Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love is Hard


The entire month of February Sweet Sleep has chosen to “Share Love” with the world by telling stories via our blog and FaceBook. It has been incredible to hear the stories of individuals and groups coming together to be incredible advocates for orphans around the world! I cannot help but be challenged and encouraged by each of these stories. I cannot help but be challenged by the Word that has inspired them to do what they do! 

John 13:35 says “…by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is the ultimate definition of a Christ follower. It seems profound and simple all at the same time. If we know that love is what sets us apart, then we must think about what love looks like in our lives. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).” 

I do not know about you, but there are many days when I am lucky to be able to claim even one of those qualifiers. In fact, I think I need to add a part to 1 Corinthians 13. Love is HARD. Love is not what it seems on television. It is not something that you can create by a streamlined process. It’s really not something you can fake. That’s why love is the way that the world will know that we are followers of Christ. It’s something that only He can give. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8).

So love is hard, but love is worth it. You will never regret choosing to love people well. This is something that I have become very convinced of through my work with Sweet Sleep.  James 1:27 clearly calls us to love and care for orphans. Realizing the great need of a bed and the reality that for orphans across the world a clean, comfortable, safe place to sleep is a dream come true is incredible. Beds are not only life- changing for these orphans, but they are also life-saving.  I have had the opportunity to experience this in Moldova and in Northern Uganda. The joy these kids get is INCREDIBLE. I love that these beds are given along with the Gospel. It is not hard to see and know that the Kingdom impact of Sweet Sleep is HUGE.
--Sarah Edwards, Sweet Sleep Director of Student & Church Initiatives

Only 68 Nets to Go!
We are so close to our goal of 568 nets for newly registered HIV+ orphans who are came out of hiding in Uganda. We still need you to buy 68 more nets for only $8 a net. Please give at sweetsleep.org/donate. Mark "Gulu net" in the comments box.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bethany Laughlin, Sweet Sleep Intern

Only one more day of Sharing Love in February. We have had a great month of sharing the stories from so many people who love orphans and Sweet Sleep. Today we hear from our intern Bethany Laughlin. Bethany is a junior at Belmont University.

I first heard about Sweet Sleep through a friend at Belmont who used to intern here.  When she told me about her experience, I knew I needed to find out more about this amazing organization.  I really wanted to gain experience in the non-profit world and Sweet Sleep seemed like the perfect fit.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to see how unique and special this organization truly is.  I love the way Sweet Sleep is able to use the gift of a bed and a mosquito net as an avenue to sharing the Ultimate Gift of Christ with these precious orphans.  There is such great physical need in countries like Africa, Moldova and Haiti, but there is an even greater spiritual need, and Sweet Sleep provides the rare opportunity to meet them both.

Even though I haven’t gone on a trip with Sweet Sleep to these countries, I have been able to learn what goes on behind the scenes to make these trips possible.  In fact, part of our team just returned home from Gulu, Uganda and part of my job was to upload some of the photos that were being taken to Sweet Sleep’s Facebook page.  Well over 1,000 children were able to receive a bed, a net and a Bible, and to see the joy on their faces captured in a photograph was absolutely beautiful.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the bigger picture when focused on the small details, but I’ve discovered that an internship with Sweet Sleep indirectly helps raise money to buy beds for orphans in need.  In fact, my 4 month internship will allow Sweet Sleep to use the money saved to buy about 100 beds.  Ultimately, this internship has shown me how important each member of this organization is.  The Lord has given each of us unique gifts (giving, service, administration, teaching, etc.), but in order to fully utilize these gifts, we need all the members of the Body actively working together to advance God’s Kingdom.  So, whether it’s through a donation, an internship, or a trip, we all play a significant role in helping the lost and the broken.

If you or someone you know is interested in an internship at Sweet Sleep please contact Tim Pereira at tim@sweetsleep.org.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rainier Christian School

Rainier Christian School, Maple Valley Elementary Campus is a school of 140 students located in Renton WA. In February each year the school does a Missions Month.  This year the faculty chose Sweet Sleep to be the focus for their missions project.  They chose Sweet Sleep because of the simple impact they could have on educating the students on the plight of orphan children in orphanages in countries like Moldova.

Raising money to make beds for the children, giving them bedding and a Bible is a simple way of giving to others and sharing their love to these children on the other side of the world. The goal at Rainier is to have each classroom build 3 beds each which is approx. $600 for a total of 21 beds or $4,200 in the month of February.

The kids had a launch presentation on Sweet Sleep which created the awareness of the needs of these children and the horrid conditions of the beds the orphanage. Then the goal was set and each week they are challenged to fundraise in various ways.  
 
We loved the fact that Sweet Sleep makes it easy, by providing simple tools and resources like the coin boxes to raise funds.  Then the kids are given half way through the program a work certificate that encourages them to work for funds.  Finally they will be awarded a Slumber Party at the school during the day if the full amount of money is raised. They added a quilt square for each bed they funded to show their progress.

The kids at RCS “Love Sweet Sleep”. If you or your group would like more information on how you can raise funds and build beds for orphans, contact Sarah at sarah@sweetsleep.org.
Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Bedhead Jennifer Olsen


As a part of our Sharing Love in February, we interviewed a few of our bedhead giving partners. Bedheads are monthly givers to Sweet Sleep. Sweet Sleep will automatically deduct your gift from your credit card. You will receive convenient monthly and annual receipts by email. If you give at least $30 per month we will send you a tshirt too!


We love our bedheads because they want to make a difference in a child’s life half way around the world. Here is our interview with Jennifer Olsen from Nashville, a bedhead since October 2011.


