Monday, December 31, 2012

Empower African Children -Heroes in Africa

How do you change lives in impoverished countries?  Many people and organizations are trying. As part of my series, Heroes in Africa, I want you to learn about the work of Empower African Children (EAC). Our family helps to sponsor one of their students whom we know and love.
Empower's approach is to use education to transform the lives of orphaned, vulnerable students in Uganda a country with 2.7 million orphans. The goal is to prepare them for a lifetime of influence
How is this accomplished?

Empower African Children has 3 primary programs.

1) Ugandan Student Education Scholarships.
Scholarships are provided for orphaned and/or vulnerable students to attend a private boarding school outside of Kampala. Scholarships are given to both primary and secondary school students. During school or summer breaks these students return to Empower's training center in Kampala where they live in a home style setting. The time in Kampala is used to nurture and love these kids and to continue the learning process. Activities include tutoring, counseling, guest speakers or workshops on leadership, technology and the arts. Empower also partners with organizations to provide services to help make EAC students globally competitive.

In Uganda, less than 20% of Ugandan students graduate from secondary school (U.S. grades 7-12). 
Yet, 100% of Empower Scholars have completed secondary education.

Many of EAC's students have experienced "dead or lost years" missing school due to hardships or lack of money. 
It is heartbreaking what some of these children have endured in their lifetimes.

I feel Empower really rescues these children!
Sponsoring a Ugandan student’s education through Empower’s program is an investment of  life-changing proportions for these children and young adults. Future leaders for Africa and the world result from programs like Empower African Children.

Their website states- 
"At Empower African Children, we make long term deeply rooted commitments to our students to help them fully realize their promise. Our goal is to move our students from the chalkboard to the laptop in a single generation; moving from subsistence farming to real enterprise ownership and leading service management positions."

How Does EAC find these orphans or vulnerable boys and girl?

Students are selected from all over Uganda based upon the following criteria.
1) Orphaned and/or comes from a vulnerable family situation.
2) Recommended by leaders in their village or area.
3) Talented in the arts or academics. 
Some of these students are trained in music and dance and join the Spirit of Uganda Tour which is described below. 

2) U.S. Scholarship program - sending the brightest and most gifted of Empower's Ugandan students to study in the United States and later return to Uganda to work and serve there in each students area of expertise. 
EAC's remaining students study at universities or technical schools in East Africa. Only 3% of students in Uganda graduate from university, yet every Empower scholar completes a post-secondary education before they complete the EAC program. 

My family helps to sponsor one of these students studying in the United States. His name is Peter Mugga
Peter is a brilliant musician. In national exams given in Uganda in 2005, Peter tested as the best music student in all of Uganda.

Peter at a 2009 performance at college

 If Empower had not found him,Peter would not have
 had the opportunity to develop his 
 amazing God given talent. 
 He is currently finishing his studies in the U.S.

Peter at our house this Christmas

U.S. Scholarship Students

3) Spirit of Uganda Tour - Empower's touring company, Spirit of Uganda, gives music and dance performances in North America every 2 years. This tour brings attention to the plight of Uganda’s more than 2 million orphans. The next tour is in 2014.

Provide a Scholarship

Unlike most orphan related programs, it is possible for you to have the opportunity to meet the student you help, either in Kampala on a Visitor Program or in the United States if that student in on tour with the Spirit of Uganda or a scholarship student.
Contact Alexis Hefley to learn more. 

I invite you to explore their website and learn about Godly work in Uganda.
Empower African Children and the Spirit of Uganda.
Read more about their students on the EAC blog

The Bible says-

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly: defend the rights of the poor and needy. -Proverbs 31:8-9

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
It is not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
-Isaiah 58:6-7

And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness, and you night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always,
he will satisfy you needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. 
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail
-Isaiah 58:10-11

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land
-Deuteronomy 15:11

Meet the Founder

Their vision was inspired by their founder Alexis Hefley who has almost 20 years of work with Ugandan children. EAC was co-founded with Donna Malouf and is based in Dallas, TX and in Uganda. 

Alexis whom I know personally is an amazing individual. She has worked tirelessly to help children in Uganda. 
She believes in raising leaders so the future of Uganda and places like it can be bright. 
As stated in their website "We help our students focus on the future rather than losses in their past. 
Instead of being defined by their circumstances, they focus on an “I can” attitude, even when it would be easy to say “I can’t.” 

