For the Love of Babies

Meet Caleb.

Baby Caleb was born on July 29 via c-section. His mother, 13-year-old Stella, tried to deliver him naturally but her bones were not developed enough to allow it.

Just a day after our team in Uganda left last month, Caleb was born to 13-year-old Stella, a resident at Christine’s House. Caleb is one of about a dozen babies who call Christine’s House “home” each year, along with their teenage mothers. These babies are born as a result of rape and sexual exploitation.

It cost just $120 to deliver Caleb and provide him with the baby items he needs.

Would you help us meet the needs of these babies and their young mothers? We need YOU to reach our goal of raising $2,000 by September 5! 

When you give to Freedom 4/24, you help to bring hope and freedom to girls around the world AND their babies. Give now at Freedom424.org/give and put the word “Baby” in the comments section.

Stella holds her baby. She is one of the youngest residents ever at Christine's House.

Stella holds her baby. She is one of the youngest residents ever at Christine’s House.


Rounded Edges & Well-Loved Walls

This morning, our Freedom 4/24 team in Uganda began the long journey home to the United States. After the experiences of the past week and the lives that have touched theirs, each of them will leave a part of their hearts in Uganda. Here, President Tim Spaulding talks about the signs of love they saw at Christine’s House, reflected in unexpected places.

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The girls at Christine’s House perform a traditional dance for our team as a way to say “thank you.”

During our last afternoon at Christine’s House, the girls wanted to do a traditional dance for our team as a thank you for coming and sharing life with them, if only for a few days. As we assembled on the floor inside Christine’s House and waited as the girls readied for the dance, my eyes were drawn to the ceiling and walls. Near the light fixtures were a few bolt anchors in the ceiling but nothing was attached. At first, I couldn’t figure why, but I noticed a pattern and could tell that there used to be long, skinny fluorescent light fixtures attached to those anchors. Now, there are single bulb fixtures with CF bulbs in their place.

As I continued to look around, I saw rounded edges on the front step where a 90-degree angle used to be, hairline cracks in the mud mortar that covered the brick walls, and paint beginning to fade. This wear wasn’t from carelessness; to the contrary, the home is always neat and tidy and the girls are meticulous about the way they keep their home. Rather this was the kind of wear and tear that comes from being regularly and well-used.

The fact is I look forward to the day when the building needs a new paint job, when we need to purchase new furniture, or when the roof needs to be replaced because all will be indications that lives are being changed and hope is being restored. Christine’s House is serving its purpose thanks to YOU and your generosity, and taking on the signs of a community of girls who love it and each other well as they strive together toward wholeness and restoration.

Together, they are healing.

Together, we are bringing true and lasting freedom.

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A Christine’s House resident holds her infant.

It costs $116 a month to give one girl at Christine’s House shelter, food, vocational training, medical attention, counseling, and an opportunity to find healing and freedom. Right now, there are 17 girls living full-time at the house, along with several babies. Will you help us meet their needs each month? Become a recurring giver today at www.Freedom424.org/give.  

 

 


True Generosity is Giving Your Best Chicken

What is the single most generous gift you’ve ever received? We can probably all think of exciting Christmas or birthday gifts, or thoughtful presents wrapped up beautifully from friends and family. But for Freedom 4/24 President Tim Spaulding, the gift he will always remember came in the form of a real, live chicken. Here, he explains the purpose and impact of this simple gift.

President Tim Spaulding with a most generous gift.

President Tim Spaulding with a most generous gift.

On Saturday, before the Run 4 Their Lives Uganda 5K, our team had the opportunity to visit with a recent graduate from Christine’s House named Filda. Living deep in the bush, reaching Filda’s village was no easy task. Following a bumpy, hour-long drive on dirt roads and narrow trails, we went the final stretch on foot. After a 10-minute walk on footpaths surrounded by elephant grass towering over six feet tall, we reached a clearing. There we found a few chickens scratching the neatly swept dirt, a couple of goats, and a scrawny dog that clearly did not appreciate our arrival.

