Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Joy....

About now you’re probably returning to work or maybe you’re lucky enough to have the week off. Nonetheless, all of you are probably asking or being asked the question, “What’d you do for Christmas?” Turns out that’s somewhat of a universal question. Yesterday we went back to one of the camps we’re working with to ask how they had enjoyed sleeping in their new beds and to educate them on their new nets and malaria and, most importantly, to share with them about the meaning behind their beds.

It was a rainy afternoon in Gulu, so the children had gathered inside a nearby school building rather than outside of their huts, like usual. As we all crammed into a school room April and I listened as VOH’s director went from child to child to child asking each, “What did you do for Christmas?” The answers came like this:

“On Christmas I woke up and went and got water and washed my clothes and cleaned my hut.”

“When I woke up I cleaned the hut, went for water, made some tea and washed the utensils.”

“My friends and I found some meat and we went for water and when we came back we found a dog had eaten our meat, so we had millet and did some dance.” Millet is a grain, by the way.

“On Christmas, when I woke up, we went to get water to make some tea and to wash the clothes and clean the utensils. I made a fire and said some prayers and for dinner we had some goat.”

“On Christmas we woke up and got some water and ate some millet and then went to find some things to sell in the Centre to make some money.”

“We went to the Centre to make some money on Christmas too, but there wasn’t much money to be made so we came home and washed our clothes.”

“Christmas we didn’t do anything much different than the other days. We cleaned and got water and ate millet.”

And so it went. All of the 40 or so children who were there yesterday had the same kind of things to say. Some talked about how their peers had tried to influence them to do bad things. As I listened to each of them share their Christmas Day stories, several things struck me. One was that they were all so happy to share what they had done and each did so with some amount of laughter. They found great joy in their sharing. Maybe it was that somebody was listening to them. Maybe it was nervous laughter because they were speaking in a group. Maybe it was just laughter that comes from being a child and being with other children. Maybe it’s because there was joy in doing all those things ---because they were able to HAVE those experiences without being forced to hunt, hurt or harm others (in the LRA) and found delight in enjoying life’s simple things.

I imagine it’s all of these together.

It made me think about this own question in my life. Not so much this year. This year, as you read earlier, I went to a loud church with lots of jumping and dancing and spent Christmas for 13 or so orphans; playing with them, holding them, loving them, talking with them, feeding them, talking about baby Jesus and how much God loves them. Santa didn’t come here. Not to me, not to April or Beth and not to these children. The day was about happiness, about putting on your best clothes as a way to honor God as they jumped up and down and swayed in celebration or honor or glory of Him. It was about being alive and being thankful for the life that God gave them and thankful to the One who gave them life.

I thought of nearly every single other year of my life over the Christmas holidays. Busyness. Stuff. Stress. Food. More stress. Presents. Worry over what presents to buy for who. Worrying about not having enough presents and then worrying because you’d spent so much money on all those presents. All that stuff I know all of us can easily relate to.

Over the last few years there seems to have been a trend….an awareness…among people to examine their holiday ways and make changes. Changes to trim off the excess; to spend their time and resources more wisely; to care for those who don’t have the blessings they do. I’ve listened to this talked about in church. I’ve seen it in your own lives. I’ve seen it at Sweet Sleep as the number of people who choose to “Give the Gift” to those they love or those they’ve lost has increased.

This is why we’re here, in Gulu, this Christmas. We’re here because of the choice that you made in giving a bed to an orphan here. When you gave in honor of someone or in memory of someone or just because you wanted to, you have helped bring health, hope, happiness, joy, excitement and love to these children’s lives. That’s a gift they can’t even begin to understand yet. But you can.

The pictures you’re seeing are actually from today’s camp while the stories above were from yesterday’s. Apparently I didn’t have my camera with me. Regardless, their hearts were the same. These are photos of the children writing thank you notes to you all. And, then of them receiving cards from school children in the States.

Finally, here’s something super fun to share. Today when I asked the children how they felt when they first slept on their new bed instead of on the ground or their mats, one little boy raised his had right away. He answered in Acholi (the language in the north) and all the children absolutely burst into laughter. We turned for translation….this little boy said when he laid down in his bed he felt like he was sinking and sinking down and down.

Love it.

