Monday, January 31, 2011

When I was thirsty...

On Thursday, we set out to visit the farms that True Vine ministries has that grows coffee, plantains & corn to support the 800 children at Victor School in Mukono.  It was about an hour and a half drive on mostly very hilly dirt roads.  About an hour into our drive we spotted a man pushing a bike loaded with bags of charcoal.  We'd never seen anything like this.  The bags were secured to his bike and he was pushing his bike to town.  We asked Jesca many questions.  She told us that he either made the charcoal in the forest and was bring it to town to sell, or he was hired to fetch the charcoal to bring it to town.  Either way, we could see it was unbelievably hard work.

After we had toured the farms, we began our journey home.  Then we saw him.  Again.  3 hours later, he was still pushing the same load of charcoal to town.  The journey home was mostly uphill.  Cathy & I sat there in disbelief.  We whispered to each other wondering if we could stop and give him our water.

Just then, Pastor's cell phone rang.  He began talking and asked the driver to start backing up.  I asked Cathy "Do you think he heard us talking about the water?"  Pastor had stopped to show us another small farm.  He began telling us how when they plant a farm...they plant a church.  As Pastor was talking "charcoal man" walked by.  We asked Jesca "is it ok for us to give him our water?"  She said "of course".

We got out of the car and Pastor spoke to the man in Lugandan and told him we wanted to give him our water.  His eyes lit up and his smile was as bright as the sun.  He said "Webele Ngo" (thank you) several times and "Praise God".

He guzzled down the first bottle and stuck the second one between his charcoal bags and immediately went back to work.

Cathy and I got back into the car with tears in our eyes.  Pastor sat down and looked at us and said only these words "When I was thirsty".

Matthew 25:35

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loving Uganda!

 There is so much we wish we could share with you.  The first picture is what we wake up to every morning.  This is Pastor Kibriango and his wife Jessica's farm.  To say it is beautiful is an understatement. 

The next photo is Cathy with the children who go to school at Victor Christian school in Mukono.  Victor Christian school is also where the Women of Destiny get together to make their beads.
This is Cathy doing what she does best....loving on babies ;o)  There are just so many children to hug on and she soaks it all up.

This is bead heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Need we say more?

 This is Jonathon...the boy who stole my heart.  He was just delightful.
We have taken over 1200 pictures on this trip.  Yes, we have completely lost our minds.   And we still have 2 days left.

Today we visited three homes of women who are being supported through True Vine Ministries and the Women of Destiny beads.  Praying that God will break your heart for what breaks his can sometimes be a dangerous prayer.  Our heart broke each time we visited these women.  On our last visit we were completely humbled.  Catherine, a mother of 3 said she was so blessed by our visit that she wanted to give us a gift.  She went to her garden and cut us 2 large sugar cane stalks and yams.  We were completely overcome with emotion.  We did not feel worthy of her gift.

There is so much we want to share but we are limited on time.  We are missing our families so much.  

John, Mandy, Trent & Loralee...I love you from the bottom of my heart and can't wait to squeeze you all.

Mark, Caylor, Bonner, Tessie, Lula & Clyde....I love you and miss you.   Everytime I meet a child, I tell them about all of you.  Babe, the woman all think I am married to the most handsome man in the world.  I agree with them.  I am a blessed woman.

Love and prayers from Uganda,
Dawn & Cathy

30 Seconds

Hello everyone, this is John, Dawn's husband at my first attempt to update the Funky Fish blog. I want to thank everyone for their continued prayers for Dawn and Cathy. You all are such faithful saints and your support means the world to them and our families.

