatly needed here, and how greatly we must rely on our Great Healer.

I thank you so much for caring enough to read this letter, for praying for this ministry, and for your encouragement and support.

With Gratitude,

Laura Y.

July 2016 Update

July 2016 Update

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                July 6, 2016

Greetings from Rwanda. In this season, our weather is comparable to yours, sunny, dry, and hot! We do not expect any rain for at least another month, and have seen no rain in 2 months. Needless to say, it is a bit dry, but, laundry sure dries fast! There is also the advantage of never having to cancel or postpone programs due to heavy rains. In a land where few have cars, and most roads are dirt, rain tends to shut down many events.

I am always amazed how much time has elapsed since I last wrote, and then I am reminded of all we have been doing, and the many ways God is working & blessing. When I returned last September, I moved into a small house of 380 square feet. Within the last few months, my household of one turned into a household of 6! Three young boys, who stay with me during all holidays, having nowhere else to go, were here for the 3 months of Christmas holiday. In March, we learned that 2 of our vocational training students were walking 6 hours, round-trip for school each day. They moved in with me. In April a young boy needing physical therapy stayed in my home for a few weeks to have access to the hospital. The very day he left, I was walking home late in the night and found a 7-year-old boy, sleeping in the street. He saw me, and called me by name, having recognized me from coming to our Saturday Bible club. In short, JP is orphaned, and had been sleeping in the streets since his mother died. JP now lives with me, attends school, and considers himself a permanent family member. Only 2 days after JP came, a mother of some of our sponsored children who has consistently tried to give me her children once again asked me to take her kids to live with me. This time, I found out they were again living in the streets. We met with local authorities, and those 2 children ages 5 and 8 also came to live with me as a temporary solution. After a one-month stay, Jennifer and Randall graciously opened the annex of their home for these children to come and live together with their mother. It is our prayer that the mother will be able to obtain work and soon be able to support herself and her children. Please pray for this family, as there are many steps that must be made before that can happen. As two other situations have come up in the last week of others needing a place to stay, I am moving into a new house!

Hospital Care: We are delighted to continue our partnership with the local hospital, where we are able to provide treatment of many patients each month. We continue to visit regularly to pray with patients and bring gifts. Love Alive was able to provide care for yet a third baby this month, as the baby was in this hospital, the mother in another hospital about 2 hours away, and no one else was able to care for the child. Mother and child have now been reunited. In addition, we have helped in several personal ways as two children of our Sewing Center students needed emergency care, one after swallowing and pen cap that lodged itself in his intestines, and another after falling 35 feet into a hole, fracturing his skull and breaking his femur. Both are in recovery at this time.

Goats and Chickens: In May, we gave several goats to a group of women wanting to raise goats for income, but also to give goats to others. I am told these goats are already expecting offspring. Just last week, Randall helped us implement a program of providing 200 chickens for 20 families in an impoverished village. A spokesman for the group of recipients asked me to share the group’s gratitude, and to tell you that the same way that they have been helped, they hope to use the gift they are given to help others in their community. The purpose of the giving of chickens is to provide nutritional and income-generating opportunities, while teaching small-savings and sharing the love of Christ.

Bible Clubs: Our two weekly Bible clubs are near the conclusion of their 20-week curriculum. We have weekly seen 120 children at our Gako location, and 170 each week at our Kinamba location. We have already selected another location to begin our next Bible club in the same town as our sewing and salon centers, and plan to begin that this month. Please pray that we will see children trust Jesus as their Savior through this program.

Salon & Sewing: Our Salon students absolutely love the days their guest teacher Jennifer comes to teach. These students are nearing the completion of their certification, and will soon be finishing their program and seeking jobs. Our sewing students continue to amaze me with their zeal and joy in learning. They have begun staying after school to take on small jobs already, though graduation is still 5 months away. Most of these students had written out prayer requests for me back in May. It has been wonderful to see several answers to these prayers and be able to rejoice with these ladies and remind them that God is watching over them and He cares.