See you in the next blog,

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I know my posts can be long sometimes. That's just because there's a lot happening. This blog is a bit like reality TV, except we're not marrying people, making cakes or jumping off tall buildings with a bungee cord. We're loving the little children who seem forgotten by the world and giving them a bed to sleep in that will not only keep them healthy and comfortable, but also remind them about real love and real hope.

Rather than sharing stories with you, I thought I'd just post pictures and let you see a bit of what that looks like....loving an orphan. Insert yourself in any of these photographs. I'll bring you here. I'll bring you anywhere.


...this one....

...and this one....

...and this one who used to have to sleep on this mat. But, because of love.....

....now sleeps on one like this that April is helping to tie so it can be carried to their hut.

Love...this is what I saw the day I rounded the corner and found a little boy sleeping on the grass. Hard. He was moaning and in pain. This little boy is the one we took to a clinic and found he had cerebral malaria and would die within 24-72 hours if he wasn't treated.

And this is what treatment for cerebral malaria looks like when you're healthy strong again and trying to see if you also have my spiritual gift...touching my tongue to my nose.

And by bringing smiles to little faces...even if they are blurry.

Love is needed here....

....and is being given here, but so much more is needed than this little one can give.

....love was missed here. And, is waiting for everything it still could bring.

There are an unfathomable number of children in the world who are orphaned and abandoned. Thanks to everyone who decides to give their love through Sweet Sleep, we're helping reach them...one by one.

This is my prayer as well....that these children, and children like them all around the world will "Be Wih God".....and that they could know God is with them.

Thanks to you......

Pray on and I'll see you in the next blog,

Friday, December 25, 2009

There Are No Flowers Here

There Are No Flowers Here

I've spent Christmas in lots of different places: Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, orphanages in Moldova, a boat and now, Gulu, Uganda.

We've developed new relationships with so many people here and have listened to so many of these new friends share their stories. Tonight, one of my new friends said he had been through so much. He said he just couldn't begin to know where to start, but sometimes he just wanted to talk. I think he's one of the many reasons God has brought us to this place. And, there are many, many reasons.

Today we celebrated Christmas with 13 boys and girls--I've written about them before now if you'll recall, or would like to go back a post or two.

We all went to church together and worshiped God in a charismatic African church with the sound speakers at full throttle as all the children of the church "jumped, jumped, jumped for Jesus" in their very best clothes.

Everyone came back home with us and we drew and colored and made Christmas cards for the couple who runs their orphanage. We had a Christmas feast and played games and talked about baby Jesus and read poems and books. We had a present for each child to open --beautiful children's books about God, Noah, Elijah, baby Jesus, etc---that the fabulous teachers from Eagle's Nest Academy in Franklin, TN sent along with me. There was exactly one present for each child. Only God could have known what we would be doing on this day and prepared even that for us.

There were only 13 kids, but it felt like 60. We had the little boy who liked to eat crayons, the little boy who always seemed to wander out the door when you're busy picking a crayon out of another's mouth.

We had the shy little girl, the little boy with a big extended belly because of his intestinal worms, the little boy who survived his life-threatening bout with cerebral malaria earlier this week, the two teenage girls who quietly helped keep up with every child and who have no idea how beautiful they are.

We had the young boy who has just come in from living on the street and still fights with the temptation of running back to that life. We had the teenage girl whose young life nobody could imagine but is happy one minute and biting at you the next.

We loved on the little girl who cried during our celebration because she thought she saw her mother on the way to church, but really didn't because her mother has moved to another village and has abandoned her for an easier life. We had the little boy who survived a brutal attack from his own LRA commander dad and we had the little girl who was spared from such a thing.

We played with the little boy who has no story because nobody knows where he came from--he just appeared one day, small and not smiling or communicating. Today he was laughing and smiling and trying to keep a balloon up in the air.

We had a big, big, big day and at the end we were all exhausted. We packed them up, loaded them in the van and then thanked God for such an opportunity...and for quietness.

Tonight we went to dinner with our new friend whose mother owns the hotel we are staying at. They were such a pivotal and gracious part of our day. As we talked over dinner, we marveled at how his cook was able to prepare such a feast in a space the size of a coat closet. I decided I'd like to get her flowers to thank her and then, after thinking for a minute, realized I hadn't seen any shops selling flowers like I had in every other place in the world I travel to or minister in.

I asked our friend where I might be able to find some flowers to buy. He simply said, "There are no flowers here."

