Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Hope is going home!

Only 5 days from now we will be on a flight to London and then onto Uganda. Hope, who in every sense of the word, is a new creature today will be travelling with us. It is hard to believe that only 8 months ago she was laying in a coma and we didn't know if we would ever hear her silly laugh or see her infectious smile again. We are more than grateful that our family is still whole.

While she is still recovering, and will be for several years, we are approaching this trip differently than we have in the past. We used to be completely focused on who we were going to see, what we would be doing, etc. Now our main focus is to see that she is exposed carefully to her home and the experiences that she is so familiar with. Our focus is in going where God calls us while we are on mission with our family. It is an interesting twist!

She is excited for the visit and wants to see the kids and families. She is nervous about the travel and the extra stimuli that can tire her brain and make life exhausting. The doctor felt strongly that she needed the exposure and wants us to focus on learning coping skills with "new" information even if it is old and familiar. We will be carefully navigating through the trip taking in account her healing brain. 

Please continue to pray for our mission in a mission as we travel to Uganda. Hope is alive and on her way home!

Hope playing volleyball after 6 months of recovery



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grieving gave me clarity

I have had an encyclopedia of words running through my mind today: Random thoughts about death, finality, injustice, temporal living, heaven and hell.  Before you think I am depressed, let me clarify: I am grieving. 

Our souls are often crushed by the imperfect world we live, love and travel through.  I have spent many moments this week reviewing the conversations I have had with others (good and bad).  I have thought about the opportunities I have missed and the poor choices I have made.  Finally I asked God, “What do you think about my existence?  What is the truth about life after death?”

I have lived a wonderful life full of beautiful experiences and treasured memories.  I have trekked miles through coffee covered mountains to seek out a broken woman, found countless diseased and feverish people in tiny villages and seen them healed, lived in a custom made home and also broken down buildings, survived without hot water or safe food to eat, watched exhausted children struggle to breathe in a hospital filled with desperate mothers and cried over the beauty of my own children and a husband who loves me dearly with countless friends who seem to find me much more interesting than I think I am!  In my introspection, God seemed to whisper to me; “Melody, you have lived 10 lives or more”.

But nothing has hurt me more than watching my family deteriorate.  Nothing, I considered, is worse than death.  I have experienced so much pain this week knowing that my little sister in law is gone.  It seemed in my past that I have faced many deaths and personally, I reasoned, maybe it should get easier?  I struggled with why it seemed much harder this time and here is what I found out:

1. When I have interpreted someone’s life as difficult and broken, I immediately assumed that there was no joy.
2. When I looked at death as final, I became lost in sorrow.
3.      When I took God out of the picture, I felt there was no justice for my lost loved one that I speculated was trapped in a life completely joyless.
4.      When I took mercy out of the equation, there was no God to save the broken.

Life is NEVER always difficult.  That is a lie.  To assume there is no joy ever, anywhere in my life or someone else’s is, well, overly dramatic.  Every time I thought things were not going to be resolved, God miraculously saved the day.  I have seen it time and time again in beautiful ways; provision, laughter, a friend showing up in the nick of time, a hug and a child smiling at me in the grocery store.  Joy is in many things.  James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from our Father.”

Death is not final, especially for those who live difficult lives on earth. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

More importantly, God is in control and he sees the down-cast and handles business.  Psalms 50:6 “And the heavens proclaim his righteousness for he is a God of justice.”

If mercy is out of the equation, then I would have to argue there is no God.  In this world there is no place where we don’t “earn” our living, our status as citizens, or our reputation.  That is the world we TRAVEL THROUGH.  However, we have an opportunity to TRAVEL TO a world where it is God’s economy and nothing can be earned.  It is a place of perfection and holiness.  If you want to know what God’s idea of mathematical perfection is – you need to look at Jesus.  Jesus was about mercy and he was especially generous to those who didn’t deserve it.  The only time he was really angry was when supposedly religious people were judgmental and wanted others to “earn” their spot in God’s kingdom.  But the truth is found in Psalm 86:5 “For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you.” 

Tonight I have chosen to come into agreement with these truths several times.  If my thoughts strayed from these facts, I would spiral downward into deeper grief.  If you have lost a loved one, please know you are not alone.  May God richly bless you and keep you until you meet him and find mercy at the feet of Jesus.

Dedicated to Crystal - Died on February 13, 2014


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Essence of Being a Woman

I feel motivated by successful women. I am constantly amazed by the power of women and their ability to harness powerful thoughts and propel others into action.  I love learning about women who overcome great struggles and thrive.  I have always admired women who have been able to maintain a tenderness despite the need to be tough in business decisions.  It is hard to balance commitment and effort with a gentle heart; Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Corrie ten Boom, Joni Eareckson Tada, Oprah Winfrey and most recently Jen Hatmaker.  I especially love Eleanor Roosevelt's powerful words, "A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she's in hot water".  True words.

