Christ-Centered Stability for Honduran Kids

Christ-Centered Stability for Honduran Kids

By Kim and Michael Miller

We provide leadership for Hope of Jesus (HOJ), a Christ-centered project of the Honduran Episcopal Church, which desires a family for every child in its care. The mission of Hope of Jesus is to provide protection, daily care, education, spiritual formation, and emotional wellbeing for vulnerable children in need of temporary, out-of-home care accommodations, while encouraging their permanent family-based placement. The vision of Hope of Jesus is for each child to be placed in a permanent, loving family where he/she can achieve physical and emotional wholeness, and thrive in the love and acceptance of Christ.

A Home and Supportive Community for Vulnerable Kids
Hope of Jesus Children’s Home is a refuge for children who have suffered traumatic events, requiring them to live in out-of-home care accommodations as wards of the government.

During the initial gatekeeping process done by DINAF (Honduran Child Protection Services) a decision is made in the best interests of the child to remove the child from their family home. At this point, the child officially becomes a ward of the state of Honduras and enters formal out-of-home, alternative care until they can be reunited with their family of origin or be appropriately placed with a foster or adoptive family. The reason for a child’s removal from the family home can vary greatly from severe, prolonged abuse of the child to a momentary economic crisis. However, once the child enters formal out-of-home care, they can become lost in the system. In many cases, the momentary crisis has passed, but now the family isn’t able to locate the child due to fear or ignorance of how to navigate the system. HOJ helps stabilize this process for children and families. HOJ Children’s Home desires to: improve each child’s social-emotional wellbeing by reducing the amount of time spent in a residential care facility, connect each child with a stable family, become a national leader among small group homes in Honduras, and become a model transitional care option in the northern region of Honduras.

Hope of Jesus Family and After-Care Services monitors the holistic wellbeing of children who leave HOJ Children’s Home, either through family reunification or reintegration back into the community as a young adult. HOJ Family and After-Care Case Workers coordinate professional social and mental health services for families who have potential for reunification, coordinate spiritual care through the local church, and provide economic empowerment when necessary.

HOJ maintains the philosophy that poverty or opportunity level should not be a barrier to a child being reunified with their family. Therefore, HOJ is committed to working with a select number of high potential families to facilitate positive change, which could empower the family to receive their child back into a safe, loving, and permanent environment.

HOJ’s team of professionals licensed in social work, psychology, and law evaluates and monitors each child’s case. The team represents the child and the family to support the best permanent placement for each child, then moves the child and their family through the social welfare system and back to stability. 

Hope of Jesus Response to COVID-19 
The dedicated staff at HOJ Children’s Home took immediate action in response to COVID-19 to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of the virus within HOJ. Staff members and children were trained in how the virus was spread and a special protocol was developed to minimize risk of infection to children and staff. Family visits were suspended for those children who have extended family members, and schools began virtual instruction.

Virtual education is one of the biggest challenges HOJ has faced during the COVID-19 crisis. Our children attend five different schools, each school with a different way they are communicating instruction. We did not have an on-site educator to work with the children and supervise their instruction, help them with using the computer, and keep track of assignments being turned in on time, so these duties were spread out amongst the support staff members. However, the workload became overwhelming.

A SAMS World Relief Fund (WRF) Grant allowed us to hire an unemployed educator in the community.  This educator directly assists the children and ensures they are meeting expectations and receiving a quality education, even in the midst of a crisis. Without the much-needed funds from the WRF Grant, we would not have been able to hire a temporary, full-time educator and our kids’ education would have suffered. 

Overcoming additional workload and responsibilities while coordinating a virtual education for the kids was a significant challenge, which was compounded by almost daily power outages during months of quarantine. Power outages are still occurring weekly and for extended periods of time, causing the children to lose valuable instruction and get behind in assigned work, reducing communication with family, and making it difficult to keep refrigerated foods from spoiling. 