Ok, I'll need to place my "disclaimer" here which will also explain the title of this update. Last night around 9:30pm, Dawn texted me to let me know she would call and say hello this morning at 6:30am. It just so happened the kids and I were still awake and I was able to call Dawn and talk for about 3 minutes. I learned some valuable lessons during that 3 minutes:

  • Lesson 1: Always ask how much time the traveling person has to speak before giving up the phone to the kids. You see, the 30 seconds was the time I got with Dawn, the kids had 2 1/2 minutes. 
  • Lesson 2: Always make sure the adult time to talk is in one segment, not broken into multiple segments. My 30 seconds was more like 3 - 10 second segments. 
  • Lesson 3: Always clarify the purpose of the phone after understanding the time constraint but prior to any conversations. You see, I was thinking Dawn was calling to say hello to me and the kids so my mind was on allowing everyone to say hi to Mommy. I wasn't even thinking to keep a mental recording of my three 10 second conversations for the purpose of updating the blog. 
  • Lesson 4: Never come across as an "absentminded fool". At the close of our conversation Dawn quickly asks, "Please update the blog." Mr. Absentminded fool says, "Update the blog with what?" I've have three 10 second conversations, nothing was really said. What I should have said, was, "No problem sweetheart, I got it covered". Hence the reason I am writing down my lessons. 
Anyway, lessons I learned that I hope to apply next time. It was nice to hear Dawn's voice and allow the kids a chance to say hello. I can't stop laughing at myself as I recall and write this and I'm sure Dawn and I will get a good laugh together when she gets home. That has always been one of our strong points in marriage, to laugh at and with each other. 

Ok, so now that you have my "disclaimer"...on to the update...

Dawn and Cathy are having an AMAZING time and are being treated with such wonderful hospitality by Pastor Stephen Kibriango and family. They are staying at his home and Dawn mentioned it was like a farmhouse with all kinds of farm animals. Dawn also mentioned that there were several orphans that live with them at they have really enjoyed getting to know the children. 

Dawn mentioned that they were planning to spend Wednesday doing more jewelry training with the Women of Destiny and have been truly amazed by the skills and talents these women have in making beads. I would imagine they would be quick learners and that Dawn and Cathy will be having another blessed day with them. 

Dawn mentioned that she spent time speaking with Pastor Stephen Kibriango about his ministry and couldn't believe that he is beginning to spend much focus going from village to village and from home to home working on marriages. After hearing that, Dawn mentioned that I was leading the Marriage Mentoring ministry at our church. Pastor Stephen immediately requested for me to accompany Dawn out next year and asked if I could help him. I guess I'll be praying about that and maybe using my vacation next year, that would be pretty awesome! 

Well folks, that's all this "absentminded fool" can put together from my three 10 second conversations. Please continue to lift Dawn and Cathy up in prayer. 

In His Love,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nsanyuse & Ndiwamukisa!!!!

That means "Happy & Blessed".  The words unspeakable joy are just the tip of the iceburg.

Our travels went well and it was a very smooth trip.  We were greeted with hugs and joy at the airport by Pastor Stephen Kibriango and his son Richards.  Their kindness has touched us beyond words.  When we arrived at their home at midnight, Jessica (Stephens wife and Richards mother) had a full meal prepared for us of beef stew, pumpkin, irish potatos, rice and ugandan pineapple.  The meal was amazing.  Their hospitality has been so humbling.

Today we came to The Victor Christian school where we were able to meet the Women of Destiny.  Words fall short on how blessed we already feel about meeting them.  We shared with the women our story and they also shared with us their testimonies on how the beads have impacted their lives.  Many women have used the capital from the beads to start their own businesses.  Some women have purchased pigs and chickens and one woman used the money to expand her table clothe making business.  Cathy shared with the women that neither of us had sisters and these women are our sisters.  Sisters of Destiny. 

Beads.  Oh, the beads!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am pretty sure Cathy and I looked like a couple of crazy women at a Nordstroms shoe sale when they dumped out the bags of beads.  The women just giggled at our craziness :o)

Tomorrow we will be learning how they make the beads and we will be teaching them additional skills.

Uganda is amazingly beautiful.  The people are beautiful.  God is beautiful.  There is so much we would like to share with you all! 

We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the prayers.  We feel them.  We feel as though we are sailing on the clouds and being carried on this journey.

With love,
Dawn & Cathy

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Up, up and away....

We are happy to report that things have been smooth sailing so far.  What a blessing.  Saying good bye to our families was difficult though.  There were LOTS of  tears and some very tight hugs shared. 