New York Times Author, Nicholas Kristof says that women are the most trustworthy with generosity; they work hard and want to be successful.  Honestly, I see that so often in our ministry.  The women I work with are hard working, dedicated to their children and forward minded.  They see business opportunities even in hardship.  They see needs and how to meet it for a benefit.  

I trust women to make things happen.  Injustice doesn't have a chance around a woman who cares about the world.  No mountain is too high to help others.  We often look overlook our own needs to serve those we love and even those we don't know.  

I will never forget the story of one woman that changed the direction of a dear friends life.  He was escaping the Rwandan genocide and was stuck in the Congo in the middle of a refugee camp.  He had not eaten in days.  He was starving and delirious with fever.  A widowed woman saw him on the side of the road while she was feeding only a half cup of rice to her 5 orphaned children.  She was alone and scared.  She didn't know how she was going to feed her children the next day.  But when she saw my friend, her heart broke. She asked him to sit down and fed him something from each of the spoonfuls of rice in her children's hands. He hungrily ate and the shame of his starvation caused him to run from those little hands.  He told me that woman, whom he never saw again, was the one thing that kept him serving the poor.  She gave it all, even at the risk of her own family, to a stranger in need.  He still serves the poor today.

Josephine and her children
Josephine is a woman in our village who I deeply admire. She has come from such poverty and watched one of her own children pass away.  She gives to the needs of others and even with the little she has, she shares with her church made of sticks in the village.  I remember her with nothing and now she is a successful woman in her village serving others food as they need it.

The generosity of women is powerful and tender.  Don't give up being a generous woman.  Look out for those in need. This is the essence of who we were meant to be.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Letters from home

Well, it is that time of the year again when I have the wonderful opportunity of hearing from individual families.  The letters that are reaching us are full of hope and dignity that is being restored. I also received a letter from Nalumme that spoke of the unique way that Africa Family Rescue works inside of a village:

"All the years I have been in this community, I have never heard or seen any organization helping people, through opening for them a personal bank account and sending the money directly on the account!!! I have never never seen it before in Kiwugo my village, or even in Mukono our District. It is unbelievable to us as a family that we have got a bank account in Stanbic Bank Mukono. And receiving monthly help from you! This is a unique project and you are a special person. You made me go to the Bank for the first time in my life...  I cannot thank you enough. I can only pray for you for a longer and better life. I wish you were near us we would have also given you to share some of the food stuff we have in our gardens."

Nalumme's children receive shirts from their donor!

In order to ensure our donors gifts go direct to their sponsored families, the money is distributed directly into each family account.  The family is helped in the process of budgeting for education, food, health, tithe and gifts to church or those less fortunate and business start up. We couldn't do this work without our wonderful caseworkers!  Each family is assigned a caseworker that monitors the progress and ultimately, self-sustaining livelihood is the goal by three years.  Nalumme has purchased passion fruit seeds and started building a hanging garden so that she can sell the fruits!  A big investment that will definitely pay off!

The project was developed by Africans for Africans and we are excited to see the great changes that are taking place day to day.  To sponsor a family today, contact us at melody@africafamilyrescue.org

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How much are 3 lives worth?

There is no way I could leave Africa without sharing one more time the devastating affects of poverty.  It is easy for us to look away and not imagination what is really going on in the rest of the world.  After all, we have our own problems and many of us are struggling with a tough economy.  Without wanting to be redundant, American poverty and world poverty are vastly different.


Kasifa Nakatude is a woman that is waiting for sponsorship with our organization.  Her situation could not be more urgent.  Her children Joseph (3) and Sanyu (8 months) are starving.  Her life has been unbearable as she struggles to feed her children and keep them warm.  Each day she digs for someone and gives a small portion of cassava to her babies.  They have never known comfort or fullness.

Her husband has left her because he can not take care of them.  She is being threatened and chased from the mud home that is sheltering her because she is a squatter.  Without sponsorship, she will be homeless and alone without any way to care for Joseph and Sanyu.

Please take a minute and consider if $70 a month is too much to save 3 lives.  Africa Family Rescue can teach Kasifa how to survive and build a future for herself and her children.  Micro business and education can change the trajectory of this family.  Write me today at melody@africafamilyrescue.org and I will get you started on a tax deductible gift.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life saving sponsorship

I have been asking God what could possibly be the purpose of this illness while I am in Africa.  I definitely have a deeper understanding of the physical trials facing the poor.  But last night I believe I had a break through that I wanted to share.

If you don't know about our program, let me briefly state an African's view of how to overcome poverty.  Years ago an African friend of ours told us that he believed the best way to help people in Africa was as a family unit and through temporary sponsorship that led to a micro business and self reliance.  We have widows and orphans who are currently on the road to self sufficiency in that same manner.  