 1. When did you decided to become a bedhead?
I decided to become a bedhead after returning from a mission trip in Africa. After seeing their living conditions, I wanted to help by sending comforters and bedding back to the youth I had met there. I prayed God would give me another opportunity to help people and the very next day, I was invited to the Sweet Sleep Soiree. I learned about the organization and knew that was the answer to my prayer.

2. Why do you think it is important to be a bedhead?
I think it is important to be a bedhead because I am blessed with so much. I want to show how thankful I am by sharing what God has given me. I was once advised to give where i see good fruit being produced and I believe that is the case with the Sweet Sleep organization.

3. Have you shared with friends or family that you are a bedhead and why it is important?
I have shared with my family and friends about Sweet Sleep because I feel that is another way to help besides just giving myself. I want to see it grow, in order to help more people. Not only are we providing beds, but also life saving mosquito nets, and a Bible! The Bible teaches to care for orphans and to live like Jesus. Whenever Jesus saw a person in need He had compassion for them. This means not only to feel sympathy for that person or people, but to follow that up with an action to alleviate their need. That is what Jesus did and this is how we should live!

Would you like to be a bedhead? Go to www.sweetsleep.org/donate, then click the bedhead button. You can choose to have your credit card charged on the first or the fifteenth of each month. You will be helping orphans around the world sleep sweetly.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GRACE homeschool co-op helps orphans sleep sweetly

GRACE, a home school co-op group from Wichita, Kansas, chose to make Sweet Sleep their mission project for the semester.

The group, which consists of 18 families and 57 kids, heard about Sweet Sleep through a family member, Yevonne Donkervoet, who is the Preschool Minister for Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Over the semester, the kids raised money by collecting loose change and doing extra chores or small jobs. The children gave joyfully and were so proud of the coins they were able to contribute each week.

Do you have a group or organization that would like to help buy a bed for an orphan in need? Contact Sarah Edwards to for more information.

Raising money for Sweet Sleep is easier than you think. Did you know that:
  • $8 provides a mosquito net to orphans in Africa or Haiti.
  • $10 provides a Bible to an orphan in his or her language.
  • $50 provides a bed and bedding for orphan resettlement kits in northern Uganda.
  • $125 provides a healthy, comfortable new Sweet Sleep bed for a child in Africa.
  • $167 provides a complete Sweet Sleep bed for an orphan in Haiti.
  • $200 provides a comfy Sweet Sleep bed for a Moldovan orphan.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Message from Jennifer

Our Gulu Uganda team is back and in the swing of things. The stories of love they share are amazing. Be sure and check our facebook page for more stories and photos. As you know, they distributed a record 1301 beds, Bibles and nets in 6 days. In addition, 568 newly registered orphans who are HIV/AIDS positive came out of hiding to receive help from Health Alert Uganda and Sweet Sleep. We gave each of them a net to protect them from malaria before our return trip in June. You have helped us by funding over 400 of these nets so far but we still need you to buy over 100 more for only $8 a net. Please give at sweetsleep.org/donate. Mark "Gulu net" in the comments box.

We are blessed to have two amazing women on our staff in Uganda. On Monday we shared a message from Josephine Ssebambulide our National Director in Uganda. Today you will hear from Jennifer Auma Odong, Program Director, Northern Uganda.

A Sweet Sleep thank you from Northern Uganda!

I thank God for the wonderful heart of people around the globe. It was so wonderful to see this team sharing love with the vulnerable people in Africa UGANDA.

I am thrilled and out of words. I was touched to see God’s work through his people (Jen, Jeff, Madeline, Mindy, Jonathan, Zach, Mindy, Jamie, Tim, Daren, Paul, Alyson, Deana, Trish and Mary). What a wonderful team! They are all so talented and full of God’s love and care. God has used this team to truly make a difference in Gulu and has even left Gulu yearning for more love and affection. I am so proud to be part of this work with Sweet Sleep.

To the Team: Thank you so much for accepting his call to come and serve in AFRICA, UGANDA, GULU. We have been touched with love and sincerity. Do not ignore what these people were saying. You have made a difference.

To those who Prayed and Contributed for these beds/nets: May God continue to bless you! Thank you for sharing what you had with these children, and may you continue to pray for them and advocate for them and be their messengers around the world.

Each person involved is most important. The work done was awesome, unbelievable, and magnificent.

Because of this work 1301 children have a bed for the first time in their lives. Because of this work 600+ children came out of hiding to receive treatment and education for HIV. Because of you their lives have been forever changed.

Much love from Gulu,
Jennifer Auma Odong


See more photos at: www.facebook.com/sweetsleep

Read more stories from the Gulu Uganda trip here.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bedheads share love every month - Wendy Tabor


As a part of our Sharing Love in February, we interviewed a few of our bedhead giving partners. Bedheads are monthly givers to Sweet Sleep. Sweet Sleep will automatically deduct your gift from your credit card. You will receive convenient monthly and annual receipts by email. If you give at least $30 per month we will send you a tshirt too!

We love our bedheads because they want to make a difference in a child’s life half way around the world. Here is our interview with Wendy Tabor from Nashville TN, a bedhead since October 2011.
1. When did you decided to become a bedhead?
I became a bedhead after attending the Sweet Sleep Soiree in 2011 and hearing Jennifer Auma Odong’s life story. Jennifer’s parents were killed by rebels in Northern Uganda, but her heart and her passion to help others, despite her own suffering, remains strong. Jennifer’s love for Christ and for others shined so brightly that I was completely moved to provide regular support to Sweet Sleep. 