Peter Mugga 
Francis Lubuulwa

Betty Nakato

Located in Eastern Africa, west of Kenya and east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Uganda is slightly smaller than the size of Oregon. Uganda's capital city, Kampala, is located in the southeast section of Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Lake Victoria is famed for being the source of the river Nile and is Africa's largest lake.

The Six C's of education.
Current program partners include:

Founders - Alexis far left, Donna far right
-Empower African Children
-Alexis Hefley

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Honor God by Donating to Charities at Christmas

Give GIFTS at Christmas & year round that actually change lives! Your gift choices matter. You can help make an impact for eternity and in our world for good.
Now that is something joyful to celebrate.

God is at work through the wonderful charities listed below. Donations are desperately needed and welcome.

If you have children, involve them in the joy of giving by sitting together and clicking on the links below, reviewing the choices and seeing what moves their heart.

Honor God in thankfulness for the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and amazing Savior. God's gift of love to you.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

I pray you put your faith into action

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give,not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver"  2 Corinthians 9:7

Samaritans Purse Gift Catalog  Gifts of Hope for A Hurting World. This is a favorite charity of our family. We love to give gifts from this catalog in honor of our family and friends.
We have given bibles, chickens, a bicycle to name a few.
The catalog states: God's compassions "are new every morning-Lamentations 3:23).
So are fresh eggs for families who raise chickens supplied by Samaritan's Purse." New chicks will provide food and enough eggs to sell or trade at market.
One year their website stated:
"It's true, gift cards make it on most Christmas wish lists. They're a practical, one-size-fits-all present. But we know of these gifts of hope are even more powerful than a piece of plastic, while just as convenient and easy to give.

Any gift you choose will be the perfect one because it comes wrapped in the love of our Heavenly Father."

Frontiers  Working in the Muslim world "with love and respect, inviting all Muslim peoples to follow Jesus."
This is another favorite of our family. Quite a few years ago when we were in need of babysitters for our boys, we liked to use missionaries. One of those babysitters we now help to support through this organization. Why Muslims? 


Iran Alive Ministries  Transforming Iran into A Christian Nation in this Generation. They need your prayers and support.

Gospel for Asia -Many ways to Donate- Sponsoring a missionary or a child are two of the many ways to help. GFA focuses on reaching the most unreached in South Asia. It is an incredible ministry founded by K.P. Yohannan.
You can even give a Water Buffalo or a sweet little Lamb in the "gifts from the stable"category. Or help a missionary spread the word by donating money for lanterns, a bicycle or a LCD projector kit.

World Vision Gift Catalog  This is a wonderful organization. Since 1994 we have enjoyed the privilege of sponsoring orphans through World Vision. Please take a look at their Christmas gift catalog. Gift categories include - Animals, Kids in the USA, Clean Water, Clothing, Shelter, Education,Orphans and Widows, Girls, Women and Hunger, Medical Care or  Emergency Aid. 

Empower African Children I love this ministry and its founder Alexis Hefley.
This small yet effective organization transforms the lives of orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. I will be publishing a post about this organization in the coming week.

Youth for Christ International This year (2012) has 27,559 Staff & volunteers in 128 countries on a Mission
Including the UK,  Russia, Canada, Ukraine, France, Philippines, Germany, India, Ireland, Haiti, Pakistan, Peru, Malaysia, Spain, Australia, Myanmar, Nepal and the USA.

"Reaching young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other likeminded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social involvement."

Angel Tree - A program of Prison Fellowship since 1982. In the U.S.(2012)  there are 1.7 million children that have a parent behind bars.
Bless the child of a prisoner with a gift and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Their website states-
"No child deserves to feel forgotten and alone. When you partner with Angel Tree, you help prisoners’ children know they’re not forgotten, you help share the Gospel with lonely families, and you serve as an example of Christ’s love to the parents behind bars." and "You'll remind these innocent children of their mommy or daddy's love. But that's not all, you'll also be giving them the best gift — the reminder that they don't have to carry their burdens alone. Jesus is there for them, too." 

Focus on the Family - Give a gift to help Families Thrive in the U.S.

