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Hearing Africa's cry: an answer for Uganda PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Uganda is very hungry. The irony here is that it’s not only a hunger for food and nourishment, but a hunger, a longing for so much more than that.

After spending Jan. 12-28 in this African nation, immersing themselves in Uganda’s culture, beliefs and way of life, Tricia Michael and Sheryl Farnsworth can see just how big the need really is.

The two Holyoke women traveled to Uganda with 11 others to spend time at the Children’s HopeChest care point in the village of Kayango as well as to put on a Global Training Ministries pastoral conference in Bugiri.

Michael and her husband Jeff became involved with the HopeChest ministry one and a half years ago, partnering with churches in Grant, Neb.

The idea is that 100 people or families in Grant came together to sponsor 100 children at the Kayango care point in Uganda, tying the two communities together in a truly unique way.

After a Jan. 12-28 trip to Uganda, Africa, Tricia Michael and Sheryl Farnsworth are hoping Holyoke
churches and community members can join hands to sponsor African children in the village of Wera,
Uganda. Pictured above are children in Kayango, Uganda where Grant, Neb. churches partner with
Children’s HopeChest to provide a care point for village children to receive food and teaching.

Now Farnsworth and her husband Mark, along with the Michaels, have devoted time and energy to research the possibility of the Holyoke community sponsoring a HopeChest care point in the village of Wera, Uganda.

“We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Farnsworth, noting they have been praying for an opportunity like this for 10 years.

Uganda has 1.2 million orphans while Africa as a whole has eight million, with only nine percent of those being helped by organizations like HopeChest.

After visiting Wera this January, Farnsworth and Michael said there are 150 kids eligible for sponsorship in that village. That means they have lost one or both of their parents or one or both of their parents have AIDS.

With the care point model, children still live in a home setting with their parents or guardians, but they can walk to the care point where they receive food and attend classes for both English and Bible teaching.

Organizers are looking at a 5-7-year development plan for Wera. During this time, children will progress through three stages. The “survive” stage gets the kids connected to the system. “Thrive” focuses on education while “succeed” trains them in skills they need to provide for themselves and their families.

This trip was Michael’s third chance to visit the Kayango care point, and she said after one year there is a definite change in both the sponsored children and the rest of the community.

“HopeChest gives you a chance to be a part of something bigger than you could ever do on your own,” said Michael, noting the importance of the community to community model.

The two women are excited to see if Holyoke can embrace the Wera children in a huge community effort.

“It’s not about a denomination or church—it’s about saving the kids,” said Michael.

“We want to see the churches joining hands,” added Farnsworth.

A presentation on Hope-Chest sponsorship and the recent Africa mission trip is set for Sunday, Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Holyoke. Everyone in the community is invited to attend. Call Farnsworth at 854-5123 or Michael at 580-4824 for more information.

Another trip to Uganda is tentatively set for July to further survey the Wera village. Organizers hope Holyoke sponsorship can begin December 2011.

A small girl in the village of Kayango, Uganda leans against the bright orange wall of the Children’s
HopeChest care point. A mission team, including Jeff and Tricia Michael, built this facility in January
2010, and the Michaels are excited to see the huge difference the care point has made in the past year.

Uganda conference is huge success

Farnsworth and Michael described Uganda as a hungry people because of their excitement and desperate need for instruction in both life skills and spiritual training. So it’s no surprise their pastoral conference this January was an overwhelming success.

“It’s a nation of kids trying to raise themselves,” said Michael. She explained almost the whole generation of 30-55-year-olds are now gone because of war and AIDS.

“These are young kids raising young kids,” added Farnsworth. She said they often saw children as young as 3 years old carrying their baby brothers or sisters around for hours at a time.

“You don’t see them complaining,” she said. “It’s just a way of life.”

The need to educate Uganda is so huge because without that middle generation, their workforce has been depleted, taking teachers out of schools, farmers out of the fields and everything in between.

“How are they so far behind?” asked Michael. Simple concepts, like watering a garden, are completely foreign to these Africans. Since children are doing much of the work, their social and life skills are a bit backwards and ignorant, according to the two women.

Without some outside help, Uganda could disappear eventually, said Michael. She added it was very humbling to see other groups on the airplane and in Uganda who are giving aid to this country so in need of help.

The Global Training Ministries pastoral conference aimed to teach these people some life skills as well as disciple them in spiritual training.

The Africans were so “hungry” for knowledge they packed into the backs of trucks and traveled long hours on a hot, bumpy road to attend this conference. The 12-person American team was overwhelmed when close to 2,000 people showed up, eager to learn and take in whatever information they could.

This was the second year for this three-day conference which focused on five groups including pastors, women, marriage, youth and children.

Farnsworth, who taught six sessions to the women, said one of the biggest challenges for her was understanding the education level of these women. Everything had to be at a very simple, primary level, with discussions about the most basic life and social skills.

They also talked about how to work together, and that just because someone has something they wanted, it did not make that person their enemy.

Everything Farnsworth said had to be translated in up to four languages, but luckily the Africans were used to dealing with that challenge.

Michael helped with the children’s group, teaching Bible stories like creation, Noah and the effects of sin, Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death.

While leading women’s classes at a pastoral conference in
Bugiri, Uganda, Sheryl Farnsworth (pictured top right) had
the unique opportunity to immerse herself in African culture,
including a visit to the home of one of her translators, Prossi.
Pictured from left is Prossi’s husband Sam, Prossi and her
two children Bridget and Brian.

Both women were happy to report they helped welcome a new baby Sheryl into the world during the conference.

While they were gone for lunch one day, a woman from Farnsworth’s class gave birth to a baby girl, her seventh child. When Farnsworth came back to the conference, a man asked her what her name was. When she said Sheryl, he simply told her that would be the newborn baby’s name.

Simply speechless, Farnsworth wondered if the parents would be alright with a baby named after her, but luckily the mother seemed ok with it.

She said the mother was calmly sitting there, like having a baby was “no big deal,” and she didn’t seem to care one way or another what the baby would be named. American or Bible names are common in Africa, she added.

There are now expectations for her, said Farnsworth, almost like she is a godmother for Baby Sheryl. She plans to pray for her and can hopefully be in contact with the family in Uganda.

Michael and Farnsworth explained Uganda is a very “tribal” place, and they always felt very welcomed, like they were part of a big family. “They take you right into their tribe,” said Michael.

Everyone was very patient, nice and appreciative towards the American team, and the community definitely watches out for the white people, they said.

Farnsworth got to spend some time at the small homes of her translators from the conference, and of course the mission team spent a lot of time with both the sponsored children and the village kids in Kayango. They said the children just latch on to the white Americans, hungry for love.

“It was a privilege to be a part of their world,” said Farnsworth, “A chance to immerse yourself in who they were.”

For Michael, her perception of these people has changed. Instead of saying “Africa needs me,” she now says, “I need Africa.”

Both women are excited to continue to “come beside” Uganda with more and more opportunities to share their knowledge and resources to help them grow and prosper, both at conference settings and at the village care points.