Hmmm. That little statement has been in the back of my mind all night. No flowers here. That should tell you a lot about this place.

However, if I were to look deeper, I might have to disagree. I see flowers everywhere...in the crayon eater, the arm biter, the wanderer, the belly boy, the beautiful girls and survivors. And, I see so many more flowers who will have the chance to grow here because of the seeds of love which we have planted here over the last week and a half.

That makes me happy. And because you pray for, support and advocate for our ministry, it should make you happy, too.

Here's to all the little seeds and the flowers in various stages of blooming. Pray for them, will you?

See you in the next blog...and Merry Christmas,

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve...like none other

This is Christmas Eve in Uganda, literally. It's just after 9 pm here and the city of Gulu is about to open for partying. In their Biblical translations the three wisemen held disco tech parties until 5 am on each of the two nights before Christmas to welcome the birth of Jesus.

On an earlier note, we spent part of the day with 13 of the children we'll be hosting for Christmas tomorrow. We drove out to their school and played with them while seeing their classrooms and listening to more stories about their lives, past and present.

The children we'll spend Christmas loving on tomorrow have heavy lives. Some of them are child mothers who were abducted and then forced to be child brides to LRA commanders. They are also children who were abducted from their families during a raid on their village or, and also, as they say here, children who were born into captivity. Captivity, can you imagine saying that about your child?

We brought the children back to our hotel for lunch. As they were piling out of the van, one little boy was half asleep. I picked him up and carried him. He ended up falling right to sleep..in my arms. I just sat and held him and prayed over him while the other children enjoyed lunch.

April came over and took a picture of the two of us. She asked if I knew who the little boy was. I said his name and April said yes. Then she connected his name back to a story we heard from the director before we had ever met the children.

His story is that he was born "into captivity" to a mother who was a child bride of an LRA commander. His mom escaped the bush with her baby and went to live in an LRA camp. The commander came to get them and she told her "husband" she had AIDS. He strangled both of them and rolled them in papyrus mats. People found them later. The mom dead. The baby barely alive.

He is now 4. And today, he was sleeping in my arms.

This might not be the happiest Christmas story to share with you, but stories like this are real and they are here amongst the three of us who are ministering to the children, and the people, of Gulu this Christmas.

I continue to thank you for your support of our work which has enabled us to provide for these children. I always tell people that our beds are vehicles that allow us opportunity for ministering in other ways. That has never been more true than now.

The great news in this story is that this little boy is alive and God has great plans for his life. Tomorrow we will love these 14 children with every tender way we have to offer them.

So, tonight as you tuck in your own children, I'm asking you to pray for those here without parents, those who we have the chance to share hope and love and Jesus with.

Merry, Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

See you in the next blog,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Answered prayers....

i thought you'd all like to know i'm sitting in an internet cafe, the eve of christmas eve, getting to tell all of you about how you have all helped to provide love and hope and joy to children who've really never experienced any. and, listening to Kenny G playing outside. ahhh, christmas in uganda.

the last two days we have given beds to camp 3 and camp 4. we are generally welcomed with a lot of dancing and drums and songs. yesterday we were welcomed by all of that, but also with this wee little one who kept coming over to us to shake our hands. i can't even tell you how cute that was. she probably shook our hands 5 different times.

it's been really fabulous to stand before the children and tell them the story of sweet sleep; to ask what kind of things they think about at night and then listen as they talk about thinking of their future, their health, their safety, their future. most of all, it's so good to be able to tell them about our god who has created them, loves them and provides for them and has a special plan for each of them.

that's a hard one to imagine for them...a special plan...hope....but these last two days i've been asking the groups if any of them knows if they are around 6 years old. they don't know their birthdays, so i can just ask them for a rough guess.

i've had alittle one come up and stand by me and then i tell everyone that when he was born i was going on an airplane to a country far away from my home where i met little boys and girls like them.

then, i've pointed at his calf and said when he was that big we were giving beds to a few boys and girls. at his knees, i say we were giving a few more beds and when i finally reach his head and put my hand on the top of his head i say, "and now he's this big and we're giving beds to all of you." this gets a huge reaction: clapping, laughing, shouting and a semi blood-curdling war-cry-like sound. i think they are happy.

