While interning at HEAL, I have learned so much and have made so many memories once again. I taught in the baby class this summer alongside of some amazing teachers who are now some of my closest friends. It was a joy to watch the children grow and learn day in and day out. Whether it be Hanani pointing out that she knew the color blue, or Reyon being able to count all the way to 10 confidently- these kids were constantly giving me joy. In the morning hearing them say "good morning Teacha Lauren" makes my day, and it honestly gets cuter and cuter every time. I have learned to love big always because life is short, always invest in relationships and take those scary leaps of faith because God is there every step of the way. The women, children, and other interns show me this every day. Benja running around giving all of the interns hugs, the women sitting us down to wash our feet, and the interns' constant love. These two months have shown me a lot about Jesus and who he is. I will be forever thankful for the experience to work at such an amazing ministry!
Before my time here in Uganda, anytime I was telling friends or family about this internship, they would say something along the lines of "Oh, that is going to be such a great mission trip." At that time, not knowing exactly what purpose I'd be serving here, I did not think anything of it. But as my month is now coming to a close, I realize that I am by no means a "missionary" here. A missionary is defined as "a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country." But I did not come to the James Place as a Christian preaching the good news of Christ to a bunch of women and children who have never heard it. The beauty of HEAL Ministries is that the power of and love for God already radiates from the staff. I am blessed to have the opportunity to come alongside and aid in the work that is already so successfully being done without me. HEAL Ministries emphasizes the importance of loving and serving well, which, not by coincidence I'm sure, is something I read about last night.
Galatians 5:13 says "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” I have seen this verse enacted before me time and time again over the last three and half weeks. As much as I adore the tears that turn to giggles in seconds, the little red dirt stained hands grasping for mine as I walk to the bathroom, the rice and bean covered cheeks during lunch, or the broken English conversations held over rolling paper beads or painting giraffes, one time of day I enjoy the most is chore time. I typically am not one to look forward to chores at home, but interestingly enough, I have grown to cherish the time here. While it can be a time of tired hands from ringing out wash cloths, sore cheeks from laughter, or confusion from a completely different language (still knowing they are talking about me), working alongside these women is one of the most practical examples of serving one another humbly in love. Not only have I learned about the women and some of their stories, but I have seen how in their service, they do not stop at the minimum. After finishing her task, Sarah will sit with Hellen and help her wash uniforms or diapers, and Moreen will wash my shoes and feet though she has already scrubbed sixty washcloths. Not many of Jesus's actions show greater service and humility than when he washes his disciples' feet, and I cannot help but feel humbled and inspired when these women do the same for me. I pray that I will be able to live with this kind of "love through humble service" mindset throughout the rest of my life.
- Avery Ferguson, Summer Volunteer Short Term Intern
It has been a wonderful summer full of short-term interns and we thought you would enjoy hearing from a few about their experience!
“Coming back to the James Place has been everything I ever dreamed of and much, much more. There is something so special about this place. It’s hard to describe; one simply must experience the joy and beauty of this ministry to fully understand. However, in my opinion, one of the best ways to capture what the James Place is all about is to watch the ladies washing each other's feet. Yes--- the ladies wash each other's feet. Sounds weird, right? The other day, two of the ladies called me out during chores and sat me down. They told me they were going to wash my feet. I refused at first, but then it hit me. They were not doing that because they had to, they were doing it because they wanted to. How humbling is that?! These friends of mine got down on the ground and washed my feet for me because they wanted to. The women wash people’s feet with humility and grace. The same humility and servant-hood Jesus had when washing the disciples’ feet. Painting a perfect picture of what it means to be a daughter of Christ and to serve His people, the women of HEAL simply amaze me. They taught me how to love better, smile more, be more kind, and how to have more fun. They taught me what loving Jesus really looks like. It looks like serving the people He loves, whether you want to or not, simply because He loves them. The women and children of the James Place have given me a lifetime of love, memories, and laughter that I will never forget. This place radiates joy, and the Holy Spirit is SO evident here. The abundance of love here is overwhelming, but that is the way it should be. Love should be overwhelming. God’s love is overwhelming. I simply want to say “thank you” to these people for loving me. Thank you for showing me what being a follower of Jesus looks like.”
- Caroline Ambrose, Volunteer Intern
“When you sign up to go to Uganda, you are signing up to have your life turned around completely. Aside from the time change, sleeping under a mosquito net, far too many bathroom visits, and insane roads, you can also expect to find your heart by the immense love and immense poverty. Because this is my second time working with HEAL, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect during my month here, but it seems that I had forgotten just how wonderful the people are. Working as a preschool teacher can be infuriating, but I adore all of my kids (even the troublemakers) and I could not have asked for better people to teach beside and learn from. I have become especially close with Joanne, who has shown me what it looks like to work hard, love hard, and make the most of every day. We joke about our favorite pop songs from the 2000s, and yet we can also talk about life and school and family. I am inspired by the way that she puts her all into everything she does, even if that is as simple as leading a song to a small group of children. Jo has taught me how to laugh in any situation, and that pouring out love to these children is far more important than I may realize. These are the kind of experiences that seem almost too good to be true. I mean, how can a person love so deeply? You cannot expect to leave Uganda without leaving a piece of your heart here with it. And you will be inspired to live a more meaningful and loving life each and every day.”
- Georgia Slattery, Volunteer Intern
“What I've come to know through the past two months spent at HEAL is that Jesus created us to have intentional, bold, and full relationships. Relationships that are more than just superficial conversations but complete with radical love. Despite language barriers, I saw ladies, interns, and children alike create blossoming friendships all thanks to the foundation The Lord has given us. One of my favorite relationships I made this summer was with a childcare employee, Moreen. Through long talks while pushing kids on the swings, we took the time to care and understand each other. My sweet friend invited me to her home where her hospitality and kindness went through the roof as she showed me true Ugandan culture. Moreen, along with the rest of the ladies at the James Place, manifest love and truth in the way Jesus made us to. As the kids at the James Place would say "Hallelujah, AMEN" and praise be to God for this summer!”
- Madeline Timmons, Volunteer Intern
I have learned it’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. It is about people and moments and making sure you are really living each and every one of them. I have had so many beautiful moments here and I know there are so many more to come.
