Flood Relief for Honduras

Flood Relief for Honduras

I am a SAMS Associate Missionary and the President of Honduran Operations for Osman Hope, Inc. Osman Hope is a Christian non profit organization that operates four shelters for the poor children of Honduras. Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty by providing basic necessities and ensuring that the children get an education.

Hurricane Eta stomped on Honduras with five days of continuous rain. The result was devastating floods. One of our Osman Hope shelters had water up to its roof. The picture shown is the roof top of our shelter. Two of our workers lost everything as their houses were completely covered with water. The whole community was under water. The waters have yet to completely recede and there is another hurricane expected to hit Honduras again in a few days. This campaign intends to collect funds to restore the houses of the two Osman Hope workers, to restore the shelter and to help the families of the children that attend the shelter as they also lost everything.

Update from SAMS Mission Director Stewart Wicker on November 25, 2020:  The need has increased with the recent devastating effects of Iota which struck many of the same areas as Eta. Our missionaries in Honduras are seeking to respond. Hondurans in the region that Margarita is ministering are facing the most dire circumstances with dwindling food and water supplies, threat of disease, and limited shelter. Millions are displaced and there is no room in the shelters for thousands so they are seeking to create makeshift shelters. I encourage you to join your Society in interceding for Hondurans and other Central Americans who are seeking to survive and be renewed by hope after these back-to-back hurricanes. May our gracious Lord Jesus Christ have mercy. May He be glorified through all the efforts of our missionaries and the Honduran church in sharing His good news in word and deed through the coming months, and for many years, of recovery.


The video above shows one of the teachers from the flooded children’s shelter (previous photo) as she returned to her flooded home!  Pray for wisdom for SAMS Associate Missionary Margarita Grachen and all of the staff of Osman Hope that she ministers with as they seek earnestly for the Lord’s rescue of their community.





















Be a Neighbor, Get a Neighbor

Be a Neighbor, Get a Neighbor

As Cameron and Roberto Vivanco serve in ministry in Ecuador, they have found that people return kindness for kindness. In Ecuador, children often lack the basic resources which are required for school – such as textbooks, uniforms or supplies. Without these items, children can’t attend school. The Vivancos work with local clergy to help equip children in the nation’s capital, Quito, with the supplies they need. They provide micro-scholarships through their ministry Education = Hope (E=H). In the summer of 2019, the Vivancos planned a large festival bringing together students in their ministry. Cameron shares how parents of students responded to the festival invitation:

“We had a children’s festival for students of two of our ministry sites with E=H – all in all about 80 students. There were games and dancing and prizes, but the very best part was the parents and volunteers. We thought we would need about 20 volunteers to run everything. We ended up with over 50 parent volunteers alone. I tried to thank them for helping, but they kept coming to me to thank me for the opportunity to give back. They are so thankful for E=H and the micro-scholarships and were thrilled to be able to help us with something.”

When COVID-19 hit Ecuador in March 2020 and the country locked-down, the Vivanco’s ministry helped 170 families in Quito to cope. Many lost their already meager sources of income. The Vivancos coordinated the delivery of groceries and supplies to help families every two weeks. SAMS’ World Relief Fund provided a grant to support this effort. In the midst of the pandemic, the Vivancos are providing data plans to help students continue their education. This allows students to access virtual lessons from home. In the face of suffering from the pandemic, Cameron and Roberto weave ties of community support that will help carry these neighborhoods through.

The Vivanco’s ministry has resourced other local ministries, such as a home for at-risk teens. Students in a residential program have been able to continue their high school and college education through new computers provided by E=H. As these young men study and live together, they are discipled in Christ. These youth, by God’s grace, can one day give back to their communities in Ecuador. Education and discipleship are gifts that keep on giving.

Agape Year Launches into the Woods

Agape Year Launches into the Woods

SAMS Mission Director Stewart Wicker was blessed to join the Agape Year 4.0 Fellows on the trail for part of their orientation! Ethan, Eva, Aiden, and Amara are building community while facing challenges together along the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Pennsylvania.

Pictured above: SAMS Missionary Nate Twitchell and Fellows Eva and Ethan pose with a great view of God’s creation.

Home in Cambodia again!

Home in Cambodia again!

Thanks be to God!
We are safely back in Cambodia, with one day remaining in our third 14 day quarantine in 5 months.  Let’s just say that we don’t recommend movement between countries during a pandemic!  While the summer had many encouragements, it was disappointing for us to miss out on connecting with supporters and churches.

The Lord gave us grace through a host of logistics to return to Phnom Penh.  First, we were able to obtain new visas through a church/business connection.  Second, the Cambodian government has rightly instituted a rigorous screening and entry process (the national case count is under 300, with no reported Covid-19 deaths, and they are committed to preserving that).  Here’s the short version: proof of insurance, cash deposit, pre-flight Covid tests, medical certificates, round two of testing in the airport on arrival, hotel quarantine while awaiting results, and round three of testing prior to the end of at-home quarantine.  We’re so thankful for all those who helped us through both sides of the process, from writing testing orders to dropping groceries at the door of our sublet.

Five days ago, just when we were about to get bored (ok, not really), the government announced that churches are allowed to reopen.  We arrived just in time!  After 6 months of online worship, this is welcome news, but it comes with a long list of mandated restrictions, including limiting attendance to adults only.  There’s much to negotiate, but we thank God for open doors to begin worshipping together and rejoice in the figuring out new ways to connect the CCOP church family.

Despite its low case numbers, Cambodia has been deeply affected by Covid-19, with the near shutdown of tourism and a dramatic decrease in garment factory work.  Our friends and church members who work in anti-trafficking tell us that they are seeing pronounced spikes in trafficking, particularly of children, due to increased economic hardship in impoverished families. Lord, have mercy.

