Celebrating 15 Years of Ministry

By Covenant Mercies Team
Education Healthcare Sustainability
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15 years ago, our story began with a heart to serve fatherless children in the developing world. We prayed for God’s help to do justice and love mercy for the sake of these precious children. He answered in ways beyond what we could imagine.

Today, over 2,230 children have experienced the care of the Orphan Sponsorship Program. We thank God for the generosity, prayers, and labors of Covenant Mercies partners around the globe. You helped make a dream from 2002 possible. Because of your passion for this cause, orphans and widows in Uganda, Zambia, and Ethiopia have broken out of multi-generational poverty.

In honor of our Anniversary, we’ve launched a special new campaign: 15 for 15. Your tax-deductible gift of $15 or more will help us continue expanding our programs and investing in education and healthcare opportunities for the children of Covenant Mercies. We are also excited to share that a generous donor has committed to match eligible 15 for 15 donations! Any gift between $150 and $1,500 will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $15,000. Between now and June 1, you can double the value of your donation.

To make a gift, visit our Donate Page.

Covenant Mercies 2016 Impact [Infographic]

By Covenant Mercies Team
Education Ethiopia Healthcare Orphan Sponsorship Sustainability Uganda Zambia
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As we look forward to the New Year, we are delighted to share the Covenant Mercies 2016 Impact Infographic. Thank you to our sponsors, donors, volunteers, and partners around the world who are making this work possible. We are grateful for your prayers, service, and generosity.

2016 Covenant Mercies Impact Facts:

  • Today, over 1,200 children are enrolled in the Orphan Sponsorship Program.
  • We welcomed 230 new sponsored children and celebrated 110 graduations. 
  • We planted a 5-acre eucalyptus grove (5,100 trees!) to generate sustainable local revenue for our Eastern Uganda program.
  • 25 mission team participants worked on projects such as Vacation Bible School, Youth Camp, and Construction.
  • We created the Mapalo Scholarship Fund for eligible Program graduates pursuing higher education. Mapalo means "blessing."
  • We launched a brand new medical clinic in Western Uganda, providing over 350 children and their guardians with in- and out-patient care, health education, HIV testing, malaria treatment, and more! 

Joyful: Covenant Mercies 2016 [Video]

By Covenant Mercies Team
Ethiopia Orphan Sponsorship Uganda Zambia
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We can’t stop smiling from our latest ministry video! Click below to watch Joyful: 2016, and help us spread the word about Covenant Mercies by sharing this video with your friends!

This holiday season, will you consider helping us reach our year-end goal by making a tax-deductible gift to Covenant Mercies? A gift of any amount will help us continue to expand our programs and provide our children with quality education and healthcare opportunities. Click here to donate.

#GivingTuesday 2016

By Covenant Mercies Team
Healthcare
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November 29th is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving and celebrating generosity! In Sub-Saharan Africa, children’s lives are frequently disrupted or even lost to treatable, preventable diseases. This Giving Tuesday, we are raising funds for the fight against malaria and HIV in the lives of our sponsored children. Your tax-deductible gift of just $20 can provide a mosquito net and medication for a child with malaria, plus essential nutritional supplements for a child with HIV.

Will you partner with us today?

Click here to make a tax-deductible gift to Covenant Mercies. 

Mesay Ayele, Sponsorship Program Graduate

By Covenant Mercies Team
Ethiopia Orphan Sponsorship
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As a teenager she ran away, turning from her family and the Sponsorship Program. In our latest ministry video, meet Mesay from Ethiopia, and learn how God used the dedication of a Covenant Mercies Program Coordinator to soften her heart and bring her home. Thank you to our Covenant Mercies sponsors, who make it possible for children like Mesay to receive personal care and steadfast, compassionate mentorship. 

Covenant Mercies is ECFA Approved

By Covenant Mercies Team
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At Covenant Mercies, we believe we have a responsibility to God, our donors, and the children we serve to be faithful stewards of our financial resources, and to maintain excellence, integrity, transparency, and accountability in all our financial practices.

We are pleased to announce that Covenant Mercies has been approved as an Accredited Organization of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA organizations adhere to Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. You can learn more about these standards here.

Like Oil Running Over

By Joanne Burak
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Just a short walk away from our program offices in Maundo, Uganda, you will find the home of Sidoro and Margaret Onyango. 

As you near the edge of their land, Margaret is there to welcome you with a big smile. She leads you closer to their home, where you meet Sidoro, her husband of 44 years. He clasps your hand in greeting and invites you to sit under the shade of their trees. 

When both of their daughters and sons-in-law passed away, Sidoro and Margaret took their seven grandchildren into their home. The eldest, Eunice, is age 12. The youngest, Kasalina, is only four years old. All seven of the siblings and cousins are enrolled in our Orphan Sponsorship Program.

Eunice and Kasalina

When the parents of a family this size pass away, the children are often scattered to a variety of extended family members. It can be nearly impossible to support seven children on a typical salary, or through subsistence farming. Because of the generosity of Covenant Mercies sponsors, Sidoro and Margaret are able to support their grandchildren. Because of their sponsors, Eunice, Patricia, Yokim, Joel, Michael, John Martin, and Kasalina can grow up together as a family.

On a warm summer morning, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Onyango family and members of Covenant Mercies’ Maundo staff. During our conversation, Sidoro expressed the comfort he has in knowing his grandchildren receive quality healthcare, education, and nutrition. Margaret then shared this message for our sponsors and donors: “God bless you richly for all the wonderful work you have done in this household and the community. When I saw you arriving, my heart was filled with joy— like oil running over.” My own heart moved at this biblical imagery, recalling a passage written about Jesus approximately 700 years before His birth:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives,

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

to provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD

for the display of his splendor.

(Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV)

Good news for the poor. Healing for the brokenhearted. The oil of joy instead of mourning. Christ, the fulfiller of Isaiah 61:1-3, at work in the lives of the Onyango family.

I reflect often about that sweet visit, meeting those children in their school uniforms and full of hope for a brighter future. It overwhelms me to think about the compassion, prayers, and generosity of the Covenant Mercies team around the world… about the caseworkers, churches, advocates, sponsors, and donors who are making this work possible. How to tell you about the profound difference you are making in the lives of these families? How to express the deep gratitude our staff feels for your partnership? I hope you know just how much we thank God for you. 

The Onyango Family, July 2016

Our Sponsors and Donors Make a Difference

By Covenant Mercies Team
Healthcare Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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When he was thirteen years old, Moses was diagnosed with Endemic Kaposi Sarcoma, a slow growing cancer of the blood and lymph vessels. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time this Covenant Mercies sponsored child had experienced a life-threatening illness. At his young age, Moses had already survived tuberculosis and a rigorous treatment regimen lasting six months. 

Our sponsors provide many ongoing benefits for their sponsored children, including access to health and medical care. Because of the generosity of our donors, Covenant Mercies was also able to launch an on-site, staffed medical clinic* in Moses’ program area (Eastern Uganda) in 2008, the same year he was first diagnosed with TB. Our resident nurse jumped into action, procuring the necessary TB medicine for Moses and closely managing his six-month progression toward full recovery. Cancer, however, brought its own unique challenges. The nearest hospital with cancer therapy was in Kampala— 130 miles away. This treatment was simply unreachable and unaffordable for Moses’ guardian. 

Our sponsors and donors make a difference. Through their generosity, Covenant Mercies was able to both pay for and transport Moses to his cancer therapy. Our nurse faithfully traveled with Moses to the Kampala hospital for nine consecutive weeks— over 2,300 miles of total travel— in order to provide him with the necessary treatment. The treatment process ravaged his already thin frame, but it proved effective. Covenant Mercies caseworkers also came alongside Moses when he fell behind in his studies due to his illness, working with him and encouraging him to persevere. Through the attentive and compassionate care of our nurse, Moses’ health and strength returned over the next few years. His cancer went into remission in 2013.

This is the type of personal care that is made possible through the generosity and prayers of our sponsors, donors, and church partners around the world. Together we strive so that each of our sponsored children may have the opportunity to know the gospel and understand that they have been made in the image of God. Together we fight for them to rise above adversity and poverty. To receive an education and live a full and healthy life. To become agents of positive change in their families and communities.

Our Director of International Development, David Mayinja (below, left), returned this week from visiting our Uganda programs. While he was there, he ran into our young friend Moses (below, right). Moses delightedly greeted David with a big smile and a warm hug. Typically, our sponsored children will simply shake hands. This greeting was a show of deep gratitude not only to David, but to all of Covenant Mercies and our generous donors worldwide that make this work possible.

Today, Moses is eighteen years old and cancer free. He plans to attend vocational school this year to study welding. 

We praise God for His miraculous work, for “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” –Job 12:10

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*Covenant Mercies plans to open a similar medical clinic for our western Uganda program this year. If you would like to donate to this cause, please click here and indicate “Medical Clinic” in the comment box.

Covenant Mercies 2015 Impact [Infographic]

By Covenant Mercies
Education Ethiopia Healthcare Orphan Sponsorship Uganda Zambia
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As 2015 comes to a close, we are delighted to share what the prayers and generosity of our partners around the world have accomplished this year. We are committed to transparency, accountability, and integrity as we steward the resources entrusted to us for our sponsored children, to the glory of God. This is the Covenant Mercies 2015 Impact Infographic. We hope these highlights of the year are a source of encouragement to you. 

2015 Covenant Mercies Impact Facts:

  • 1,100+ children sponsored through the Orphan Sponsorship Program
  • 139 new sponsored children
  • 40 program graduates
  • 130 attendees at our eastern Uganda youth camp, and 28 professed faith in Christ
  • 1,720 medical patients served through our one week medical clinic in western Uganda
  • 27 mission team participants, representing 9 churches and 7 states
  • 229 Covenant Mercies sponsored children attending Lighthouse Christian School in Zambia
  • For the second year in a row, 100% of Grade 7 Lighthouse students passed their national exams and qualified for secondary school 

An Interview with Wilbroad & Zicky Chanda: 10 Years of Lighthouse Christian School (Part 2)

By Joanne Burak
Education Zambia
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Zicky and Wilbroad Chanda, founders of Lighthouse Christian School in Ndola, Zambia, recently visited Covenant Mercies’ US offices. In honor of the school’s tenth anniversary, Director of Development Joanne Burak sat down to talk with the Chandas about Lighthouse and the surrounding community.