A few moments later, Filda emerged from a low-slung hut with a child on her hip. She greeted each member of our team by extending her wrist to shake (customarily done when one’s hands are dirty) while gently bowing in respect.  Then an older woman, slightly hunched over with chiseled features from decades of toiling to survive, followed out of the home. She was introduced to us as Filda’s mother and she beckoned the team to come inside.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside the hut, I took in the family’s few earthly possessions: some scraps of clothing, a couple of pots for cooking, and two mats, which we were invited to sit on while Filda shared her story with us. (To read more about one team member’s experience of hearing Filda’s story, click here).

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Filda, pictured here with her son Samuel, was just 15 years old when she came to Christine’s House last spring.

While our team was praying for Filda, her mother exited the hut. When we emerged behind her some time later, Filda’s mother approached our translator, Sam Lutalo, with her hands full.

“She has a gift for you,” Sam explained.

“Sam,” I said. “They have nothing. How can we accept it?”

“You must,” he said. “It would be an insult to do otherwise.”

As I approached Filda’s mother, she placed a chicken and a bag of groundnuts (similar to peanuts) into my hands. My eyes welled with tears.

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Filda’s mother presents her gifts to Tim as Filda stands next to him, holding her son.

There I was, an American who by her standards is wealthy beyond her wildest imagination, receiving a gift from a woman who supports her family without a husband on less than one dollar a day. As we walked back to our bus, Sam told me he had seen her search for her best chicken and sort her groundnuts for the finest ones before presenting them as gifts to the team as a thank you for all that was done for her daughter at Christine’s House.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible when Jesus comments on a woman’s small offering in the temple saying it was greater than the vast sums the wealthy had offered because she gave out of her poverty, giving all she had.  She had nothing yet she wanted to show how much it meant to her that her daughter’s brokenness had been restored at Christine’s House.

Her gifts were really meant for you—the thousands of individuals and families who give to Freedom 4/24. I was merely the recipient.

You are making a difference.

You are changing lives.

Filda’s mother gave all she had. What will you give today to continue changing lives like her daughter’s?  To donate, click here. Thank you for being a hero to these girls, and their mothers.

 

 


Heartbreak and Hope: Conversations from Inside a Hut

Our Freedom 4/24 team in Uganda right now have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in this week. But one thing has been made clear to our team there: God is on the move at Christine’s House. Keep reading as one of our interns, Jaclyn Swyers, shares her experiences over the past few days at Christine’s House, our safe house for sexually exploited and trafficked girls in Gulu, Uganda.

Our last few days with the girls of Christine’s House have been bittersweet, filled with both joy and pain, as many have shared their stories with us. In the past few days, I’ve asked God for so much wisdom and words to respond to what they have spoken. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories, especially in the past two days as our team visited the homes of four girls who used to live at Christine’s House for a follow up. Every story is similar, yet so different. It starts with embarrassment, and ends in tears. I am thankful that most of the tears are tears of appreciation and love, but many are still of pain. There is more pain in this world than I know, but I saw more this week than ever before. There is injustice all around me. Innocent girls are being deceived by their uncles, boyfriends, and even strangers. There is a lack of opportunity for success in poverty-stricken areas. The list can go on and on. Our world is not perfect, and more often than not, it is painful. 

Yesterday, our team visited a girl who was raped, became pregnant, and had her baby; he is now over a year old. Getting to her house was not easy. We were on a dirt road the size of a small sidewalk in a bus for more than an hour, and then when the bus stopped, we looked outside to see that someone’s garden was blocking the “road” we were taking. There was no way of getting around, so we got off the bus and began to walk. I assumed it would be a quick walk, but we walked through tall bushes and terrain, came to a hut that wasn’t our destination, and kept going through more bushes and trees. Finally, we reached the home.

Our Freedom 4/24 team as they travel by foot to visit survivors of human trafficking at their homes.

Our Freedom 4/24 team as they travel by foot to visit trafficking survivors at their homes.

The young girl we met inside that home told us she didn’t think we would come this far out to see her. She was very grateful. The family put down woven leaves for us to sit on, and we all gathered inside the hut. The young girl’s child and mother were there with us as she told us her story through tears. She told us her dreams that she cannot achieve. She told us about her family separating, and how her son is always sick. The list went on and on and suddenly we were asked to given an encouraging word. What do I say to someone whose life is falling apart? Who has nothing but the clothes on her body, her son, and a few peanuts and chickens outside of her home? What are the words that can come from my mouth that would actually serve a purpose? Do I simply say, “don’t give up” when I may have already if I were in their situation? Do I say, “God will provide” even though they do not have much? Do I say, “don’t worry” when they worry daily if they will even survive? All I could do was weep, as I looked in her eyes and saw desperation and hopelessness.

