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Stories of hope

December 2021, FRONTLINES

Sustaining Hope in Uganda

In a sea of women in brightly-colored dresses and elaborate headdresses, Rosie stands out from the rest. Dressed in a simple black dress, Rosie draws attention because of the bright red tint in her hair.

Red hair is not a very common sight in Uganda.

Rosie is a hairdresser and owns a shop in Kawempe, an area in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. She is blessed with a career she loves and decent, stable income that provides enough to not only meet the needs of her family but allow her to save for the expansion of her salon.

But this was not always the case.

Despite a violent past, Rosie finds reason to smile as she reflects on the impact the church has had on her life.

Once a victim of abuse, Rosie’s life was characterized by poverty, hopelessness, and violence, mostly at the hands of her husband. For a time, she believed that she would not live long.

When Pastor Eddie Baligonzaki from a local church came to her door with an offering of food, Rosie was skeptical, having been exploited by men in the past.

But Pastor Eddie continued to visit her, delivering food and sharing the gospel with Rosie and her two sons. When Rosie decided to give her life to Christ, her husband kicked her and the boys out of the house.

Thankfully, the church was there to support her.

Pastor Eddie’s church was one of the first churches in the Uganda Mercy Network. Uganda is Children’s Hunger Fund’s oldest international partnership, dating back to 2002. It was through this church that Rosie was able to learn a trade in hairdressing.

With the church’s support, she was able to start her own salon, operating out of a wooden shelter where she and her boys also lived. The income she made was just enough to cover her family’s needs.

While Pastor Eddie’s church continued to grow and serve the poor through relational mercy ministry, the surrounding neighborhood began to evolve, as well. The area was being transformed into an upscale community, while the poor were being pushed out. Developers came to Pastor Eddie and offered a substantial amount of money for the land where his church had sat for many years.

After a great deal of prayer, Pastor Eddie—with the support of his congregation—agreed to sell the land where their church was located. The church members agreed that they needed to “go to the harvest” and be a light there.

This is how Bible Gospel Church Kawempe was born. The money from the developers was used to purchase land in Kawempe right next to Kimombasa, which is widely known as the worst slum in Kampala.

Covering about eight acres, Kimombasa sits mostly below the water level and the crude sewage system cannot keep up with the rainy season. Crime, drugs, and prostitution are commonplace in Kimombasa.

A large temporary tent hall was erected on the land to house church services, and a rundown structure of wooden beams and a metal roof sat to the side of a field, mere feet from the edge of Kimombasa. This meeting area was used for ministry to the children in the community.

Three years later, Bible Gospel Church Kawempe still serves the poor in and around Kimombasa, and many of the people there know Pastor Eddie by name. The church has become a safe place for the community.

Earlier this year, construction of a Mercy Center began on a portion of the church’s land. This Mercy Center will be used to provide basic education to children, job training, and discipleship to the community of Kawempe.

As for Rosie? She has been helping to support the Food Pak ministry for years. No longer a recipient, she is now one of the church members delivering food. Rosie’s greatest passion is to help other vulnerable women experiencing the same hopelessness she once faced.

“Out of the abundance of love, I can’t keep it for myself,” Rosie shared with our partners. “I have to share it with others.”

Rosie has gone so far as to employ several of the women who had received Food Paks and trained them in her trade. These women, once trained, are presented with something most had probably never experienced before: an opportunity. These ladies could choose to stay with Rosie at her salon or move on to start a business of their own. Either way, they had a respectable way to earn a living. As we look back on the ministry of Children’s Hunger Fund, we are so thankful for our faithful partners in Uganda who continue to seek out the hurting and the lost and share the hope of Christ.

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