What does a typical day at Lighthouse look like for a student?

ZC: We start our classes at 7:30 in the morning. Monday and Friday mornings we have assembly. In assembly, each class presents something they have learned. We also have clubs— Drama Club, Cultural Club, Scripture Club, and Art Club— so the Drama Club may also present something, or the Cultural Club will present a dance.

…Monday afternoon we have Reading, Tuesday afternoon we offer Remedial studies, and Wednesday afternoon they have [other] classes. Thursdays and Fridays they [leave] at 12:30pm. Within the week, each grade has a day of physical education.

Congratulations on 100% of last year’s seventh grade class passing their national exams. Tell us a bit about the Zambian education system.

WC: We inherited the British system… So we have primary school from grades 1 to 7… grade 8 and 9 is junior secondary school, 10 to 12 is senior secondary school, then a university or college.

The government is big on English, Science, and Math. Grade 7 national exams are multiple choice but very demanding. You sit for seven subjects. There are two of them that are an aptitude test, like the SATs— critical/analytical thinking.

…This is where we talk about God’s faithfulness. It is impressive for [Lighthouse] to score 100%, given our kids… The kids in the nice residential, high-cost, low-density areas, they are at an advantage. Whether you are from the village or the bush, you must write that exam…

In grade 9, they [Zambian students] have another exam to proceed to grade 10. Many make it to eighth grade, but not so many make it to tenth grade… Then there is an exam in grade 12 which is even tougher, because now you are fighting to get into college or university.  It’s different from here [the USA] where you are in 12th grade this fall, and maybe the next fall you are in college. Even if you get good grades, it takes one to two years before you even go to university.

What is your favorite thing about leading Lighthouse Christian School?

ZC: My favorite part is seeing these children being transformed, not just academically— even spiritually. That is the greatest joy.

We were just talking about 100% [of the seventh grade class] passing [their national exams] last year… I remember when I got the results, I was going through each name and I found out that everyone had qualified to go to grade 8. That was a joy, just to see these kids entering high school.

The pre-schoolers that are coming, most of them don’t know how to speak English. By the end of the year, they are able to say their ABCs, they are able to sing rhymes, they are able to communicate— it is just a joy.

Can you share anything about future construction plans for the school?

ZC: In terms of construction, we are in the third phase for the school…that will become the computer labs, art labs, a library, and we hope for more classrooms.

How can we pray for you and Lighthouse?

ZC: My prayer request has always been for God’s wisdom… there are so many decisions I have to make on a daily basis... So really, my prayer is for God’s wisdom and guidance. I don’t know where Lighthouse will be ten years from now, but God knows— because He is the one who has seen it through up to this moment.

Zicky Chanda is the Director of Lighthouse Christian School and helps to coordinate Covenant Mercies’ Orphan Sponsorship Program in Ndola, Zambia. Wilbroad is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Ndola. Together, the Chandas founded Lighthouse Christian School in 2005. Covenant Mercies partnered with the school in 2006, later building a new and expanded campus. Today, Lighthouse serves 250 students in grades pre-K through 7. For more information, visit our Education Projects page.

Missed Part 1 of our interview with Wilbroad and Zicky Chanda? Check it out here

An Interview with Wilbroad & Zicky Chanda: 10 Years of Lighthouse Christian School (Part 1)

By Joanne Burak
Education Zambia
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Zicky and Wilbroad Chanda, founders of Lighthouse Christian School in Ndola, Zambia, recently visited Covenant Mercies’ US offices. In honor of the school’s tenth anniversary, Director of Development Joanne Burak sat down to talk with the Chandas about Lighthouse and the surrounding community.

What led to your desire to establish Lighthouse Christian School?

Zicky Chanda: We lived in Mississippi in 1999. We were there for almost four years. While we were in the US, we would read stories— stories about the street kids back home. We had a passion for caring for these children. We thought, when we get back to Zambia, we will start a school that will care for orphans and vulnerable children. So when we went back in 2003, we started working towards that. Lighthouse was established in January 2005.

I understand that Lighthouse Christian School serves students from both the middle class and slum neighborhoods of Ndola.

ZC: That is one thing we still want to emphasize, because we don’t want the school to be known as an orphanage, or a school for orphans. We want to give those children the same quality education that the others have. There are some kids [Lighthouse students] who are not orphans. Their parents are able to pay for the school fees.

Where these kids are coming from— the [Covenant Mercies] sponsored kids and non-sponsored kids— are totally different. Most of the sponsored kids, they are coming from the slums. And those that have parents and are able to pay for themselves— they are coming from a different neighborhood. It is a benefit for both.

For those children coming from those suburban areas, mixing with those coming from the slums gives them a picture of saying “we are one.” It doesn’t matter where you [live]. One thing I emphasize to the caregivers [child guardians]… it is easy to say “Oh, I am coming from the slums. I can’t match up with that child coming from so-and-so area.” But we encourage them. I usually tell them, “With God, it is all even.” God doesn’t look at us and say “You are coming from ‘this area,’” He just looks at us as the same.

Wilbroad Chanda: In addition, when you have kids coming from the slums… it’s like the caste system in India. When you think of education, the expectation [if you live in a slum neighborhood] is that you go to a school that is downtrodden, that is poor. But if you are coming from that community and attending Lighthouse... it boosts their esteem: Though I come from such a community, I can attend a good school.

Tell us about the Ndola community and the home life of the Lighthouse Christian School students.

WC: The [sponsored] children come from communities that are poverty stricken. At one point, we didn’t have those slums… because of certain socio-economic factors, they are mushrooming. The problem is, if you grow up in that community… the mindset is that this is where I was raised, I will raise my kids and grandchildren here. Lighthouse says no, we can break that cycle, because when these kids have an education, they will transition. Part of the reason why some of them live in that community is because they don’t have a good education, a good job, and good income… Education is the golden key that unlocks or breaks this cycle.

How has Lighthouse changed in the past ten years?

ZC: When we started Lighthouse Christian School, when the doors opened, there were only six students, with one teacher. Just me, and one teacher. Now we have over 250 children, in ten years. When we started, we were renting a house. We paid the rentals, the salary of the teacher, the utilities… it was just from our pockets, just from our incomes. It’s amazing to see where it is now.

When Covenant Mercies came in 2006 and the Sponsorship Program started, the numbers started growing, but we were still renting this house and we didn’t have enough space. The first building construction started in 2009. Today it’s transformed— not just the area where the school is built, it has transformed the lives of the children. We see God’s faithfulness in all of that. Lighthouse is also providing employment for the teachers and those working on the grounds.

WC: There is progress in almost every sphere of school: the number of teachers has increased, management… relationships are growing, the gospel is spreading. Of course, we are still progressing... as Zicky has put it, we are just seeing the hand of God.

Zicky Chanda is the Director of Lighthouse Christian School and helps to coordinate Covenant Mercies’ Orphan Sponsorship Program in Ndola, Zambia. Wilbroad is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Ndola. Together, the Chandas founded Lighthouse Christian School in 2005. Covenant Mercies partnered with the school in 2006, later building a new and expanded campus. Today, Lighthouse serves 250 students in grades pre-K through 7. For more information, visit our Education Projects page.

Check out Part 2 of our interview with Wilbroad and Zicky Chanda here.

Restoring Our Children to Everything God Created Them to Be

By Covenant Mercies
Ethiopia Orphan Sponsorship Uganda Zambia
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This August, Executive Director Doug Hayes traveled with a film crew to Uganda, Zambia, and Ethiopia. As they visited Covenant Mercies’ program areas, they recorded interviews with our sponsored children, in-country staff, and program graduates. Click below to view this brand new ministry video.

Special thanks to studio428films and Jay Walker Studio for making this project possible. We look forward to sharing more footage and stories of hope in the coming months! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional news and ministry updates.

Uganda Youth Camp 2015

By The Covenant Mercies Team
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Check out this slide show of our recent Uganda Youth Camp 2015! 

See how a team of Covenant Mercies volunteers ran a three day youth camp for over 120 children and finished their mission trip by helping a widow in our program rebuild her house.

(All photos taken by Lily Welch at Jieru Photography)

April 2015 Update on Lighthouse Christian School

By The Covenant Mercies Team
Education Orphan Sponsorship Zambia
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Thanks to an outpouring of generosity at the end of 2014, the first quarter of this year included significant progress toward the completion of our new facility on the campus of Lighthouse Christian School.  The building is now completely roofed, and plumbing and electrical works have commenced in the interior.

We remain with about $30,000 left to raise toward the completion of this project, with a goal of gaining occupancy of the new building by August of this year.  As always, it’s important to remember that our aim here isn’t to build impressive structures; it’s to change young lives.  Recently on our Facebook page, we have posted several brief video testimonials and words of thanks from children in our program (including some who have attended Lighthouse).  If you haven’t yet “liked” Covenant Mercies on Facebook, please consider doing that so we can more easily keep you informed.   

If you would like to contribute toward the project at Lighthouse Christian School, please click here.  We are grateful for your support!

Persevering in Good Works in Ethiopia

By Doug Hayes, Ethiopia
Country Facts Ethiopia Orphan Sponsorship
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And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Some stories are encouraging precisely because, at other points in the storyline, they weren’t so encouraging at all.  Such is the case with Mesay, a sixteen year-old girl in Covenant Mercies’ program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (pictured above with Program Coordinator, Hilina Atlabachew). 