Sponsorship: In June we purchased annual health insurance ($5 per person) for all sponsored students in our program. Without insurance many of our students stay sick for long periods of time, and miss much school. With insurance they can easily see doctors and get the medications they need to restore health. We were blessed to be able to help them in this way.

Upcoming Events: We are hosting a 3-day youth conference later this month, and we are also planning a pastors’ conference in August as we greatly desire to enhance the local church with biblical training. My dad, Bob Yockey, Randall Smith, and a Rwandan evangelist Mbanzamugabo Aminadab are preparing now for this conference. We greatly appreciate your prayers for this event.

In May, I was introduced to a group of young unwed mothers, who have literally been cast-out of society. “Their scarlet letters” have caused them complete rejection by family, the church, school, and any potential of friendship and advancement in life. I am greatly burdened to reach out to these young girls, and shine the light of Christ to them. I am praying now about the ways we can potentially help these young ladies in the near future. Please pray with me.

God bless you and keep you!  Laura Yockey

And then Came JP

It was almost midnight as I made my way home. A young boy who had been staying with me for several weeks for medical reasons, had just left. The girls who stay with me had gone home for the weekend, and Baby Grace, whom we had been caring for for several months was on her way home too. I was looking forward to a weekend to myself. As the moto was dropping me off on the corner, for me to walk the rest of the way home, I saw a small young boy standing on the corner. Wow. What is that child doing out here, alone this late in the night? I thought. I planned to greet him and see if he was ok, but as I was still paying the moto, the little boy called out to me, “Laura!” I greeted him, but had no idea who he was.

I paid the moto and walked over to the little barefoot guy. It was cold out tonight. I was wearing a sweater and had taken a sweatshirt for extra. He was barefoot in a t-shirt.

I asked where his mom was and he replied that he didn’t have one. Dad had left and gone back to their home village and had refused to take him.

When did mom die? “Some time ago.” Where do you live? “Nowhere.”

Who do you have to stay with? “Noone.”

Where are you sleeping tonight? “I don’t know yet.”

Well, I could at least help him with the last question. He took my hand, and we walked home for the night, with plans to visit a center for orphans nearby and see if they can help , contact authorities, and the National Ministry of Children as well.

I came to learn JP is 7 years old, he may have family in a village several hours away, but he only knows the first names of his mother and father, and does not know more than a general area (county size) where his family may reside. He knew me because he had attended our Bible club several times. I figured this out when he started quoting all of our memory verses and singing all of the Bible club songs when he went to sleep at night.

Saturday, I took him (at his request) to a local center for orphans. He hoped he could stay there. They were full. They did not wish to take in anyone new. No, they could not house him, not even just for the weekend. They suggested I take him to the police. I have some experience with trying to get the police to help in these situations, and usually it results in the child spending a few days in a jail cell, until they release him back to the same situation.

I then called the National Department of Children, who told me it was the weekend, maybe I could try the village leaders. The village leader’s phone was off. We waited until Monday.

On Monday, we went to a council of local leaders who, having no other place for the child, asked me, “Can he stay with you for a few days until we locate his family?” Needless to say, I have never heard from them again, and never expected to. During the upcoming school break JP and I intend to do some searching for family ourselves.

JP began school the very next week. He is very bright and witty, extremely responsible and caring. He is fairly certain that anywhere I go, he needs to go, and my home is his. In fact, one morning at breakfast I heard him discussing with the other children whom he will live with when I die! Apparently, we are together until then!

 

In the nursery –The Days I Don’t Talk About

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“Leave it! Just let her die!”

I jumped up off of the bench, Bella still cradled tightly in my arms. “No, no, you can’t say that!” I told the new mother who had spoken these words.

Her little girl was born the day before weighing 800 grams (1 lb. 13 oz.), and she was still fighting for life. I had never once seen the mother come near her child. Upon the hospital’s suggestion that her daughter be transferred to another hospital for better care and a greater potential for survival, the mother had responded in utter despair, willing her child to just die. This explained why the mother would not come near her child. She was already resigned that the child would die, and was preventing herself from further anguish by refusing to even hope for her child’s survival.