one thing that is always hard for me is to see so many children like the little boy above. people generally think it's a sign of hunger. more often it's a sign of intestinal worms. sorry if that grosses you out. it's more shocking and disturbing than gross if you want to know how i feel. little kids get worms like this for lots of reasons: food and water being two of them. but, also they get hookworms from sleeping on the ground..like these children do.

another thing that is hard to see if children sick with malaria. they are completely lethargic and look greatly pained. april saw this little boy and sat and asked him what was wrong. he said he was sick.

when we were leaving i walked to the car and found him on the ground, sleeping hard. i watched him for a minute. he was shaking and moaning. i thought he was having a bad dream and just prayed over him for a minute. i'd not known about april's encounter with him. the director of the orphanage was needing to take him to the clinic, so we said we should pile him in the car with everyone and go.

the first clinic we went to was a sea of sick people sitting outside waiting to be seen. we offered to take him to a private clinic so he could be seen quicker. as it would turn out, this little boy was diagnosed with cerebral malaria and needed immediate treatment. after we left him there i came back and googled his condition. people who get cerebral malaria die if they are not treated within 24-72 hours. i sat where i was and cried. i was so thankful god sent us to that place and allowed us to see this little boy provide for his care. i also cried for all the children like him whom we aren't able to see.

malaria, i do not love you.

friends, i do love you. thank you so very much for helping to save children's lives by supporting our work and helping to provide not only nets, but hope and love.

and finally, this image makes me happy. it's a picture that is full of hope. because of this bible, this little girl and hundreds more like her who we've ministered to this christmas will be able to find something so many of us have. in so many countless ways.

thanks my friends. sweet sleep has the greatest supporters. i am so thankful for your partnership with our ministry. without you this would all be a giant prayer waiting to be fulfilled. you, are the answer.

see you in the next blog,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Process

So, I thought I'd show you how this Christmas bed production is going down. It looks so smooth in pictures...

After we've gone to our borrowed storage unit and loaded up the beds for the day, we head to the camp with Rose and Charles, the staff of Village of Hope whom work with the children Sweet Sleep is providing beds to.

Rose talks with the children about their current joys and struggles. Then she tells them a bit about us and we do our thing.....

Beth portrays a child who is playing and gets sick with malaria. She gets medicine and is better. She stays healthy because of new net. April, plays the role of a mosquito. A mad mosquito who can't get to Beth because of the new net. Then I share with the kids about God's love and future for them. And, that these beds can be reminders to them of that love and protection and hope.

The excited children line up to get their new beds and bedding.....

First stop: picking up their blankets and mosquito nets.

Second stop: getting Bibles and the rings for their nets!

Final stop: mats and mattresses!!

Sweet Sleep is working to provide 'a bed for every head' literally.....

Those who don't carry their beds home on their heads put them on wheels.

A mattress gets taken into a virtually empty hut where the children live.

And, the kids love being able to try their beds out right away.....so great.

Thanks to all who have provided this Christmas miracle. We can still provide to more children this Christmas, you can make your gift online at www.sweetsleep.org/donate

See you in the next blog,

So, what’s this all about?

Okay, be warned: this is a long blog post. But, hey. You're probably on Christmas break anyway. And, you could just as easily spend the next few minutes of your life watching nothing on TV. So, set your DVR and get comfy.

Many know that when I began Sweet Sleep I was working for Nashville’s then mayor, Bill Purcell. I loved my job because of the people I worked with and also because of the respect I had for my boss, Mr. Mayor. I was keen on my job for another reason: it was where the power of the people came to a climax; it was where the action was. If something was happening in the city, I had the opportunity to hear about it early on. Granted, I’m sure I was clueless of what went on behind all the closed doors, but being the people watcher that I am, I at least felt like I had the inside pulse of big issues effecting the city.

I liked the knowledge of all this so much that I entertained ideas of how I could continue the behind the scenes politics once the Mayor’s second term ended. That was, at least, until I went to Moldova and saw, firsthand, the behind the scenes of what was happening in the world. It changed my life forever.

