This Could Be The Best Christmas We’ve Ever Had

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 by joshbronleewe

My mind races back to exactly a year ago when my face  met the unyielding brick wall of God’s heart. Last December, many thoughts and promptings had been swirling around in my heart and mind, and on a Saturday morning they all came to fruition in a puddle of tears on my pillow. I like to think God allowed me to shed just a few of the tears He sheds every day. Tears for the lost. Tears for the broken. Tears for the needy. I’ll never forget the tears that soaked my pillow that morning. God had done something in me. God had broken my heart for Africa.

Before we go there, let me jump into your world for a second and then we’ll make our way back. So, whether we’ll admit it or not, most of us have bought into the philosophy that what we need to finally make us happy is just more of what we already possess. More stuff, more success, more whatever. Let me prove it to you this way. Those of you reading this on an Apple computer know exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, I have a macbook. In annual fashion, Apple will unleash a new line of sleeker, cooler, savvier gadgets that will wow the masses. Mouths will salivate, eyes will sparkle, and wallets will become lighter. It’s just understood that the gadget you bought last year is now archaic, inefficient, and lame. This attitude pervades our culture. And it’s absolute madness. I believe it’s why Christmas has become so commercialized. Acquisition pumps through our veins. Over the next week we will make our way through stores buying things to give to people, all the while knowing we’ll get something back in return. There will be something under the tree with OUR name on it. Something NEWER. Something BIGGER. Something BETTER than the thing we had before. “Maybe THIS will make me happy,” our hearts say. This makes me very sad. There are tremendous and staggering needs in Africa (thousands of children dying every day) while we observe the wonderful Christmas traditions of trading iPods for TV’s in our comfortable, padded lives. Some would respond to that by saying, “That’s just the way the world is.” And I’d say, “You’re right. But it doesn’t have to be!” Somewhere along the way, we decided to close our fists tight and began to hoard. Now I don’t say these things to make us all feel guilty. Guilt is a terrible motivator. What I am offering is a reality check on the way we live our lives. I believe we need open hands, that are willing to give to those in need even if they can do nothing for us in return. Jesus once said to His disciples, “Freely you have received. Freely give.” Those are simple, yet powerful words. What if we took those words and ran with them this Christmas? What if we held onto less and gave away more?

A huge need in Africa right now is CLEAN WATER. Every 15 seconds someone dies from a water related disease. 90 % of these deaths are under the age of 5. As I type these words, children are dying. By the end of this day, thousands will have died. All from lack of clean water. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the sheer numbers. But just think of a child you know. Maybe your son or daughter whom you love very much. Maybe a niece or nephew whom you cherish like they were your own. Think of her sweet little smile. Think of his adorable laugh. If you could save their life by giving them clean water, wouldn’t you do it in a heart beat? There are children right now waiting. Sons and daughters. Nieces and nephews. Just waiting for someone to love them that much. I had the opportunity this fall to raise money and dig a well in an impoverished community in Uganda. I can’t put into words how incredible of an experience it was. Working hand in hand with a Ugandan man who was so excited about receiving clean water he could hardly contain himself. Kicking around a guava fruit like a soccer ball with children who no longer had to fear death because of unsafe water. Looking back, all I can tell you is I’ll never forget the gratitude I saw in their eyes, and being overwhelmed by the heart of God because of it. “This is it,” God whispered in my ear. “This is what it’s all about. GIVING YOUR LIFE AWAY.” Sharing the Gospel not only in our words, but by our deeds. THAT is what it’s all about. The Gospel. Psalm 72: 12-14 says: “For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”

I want to ask you a question. How precious are the poor and needy in your sight? Especially during this Holiday Season. Are we just trading iPods for TV’s this Christmas? Or are we reaching out to those in need with the love of Jesus? Isn’t HE the reason for the whole thing in the first place? There are a host of ways we can help others, even those who are thousands of miles away. Check out some of the links below and see how you can have an impact on the lives of the impoverished this Christmas.

Freely we have received. Freely we should give. I think this could be the best Christmas we’ve ever had.

Advent Conspiracy

Know.Think.Act.

Amazima Ministries International

147 Million Orphans

UGANDA PIC’S ARE UP

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2010 by joshbronleewe

Hey everyone, I’ve been back in Nashville for several weeks now and JUST got around to posting all my pictures from Uganda! It was such an amazing trip. You can check them out on my facebook profile HERE. If we aren’t friends on there yet, let’s change that!