2. Why do you think it is important to be a bedhead? 
I absolutely love sleep, and I strongly believe it is a sweet gift from our Father who understands, like only our Creator could, that our bodies need rest to function properly. Being a bedhead allows me to help extend the precious gift of good rest/sleep to others through the mattresses and nets Sweet Sleep delivers to those in need. 

3. Have you shared with friends or family that you are a bedhead and why it is important? 
Yes. I have shared my thoughts about being a bedhead with my friends, and I frequently wear my bedhead t-shirt.

Would you like to be a bedhead? Go to www.sweetsleep.org/donate, then click the bedhead button. You can choose to have your credit card charged on the first or the fifteenth of each month. You will be helping orphans around the world sleep sweetly.

Check back tomorrow to read a message from Jennifer Auma Odong to Sweet Sleep and our team that returned from Uganda.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Gulu team returns today

Our Gulu Uganda team returns today. They distributed a record 1301 beds, Bibles and nets in 6 days. In addition, 568 newly registered orphans who are HIV/AIDS positive came out of hiding to receive help from Health Alert Uganda and Sweet Sleep. We gave each of them a net to protect them from malaria before our return trip in June. You have helped us by funding over 400 of these nets so far but we still need you to buy over 100 more for only $8 a net. Please give at sweetsleep.org/donate. Mark "Gulu net" in the comments box.

We would not be as effective in our efforts without the support of our staff on location. Below is a note from Josephine Ssebambulide our National Director in Uganda.

Dear Sweet Sleep team 2012,

Deep inside me, I always cry when i say good bye to you. It is not from sadness but from all the love you always give to us, the children and the people of my country.

It is now just a couple of hours since you have flown out of Uganda after ministering love to over 1300 children in Northern Uganda. Thank you everyone for your prayers and support towards the team's overwhelming and amazing work while in Northern Uganda. When you now look back at the beds of these children, it makes one know that our Sweet friends have been there, for the beds now look neat, comfortable and beautifully covered with a mosquito neat ready for a sweet sleep.

The team is dearly missed already but we are very thankful to the Lord for making the team such a blessing and leaving the children with a feeling of higher values in their lives.

Kindly, join me in prayers for God's continued provision, protection and safe travels towards our Sweet friends of whom we are deeply proud of . You have been a great team!!

May you have awesome days, God's peace and love.

Friends, what we always do in life echoes in Eternity. Thanks for your love, care and you will always be remembered by us all as the children of God.

Josephine

See more photos at: www.facebook.com/sweetsleep

Read more stories from the Gulu Uganda trip here.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Serving in Gulu


Today we drove to another distribution site, but unlike the others, it was much more rural and secluded. The need was great in the area, so the plan was to stay all day at the same site. We had a chance to play some games and have the children draw pictures for us. We also presented our standard service, which includes a demonstration of how to use the mosquito nets, a time from the Bible, and introducing the group to the natives.
But today was different. While the need was great at the first two sites, it became abundantly clear just how many children were in need for beds. As we were finishing distribution for the day, it was obvious that there were more children and caretakers present then we had bed kits to give out. The people were patient, but were very anxious to receive a bed. Health Alert Uganda was able to register around 70 people today and around 100 people from the first day. Even though we are giving so many beds away while we are here, there are still so many children that are in need of a safe place to sleep.
I have in my mind the image of one mother from today. She was crippled, and as she crawled away on a set of flip-flops made into kneepads, she climbed into her hand-driven bike with no bed for her children. It was a hard sight to see. Very hard.

Paul Williams

Last Day: Deanna Wilder


Tonight is our last night serving the Lord here in Gulu Uganda.  It has been a wonderful 6 days here working with Sweet Sleep to distribute 1301 beds, nets and bibles to kids with HIV/AIDS.  This week was also a blessing because we were able to distribute an additional 568 nets to children that came out to see what we were doing.  This was a wonderful development because these children are registered with Health Alert Uganda and will now receive the ARV drugs that they need to stay healthy.  The beds and time spent will now change the lives of not only the 1301 children that now have beds but also the new 568 that will receive beds in the summer and are now sleeping safely tonight from mosquitos and malaria. I will be reflecting on the faces of all the children and their caregivers in the days, weeks, and months to come.  What a wonderful experience this journey has been!! It has been a great experience working for the Lord this week!  Please pray for the continued work here with the children and their caregivers.  The blessing is not only for the children but for us on the team for the experience of serving this week.  We are walking in a beautiful land in the will of God serving the children.
Deanna Wilder

Last Day: Jeff Wolfe


Today, we went to our last distribution site and met more amazing and beautiful children with their caretakers.  In addition, many more children living with HIV or AIDS came out of hiding to register with Health Alert Uganda (HAU).  I am honored to have served these children. 
As a personal trainer, I continue to stand in awe at the physical strength and endurance these Ugandans have.  They walk for miles to get to the distribution center.  While many of us may be able to walk a few miles, try walking in 90 degree dry heat, inhaling red dust and smoke, with a baby on your back and a child in one hand and a bag in the other.  Then once you arrive at the distribution site, you may sit for several hours waiting for the distribution to start (depending on how early you arrive).  After waiting patiently in the heat, sitting on the hard ground, you are handed your bed, bedding, Bible and mosquito net to carry the many miles back home. 
I don’t know about you, but I would be miserable and complaining on the inside.  However, let me give you an example of what these amazing Ugandans do.  A young girl comes up to me to receive her bed.  Her clothes look to have been white, but now her dress is a brownish color and torn in several places and she is barefoot.  As I hand her the bed, she bows an eloquent bow and smiles, and says “thank you”.  I on the other hand am fighting this urge to fall on my knees and weep and say, “no…..thank you”. I am honored and humbled to serve this young girl and the many others and praise God for the invitation to have joined in the life-giving work of Sweet Sleep by loving these children of Gulu, Uganda.  This week my heart is so full.  Thank you Gulu, Uganda…we love you!  And thanks to the many supporters who make it possible for these precious children to have a sweet sleep.  