About this time last year, Mesay’s sponsors contacted us to inquire about her profile update, and ask how they could pray for her.  It was a timely request.  At that moment, Mesay was in the midst of a great struggle.  After a major fight with her mother, Mesay had dropped out of school and turned to living on the streets with a group of friends.  While such behavior would result in the discontinuation of her sponsorship if it persisted, we hoped that Mesay might still be guided back onto the right path.  Hilina Atlabachew, Covenant Mercies Program Coordinator in Addis, tried in vain to counsel Mesay on multiple occasions.  We asked Mesay’s sponsors to pray, especially when we learned that Hilina had another meeting scheduled.

The meeting did not begin well.  Mesay came to the meeting with the intention of telling Hilina she would not return to school, she would not move back in with her mother, and she would be perfectly happy to discontinue her sponsorship and live on the street with her friends.  After encountering such strong resistance in the first half of their meeting, Hilina decided to pray with Mesay.  Hilina concluded her prayer and began to discuss the same issues again.  Miraculously, it was as if Hilina was talking to an entirely different person.  God had softened Mesay’s heart.  By the conclusion of the meeting, Mesay wrote goals about reconciling with her mother, returning to school, and saying goodbye permanently to her friends on the street.

It has now been more than nine months since that meeting.  The transformation in Mesay’s heart has stood the test of time.  Her relationships with her mother and siblings are strong.  She is enrolled in school for both academics and vocational studies, where she is learning to be a hairstylist.  She has stayed away from the temptations of the street.  She is now attending church regularly, is taking a discipleship class, and professes faith in Christ.  Through the faithful, patient, and prayerful support of her Covenant Mercies sponsors combined with Hilina’s persevering, loving counsel, the Lord has transformed Mesay’s life.

Your Support Is Changing Lives!

By Doug Hayes
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Your Support Is Changing Lives!

I want to share with you the story of James Omoding, a sponsored child who began with Covenant Mercies in 2003.

James is from the Pallisa District located in Eastern Uganda.  Upon his registration for our program and assignment to a sponsor, James relocated to Nagongera to be closer to Covenant Mercies staff and attend school.  By God’s grace and through the faithful giving of his sponsor, James was able to graduate from secondary school and go on to pursue an institutional certificate in plumbing.

Fast forward 12 years from his start in our program, and James is now living in Kampala and working for the Uganda National Water and Sewage Corporation.  Even more amazingly, he now houses and provides for two of his younger brothers, who came to live with him due to what James calls “rampant poverty and unemployment.”

Despite these tremendous practical benefits, James is quick to say that it was the spiritual enrichment that Covenant Mercies provides that profited him the most.  Weekly Bible studies, instruction in daily devotions, and attending church helped him see his need for a Savior and receive God’s free gift of salvation through Christ.

As you can see from his face, James’ life has been transformed!  The tangible support that paid for his education and helped him to learn a craft, now allows him to provide for himself and other family members.  The spiritual guidance he received from Covenant Mercies staff and a loving church family has now become a bedrock of faith in his life. 

Thank you for the role you play in your sponsored child’s life.  Just like James’ sponsors, you are providing the resources necessary to break the cycle of poverty and advance the gospel in a child’s life.

We could not do this work without you, and we are grateful for your partnership!

An Update on Lighthouse Christian School Project

By Doug Hayes
Education Zambia
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Great progress is being made on the new classroom building at Lighthouse Christian School in Zambia.  The walls have already been raised to roofing level, and weather permitting we will begin installing the trusses next week! 

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far toward this $80,000 project, which will greatly enhance the education we are able to provide for our sponsored kids in Zambia!  We are continuing to raise funds as we enter into the roofing phase, one of the more costly phases of the project.  If you would like to make a contribution toward the completion of this wonderful new school building for the children of Lighthouse Christian School, please click here.

Lighthouse - A Beacon of Hope and Possibility

By Doug Hayes
Education Zambia
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I have always loved the name of Lighthouse Christian School in Ndola, Zambia. 

Even in a landlocked country like Zambia many miles from any ocean, a lighthouse is a metaphor for hope in the midst of distress; a beacon of possibility in the raging sea of impossibility.  No matter how severe the storm or how high the waves, a lighthouse is a welcome guide for a tossed and disoriented vessel hoping to get back on course.   

In many ways, this is a helpful picture of the role we aim to play in the lives of our sponsored children.  Each of them has been made in the image and likeness of God, with gifts and abilities that will flourish if given the opportunity.  But the hardships of life have thrown their development off course.  Parental loss in combination with extreme poverty is the perfect storm, making it nearly impossible for our children to right the ship on their own.  Our role is to shine that beacon of hope, reminding them of the potential of their lives and affording them the opportunity to become everything God created them to be.  We can’t calm the storms completely, but we can be a light in the midst of the fog; a means of restored hope and opportunity despite the severe trials they’ve faced in their young lives.  

This is what we aim to do in partnership with Lighthouse Christian School, and our primary means of doing it is quality Christian education.  We have written before about the importance of education in the lives of our children, and the unique opportunity we have to influence their spiritual and character development through the provision of quality Christian education.  This is the reason Covenant Mercies has partnered with Lighthouse for the past seven years, and the reason we are continuing to play a vital role in the development of the school’s infrastructure to this day.

In February 2012, we had the delight of opening a spacious 7-classroom building with Lighthouse.  Now, as the school bursts at the seams once more (with over 200 of our sponsored kids presently attending in grades K-7), we are embarking on the next project in the development of the Lighthouse campus.  This new facility will house the kindergarten and pre-K classes (leaving the existing classrooms for grades 1-7), plus a teacher’s lounge and offices, a nurse’s office, and a small kitchen for the preparation of nutritious lunches.  All in all, this building is projected to cost approximately $80,000 to complete.

I don’t know whether $80,000 sounds like a lot or a little to you.  But one thing I do know:  we are ultimately investing in something vastly more important than bricks, mortar, desks, and whiteboards.  Through our partnership with Lighthouse Christian School, we are investing in the opportunity to restore hundreds of beautiful children to becoming everything God has created them to be.  Though the raging seas have thrown them temporarily off course, God has brought us into their lives to be a means of restoration toward their ultimate purpose and destination.  As a result, I believe they will one day know him as the Father to the fatherless and praise him for his merciful intervention in their lives.  Can there be a more meaningful way to invest $80,000?

If you would like to contribute toward the next phase in the construction of Lighthouse Christian School, please click here and select "Lighthouse Christian School Project" from the drop down options.

Sowing Seeds of Hope in Uganda

By Doug Hayes
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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In countries like Uganda where poverty is pervasive and death from ailments like malaria and HIV/AIDS is commonplace, becoming an orphan at the age of three is a crisis for any child.This is precisely the situation Patrick Epuret found himself in after losing both of his parents in the early 90s.


In typical African fashion, Patrick and his three siblings were taken in by an uncle after the death of their parents.  By the time Patrick reached high school age, Covenant Mercies’ Sponsorship Program was being established in his area and he was one of the first children enrolled.  He loved learning and excelled in his education, but apart from the assistance offered by Patrick’s sponsor it is unlikely that his uncle could have afforded to send him to high school. 

From the time he was a young boy, Patrick had a unique love for both animal and crop husbandry. He genuinely enjoyed digging in the garden and watching crops grow. As he continued through school, a Covenant Mercies staff member noted his interest and steered him toward the discipline of Agriculture. As Patrick recalls it now, he was advised that these skills would be useful to him as a farmer and an entrepreneur, even if he never managed to find steady employment as an adult.

When Patrick took up his new field of study, it was evident he had found his calling and he eagerly soaked up the knowledge.  Providentially, his graduation from the institute of agriculture coincided with Covenant Mercies’ plans to launch a sustainable farming initiative at our Children’s Homes.  When Patrick was offered the job as farm manager, he quickly accepted.  Our program had played an important role in educating him and helping him come to faith in Christ.  His desire now is to help that same program become self-sustaining, and to be an inspiration to other fatherless children whose life circumstances are all too similar to those he faced at their age. 


As farm manager, Patrick’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the farm sufficiently provides for the food needs of our Children’s Homes.  Secondarily, we intend to support the broader needs of our program through the sale of surplus crops and other income-generating projects on the farm.  Beginning with the cultivation ofabout 40 acres with food crops like rice, beans, pineapples, potatoes, and corn, we expect to be able to supply the needs of the Homes in short order.  From there, our long-term plan includes the planting of a variety of fruit trees (mangoes, oranges, bananas, avocadoes, etc.), a chicken-raising project, and potentially the establishment of a grinding mill that would serve the needs of both the Children’s Homes and the surrounding community. 

As our program has matured through the years, the focus of our mission has sharpened into the following statement:  we are aiming to restore our children to becoming all that God has created them to be.  This is an apt description of what has happened in Patrick’s life.  Though the loss of his parents at such a young age could have spelled the end for him, Patrick has developed from a young orphan into a mature, enterprising, and knowledgeable agriculturalist.

Please pray for him in the coming months, as he works to lead us toward our sustainability goals.We plan to sow about $45,000 into our sustainable farming initiatives in 2014-15.  If you’d like to make a gift toward this effort, please click here.  Your investment today into gifted young leaders like Patrick will help us sustain our program tomorrow with minimal dependence on donations from the outside.

Joy in Suffering

By Jay Walker
Portraits of Hope True Africa
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…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3b-5

David and I were once in Austin, eating dinner before photographing a Beard Competition, and we were discussing mutual friends’ art and how each of them were doing their best work from the outflow of their own worldview and experience. David asked me what I thought of his work in those terms.

I told him he was a master of his craft and was always looking to improve himself. Looking back at his early work, I could see over the years how he had continually developed what he could do with lighting and a camera. He also had that thing you can’t teach; the ability to give a representation of his subject that had a transcendence of his medium (photography), which I can see in his later work, but it is also present in his early work.