I wrote that in my journal a few days ago after four of the interns that became my family, left. I was sad to see them go because when you live with 14 other girls in close proximity it’s pretty easy to start viewing them as family. The relationships I have formed here feed my soul and even in one short month, they have become so important to me. The interns, men, women, and children that fill the gates of the James Place are the heart and soul of this place and the reason that Jesus’ presence is felt here each and every day.
When I was accepted and started planning to become an intern for HEAL I was not entirely sure what to expect. All I knew about this organization was taken from pictures I had scanned on social media and what I had learned from their website. The pictures and the website were filled with smiling faces and what appeared to be a place that was overflowing with the love of Jesus. When I arrived, I was met with those smiling faces and hearts full of Jesus, but I was also met with so much more.
It’s all about relationships; this place runs on them. And that is so true. Every second of my days are filled with them and fueled by them. I wake up at 7am every morning and get ready for the day in the bedroom I share with 5 other girls and a bathroom I share with around 13 other girls. We get ready for the day together while a few prepare breakfast together and get it set up for everyone else. There are lots of good morning’s and how did you sleep? ’s and is it time for breakfast? ‘s and should we make an extra thing of coffee? ‘s. There are conversations during breakfast and someone sharing a devotion and kids walking past us to go potty and change for preschool. There are women walking past, waving to us and smiling while talking amongst themselves. See? So much relationship and community and togetherness already and its only 8:15 in the morning.
After breakfast we all go off to our areas of work for the day, which would be childcare for me unless it’s Wednesday in which case I would go to Social Work. When I walk down to the children they are all sitting on a tarp with the childcare workers and usually I plop down next to a staff member named AJ, give her a smile, she asks me how I slept or how I was and I ask her, and some sassy words are usually exchanged because that’s just how AJ is- sweet, sassy and a whole lot of attitude (and her daughter is pretty much an exact replica, its hilarious). And while I am still getting situated on the tarp a child will plop them-self down on my lap and I open my arms to another sweet angel, Benja, and he gives me the best hug ever. And then its potty time during which I grab a child’s hand (or two) and begin the journey up to the bathroom.
After potty time the children play on the playground and so I switch between playing with them and talking to the women. I ask Maureen (another staff member) how she is doing, sit with AJ at the sandbox, maybe learn some words in Luganda, maybe slip away for a quick visit with Parvin, Grace and Teresa in pottery and exchange pleasantries with everyone I pass along the way. There is so much more that I am forgetting, but you get the picture. I am constantly surrounded by women and children and interns and so there is always something to be said and more to listen to, lots of experiences to share and to be had…laughter, loud voices and crying babies are pretty much constant sounds that fill the air at the James Place, it’s pretty wonderful. The women and men on the compound are not only co-workers, they are friends and family. They support each other and they love each other. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” At the James Place, they live life together, share together, learn together, grow together and as a result they have gone so far, together.
They build relationships with each other, but they also welcome relationship with us. They share their wisdom with us and invite us to their homes, they ask about our stories and then share their own, they call us friends and tell us they love us and when we leave they are sure they will see us again, if not here on earth, definitely in our forever home. When we are gone for the day they welcome us back and ask where we’ve been. And each time I walk in the gate I hear from Dennis or one of the guards, “welcome back” or “you are welcome”. It is something I never get tired of hearing, and that is good because it is something you hear fairly often in this country:)
Each day the staff eats lunch together while all of the interns also eat together, usually crammed into a space that really is not big enough to hold 16 adults. During bath time staff from all different areas come together to wash the kids and carry them to nap time. The childcare workers and laundry staff all do chores together after bath time and usually the childcare interns help out. This past week I helped Maureen wash and rinse hand towels and afterwards she washed my shoes and feet just because she likes to.
I have had so many beautiful moments here, one month straight of them. I am excited and thankful for five more filled with a whole lot of different types of moments, mostly beautiful ones though.
- Paige Linton, Volunteer Intern
The James Place is a beautiful, eclectic campus tucked away just a few blocks from Main Street in Jinja, Uganda. When you walk through the gate you step into a deceptively large playground pulled right out of every child's dream. Continuing along the path, you pass a swing bench and breakfast shack, a poetry kiln and wheels, sewing room, administrative building, and house for nap time and baby class of preschool. Next, there’s an open shelter where the jewelry design women and the widows work during the day, a laundry house, and an outdoor kitchen. The interns and the Director of HEAL live smack dab in the middle, in a two-story house that doubles as the preschool space for our older kids.
No two days have looked remotely the same. Two days a week I work in the social workers’ office. We sort and organize files, interview hopeful parents and employees, and check in on women in the program to see how their life situations are progressing. Sometimes we visit the homes of children in our programs to see what their living situation looks like. The other days I have been switching back and forth between our childcare program and all of our artisan trades. I spent a day in pottery burnishing and waxing the designs our potters had made (with them quickly correcting my mistakes). The next day I was in the sewing room, organizing their workspace so that the seamstresses could be more efficient in their work. One afternoon I sat in jewelry design, stringing beads with our women as they taught me words in Luganda. In between, I pushed children on swings and carried them to nap time.
What I’ve been learning over the past two weeks is that I was not called here to do things for people, I was called to be here with them. In all honesty, there is nothing I can do that they aren’t already doing for themselves. I am not a skilled potter, and I don’t have a degree in social work. I don’t want there to be any misconceptions - I am here learning beside incredible, talented women. I am blessed to get to hear their stories, and honored that they would teach me their trade. In return, I do what I am needed. I’m learning and building relationships.
The James Place is a physical representation of the body of Christ. Many parts, one body, each working together to glorify God through their own strengths. I came not knowing what I would do, and I am here being humbled with the lesson that sometimes God is calling us to just be, in suffering and laughter, and, most importantly, in love.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
-Colleen Gill, Volunteern Intern
I believe that the most important kind of love to give and receive in this lifetime is unconditional love—the ability to love a person wholeheartedly, no matter the circumstances or their flaws. My first impression of the James Place is exactly that: everyone involved in this organization pours their heart and soul into each day and loves one another unconditionally.