Jeff Wolfe

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Different Kind of Dream


First of all, I need to say that the experience we are having here in Uganda has been nothing short of amazing.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity not only to go on this trip, but also to tell the stories to all you who will read them.  These are important stories.  Ones that might have never been heard.  There are lots of stories from today that I could choose to tell you about, but one story has stuck in all our minds today.  I’m humbled to be able to share it with you in hopes that somehow you will be impacted by it.  Here goes…

This morning we traveled several miles out of the town of Gulu to 2 different villages.  We had not yet traveled so far outside the town.  We were surrounded by all the images that typically come to your mind when you think of Africa:  mango trees, huts, tall grasses, hot sun, and many villagers.  They were all gathered under the biggest tree in the center of the village waiting for us as we pulled up with mattresses piled high.  They scream and clap and sing and are so joyful when we get out and mingle with them.  A simple handshake and smile communicate so much to these people.

We got started with our little routine that happens before bed distribution.  It was a smaller group today, so it was easier to talk freely with them and ask them questions.  Once Jen was done explaining why we were there and what they were about to receive, she asked if anyone wanted to say anything to our team.  Several stood and thanked us and told us they’d pray for us, but one individual said something that has changed the way I view the gift of a comfortable and safe bed.

A young girl stood up holding a sweet baby in her wrap on her back.  She started to speak, “We would never dream of having anything this big, this nice.  It is overwhelming.  We just can’t wait to touch it.”  Wow.  Really, you’ve never dreamed of sleeping on anything other than the dirt floor of your hut?  This is your biggest dream?  To have something like a comfortable bed and the safety of a mosquito net?  My heart sank along with the rest of the team’s.  I began to compare my dreams with hers and examine the things that I dream of and hope for.  The lists are quite different, obviously.  We were giving this child this bed, and it was a dream…come true.  The joy in the woman’s eyes and her heart just poured out on us as she continued speaking.  That’s the moment that I fully realized the impact we are having on these people.  I don’t have to worry about the general health and safety of my child on a daily basis.  I don’t have to worry about having access to my very own Bible (good grief, I have more than 5.)  I don’t have to worry about being cold at night because I have nothing to cover me.  This was humbling to say the least.  And I will never forget it.

God has allowed us to change these children’s lives.  To make their dreams come true.  And he’ll invite you to do the same.  What an amazing God we serve that can and will use us in this way?  This experience has changed the way I will live my life because I never want to miss the blessings like this sweet woman’s smile and her words to us.  I pray you’d also ask God to show you how you can serve the orphans of the world.  I guarantee it will change you, too.  In a good way.  In a GREAT way. 

Love from Africa,
Jamie Lambert

Give a Net Now
Sweet Sleep is distributing 1300 beds this week but crowds of people have come out of hiding on to register and receive beds. They will have to wait until our teams return this summer. We are committed to giving the children a life-saving net NOW. Will you help us make this possible by donating at least $8 today to www.sweetsleep.org/donate. Note "Gulu net" in the comments box.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vday greeting from Gulu

This is Karen and Trish.... Happy Valentine’s Day!! After a 7:00 breakfast and devotional this morning (about love, appropriately) we packed into the vans and headed to Opit, a village about 2 hours away from Gulu. It was a long bumpy ride on a dirt road, but it was so fun to see the excitement on the children’s faces as our vans drove by, following a truck of mattresses stacked about 30 feet tall. They ran out of their huts squealing and waving with the biggest smiles we have ever seen. I’m pretty sure their favorite word is “Byieeeeee”.

When we arrived to the village, we had about an hour of playtime with the kids. They jumped ropes, played with parachutes and beanbags, and drew pictures with markers, which is something most of them have never seen before (they typically only use pencils so color is new for them!). Most of them were so glad we were there and couldn’t wait to touch us and be held, but a few of the children were too scared to come out of their huts. We walked over to one hut with two toddlers in it who were crying. We handed an M&M to them and they started warming up to us. Chocolate never fails. The little girl looked to be around 2 years old, and the little boy around 5. They weren’t wearing any shoes and had very little clothes on. I could not find their care-giver and they were filthy, completely covered in mud and dirt head to toe. I grabbed wet wipes from the van and began to give them little “sponge baths”. Their tears turned to smiles. I have never seen two kids so happy to have their noses wiped and the mud washed off their feet and hands. Soon after, they were out of their huts, playing and socializing with the other children. I’m thankful for that moment that God used us to wipe the dirt and tears off of them and bring laughter to their faces. It reminded me why we are here.

After handing out the mattresses, bedding, bible, and nets we got to do something very new and special. For so long, many people who were not registered with Health Alert Uganda have shown up to the distributions, hoping to get a bed, but we have not been able to provide one. One of the most heartbreaking things about these trips is turning people away. Today we decided that we are going to give these people that are signing up with Health Alert mosquito nets that they can use until the next team comes in June, when they will be able to also receive a bed. This gives them hope for what is to come and the mosquito net could save them from serious disease until that time comes. Sweet Sleep is walking out on faith in this endeavor, trusting that God will provide. We were able to get on the computer at the Health Alert offices today to post to facebook and other outlets, asking people to donate money to provide these nets and we don’t doubt it will happen. A mosquito net only costs $8 and can save the life of one of these sweet children.

