Advocating For the Least of These: The Newer Villages of BFA
Beauty for Ashes Uganda has been in operation since 2011. The very first village to receive help was Ongorotok. Since then, there have been 30 villages added to the program.
There is distinct cultural difference between the new and older villages. It is much harder to serve and be among the women who have only recently been added to the program in the last year. Their need is great and current, ever in their face, ever in their minds, and ever in ours now.
It is always jarring and humbling and overwhelming and beautiful, all at the same time, when we catch glimpses of just how desperate is our need for God.
Most of these mamas haven’t had education themselves. They do not speak any English. Nearly all of the women have been left without any land and finding food for their families is the main priority and purpose. Some have been fortunate to send some of their children to government primary school but not many are sponsored yet for their secondary education available in Uganda. Some villages didn’t even have clean drinking water before Beauty for Ashes came to help.
What do you do when you see children with open wounds on their feet and growths on their skin and in need of an operation within days in order to not lose a bodily appendage for life? What do you do when you meet an eighteen year old who already has five children of her own because men have not valued her physical body nor her emotional and soul value in even the slightest degree, who have robbed her of her own childhood, stolen the joys that should come with motherhood, and stripped her of any dignity among her community? What do you do when you know the big picture ideals that these daughters of God should be experiencing, but you can't even get to those kinds of conversations because their immediate need for sheer relief from hunger and clean drinking water is the pressing need to resolve first? What do you do when you're surrounded by scores of eyes brimming with hope, fear, tears of joy and tears of pain, eyes that are wide and innocent and playful, and eyes which reveal the deep and bitter knowledge of the depravity that is capable in man? All of this, at the same time, looking to you for some kind of catalyst for change.
There is hope here, but there is also a lot of fear among these women in these particular villages. And we can relate, can’t we – it’s scary to hope for something that you desperately want. Because you run the risk of being let down, expectations unmet, betrayed, rejected. Which brings about more pain, and really, how much more pain can these women bear? These women are still living under so many lies about their identity, believing nothing could change for them or their children, and fearful that could be true. Many mamas have been profoundly hurt emotionally by family members, and often physically hurt by those they depended on the most. One woman shared how in the midst of her mother’s burial service, her brothers were simultaneously telling her to have her belongings out of the mother’s house and off the land before the end of the service. Let that sink in - can you imagine trying to absorb so much grief and rejection and fear at the same time? Such callous disregard for feelings is brutal to endure. Other women shared their fear of being unsafe as neighbors and family members threatened both their lives and even their children’s lives, over land they wanted to take away from the mamas. The women don’t even know how to dream into the future because they’re too preoccupied with the urgent needs of the present.
When I asked the women at these newer villages what their hopes and dreams were for themselves and their children, every time their answers would be food and education. When I tried to push to ask them again for their future dreams or goals, anything they could want, again, they couldn’t even conceptualize what I meant; all they knew and needed and wanted was food. Like their own unyielding gardens, fear and despair produced a wasteland in their souls where little hope could take root and thrive. We heard several stories of mamas who couldn’t believe anything could change and had already purchased poison or considered buying poison for themselves, and even for their children, as a way of coping with such despair.
This is the primary goal of Beauty for Ashes in these particular villages: to come and meet them in their immediate needs and darkest hour. The program offers incentive rewards initially, such as cows, cocks, and goats as a way to provide immediate food and business revenue through animal breeding. These kinds of gifts are tangible ways to plant new seeds into their souls that will produce abundant life and remind them they hold immeasurable value and God indeed has plans for their future still, plans to prosper and not to harm. Being a part of a community, their cooperative, also provides the emotional support and fertile ground for the seeds of hope to thrive. But like the agricultural work they all know so well, harvesting takes time and entering into these specific women's lives requires getting your hands extra messy in their dirt. It will take nurturing and care taking on a greater and more regular basis initially. It requires more funding and more time and energy spent on the ground by BFA's local leaders, Anne and Rita, to find out which families need immediate medical care, physical safety, housing fixed and more. We are honored to be among these villages, doing what we can to identify and shoulder and meet these burdens with and for them. Many of these villages already have advocates through BFA, women who have volunteered their leadership, time and love to help raise funds to meet the unique needs of their specific village. However, there are still new villages who do not yet have an advocate! If you or your church are interested in getting involved, please check out this specific link at Beauty for Ashes Uganda to find out how you can help these women in their bleak and barren season and play a role in bringing them into a harvest season!