We arrived at the Houston aiport and we were pleasantly surprised to get all checked in and through security in just 15 minutes. We were even more surprised when we discovered there were only 40 people on board our flight and had plenty of room to stretch out.  Unfortunately, we watched too many movies and didn't sleep much :o)

I think it's safe to say (I'm still laughing as I type this) the highlight so far was Cathy coming back from the restroom on the plane only to confess that she just stared at the door forever trying to figure out how to get in.  Ok, maybe you had to be there, but even she is still laughing. 

We are sitting in the London airport which we are convinced is just one giant shopping mall.  There was a store called "Accessories" and Cathy & I both looked at each other and said "that is such a Teri Johnson store".  Teri, you would have thought you died and went to Heaven.  :o)

We hope to be able to update you from Uganda.  I give John a mini lesson in blogging so we will see how that goes.  :o)

We thank you so much for all the prayers.  What a blessing to know that we are being covered in prayer!  If you see our husbands or babies, give them a squeeze from us.  We love you guys!


Dawn & Cathy

Friday, January 21, 2011

Prayer letter

Dear Friends & Family,
This letter is written from both Cathy & myself.  Please forgive us if it sounds as if we are talking in 3rd person ;o)  It is interesting to write a letter from two people.

Where do we begin?  I think Cathy & I knew that someday we'd be in Uganda together for some time.  But now that it is really happening, we are simply in awe.  God has provided for us every step of the way.  He's provided for things we didn't even realize we needed.  When He's reminded us of something we needed...even down to the last minute, He's made it immediately available.  We didn't get final confirmation regarding the details of the jewelry training we will be doing until last week.  We needed 72 pairs of various pliers.  EVERY SINGLE PAIR was either donated or sponsored!  When God reminded me of specific pliers I needed (you can read the blog post here), all 24 pairs were sponsored in just hours!  He has covered everything and we can't do anything but sit back and be amazed. To list all of the ways He has provided for this trip would be nearly impossible! His provision has been profound and complete. We leave it at that and if you want more details please feel free to ask.

Cathy & I received a note yesterday that included this scripture: Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.  Luke 6:40.  We loved this scripture!  But here's the really cool thing.  We will probably learn from and be blessed by these women more than we could ever teach or bless them. 

So, what will we be doing?  We will be traveling to a town called Mukono in Uganda.  We will be staying with Pastor Stephen Kibirango, his wife Jessica and their son Richard.  Richard visited Grace last April with John Kenyon.  (another fabulous story).  We will be working with the Women of Destiny who have been our primary bead supplier for our Tesfa jewelry and training them in additional jewelry making skills and ministering to them.  These women are widows and single mothers who have been deeply affected by HIV.

We have been blessed to be covered in prayer by so many people already and we covet every single prayer. Please continue to pray for us as we take this step of faith. Pray that our travel plans would go smoothly with no delays, good weather, and no problems. Pray for our time in Uganda, that we would be a blessing to these women and everyone we encounter; that our words & actions would glorify Christ above all else; and that we would be changed by this experience. Also, please pray for our families, that God would protect them; that He would give our husbands overflowing cups of grace, mercy and patience throughout the week; that He would soothe lonely hearts, dry their tears, and give them the reassurance & love only He can provide. 

We will have limited communications but will be able to text and we can even update Facebook via text messaging.  If we are able to access internet, we will do our best to update the blog.  The updates will only go to Dawn's facebook page (text updates are tied to the phone being used) so if you aren't a facebook friend of Dawn's....friend her so we can keep you updated :o)

Love to you all.
In Christ,
Dawn & Cathy

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wire wrapping....of course!

Thank you for the overwhelming and generous support.  All the pliers have officially been sponsored!  Praise God for his provision and He continues to meet EVERY need for this trip!

We are so, so excited about our trip.  The supplies we need for the training have come in and we are in the final stages of getting everything packed up.  God continues to provide for us every step of the way and we feel so blessed!  I found myself starring at our invitation letters just in awe of God.

I realized the other day (the reality is that God was probably thumping me on the head) that it would be a huge blessing if we could have the basic jewelry pliers for each of the 24 women of destiny.  By basic pliers, I mean diagonal cutters for cutting wire and needle nose pliers.  I have a handful, but certainly not enough for 24 women.  I facebooked to see if anyone had any pliers they would be willing to donate.  Once again, God provided and I had two sweet friend and my wonderful mom offer to donate the funds needed to purchase the remaining pliers.  Praise God.  So, I'm thinking everything we need now.  Um.  Nope.