One of the things that touched my heart most today was a lady that was waiting around after we had handed out all of the beds and nets. We had large tarp-like bags (similar to a gigantic trash bag) that the nets were kept in and normally these would get thrown away. As I folded up the bag to put with the rest of the “trash”, a lady walked over to me holding out her hands and even through the language barrier, I could see that she was desperate for me to hand it to her. When she received that bag, tears immediately started streaming down her face and she kept shaking my hand and smiling. She held so tightly to that bag, as if it was her most valuable possession. It broke my heart, but also taught me a valuable lesson. A lot of times we tend to take for granted the things we have, because we have so much. This lady was overjoyed to have received what most of us would consider “trash”. It is hard to grasp this thought, because we don’t have the kind of needs these people have. However, the bible tells us, to whom much is given, much is required. I believe God can use moments like this to not only offer her hope, but to teach us the importance and responsibility to care for others and open our eyes to what true suffering is.
We also got the chance to go to one of the small villages down the road and see first-hand where one of the new mattresses was going. The huts range in sizes, but the one we looked at was about a 10ft wide circle with a straw mat on the floor, a hole in the ground that they fill with charcoal or wood for cooking over, and some medicines and corn tucked into the straw pieces of the thatched roof. There are no bathrooms, or running water, or even separate rooms in most of them, things most people take for granted. One of the children living in the hut we visited was around 3 years old and suffered from Spina Bifida. She was unable to walk and had been sleeping on the floor. The team helped the family set up the new mattress and mosquito net. They were so grateful, as were we.

After everything was finished, we headed back to the Health Alert office to prepare for the next day. We were all exhausted, hungry, and covered in dirt, but there was work to do and the team came together great. Jennifer brought us all water and put some more pep in our step and we were able to roll 220 more mattresses and nets and get bags ready for tomorrow’s distribution. After dinner, we got the opportunity to have a small “surprise” birthday celebration for Jonathan, cake and all. The candles were a cross between sparklers and small fireworks, which made for some good pictures when he tried to blow them out. We then got to offer each other encouragement and share different stories from the day.

Tomorrow we have three different locations so we will be leaving bright and early around 7am and are all looking forward to getting to see what precious children God brings to us!

-Karen and Trish Lane

Give a Net Now
Sweet Sleep is distributing 1300 beds this week but crowds of people have come out of hiding on to register and receive beds. They will have to wait until our teams return this summer. We are committed to giving the children a life-saving net NOW. Will you help us make this possible by donating at least $8 today to www.sweetsleep.org/donate. Note "Gulu net" in the comments box.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Overwhelmed with Love

We began the day by visiting Africa Greater Life orphanage, which is one of the first orphanages where Sweet Sleep started their work in Uganda. As we rolled up to the grounds, our van was quickly surrounded with a flood of smiling faces welcoming us to Africa Greater Life. As I personally hopped out of the van, the children began grabbing for any piece of my clothes they could. They couldn’t get close enough to us and the hugs kept rolling in. “Hi, my name is Martin, what is yours?” echoed throughout the group as we stood and held their hands. The children were eager to show us around their home and were so happy to have us.

I had the opportunity to capture a ministry that is vital to the success of Sweet Sleep in Uganda: the newspaper bead-making project. The women and widows of the orphanage make beaded necklaces that are sold in the US in order to raise money for the beds Sweet Sleep places throughout Uganda. Watching the women pour their hearts out about how appreciative they were for supporting their marvelous craft was a humbling experience. It makes me think about all the times I haven’t been selfless. 

As I was walking up to the church service, I could hear the children singing, “How Great is Our God.” What a divine sound to hear the chorus of kids all singing praises in unison.

While it was difficult to leave, it was reassuring to know that the lives of these children have been forever changed because of the beds and the mosquito nets that have been provided through the ministry of Sweet Sleep. The kids hung on to us as we waved goodbye. My new friend Martin said, “Paul, I will write you a letter and next time Sweet Sleep comes back, I will give it to them to give to you.” As I waved goodbye from the van, my other friend Allen smiled back wearing his heart on his face.

We began our trip to Gulu this afternoon. Our driver Jack made record Ugandan time to the mission house (Watoto House) in less than five hours. It was exiting to see the acacia trees with a beautiful Africa sunset behind it as we made our way north to Gulutown. During our team meeting, we were told about the logistics for the week. Tomorrow we will begin our first day of distributing beds. I am excited in anticipation for the 1300 other African kids we will be meeting and providing a safe place to sleep.

-Paul

Bed Distribution-Day One

Young boy carrying mosquito net.
Last night hundreds, perhaps thousands, of orphans in the country of Uganda slept on dirt floors, exposed to malaria carrying mosquitoes, all the while trying to fight the AIDS virus raging inside of them. As I write this, that number has shrunk by 250 because of the work God did today in Gulu, Uganda. At this very moment these children are resting on clean mattresses, protected from the dirt by a mat, and surrounded by a mosquito net treated with chemicals that kill mosquitoes on contact. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, each of these 250 children now have their very own Bible. The physical provisions drastically change the living conditions and overall health of the children, and even though they still live with AIDS their compromised immune systems no longer face the constant onslaught of malaria. In the words of one of the Ugandan Sweet Sleep staff, regarding the Bibles we gave them, “now give them something greater to hope in than the relief of death.” At both distribution sites today we urged the children and their caregivers to trust in the eternal life offered in Christ and to realize that the beds, nets, etc. are a tangible sign of a God who lovingly and intentionally created them (Psalm 139).

