Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Day for Liberty

Today is World Malaria Day. That means something different to me now because of a little girl named Liberty who I’ll never know, this side of Heaven. This entry from Sweet Sleep’s 2011 Gulu team member, Amanda Calhoun, shares about that particular day .
Our Gulu team was deeply saddened as we stood among the huts that Liberty once ran to and from. We had no words, only prayers that I’m sure many of us couldn’t utter the whispers to God with. But, we were also filled with hope for those whom we WERE giving nets to. And, because of the reality and truth of that day, we were also keenly aware of something that needed to be different. We knew things. And, because of that, we were responsible to tell the story….to talk about malaria and its devastating impact. To pray for protection and for provision for these children, to pray for Sweet Sleep as we seek to provide life-saving nets to these children when they receive their beds and Bibles.
Throughout most of the nights that week, I woke in the middle of the night…crying for a little girl whose laughter was silenced too soon. My heart knew there was a battle cry to share with everyone who might listen, and so many of you have joined Sweet Sleep to fight with us. Thank you. You have saved thousands of lives. And we’re just warming up.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Liberty. I had to know more about her. I wanted to tell her story and to give this disease (malaria) a face so that we could understand it better. So, weeks after our team had been back, I asked Jennifer (our staff in Gulu) to travel to the home Liberty lived in to meet whatever family she might have left behind, to love them for all of us and to learn more about this little girl who had impacted our hearts and thoughts.
Here is Jennifer’s account of that day….
I started the journey as early as 9: 30am and I went to the village where we had our distribution point the first day and from there it was 4km ahead to liberty's home. I traced it for the family members and found her father (Quinto) who took us [to their] home. At their home I found her grandmother-- seated outside watching her maize seeds dry. 

She was happy to know I was there to comfort her. She was so happy we remembered her and the family. She soaks (cries) as she talked to me. She told me that Liberty was so kind, loving, caring and above all she never missed to go to pray on Sunday. She was a quiet girl who was always not complaining, even if she was in much pain. The pain made her so close to her grandmother. Young as she was, she fetched water, firewood, washed dishes and supported her grandmother so much.

Liberty was born HIV positive and started well but later she started to get opportunistic infections and worse when malaria came in. Many times she got well but, that fateful day she passed away the same with her mother who also died of malaria in 2008.

Liberty loved to farm so, so much and before she died she had planted beans behind their house and the beans yielded so well and that same beans were used for her funeral service to feed the mourners who went (her grandmother told me this while shedding tears).  Liberty had too much pain as she faced her death but she never complained--she had her strength and hope to see GOD.

She slept on mats, which I found in the compound. She used a torn net and never had a mattress of her own. She was buried next to her mother, she left behind a father, (Quinto) a brother ( Amos) and a grandmother (Medlene). Her family is peaceful and loving.

The grandmother handed me her dress light blue in colour which she used for prayers. She also gave me her photos that I took with my camera. Above all, she gave me her blessings and blessed the team of Sweet Sleep, even if she never saw them. She is blind…

After reading that message, I shared it with team members who joined with me to provide beds, nets, Bibles and other things to Liberty’s family in her memory. Her family was so thankful.

And then, one day, a box arrived at our office. I knew what the contents were, and I couldn’t open it. For months I have thought of that box, prayed for that box, looked at that box, wondered and prayed for how to tell the story and bring Liberty’s life to you in the right way.

Today, I picked that box up. I prayed over it. I sat with it. I opened it up. And, the moment I did….there it was. It took my breath away and I sat and looked at what I saw for a moment before continuing to remove its contents.
I’m certain I will always remember pulling Liberty’s dress from that box because the smell of Uganda came with it: the smell of a smoke-filled hut from so many meals prepared by or for Liberty, the smell of red clay earth, the smell of lives not really so far from where you or I are sitting.

I’m dedicating today’s World Malaria Day to Liberty. And, I’m urging you to make a gift in her memory today that will give one $8 mosquito net to a child in need of protection against malaria. You can go here to do that. When you do, mark “For Liberty” or “nets” in the comments box and I’ll make sure your gift is turned into a net and delivered to a child in Uganda.

And, today, for Liberty, I’m personally going to match every gift that is made in her memory. So, let’s do this.