When I first chose to answer my call to serve in Africa I was not sure what to expect—I wasn’t familiar with Ugandan culture and I didn’t personally know any of the other volunteers I would be serving alongside. I had seen pictures of the James Place from social media posts online and once I arrived I was finally able to put the photos from my memory into context—like pieces in a puzzle. It was incredible to see all of these photos come to life, to feel the red dirt beneath my feet. I was now able to see in person the treehouse built by hand that the children absolutely adore, the roof they added over the sandbox that shares shade and so many giggles, and the gate for the goats donated by a generous donor.
From my first full day with HEAL Ministries I knew there was something special going on here. I never dreamed that I would be able to experience God’s work in a way that was so pure and genuine. It has been beautiful to see God working through everyone who enters the gates of the James Place.
One of my favorite things I’ve witnessed in my time here is the love the children have for each other. Images flash in my mind of two boys walking with their arms around each other, kids hooking arms and dancing and singing with each other during circle time, or girls skipping across the volleyball court holding hands with smiles from ear to ear. All of these images warm my heart in a way I didn’t know was possible.
My second full day at the James Place was a Saturday when we host KIDS Club in the afternoon. We had about 400 kids from the community pour into our gates to spend the day playing with each other and learning about God. We have kids who are a variety of different ages and many of them come with their younger siblings. Last Saturday the kids were fed nutritious hardboiled eggs and clean water. As they were sitting eating their snack and learning about Abraham, I saw one boy was handed a cup of water. Although it was 85 degrees out and he had spent the last hour and a half running around playing, before he took a single sip of water he held the cup up to his baby brother’s mouth so he could have the first sip. When the eggs were handed out he did the same thing—he made sure his brother ate first and he even helped him break the egg into small enough pieces for his brother to eat. I was amazed at how a boy, no older than the age of five, had learned to love so selflessly. As I spent more time at the James Place and the people involved with this organization it didn’t take long for me to find my answer.
Kids learn from observing—the behaviors they observe from the people around them are the behaviors they will try to imitate. Since they spend a majority of their time with the women of the James Place, it is the behavior of these women that the children will try to copy the most. In the days that followed KIDS Club, I realized that it wasn’t only the children who loved in such a pure and selfless manner but it was the women who loved in these ways as well. Each staff member of the James Place takes the time to learn every child’s name and their little personalities. Every day they are fed and bathed with care. The women show these children so much love and affection that this is the way the children have learned to treat each other too.
I feel so honored and blessed to have been given the opportunity to witness and receive this kind of love in my time at the James Place and I’m looking forward to learning from these women and children how to better love unconditionally.
- Sophie Marie Fish, Volunteer Intern
10 months. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 10 months, it’s been possibly the fastest 10 months of my life and I have loved every second of it. Although it hasn’t always been easy, as the nurse for the James Place I see people at the worst, most vulnerable moments and sometimes there is nothing I can do but wait for the medication to start working.
The past couple of months it has been rainy season and with that comes an increase in malaria. One thing I have learned is there are multiple strands of malaria and with that comes increased visits to the doctor's office. While volunteering at the James Place, I have become incredibly grateful for the priority we put on the health of those I work with. Malaria can be deadly if not treated and then add the difficulty of strands that are recurrent, or parasites that live in the liver and need different types of medication, or strands that don’t show up on the normal diagnostic test. All of this means more trips to the doctors but the James Place does not bat an eye because the health of those around us is a priority.
These different types of malaria make me feel incredibly useless because nothing helps until the medication kicks in. But the Lord has also taught me something in this season. I am more than just the person who helps get the patient the right medication. I’m the person who hugs the child while they get their blood drawn, or makes the adult laugh while the IV medication is given, or rubs the back of those laying in bed getting IV fluids because they are dehydrated. In the last 2 months, I’ve spent more one on one time with people at the clinic than the rest of the time I’ve been here. And it’s honestly my favorite part, not seeing people as sick and vulnerable, but being able to meet them there and providing what they need.
I wish that people didn’t get sick and I didn’t spend my time taking people to the doctor’s office but that’s life and I’m grateful for this ministry because they realize in order to run an organization properly, they have to help people when they are sick. It also means there is a lot of trust put in me to help properly assess people so that the ministry doesn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars each month on colds that will pass in a couple of days or headaches that are due to not drinking enough water. I spend a lot of my days in simple 5-minute education sessions on why we need to wait a little bit before rushing to the doctor. Which not only educates that person directly but once they have a knowledge on when they need to go to the doctor and when they need to wait, they pass that knowledge along to their friends and their children which help change the entire culture. Without education, everything stays the same and here at the James Place we want to see a difference, we want to see a healthier Uganda.
A healthier Uganda starts with the stance HEAL chooses to take on health. They could choose to not help at all and just tell people to go to the free clinic down the road but instead, they invest in the people and work alongside a respectable clinic where the doctor not only provides quality treatment but takes the time to educate on prevention of diseases. Everything I participate in here is to better the people of Uganda and it takes a team. I am thankful to have the opportunity to be a team member at the James Place and cannot wait to see what my final 2 months have to offer.
-Lindsey Sletner, Volunteer Long Term Intern
Think of the James Place as a city upon a hill, a shining example for all the world to look up to. Its founder, Tina Weir, was brilliant in her creation of this self-sustaining ministry. HEAL Ministries empowers vulnerable women in Christ to get an education, learn a craft, and provide for their families. The James Place works because it is Ugandan led and built on the Word of God. This is the kind of ministry that creates lasting and meaningful change.
The Lord is so alive in this place. The light that radiates from this ministry cannot be put out. Most of the abandoned women show up at the gates seeking us out because they have heard about the miracles this place is working. It’s a place that cannot be put down because it is built on solid ground. The James Place is solid, solid as a rock.
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock.
Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise
and the winds beat against that house,
it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock."
- Matthew 7:24-25
The James Place was founded on the Word – James 1:27. It was created to “look after orphans and widows in distress,” to serve the least of these. The Lord’s hands are all over this little plot of land. Because of His faithfulness, families are being preserved, relationships are thriving, and women are being empowered with the love of Jesus Christ.
I am so fortunate to be able to witness the Lord at work in this place every day. He continuously reveals himself to me in the little things throughout the day. Whether it is the laughter and smiles of all 60 of our kids, conversations with the women, folding towels with a staff member, or even sweeping up the goat poop! He has used the James Place to teach me the importance of finding joy in the little things—to BE STILL and know that he is God.