In March, to reduce the spread of the virus, the Honduran government issued a mandate that people can leave their homes only one day a week to buy supplies and do banking. This mandate has continued throughout the crisis and has just recently been extended to two days a week. HOJ had to receive a special permit to allow our employees to continue working and traveling during the quarantine; because caring for children is a twenty-four hour a day job, which doesn’t stop during global pandemics, floods, or hurricanes. 

From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, our direct-care staff members (the caregivers of the children) have worked longer shifts to minimize the possibility of infection, but this has meant long absences from home for them during a very uncertain time. Support staff members (psychologist, social worker, administrator, director, maintenance man, etc.), who live outside our village, moved on-site during the week to minimize infection and reduce transportation costs. Our direct-care staff provides meals for the support staff, and our maintenance man has become our chauffeur. When public transportation was shut down in March, our staff had no way to get to work. So we began transporting staff members to and from work in order to minimize the risk of infection to our caregivers while using public transportation.

Even when they were under the increased demands of an overwhelming workload, the hardship of having to live on-site at HOJ, and at great personal risk to themselves, HOJ staff members have worked to serve others less fortunate than themselves.

HOJ has several children who have been returned to their families or have graduated from the home to live independently. HOJ also is currently working with several families in crisis so they can become stable and receive their children back. HOJ staff members used funds from a SAMS WRF Grant to provide groceries for these families during pandemic lockdown. Here are stories of two of the families (names changed), written by an HOJ worker.

Sharing God’s Provision
The Sanchez family is made up of four people. José and Maya are the heads of household, and they are dedicated to the urban transportation service (driver and helper). Maya is the biological mother of children currently residing at Hope of Jesus Children’s Home. She is diligently working to stabilize her family to regain custody of her children. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, public transportation has stopped nationwide and the family has been without employment. They support the family with a small income from the sale of natural juices at certain points around their city.

Thanks to the help that Hope of Jesus provided through the SAMS WRF Grant, this family now has a variety of foods in their kitchen. Maya mentioned: “What a blessing it is that you helped us. I hope God continues to bless the Children’s Home and all those who work there.”

Providing Food, Decreasing Stress, Enabling Education
The Perez family consists of five people, including Mila, an older sister who graduated from Hope of Jesus Children’s Home as a young adult. Alicia is the mother of the family and currently, like Mila, only has occasional, informal jobs with low income. Alicia’s main source of income prior to COVID-19 was as a street vendor selling baked goods. During lockdown, there has been no movement as all shops and businesses remain closed and no one is allowed in the streets by order of the police. Due to Covid-19 it has been difficult for both Alicia and Mila to find stable jobs and bring a permanent income into their home. As well as seeking odd jobs to make ends meet, they must also take care of the three young children in the family, ages 6, 10, and 12. They help the kids navigate their education, which is extremely difficult without proper instruction and without a computer. However, due to the help that Hope of Jesus provided through the SAMS WRF Grant, the Perez family will have food for several weeks. This gives them the opportunity to concentrate on looking for work and establishing a routine for the children’s education. Family relationships will improve as well because empty bellies make for cranky children and an overly-stressed mother. Alicia mentioned: “Thank you for the help you are giving us, the children are very happy.”

Honduras is now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Many are suffering from flooding and high winds. Please pray for Honduras.

 Fictitious names have been used to protect the privacy of children and families we serve. 

Medical and Mercy Ministry at a Refugee Camp in the Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria

Medical and Mercy Ministry at a Refugee Camp in the Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria

By Rev. Tom Furrer, SAMS Associate Missionary and President of Kateri Medical Services (KMS). KMS is an American nonprofit working in partnership with local Anglican dioceses in Nigeria. KMS runs full-time medical clinics serving the rural and urban poor. Currently, they have six full-time clinics in five different Nigerian dioceses.

Kateri Medical Services has worked in partnership with the Diocese of Kaduna since 2002 to help fund and facilitate medical care. KMS operates full-time medical clinics, mobile clinics to remote rural villages, and intensive medical outreach missions in rural areas.  And in recent years, this work has expanded to serve refugee camps located near our clinics.