For a lot of his career, David worked as an advertisement photographer, shooting a lot of products, lifestyle shoots, and portraits for corporations, which he did all over the world. Between those gigs, he sought to photograph what he considered to be fantastic sub-cultures: mimes, Coney Island sideshowfreaks, roller derby girls, competition beardsman, etc,. He loved people living outside of cultural norms, who weren’t being paid much for what they were doing, but had passion for their niche pastime.

So when David asked me about my thoughts on his work I had a large range of photographs to consider, but at his artistic core, there was nothing more crucial to his narrative than his work for True Africa.

David was a man that suffered. I don’t want to get into the details, but his death from cancer at the age of 44, was just the final straw of life marked by hardships. Through his suffering, David was a man of character, never allowing himself the luxury of modern laziness, but also a man of joy and celebration. He was one of the hardest working people I ever met and he drank deeply from the Joys of the Lord.

When I look at David’s photographs of people destitute, stricken with poverty and pestilence, who live a life of extreme societal brokenness, I don’t see bitterness, nor pain, nor cries of injustice, but of endurance, character, hope, and a freedom from shame. David, while living in another financial stratosphere by being a moderately successful American, was able to identify with those people’s present suffering. Instead of shooting from a place that exploits their situation or looks down upon them, he was able to communicate their heart, and his heart, that is being regularly filled with God’s Love by his Holy Spirit. In my opinion, as an artist, there is no higher achievement.

Why should you own True Africa? The same reason I do, because it is a great artifact of a Godly man, who identified with the Man of Constant Sorrow and his fellow hurting man, and wanted to give to people by sharing his God given talent. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Editor's Note: Only two signed copies of True Afria left. Go to our store and choose the signed copy option.

Update from the Field

By Liz Wann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Our Executive Director, Doug Hayes, was recently in Uganda. Here are some photos from his recent trip:

Alf Lohmann showing off his hand-made bee hives. We're almost ready to begin bee-keeping as one piece of the sustainability puzzle at our Children's Homes.

David Mayinja addressing some of our sponsored kids.

Doug and Roselyn.

One of the Lohmann girls with a goat. We have pigs giving birth, goats giving birth... so many ways to achieve sustainability at out Children's Homes, Lord willing!

 

 

 

A Harvest of Hope

By Liz Wann
Orphan Sponsorship
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Ron and Jennifer Gleason know a thing or two about root vegetables.  Jennifer’s family has run Hillside Gardens, a farm and produce company located in Ontario, Canada, and in the state of Georgia in the United States, for 50 years.  Half of that time Jennifer has been married to Ron, who is now the company president.

Ron and Jennifer are in another business as well: the business of giving. Ron speaks highly of his wife and her generosity; he says it runs in her family. In fact, the mission of Hillside Gardens always has been one of giving.


On October 3rd of this year, Hillside Gardens hosted a fundraiser for Covenant Mercies at their 50th Anniversary celebration.  Ron explained the fundraiser and how they met their goals:


“We asked for sponsors to donate raffle prizes (we had $2000 in prizing donated.) Hillside matched contributions dollar for dollar. We raised $1500 that night, and matched it with a $1500 donation. The next day my in-laws said they would donate $1000 to bring the total donation to $5000 with Hillside matching to reach our goal for the night. The next week I met with a customer who asked about the night. I explained what we did and why we thought it was important. He was very affected, and offered to make a $1000 contribution on the spot. That brought our total to $7000.”


Not only are the Gleasons and Hillside Gardens raising funds for Covenant Mercies, but the Gleasons personally sponsor 20 children in our Orphan Sponsorship Program.  She [Jennifer] has often been the one in our relationship to recognize opportunities to be generous before I have seen them.  So thankful she saw this one,” said Ron.


Ron and Jennifer have 4 grown children of their own, but look to the 20 orphans they sponsor as part of the family. When Executive Director, Doug Hayes, wrote to the Gleasons informing them of the passing of one of their sponsored children, Ron said they wept and wept. 


He continued, “We’re learning to love kids we’ve never met, and trying to make a difference. Very grateful for my (slowly) expanding awareness of a world where people need to encounter the love of Christ. CM helps us to do that. What a great privilege it is to love these children who are orphans, just like we were before Christ adopted us.”


When asked if he had the chance to meet anyone of his sponsored children, what would he tell them? Ron replied, “Think of what we do for you, as Jesus caring for you. If Jesus had not loved me first, and made me think differently about money and life, I would never have thought of helping anyone. I was selfish and hard. So if you think of thanking me, think of thanking Jesus.”


Lastly, Ron offers some encouragement for other sponsors in Covenant Mercies, and for those thinking of sponsoring a child:


“God generously ‘sponsored’ us, and every other redeemed sinner. It is hard to overstate the privilege of joining in His sponsoring work. It is hard to overstate the value of the regular reminder that sponsorship provides, to think on the fact that Christ did so much more for us. Few things in life hold the distinction of being able to produce joy and happiness. I think that many who sponsor one of these children will find that this ministry does. Most North Americans would gladly pay $1 day for that kind of result. $1 a day will sponsor an orphan. Most of us can afford the $1 and can’t afford to miss the opportunity.”


Ron and Jennifer do know a thing or two about harvesting root vegetables. But they realize there is a much greater harvest to invest in; an investment with eternal ramifications. It’s a harvest reaping hope for many orphans.

White Man Running

By Doug Hayes
RunFAR Uganda
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It’s an annual tradition now.  Every year when I begin my RunFAR training, I go through the same internal struggle.  Though I’m “only” running in a 5K this time, my first few training runs this year prompted precisely the same self-questioning as in the past: Are you crazy?  Is it really necessary to put yourself through this?  Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway? 


When I am assaulted by these types of questions, my mind usually wanders back to the year my marathon training was reaching its peak just as I took off for a three-week trip to Africa.  This meant I needed to go on some LONG training runs in areas of the world where a white man running around in shorts is not a common sight.


Without question, my runs in rural Uganda evoked the most smiles, laughter, and head scratching from people I passed along the way.  It wasn’t simply the blinding whiteness of my legs that struck them as so unusual.  It was the fact that I was running for the sake of… running!  In rural Uganda, life itself is exercise.  So much energy is expended simply carrying out the tasks of daily subsistence, the thought of going out of one’s way for exercise is a novel thought indeed.  Daily chores such as fetching water, collecting firewood, working in the garden, and walking/bicycling wherever you need to go… these provide more than enough exercise.  


The memory of those puzzled stares has helped me through some difficult training runs, when I’ve questioned my own sanity and even pondered quitting. Running for the sake of running seemed strange to rural Ugandan onlookers because of the routine hardship of their lives, yet it’s something I do because of the relative ease of mine.  Might it therefore be good, right, and appropriate for me to endure some hardship -- even though I don’t need to -- so that they might benefit?  In the context of my comfortable life, can I challenge myself to intentionally embrace a bit of discomfort, in order to bring help and hope to those for whom it’s an everyday reality?

In this year’s RunFAR video (below), one of the boys in our Ethiopia program speaks of how he wants to be a Heart Specialist someday. 


RunFAR - The Amazing Race (Ethiopia) from Covenant Mercies on Vimeo.

Thanks to the funds we’re able to raise through RunFAR, our Orphan Sponsorship Program, and other means, kids like Abraham can dream of going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  No, I don’t think I’m crazy after all.  It is an absolute joy to stand in solidarity with them, embracing some small level of discomfort so that they might have opportunities to become everything God created them to be.

Putting a Roof over their Heads

By Liz Wann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Where do our sponsored children live?

Most of Covenant Mercies’ sponsored children have been taken in by an extended family member. Yet the Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles who put a roof over our children’s heads are often already struggling to provide for their own immediate families. This is where Covenant Mercies comes in with basic nutritional, medical, and educational support.

We believe it is important to keep these family relationships intact. Yet we have special cases where some children have no family to care for them. As a solution Covenant Mercies purchased 50 acres of land outside Nagongera for the construction of orphans homes.

Currently, we have five homes in operation serving 40 children, with a long-term plan to build at least eight on this land. Each home has running water and a working toilet; rare amenities in the area.  Members of our indigenous partner church serve as “family parents” to eight children in each home.

Introducing the Lohmann Family

What does the Lohmann family have to do with Covenant Mercies Children's Homes? Well, Alf Lohmann (along with his wife, Ruth, and four daughters) is helping with sustainability projects for the homes. Some possibilities of building sustainability include: fish farming, raising chickens and goats, growing food crops, preserving the food, and more.

You can read more about the Lohmann family's work here.

Click here to find out how you can sponsor a child in one of our homes.

 

Walking in Fear and Faith

By Jean Benson and Liz Wann
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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{Covenant Mercies serves orphans and widows by sending short-term mission teams into African communities. This post was written by one of the members of a medical mission team (led by Covenant Mercies) serving a remote community in Kiburara, Uganda, where we presently provide holistic care for 236 orphaned children.}

 

I was startled awake by an intense, overwhelming feeling of panic. Initially, I could not breathe, and I could not speak and could not remember where I was. As I reached for my flash-light, everything was closing in around me. The mosquito net seemed to suffocate me. I wanted to scream to my room-mate for help, but all that came out was a whisper. I was crippled by fear.


Slowly and quietly I began to chant, ”God help me!” over and over again. Soon I remembered a song from my daughters’ CD. I quietly began to sing, “When I am afraid I will trust in you, I will trust in you, in God whose word I pray.” I repeated these words as I rocked back and forth on the bed.


After sometime had passed, scriptures suddenly started to flood my mind. It seemed like it was every scripture that I had ever memorized on fear and trusting God. The crippling and debilitating feeling started to wane. I was able to reach for my music, and I worshiped for what seemed like hours. When I glanced at my watch it was 4:30 am.


This was my second day in Kiburara in 2008…


You see, I am the type of person who does not prefer most creatures, except cats and kittens. I hate all insects and the prospect of being dirty. I do not enjoy hot summers in the U.S., much less in Africa. I also do not like surprises and fear the unknown. Having experienced a horrible bug situation at the end of my last trip in 2006, I vowed never to return to Uganda.