Malaria Skit educating how to prevent malaria with nets
One unexpected benefit of the distributions today was the amount of children who came for the first time to register with Health Alert Uganda to receive Anti-Retroviral Medications. While it was terribly heartbreaking to not be able to provide them with beds, it is comforting to know that since they are now registered with Health Alert, they can receive a bed at Sweet Sleep’s next distribution in this area which should take place this summer. 

I’m still processing much of what I witnessed today, but I was struck by how utterly destructive sin is. Of course I do not mean to imply that these children brought this misery upon themselves, rather their condition is a stark reminder of the broken world in which we live. James 1:15 reminds us that sin ultimately leads to death. Sometimes individual sins can lead to death while other times it is simply the effect of sin in the world that brings death eventually to every person (that whole ‘why do bad things happen to good people dilemma’). 

Even in the Garden of Eden we see that the immediate consequence of Adam & Eve’s sin was the death of animals to provide skins for their naked bodies. Simply put, our rebellion against a holy God always has devastating consequences. But praise God that is not the end of the story. In his grace, He sent Jesus to absorb the wrath stored up for sinful humanity and offer a path back to relationship with the Creator of the universe. Romans 5:12-17 reminds us that through Adam sin entered the world, but thru Christ we can be rescued from sin. And through the grace of Christ we are able to participate in the restoration of creation through the meeting of physical needs which foreshadows the ultimate restoration to come. Christ will come again to make all things new…but until then we are His hands and feet. May He find us faithful.
-Zach

Give a Net Now
Sweet Sleep is distributing 1300 beds this week but crowds of people have come out of hiding on to register and receive beds. They will have to wait until our teams return this summer. We are committed to giving the children a life-saving net NOW. Will you help us make this possible by donating at least $8 today to www.sweetsleep.org/donate. Note "Gulu net" in the comments box.

300 children come out of hiding to get a bed


From: Madelene Metcalf

My favorite treasure I take from a mission journey with Sweet Sleep is when God reveals to me another piece to the puzzle that explains how He is using Sweet Sleep to share his love with orphaned and abandoned children around the world.  Today, as we spoke to our partner, Health Alert Uganda, vital pieces of that puzzle were put together for me.  

When Health Alert began working with children and pregnant women in the communities of Gulu, Uganda it was like “manna from heaven”; never before had children been tested for HIV, nor did people understand how children were getting HIV.  When Health Alert began in 2005 they had 65 clients.  Now that number is in the thousands and it continues to rise, thanks in large part to the incentive of receiving a Sweet Sleep bed, Bible and mosquito net.

Sweet Sleep first partnered with Health Alert this past summer.  By the end of the week we saw 300 children come out of hiding living with HIV to register with Health Alert in hopes of receiving a bed, Bible and mosquito net.  Now they are receiving ARV drugs.  They told us they used to treat 10 cases of malaria a month but since Sweet Sleep came to Gulu there have been virtually no cases of malaria.  But she said the best part of the Sweet Sleep gift is the Bible because before these children saw death as the only way out of this disease they were suffering from, but now that they have the Bible they know there is MORE than death.  They have LIFE in Christ.  

With every day that passes, 350 children die of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.  Last summer when we were in Gulu we learned an 8 year old girl named Liberty had died the day before she was to receive her Sweet Sleep bed, after having contracted Malaria three days earlier.  By the end of this week we anticipate hundreds of children will be newly registered with Health Alert.  Every day that passes until we can return to provide them with a bed is a day that they remain unprotected from malaria and other opportunistic diseases.  Therefore we will be providing a mosquito net to each child who registers with Health Alert this week.  We ask that you share your love and provide God’s love today by partnering with us to provide mosquito nets to these children.  Eight dollars protects a child and gives them the TIME they need to wait for us to return this summer to provide the rest of their bed.  Go to www.sweetsleep.org and click DONATE.  At the bottom of the screen enter GULU NETS in the comments box and save a child from Liberty’s fate today. 

Give a Net Now
Sweet Sleep is distributing 1300 beds this week but crowds of people have come out of hiding on to register and receive beds. They will have to wait until our teams return this summer. We are committed to giving the children a life-saving net NOW. Will you help us make this possible by donating at least $8 today to www.sweetsleep.org/donate. Note "Gulu net" in the comments box.

Gulu First Bed Distribution

All week Sweet Sleep is sharing love in Gulu, Uganda. Our team made their first distribution of 300 mattresses.

We are distributing 1300 beds this week throughout Gulu. It is our largest single distribution to date. Follow our blog all week to read the stories of the trip.
Sweet Sleep distributes 300 mattresses in Gulu Uganda

Hello Gulu!

Day 2 in Uganda for our team began with a 7:00 breakfast. After hearing the rooster next door and the Muslim call to prayer at 5 am, this wasn’t too much of a stretch.

We enjoyed a colorful, bumpy and dusty ride out to an orphanage to attend church with the kids and their caregivers. We were immediately surrounded with joyful faces giving big hugs and welcoming us. Mary Virginia and Josephine met with some of the elders of the orphanage who make the magazine beads and bracelets that are sold at Sweet Sleep and we purchased some of their wonderful new creations. While that was going on, Paul and Jen interviewed some of these women to hear their life stories. The rest of the team was busy getting to know the kids and had a ball.

