in practice

They will walk and not grow weary…

Posted by Kate on September 1, 2010

“The angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”  Luke 1:19


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Patience and Hope

Posted by Kate on August 25, 2010

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” Romans 8:25

There is always the waiting.  It has been one week in India, and five days since the surgery, but still we wait.  Since Gabriel’s birth, his parents knew that he was sick.  Since Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) prevents an adequate blood supply from traveling to the lungs, babies with this heart malformation are often a bluish color, have difficulty breathing, and cry frequently as crying actually provides more oxygen to the lungs.  Without open heart surgery, 40% will die by age 4, and 70% will die by age 10.  Gabriel’s father, having no means to find a cardiologist or to pay for an operation, had been praying for God to provide a way where there was none faithfully, every day, since the discovery that the root of his sickness was a heart defect.  Although I’m not yet a parent, I am pretty certain that I would have already lost hope for my child.

Gabriel was already 11 years old when I met him, although because TOF often results in stunted growth he appeared much younger than that.  For whatever reason, God has had his hand on this child from the beginning.  I am reminded of the gospel of John when Jesus is questioned as to why the blind man he had healed had to be born blind.  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).  For years Gabriel and his family have been waiting to see what God had in store for his life, whether in healing or in death.  For over a year now I have joined them in this waiting, ever since my life became intertwined with theirs, and waiting to see how God would provide.

For some time I have been struggling with knowing whether it is better to hope or to be prepared for the worst.  Which path will prevent the most heartbreak in the future?  But our hope is not in knowing what will happen tomorrow, or in thinking we know what outcome will be best.  Our hope is in the Lord, and trusting that his plans are better than anything we can imagine.  “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as counselor?  Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?” (Isaiah 40: 13-14).  And again, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’?  Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing’?” (Isaiah 29:16)  I am humbled by my lack of wisdom and understanding, and this leads me to greater trust, and with greater trust, hope.  Who am I to say to God: This is not how I would have gone about doing things?  “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).

This may seem easy for me to say when it is not my child.  It has certainly been a long path filled with dead ends and disappointments.  But finally, at 12 years old, God has provided a path for healing Gabriel’s heart and restoring it to normal functioning.  We continue to wait for his lungs to adjust to a normal flow of blood, as he has now spent five days in ICU unable to breathe for very long on his own.  Although the waiting is difficult, and it remains to be seen how all of his post-operative expenses will be covered, our hope is in a God who is big and who has not brought us this far without purpose.  There is a Mary Mary song that continues to resonate in my mind: “Nobody told me the road would be easy, and I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me.”

Sidenote: To read about adopting children with heart defects, go here.

Posted in Congo, Projects | 1 Comment »

India Take 2

Posted by Kate on August 4, 2010

With family in February 2010

“Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it.”  Psalm 109:27

Since last December, after returning from India discouraged, Gabriel has been faithfully taking his TB medicine with the help of doctors at Heal Africa.  His family did not give up hope, and in July he traveled to Kigali, Rwanda to see if the TB had cleared.  It had, and a friend working in Congo reports that she “had never seen such big smiles” as she saw on Gabriel and his father’s faces when they walked out of the hospital.  Now, once again, they are ready to make the journey to Chennai, India to obtain surgery at the Frontier Lifeline hospital.  And this time, since I am located in Addis Ababa, I have the chance to join them on this trip as they fly through Addis from Kigali.  I am busy arranging for the flights to have extra oxygen for Gabriel and to get us on a plane as soon as possible as time is critical in Gabriel’s case.  He is already 13 years old.

Awhile back I wrote about Gabriel’s father and another Congolese father, whose daughter had been captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army on Christmas Day of 2008.  Recently I heard the remarkable news that this daughter has returned, escaping from the LRA in the Central African Republic and finding her way back home to her family.  I am delighted to rejoice with this family as they celebrate and continue to hope for her full healing from all the trauma that she has endured.  As I am encouraged by this story, I am encouraged that Gabriel will have the chance this month to be brought back to life as well.