Thank you all for supporting the work for Sweet Sleep, for praying, for letting me share Liberty with you in this way, and for how you will respond now.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gulu Gulu Gulu

“Gulu Gulu Gulu”; the facebook status that changed my life forever.  I remember the night in September 2010 when I read Jen Gash’s three simple words.  I did not know why she wrote them or what was going on, but in an instant I knew God was calling me to this place that I had heard incomprehensible stories about.

These three simple words that stirred my soul also filled me with excitement, fear, hope, and purpose.  Weeks later, I left with the first team that would work in Gulu, Uganda.  We provided almost 800 resettlement kits to children living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, encouraging them to move out of the predatory camps and back to their family land.

Since then I have returned twice, those times providing beds to more than 1,750 children, all of whom were HIV+, protecting those already physically vulnerable children from opportunistic diseases like malaria and pneumonia.  Not only that, but over 850 children living in secret with HIV came out of hiding and are now receiving the protection of anti-retroviral drugs and a mosquito net.

But those 850 children, plus almost a thousand more HIV+ children, are still waiting for their Sweet Sleep beds.  And those beds need to be given to them this summer.

I love Gulu trips.  They are unlike any other trip Sweet Sleep does.  They appeal to me because, simply put, they are intense.  The work is hard.  The days are long. The stories are heart wrenching.  By the end of the day I have literally physically, mentally, and emotionally poured every ounce of my being out over God’s children. 

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5

Love the Lord with all your strength.  Give Him it ALL.  That is what you do in Gulu.  That is why I love Gulu.  After a week spent in Gulu I have loved my Lord with every ounce of strength I possess.

This summer I will not be returning to Gulu.  But I am  praying, daily and earnestly, for those of you whom God will be calling to the place I love so deeply.  I am praying for the strong who will lift the heavy loads.  I am praying for the compassionate who will see beyond the stories into the souls of the children who have lived many more lives than we will ever have to.  I am praying for the veterans and leaders who will share their experiences with new team members.  I am praying for the ministers at heart who will pour TRUTH and LOVE into the people of Northern Uganda.

Prayerfully consider how God wants to use your gifts on a team in Gulu, Uganda this summer.  Trip dates are June 1 through June 11.  Applications are due now.  Visit for more information or email me at with questions.

You will be blessed.  

Madelene Metcalf
Trips Coordinator

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Spring Student Conference offering helps 158 orphans in Uganda

What an amazing blessing the ministry of Sweet Sleep is for me. Quickly after discovering the vision of Jen Gash and looking into the work she and the Sweet Sleep team are doing around the world, it became my passion as well.

Missions is dear to my heart.  The Lord has put a deep desire to raise the awareness of others to global missions as well as discover ways for a young generation to become sensitive to the needs all over the world. For teenagers to get excited about spreading the fame of the God of the universe to their community and the world. 

Every year at our annual associational Spring Student Conference we include a special missions offering. When the council of several youth pastors that plan the conference met to decide on which organization to give to, it was a quick unanimous decision to partner with Sweet Sleep. 

This past weekend (March 30-April 1, 2012) was the conference and God blew our goal away. The Spirit of God stirred in the hearts of the 1400 students & adult leaders in attendance. Our goal was to raise $4,000 and resettle 80 children in Northern Uganda. The goal was high as former years averaged a little over $3,000, but we knew God would move.  That goal was smashed in just the first night.  Our weekend total offering was $7,900 which brought us great joy knowing it was going to provide a life saving mosquito net, mat, mattress, blanket, and Gods precious Word for 158 kids. The students were moved by the vision set in place, the photos, videos, and testimonies of us passionate about placing the needs of others before our own. 

We are super pumped to get these funds to Sweet Sleep so they can set a plan to get these resources to Northern Uganda. God is faithful and so very good. 

At the end of this month we have also planned a City Wide Under The Stars event in which we have 12 churches signed up to participate before the conference. With the huge success this weekend, we believe that number will double. Our goal is to give these students an experience that will continue to raise their awareness to the needs of these orphans as they sleep under the stars just as these orphaned kids do.  We already have local businesses, radio stations, tv stations, news stations, and the newspaper involved to spread the vision throughout all of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina. 

We honestly believe God is going to use this event, last weekends planted seeds, and the future opportunities to transform lives here locally as well as around the globe. 

I want to thank the entire HBA staff and youth council for their love for Sweet Sleep and their passion to unify together to make this happen.

