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.

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


“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.



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.

Baby Love


She is

Abandoned. Helpless. Orphaned. Unknown. Unnamed.

And yet, she is

A Miracle. A Fighter. Survivor. Gift of God. Precious. Dearly Loved. Divinely created for a special purpose.

She is Baby Love.

Our relationship with our local hospital through which we have established our program to provide medical care to those who would otherwise be without treatment has become a lovely working relationship with fellow-Christian hospital administrators who readily communicate with us. I have learned of their sacrifices and their great care, often trying to find funding amongst themselves to care for patients otherwise left untreated. They are grateful for our funding, and I am ever so grateful for their care and compassion, and the integrity with which we can work together.

A few weeks ago, as I was just about to end my day and go to sleep, I received a phone call from Christine, who is in charge of social needs within the hospital. “Laura, we have an abandoned baby. She was born at 26 weeks gestation, weighing only 900 grams (1 lb. 15.7 oz.). Her mother has fled, leaving the baby behind. Can you accept responsibility for this baby’s care and medical needs?”

I got up and dressed, stopped by a store to buy baby formula and diapers on my way, and immediately went to see this lovely baby. So tiny and frail in her incubator, the diapers I bought her, though the smallest size available sag down to her knees and cover her chest.

Now at one month old, she weighs a full Kilo (2.2 pounds). She needs no oxygen, she has been taken off all IVs and is only tube fed 24 ML every 3 hours (6 oz. per day).

I go daily to hold her, rock her, and sing to her, wanting her to have nurturing and care. I’m impressed with the nursing staff and their ability to care for her and other preemies with such little advanced medical technology available. I marvel that she is still alive. She has no mother pouring love into her, no reason to be clinging to life, and yet she does.

The hospital tells me, she will be released when she has reached 2 Kilos (4.4 pounds) or doubles her current weight.  For now, Love Alive is her provider. As she has no name, I’ve taken to calling her Baby Love.

I don’t know her mother’s circumstances or what led to her decision to leave her baby behind. I do know that I want this dear baby girl to grow up knowing she is loved beyond measure, that she has a purpose, that God kept her alive for a reason.

I don’t know what the next step of her journey will be; I only know I am grateful to be a tiny piece of her nurturing and care.


SEAM Program Sponsor a Woman Through Vocational Training, Impact her Life Forever

Imagine life without the hope of ever being able to send all of your children to school (or even to send more than 1 per year to school), to live in a place with electricity or running water (even clean water), to sleep in a bed with a mattress rather than on a mat on dirt floor, to ever learn a skill or trade or even have a steady job (rather than making $1 per day working in fields.) Women are living this way every day in the rural villages of Rwanda.  Many have been abandoned by their husbands and left to feed and care for their children alone.  In many cases, they are also caring for other children in the village that have no one else.
Meet a few of these women: Marie: Widowed with 2 children, third grade education Fabiola:  Single, 20 years old, 5 siblings, sixth grade education Jeannette: Mother of 4 children, abandoned by her husband, sixth grade education Joyce: Married, two children, husband seeks day-to-day work, she has a first grade education.  Gloriosa: Mother of 5 children, husband has difficulty finding work due to handicap. She has a third grade education Sephora: One child, no husband, no parents, no siblings, no support systems.  She has fifth grade education Florence: Married, mother of three, disabled from a severe accident, third grade education Clementine:  Walked 2 hours to school each morning and 2 hours back home each evening for the opportunity to learn to sew!