The orphanage campus is surprisingly expansive and beautiful, with several buildings and a school. A soccer field sits in the middle of all the buildings and a swing set under a big shade tree. Following church the children were excited to show us their beds and mosquito nets that were provided to them through Sweet Sleep in the summer of 2009. Each bed was perfectly made and you could tell that they took great pride in their beds and bibles!

As we finished up at the orphanage, we were all extremely thirsty and were looking forward to buying some cases of bottled water for our six hour van(s) ride to Gulu in the northern part of Uganda. Twenty minutes into our trip, one of the vans broke down and was stuck on the side of the road. After some masterful planning and strategic coordination by Josephine and our driver, Jack, another van arrived and we were caravanning again.

Honestly, driving down the road and looking out the window is literally indescribable and is difficult to put into words. It was like watching a movie! Fresh produce. Goats. Thin cows and giant poisonous storks. Fried meat on a skewer. Dusty mopeds. Wrapped up babies on mommies backs. Potholes. Thousands of waving children, curious and smiling. Handmade bricks, and huts of all shapes and sizes. Campfires. It was mesmerizing. Darkness came and we continued to dodge potholes, oncoming trucks, and pedestrians. The nighttime breeze was a welcomed change from the sun and dust from a long day of driving.

We arrived to the Watoto House this evening around 8:30pm and were welcomed with open arms by the staff and Jennifer, our program director in Gulu. A warm meal was waiting and we love our new home for the week! Thank you for your prayers! Please keep them coming!

Tim and Mary Virginia

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Gulu team has landed!

Our Gulu team has landed in Uganda and God was clearly with us on our journey! Many of our team members were able to meet and get acquainted for the first time as we made our way across the world to Africa. All of our flights were on time and there were no weather delays despite the warnings we had previously received! We arrived at the Entebbe airport, after a long day of travel, and were graciously greeted by Sweet Sleep's National Director in Uganda, the beautiful Josephine, her husband Jonathan, and our wonderful drivers Jack and Patrick with warm hugs and bouquets of flowers! What a nice welcome! Best of all, every last piece of luggage arrived in the right place at the right time and all of our generously donated supplies are here! Blessings abound!  There has been plenty of evidence that God has called each one of us to serve here in Uganda at this particular time in our lives and I know that this team is going to have an amazing impact on the children of Gulu. Until tomorrow, Sleep Sweetly

Friday, February 10, 2012

You're never too young to help


Children love to help other children. Here is another story of a child who is helping us provide more beds for orphans.

When Toby Ryan turned three, he and his family decided to try something different for his birthday party. Guests were invited to an afternoon of play at the family's local YMCA. Instead of gifts, they were asked to consider a donation to two children's nonprofits: ChemoDuck and Sweet Sleep. From bouncing around in the KidFit area, to playing birthday games with the Y staff — Toby's friends and family had a great time celebrating his life while making a difference in the lives of others.

Blogging from Gulu Starts Monday
Today the team from Sweet Sleep left for Gulu Uganda to deliver 1300 beds, bedding, Bibles and nets to HIV positive orphans and other vulnerable children. This is very exciting because it is the largest single bed installation for us to date.  We partner with Health Alert Uganda, healthalertuganda.wordpress.com, an organization that offers prevention, care and support services for children infected and affected with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Mosquito nets are especially important because HIV positive children already have a lowered immune system, making malaria more dangerous to them. Check back on Monday when we will have stories from the team.

Build-a-Bed and Nickels for Nets are fundraising programs designed for children to learn about the needs of orphans across the world and gives them a fun way to raise money to help meet these needs. You can find these boxes in the Church/Group section of our store www.sweetsleepstore.com or contact Sarah Edwards at sarah@sweetsleep.org.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Forcey Bible Church


The 3rd-5th grade boys and girls at Forcey Bible Church in Silver Spring, MD collected nickels and other coins to benefit Nickel’s for Nets, Sweet Sleep’s malaria prevention initiative. Nickel’s for Nets not only raises money to buy mosquito nets for orphans, but also educates children on the importance of using mosquito nets in other parts of the world. Without these nets, children are susceptible to malaria and its dangerous, deadly effects.

Some children were able to buy a whole net. One of the girls even had a yard sale at her house to raise money for the campaign. For each nickel that was given, a paper nickel was placed on a bulletin board until it was covered. Overall, the group raised $200 to purchase 25 mosquito nets for orphans in Haiti and Africa!

Tomorrow a team from Sweet Sleep leaves for Gulu Uganda to deliver 1300 beds, bedding, Bibles and nets to HIV positive orphans and other vulnerable children. This is very exciting because it is the largest single bed installation for us to date.  We partner with Health Alert Uganda, healthalertuganda.wordpress.com, an organization that offers prevention, care and support services for children infected and affected with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Mosquito nets are especially important because HIV positive children already have a lowered immune system, making malaria more dangerous to them.

Build-a-Bed and Nickels for Nets are fundraising programs designed for children to learn about the needs of orphans across the world and gives them a fun way to raise money to help meet these needs. You can find these boxes in the Church/Group section of our store www.sweetsleepstore.com or contact Sarah Edwards at sarah@sweetsleep.org.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Spring Back Recycling


Spring Back Recycling is a non-profit that exists to break down mattresses and build up lives. Its mission is to provide sustainable employment and small business training for formerly incarcerated men and women. Launched in March of 2011 as a partnership between Belmont University's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team and Belmont Church's Isaiah 58 ministry, Spring Back's mission is to provide sustainable employment and small business training for formerly incarcerated men and women.