If you've ever heard me talking about jewelry design, I will always say that I think one of the most invaluable skills is wire wrapping.  In my opinion, it makes the difference between a quality piece of jewelry that will last and one that will quickly fall apart.  Well, God reminded me of that this morning.  I could almost here Him saying " are going to go all the way to Africa to teach women jewelry making skills but you aren't going to teach them the one skill that you have said is invaluable for all the years?"  Remember the V-8 commercials where they thump themselves in the head. kind of felt like that.

So there you have it.  I am praying for 24 round nose, perfect for wire wrapping pliers!  I can get these for $6.00 a pair.  Would you consider "sponsoring" a set of pliers?  You can't imagine what a gift and blessing it would be to present these women with a complete set of their very own jewelry making pliers.  Or maybe you can imagine it ;o)

If you feel God moving you to help, please use the donate button in the upper right hand corner of the blog and just specify "pliers" in the "add a note" area.

Thank you friends for taking time to read a crazy blog post about pliers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another give away-check out Copper Cove!

Congratulations to Rebecca Gooding for winning our Crazy giveway and thank you Kari for hosting it!

Check out our newest giveway!  Thank you to Kari Gibson from My Crazy Adoption for throwing it on your blog!

This hand crafted charm bracelet was made using beautiful handmade Ugandan paper beads, austrian crystals and glass beads.  Each charm is wirewrapped by hand and attached to a handmade copper & silver bracelet.  The bracelet is finished off with a 3 ring toggle to ensure a proper fit for several wrist sizes.  Dangling from the toggle is a "hope" charm in antiqued copper.

Charm bracelets will be our newest addition to our Tesfa jewelry collection.  The profits from our Tesfa jewelry collection benefit the orphans in Zeway, Ethiopia as part of the Hope in Ethiopia partnership.  One bracelet will feed a child for one month.  One necklace will feed, clothe, house & educate a child for one month.  Our new charm bracelets will do all of that plus provide medical care for one month.

Thank you for taking a look.  Remember, leave a comment, share this blog post and post on your facebook page to be entered to win!

Many blessings,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Loving the least of these......

Congratulations to Marti Gay for winning this quilt!!!  Thank you to everyone who so generously gave financial gifts toward our Uganda trip.  You have blessed us beyond words!

To view more of Clara's creations, you can see them here and also on her website

Information about the quilt:  Cathy announces to me that her and Dawn are going to Uganda. Wow! After brainstorming I offered to do a quilt. There was a photo of Dawn’s hand holding another taken by a teammate in Ethiopia that appealed to me. It was the loving holding of hands like you would hold a friend or a loved one. Comfort and caring come to mind. I sewed a light hand dyed panel a collection of different color strips on top and bottom. Then drew in the hands into the middle panel. I wanted to show more care or connection into the image and added some beams coming outwards. After many layers of dyes applied the image was created in the middle. Then the deep purple was added to the outside edges. The quilting echoed the hands and beams in the inside. Dawn had requested to incorporate an Africa shape, so that was done with thread. The remaining quilting has a gentle tapestry almost African like shape to it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Want to win this bracelet?

Congratulations Heather Mitchell for winning this bracelet!  Thank you for blessing us with your donations!