This was the state of my heart during the summer of 2008. It was screaming emphatically,“NO!”  Yet once again, the Spirit broke through my fears and unbelief, with encouragement from my husband and friends. There was a growing awareness that this medical team had a need and clearly God was not raising up anyone else.  How could I continue to selfishly say, not your will God, but mine be done?


I Thessalonians 5:24- “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”.


God was calling me to go to Uganda and was saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”


The months of preparation that led up to the trip were mostly filled with fear and dread. Although He was gradually chipping away at my fear and unbelief, leaving the U.S. was still a complete step of faith. Right up until departure, I was hopeful that the trip might be cancelled. You see, it had snowed in London on the day of our departure. Since London had not seen snow in about 20 years, Heathrow cancelled over 700 flights in and out of their airport. All flights that is, except the one scheduled to depart from Heathrow to Entebbe the following day.


God was again reminding me that His grace would be sufficient for me in my weakness, and that I was to fully trust in Him. He was the one who was controlling this trip. This was not an easy task for me, since most of the people I was surrounded by seemed so excited to be going. However, God very graciously lead me to another person on the trip with a similar testimony to mine. For both of us, this trip was a walk of faith, constantly looking to God for grace for every situation.

After an eight hour flight from London, we arrived in Entebbe at 10am. The seven hour drive to our location for dinner turned into a 12-13 hour drive. After our meal around 12:30 am, we drove another 25 minutes to the Guest House. Within thirty minutes upon arrival I was sound asleep.


The next work day at the clinic can only be explained one way. God supernaturally carried us and sustained us as we sought to provide medical care for the people of Kiburara. This small town that was not even on the map, and was unknown even by people in Uganda, had caught the attention of the Creator of the Universe.


That second night in Kiburara in 2008 left me with an acute awareness of God’s presence. Although the desire to return home remained, there was fresh grace and peace to walk where God was calling me. God was using my limitations to display His awesome power. I still marvel at the fact that He took a wife and homeschooling mother on this journey.


I marvel at the countless ways God ministered to the people of Kiburara, continually using my weakness, and the rest of the team, to display His goodness and the gospel. God chose me in spite of fear, took me outside of my comfort zone, to once again reveal to me my desperate need for Him.


“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

He Opened Her Eyes

By Liz Wann
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Uganda is a country rich in beautiful scenery with a mosaic of tribes and cultures, and has some of the friendliest people in the world.  Yet, it’s also a place where you see gravestones in front of many houses; gravestones of parents leaving behind children.  It’s a place where you see grandparents just barely surviving as they care for their orphaned grandchildren. Where you see a grandmother bound to a bed, because she can’t walk.

This is what Jannie Bard saw on her first trip to Uganda in 2006.


As she witnessed the hardships of these families, Jannie felt the urgency and reality of their need. To this day, Jannie and her husband, David, have sponsored four children in total.  One of those children has graduated from Covenant Mercies Sponsorship Program, and he is living independently and able to sustain himself.  Still, Jannie and David have never stopped sponsoring children.


When asked why she and her husband have such a passion for helping orphans in Africa, Jannie said Africa and its people have been on her heart since she was a little girl. This love prompted Jannie to be involved with Covenant Mercies from its inception in 2002. In fact, her husband, David, led Covenant Mercies first short–term mission team to Uganda in 2002. Then Jannie joined him 4 years later on her first trip to Uganda.


Jannie’s involvement with Covenant Mercies has not only been sponsoring children and being part of mission trips. She has also worked in Covenant Mercies’ head office from the very beginning.  She began as a volunteer doing accounting, which turned into a part-time job as the organization grew. Eventually her involvement extended into editing and updating sponsored children’s profiles, until she retired in 2012.


When asked why she has been involved with Covenant Mercies’ for so long, Jannie said, “It’s part of the Church universal; part of what God is doing throughout the world. It’s part of God’s redemptive plan in the nations.”


Jannie was overwhelmed as she saw that bedridden grandmother in Uganda. But she saw the difference sponsoring can make in the lives of the children and their caretakers. God opened her eyes to see His redemptive plan in the nations, and she was forever changed.

A Beautiful Work in Maundo

By Ruth Lohmann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Uganda has been my home now for a mere four weeks. I came here with no expectations or pre-conceived notions of what Uganda might be like. The only thing I knew was everything would be harder and everything would take more time. I was not viewing this as negative -- just different. But I also knew God called us here to serve the Covenant Mercies Orphan Sponsorship Program; he would equip me and my family with the strength, wisdom, and ability we needed. He truly has been faithful as we have transitioned here to Covenant Mercies children’s homes in Maundo village.

I would not say it has been a hard or easy transition.  It’s been a natural transition -- it has felt like home to me since the moment I stepped off the plane. I love the people. I love the country. We have all we could possibly need! It is very simple and uncomplicated living, but absolutely perfect for us. Everything about Uganda is raw and exposed. Earthy, dusty and beautiful. The weather feels like the beach. Days are hot and very bearable. Evenings and mornings are cool and crisp. Everyday feels a bit like camping. Everything is harder and requires more work. But there is something about this kind of living that feels natural -- the way it’s supposed to be. I feel like I was made to be here.

Maundo is a very rural area of Uganda. It has long dirt roads covered with potholes caused by the rains. Little charming brick and straw huts are scattered off the roads. Half clothed, chubby little children rapidly scurry out of well manicured huts as you drive by, shouting out ‘muzungu’ and waving energetically. Everywhere you look you see a vast changing sky, peculiar and breathtaking rock formations, and fields upon fields planted with cassava shrubs, sugar cane, rice, and sweet potatoes. The roads are filled with people walking, riding bikes, driving motorcycles, and some using vans or cars for transportation.

Some of the challenges we have faced since moving here have been maintaining consistent water, power, and internet access. When we have no water from the water tower, we need to fill buckets from a large holding tank outside our home which catches rain water . We use this for cooking, washing clothes, bathing, flushing toilets, and cleaning. I am very thankful we have a back-up water source so close to our home. I have learned to wash my clothes by hand, which has not been all that difficult. Before our gas stove was hooked up, I was learning to cook over a charcoal fire. Making sure the girls are bug sprayed up and tucked carefully in bed under their mosquito netting at night has become a routine we fell quite easily into. It’s hard for me to call these minor inconveniences challenges though, because it’s something we just have to figure out or just need to get done -- and we do it.

Learning to shop in the open markets has been interesting, different, and fun. And frankly, I love it. I'm learning the art of bargaining; learning what is good and what is not. They use this soap called omo for washing clothes, cars, hands, and pretty much anything else. I can also find a wonderful, but small, assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables, copious amounts of dried fish, live poultry, sheep, goats, cows, and small selections of beans, rice, and flour. Clothes, baskets, water jugs, fabrics, flip flops, mats and pretty much anything essential for Ugandan living is found in the markets on market days.  They don't have much variety, but they usually have what we need.

The girls are adjusting well. They are just beginning to want to play outside. At first they were scared from the attention they received from the other children on the compound, but now that the novelty of white children has worn off a bit the girls are becoming more comfortable. They are enjoying the property and the many beautiful, large trees they can climb. They are also fascinated with all the animals that roam freely. The baby calves are their favorite. But they sure do love to pick up the baby piglets just so they can hear their obnoxious squealing. They are even making some friends with the girls around here, which is exciting to say the least.

Alf has been amazing in trying to make this adjustment as pain-free as possible. He has worked hard to keep water easily accessible, and has been constantly working to create some sort of power for refrigeration, light, and internet access. He makes sure all our electric devices are charged and the cords are meticulously wrapped and put away. Presently, he is working on our third bedroom, making it into a guest room and outfitting it with bookshelves, so I can have some sort of order to my homeschooling supplies. He has also been involving some of the older orphan boys in his work. They are enthusiastic about anything Alf asks them to do. The boys even scoured the property to find rocks for me, because they knew I wanted them for my flower garden.

I’ve now had the benefit of seeing the faces of the orphaned children, and hearing testimonies from caretakers of how this program has helped them. I’ve handed out school supplies on distribution day to the children in the program, and talked with people in the local community who are thankful we are here. I have listened at night to beautiful voices singing worship songs to God as the house parents lead their children in family worship (of course African style with drums and all.)  There is a beautiful work taking place here and we are all participating in it.

We are thrilled, and consider it a privilege, to be involved with the Ugandan people over this next season.  God has sanctioned us to play this small, but unique role, in caring for the children in Maundo homes, and we are grateful for the opportunity. We are also thankful we’re not alone in this, but have the love, care, and support of our local church, family, and friends back at home.  This is the beginning of a crazy fun adventure. One we are happy to be a part of!

New Vision (Part 2)

By Liz Wann & Kelsey Farmer
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Read Part 1 of the interview >>

She went from America to Africa. Her name is Kelsey Farmer and she is part of Covenant Mercies staff.

Kelsey performs day to day operations in Covenant Mercies home office of Glen Mills, PA, but last summer she saw the work Covenant Mercies is doing in Uganda. Having to reconcile two separate worlds, the experience was one of new vision for Kelsey. I interviewed her about this experience:

 

Explain what God did there in you and through you.

I really didn't know what to expect going into that trip, as it was my first mission trip.  I wasn't prepared for how physically and emotionally draining it would be or how hard the culture shock would be. I'm not going to pretend it was easy. Every day was a battle to find strength to work another long and hard day, a battle to not be homesick, a battle to not feel completely out of place in a country that was so different from my own. I don’t think anything can prepare you for the poverty, filth, or stark contrast from our culture that faces you as you step off that plane. Needless to say, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.


With all that said, there is not any other place I have felt more welcomed, more at peace, and more joy-filled than that little town of Kiburara. Even in that remote village, God was ever present. To say they were all smiles would be an understatement. They weren’t just joyful -- they were content, grateful, humble, and so very generous.