Additionally, Spring Back strives to protect the environment by offering retailers, institutions, and consumers an economical alternative to dumping used mattresses in landfills. Some of the springs from the mattresses are removed and given to Sweet Sleep where they are sold as home decor items.  The proceeds are split between the two organizations, thus providing jobs for people here and beds for orphans around the world!

Sweet Sleep offers several different home decor items created by Spring Back Recycling for sale in their retail space in Brentwood. On Monday, February 13 and Tuesday February 14 we will have a special Valentines Open House. In addition to home decor we will also have:
  • One of a kind handcrafted magazine jewelry from Uganda
  • Handmade scarves made by FashionABLE
  • Long and short sleeve Sweet Sleep t-shirts
  • Stay-Dri Team Sweet Sleep shirts for runners
  • Hats, blankets, Tervis Tumblers and more!

Would you like to be a part of Sweet Sleep's life changing ministry? Click here to find out how you can also Share Love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Brooke Builds a Bed


Russ and Jennifer heard about Sweet Sleep through Brentwood Baptist Church.  One night, as Russ was putting his 4-year-old daughter, Brooke, to bed he told her that some children don’t have nice beds like hers. He said that their church helped buy beds for orphan children in other countries.  Brooke told her dad that she wanted to buy a bed for a child. They found some information at the church about Sweet Sleep and went for a visit to the Sweet Sleep offices in Brentwood, TN. There they picked up a free Build-a-Bed Family Kit.  This kit gives parents an opportunity to educate their children on the orphan crisis in our world today.  It contains 4 lessons that engage children and emphasize to them the importance of helping those in need and sharing the love of Christ. The kit also includes a Build-a-Bed and Nickels for Nets bank boxes and lists different ideas families can use to raise money for Sweet Sleep. One box holds about $8 in change which Brooke used to help buy a bed.

Brooke, Russ, Jennifer and Sweet Sleep Founder Jen Gash
Would your family like to help buy a bed for an orphan in need? Contact Sarah Edwards to get your free family kit.

Raising money for Sweet Sleep is easier than you think. Did you know that:
  • $8 provides a mosquito net to orphans in Africa or Haiti.
  • $10 provides a Bible to an orphan in his or her language.
  • $50 provides a bed and bedding for orphan resettlement kits in northern Uganda.
  • $125 provides a healthy, comfortable new Sweet Sleep bed for a child in Africa.
  • $167 provides a complete Sweet Sleep bed for an orphan in Haiti.
  • $200 provides a comfy Sweet Sleep bed for a Moldovan orphan.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Monday, February 06, 2012

3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, First Baptist Church Lawrenceburg KY


August 2011 a group of 4 students from First Baptist Church Lawrenceburg KY were challenged by their student pastor, Rich Smith, to choose an organization to support through a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The students got together to think about what choice they would make and remembered Sweet Sleep. These students became very excited about raising money to buy beds and Bibles for orphans in Haiti. Their goal was to raise $2,100 dollars. The students raised $1,600. However, the church quickly saw the passion these students had for supporting such a great cause and they began to give more. As the church began to give as a whole the amount began to get closer to the goal. Before all was said and done the students were able to raise $3,770, which was almost doubled their original goal! This story is an incredible story of a church working together to make a difference in the lives of orphans around the world!

Would you like to be a part of Sweet Sleep's life changing ministry? Click here to find out how you can also Share Love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.
Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Alana’s Story

Every weekday in February Sweet Sleep is Sharing Love through stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.
Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

Sweet Sleep Trick or Treat
While in town for our Soiree this past October, our global staff were trained and spoke on behalf of Sweet Sleep in various churches in the middle Tennessee area. Josephine Ssebambulide,National Director, Uganda, spoke during the Sunday morning service at Station Hill Church in Thompson's Station TN. During the service young Alana Corcoran learned about the orphans in Uganda and was inspired to put her own spin on Halloween. Alana loves orphans, so with her Nickels for Nets box in hand she decided to go trick-or-treating for Sweet Sleep instead of getting candy! Her door-to-door donations efforts raised over $30!

Would you like to be a part of Sweet Sleep's life changing ministry? Click here to find out how you can also Share Love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Fun Run/Walk- “Huff and Puff Before You Stuff”

Today marks day two of Sweet Sleep Sharing Love in February. All month Sweet Sleep will share stories from individuals, churches and other partners who have helped us show love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.
Go to www.sweetsleep.org/sharinglove and find out more about Sharing Love.

“Huff and Puff Before You Stuff” Fun Run/Walk


On Thanksgiving Day 2011, Matt Hershey and his family put on their 2nd annual 1 mile family fun run/walk. The event, which they call “Huff and Puff Before You Stuff,” was held in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. It started with 42 participants the first year and grew to 110 participants the second year. Overall, the groups raised a combined total of over $2,000 for Sweet Sleep, and according to Matt, this shows how “these folks truly want to be about God's Kingdom work, even on a day when many have lots of other family events planned. We have seen friends bring friends, people posting it on Facebook and sending out email blasts, etc. There is no doubt that people want to be a part of something that really matters in His Kingdom. Even when people can't attend they send in money.”

Matt says he and his wife heard about Sweet Sleep through a friend they attended seminary with who is an international orphan advocate. He and his family are delighted to support Sweet Sleep because not only do they have a heart for orphans, but they are actually in the process of adopting their own child.

Would you like to be a part of Sweet Sleep's life changing ministry? Click here to find out how you can also Share Love to orphans around the world by giving them a bed.

Be a part of this life changing ministry by giving a one time donation or Be a Bedhead and help provide beds each month for orphans across the world.