The thing that always struck me about our sponsored families was the wonder by which they received that sponsorship.  So many African families have tried to express their gratitude to their donors through words, gifts and hugs.  But last night, I was given a deeper understanding of that gratitude.  My illness has taken me on a journey that honestly (without trying to be overly dramatic) has caused me to fear for my life.  Only those closest to me know the severity of the illness and the toll is has taken on my body.  I have been in the hospital 5 times in 6 days.  Even today I slept 22 hours straight.  The fever is still raging in my body as I sweat through layers of sheets.  The amazing thing is that I have been miraculously cared for by several friends or donors in the states.  I have had the care I needed, the medication and all of the necessities I needed for survival.  In short, I have received my own sponsorship.

As a desperately ill woman in a third world country, I can tell you my need was acute.  I would NOT have survived this illness without my donors.  I can now only tell you that the joy of the people that receive sponsorship is more than happiness... it is life saving.  I am a living breathing example of God's grace through sponsorship. 

As you continue to pray for my healing, please also continue to pray for more donors to come forward and offer life to another human being. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How do people survive like this?

I have only had a taste of life in the village.  Two days ago I stood feverish inside a grass thatched hut alone and the impact of darkness, loneliness and neglect covered me from head to toe.  In that moment, I tried to imagine the thought of being ill here. The heat inside during the midday sun was stifling. My fever began to create a sickening sweat that covered my back and forehead. I struggled to get a full breath while coughing incessantly. All I wanted was water and even though the vehicle was only 20 feet away I didn't know if I could bring myself to go and retrieve it.  Every smell was heightened.  The man who lived in the hut is trapped inside for hours at a time because he is blind.  It is so very dark and the inside diameter is only 6 feet wide.  The mat that I stood on was bamboo and it made a crunching sound when I shifted from being dizzy.  I could smell his body odor and the mattress is holding smells I didn't even want to recognize.  I looked up and saw the grass moving; more wasps that are building nests everywhere are here working their hardest to create another home.  It is beyond my ability to stay one more moment and I leave seeking refuge from my imaginations.


Returning home to the city ill I knew that I needed to see a doctor.  I had no idea if malaria had begun its work in me or something else.  I could barely walk into the clinic.  I laid down on a gurney and heard voices speaking in hushed tones but I could not understand the language at all.  I could hear a definite sense of concern.  Someone was pulling my jacket off to take my temperature under my arm.  Another person pulled down the skin beneath my eye.  To have someone take your blood in a foreign country is very worrisome.  I was wondering if the needles were clean.  But I heard someone else opening a package for me alone.  It put my heart at rest a little.  The nurse left the needle in me for an I.V.  It was not plastic like the ones in the states.  I felt the metal moving around in my vein.

Apparently I had a raging bacterial infection in my lungs: something completely foreign to my body. Third generation and fourth generation antibiotics were injected intravenously twice in a 12 hour period; Steroids too.  I was left to rest in a hostel alone while I insisted Ben continue the work.  Our time here is so short I knew it was necessary.  It was there that I began to worry if I could even survive the walk to the toilet.  The fever was draining me and I could barely eat the bread I had.  There was no electricity.  No way for me to communicate to the people around me or to Ben who was in the village and unreachable.

You may be wondering why I am saying all these details so let me say this: I have never been so keenly aware of the unbearable struggle of normal African life.  If water is a 5 hour walk away, if a doctor is out of the question due to finances,  if medication is not available, if you are an orphan or a widow alone without support - how do people survive at all? I could barely get up to move to the toilet let alone to a water well!

Today I am a little stronger.  I am still exhausted and of course I am expected to be worse off than Africans who are exposed to these germs daily - but I am completely overwhelmed by the difficult situations these people live with daily.  I asked God today, "Lord, why am I all the way here to be this sick"?  There was no audible response and honestly I have felt a little far away from God so I looked to His word to speak to me which said, "I am with you.  I will never leave you."  Today I am choosing to believe that even while I am alone - I am not alone.  It is a fact.  I am sure that many Africans have felt this way and have come up with the same conclusion.  It is the little things God did yesterday that blessed me: I asked for water from someone outside and they brought it. I felt a breeze through the window and I was relieved.  I had a mint to coat my throat.  I had a book I could read to distract myself some.  All of these small things blessed me.  I was grateful even in pain. Maybe this is why Africans are so joyful.  All the little things are blessings.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I feel.... so small

It is customary to greet a church with "Hallelujah!"

So I pretty much feel heavy hearted right now.  I am doing a lot of heavy sighing.  I am trying to put into words something that is somewhat complex because, well let’s face it: I am complex.