I have become involved in a Christian ministry named Love Alive International that is changing the lives of many of these women.  My friend, Laura Yockey, has moved to Rwanda and has many projects and ministry opportunities to show the love of Jesus to the people she encounters in Rwanda.  One of my favorite ministries is the SEAM (Sewing Education and Mentoring) program which teaches women to sew.
The SEAM mission is to establish sewing centers and schools to teach women how to sew, to supply the tools to improve their skills, to provide support and a “safe place” to talk with other women going through the same hardships, to help them develop a sense of pride at their accomplishments and to show them the love of Jesus!
How it works: Selection:  Each woman applies for the class and is personally interviewed.  The requirements and expectations are explained and she must agree to attend class and do her best for 1 full year.  If, after
1 year, she has completed all the work and has shown the proficient skill set, she will graduate and be given a Sewing Business Starter Kit so she can start generating income for her family immediately.
Kit includes: Sewing Machine (Cost $125- includes machine, transport and assembly by technician) Fabric   (Cost $25 – to allow her to sew sample/display items showing her capabilities) Tool kit  (Cost $50 – includes scissors, sewing box, iron, buttons, thread, pins, elastic,       oil for machine, measuring tape, needles and chalk) TOTAL COST  $200
Funding for Kit: Sponsorships are provided for each woman in the sewing class by people like you and me.
To date, the SEAM project has hosted 2 graduations (Dec. 2014 and July 2015) with 25 graduates, and we are expecting approximately 35 graduates in December 2015!
Here are some pictures of women in the class as well as a group of graduates and their Sewing Kit.  One woman is modeling clothes she made as well as a bag for her sponsor.

I have sponsored several of these women from previous graduations, and each of them has expressed such gratitude for the love, support and confidence that a sponsor provides.  They know that you believe they can be successful.
Their notes of thanks to the sponsors showed such joy — here are samples from a few notes:
“I am so thankful from my heart for the good things you have done for us, for caring about us and taking care of us.  We truly thank you for what we have achieved through you.  We wanted to achieve
but we were unable to do it without you.  Truly God knows all! I have so many things in my heart I wish to share with you. “
“We have finished the class and are thrilled beyond words to express.  We invite you to come visit us and see our work and skills.”
“I will continue striving to better my knowledge and skills.”
“Your assistance will greatly help me and my family.  I will use my new skill to advance and improve my life.  You have helped me achieve much.”
We are in need of sponsors for the December 2015 graduation and I am inviting you to be part of this wonderful ministry with me.  I can promise you that every dollar you send (all 100 cents of that dollar) will go toward the ministry.
We have so very much and these women have so little – not because they are not willing to learn and work hard, but simply because they have not had the opportunity in the place where they were born.  If you are able to help give another woman a chance at a life that she has only been able to dream about before now, please consider sponsoring a woman.  You can sponsor on-line at http://www.lovealiveinternational.com (note: SEAM sponsor in comments) or mail a check for $200 to Love Alive International, 2410 Burgess School Rd., Cookeville, TN  38506 and reference SEAM sponsor on the MEMO line.
You can read more about Love Alive and other projects that Laura is managing on the Love Alive International website.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Love Alive via the “Contact Us” link on the website.
God is working through Love Alive in many ways in Rwanda, and I am so excited that He led me to this ministry!
With excitement!

Guest Blog by Teresa Cooper20151012_110942

The Boy Who Wants a Leg


He doesn’t remember the accident. He has no recollection of having two good legs. They tell him it was an accident that caused it. He knows only that he was very young when his mother died, and that when he was far too young to remember, his father also abandoned the children.

What he does know is that 3 years ago, when he was only 9 years old, he had had enough of the abuse by relatives. He climbed in the back of a truck, and made his way into the city, hours from home, to try to make a living on his own.

I met Eric one day as I walked through a major intersection just outside Rwanda’s international bus station. This heavily trafficked area is home to many boys who at some point decided that life on their own must be better than the life they had at home. I saw Eric with two other children. The other two were fast asleep on the curb. Eric sat hoping for a few coins to get food for another day. As I saw him, and noticed he had no leg, I felt compelled to sit down with him. I plopped myself on the curb with him and his two sleeping friends.  A white girl sitting on the sidewalk with a few begging children, draws quite a large crowd. Eric and I soon found solace in a nearby café. As he sipped his orange soda, he filled me in on his story.

For the past 3 years, he has come to these same streets daily to beg. He usually is able to get between 50 and 75 cents per day. He comes to the streets by maneuvering in a crab-walk fashion with his 2 arms and one leg. He is often mocked and shunned by other children and pedestrians as they pass by. He had a wheel chair at one point, but someone stole it one night. His one source of support has been a young man who noticed Eric in the streets. A young mechanic noticed Eric, took time to get to know him, and soon began allowing Eric to sleep in his shop or at his home. This is the only friend or family Eric has had for the past 3 years.