Still in The Waiting Room for Uganda

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

[Romans 8:23a-24]

Naye ekisuubirwa ekirabika si kusuubira, kubanga ani asuubira ky’alabako?  Naye bwe tusuubira kye tutalabako, tukirindirira n’okugumiikiriza.

[Abaruumi 8:23a-24]

Dear Friends –

Our last (and as it happens, the first) newsletter was titled “In the Waiting Room for Uganda”. We’re still in that waiting room. Like so many people in so many ways, adapting to a life of sustained uncertainty as we wait out COVID-19, and its transformative effect on our plans.

We had anticipated beginning our lives in Uganda by now. In that storyline, we would be making a home out of a faculty apartment somewhere on the Uganda Christian University campus. We imagine that we would have been choosing among furnishings for the apartment between chairs and table sets that might be floating around the aftermarket of UCU faculty members and expat missionaries in Mukono or Kampala or even as far as Jinja. We might have decided to commission the making of a bed from one of the many furniture craftsmen in Mukono Town who set their products made from handsome African woods in the hard-pack lots in front of their shops along Lower Bishop Tucker Road, or along the A-109 or one of its side streets. Catherine would be checking which vendors in front of which groceries offered the best produce, and we might even have gutted and cleaned our first chicken from the market.

We would be getting more and more familiar with the walks to and from town, down and then back up Bishop Tucker Road, with its mix of ulcerated macadam, mud, and craters for puddles. Most certainly we would have returned home at least once from such a trip splashed with bright red clay mud courtesy of a passing truck. We would have plugged holes in our screens. We would have been familiarizing ourselves with the news announcers on NTV Uganda, along with BBC, Al-Jazeera, and CNN International. We would have been guided to sleep by the nighttime songs of birds we had not yet seen, and awakened by the splendid sunrises over Mukono’s hills, and the dawn call to prayer from the Mosque down the hill and just past the markets on the Jinja Road.

That is a future we can envision, but it is not ours yet. Uganda is still closed to foreign entry. The principal international airport at Entebbe on the other side of Kampala is open only to pre-arranged charters. There is still an early evening curfew that the Uganda National Police enforce in blunt and uncompromising ways. Gatherings larger than ten are not permitted, and churches, schools, and amusements remain closed. Just as here in America, Zoom has largely replaced face-to-face gatherings, and “Isaac, you are still on mute” is as familiar a watch word as it is on this continent. This month, UCU will observe the transition from the administration of Vice Chancellor Rev Dr John Senyonyi (who has become our friend) to that of Vice Chancellor-designate Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, but sadly without the pomp and circumstance from academic tradition that UCU honors like universities anywhere in the world – a tradition that at least at UCU expresses in ceremony the university’s vision to be “a centre of excellence in the heart of Africa”.

Then, out of the blue in the midst of waiting, Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of June. It was detected at a very early stage, before spreading beyond the prostate. Our first months of retirement in June and July wound up dedicated to the tasks of selecting among treatment options, choosing laparascopic surgery, scheduling and having the surgery, and now recovering from the surgery. Laparascopy is a miracle procedure, an improvement on prior surgical techniques, even so for the first few days, in Richard’s words, “it feels like taking a fence post in the gut”. He’s slowly and steadily on the road back, and adding incremental distance to his morning and evening walks.

The juxtaposition of remaining in a waiting mode in a time of uncertainty, combined with an unwelcome cancer diagnosis, plus the inconveniences of surgery with a couple of complications has driven home for us a lesson worth learning and holding onto. Gratitude and hope are not sentiments. They are disciplines. Yes, it is frustrating to live in our small “it was meant to be temporary” apartment in Silver Spring. It is frustrating not yet to be able to begin the adventure toward which we have oriented our lives. But Richard’s prostate cancer was discovered here, the surgery was performed here by an expert in the procedure, and his recovery is taking place here – where we live within a walking distance of a drug store for the various supplies upon which we have been relying. And he’s cancer free with no follow-up treatment indicated, which will allow us to head to Uganda when the country finally opens.

 A scene from a quiet afternoon on the UCU campus. Much more tranquil than Lower Bishop Tucker Road!

So in this time of waiting, we give thanks. And in this time of uncertainty and frustration, we embrace hope. Not as mere sentiments, but as our anchors. We continue to receive affirmations for our call to serve at UCU. We continue to see the Lord’s hand in this adventure, and continue to see him pointing toward the road that lies ahead. We continue to receive support and encouragement from you, our friends, in a multitude of meaningful ways. In one sense, we’re still in that waiting room, but in another that is equally real, we’re on our journey – to the heart of Africa. Thank you for being with us on that journey. 

In faith,
Richard and Catherine

PS: We want to celebrate and offer our congratulations to Dr Roselyn Karagonjo-Segawa on her appointment to chair Uganda’s Leadership Code Tribunal. As Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dean Roselyn was to have become our supervisor once we began our work at UCU, and over a couple of years of correspondence as we have been preparing to serve at UCU, Dean Roselyn has also become our friend. She now has a very important job with the Government. The Leadership Code Tribunal is mandated by Uganda’s Constitution to enforce the Leadership Code, including receiving, examining and adjudicating any breach of the code, and to make formal recommendations on disciplinary actions to be taken against a Government officer under its jurisdiction. And it was characteristic of Dean Roselyn’s generous heart that she set up a Zoom call for us to meet her designated successor as Dean before she left UCU. Prayers and blessings, Roselyn, as you take on this important role. https://ucu.ac.ug/component/content/article/83-updates/171-former-ucu-law-dean-sworn-in-as-chairperson-leadership-code-tribunal?Itemid=437