When it was my turn to say something, all I could think of was heaven. I said to her, “I know your life does not seem very good now, but regardless of your circumstances, remember you have hope in heaven. And heaven is going to be greater than we could ever imagine.”

Do you ever feel like you should desire heaven more than you do now? I do. Too often I think about how I want to get married, accomplish this, do that, and so on. I have never had more of a desire for heaven more than I did yesterday.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

That’s it! That’s the gospel! That’s the end of pain and suffering. Heaven is our hope. There is no greater encouragement than to remind someone that one day we will be in Paradise, but for now, let’s fight the good fight. I don’t want to be held back in fear. I don’t want to lose hope. I want to do as much as possible on earth, knowing one day, it will be over.

Jaclyn Swyers (right), has dreamed of working with human trafficking survivors in Africa since she was 15.

Jaclyn Swyers (right), has dreamed of working with human trafficking survivors in Africa since she was 15.

I don’t know your story. I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’ve heard the saddest stories this past week that I have ever heard in my life. Remember to not give up because you can’t see where the finish line is. Run your race as best as you can because even when there is pain, it cannot last forever. Through Jesus Christ, our hope in heaven, we will spend eternity in His presence (along with, in my opinion, endless beaches and ice cream).

Keep up to date with what Freedom 4/24 is doing in Uganda. We need your help to continue the work that God is doing there. I can tell you first hand, YOU are making an incredible difference not just in one life, but also in the entire Gulu community. Your voice is being heard through runs, marches, radio shows, and the local government. The girls at Christine’s House are already showing signs of healing after only 3 months. You are making a difference. Thank you for all you doing to help eradicate human trafficking.

If you are not already apart of all the incredible things that are happening at Christine’s House, it’s not too late. There are 17 girls at Christine’s House right now who need your support! Become a recurring giver here to change a life at Christine’s House!

 


Confronting the Darkness

The joy from this weekend’s run in Uganda was palpable as it streamed live on our Facebook page. Today, however, stood in stark contrast to that elation for Freedom 4/24 President Tim Spaulding and our videographers on the ground, as they sat down for two very difficult interviews with girls at Christine’s House. Here is Tim’s take from Uganda on the darkness they confronted during those interviews. 

Stella cries

I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing anti-trafficking work for several years now so you think I’d be used to coming face-to-face with unspeakably tragic situations. But no matter how often or how many stories I hear of how a person was trafficked, raped, exploited, or abused, nothing can dull you to hearing a girl’s story as she processes through what happened to her. Nothing can prepare you for the deafening silence and tears rolling down the cheeks of a 13-year-old girl when she is asked when her baby is due.

It’s easy to forget that behind the smiling faces, exuberant chants, and playful laughs lies pain so deep that it sucks even the simplest of joys out of life. In such situations, encouraging a girl to have hope seems to almost mock the extent of her pain.

There is nothing I can do to reverse the searing pain she lives with—neither bringing the man who raped her to justice nor wrapping her in all the best comforts life has to offer could take away her nightmares or the paralyzing fear that it will happen again. The shred of hope that I cling to is knowing that in time, broken lives can be restored. Winnie, who I wrote about two days ago, is living proof.

So what can you do from so far away? Plenty.

Pray. Ask God to bring healing to their lives, to bind up their wounds, and to restore what was broken and shattered.

Share. Be an advocate for the girls at Christine’s House by telling your friends, family, and colleagues about their stories and encourage them to get involved.

Give. Each day I’ve been at Christine’s House, I am confronted by problems that could be solved with sustainable solutions if we had only had the funds.

Go. Next year from July 20-31, we will be taking another trip to Christine’s House so you can experience first-hand what your donations are doing and to provide you with the opportunity to meet girls whose lives you’ve helped change.

Don’t finish reading this blog without a resolution to do something about it.

Do something now.

To share this story, look below for the “Share This” section and click on your button of choice.

To give, click here.

To join us at Christine’s House in 2017, email info@freedom424.org


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