Five Minutes with Pastor James

08/01/13

A few weeks ago, our Uganda country director, Pastor James Okalo Ekwang, came to the United States for a visit. I got to sit down with Pastor James and his wife, Agnes, and ask them a few questions about how your support through sponsorship is changing lives in Uganda. Living there, they see the whole picture—see the children and families change, the culture shift, and whole communities have their hope and faith restored. 

 
Pastor James and Agnes with COTN-USA staffer Doug Engberg
    Pastor James and Agnes (here with COTN-USA's Doug Engberg) visited the United States earlier this summer. 
 
I wiped tears from my eyes as I frantically tried to record everything James said to share with you. Here's what I got:
 
CB: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing children in your area of northern Uganda?
 
Pastor James: The biggest challenge is denying children's rights. First of all, the right to a good family—where you are loved and taken care of. Second of all, the right to education. When you deny a child education, basically you have denied their right to a future. The reason is the parents are saying, "We don't have money." But a lot of times, especially the girl child is just being prepared for marriage because the family wants a bride price. So they prioritize that. 
 
And that's not even mentioning the right to medical care and food. Our child mortality rate is very high, because of malnutrition. The children are simply not fed. And I grew up in that, I know what that's like. 
 
Pastor James says children in the Lira area struggle
Pastor James says children in the Lira area struggle with lack of education, lack of nutrition, no access to medical care, and often don't have a loving family to care for them. 
 
CB: What difference does sponsorship make? 
 
James: Sponsorship removes them from that state of hopelessness, despair. Now they are set on a foundation—a path of hope. 
 
Through sponsorship, many of them have got a family. Many who were not Christian, are Christian. Their potential which would have just wasted away is now being used. Many would have grown up thinking they were useless. Maybe someone told them, "Your parents have been killed, you are hopeless, now you need to kill people." 
 
But you sponsors are a part of redeeming creation, and transforming the nation. When you give your small portion, that little thing that you give, it is breaking [open] a world of opportunity for children. 
 
It has even impacted all the parents in the area, even if they don't have a child in the program. We tell them, "The people who are giving, they don't have very much money. So how about you?" We are seeing intentionality with money—that even those who had some money before, now they are using it well, they are caring for their children. 
 
Pastor James with a sponsored child in Uganda
                Your support through sponsorship helps Pastor James and other staff care for children in Uganda. 
 
Agnes quietly interjected: Marriages are remaining strong because of sponsorship. Suppose you have a family with ten children. Then your brother dies, so you take in five more children. There is so much stress on your marriage because you cannot provide for them all. Sponsorship makes the work not as hard, so the marriage doesn't break.
 
James: Some of the corruption we have in workplaces is changing, too. Some corruption is just because people have too much responsibility—too many children to care for and they cannot do it. So they have to steal, just so their kids don't go hungry. Sponsorship makes it so they don't have to steal. 
 
Agnes says sponsorship helps restore and strengthen the whole family
                                    Agnes says sponsorship helps restore and strengthen the whole family. 
 
CB: How have you seen sponsorship impact the children specifically?
 
James: When we first cared for these children after the war, we did trauma counseling. We would tell the children, "Draw what you are thinking, what is in your head." They could only draw guns, people torching huts—like the rebels used to do—and massacre. 
 
Given a marker and paper, the children used to draw nothing but violence
                                   Given a marker and paper, the children used to draw nothing but violence. 
 
James: Today, if you give them paper, they are drawing skyscrapers, because they want to be engineers. They are drawing robes, because they hope to become pastors. They are drawing hoods because they want to be lawyers and judges. They can dream again. 
 
Today, the children have much more hopeful things to draw

Will you join Pastor James and be part of redeeming creation? 500 children need sponsors before school begins on September 1. Will you Be One? Sponsor a child today!