Thank you Sweet Sleep for listening to the call God has placed on your lives and letting us join you on mission to help save lives and see the Kingdom expand.

Ryan Epps
Youth Pastor, Boone Trail Baptist Church

See more photos on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Abide in Christ

This week, holy week, is a time that causes me to think more deeply about my life in Christ; about what I am doing, and why am I doing it.  Years before my involvement in ministry I had the blessing of being directed to read Mark Batterson’s Primal.  At the time the words were beautiful and powerful; but they were without context.  Now, as I reread the words, my heart aches as I read the following:

Go back to that place where God opened your eyes and broke your heart with compassion for others.  Go back to that place where the glory of God flooded your soul and left you speechless with wonder.  God back to that place where thoughts about God filled your mind with holy curiosity.  Go back to that place where a God-given dream caused a rush of adrenaline that filled you with supernatural energy. 

I read that and I simply have to pause.  His glory literally stops me in my tracks and at once I am again the brand new Christian that first discovered the wonders and supernatural energy I felt when I came to know Christ. 

John 15 tells us that we are the vine and our Father is the vinedresser.  He takes away the branches that bear no fruit and prunes those branches that bear fruit so that they will bear more fruit. He commands – Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless you abide in me

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.                                    John 15: 9, 10

And so if we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us, Christ’s heart abides in our heart.  And we cannot help but to love as Christ loves.  Those things that break the heart of Christ therefore break our heart.  And His heart breaks for the suffering, the victims, the fatherless.

If Christ abides in us, our capacity for compassion becomes that of the Lord’s.  And  that compassion far exceeds our human capacity for compassion.  Why?  Because The Father identifies with pain and suffering because He watched His Son suffer and die on the cross.

We each have a story of how God called us to love and serve orphans.  Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit we have chosen to obey.  But even in that obedience, there is nothing more delightful, awe-inspiring, and disarming than the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  And from that joy, wonder, and heartache comes our God-given passion.  And because Christ suffered on the cross, that becomes God-given compassion; for our hearts are broken because it breaks God’s heart.  And because of that God-ordained compassion, we are able to love His children far beyond our human capacity.  

Madelene Metcalf
Trips Coordinator

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Ranier Christian School raises over $5K for Sweet Sleep

In February we told you about Ranier Christian School, Maple Valley Elementary Campus in Renton WA.  This year the faculty of the 140 student school 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. Following is the rest of the story.

28 of the 140 students from Rainier Christian Schools-Maple Valley Campus celebrating with a Sweet Sleep Slumber Party! The entire school celebrated exceeding their goal of raising enough money to build beds for orphans. What slumber party would not be complete without wearing pajamas, cuddling with a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, enjoying milk and cookies and a bedtime story? A great time was had by all!
Doesn’t everyone want a warm, comfortable bed to sleep in each night? Many of us feel we deserve it, but not everyone has that basic need met. Half way around the world in the small Eastern European country of Moldova, 10,000 orphans are currently living in state-run orphanages. Most of these children sleep on 50-year-old broken beds with springs that have “sprung,” causing them to sag to the floor. Their mattresses are cotton mats, which are less than one-inch thick and have been soiled for decades. Two children might sleep in one of these beds and share a threadbare blanket.

We set a goal
Recently, through the ministry of Connected by Grace, an advocate for adoption, foster care, and orphans, the 140 kindergarten through sixth grade students on the Maple Valley Elementary Campus of Rainier Christian Schools learned about the plight of these orphans and determined to help Sweet Sleep, a faith-based nonprofit organization which provides beds to the world’s orphaned and abandoned children. The students set a goal to raise enough money to provide 3 beds from each classroom – 21 new beds in all. These new beds have beautiful, wooden frames, six-inch-thick foam mattresses and fluffy new pillows, vinyl mattress and pillow covers, new sheets and a cozy new comforter. The cost of each bed is $200. So, within a month’s time the students did extra chores at home, worked for neighbors cleaning up from storms, shared their birthday money, and sought donations to raise the necessary $4,200 to donate to Sweet Sleep and the orphaned children of Moldova.

Small change adds up to large donation
The month came to an end, and all the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and bills were counted. The final funds raised were fabulous! The students had raised $5,600! This was enough money to purchase 28 new beds for 28 orphaned children living in Moldova. What a joy it was all involved to know that not only were goals exceeded, but lives of children both here in Maple Valley and across the world in Moldova are being changed.