We spent all day doing what we do: speaking at church, meeting with individual families, trying to avoid food poisoning because the whole community cooked for us (the pumpkin was good though), fighting against the worst roads, suffering extreme exhaustion and fear of cockroaches (of which continue to plague me), crying over triumphs, laughing over getting lost in the bush and using pit latrines and the last straw – getting bit by mosquitoes without anti-malaria meds as well as no electricity for a hot shower.  I have seen the poorest widows, the blind, lame and countless orphans dance with joy over a meal filled with rice and beans when I myself struggle with a fierce desire for meat… something our Ugandan families never taste until they are over the age of 18 if they have survived that long.  Today I have battled my own demons of having WANTS when those I see here work 12 hours a day for NEEDS: Survival at the top of their list and comfort at the top of mine.
Even when I walked into a store later this evening I cried at the options of 10 crackers when just outside those doors children were starving.  I have SO much to choose from and they just want a chance to live. 

Crying again.  Can’t help it.  I am burdened and reminded that the needs are many… so many.  I need to center myself in God’s sovereignty and remember He is over it all, and trust.  I often quote Mother Teresa when I feel this way, “If you can’t help the world, just help one.”


Help one.  Help one.  Help another one.  Each one is precious in God’s sight.  

 Dancing in church is expected!

 Ummm... ya - like I said, pretty much a problem in the intestinal area!

One of our newer sponsored families! Thank you Hensons! 

This is just not as easy as it looks! 

 Can't even see in the sunshine - Josephine is used to it!

Whenever I speak in church I always tell stories and can't help but walk into the crowd.  
African's LOVE stories but who knows how annoyed they get when I am up close!

Thanks to a wonderful American grandmother - we gave out HAND MADE quilts to Solange and her mother who had NO sheets or mattresses.  They will be warm tonight for the first time in years :)


Friday, June 07, 2013

Hope bigger than fear

We traveled a long way and slept only 4 broken hours during a 30 hour plane journey.  We drove an additional hour to a hostel to drop our luggage and then rested for 2 more.  We then twisted and turned for 3 hours in a car to get to Mukono village.  It was a wonderful day filled with being reunited with widows, orphans and widowers that have been thriving through our family sponsorship program.

Sometimes when faced with absolute destitution and poverty, I think to myself, “What could I possibly do to make a difference here?”  I sometimes struggle to look poverty in the face.  Maybe it is a knee jerk reaction to pain that is visibly over someone.





I especially will not forget the day I met Josephine in 2011 and saw how she struggled to survive in the bush with her children.  Abandoned and neglected she was 8 months pregnant when I last saw her.  Even after one of her precious little ones passed away earlier this year, she never has given up.  She now has a healthy young baby girl named Robina and all of the children are thriving.  I cried like a baby when I saw her (as you can tell)!

Today I remembered the courage of daring to believe that God could use me and others to make a difference.  I saw the fruits of courage and belief in something bigger than myself.  Today I remembered hope.



Josephine gives me a generous gift! Eight beautiful eggs from her chickens!






Nora is a widow waiting for sponsorship for herself and 3 sons.   Her family is still waiting for a chance at new life just like Josephine.  Please consider our 3 year sponsorship program to create self sufficiency.  Contact me at melody@pahlow.com for more details. Today our organization made sure she could remain in her broken down house for 2 months while we trust God for a donor.  


Solange is taking care of her mother in a tiny rented shack. We provided them with much needed food.



Above is a picture of the home we are building for 4 orphans whose mother was killed by their father and left with a tiny bed and kitchen as you see below.  Imagine a 9 year old child caring for 3 other babies in this grim situation!  




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doubting my doubts

There is no doubt I have doubts.  I doubt frequently.  I fear failure.  I fear not being good enough.  I especially get wrapped up in the little things that weigh me down like an albatross.

Yesterday I felt terrified that I wouldn't be able to physically make it home to Uganda because I have been having some hip trouble (threw it out running of course).  I also felt afraid of what would happen once I arrived!  I agonized over the potential of malaria and even the ever present threat of snakes.  Today I worried that my suitcase wouldn't hold enough for the village... and then I realized perhaps I would have to leave my hair mousse behind!  Oh no. That WOULD be a terrible thing, right?

Today a good friend sent me a scripture, but she gave me the wrong reference.  It was a God thing.  Today I read Exodus 33:11-14.  Moses says to the Lord (and I am paraphrasing here): Hey, if you like me so much, can you tell me a little more here so I can trust you?  God replies, "I will go with you and you will be fine".  

Today that is my verse.  I am clinging to that.  God honors faith.  He knows our hearts and the places of great doubt... so that makes me know that of all things, faith is very high on His list.  Despite all my worries I will trust Him; whether I am here or in Uganda.  God says I will be fine. :)