Post from: April 2013
ANATOMY OF A RIOT
ANATOMY OF A RIOT
by Christian Stephen-FS Productions
(BETHLEHEM) It was about 3pm in Bethlehem when I smelled the gas. The sky was overcast and it was growing colder. My colleague and I had just finished a rather nice lunch at a local restaurant after finishing a fairly straightforward video project at a local school. We had left the restaurant with intentions of reaching the military checkpoint. The day had other plans. The strange thing about tear gas is that it cannot be described accurately, I know, I’ve tried…. Read more at http://fsproductions.org/blog.htmlRead More >
Post from: February 2013
The Day We Met Alex
It was day 6 on our trip to Uganda; we had already found Joel to be an incredible man of integrity along with his brother Anthony – a man of utmost wisdom. These men were clearly the cornerstones of our project. We could trust them, learn from them and expand vision with them. We couldn’t imagine our vision for Uganda growing even more. But one of our teammates, Dylan, kept talking about this other guy, Alex, whom we were going to meet and with whom we would discuss developing a new chicken farm for his orphanage. Alex was Joel’s mentor for a large portion of Joel’s life, but it was difficult for our team to imagine someone as influential as Joel. We didn’t know what to expect.
That morning, we drove across Kampala to find Alex’s “Another Hope” orphanage & school. It was this day that we knew everything would become something greater than what we had imagined. Alex, just like our other two contacts, came across as a very humble but powerful man who took care of and educated around 2000 children. It wasn’t until he began to speak about his kids and vision for not only their community but also the entire country of Uganda that we saw his brilliance. He told us that he owned 750 acres of land just 100 kilometers from the orphanage. On that land they grow all kinds of crops – so many that the orphanage is 60% self-sustainable. And their goal is to be 100% self-sustainable in the near future. (these guys had a hold of the self-sustainable vision way before we did!)
So when we sat down with Alex to have our business meeting, his holistic vision of sustainability came into play with our own. What was so powerful, shocking and exciting to us was how much bigger his vision for Uganda was than what we had thought up. We told him about our goals with the chicken farms and our requirement of reproducibility. It was as if the concept of duplication was already an automatic for anything Alex set his mind to. (he is a man that has made disciples all of his life. He understood multiplication/duplication of oneself and one’s resources.)
Alex asked us, “So what are the strings attached? What do you expect me to do with the eggs?” Charles explained our hope that it would improve the children’s diets, but most of all that they had to be duplicated and shared. But Alex was already providing enough for his children, and he saw beyond the initial dietary needs. Alex explained that he saw the eggs being more beneficial on the market. “The kids don’t need eggs as much as they need fish. Fish would be better for the kids.” So his vision was to create a business out of the chickens – further expand protein sources to the community while drawing in better resources. His business plans were to affect his entire community and to share this plan with his colleagues and peers that would thus replicate its effectiveness across the country.
Toward the end of our conversation, Alex explained to us:
“As we were talking there, I kept on wondering here, what is this vision he has? It was very hard to talk like this in America. I’m telling you. So you should thank God for this vision. As we thank God for it, you should also thank God for it. It was very hard – we would come to America and we would talk about sustainability – nobody believed us.”
“Even recently? Or in the past?” asked one of our team members.
Alex replied, “In the past. That was 5 years ago.”
“…That’s why we brought those 500 pastors to our farm because these are new things.” The African pastors would ask, “Is it possible? Is it possible?!” “It is possible,” Alex said, “let’s go.”
“This sweet potato you are eating here, tomorrow we are taking you where we grow
it. The next day we put them on a bus and we took them and “OHHHH!!!” The Africans, the Ugandans – they live here, they are born here.”
But even they didn’t believe that kind of production and sustainable work could be done.
“That is transformation.”
Alex’s business ideas extended beyond selling chickens. He is the director of the board of elders that oversee 23,000 churches in Uganda. He brought in 500 pastors to come view and learn from his work so they could replicate it in their own villages. He is already developing his own chicken feed so they don’t have to buy it from the market, and also they can use a BETTER feed. He’s also growing the corn and other produce to create the feed so he can sell it at the market. Self-sustainability is the name of the game.
In 1.5 hours, our game was changed. We began to see the vision like Alex did – not just a chicken farm vision, but a socio-economic transformation across Uganda…and even a transformation that will break borders and change the lives of East Africans forever.
-Lauren BlancoRead More >
Rich in Joy
For those of you that might not know me, my name is Abbi Wolfenkoehler. I came on board ForgottenSong’s staff in early October as their Marketing Director. After my first meeting with Charles I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization and when he asked me if I would like to join the team on the trip to Uganda to visit our partners, my immediate response was “Of course!”. From there it was a whirlwind of fundraising, business strategy, enormous amounts of planning, and many, many prayers.
When you are constantly focused on the business and operational side of things you can sometimes begin to lose heart. After you’ve heard your fifteenth “no” of the day, your computer crashes for the third time that hour, or you get yet another parking ticket because of your inability to parallel park it can sometimes cloud your mind of why you are doing what you are doing. And then I went to Africa.