I held out Bella to the mother. “Look at her,” I said, “She’s beautiful, strong and healthy, but she was born as small as your own baby, in fact, within a few days after birth, she weighed only 700 grams (1 lb. 9 oz.), but she grew. Your baby can grow. God can take care of her, please believe in that.” Along with a nurse, I tried to convince the mother that she had to hope and do the best she could for her child. I walked over to her baby’s isolette, and opened the door. Your baby needs your touch, needs your love, the sound of your voice, the smell of your skin. You can help your baby.”

“Leave me alone and leave it to God to decide,” the mother replied, and walked out the door, leaving me with her child’s hand wrapped around my finger.

It’s hard to comprehend, but in a world of endless poverty and survival. This mother was refusing better care, because she knew she could not afford it, and rather than take a chance that the hospital would work to help her, she gave up. She simply assumed no care would be provided when she couldn’t pay for treatment; and she would rather God just take her child than have to deal with the stress.

I found her later in the hallway, sitting alone, and I tried again to console her and encourage her. When she told me money was the problem, I again tried to tell her to believe there could be a way. Though I would not and did not tell her, my thought was, that I or Love Alive would ensure the baby’s treatment was taken care of; however, once again, the mother told me bitterly, “If God can do all things, then let Him, and leave it be.”

I wish I could be shocked at this attitude. I wish I could say, I was calling the local Children’s Services Hotline to inform them that this baby was in danger of neglect, but I’ve seen too much in the neonatal unit of my local hospital in the past months.

You see, in the months of daily visits, holding sweet Bella, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve heard a lot. Sometimes I don’t know if God brought Bella into my world for me to love Bella, or to bless my life for this time with Bella, or to bring me to a new window, to gaze through, and see a whole new demographic desperate for love, nurture, counseling, medical advancements, knowledge, and care.

5.

Five.

F-i-v-e babies died that day.

There were 8 infants fighting for life when we started the day, and by nightfall, there were only 2 very worried mothers (alongside me) wondering how their own babies had made it through the day, and if they could survive the next.

Our hospital is not large. Our community is semi-rural, full of dirt-roads, open-air markets, villagers who ride taxi-bicycles, and farm other people’s fields to make a living. The maximum capacity of our hospital is 90 people, so you can understand that the number of babies represented here is large for a small hospital, and speaks nothing of what is happening in more populated hospitals in this country.

I walked into Bella’s room, and there was a dead baby lying on the counter. A nurse looked at me and said flatly. “I think its dead.” The oxygen tank was still feeding oxygen into the little body, but I placed my hand on the baby’s chest, held his tiny hand, and stroked his cheek. Cold. Still. Lifeless. Gone.

“Does the mother know?” I asked. No, she didn’t. They would tell her soon. “But she’s expecting it,” the nurse shrugged.

I looked around the room, “Where is Baby Costance?”

“She died this morning.”

I had felt that death. Day after day, I would walk by that little one’s crib and stroke her cheek, hold her little hand and sing to her as I sang to Bella. I never once saw the mother in the two weeks the baby was alive.

“That’s because, she was preparing for her baby to die. We told her not to get attached, because the baby might not make it; that’s why she never came in and held her,” the nurse responded to my contemplations.

Talk about a cultural shift, from my own culture where every potential medical advancement is available, and when no cure is known parents and doctors and nurses fight for the best trials and any possible treatment to extend life and find health, where parents cling to every second with their baby, inform friends and even strangers through blogs and internet pages, and get national prayer chains going with every hope for the miraculous. Yet here, where medical treatments are limited, and death is as expected as life, the very opposite occurs. Rather than hope and risk the wound, stay away from the child, and wait and see what the potential for survival is.

I couldn’t help but think about neonatal development and the power of the mother child bond, the need for nurture, for physical closeness, for human interaction, and yet, my ideologies were continents away from my actual surroundings.

I knew, rather thought I knew, who the third deceased infant was.

“The twin, he’s gone too? ” I asked.

I knew each baby well, often answering for doctors who came in before the nurses could look in their charts to answer dates the baby was born or who the mother was. It was not hard to look around the room and notice which crib yesterday held a baby and now lay empty.

