The Man Up team was on mission recently in Ethiopia and Uganda, the first trip where we went to both countries since 2012. In typical fashion, it was high-energy, lots of activity, lots of loving big, and lots of relationship-building.
However unlike most Man Up teams, this team had 10 women and only 3 men, making it our second Woman Up team (following up from last summer). This dynamic allowed us to pursue the second strategy we employ in our Theory of Change – “Empower Single Mothers and Widows” – in a very real and palpable way with the women we served. In Ethiopia, we spent our entire time in the Addis Ababa community of Korah, the trash dump neighborhood originally designated by King Haile Selassie over 75 years ago for the city’s lepers. Indeed many of the folks with whom we ministered are victims of leprosy, with nubs for hands and fingers. The community is estimated to be anywhere from 130,000 – 300,000 in population, many of whom make a living by sifting through the trash “mountain” that ominously towers over them.
While there we served with Glory to Glory International Church, Brook Hills Development Organization, and Carry 117. With Glory to Glory providing the spiritual backbone for the people in this area of Korah, Brook Hills works to sponsor children not otherwise receiving an education and provides support for single mothers and widows, many of whom live in shanties and sell their bodies to feed their children. Working in conjunction with one another, Brook Hills and Glory to Glory identify children not enrolled in school (and enroll them) and women who are in seemingness impossible situations and provide rent or capital to move to a better location. They also work hand-in-hand with a doula program conducted by another organization to help the single mothers who are indeed pregnant again, many because of prostitution.
The team also spent a day and a half with Carry 117, run by long-time Man Up friend Henok Berhanu, also a ministry in Korah for women. Carry 117 employs women from the trash dump by training them to sew, stitch, and glue various forms of bags, purses, and wallets. These products are symbolic of a “hand up, not a hand out” mentality that seeks to empower women to earn their keep with pride and dignity. Women enrolled in the program earn a salary, 50% of which must be placed into a savings account that Carry 117 helps open for them. Carry 117 also matches the amount placed in savings up to a certain number, thus placing heavy emphasis on the importance of saving to change one’s long-term circumstances. They then wholesale orders primarily from the U.S. and ship them in bulk to distribute.
Henok used to serve as a translator and guide for mission teams, which is how Man Up came to know him in 2011. Growing up with a single mom, he is passionate about helping single mothers, and is equally excited about Man Up’s mission to see men protect and provide for their families. Partnering with Carry 117 is a no-brainer for Man Up, because our hearts align with theirs as it relates to the big picture of fighting for the fatherless. Single mothers exist almost exclusively because men leave their posts, and ultimately the children suffer. When we equip men to lead as Jesus has commanded, then families stay together, thus nullifying the need to provide for orphans and single mothers.
A few members stayed on in Ethiopia to continue building relationships and serving, while 10 others got on a plane for Uganda. Uganda is different in several ways from Ethiopia, both culturally and in terms of ministry for Man Up. Regarding ministry, Man Up has a long and established history with three main partners in country. We have seen much change since 2011, and have been in-country every year since then, while financially, prayerfully, and spiritually supporting our friends there throughout the year.
Our first stop was in the slum community of Masese III (Jinja) where Pastor Andrew and his wife Juliet have been ministering since 2009. When Man Up first visited in 2011, nothing existed other than Pastor Andrew and his wife’s relationship-building in the community among the Karamajong, a displaced people group with hardened hearts and a mindset of being outcasts. Pastor and his wife wished to see these people whom God loves have a home once again, and thus Home Again Ministries was born.
When Man Up caught the vision of Pastor Andrew, we went to work with just a few donors to build a school for the children in the community. Monies were raised and in late 2012, a one-room school house was erected on borrowed land from the government; they called it Bethel Junior School and enrolled just a handful of children.
The Lord has done so much since then.
In strategic alignment with this bible-loving, Gospel-preaching, poor-reaching Pastor and his wife, Man Up has helped support Bethel Junior School to grow to three “baby” classes (ones before Kindergarten) and is now up to Primary-7 (P7), what we would call 6th grade. 252 children are enrolled, and receive a nutritious meal every single day because of the feeding program inititiative Man Up sponsors. Child sponsorships, while not enough to cover our costs, provide resources to run the school – uniforms, materials, teacher salaries, building costs, food security, and administrative costs, among other things. Child sponsorships, which are $45/mo, is the primary way we fulfill the first of our E3 Strategies, “Engage the Fatherless.”