As soon as we rounded to corner of the airport we were immediately greeted with huge smiles, open arms and hearts full of love. Every car ride was filled with laughter, each meal was set on the table with the care only a mother could provide, and every business meeting had us on the edge of our seat, not wanting to miss a word of wisdom our partners, now friends, provided. Everything started coming in to focus. All the months of event planning, business meetings and fundraising started to take on a whole new meaning. These were not nameless faces on a continent halfway across the world, they were our friends, our brothers, our sisters. And they simply needed help, they needed a chicken house to help feed the children they took in at their school. Children, who because of their giving hearts had a warm bed, a good education, the love of a family, and the possibility of a future. And above all else, these children, who by definition are considered orphans possessed joy; beautiful, abandoned joy.
Out of curiosity I looked up the definition of joy. Webster defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight.” My immediate reaction was how inadequate a definition that seemed. By the standards of the world our Ugandan friends did not posses “well-being, success,or good fortune” Malaria and other diseases are a constant threat, people are still suffering from the effects of violent wars that took place, they don’t drive expensive cars, and you are lucky if the roads are even paved, much less if you can drive 5 feet without hitting a pothole. But I had never seen a people more rich. Rich in things that matter, in love, in giving, in service and in joy.
Our Ugandan friends are the kind of friends you want to help. The kind of people who inspire you to stay late at the office, to chance one more “no” in the hope it’ll be a “yes”, where you relish crossing things off your “To Do” list because it means you are one step closer to your goals, and you arrive early to business meetings because you know the discussion will lead to world change. When you have come face to face with the why all that’s left is the how. Perhaps we can follow in the footsteps of our Ugandan friends when we realize that the answer to that question lies in the possession of the right kind of joy.
Post from: January 2013
Simon Says Hope
Life in Kampala, Uganda is a far different story than what most Americans have ever known. As a city of refuge for millions of people from northern Uganda, southern Sudan, the Congo and Kenya, the infrastructure is hardly able to hold the mass influx of people from the past couple of decades. Streets are unfinished and heavily corroded by rain, with crater-sized potholes and entire sections of pavement missing. People are squatting on land that isn’t theirs, with nothing more than a rusty tin roof and dirt floors. The marketplace is a citywide affair, every man for himself on every street corner. The word “hectic” only begins to describe the feeling you get driving through the hustle and bustle of this city.
This may all seem hopeless to you or me, but for the people there, this is the life they have, and they’re making the most of it. According to most statistics, your life span in Uganda is already half way through by the time you reach 28 years of age. Some of us would view that as a roadblock on starting a new career. However, for one particular Ugandan, he’s steam rolling right on through to new territory.
Meet Simon, a 28-year-old Ugandan who has a hope for a new, better future. He shared with me the job he is currently working that is barely making ends meet; by our standards in America, it wouldn’t even come close to hitting the poverty line. He then did something that many people fail to do– he preceded to present to me a solution to his problem, and a plan for achieving his new goals. He laid out steps towards making it a reality, and then asked if I would pray that God would give him the resources to accomplish everything. As I prayed, I couldn’t help but be inspired by Simon. He had nothing, but had a hope to start his own business and provide for a family that he didn’t yet have. The man was laying groundwork for a better future, instead of giving into a cycle of discouragement and depression.
Simon had a greater hope, as was common with many of the people I met while in Uganda. It is people like this that drive us to continue doing the work we do at Forgottensong. The chicken farm we established at an orphanage outside of Kampala is giving hope to people like this, and laying down groundwork for a better future for people like Simon.
I only hope that I can continue to listen to the voice of people in need of a hope. Are you listening?
Something so profound? Almost 40 countries now and I can honestly, and with great fervor, say that I’ve never been so impacted by a single trip in its entirety like the one we just ventured to Uganda. The relationships, the experiences, the cheap sunglasses and the champions. No, not orphans…champions. Everywhere I’ve ever gone people see the white skin and dollar signs. Here they saw relationship potential. We were honored, not persuaded.
The team fell short of complaining every day. We always asked, “who loved the most?” and “how can I be more like them?” No bitterness, no striving, no selfish ambition or backbiting comments, even after 12 hours on a bumpy, dusty, dirt road and mosquito bites. No, rather, they asked, “how do we pursue greatness through servanthood?” All of them. This team is so valuable to the vision that Got Put in my heart 4 years ago, but now they are not servants to the vision, but rather stewards of it. I see the capacity for growth now as impeding, not just possible.
They’re really not in it for themselves, these Ugandan leaders. We began with planting chicken farms for the betterment of their schools and communities, but it has transpired into, “how does this change Uganda as a whole?” Multiplication, not addition; organically grown, not suffocated with support and constraints; native led, not controlled. The vision is simple: realign the economic realities of the underprivileged in Uganda. The vision is broad: pray it spills over into the other war-torn nations of East Africa.
Charles DavidsonRead More >