HEAL Ministries has created a safe haven for over 212 families and has equipped them with the tools they need to thrive in their communities. I look around this place today and I see fellowship, smiles, laughter, and the love of Jesus in abundance. All of this is made possible because of the firm foundation this ministry was built upon – the Word of God.
- Volunteer Intern, Grace Pouch, from Charleston, S.C.
Julian is the manager of the women’s programs at the James Place. She is a valuable team member that we are blessed to have! Below she shares a little bit about one of her days inside the gates where love abounds…
Every morning, I begin my day at the James Place by praying for the day ahead. I then begin preparing for all the staff, women, and interns to arrive and enter through the gates. As the manager of the Artisan programs, I interact with over 60 women in the various departments including jewelry design, sewing, leather, and pottery programs. I love working with the lovely ladies in the artisan programs. They have encouraged me to work with them. I love listening to their conversations and hearing their needs. Whenever I get sick, they are always encouraging me and helping me get better. One day, I went to the doctor and it caused me to be late coming to work and one woman from the artisan department called and asked if I was ok. I was really touched by that call. I was also touched when the woman brought me something to eat each day that I was sick.
The James Place is a place where you go to see God’s love all around. And I love seeing the interns interacting with the ladies. Though the ladies don’t understand English very well, they get along and work together as they are making necklaces. It’s really such a joy teaching them how to make necklaces and spending time with them.
Some of my favorite memories take place during Bible Study on Fridays. During this time, the women from the artisan programs come together to worship, praise, pray, read the Bible, and ask each other questions. We are able to encourage each other as we read scripture and the Bible.
At the end of the day, when I pull the chair to sit at the gate and say goodbye, I love seeing our kids running down to me. One tells me that I’ve brought cassava for you. The others tell me that they want their mummy. There’s one who used to bring me flowers every morning and she tells her daddy that the flowers are for auntie. They all wave and say bye after a day at the James Place. It’s such a blessing to experience this from such young ones who love me. May God bless these sweet young ones.
Julian Tumusiime - Manager of the Women's Programs
It’s hard to believe that HEAL Ministries was formed ten years ago! This is the year that we celebrate 10 years of the Lord’s provisions. Our theme for the year is LIKE A TREE.
HEAL Ministries was formed to serve the least of these. It transformed from a sending organization to a focused ministry at the James Place in Jinja, Uganda in 2011. That focus is helping families stay together….plain and simple. We constantly saw Moms that wanted to place their children in an orphanage, NOT because they did not love their children but BECAUSE they DO love their children. We saw the need to walk alongside these moms and give them the tools that empower them, give them hope, and form lasting relationships like family. We became their family.
We have had over 212 families come through our gates and only 2 moms have had to place their children in an orphanage. That means 210 families stayed together and are providing rent, food, and school supplies. That means God is at work in Jinja!
Every program formed here is for the purpose of keeping families together…..Our artisan program (sewing, leather, pottery, jewelry design) keeps moms working so that they can make money. Our daycare program allows moms to work full time or finish High School. Our preschool program enables the children to have a better start in Primary School. Our Business and English classes empower women to make more profits and to better understand operating a business.
The James Place (named after James 1:27) is LIKE A TREE. It is firmly rooted in Christ and we have placed all our trust in the Lord. Its roots grow deep each year and we are beginning to see the fruits of God’s people. We see the fruits everywhere. We see it through a laughing 17-year-old mama skipping through the gates with her healthy child. We see it with a JaJa (grandma) laughing and loving others well as she creates pottery that everyone wants to purchase. We see it through the laughter of the children advancing to the top of their class because of daycare and preschool. We see it through the staff that has grown spiritually and provided a better life for their families. We see it in every family that enters each day and then leaves together smiling each day. We see it through all the families staying together. We see it everywhere. This is the Lord’s work and this year we honor and praise HIM for 10 years of provisions.
-Tina Weir, Founder and Executive Director
HEAL Ministries changes lives. Before I came to the James Place, all I really knew was the pretty jewelry and pottery that I see in stores and that this was a program for both women and children. I did not realize how much more there is to HEAL Ministries. What goes on here has not only impacted the staff and children but also the community. When we were driving through the slums, the children were running up to the car yelling "Jaja Tina" and were ecstatic to see her. These children are not typical James Place children, but they still know of Tina and the James Place's love. This place is so full of love and joy for the Lord. It has amazed me how many relationships all of us have formed with others because of the Lord. We may speak different languages and live very different lives, but that does not change how we see our God.
Last Friday, we had Bible study where we studied James 1:1-15. This verse talked about persevering through trials and staying faithful in the Lord through these trials. There was one woman who translated the conversation for us and it blew me away at how these women have such strong faiths, even after going through things like abuse and being widowed. This conversation has really stuck with me these past few days and has helped me gain a deeper meaning of Philippians 4:13. HEAL literally is influencing and changing perspectives of people who live on the other side of the world. Over the past 10 days, I have played with one boy in particular: Dalton. He is a precious little boy who is about 2 or 3 years old. He is so full of joy and laughter and has shown me the true meaning of love like a child. He always wants to play and is constantly smiling. Dalton has made an impact on my life and I hope to see him one day again, even if it is in heaven. Every girl on this trip had made lasting relationships with both women and children.
-Anne Elizabeth Blackburn, Harpeth Hall Team
Jinja is simply put, chaotic. From the street vendors, to the bodas, to the eyes that seem to double in size when they catch a glimpse of blonde hair. It is a place of pain, a place of struggles my friends and family have never had to face (myself included.) However, once you walk through the gates of the HEAL, the atmosphere changes. If I could describe the James Place in one word, I would choose peace. A peace that could only come from above. God has blessed this place immensely, I get to watch His works happen right in front of me every single day.
The friendships I have made through HEAL are so very special. They are so real, so raw. When I think of all of the relationships I have made here, one sticks out to me in particular. Her name is Kwagala Betty, she is 50 years old and in the pottery program at HEAL. In Luganda "kwagala" translates to "love." I can't think of a name that suits her better! I refer to Betty as my African momma, the love she showers upon me each and everyday is something that I will never forget. Betty is simply put hilarious and wonderful; joy just radiates from her. She is a mother, and a grandmother, both a woman and a warrior of the Lord. Betty is more then twice my age, and speaks limited English. She has not had an easy life. She has faced rejection, neglect, abandonment, fear, shame.... But it is in this pain that she found redemption in Jesus Christ. It is in this pain that she was able to see that while the things of this world will continue to disappoint, He is constant and unfailing. He will always provide. My first month in Uganda, Betty invited me for Sunday lunch at her home. I have been there every weekend ever since.