As God began to mold my life in a new direction, I found myself soaking up information on international issues concerning human beings, especially the littlest ones. I remember talking to my well educated friends about sex-trafficking and then having them come back to me months, even years later, saying, “Hey, aren’t you the one who was telling me about trafficking? I just read something about this. I had no idea this was happening…”

Some may find this statement shocking while others will nod in agreement. Over the years, as I’ve shared what I know about the sufferings of children—of orphans in particular, I know, I understand, many haven’t really heard anything I’ve said. That’s not at all an indictment. It’s just what happens when a person hears about something so terrible, so inhumane, that they literally just don’t know how to process the information. My feeling is that most of us, myself included, live in a bubble with no idea of what is happening to the world outside. And how could we? In a nation where a boy who flies off in a foil balloon (or doesn’t) makes headlines for weeks, how can we possibly begin to know what “real” news might be?

I say all of this because of what I’ve learned and experienced over the last nine months. Earlier this year Sweet Sleep was told about an emergency need for beds/bedding for some children in the northern Uganda region of Gulu. These were children who were the victims of a war which had endured their entire lifetimes. Commonly referred to as “night commuters”, “child soldiers” or “invisible children”. Night commuters because they left their villages each day at dusk to walk miles to a location which could help keep them “safe” from the rebels. Child soldiers because those children whose villages were attacked at night were forced to kill or be killed and then abducted by the rebels and trained to become child soldiers in their army called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Invisible children because to most of the world, these children are in fact, invisible.

I knew this horror existed because years ago somebody told this “well educated” girl about their plight; yet I was unable to grasp the situation. Perhaps it was because it was happening so far away and I didn’t know what to do or because it was the first time I’d heard about such a thing or perhaps maybe even because my life was too busy. However, this story caught up with me earlier this year as I sat in a screening of a new documentary telling about the war and the current situation of Africa’s longest running war. I was shocked at my own lack of awareness. It was March 2009 and I was just learning that the LRA had walked away from peace talks in April 2008 with the possibility of leaving Uganda, but also with the promise of “shocking the world with the amount of blood that would be shed.” As I continued to sit in my seat, barely breathing, my little eyeballs tried to tell my stunned brain of how the LRA kept its word. On December 25, 2008 the LRA viciously attacked a village in the Congo; killing at will and abducting whatever child or strong, healthy man they chose to.

That night was the beginning of God showing me more of His plan for our ministry. In the months which have followed I’ve been trying to educate myself on this senseless war. I’ve spoken to so many who, like me, have no idea what I’m talking of and I’m sure, have walked away without any real sense of what they’ve heard.

This afternoon, while resting in my room in Gulu, Uganda, I finished reading the most informative, insightful book I’ve read yet: “First Kill Your Family” by Peter Eichstaedt. As a journalist and also a man who some would consider to be the foremost expert on the war and the effects of war on human suffering, Peter has studied, traveled and written about nearly every tumultuous region of the world. I’ve been struggling with my lack of education which could have led to quick action. However, Peter’s words made me feel slightly better today. I share them with you now to allow yourself the opportunity to move past the feelings of ignorance or lack of knowledge about this atrocity so that you can move more quickly into action.

“ When I first landed in Uganda in August 2005, I had never heard of the Lord’s Resistance Army. I had been warned that travel to the northern part of the country was dangerous, but it was not something I would have to worry about because I wouldn’t need to go there. That warning had made me curious. The north was terra incognita, the unknown world.

Shortly after my first trip to the north, I was staggered by the fact that a war could have gone on for twenty-two years and claimed so many lives, many of them children’s, and it wasn’t general knowledge outside Uganda. I am, after all, a journalist. I follow the news because it is my job, but also because I like it. I like knowing about the world, it is my world as well as everyone else’s. but few in the West had ever heard of this war or the rebel army that was conducting it.”

Let this be your newsflash and decide today to move to action. Action doesn’t have to mean you abandon your world as you know it. Action just means you know of this and you help give voice to these children. Action means you pray for them. Many of you have already moved into action because you’ve helped to provide the beds and the hope which we share along with them. Continue your action with me…there are hundreds of thousands of children here who need what our ministry can bring them….sleep, sweetly.

I’m grateful for each of you and the work we do, together.

