African Mission Partnership Amp

ACROSS THE ATLANTIC:  Ubuntu

From a predominantly middle-class, white suburban church on the shores of Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, USA, to a group of local mission workers in Kampala, Uganda on the shores of Africa’s Lake Victoria, we are a story of people united in caring for approximately one hundred street children in the Ugandan capital.

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Our Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Terry Chapman, first went to Uganda in May of 2007 to attend an African emerging church conference called Amahoro Africa.  It was there he learned of the ministry of Caleb Rukundo who serves some of the thousands of children who live on the streets of Kampala.  Terry visited three homes where Caleb and his partners provide shelter, food, and clothing, as well as education and the love and mentoring of dedicated workers.  He was very moved by Caleb’s transparent dedication to the children as well as the breadth and passion of his vision for the future.  Pastor Terry brought back this contagious vision to Forked River.

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The African Mission Partnership Group (AMP) was formed in September 2007 when Caleb came to visit Forked River Presbyterian Church and told us about his ministry with the street children in Kampala.  Many church members have dedicated their time and their talents to raise funds to provide the basic needs for the children, now affectionately called “Caleb’s Kids.”

In addition to our partnership with Caleb we also provided for basic necessities for Rose and Paul who live outside the city of Jinga in a small cottage with their six children and twenty street children that they have taken in to care for. We have provided Rose and Paul with a water retention system to gather water for their garden.  This eliminates the need to walk two miles each way to get buckets of water.  We also provided garden tools and seeds for their garden, which gives the children fresh nutritious food to eat daily, and, if there is any surplus, an income for other necessities.

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To help provide for their own needs, Caleb’s Kids make paper bead jewelry, which is then shipped to our church.  The AMP group sells these pieces of jewelry at our church and at local craft fairs.  All proceeds are sent to Caleb for the children’s needs.

The land around the shelters is being cultivated to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for the children as well as teaching the children how to farm.  Cows, chickens, and goats are raised, also.

Each Christmas we ask Caleb, who in turn asks the children, what they would like to have for Christmas.  Each year their requests are simple:  Meat with their Christmas dinner, a new outfit to wear to church on Christmas Day, sandals so they don’t get worms, payment for doctors’ visits to check their HIV/AIDS status, and, if possible, funds to go to a local park to play.  So, each Christmas they receive a special Christmas dinner, new clothes, a doctor’s visit, and a trip to the park.  We receive pictures of happy children.

Simple furnishings of tables, benches, bunk beds, mattresses, towels, curtains, disinfectant, soap, mosquito nets, and cooking utensils have also been provided for the shelter.

The children in our church have “adopted” Caleb’s Kids as their friends.  In Vacation Bible School a few years ago, they each made 2 teddy bears – one for themselves and one for each one of the children in the shelter.  Several of them are pen pals with the children.

Our pastor and Elder Rebecca Kesner made a second visit to Uganda in 2008 (through funding from gifts from the congregation and a special grant) and returned with videos, reports, and further ideas on ways we can help the children.  Pastor Terry made a third trip in the summer of 2015.

One of the main ways we partner with Caleb and the Amahoro Children’s Development Initiative is by working with other U.S. partners to channel resources to the ministry. We will continue to help provide the basic necessities for the children throughout the year.  Presbyterian Women gave a grant to help provide for a new shelter to house the children.

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As one member of the group said, “AMP affords the opportunity to really see, feel, and participate in God’s amazing love for our African brothers and sisters.”  Another said, “I am touched and moved that Caleb gives so much of himself for God’s children who have nothing.  It gives me a warm, loving feeling inside to know that what little I can do will bring a smile to a child.”

The wonderful African word “Ubuntu” describes the nature of our relationship.  Ubuntu essentially means “I can only be truly human when you are able to be fully human.”  We know that this growing relationship is not only benefiting our friends in Uganda but also helping us discover our true humanity that is a reflection of God’s image.