Each morning I wake to the sound of children's voices chattering outside my window. It is magical. My mornings at the James Place are spent with the preschoolers, while my afternoons are spent with the babies in childcare. This means I end most days covered in dirt, boogers, food, spit, milk, and Lord knows what else! By the time 6 o'clock rolls around I am an exhausted, germ covered mess. These all may sound like complaints, but they are far from it. I love these babies and their mommas from the bottom of my heart, and the mess shows I have been loved on to! How lucky am I to have snuggles, kisses, and hugs showered upon me all day long? There really is nothing like the feeling of laying your head on your pillow knowing you have had a full day. I get to experience this every single night.
-Kennedy Petit, Volunteer Long Term Intern
To me, HEAL meant a new start after a long four years in high school. To me, HEAL now means a lot of things. I never really knew what to expect when I packed my bags and moved to Jinja. Yes, I knew I would be working with women and children but what I didn't know is how much those women and children would mean to me. HEAL and the James Place are now the reason why I get up every morning with a smile on my face. If you would have told me in my first week I would grow to love this place as I do now, I would have told you to wake up from a deep dream. HEAL is a place for me to live a care-free day surrounded by people who love me as much as I love them. HEAL also just means getting a hundred hugs a day, usually instigated by saying “huga.” HEAL has been a place of pure happiness for me.
My days at the James Place are anything except normal, but a few things have become a new normal. For example, I am awake every night from about 2am-3am, and I can always count on it. My alarm clock is the banging of pots as children fill them with sand outside my window. Cathy screaming “WHITE” while going over colors during English class. Hearing “Halina, come” during morning play time. Somehow bathing 60 kids everyday in basins that some are becoming too tall for. The sudden quietness as the children go down for nap time. Pouring jerrycans of water into the same basins that were used for bathing to doing chores with the staff. Watching 60 half-awake children walk from the gecko house to the tarp for an afternoon fruit snack and water. Watching one child pedal a bike, while two kids ride in the back with a staff member pushing hard to make the bike actually move. Watching children leave one by one only to know it will be a short 14 hours until they are back on the property banging pots. Saying a hard goodbye to Kisakye every evening, not being able to wait for the 14 hours to be over so that I can hug her again. And finally, retreating back to the house where I am usually ready for bed before 8:30. Yes, my day seems like a whirlwind, which it is, but I wouldn't trade my days for anything else.
This past week was my birthday and I was a little worried about how it was going to go being away from home for the first time. Let’s just say I have really never felt more love than I did on my birthday. As I walk in to English class, sweet Cathy sits right by the door and she sings me happy birthday. Yes, it was on her own because none of the other kids chose to join in but that made it just that much better. Once Cathy finished, the rest of the class then sang all together. After class, one kid after the next would come up saying “Birthday girl Halina” or “It's your birthday" or something along those lines, without stopping all day. During PE, the finally activity was to sing happy birthday to me. Even if it was just the baby screaming in the background because he really didn't know the words, to the oldest child belting every word to make sure everyone heard her, they sang happy birthday. As I said, I was nervous about spending my first birthday away from home, but let it be known that I wouldn't have traded my 19th birthday for anything, and now I wish I could celebrate every birthday here.
-Halina Hannon, Volunteer Long Term Intern
HEAL is about showing God’s love to those around you, being transparent, learning to love, learning to let others love you, and truly living life with the people around you. Since I have been here it has amazed me how the staff and children love and love so well. They have welcomed and love me unconditionally with open arms. I love that the people who come into our gates have a chance to be loved for who they are and for how their Creator created them. These people are given worth and reminded of their worth daily. I have also never felt so loved for who I am, than how I am loved here at the James Place. The staff has taught me how to love others, but how to let people love me.
One of my favorite moments since I have been here was when I was sick. I had a terrible migraine, and had to leave work early to lie down. I was almost asleep when I was woken up by one of my students at my bed whispering to me. “Teacha Ope?” I was very confused on what was going on. She came and sat on the edge of my bed and said, “I want to pray for you”. I was shocked that she was so concerned that she came to pray for me. I was humbled by how my students love me, but in that moment I was even more humbled that God let me love and teach these sweet children.
There have been moments since I have been here that have been hard and discouraging, but in that moment I was reassured. I knew that I was exactly where I am supposed to be; doing exactly what God called me to do.
Every day at the James Place looks a little different. Thankfully I start every morning the same. I start with breakfast at 8:00am, and go to preschool at 8:15. Preschool goes from 8:15 - 10:00. During preschool I teach the reading, writing, and English station. I work with all academic ability levels. I love being able to push and encourage each of my students to their fullest potential; while they all might not be learning or mastering the same skills all of my students are thriving. I get to work with one other intern, and two other Ugandan teachers. I have loved being able to encourage the other teachers that I work with, not to mention the amount that I am learning from them. They are making me a better teacher, and I can’t thank them enough for that. Once 10:00 comes we bring the students outside for snack and P.E. Two times a week when the kids are at P.E. I go sit with the women in the beading program. I absolutely love these women! At 11:00 we come back to class. From 11:00-11:45 the two Ugandan teachers work with the students who are going to P1, and the rest of the class continues with activities that are appropriate to their academic level. At this time I pull two students to come paint with me. They don’t have an artistic outlet, so I have really loved watching their personalities come through their art. I think I love it more than they do! From 12:00-12:45 the kids all eat lunch, drink either milk or water, receive a vitamin, get bathed, and carried to naptime. It’s a packed full 45 minutes! After the kids are laid down, at 1:00 all the staff, interns, and women in the programs eat lunch. After lunch we do chores for an hour. I rotate between helping outside with chores and being in planning with the teachers. The kids wake up at 3:00 and get snack. At around 3:30 Preschool comes back in to the classroom to do some sort of activity. On Mondays we work on fine motor movement skills, Tuesdays is our creative day (the kids choose dress up almost every time), Wednesdays is our craft day, Thursdays we have the kids to play in the sandbox, and Friday is our fieldtrip day. At 4:30 all the interns begin tutoring the preschool students. We want our kids to be P1 ready! I love having time to work one on one with these kids. After tutoring we just play and read books to the kids while their parents get here.