Why refugee camps?  In local vocabulary, people say IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. They are not officially sponsored by any government.  They are makeshift villages of squatters who have been driven from their homes by ethnic violence.  In northern Nigeria, there is competition for land and resources in an ever-expanding population of rural poor farmers and nomadic cattle herders.  The farmers are members of indigenous tribes and are mostly Christians.  The nomadic cattle herders are members of the Fulani tribe and are mostly Muslims. Violence breaks out when Fulani cows eat crops of indigenous farmers — and when indigenous farmers kill Fulani cows in retribution for ruined crops.  The cycle of violence inevitably expands to humans and entire villages.

In 2019 and 2020, this violence has reached a crescendo in Kaduna state. Many IDP camps have sprung up overnight in areas near our rural clinic there. This is the story of our mission of bringing medical care and humanitarian help to one of these IDP camps.

The residents of this IDP camp have been driven from their homes and farms. Their homes have been burned, many of the women have been raped. Men, women, and children have been killed in their homes while they slept. Those who escaped have nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever food they could carry.  In this case, they settled near an elementary school. When the school children leave school, the refugees move into the classrooms to sleep. The Anglican Diocese of Kaduna has tried with limited resources to provide some basic humanitarian assistance to these hopeless people. The local government has turned a blind eye to their plight.

In June 2019, when Kateri Medical Services was conducting our routine mission, the Kaduna Diocese asked us to do a special outreach at this IDP camp, about five miles from the clinic. We conducted a one-day outreach during which we served about 300 people with basic medical care (see accompanying photos). Since then, one of the parish churches in Kaduna has adopted this camp to provide ongoing help.

In June of 2020, conditions in Nigeria and especially in these camps became even worse. Because of the COVID -19 pandemic and lockdowns, food shortages cause starvation. Because of the pandemic, American volunteers from KMS were not able to conduct our annual medical outreach missions. We devoted the funds we would have spent on the outreach missions to buy personal protective equipment for the Nigerian medical staff and patients. At the request of Kaduna Diocese, we also devoted some of these funds to buy food for refugees at the IDP camps (see accompanying photos).

Also, in the summer and fall of 2020, KMS received two generous grants from the SAMS World Relief Fund.  KMS used these funds to buy food and medicine for the residents of these IDP camps.  We are very grateful for our partnership with SAMS as we bring the love of Jesus (through evangelism, medical care, and food) to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria.

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.

Update: Gospel-Centered Apprenticeship Provides New Maternity Center for Ugandan Community in the Midst of Pandemic

Update: Gospel-Centered Apprenticeship Provides New Maternity Center for Ugandan Community in the Midst of Pandemic

In February, we reported on the work of Missionary Bridger Patrick Lutalo, founder of the Christian apprenticeship program Teach Men to Fish in Uganda. In the midst of the pandemic, Patrick’s team of young disciples has been able to complete the new maternity center in Mityana, Uganda. This facility, built by a group of young adults equipped spiritually and practically in Christ, will be a blessing to the overall health and wellness of mothers and children in the community. See updated pictures below.

SAMS World Relief Fund (WRF) provided a grant towards this project completion.  Would you help support practical, incarnational ministry in Christ with a gift to SAMS WRF? We thank God for the generosity of Senders equipping Missionaries to provide relief in this increasingly tragic time for our world. In this case, SAMS WRF also helped provide funds for development through local Ugandan youth. We praise God for Patrick’s enthusiasm to mentor these young adults in Christ.

Medical Clinic in Nigeria Serving Rural and Urban Poor Receives PPE Through World Relief Fund

Medical Clinic in Nigeria Serving Rural and Urban Poor Receives PPE Through World Relief Fund

,SAMS missionaries are still serving and sharing the gospel in the places they are called during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are living out their Great Commission call, and the SAMS’ incarnational service value.