While I still have the surgery money from last year, the seriousness of Gabriel’s situation means that he could face a maximum of $2,000 more in medical costs + $2,600 for roundtrip plane tickets to India + $200 in visa costs +$20 a day for accommodations in Chennai.  This means I am anticipating a need of $5,000 more to pay for this trip and Gabriel’s medical costs.  We are planning to leave on August 16th pending the provision of this money, so please e-mail me if you have the ability to contribute by sending a check to my parents while I am away in Ethiopia.  Thank you for your time and concern, and I look forward to sharing the journey with you soon!

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Back in Congo without surgery

Posted by Kate on December 19, 2009

Gabriel and father arrived back home to the D.R.C. today, weary from a hectic trip back from India after immigration problems in India and difficulty getting medical clearance in Ethiopia.  Even more frustrating is their coming back without having received the much-awaited heart surgery.  Upon arrival at the hospital in India at the beginning of December, it was discovered that Gabriel has extensive pulmonary tuberculosis.  The earliest he could be cleared for surgery is after 6 months of being on TB medication.

We are discouraged, but not without hope.  This story is not over yet.  I am back to fundraising for the possibility of a second trip to India next summer if the tuberculosis clears Gabriel’s system.  Further information can be found on the “Gabriel’s Heart Project” facebook group page, including an address for donations.  In the meantime, be sure to follow Samaritan’s Purse “Children’s Heart” episodes about 3 children from Mongolia who have the same medical condition as Gabriel.

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Children’s Heart trailer

Posted by Kate on December 19, 2009

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Off to India!

Posted by Kate on November 27, 2009

Passports and visas in hand, Mahindo & Gabriel are getting on a plane this Monday, November 30th for Chennai, India!  God’s provision so quickly for all the logistics has been extraordinary to witness.  Gabriel will be undergoing heart surgery in India to repair his tetralogy of fallot, allowing him to get oxygen back to his body and to have a chance at living like he has never had before.

I am so thankful for all of your financial support and prayers.  I still need about $4,000 to finish paying for the plane tickets, travel expenses, and the follow-up care for Gabriel after he returns to Goma following the surgery.  Please consider a small financial sacrifice for this boy, knowing that your sacrifice means he will have the opportunity to LIVE.

I also want to pass along my thanks from Gabriel’s father, Mahindo.  They are so incredibly grateful and give glory to God for this opportunity.  They have been through a situation before where someone came to take children from the Congo to Israel for heart surgery, and ended up choosing two other children and leaving Gabriel behind.  For this reason it has been very hard for them to get their hopes up that people who do not know them could actually care enough to follow through on their promises.  I made a commitment when I was in the Congo to do everything in my power to help Gabriel and sacrifice all I can for his life.  Again and again, I have been presented with the chance to do that, and people who have responded to help with me, without having met Gabriel themselves.

Please contact me for an address to mail your financial contributions.  We are so close!

Funds needed:  TOTAL: $14,690

  • Heart Surgery – $7500
  • Passports – $300 (x2), Visas – $110 (x2)
  • Airfare to Kinshasa – $650 (x2), Airport tax – $20 (x2), Room & Board in Kinshasa – $240, Wife help – $140
  • Airfare Kinshasa to Chennai – $1880 (x2), Airport tax – $50 (x2), Insurance tax – $95 (x2)
  • Lodging, food, and travel expenses while in India – $30/day (x20 days?) = $600

Raised to date: $12,631.15

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Gabriel’s Update

Posted by Kate on October 31, 2009

After an incredible outpouring of support, I have now reached $7,745 for Gabriel’s Heart Project, with more on the way!  Hallelujah!  Friends on the ground in the D.R.Congo are working to help them get passports quickly so that we can begin to make travel arrangements to Chennai.  It has been such a blessing to see the sacrifices people are willing to make for the life of one precious child.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking a stand with me to make a statement that LIFE IS PRECIOUS and that everyone deserves a chance to reach his or her full potential no matter where he or she is born.  Helping one person may seem insignificant, but it will be sure to have a ripple effect on Gabriel’s family and their surrounding community in realizing the willingness of people across the globe to join together and forever intertwine our lives with theirs.

On November 20th I will be having a fundraiser to finish closing the gap with my goal.  Information below.  Thank you for being a part of the journey!