As each day came and we met more and more people it was apparent that their joy did not come from what they owned or their status in society, as many find happiness in our culture, No, their joy came from the Savior, in whom they knew they had everything they needed. Though they “lacked” so much in the world’s standards, they had everything. Their joy came from inward, not outward, abundance.

Surrounded by this joy, it was not difficult to catch it. I was affected by their total dependence on God and His providence. This dependence also did not produce fear. No, it produced freedom. This little community fully embodied Psalm 62:5-6 where it says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God alone; my hope comes from him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

It humbled me. It showed me how much I have, yet how I can be so easily ungrateful and lack contentment. It showed me the importance of true dependence on God and how that is what should shape my attitude and outlook on life. It showed me that true joy is not found in possession or status, but in our Savior.


After your trip how did your office (behind the scenes) job affect you? Did you view it differently? How so?

After coming back from this trip I had to fight the desire to immediately pack up and go live my life in Africa.  I thought that was the answer to this burning desire God had placed in my heart for these communities, these children in Africa. I laughed at the thought that He was patiently waiting for me to realize I already had a place here, in America, where I could do all that and more.

As I got back into the swing of things I started to realize my role here is just as important as the role of our staff in Africa. The work I am doing here is enabling them to serve the children. Because of my unique experience I can see how much of a difference this organization makes for these children. With new vision, I see the importance of everyone’s role and how much a sponsor actually does for a child. I know the effect this organization has on a child’s future. Not only that, but also the eternal effects this organization has on each child and family that enter into our programs; how each child is being exposed daily to the Gospel. I am in awe of God’s kindness in giving me a job like this and privileged that He would use me and my gifts to serve this organization.


Would you go back? Why?

Definitely. Without a doubt, yes. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Every part of it -- the time, the money, the energy. While I know God has me here working for a purpose, I pray that one day I can go back -- either to the same place or maybe somewhere new!


Would you encourage others to go? Why?

Definitely. Without a doubt, yes. I have had multiple people ask me whether it would be wiser to just donate money to an organization and not go on a mission trip themselves. While I do understand the concerns behind this question, I would encourage anyone to go if the opportunity arises. Yes, you might not be able to change the world in 8 days, but you don’t realize the impact it will have on you or those you are visiting. I remember being so humbled by all the people who couldn’t stop thanking us for taking our time to come all the way to them. I was confused, because I thought we should be the ones thanking them for letting us come. But they would stop us and insist on giving us gifts and blessing us for the way that we served them.

Countless people said that trips from people like us were the highlights of their year, encouraging them greatly towards pressing on and having faith. I felt like our work there didn’t even classify as a “drop in the bucket” in the world’s standards, but to those we visited it seemed like the greatest gift we could give to them. We all experienced a taste of heaven, in that little community, that is talked about in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” If the perfect opportunity arises for you, do not hesitate. It could be one of the best decisions you will ever make!

New Vision (Part 1)

By Liz Wann and Kelsey Farmer
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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She went from America to Africa. Her name is Kelsey Farmer and she is part of Covenant Mercies staff.

Kelsey performs day to day operations in Covenant Mercies home office of Glen Mills, PA, but last summer she saw the work Covenant Mercies is doing in Uganda. Having to reconcile two separate worlds, the experience was one of new vision for Kelsey. I interviewed her about this experience:

 

When did you start working for CM?

I started working for Covenant Mercies in January 2012.


What do you do for CM?

I wear many hats here at Covenant Mercies. My overall ‘title’ however would be Office Administrator and also fall under the heading of Sponsor and Donor Relations, Finance Department.

Week to week, I receive and allocate the donations and contributions to their correct location and update our sponsors and donors on their payments. I get to organize and help plan trips to Africa for our Directors and teams that we send over. I head up any fundraising events that we do from time to time, financially and administratively.

I also get the privilege of receiving new sponsors into our program and assigning them to a child of greatest need; one of my favorite parts of this job.


As you can see, I don’t have just one title or one job. Like the rest of the staff we are doing anything we can, using the gifts God has given us, to serve these children and this ministry.


When did you go on your mission trip to Uganda?

My mission trip to Uganda was in June 2012; six months after I had started working at Covenant Mercies.


Where did you go exactly?

We went to Kiburara, Uganda. Kiburara is one of the four locations in our sponsorship program. It is in Western Uganda -- a long, long bus ride away from Kampala, Uganda’s city capital.


What did you do there?

I went with a team from my church for a 12 day mission trip, which comprised of 4 days of travel and 8 days of work. Our main goal there was to help them in the building and finishing of their church. Thankfully, that was not the limit of what we were able to accomplish.

As a team, we spent most of our time painting, scrubbing, and putting mortar on the walls of the church. There was never a day without children crowding around us as we worked. We spent countless hours singing with them, playing sports with them, and giving them sweets. We had many teachers on our team who also spent days in the classrooms of the Alpha and Omega Secondary School teaching the children science, English, and math.

The whole team quickly formed bonds with many of the dear, now familiar, faces. One of the days we visited the Kiburara Prison (the men talked with the prisoners and the women talked with the prison guards’ wives). This was a wonderful faith building experience, where we preached the gospel in a different language.

I was able to use my connection as a Covenant Mercies employee to meet and photograph many of the children in our Kiburara program. I personally expressed gratitude, on behalf of Covenant Mercies, to all the caretakers -- the aunts, uncles, mothers, and grandmothers -- and reminded them of how we are in this mission together; how one does not work without the other. It was a unique highlight for me; one that truly gave me a vision for the reason I work daily for this organization...


Read Part 2 >>

No Turning Back—Lohmann Funding Update

By Ruth Lohmann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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Read Moving to Uganda Part 1 and Part 2

 

Have you ever pursued something so rigorously or wanted something so badly that you throw everything into obtaining it? But no matter how hard you work to get it, you just can’t seem to get it? Doors close, windows slam, storms come...everything seems to block you from that particular thing.

As my family has been preparing to move to Uganda to serve in Covenant Mercies’ program there -- it has been the complete opposite experience. It’s almost as if we are being carried along through this process -- pushed gently in the direction we are to go in. The wheels are moving forward and I get those butterflies in my stomach. There is no turning back. Joy. Fear. Both pleasantly combined with the sweet reality of faith and trust in an all-powerful loving God and His plan.

Over eighty-five thousand dollars has been raised for this project so far. This funding was sacrificially given by my church family Covenant Fellowship, close friends from Brandywine Grace church, family and friends, and a generous donor who helped Covenant Mercies kick the whole project off with a $10,000 matching gift. I have been utterly astounded by the enthusiastic response from everyone concerning this project! And because of everyone’s support we are able to relocate as early as mid-July!

We were in need of a renter for our home. My church prayed one Sunday and by that Wednesday we had three applications submitted. We had to choose an applicant. We did, and they are moving in July 1st, having signed a two year lease.

So now I’m in the process of packing up my house, closing down credit cards, shutting off utilities, doctor appointments, inoculations, dentist exams, wrapping up my homeschooling year while planning next year’s, consolidating my life and my family’s life into a few bags, spending time with family and friends who we won’t see for two years, and still attempting to run a household that’s in serious transition.

It’s easy for me to lose sight of God and get weighed down by details, especially when so much has to get done. But all along I see God’s faithfulness. I see Him hovering over the small details of my life- the small details of this project.  As a need arises or some pressing issue demands my attention, I find the ability and strength I need from Him, for that particular task He has set before me. And once again I am gently carried and nudged forward by a loving God who has a plan.

“And your ears will hear the word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”  Isaiah 30:21

 

Click here if you’d like to donate toward our Long-term Mission fund, through which the Lohmanns are raising their support as they prepare to relocate to Uganda.

Benefit Concert for the Lohmanns

By Liz Wann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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A few months ago Ruth Lohmann wrote a blog post about her families upcoming move to Uganda, Part 1 and Part 2. The Lohmanns are still in the process of raising funds and need our prayers and support.

A perfect way for you to support the Lohmanns and the work they will be doing for Covenant Mercies is on June 9th. Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA will be hosting a benefit concert at 7:00 PM. The concert will feature electronic, folk-pop singer Angela Sheik with Mark Giacobbe.

Suggested minimum donation is $5 and refreshments will be available. Come enjoy music while you show support for the Lohmanns and Covenant Mercies.

Portrait Tuesday

By Liz Wann
Portrait Tuesday Uganda
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It's been a while since our last Portrait Tuesday. Here is one taken by David Sacks in Uganda in 2003. Titled, "Phoenix," this photograph was featured in the last Portraits of Hope in 2012 and can be found in David's photography book, True Africa.

Our dear friend, David Sacks, has recently passed away from cancer, but these photographs are his living legacy. Covenant Mercies' Executive Director, Doug Hayes, wrote a blog post remembering David and said this:

"Less than an hour before David took his last breath on this earth, I had the unspeakable privilege of telling him that in addition to his own children, his legacy includes the thousands of children whose lives he has touched through his generosity toward Covenant Mercies."

Thank you David.

A Goal that Touches Lives

By Liz Wann
RunFAR
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It's that time of year again! Time to put on those running shoes and RunFar.

RunFar (Run for African Relief) is a great way to get involved in the mission of Covenant Mercies. This year round fundraising event has contributed over $86,000 in the last three years.

Here is how it works:

  •     Choose a fitness event in your geographical area (run, walk, bike,marathon, half-marathon, etc.)
  •     Ask your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to make a donation to Covenant Mercies on your behalf.

It's that simple. Make sure you register first and then you can begin training and fundraising.

Scott and Rebecca Rudy are a couple from Chester, Pennsylvania who ran the Harrisburg half-marathon on September 9, 2012. They used Facebook as a tool to raise money, and also post about their training progress, their race, and about Covenant Mercies.