No day is ever the same, and there is always something that comes up or changes our plans for the day. I wouldn’t change it though. The unexpected is what’s adding to our children’s education. I am so lucky that I get to work with the staff members that I work with. They make me smile, they love me, they have taught me so much. I have never felt so fulfilled in life, humbled, loved, and invested in. It gives me the strength to pour out to my kids, the staff, interns, and friends here on a daily basis. God is fulfilling me.
-Hope Martin, Volunteer Long Term Intern
HEAL is a ministry that means so many different things to me. It means early mornings, yes. It means dirt stained clothes, yes. It means crying babies, yes. It means language barriers, yes. It means long days of work, yes. BUT…It means early mornings where I get to teach fourteen precious children who call me ‘teacha katie’. It means dirt-stained clothes from all the hugs I get and the time I spend playing. It means crying babies that I get to scoop up and love on. It means language barriers that I see overcome with smiles and laughs. It means long days of work that end with children going home to their mommas. It means so much more than what is seen from the surface. HEAL has become a place for healing for some women, a place where security has been found, and a place where children can receive food to fill their bellies while filling their minds. The James Place is special, just walk through those gates and see!
I have so many stories that make my heart smile here. Each day we come in from work giggling about the day or moments that have marked us. I am one lucky teacher, I will tell you that much! Not only do I have the chance to work alongside and mentor a very special Ugandan teacher and teach fourteen students, but also I get to work one-on-one with several students after class who need a little extra. Everyday I count down till 11:00 a.m. That is the time where I work with my special friend. She is going to P1 in January and has had some delays in her learning due to some circumstances with her health. Oh! But that is not going to stop her. She is diligent, hard working, focused, and passionate about learning. I have loved watching a girl who would barely speak, showed little interest in learning, and who was timid-turn into a typical five year old who runs over to me wanting to talk, begs me to go work on ‘letters’, and who has overcome much despite previous expectations! I am so tickled everyday when I think about how far she has come and how far she will go. We have formed a special bond, and I am so proud of her!
Want to know what ‘a day in the life’ is? Even though everyday is a little different and sometimes unexpected…here’s a go at it!
Wake up-Class with whole group & small group lessons-Prep for small group lessons the next day-P.E.-one on one tutoring [yay!]-Kid’s lunch-Kid’s bath time [yes, all 60+ kids!]-Carry the children to nap time-Staff lunch-Chores/lesson planning-Wake the kids up-Pass out fruit for snack-Office administration work-Afternoon tutoring-Story time-Watch all the babies go home!
That is a little peek into my heart and ‘life’ here at the James Place. The Lord is sweet for allowing me to serve, and I am thankful to be His hands and feet here [covered in Ugandan red dirt and all!].
-Katherine Christopher, Volunteer Long Term Intern
It’s difficult for me to sum up my experience at HEAL Ministries so far, but it is nothing short of eye opening, inspirational, and moving. It is incredible how a place so far from home can still make you feel at home. The love displayed within the walls of the James Place is unlike any I have experienced before. HEAL has helped me recognize the importance of reaching out to others and creating relationships amongst all different kinds of people. HEAL gives women the opportunity to advance their lives through different job opportunities. These jobs help women showcase their own creativity, while also helping them to develop useful skills for their future. My teaching skills have allowed me to develop relationships with women, men, and children of all ages and walks of life. Overall, HEAL has taught me to open my heart to others who, outwardly, seem different, but in reality are not so dissimilar to me.
One of my favorite memories so far has been developing a relationship with a little boy who is in the childcare program who speaks absolutely no English. I was working as I normally do, and saw that he was crying, moaning, and visibly sick. After taking his temperature, sitting with him as he took a nap, and getting him to eat some food, he was taken to the doctor, where it was discovered he had pneumonia. I continued with my day and when I saw that he was back at the James Place, I went up to check on him. As I approached him, he immediately reached out his hand towards me, showing me the IV bandage that the doctor put on him. It may seem like a minor moment, but his recognition of me after I had spent the day worrying about him and caring for him was very special. Ever since this day, I am welcomed by a big hug from this boy when I see him. I tell him kwagala nyo (“I love you so much”) quite frequently and love on him whenever I can. This memory is one of many favorites here at the James Place, and I am grateful to experience this one, as well as many other similar ones throughout my time here.
My day at the James Place starts at 8:00am with breakfast, and then entering into preschool class at 8:15. For the next two hours, I read a Bible story and help students learn reading, writing, and math. There are 13 students in preschool, and we divide them in groups based upon their ability level. These small groups help allow students to receive one on one attention, which is helpful as they prepare to enter P1 (the equivalent of elementary school back home). At 10:00, I start helping the supervisors make their reports, which are used to keep track of weekly data and duties that keep the James Place running. These reports are typed on the computer, which is a skill that many of the staff members are not used to doing. It is always fun to start working with a new staff member who has never used a computer before - watching their elation, nervousness, and joy at using a computer for the first time is amongst my favorite things here. Reports normally take a few days, but it gives me one-on-one time with many staff members. I also try to teach a new computer skill each time a staff member reports, so that they can build upon and understand how to work a computer in depth. Lately, I’ve shown many staff members the website “Google Earth” and we have used satellite images to look at different parts of the world, which I believe helps them develop a global perspective and an understanding of the world outside of just Uganda. This is an integral piece of my teaching philosophy and something I really focused on back home, so I am glad I am able to continue this over here.
As the day draws to a close, I return to preschool and help students play dress up, go on a field trip, play in the sandbox, or do a craft. Tutoring is the very last thing I do; I pull students aside to do one-on-one work and further develop what they have been learning in class. Looking back at my day, I feel very lucky because I am able to work closely with staff in all parts of the ministry, as well as with students in preschool and childcare. It fills me with joy that I am able to teach at so many different levels, but also that I am able to learn so much from the staff and students each day. The love that I am able to receive and give to others here is my favorite thing about HEAL Ministries; it is truly a ministry that embraces Jesus’ call to love others and I am lucky to experience this love and these relationships everyday.