The Rev. Tom Furrer leads Kateri Medical Services, a medical ministry to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria. Tom received a World Relief Fund grant to provide personal protective equipment [PPE] to all of the clinic’s staff. The funds have also been used to purchase sanitizing equipment and food for the people they serve.

Below is the transcript of Tom’s video update:

Hello. I’m the Reverend Tom Furrer. I’m an associate missionary with SAMS, and also I am the executive director of Kateri Medical Services. And we work in conjunction with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. We have six clinics in Nigeria, in partnership with local dioceses, wherever we are. And our goal is to bring simple, decent, affordable medical care to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria.

Nigeria has a population of about 180,000,000 people. Half of whom, 50% about 90 million people live on less than $2 a day. And those are the people we try to reach with our medical clinics. Those who can’t afford medical care otherwise. So, we run six clinics. And just recently, SAMS through your World Relief Fund has given us a grant of $3,000.

And what we did with that grant of $3,000 was we bought PPE’s personal protective equipment for all of the staff of our six medical clinics. And we bought sanitizer equipment. So [they] have a sanitizer station and each of the medical clinics. So patients and staff could wash their hands and sanitize their hands regularly.

We also bought face masks for people in the churches, because the churches have a lot of very poor people in them and can’t afford face masks, and the government requires facemasks to be worn in churches. And lastly, we also purchased food because of the lockdown there. Just like in this country, a lot of people on the bottom of the economic ladder, when you have a lockdown, they have no means of income. And so, people are starving to death. The churches there are trying as best they can to bring food; just basic sacks of grain for people who don’t have anything to eat. And so, because of your grant, we were able to buy some food for those folks.

And if we get more grants, we’ll buy more food. So, we want to thank you very much for this great grant that you’ve given us. And we have added that with our own funds, so that we’ve supplied about $12,000 worth of PPEs, sanitizer equipment and food for the rural and urban poor in Nigeria. So we on behalf of all of them, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

World Relief Grants Help Inject Funds into Local Madagascar Economy

World Relief Grants Help Inject Funds into Local Madagascar Economy

SAMS missionaries are still serving and sharing the gospel in the places they are called during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are living out their Great Commission call, and the SAMS’ incarnational service value.

Jacky Lowe, missionary in Madagascar, received a World Relief Fund grant to build concrete benches at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Toliara, providing work for local builders and businesses. This video update is from Jacky who serves at the Women’s Center on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral compound in the Diocese of Toliara. Jacky is helping to establish the Women’s Center and is an anchor for prayer within the Diocese. As Jacky mentions in her video, people travel on foot for hours for meetings and services at the cathedral, and the old benches on the compound were recently eaten by termites.

Below is the transcript of Jacky’s video update:

Hello. My name is Jackie Lowe and I’m a missionary in Madagascar. I live on the St. Patrick’s cathedral compound in Toliara, where I work at the women’s center. I also live in the women’s center. In the afternoons when I’m there, I sit on two benches by the labyrinth and these two benches are made of wood.

And in 2018, and again in 2019, they made a wonderful banquet for the termites. So at the end of 2019, I decided we needed to build some benches for people to sit on made of a material that was not edible. Piave, the night watchman helped me. He got a quote for the benches, for the materials and for the building.

I returned to the US in January 2020 to raise the money for the two benches. They cost $125 each. The bare materials for the benches were purchased in Toliara. So it helped the businesses. And local men built the benches. Beanie, one of the women who works at the center, her son actually helped. So many people were helped. On my return, I learned that SAMS had a world relief fund offering grants to missionaries, and I applied. They awarded me $1,200 to build more benches on the compound. The benches will be built by the building committee and they will decide where they are. They will provide a place for people to sit and pray or read their Bible, or just to meet with others.

Many people walk an hour each way to come to the cathedral for meetings and services. So the benches will provide rest for them. If you are interested in helping to build more benches, if five people donate $25, that’s enough for one bench. Thank you for listening and thank you for helping. May God bless you.