They started training using a 16 week plan from runnersworld.com. Scott and Rebecca were able to encourage each other through the training and the race. Rebecca said, "It was an awesome goal to work towards as a couple."

Start your spring and summer off with a goal like Scott and Rebecca; a goal that touches lives in Uganda, Zambia, and Ethiopia.

You don't have to run a race to order a RunFar shirt. Order one on in our online store.

Remembering David Sacks

By Doug Hayes
Ethiopia Portraits of Hope True Africa Uganda Zambia
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David Sacks’ connection with Covenant Mercies began in January 2003, when he providentially visited my home church (and CM’s founding church, Covenant Fellowship) on the Sunday I was introducing our Orphan Sponsorship Program for the very first time.  David and I had been friends since we were schoolboys, but he was living in New York at the time and I was surprised to see him that Sunday morning.  He approached me after the service, signed up to sponsor a child, and told me he wanted to travel to Uganda with me (at his own expense) to give us the quality photos we needed to promote our cause.  David was already a world class photographer by then, and I’m no dummy.  Within three months we were on a plane bound for Uganda together. 


As we’d talk in the evenings on that April 2003 trip, I can vividly recall David’s excitement about the images he was capturing.  Though we couldn’t see them yet (this was still a year prior to his conversion to digital equipment), David believed he was capturing something unique.  Perhaps exhibit-worthy.  Perhaps of value beyond the brochure and web applications we’d originally had in mind.  As we talked and imagined what might lie ahead, the seed was planted for an event that would ultimately become a treasured fundraising tradition in Covenant Mercies, Portraits of Hope


In all, David’s five trips to Africa would lead to six Portraits of Hope exhibits and more than $300,000 raised toward our mission, ultimately culminating in the 2012 publication of True Africa, a photo book comprised exclusively of our Portraits of Hope images.  We were hoping to return to Africa together later this year, but it was not to be.  On Friday evening, April 12th, David went home to be with the Lord after a 1 ½ year battle with cancer.  He was two months shy of his 45th birthday. 


David is survived by his beloved wife Angie and their four young children, and I’d like to ask everyone who loves Covenant Mercies to pray for this dear family.  They are surrounded by an abundance of love and support, but no amount of support can take away the sorrow they feel right now.  Less than an hour before David took his last breath on this earth, I had the unspeakable privilege of telling him that in addition to his own children, his legacy includes the thousands of children whose lives he has touched through his generosity toward Covenant Mercies.  Whatever the Lord does through the lives of those children will accrue toward his reward.  Though he has left us too soon, how sweet it is to know that he’s receiving that reward now.


For several years David and I had a running joke about his desire to be given an African name.  I told him I couldn’t allow it because I’d worked hard for mine, performing numerous feats of African-ness like eating bugs, taking an authentic African bath, etc.  Though David was never averse to performing such feats himself, I insisted that it would take him more than a couple of trips to earn his name.  On our fifth trip in 2009, I finally relented and informed him that he had earned his name.  After polling our friends in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zambia for their suggestions, I finally settled on the name that fit him best.  We decided to call him Mapalo, which means “blessing.” 

David Sacks was indeed a blessing.  And though he is no longer with us, the blessing of his life lives on and will never be forgotten.

Storybook Sponsorship

By Matthew H. Downing
Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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I had a storybook child sponsorship experience.  It is one for the movies.  I went on a service trip to Uganda a few years back, and as we built the brick walls for a school building, I connected with this little child that was full of energy and doing crazy gymnastic moves down the nearby hill.  He made me laugh.  I found myself joking around with him as he passed through the worksite.  I was drawn by his energy. 


As we connected, my heart filled with compassion for this young boy.  He was dirtier than the other children and he wore ripped clothes day after day.  I asked around and found out that both of this young boy’s parents died of AIDS, and his grandmother could not fully support him.  He was in need of help.  Doug Hayes told me Covenant Mercies was intending to expand the child sponsorship program to this region, and he would be a perfect candidate.


Sign me up. How exciting. I had big dreams of how this storybook sponsorship would continue. We would write letters back and forth. I would return to visit.  And maybe one day he would come stay with me for a bit.


But since the initial sponsorship it has been much less a storybook.  I haven’t seen him.  I have only gotten a few small notes and pictures since I started sponsoring him seven years ago.  I have never written him a letter, and there are no plans for him coming to visit.


I am not upset or embittered by this.  I have learned that child sponsorship is more than romanticized ideals and feel good moments.  I am sponsoring this child because he needs help, I trust Covenant Mercies, and God has called us to help the orphans.  My entryway to child sponsorship was a unique one, but since then it has been the norm. 

We often complicate things – I complicate things.  I can be too concerned about creating the perfect ways to serve, instead of just doing what I am called to do.  God calls us to help the orphans (James 1:27).  Let’s do it.  Either home or abroad or both.  And Covenant Mercies is a vehicle to help us accomplish what God has called us to do.

It would be nice if I wrote more letters and got more in return, but this is a sponsorship not a pen pal program.  I am going to continue to sponsor this child until he doesn’t need sponsoring, and then I will sponsor another child.  If I get more money in my budget, then I will sponsor more children.  And I am learning that it is an honor to do so.

Moving to Uganda - Part 2

By Ruth Lohmann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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This story is a continuation from yesterday. You can catch up here and read Part 1.

 

By the time the decision was confirmed, the Lord had completed some very hard work in my heart. I never liked living in the in-between or in a place of fear and doubt, but this is how it was for a year. Most of the doubts and fears that had inundated my mind were silenced and were faced head on during this waiting period. The Lord was so good and kind to prepare me for the work he is calling us to.

The work my husband, Alf, will be doing is very exciting. Covenant Mercies has about forty acres and five orphan homes in Maundo. He will help with the administration of the Sponsorship program and oversee the spiritual care of the children in the program. He will also be responsible for discipling the family parents and staff by holding Bible studies and small group meetings on a weekly basis.

Alf will also assist with the building of sustainability into the Children’s homes. Some possibilities of building sustainability will include: fish farming, raising chickens and goats, growing food crops, preserving the food, and more.

I am thankful that I get to serve the Lord with my family in Africa. I don’t think living in Uganda is going to be easy, but I do think it will be perfect for us, because it is the road God has chosen for us to go down.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt. 16:25

Moving to Uganda - Part 1

By Ruth Lohmann
Lohmann Family Updates Orphan Sponsorship Uganda
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In a couple months, my husband, four young daughters, and I will move to a little village in Uganda called Maundo. I doubt you would find it on a Ugandan map. When I found out moving there was a possibility for my family, I had feelings of utter joy and excitement, shortly followed by fears and doubts.

This was something I always wanted to do - help the orphans and the widows. I have talked about missions, the oppressed, and the orphans for as long as I can remember.

The seeds of this desire were planted on the mission field at the very beginning of my life; I spent the first three years of my life at an orphanage with my family in Reynosa, Mexico.  Now the opportunity I’ve dreamed about for many years has fallen into my lap.

While the move was still in the possibility stage, doubt began weaseling its way into my thoughts like an unwanted friend. Fear snuggled into my arms, close to my heart like a sick child, and the voices started to come:

“But I have four daughters and there is so much disease and sickness…This place is in the middle of nowhere… I finally, for the first time in 23 years, feel a part of my church… I have great neighbors and a lovely home… My husband would be giving up an incredible position that provides well for our family… All my extended family, which I love dearly, lives close by…"

Where was God in my thinking? Where was the One I fettered my heart to twelve years ago? As I began to lay down each fear and doubt, the noise lessened, and the still small voice of truth could be heard faintly again. I started to remember my God.

I was surprised and angry at myself for the feelings I was wrestling through. I really had to fight for faith...

Part 2 >>

The Wall Street Journal Review of True Africa

By Liz Wann
True Africa
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There’s nothing like being talked well of, especially if it’s by The Wall Street Journal. The prestigious New York based publication wrote a review online this past Friday that appeared under Books & Ideas.

The review compared David Sacks, True Africa, to Charles Dickens literary masterpieces Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. The reviewer, Balthazar Korab says,

“A certain Dickensian sentimentality is unavoidable in portraits that show children facing down hard times with serenity and smiles, like that of a boy in a school uniform playfully leaping in front of a peeling but colorful mural of Africa.”

Korab captures a unique perspective of the photographs in Uganda, Zambia, and Ethiopia. Be sure to read the rest of his review and purchase a copy of the book on Covenant Mercies website.

True Africa

By Doug Hayes
True Africa
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Last month at our Portraits of Hope event, we had the joy of celebrating the release of True Africa, a coffee table book comprised exclusively of David Sacks’ Portraits of Hope photography.  I had the privilege of writing the Foreword for the book, in which I tried to express my appreciation for both the photographer and his subject matter.  Here is an excerpt:


When I began traveling to Africa in 2002, I sensed a dissonance in my soul that I couldn’t shake.  I wasn’t quite able to put my finger on it at first, but over time I came to realize what it was.  In my life up till then, the images I had seen, and the news stories I had heard, had conditioned me to view this continent and its people almost exclusively through the lens of calamity.  Famine, starvation, disease, poverty, war; these were the themes I had patched together to form my view of Africa. 

But when my feet actually hit the ground there, my experience clashed radically with my preconceptions.  Encounters with a wide variety of African people left me unable to ignore the pervasive poverty with which they coexist, yet far more conscious of their beauty, their dignity, their generous hospitality, and their joy in the midst of profound hardship.  Extreme poverty is an assault on human dignity, but at the end of the day the former is no match for the latter.  Dignity can be obscured, beaten down, and dressed in tatters, but its essence remains.  If you are perceptive, you will see it.    

 
David Sacks is more than perceptive.  He is a master at drawing this beauty, dignity, and joy out of his subjects.  He mines for this treasure relentlessly as he works, and he usually finds it because he knows it is there. With conviction and genuine love, he refuses to believe his subjects are defined by the outer shell of their adversity.  As a result, his lens delivers a priceless gift to us.  I am proud to have played a small role in the publishing of these images, because I believe they honor their subject matter and render a worthy depiction of the True Africa I have come to know and love. 