Fundraiser with music by Tom Rorem & band: November 20th, 2009 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Location:  Delux Bar & Grill, 669 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL

Cover charge: $10, with all proceeds benefitting Gabriel’s Heart Project and the HEAL Africa hospital

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Gabriel’s Heart Project

Posted by Kate on October 13, 2009

Congo 408Dear friends,

Many of you have heard me tell the story of 10-year old Gabriel (See A Day in the Life of Humanity), a boy in the D.R.Congo with a severe heart condition called ‘tetralogy of fallot.’  I recently received an e-mail from the Congo alerting me that he has not been doing well and has been in and out of the hospital incurring expenses that his father, who is a painter with 8 other children, simply cannot afford.  While this news was weighing heavily on me, I received a call that there is a surgeon in India who is willing and able to perform the necessary, life-giving surgery that Gabriel needs.  All I need to do is raise $10,000 for the medical supplies and medicine needed for the surgery, along with the airfare to send Gabriel and his father to India.  An anonymous donor has already agreed to match all donations up to $5,000, so we are already half-way there!

A situation I once wrote off as impossible now seems to be filled with hope, and I am excited at the possibility of standing with others to not only save Gabriel’s life but to make a statement that life is precious and valuable in a country where so many have lost their lives due to war and disease.  If you would like to join me in this effort to send Gabriel to India for surgery, to intertwine your own life with the life of a precious child across the world, please PRAY and contact me, kmenglund@gmail.com, for details on how you can give to “Gabriel’s Heart Project”.  I will be sure to keep you updated as Gabriel’s story moves forward.

Thank you!

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LRA Attacks Continue with No One Watching

Posted by Kate on August 27, 2009

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An Alternative to Orphanages?

Posted by Kate on May 23, 2009

Rural Swaziland

Rural Swaziland

Centre d'Accueil, Bamako

Centre d'Accueil, Bamako

I have visited over a dozen different “orphanages” by now in Mali, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo, and Uganda, seen rural orphanhood in Swaziland, and no matter how impressed I may be with a specific place I am always left with the same pervasive feeling: There must be a better way. What is the best way to care for orphans and vulnerable children who have been left on their own?  Placing children in local adoptive families is ideal, but where are all the parents who are willing to adopt?

By 2010, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to approximately 50 million orphaned children.  Although the number of orphans is slowly decreasing in Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean, it is drastically increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa.  About a third of these children are orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Orphan villages seem to be all the rage these days, in an attempt to provide more individualized care to children.  See: SOS Villages, Rafiki Villages, Restoration Gateway, and New Hope Uganda.

The concept of an SOS Village began in 1949 with the vision of an Austrian man named Hermann Gmeiner.  Gmeiner started the first village for children in Imst, Austria to help those who lost their homes, security, and families as a result of World War II.  Today, there are over 450 SOS Villages serving 132 countries and territories.

SOS Villages are based on four fundamental principles that Gmeiner believed every child requires: a mother, brothers and sisters, a house, and a village.  Children are placed together in families with up to ten children, a “mother”, and an “aunt”, all in a house that is modeled after the middle-class lifestyle of the country in which it is located.  The houses are constructed adjacent to one another, creating a small village that becomes a part of its wider surrounding residential area so that children can become integrated into community life outside the SOS Village.

Another organization I have been struck by here in Uganda is Dwelling Places, which works to rehabilitate and restore street children.  They actually work not just to care for the child but for the child’s parents and family for the cases in which a family exists.  If a child’s family member can be found, the potential for reconciliation with the family is researched and parents are provided with counseling and income-generating possibilities to better equip them to care for their children.  Once the family has been empowered to provide a safe and loving environment, the child can be resettled back into their family.

Better solution?  Maybe.  I don’t have any answers, but I will keep searching.  I do know that every child has infinite potential if given the right opportunities, but because of the failure to see the image of God within each one of us, people have become the most wasted resource on this planet.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Isaiah 49:15-16

SOS Village Sanankoroba, Mali

SOS Village Sanankoroba, Mali

Addis Ababa Foster Home

Addis Ababa Foster Home

Don Bosco, Goma, D.R.C.

Don Bosco, Goma, D.R.C.

Posted in Life, OVC | 4 Comments »