-Courtney Erickson, Volunteer Long Term Intern
We are so thankful and appreciative of our year long interns. Their value can not be expressed in a simple blog…..Take a look at our year-long intern, Lindsey Sletner. She is a wonderful addition to the James Place. Her nursing skills have really helped us in the medical department, including reduced medical bills!
“So what will my average day look like at the James Place?”
This is the question I continually asked before and after arriving here in Jinja. However, everyone I talked to just kind of chuckled and said I would be very busy but no one could really give me a solid answer. After being here for almost 3 months, I completely understand how hard it is to summarize my day, but I’m going to try for you.
My days are constantly changing, the core structure of it remains the same but being the nurse means things come up that need my attention. My days all start the same. I say good morning to all the preschoolers and then make my way down to childcare to do a quick overall assessment of how the kids and childcare workers are feeling. I then make my way around the property to other staff to see how they are feeling physically but also just to build relationships and talk to them. After making my daily rounds I usually end up back down playing with the kids. Some days if someone is sick I end up in my office doing a malaria test or taking them to the doctors office to find out what's going on. That's what usually changes in my days, unexpected trips to the doctor or kids falling and getting hurt and needing basic first aid.
One of my favorite parts of the day is bath time. After we feed all the kids lunch we line up 7 basins and bath all 60 kids, every day!! We then take them to nap time and get to eat lunch ourselves. Each day after lunch we do chores which is a great time to build relationships with the staff. My afternoons are spent playing with the kids, if I'm not running to the clinic.
I was asked "What does HEAL mean to me?" and I had to think about the best way to describe it. But the only way I could come up with is being a part of a large, loving family. Every time I'm gone for a day or come back from the doctors kids coming running for hugs and the staff always welcome me back with open arms. I don't know if I have ever felt so loved.
Honestly being the nurse means most kids end up scared of me for a short period of time after they have gotten hurt or sick. I'm the one that has to make sure their wounds are clean or help hold them down when they need an IV. Two weeks ago, one of the little boys, Reyon, was really sick. Reyon is 3 and is more interested in playing with his friends than all the white people on property so I didn't necessarily have a relationship with him. He's pretty stubborn so I just let him do his thing. However, all of that changed when he was sick. For 5 days we went to the doctors, which in Africa isn't a quick trip. He ended up needing multiple blood draws and a couple of IVs-and let me tell you, he really doesn't like needles. At first I thought he definitely was going to hate me, I mean I was the one holding him down anytime a needle was involved. But we spent a lot of time in the waiting room just sitting and we bonded a lot! Now, everyday when he sees me he comes running for a hug, if I'm off he ask his mom where I am. My heart has never been so full - I still think I'm the only intern he will come to; he will stop playing to run and hug me. A boy I thought was so stubborn has the sweetest heart. It's amazing how God can turn truly painful moments into beautiful relationships. I'm thankful to be a part of the HEAL family.
It’s hard to believe that I first came to the James Place over two years ago. I love HEAL Ministries and all that we do. I love that we help mamas young and old keep their families together by providing a safe place for their children to come and learn while they go and work. I love that we empower women by teaching them a trade so they can become sustainable. I love that we have hired from within the women in our program and now 15 of them on our staff. I love that we have allowed God to shape the ministry and that even in the two years that I have been a part of it, we have grown and changed so much. I love seeing our artisan program expanding and all of the beautiful products that our women are creating. I love seeing the joyous faces of the children in our program, and I love getting to watch them grow up. I love that despite facing hard, sometimes almost impossible, situations, that God is always good and He is always faithful.
The other day, I was sitting with some of the women on our artisan staff. They were asking to see pictures of my family. The next day, I brought pictures with me to show them. First my brother and sister, then my Mom and Dad. When one of the women, Doreen Irachan, saw the picture of my father, she exclaimed, "Woah. Big… like me." I literally burst out laughing. Irachan is a bit of a bigger woman and my father is a bit of a bigger man. Both are beautiful and I love them so much just the way they are. When she saw my sister, she claimed that the two of them were sisters. This was such a beautiful moment for me, where family became connected beyond borders. The family who shares the same DNA and blood as me, to our family in Christ. I explained in this moment to them that my Mom was coming to visit in December. They all got so excited and then one of the women, Zauja, exclaimed, "I love you so much!" Many days are hard but there are beautiful moments like this that make it all worthwhile.
A day at the James Place for me is always filled with many things. I typically start my mornings by sorting through the many emails that I receive from Tina while she is stateside. I prioritize these and work on accomplishing whatever needs to get done throughout the day. I go around and make sure that things are going smoothly in the artisan program. I tell them which product is priority to be created and ask about any needs that they have from me. I help oversee the staff and make sure things are getting done on schedule. I assist with bath time for all of the kids and help put them down for nap. You will probably find me working on expenses in some way, whether it be categorizing and converting receipts in order to give the expense report for this side or doing staff and artisan payroll. Towards the end of the day, I collect all of the product that was made and check the quality of it. I also collect the receipts at the end of the day and make sure that everything adds up correctly. If we have guests on the property, you’ll find me giving them a tour and showing them our store that has all of the product that our women make. You might also find me running to town to deliver product to a store in town that carries our product wholesale. I also help create a lot of the marketing tools we use on this side as well as stateside and do the majority of upkeep of our website. No matter what it is that I’m doing, I’m doing it to the best of my God given ability. I thank the Lord that He has placed me here, for such a time as this, to do this work that He has called me to do. One heart at a time, we are bringing people closer to Jesus and showing them examples of His love.
-Betty Ross, Manager of Administration and Marketing
“So, like what exactly do you do?”
The infamous question that is sometimes hard for me to quickly answer.
If you do not know much about HEAL Ministries and the James Place in Jinja, Uganda where I have been living for the past three and a half months, go check out this link.
My job, as a social work intern, touches on almost every aspect of the James Place. Just like social work in America, we make sure people have what they need and are in a safe environment. If they are not, we do something about it. There are 42 staff members at The James Place, 68 children enrolled in our childcare program, and over 40 women and 1 man (can’t forget about sweet Abraham) in our artisan program. The social work department makes home visits to each of these homes and checks for overall safety of the home, mosquito nets for sleeping, the water source for the home, toilet and bathing area, and assesses for other issues or problems.
