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.

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 

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)

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!

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.

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!

 

 

 

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.

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 >>

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.