I asked Eric how I could help him, if there was one thing I could do for him, what would he want? School? Food? Money? A bed? Eric quickly answered, “I want akaguru {a leg}. He has heard of prosthetic legs and dreams that if he had a leg, he could run and play and go to school like other children, that he would not be shunned because he is different.

I later met with Eric’s mechanic friend, and later this week, we will begin seeking out a doctor to see what can be done to help Eric. We will learn if he is a candidate for a prosthetic leg, or whether other assistance is more appropriate for him.

My day with Eric has been a strong reminder of the needs all around me here. I’m blessed to know him, and look forward to learning together if we may be able to find assistance for his physical needs.

Women in our Sewing Centers: Their Stories.


Marie: widowed with 2 children, third grade education.

Fabiola: Single, 20 years old, 5 siblings, sixth grade education.

Jeannette: mother of 4 children, abandoned by her husband, sixth grade education.

Joyce: married, two children, husband seeks day-to-day work, she has a first grade education.

Gloriosa: Mother of 5 children, husband has difficulty finding work due to handicap. She has a third grade education.

Sephora: One child, no husband, no parents, no siblings, no support systems, fifth grade education.

Florence: Married mother of three, disabled from a severe accident, third grade education.

The list of women with mirrored socio-economic situations continues for each of the sixty students currently enrolled in Love Alive International’s sewing centers.

Of our 60 students this 2015 school year, none ever had the opportunity to complete high school. The strong majority never advanced past elementary school, with some only having 1 or 2 years of education, and one never having been able to attend school at all.

While Rwanda continues to make steady progress in recovery post-genocide, and continues to be seen as a leading country in African development, it also remains among the poorest countries in the world.

The per capita income is still under $1 per day, while those deep in rural villages see far less money than that. It is often hard to fathom their survival. Three of our students are physically handicapped making their ability to find work such as farming and hard labor far more difficult, as few have interest in hiring them for the day.

As these ladies educate themselves in our sewing center, their challenges for survival also continue. Understanding their ongoing struggles, this year, we began a “helps,” project specifically for the neediest women in our program. We provide monthly groceries and also pay housing for several of these women so that they will not have to drop out of the program and thereby give up their opportunity and hope for advancement in life.

I recently sat down with each of the women in one center simply to know them more personally, and also to screen who might be most in need of assistance to continue in the program. I asked one of our students if her children were eating each day.

She looked aside and replied, “When my husband is able to find work, he brings money home for food.”

I then asked, “Are there days you have nothing to feed our children?”

“Yes, often.” She replied. “When we have money, we eat one meal per day. Sometimes only 3 days per week.”

Most of the women in our centers work very hard during the half of day they are not studying. I often see them digging fields, cultivating, and harvesting. For a long day of hoeing fields, the pay is $1. With that dollar, they do their best to provide that day’s food for their children, usually a meal of porridge and beans. When sharing her thanks, one of our students, Petronia, told me, “I’m so happy, when I get a little work, I can even buy soap for my children to bathe.” Soap is a luxury she is thankful for.

I don’t share these stories to garner pity, nor to inflict guilt, but simply to share the realities of the level of need of those we are assisting, and to assure those of you who have a part in this of the impact you have in blessing these lives.

As our first class of 9 students graduated 4 months ago, we are now seeing the results of this program. Several of the women are working out of their homes with neighbors and friends bringing work to them, others have found work in the markets or in shops with other seamstresses. I see them from time to time in town, and I see them proudly wearing clothing they have made themselves, I see the brightness in their eyes, and I listen to their excitement in having a job and having an opportunity to provide for their children. I’m already looking forward to the success stories of our next graduating class of 13 students this July. These students already have plans for forming a sewing shop together, selling their wares in local markets and have already been to local schools to advertise their ability to sew the school uniforms for all students next school year.

Thank you for being a part of blessing each of these women with skills, with hope, and with the Love of Christ.