I have a lot to process now that I’m back, and I definitely want to share what’s on my heart in the wake of everything I saw and experienced.

SO STAY TUNED!

When the Way Forward is Unclear…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 by joshbronleewe

Hey everyone, sorry it’s been several days since I’ve updated you all on Mercy Home. Much has transpired since my last post… Buckle your seat belts.

So, HUGE PRAISE that all of Mercy Home’s school fees have been covered for their last term! The last checks were delivered to the schools today. There is no doubt in my mind that God’s Hand moved mightily to provide for these children. Now, what to do with the remaining money that God provided for these kids?

The way forward is unclear…

The more I remain involved in the chaos that is Mercy Home, the more unclear it becomes as to who is trustworthy and who is not. Who is on the side of the children, and who is on the side of their own selfish gain. Lines become unclear. People you hoped were trustworthy turn out to be thieves. Caught in the middle of all this: How do I best serve the well-being of these children? How do I make sure hungry mouths are fed once I’m gone? Unfortunately, the game-plan to keep the kids supported for 3 months hinged around some key elements that flopped. But GOD is still in control…

I have come to find out there is a NEW Board of Directors that is operating under correspondence with, and guidance from, the founder of the organization. The founder who steered the place straight into the ground. The founder who hasn’t been around for 3 years… One word: FISHY. This board has done nothing, and is currently doing nothing to better the state of the children. And yet they have ALL legal authority over this place… It seems that if I were on a leadership board for an orphanage that is suffocating and imploding, starving kids, and unpaid school fees, I would be trying to do SOMETHING. These people have done nothing. Fishy. Their fishing for something. A check from an unsuspecting charity giver. What will happen with that check? It’ll never reach the children. It’ll go straight into their pockets. A new set of tires for their car. This stuff happens ALL the time. It’s SICK. Sometimes you just can’t trust people…

So, left between a rock and a hard place, I will pray. I will wait and pray. God knows what’s going on, and He cares deeply for these kids. He knows how to best use HIS resources the way HE wants to. So I will let HIM direct. Please continue in steadfast prayer for the well-being of the children and wisdom in how to use the resources God has provided. Please also pray that justice would be brought upon those who have acted unjustly toward these children, and that their plans would be thwarted.

Psalm 82:3-4 … Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

MERCY HOME – GOD IS PROVIDER!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2010 by joshbronleewe

To those of you who have been praying for Mercy Home… THANK YOU. There is no doubt in my mind that God’s mighty hand is on this home.

To those of you who have given toward these children… THANK YOU. Our God is faithful, and He is provider.

Collectively, enough money has been raised to cover the remaining school fees for ALL THE CHILDREN at Mercy Home, and we have surplus to meet their basic necessities for the next THREE MONTHS… God is GOOD!!! Through Robert’s help, we have put together a budget that comes to about $400 per month, and covers just what the kids need. It includes food, firewood for cooking, soap for cleaning, a paid staff member to be there 24/7, and some reserve for medical needs. Obviously, this is a bare bones budget for keeping an orphanage afloat, but this is just a temporary solution to keep these kids alive and healthy until new leadership comes in.

Another point of prayer (and this is really crucial for these childrens’ futures) is for competent, Christ-centered leadership to eventually take over. The former leadership operated under the guise of being a “Christian” organization… Even one of the former board members is a Pastor… What has transpired in this place is the antithesis of the life Christ calls us to. The tricky thing with bringing in new leadership is that the old board of directors still has all LEGAL authority. It’s absolutely not right, and this needs to change. PLEASE, PLEASE pray that this board would be disbanded immediately so that new permanent leadership can take over and start rebuilding this place brick by brick. Let the People of God rise up and fight for these kids’ lives, their futures, and their eternal destinies.

I feel so inadequate, so humbled by all of this. That God would cross my path with these amazing children. If God can use me in a situation like this, God can use you too… God desires to accomplish His work through us. All we have to do is step out.

I encourage you to not be afraid of stepping out today…

Update on MERCY HOME

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 by joshbronleewe

As far as the kids’ school fees, I’ve got encouraging news! A donation has been approved with the East African Development Bank for $900. We even dropped off fees for 10 of the girls today! And with other gifts that have come in, that puts us even closer to covering all the fees. Praise God!!