You can purchase your own copy of this beautiful book at CovenantMercies.org/TrueAfrica.  It may be the most expensive book you ever buy (it was for me!), but I trust it will also be among the most rewarding; not only for the beauty of its pages but also for the knowledge that lives are being changed through the funds it helps us to raise.      

Building a Brighter Future

By Doug Hayes
Zambia
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For most of us in the prosperous West, education is something we take for granted. It’s a blessing that is largely unappreciated and sometimes even despised. Such attitudes are out of place in sub-Saharan Africa, where the opportunity to study cannot be assumed and a sound educational foundation is often the difference between a harsh struggle for subsistence and a more prosperous quality of life.

This point was driven home for me last year during one of my visits to Zambia. As I normally do when I’m there, I spent Saturday with our Program Coordinator in Ndola walking through the neighborhoods of our sponsored children and visiting them in their homes. It is common on these excursions to receive warm and grateful welcomes wherever we go, but on this day the expressions of gratitude were especially pronounced:

“Thank you for giving my daughter a chance to get an education.”

“I never thought my grandson would be able to go to school.”

The striking aspect of these expressions is the fact that these guardians weren’t referring to a college degree or even a high school diploma. The blessing they had never foreseen for their children was the opportunity to attend elementary school. I was deeply affected by their gratitude, and renewed in my commitment to provide this indispensable gift to all the children Covenant Mercies serves.

Experiences like these only make our partnership with Lighthouse Christian School in Ndola, Zambia more meaningful. Since 2006, Covenant Mercies has sent an increasing number of students to Lighthouse each year to receive their education. As the school has grown through the years, the need for a more suitable facility has become progressively more urgent. So in 2009, we broke ground on construction of a building sufficient for the school’s needs. After nearly three years of raising the necessary funds and completing the project phase by phase, what a joy it was to participate in the ceremony for the Official Opening of Lighthouse’s new campus on February 10, 2012.

Though the ceremony was graced by the presence of Ndola’s Mayor and the Deputy Minister of Early Childhood Education, the true VIPs of the day wore school uniforms instead of business suits. Ultimately, this project is meant to provide quality Christian education for children who otherwise may have had no academic training at all. At present, we are sending 160 of our sponsored children in Ndola to Lighthouse Christian School in grades K-5. Lord willing, as more sponsors come on board and the school continues adding one new grade each year, we will be able to provide education for many more children through Lighthouse.

Future construction plans include administrative offices, a computer lab, and additional classrooms for grades 8-9. Yet our supreme goal has never been to erect impressive buildings with bricks and mortar. Our aim is to shape young lives with the building blocks of education, faith, and love. Through these key ingredients we believe we can impart hope to our children for a brighter future, and we are delighted to collaborate with Lighthouse Christian School in doing so.

Embracing Opportunity

By David Mayinja
Uganda
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Julius Olwenyi was only five years of age when he lost his father in 1997.

With no source of income, his mother struggled to care for him and his younger brother. The year after his father’s death, Julius was enrolled in a public school in his rural Ugandan village. He was eager to learn, but the school was poorly equipped and his mother was unable to provide him with the basic school supplies he needed. Oftentimes, she was unable to pay for his lunch fees at school, so Julius would have to go hungry until he got home in the evenings. Life was very difficult indeed, and the family  was barely surviving.

In 2003, when Covenant Mercies began caring for orphans in partnership with Nagongera Gospel Centre, Julius was one of the first children enrolled in the Orphan Sponsorship Program. Thanks to the generosity of his sponsor, his school fees were paid and school supplies, uniforms, textbooks, and lunches were also provided for.

“The lack of scholastic materials and school fees were no longer a looming threat to my education and future,” Julius says. “Covenant Mercies made my acquiring an education possible and easy.”
Julius completed his primary school studies successfully and joined secondary school in 2005. By this time his mother had managed to acquire employment with the local county office. Julius was able to enroll in one of the best secondary schools in the area with the combined resources of his mother and Covenant Mercies. With the burden of his tuition and boarding fees lifted, and with frequent visits and encouragement from the local Covenant Mercies staff, Julius was able to apply himself fully to his studies and excel in all subjects. His grades were so impressive that after graduation he qualified for a full government scholarship to attend Uganda’s premier university. He is now enrolled at Makerere University, majoring in Information
Technology.*

Julius’ experience in Covenant Mercies’ Sponsorship Program has shown him God truly loves and cares for him. He is convinced that God purposely brought Covenant Mercies to Uganda to rescue his family in their darkest hour.

“Covenant Mercies has played a big role in my life,” he says. “The routine gathering of all sponsored children by Covenant Mercies local staff and teaching us thoroughly about God’s love for us, and following us up individually wherever we were, helped us get a better understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Julius now regularly attends church near his university and is actively serving there.

Not every child in our Orphan Sponsorship Program will achieve what Julius has achieved academically, but all have God-given talents that can be nurtured and developed when given an opportunity to flourish. We are grateful to all our sponsors for investing into the lives of our children, and we pray that each of them would follow in Julius’ footsteps and make the most of this opportunity to become all that God has created them to be.

*Update: Since the creation of this post, Julius has graduated from university. He is currently employed at an international IT company in Kampala, Uganda.

Reclaiming the Innocence and Opportunity of Childhood

By Doug Hayes
Ethiopia
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Many large African cities are faced with the challenge of street children. When families are decimated children lose hope for their future, and they often end up on the street begging and stealing. The streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are replete with examples of this tragic loss of childhood’s innocence and opportunity.

Most children living on the streets have relatives nearby who might be minimally capable of putting a roof over their heads. However, antisocial behaviors learned on the streets aren’t easily broken, and this can make the task of reconnecting children with their families quite challenging. Such was the case with a young boy in our program named Bereket. After years of fending for himself on the street Bereket was befriended by Tesfaye Melaku, our Program Coordinator in Addis Ababa (whom we introduced in last year’s Sponsorship Program Update.) Tesfaye was quickly able to find a relative willing to take Bereket in, so we assigned him a sponsor and started supporting him in the context of his extended family.

However, things didn’t go well at first. Instead of going to school, Bereket returned to his friends on the street. He stole from his family and soon wore out his welcome. With no other relatives willing to take him in, Bereket was back on the street again. But Tesfaye continued visiting him regularly. He found a family in our program who agreed to include Bereket in their meals, then set out prayerfully to find him another home.

In time, Tesfaye found a guardian in our program who was willing to give Bereket another chance. The grandmother of a young girl named Meskerem agreed to take him in, as long as he would receive the same nutritional, medical, and educational support her granddaughter was receiving. This represented a wonderful opportunity for Bereket. He now had a chance to claim a different kind of life; far from the area of town where he might be tempted to rejoin his old friends on the street.

As of this writing, Bereket has lived for almost a year in his new home. He has adjusted well to family life, and developed a genuine love for his guardian and young foster sister. He has made friends in his new neighborhood, including some older boys (also sponsored in our program) who have been a positive influence on him.
Bereket has made a good educational adjustment as well, despite the fact that Tesfaye needed to convince the school administration to accept a 13 year-old who had never attended school. Bereket’s academic aptitude appears to be strong, and he finished his first year ranked near the middle of his class. He is in Grade Two this year, and we are looking for ways to provide extra tutoring to help him catch up with other students his age.

Bereket is learning that we serve a God of second chances. In one way or another, this is the story of every child in our program. We pray that all our children will make the most of this opportunity for a second chance at childhood, and we are grateful for each and every sponsor whose generosity is making it possible.

Portraits of Hope 2012

By Doug Hayes
Portraits of Hope
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Of all the Portraits of Hope exhibits Covenant Mercies has ever hosted, I am probably more excited about this year’s show (our sixth) than any one before.  Before I explain what makes this year’s event so special, here’s a bit of history for those who aren’t familiar…


Portraits of Hope is a photo art exhibit and silent auction benefiting the work of Covenant Mercies, and featuring the stunning African photography of David Sacks.  It’s a tradition that began in 2003, when my good friend David offered to travel to Uganda with me to provide Covenant Mercies (then a brand new nonprofit organization) with the photographs we needed to tell our story and raise funds toward our mission.  The images he captured led to our first Portraits of Hope event in 2004, and we haven’t looked back since. 

Subsequent exhibits have traced the growth of our ministry through the years, spotlighting Ethiopia when we began working there in 2008, and Zambia in our most recent 2010 show. Cumulatively, these events have raised more than a quarter of a million dollars toward the mission of Covenant Mercies and created a treasured tradition for our ever-expanding army of compassion.  

 
Now, what makes this year’s show so special? 

 

  1. It’s a best-of show.  Whether you’re new to Portraits of Hope or a veteran of all five prior events, there’s something special about a best-of compilation.  For the uninitiated, it’s an opportunity to see fifty of the most compelling prints from our past exhibits.  If you’ve attended before, it may be an opportunity to bid again on that piece that slipped away to a higher bidder last time.  And like the best greatest hits albums always do, we’ll throw in something new to keep things interesting for even the most ardent fan.
  2. We’re celebrating the release of True Africa, a coffee table book of nearly 200 pages produced by Schiffer Publishing, comprised exclusively of David’s Portraits of Hope images.  This book is the perfect complement to our best-of theme, and it’s priced to be affordable for those who want to participate but aren’t able to bid high on the most popular framed prints.  David will be available to sign books personally, and we hope to have many guests on hand to celebrate this tremendous commendation of his Portraits of Hope work.  And by the way… if you register in advance we will enter your name into a drawing to win a free, signed copy! 

If you have never before attended a Portraits of Hope event, this is the perfect year to come and find out what it’s all about!  If you have attended before, you already know it’s an event you don’t want to miss!  Fabulous artwork, amazing food, great live music… and all for a wonderful cause.


Hope to see you there on May 18th!

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