In Ugandan culture, if someone offers you something (like food or drink) it is RUDE to not accept it….even if you do not want it. Often times on home visits, the occupants of the home will offer something of some sort. During my time here, I have been given g-nuts (ground nuts- which are like a peanut), bananas, chapati (DEFINITELY did not turn that offer down ;)), soda, and water. It is naturally an uncomfortable situation when you are offered something that you do not want. So in the past three and a half months I have become very used to accepting any offer and just taking what is given to me.
Some other activities that the social work department does is three month follow-ups. We assess and evaluate the person’s overall goals and lifestyle they are living. Being that HEAL is a Christian-based organization, we also assess the client’s spiritual goals. This process automatically builds a relationship with the client because we ask so many questions about their life. It is one of my favorite parts about my job.
Everyday around 12:15pm is bath time. Every single staff member takes a part in bathing the 60+ children that we have in childcare. I LOVE BATH TIME. Bathing children seems like a chore to some, but it is such a special time for me. We bathe the children in plastic basins and are able to finish bathing every child in less than 30 minutes. WOW.
The children are put down for a nap from 1:00pm-3:00pm so it is usually pretty quiet on the compound for those two hours (except for when the staff volleyball game is going on at 1:30pm!).
1:00pm is lunchtime for the staff, artisan women, and interns. Here is what our weekly menu looks like- Mondays: rice, beans, eggplant, and avocado. Tuesday (the intern favorite): rice, beans, and chapati. Wednesday: posho, black eyed peas, cabbage, and avocado. Thursday: rice, beans, and a roll. Friday: Irish potatoes, green beans and peppers, dodo (a spinach type green), pineapple, and watermelon. Saturday: rice, beans, avocado, banana, and chapati. So, if you were wondering what the food situation looks like, there ya have it!
From 2:00pm-3:00pm everyday is chore time. Chores include washing tarps, diapers, diaper inserts, preschool and English class socks and uniforms, wash clothes from bath time, toys from the playground, and washing dishes in the kitchen. Chore time is such a wonderful time just to sit and talk with everyone, sharing stories, trying to learn Luganda, and laughing. You can learn a lot about a person in an hour!
HEAL partners with other organizations in the Jinja area as well. Ministries such as Jinja Pregnancy Care Center, Amani Baby Cottage, Abide Family Center, Sole Hope, and Ekisa Ministries. The social workers are often in contact with each other when one ministry refers a client to another ministry in hopes for finding a better fit for the client. I have gotten the chance to visit each of these organizations during my time here and love what each of them do!
If you ask any person at the James Place what Alexis’ favorite day of the week is, you will hear the answer “Saturdays, because of Kids Club!” Kids Club is my absolute favorite time of the week! The James Place opens their gates from 2:00pm-5:00pm on Saturdays for all kids from the local neighborhoods and villages to come and play, learn a Bible story, eat a snack, drink clean water, and just be KIDS for three hours. You will find children of all ages running down Kisinja Rd. holding younger siblings hands, carrying them on their backs, trying to get in the gates as fast as possible. I have built so many relationships through Kids Club that I absolutely HATE missing a Saturday! Actually, even when I am off on a Saturday you will find me out on the compound during Kids Club because I love it that much.
This place and organization have brought so many wonderful people into my life that I know I will never forget. Even though I only have two and a half months left in this joyous place, it will remain a part of me forever.
- Alexis Sullivan, Volunteer Long Term Intern
It is only because of our donors that we are able to continue empowering abandoned women and children and widows to keep their families together while they strive for sustainability. Due to our donors generosity, we were recently able to hire new staff members to continue running as well as expand our programs here at the James Place.
We now have 44 local Ugandan staff who operate the James Place on a daily basis!
Assisting them are our international interns serving over the next year.
Meet our long term interns!
Nursing Intern – Lindsey Sletner has joined the team to serve the medical needs of the James Place. She is from Eau Claire, WI and studied at Oral Roberts University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. "I have spent the past two years working in a Burn Critical Care Unit in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also, I have previously participated in many different mission trips." We are grateful for Lindsey's heart to serve our staff, women, and children's medical needs!
Education Intern - Courtney Erickson will serve with us in our childcare and Preschool department. She's from Snellville, GA and attended Georgia College & State University, graduating with a degree in Middle Grades Education. "I was a student teacher for two years, teaching English and Social Studies to students of all ages and I have also coached a variety of sports at different ages." We are thankful for her and her willingness to teach our little ones!
Education Intern – Katherine Christopher will serve with us in the childcare and English department. She is from Birmingham, AL and attended Auburn University, graduating with a degree in Elementary Education. "I have had experience in the classroom for five years and have worked for a preschool ministry." She instantly created special bonds with the children because of her contagious smile and eager servant’s heart!
Early Childhood Education Intern - Hope Martin will serve with us in the childcare and Preschool department. She is from Brentwood, TN and attended the University of TN Chattanooga, graduating with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Ed (Birth - 3 Education and Special Ed K-12). "I have been teaching in the classroom for 5 years working with both regular and special ed." She has a deep passion for Christ and children, and we are blessed to have her!
Social Work Intern – Alexis Sullivan comes to the James Place with knowledge and organization in social work. She is from Greensboro, NC and attended East Carolina University, graduating with both a Bachelor and Masters of Social Work. "Building relationships is my favorite part of social work. At the James Place, relationships are one of the most important aspects!" Alexis will be working directly with our Ugandan Director of Social Work for 6 months. We are excited to have a young lady that is passionate about loving others and keeping families together!
Preschool & Childcare Intern –Kennedy Petit will serve with us in our childcare and Preschool program. She is from Sullivan's Island, SC and attended Wando High School. She is taking a gap year with us before attending college. "I feel so blessed to be able to serve the beautiful people of Uganda this year. God is doing big things at HEAL, and I am so lucky to be able to be a small part of this incredible place." Kennedy has jumped right into life at the James Place and we are excited to have someone so willing to serve and so eager to love our children!
Preschool & Childcare Intern – Halina Hannon will serve with us in our childcare and Preschool program. She is from Nashville, TN and graduated from The Ensworth School this past May. She is taking a gap year this year and plans to attend college in the fall of 2017. "I am excited for this experience to further my understanding of global and international studies which I hope to pursue in college." Halina is a wonderful addition to our team and we are very grateful that she decided to spend her gap year with us, loving on our children!