“Wow! He’s still alive?” The doctor had laughed as he exclaimed the day before upon entering the nursery and seeing the tiny twin still breathing.

“Why would you say that?” I asked? Shouldn’t we keep every hope of life?

“Eh, the other twin died at birth yesterday, this one will surely die now too; it’s just a matter of time,” he responded.

I watched the monitors flashing warning signs, “Warning, temperature dangerously low!” “Attention: heart beat abnormal.” “Low oxygen.”

Aside from the oxygen mask, the other warnings were unheeded. Whether we have no capabilities to address the problems being shown on the screen, I do not know. I only know that as the warning lights and beeps kept flashing, the doctor and nurses continued about their work and charting. The heart line going flatter.

“The twin? Yes, him too, but we didn’t count that one. We knew he would die, so that didn’t count”

Make that 4 babies today then.

By the end of that night, one more of Bella’s nursery fellows died, leaving the nursery quiet with three babies clinging to life, and leaving me with no false-expectations that in this country a baby should be expected to survive.

I’ve inquired as to why in such a small community, we should have so many babies born with birth defects, malformations, severe prematurity, and poor heart and lung development. The local physicians attribute the problems to four specific causes. 1. Poor nutrition. 2. Lack of prenatal care and awareness. 3. Attempted self-induced abortions via poison, and 4. “traditional medicines,” a term that encompasses traditional roots, herbs and concoctions passed down through ancestry and including witchcraft. Often the treatments given to expecting mothers are actually harmful to the developing baby rather than helpful, yet people are more prone to believe what families and locals advise them rather than what is medically or scientifically proven.

I don’t really have answers. I don’t have solutions. I don’t have even a solution. This is why the days like these well up in my heart and seep out in my frustrations and become my accepted realities of all I am powerless to change.

But tomorrow, I’ll wake up, and when the daily activities the “musts” that need to be done are finished, I’ll walk to the hospital, open the little isolette, and cradle that beautiful little miracle in my arms, and breathe life, and songs and love and prayers for blessings, angels and God’s favor on her, all the while watching, and when I can, I’ll provide diapers, soap and lotion for another baby whose mother has no ability to obtain such simple necessities, I’ll show a mother how to use a disposable diaper, share some of Bella’s clothes with another preemie mom whose baby has been naked, and tell another mother how important It is to hold her baby and talk to him.

Maybe, just maybe a little sun shines through.

2015 Report of Expenditures

2015 pie chart of expendituresSlide1

Each year, in transparency to our partners, contributors and friends, I publish an update of how the ministry of Love Alive has used it’s contributions in the previous year.

This past year, specifically evangelistic endeavors accounted for 17% of the budget. These endeavors include, Bible trainings, giving Bibles, Bible clubs and Bible Schools for children.

Our Sponsorship of 300 nursery, primary and secondary students last year necessitated 25% of our spending.

The largest portion of our budget was used for our vocational training of 60 women in a year of learning to sew, and being equipped with skill and tools to begin their own work. Additionally, the 43% of budget allocated for Vocational training included 8 students we sponsored to area vocational training centers to learn other skills.

Six percent of our funding was spent in vocational projects to assist poor families in raising animals and beginning small savings programs.

An additional 6% was spent on our Hospital project including caring for abandoned infants, but also providing care to those who would otherwise be forced to be left without medical assistance.

International bank fees and money transfer fees account for 2% of our expenditures.

As much as I would like every penny to be given directly to the needs of the people, both in the USA and internationally, there are small fees for annual legal updates and registration. One of the requirements in Rwanda is that we must have an office to operate legally. We were able to secure an office for the past year for only $26 per month! For these reasons 1% of the budget is used for fees which we must pay to continue our ministry.

The above shows that of our expenditures, 97% of all contributions are going directly to the needs of the people. Thus, 97 cents of every dollar given is given directly to the use for which you sent it.

I consider it a great responsibility to use every penny given as wisely as possible. I consider all gifts given as God’s money, that we at Love Alive are simply asked to be stewards over and trusted to use to carry out ministry and bless lives for the glory of God.

Many thanks to each and every person who gives to and prays for this ministry. God bless you!