See you in the next blog,

Friday, December 18, 2009

day two in gulu

hello friends! i'm so excited to be sharing with you tonight. before i go any further, you need to know that i am going to make a lot of spelling and random mistakes. this is a strange duck keyboard. i'm not even going to try to capitalize.

well, there's so much to say. i almost don't know where to start.

this morning we were walking back from an errand and i realized today was december 18th, the day i was baptized about 21 years ago. i laughed a little and thought that, if you would have told me that two decades later i'd be walking down a dirt road in gulu, uganda helping provide beds to orphans....well, i know i wouldn't have believed you.

yesterday we made the long trek from kampala to gulu. so many things went through my mind as we neared the north. i'll share some of those later. after just two days it's obvious that everybody here has some kind of story about how the lra has impacted their lives. example, last night in an internet cafe, the owner told us that he had been abducted by the lra and was forced to be a child soldier for 3 months before escaping. everyone has a story. it's like being in the aftermath of some terrible tragedy like a tsunami or 9/11. thousands of lives taken, thousands of families torn apart. thousands of children kidnapped...it's too much to understand.

today we took 70 beds to one of the camps. it was great chaos. many of the kids remembered me from the day i spent with them in july. that was fun. i wouldn't have expected it. i'm just another in a long sea of people who are coming into their lives and trying to give them hope to make up for their heartache.

these kids are great fun to watch, especially when april takes their photos and shows them the picture on her widescreen camera. i'd love to bottle up their laughter and play it back for them when they need to remember happy times.

when the kids learned they were getting beds they absolutely freaked out. it was so fun. the program coordinator was sitting next to me talking in acholi with them. i had no idea what they were talking about, and suddenly there was a great cheer. she leaned over and told me they were very excited to learn about the beds.

one little girl stood up and told me that she had been praying for such a thing for years and that now she was going to pray the same for others. she asked me to thank those back home who had helped. i promised i would. then i taught them how to blow kisses. another boy stood up and began talking. he said he had prayed for something like this and now this was an answered prayer. he said he would pray we would be able to bless others as well and asked that i tell all the people back home that they were so happy and that he loved you. so, feel loved. very loved.

today the drab brown camp was speckled with bright pinks, greens, yellows and blues as the mattresses and blankets and such sat piled up waiting for the kids to take them home. some have moved back into villages. many of the children still live in the camp because they have no where else to go. we sent kids off down the road with mattresses, blankets, mats, nets, bibles and more. others we helped settle their new beds into their dark huts.

but before everybody left each child took their mattress, laid it in the grass and laid down on it. you should have seen the smiles. lots opened their bibles and studied the pages. so great. so, so great.

i'm going to stop blogging so i can try to post some pictures from yesterday. i haven't compressed any of the ones taken today from the bed distribution. you can find those on the blog that jon posted from the facebook pictures i put up during the whole shebang. they're great.

please pray for these children tonight. pray for their rest, their dreams, their safety, their health, their lives and for them to remember they are not alone and tht there is great hope for their lives in jesus. pray these beds remind them of that.

see you in the next blog,

Snapshots from Jen: Sweet Sleep Comes to Gulu!

Just wanted to send you a few snapshots from Jen's day - the day beds arrived in Gulu. :)
She may be able to post another blog tonight with far more insights, as I know she is already being confronted with great joy, sadness, hope and heartache as she hears the stories of these children.
So more to come, but here are some snipits. :)
This picture above is the line of children excited to get their bedding!

A little girl - so happy to to lay her head on something other than the ground.

This speaks for itself. A grin from ear to ear! :)

They couldn't wait to read their new Bibles! They stopped right there and began to read the Word.

A boy brings his new mattress into his hut. :)

Settling in for his first night of sweet sleep. :)

What a sweet sight to see these children finally off of the ground and snuggling into their healthy, comfortable new Sweet Sleep beds! Thank you for the part you have played in making this happen.
More from Gulu soon. :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jen, April and Beth Safely in Gulu!

Well friends... Sweet Sleep has come to Gulu!

 Jen, April and Beth just arrived with a bus full of mats, blankets, mosquito nets! The kids danced, thanked the ladies for coming and are SO excited their mattresses arrive tomorrow and they'll get their new Sweet Sleep beds. This boy stood up from the crowd and told Jen and friends: "Thank you for answering our prayers for beds!"

More to come! Just wanted you to get a glimpse of Sweet Sleep arriving in Gulu! :) Thanks for praying and giving to make this special Christmas possible for these sweet boys and girls in Gulu!

We are also still accepting donations for beds for Gulu! Let's see how many beds we can get these kids before Christmas! You can help now at www.sweetsleep.org/donate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hitting the Ground Running in Kampala; Preparing For Our Work in Gulu

After weeks of planning, praying, and sharing about the needs of the children in northern Uganda, we are finally here. Well, in Uganda anyway.