Obviously, basics like food, firewood, and soap will be a continuing need. Also, their FILLED TO THE BRIM septic tank needs to be emptied or at least partially drained. This will cost about $150. Pretty gross, but very needed. So, from the money that is raised for school fees, all excess will go DIRECTLY to these other areas of need. And we’re talking BASIC areas of need… FOOD and TOILET. So please if you feel led to give, please continue to give! These kids need to be fought for. And we can have a huge impact here…

Robert, the guy through whom I found out about all of this, has been keeping these kids alive out of his own pocket. He already runs another orphanage, and realistically can’t keep things going like this for long. So, please pray that God would provide for Mercy Home!

All in all, restoring this home and these children will take more than just food and firewood. It will take more than just getting them into a better state of living. They need the love of our Savior right now. Nothing can heal these hearts faster than love. Nothing can bring hope like love can. The love of our God who knows and values each and every one of them. These kids are so sweet. So innocent. All they need is a chance to live.

I’m thinking and praying about staying in Entebbe longer than I had initially planned to continue to help out with Mercy Home… I will keep you all updated!

CRISIS AT MERCY HOME

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 by joshbronleewe

I want to come before you all with a great need. But I believe it’s not too great for our God.

I came to know of an orphanage just outside the city of Entebbe called Mercy Home. I was told it was a thriving place with about 70 children, a few of whom were musicians who needed some guidance and encouragement. I instantly took interest in coming to this home to hang out with the children and help out in any way I could.

When I arrived in Uganda about a week ago I got a very disturbing email concerning the state of Mercy Home. It literally made me sick to my stomach to read this email. It was from an American guy named Robert who runs another orphanage in Entebbe and has been visiting Mercy Home regularly. It’s a COMPLETE DISASTER at Mercy Home right now. There is no paid staff there anymore, and the kids answer to no one. They’ve been abused and abandoned by the former leadership. The founder of the orphanage has married and since moved to the States, and seems to be doing very little on behalf of these children. From what I can gather from several people who have watched this place for years, the leadership (her included) had been stealing a great majority of the money while covering up the whole thing. Leaving the kids empty handed and broken-hearted. Many of the children’s mattresses have even been taken and sold. One of the men “Uncle Bob” is now going to jail for sexually abusing the girls at the home (who have since been relocated, thank the Lord). It is utterly sickening. Absolutely disheartening.  But I believe it’s not too far gone that it can’t be turned around. And I believe our God is big enough to accomplish this. No question. Children here are very resilient. If you give them  a little, they can thrive. These orphans HAD been given a second chance, then it was ripped from them. I want to help give these forgotten children a TRUE second chance. If I accomplish ANYTHING from being here in Uganda, I want to help see these children be restored. In the name of JESUS.

Whether these kids need to be transplanted to other homes, or if this place can be rebuilt is still to be seen. Time will tell. But SOMETHING must be done.

There is one immediate need that I believe can be met very easily and quickly, IF we will rise up and ACT. School here in Uganda is not free, and these fees are not exactly attainable for most here. Dozens of the children from Mercy Home are being threatened to be kicked out of school for their last term because they (obviously) can’t pay their remaining school fees – about $2000 total. Let me re-iterate. 2000 DOLLARS. For ALL of them. That’s NOTHING for you and me. If we can start anywhere, let us start here. I want to bring this need before you and ask that you pray about and consider giving (even just a little of what you have) to help see these kids through the rest of the school year. This is a baby step. And very doable. If you would like to give CLICK HERE.

In Isaiah, God tells us very plainly, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” What a promise! And what a challenge for us! To spend ourselves on behalf of the weak, the poor, and the helpless…

Please, keep all of this in your prayers. Please pray for these poor children. Please pray for wisdom and discernment in what needs to happen next at Mercy Home.


Clean Water, Living Water

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 by joshbronleewe

So, today we passed off the well to the community. It was an amazing, surreal experience. One I’ll never forget. During this ceremony, the community leader Pastor Wilson and several others shared their thanks and gratitude on behalf of the whole community for our work there. They gave us a goat and a chicken to say thank you! From what little they had, they gave back. It was so humbling and rewarding. I’m so grateful to be a part what God is doing in the hearts and lives of these amazing people.

After the community shared their thanks, we had the opportunity to share our heart behind building the well. The reason we do what we do. The story in John 4 about Christ’s encounter with the woman at the well was absolutely perfect to share today. Verses 13 and 14 say: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” My hope and prayer for this well is that it would not just meet this community’s immediate need for clean water, but that it would be a seed of the Gospel planted in fertile hearts for the Glory of our King.

Lord, please draw these hearts to You. In You alone our souls are eternally satisfied.

From here I’m heading to Kampala to hang out with Watoto Ministries. Stay tuned!!!