Livada Orphan Care  A wonderful ministry serving orphans in Romania. We ask you to consider supporting Livada based upon our personal experience in helping to sponsor a boy through this organization. You can even visit them in Romania!

Prison Fellowship 

Compassion International Gift Catalog  Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries. Their mission- "In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults."

Salvation Army  Founded in 1852 in England. This is a worldwide organization that preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.

To God be the Glory- Julie

God is Love

How to Receive Eternal Salvation
The Jesus Film

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bible Verses for Christmas

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior it is vital that we know and reflect upon the Biblical account of Jesus divine conception and miraculous birth. Reading these verses to your family or friends during the Christmas season or with those who are far away from God is a wonderful way to share the truth and discuss the true meaning of Christmas.
Here is the Christmas story followed by some of my favorite Bible verses for Christmas.

Cross of Flowers 
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the Old Testament
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. -Isaiah 7:14

In the New Testament
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.
37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
-Luke 1:26-38

Jesus Birth
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
-Matthew 1:18

19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). 
-Matthew 1:19-23
(to read Joseph's reaction click Matthew 1:24-25)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. -Luke 2:1-7

Shepherds Worship Jesus

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
  14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. - Luke 2:8-20

Magi (Wise Men) from the East Bring Gifts

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
  6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way,
and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. -Matthew 2:1-12

In case you didn't know, biblical scholars believe that Jesus would have been around 2 years old at the time of the Magi's visit.

Examples- a) it would have taken a very long time to travel from the east in those days, b) the Magi found Jesus in a house not a manger and
c) in Matthew 2:16, King Herod orders all boy children under 2 years old to be killed)

Beautiful Bible Verses for Christmas (and always) 

 For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  - Isaiah 9:6

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

“‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine upon you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you    and give you peace.”’ - Numbers 6:24-26

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death
    even death on a cross! 
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name, 
    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

    every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.  - Philippians 2:8-11

To God be the Glory - Julie

Cross of Flowers © Julie Brice Beiersdorf 

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Cried- A Poem from Prison

This is the second poem in a series entitled Poems from Prison. As I explained in my prior post,Fallen Angels, I volunteer in a prison ministry and one of the prisoners so moved me with her poetry that I am publishing it so she may bless others with her candor, emotional outpouring and insights.
It has taken a while to publish additional poems as the writer disappeared from prison for awhile.
I discovered that she had been transferred to another facility.
Via the "prison grapevine" she heard I was looking for her and asking for more poetry. Soon I received more poems in the mail sent on her behalf. 
This was my favorite. 
I Cried

I saw you today as you lured him in
this married man, and watched as you sinned 
I saw you today and tears filled my eyes 
For you child, for you, I cried 
I saw you today as you prayed to a God,
this foreign God, what a lie and facade
I saw you today today and tears filled my eyes 
For you child, for you, I cried 
I saw you today as you told a lie
you said it so fast, like a normal reply

I saw you today and tears filled my eyes 
For you child, for you, I cried
I saw you today as you stole some money
then you laughed, as though sin were funny
I saw you today and tears filled my eyes 
For you child, for you, I cried 
I saw you today with hate in your heart
your husband, he cheated, it tore you apart
I saw you today and tears filled my eyes 
For you child, for you, I died 

-Somer Erickson

If you don't know Jesus there are wonderful resources on listed on right side of this blog under Links to God's work.

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish 
but have eternal life"  -John 3:16 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23

"This is love: not that we loved God,but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
-1 John 4:10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions
—it is by grace you have been saved. -Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus said- "My sheep listen to my voice;
I know them,
and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand."
-John 10:27-28

Do you belong to Jesus? Are you one of His? If not, you have the choice to change your life. Read How to Receive Eternal Salvation-Say "Yes" to Christ.

Jesus can relate to your pain for when he became a man and lived with us for 33 years, he experienced every type of suffering and torment (mental,physical and emotional).

"Therefore Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God 
let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize
with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we areyet was without sin."
-Hebrews 4:14-15

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath
but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep,
we may live together with him."
-1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

To God be the glory- Julie

Fallen Angels (the 1st poem of the series)

I Cried  ©Somer Erickson  
Fallen Angels  ©Somer Erickson