In addition to the school, Man Up believes the James 1:27 mandate means we must “Empower Single Mothers and Widows,” which is the second of our E3 Strategies. While year-round this happens in vocational training for the women in Masese III who’ve been dumped by their husbands, this year it included a visit from nine American women to teach at a second Woman Up conference. This year’s conference theme was “Bloom Where You’re Planted,” and over 700 women showed up in Jinja to worship, learn, love, and encourage one another. Indeed, we were only limited by the financial cost to put on the conference, and could’ve easily reached 1000 women in this one location alone!
Of course, a Man Up trip wouldn’t be complete without addressing the men, which is our final E3 Strategy (Equip Men to Lead) to end fatherlessness in the communities where we serve. We are ecstatic to announce that during this trip, we launched our first ever Authentic Masculinity Program Cohort with 19 men committed to learning about implementing biblical masculinity. Our CEO, Jeff Ford, joined our Man UpProgram Coordinator in Jinja, Pastor Roy, to team-teach the training and launch the program. Broken into three phases over a full year, the men will go through intense discipleship about what it means to be a man, learn best practices as it relates to owning and managing one’s own Income Generating Activity (IGA), and be provided access to capital via a group micro-loan. It will be a difficult journey, and some are sure to not meet the stringent requirements. But for those who are committed, we believe it will be life-changing.
In addition to the Jinja Cohort, we launched cohorts in Kibuku/Bulungira, as well as Pallisa; both of these locations are in rural eastern Uganda, where the economy is heavily driven by agriculture. 23 men came out in Pallisa, and over 20 came out in Bulangira. These men are hungry for such a program, and the energy and excitement surrounding the program was evident.
Our ladies were able to conduct conferences in Kibuku and Osupa (near Pallisa), and the response in both locations was overwhelming. In these rural areas, transportation is usually by foot, and to come in the middle of the day means they gave up something else – primary working their crops. This year the region had early rains and have already yielded a crop, so most farmers are currently planting for a second season. To see our women teach and pour into the ladies who came – ladies who are told to stay with their husbands even if they cane, beat, or cheat on them – was truly remarkable.
Our hosts in Pallisa – Pastor Sam and his wife Mercy – left the comforts of city living to plant a church there in 2009. Now, everywhere Pastor drives he is greeted with smiles and well-wishes, even from town Muslims. He has planted several churches out of his own, and with his wife Mercy, runs Kerith Children’s Home, which meets the needs of 32 vulnerable children in the community. They have started two schools and have several agricultural projects which are trending towards sustainability; their ability to meet the town’s needs has been repaid with kindness and favor wherever they turn, whether it be laypeople from his church, business owners, the police department, banks, or political officials. This work of God in their lives has been inspiring, to say the least, and we are so happy to run the sponsorship program at Kerith Children’s Home.
We also spent a good amount of time walking from hut to hut, giving out some small food stuff, and praying over the tenants. The same sad story of husbands leaving their wives was heard over and over again. This is yet another example of why we’re convinced the Authentic Masculinity Program is the key component to seeing a community changed for Christ and for righteousness. With the patriarchy heavily favoring the men culturally, it’s up to the men to eschew that patriarchy when it doesn’t align with what the Scripture says about being a man. But to drop such a custom, they must know what the Scriptures says about it first, and that’s where working with Pastors Sam, Andrew, and George is so critical. We must be able to, as Proverbs says, be as “iron sharpening iron,” forging a covenant community, accountability, commitment, and a willingness to change when the bible calls for it.
It’s crucial we equip men to lead, all the while running the parallel tracks of engaging the fatherless and empowering single mothers and widows. They must all holistically occur for the tide to change as it relates to fatherlessness.
There is so much more to say, no doubt, but hopefully this synopsis is helpful in understanding why we physically go year after year, and why we choose to partner with whom we choose to partner from afar throughout the year. God is sincerely moving among the Ugandan people and change is occurring. This is a testament not to human wisdom or involvement, but to the Spirt and power of God. Surely He must be pleased when His children reflect His very heart.