Where are you going and why?
I'm adding to this post because, this is a question I am being asked and it's an excellent question.  First, we are going to Mukono, Uganda.  There we will be visiting the Women of Destiny who became our primary bead supplier for our Tesfa jewelry collection.  Women of Destiny is a ministry under TrueVine Christian Ministries International and it brings together widows and single mothers who have been affected especially by the HIV pandemic in Uganda. The Ministry operates in Mukono district, central Uganda. According to the Uganda HIV sero-behavioral survey of 2004/2005, Mukono district lies within the high prevalence central region with an average sero prevalence rate of 8.5 percent (Ministry of Health Uganda, 2006). This has left behind millions of orphans and widows who face great financial constraints and can hardly afford healthcare, meals, clothing and housing. Worse still, some of the widows are HIV positive and suffer the pain of this killer disease. Since 1999, Truevine christian ministries International has been supporting widows through the "Women of Destiny" ministry. These widows and single mothers use their gifts and talents to create beautiful beads & necklaces to help sustain their families.
While we are there, we will learn the bead making process and minister to these women.  We also plan to offer additional jewelry making training.
Then in March we will visit Zeway, Ethiopia as part of the Hope in Ethiopia partnership with Grace Covenant Church & Food for the Hungry.  This is a community to community partnership and our church has committed to supporting a community of 300 child, head of household orphans.  Before Food for the Hungry came into this small, rural village, these orphans were hopeless.  Their parents had either died or left them, they were trying to provide food for their younger siblings, not attending school and doing whatever they could to earn just pennies a day.  Truly hopeless.  Since the partnership was formed, these children have hope again.  They are being fed, clothed, housed, educated, loved and many are attending church and coming to know the Lord!  When we visit, we will continue to minister to the orphans and dying widows, further develop the partnership with the Zeway Evangelical church fellowship, teach additional jewelry making skills to the orphans as part of the income generating activity plan and MOST IMPORTANTLY share the love of JESUS CHRIST!
James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Visit = to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes
1a) in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go to see one
1a1) the poor and afflicted, the sick
1b) to look upon in order to help or to benefit
1b1) to look after, have care for, provide for: of God
1c) to look (about) for, look out (one to choose, employ, etc.)

A heart for Africa

Do you have a heart for Africa?  Ya....we do too.  :o)  That is why we are so excited to launch our new collection "A heart for Africa."  We've kept these necklaces simple and have matched these AWESOME new pendant colors with beautiful colored leather.  All the profits from the sale of these necklaces goes toward funding future mission trips to Africa.
At the end of January, we will be visiting the Women of Destiny in Uganda who has been our primary bead supplier for our Tesfa jewelry collection.  In March, we will be returning to Zeway to visit the orphans as part of The Hope in Ethiopia partnership with Grace Covenant Church and Food for The Hungry.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Now that I have held you.....

I was reading a blog this morning and I came across this quote: 

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes. So when you and I hear staggering numbers and statistics about the poor and needy around us and around the world, we have a choice. We can switch the channels on our mega-TVs and continue our comfortable, untroubled, ordinary, churchgoing lives as if the global poor don't exist. We can let these numbers remain cold, distant, and almost imaginary. Or we can open our eyes and our lives to the realities that surround us and begin considering the faces that are represented by these numbers."  --David Platt

The quote is so true.  Once you hold them, everything changes.  

I thought my heart was changed towards orphans before I ever stepped foot in Ethiopia.  In many regards, it had been.  But, I never knew how much my heart would be changed when I held Eden.  Even as I sit and type this 7 months later, my eyes fill will tears...I get that "lump" in my throat recalling that moment when she wouldn't let go.  And I didn't want to let go.

 Eden is why I am going back.  The orphans of Zeway are why I am going back.  Jesus is why I am going back.  A passion was ignited in my heart in Ethiopia that I didn't know was there.  I don't know...maybe I did know but I chose to ignore it.  But there is no ignoring it now.

 As we left Zeway and our team was driving to Addis, Eden was on my heart.  My sweet teammate Heather encouraged me to listen to the song "Albertine" by Brooke Fraser.  The tears just spilled out when I listened.  

"now that I have seen, I am responsible...

now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are...

I will tell the world, I will tell them where I've been...."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Orphan bead project update

22.4 lbs of beads.  That's how many beads have been donated for the Orphan bead project.  That is a lot of beads!!  Pictured here is the most recent shipment from Pensacola, Florida.  I'm overwhelmed.  I'm excited.  I'm emotional. 

When the idea first came I wondered "is this a God thing or is this a Me thing".  I'm choosing to believe it's a God thing.  With every shipment that comes, I feel like God is affirming what He wants me to do.

The countdown to Zeway has begun.  It's looking like our departure date is March 4th.  Last summer, we were allowed 2 50 lbs suitcases.  I've still got 77.6 lbs of bead space to go and 8 weeks to collect them.  Got beads?

If you aren't familiar with The Orphan bead project, you can read more about it on our website here.

To everyone who has donated....thank you.  You have blessed me beyond words.