In the beginning of planning for this trip I was the sole person involved. God saw fit to give me two companions, and for that I thank Him. April is a long-time friend from way back when we both worked at the same cookie store in the mall during high school and college. She's a freelance meeting/event planner now and we think the new George Clooney movie, "Up in the Air" is loosely based on her life being that she travels over 200 days a year for work. April said she'd come with me, if the 3 events she had booked for the same time frame should cancel. God decided to accept her challenge and cancel her work plans!

When April began to share about her Uganda/Sweet Sleep plans a colleague, Beth, decided she also must be a part. What a brave woman!  So, here we are, waiting to see what God has in store. And while we're trying to live like locals, the picture above is not of the three of us, but of three girls we met in Kampala today. :)

April and I arrived in the capital city of Kampala last night. Beth just a few hours ago thanks to good old flight and connection problems. We're incredibly tired, but eager to see what our life will soon be consisting of.

Today was a day for taking care of various logistics and preparing for our weeks ahead. Lots to do as, you might imagine.

Bed is calling, but I just wanted to give a little insight as to our group and our arrival. The pictures posted here tonight have been taken by April.

Please pray for us as we travel by bus (loaded with bedding, nets and Bibles) for 6 hours tomorrow. Our day starts early...9:30 pm Music City time. Pray as you're all going to bed tonight.

Thank you for supporting our work and for following me along this journey to Gulu.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Bed Blog Monday

When Sweet Sleep provides beds and bedding to orphaned and abandoned children we don’t just give the beds to orphans, we communicate God’s intentional creation of each child and His unconditional, unending love. We celebrate the children by throwing the biggest birthday party in the country. The children are even given Bibles in their own language and prayed with over their new beds. Finally, the children are told that when they lay down at night and pull the cozy new covers up around them, it is God---giving them a hug.

One week from today I'll leave for Uganda with two other women, April and Beth, where we'll spend several weeks in the northern region of Gulu. This region has been in a brutal and senseless war for the last 22 years. A rebel army known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been terrorizing the North, attacking villages during the night. During an attack, LRA soldiers kill anyone they want and force the children of these villages to kill their parents or be killed themselves. The children who are left alive are then kidnapped into the LRA army and forced to become child soldiers. These children have lived through tremendous atrocities.

Recently this war entered into a time of peace. However, there are 1 million people still living in displacement camps in Gulu; three-quarters of those people are children living in child-headed households. These children have lost their parents and their grandparents---two generations of people to protect and care for them, to tell them stories about who they are and who they could be, to teach them stories about God and how to live according to His word.

This Christmas---while we're in Uganda, Sweet Sleep hopes to give beds and Bibles to 450 children. If the children can lie in their new beds and know they are loved and protected and, if they can claim a verse they’ve learned which reminds them of this knowledge, they can begin to have little victories over the fear that grips them. That’s when peace and hope and love can slowly come to their little hearts.

But, Sweet Sleep needs help.

218 more children still need beds ($88 each). Together, we can work to change and save lives. Here’s what is still needed, you can determine which opportunity suits you best:
• 218 mosquito nets. Malaria kills more people in Uganda than HIV/AIDS. Treated nets are $8 each.
• Mattresses for 218 children so they will be able to sleep up off of the ground for the first time in their lives. Mattresses are $50.
• Can you imagine not having a blanket to warm you during these chilly nights or sheets to sleep in? 218 more children still need to be able to be warm and snuggly. They can for just $30.
• Bibles are $10 each. There are 450 households for a total of $4,500.

You can make a gift right now by going to www.sweetsleep.org/donate or you can send your contributions to Sweet Sleep, PO Box 40486, Nashville, TN 37204 with “Gulu” in the special comments box online or in the memo line of your check. All gifts are 100% tax-deductible. If you still need a great idea for a Christmas gift, you can even make this a donation in honor or memory of someone and they’ll receive a card from Sweet Sleep telling about their special gift. You can read more about this at www.sweetsleep.org/givethegift.

If you're a blogger or even a Facebook note poster, today is Sweet Sleep's Bed Blog Monday. This is a day where you can use your social platform to tell others about how they can help. Let me know if you're interested and we'll get the information to you so you, too, can be a part.

Thanks friends…..for changing and saving lives.

See you in the next blog,