Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God is Love.

My dear sweet friends,

Thank you.

Thank you for your kind words of love, your generous outpouring of encouragement, and your genuine sentiments of sympathy. What can I say? My heart and soul are shattered in a million little pieces at the shock of the situation and the fear of the reality that is looming before me and my brothers. But somehow my spirit knows peace. I have never been so weak or experienced so much pain in my life, so it must be a loving Savior surrounding me and hugging me tightly. Praise God my mom and dad are in the arms of a loving Father, who we will now call Dad too.

I know God is present in the little promises he shows me everyday such as the verse that He gave my brother Evan, Psalm 139: 8-10. "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." My sweet mom and dad were flying with Jesus and his hand was with them as they went to meet him in the depths of the sea. And he's holding them now, and he's holding us now.

How great is our God.

Their death is a beautiful picture of their souls. My dad would go no other way, flying made his heart sing. And neither would my mom, right by his side, living each moment fully and with an expectation of the eternal. I'm so glad they don't have to go a day without each other because they were madly in love. My brother Doug has been living at home and said it was the happiest he's ever seen them, that they were like little kids in love. They have been an incredible example to us of a loving, serving marriage and gracious parents. They were ready to be with Jesus, they told us over Christmas that very thing. Each child was at an incredible place of peace in our relationships with them and fully knowing the deep love we all have for each other.

The outpouring of love from our community of friends, family, and acquaintances has been sustenance for our souls. While our family has grown smaller, our definition of family will ever be expanding as we come to embrace and be embraced by a great cloud of witnesses. I thank you for your graciousness with us during this time, and I just ask that in the weeks, months, and years to come that you will participate and be part of our new family.

It is also an incredible inspiration and comfort to hear the amazing ways my parents have impacted the lives of so many people. So please do send your sweet memories so that we can celebrate the lives of the two greatest loves of my life and the fantastic individuals of Evan and Peggy.

I miss them with all my heart. I keep hoping each morning that my dad is going to come kiss me on the forehead before he goes to work and that my mom will sit with me in her bathrobe over a cup of tea at the kitchen table.

Then I'm reminded we will have all of eternity to do that. This is only temporary.

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good.

with much, much love,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You Can Feel the Joy of Abi

Written by Kali Stull:
Ashley and I met Abi Galeiwango at a home for former street kids in Kampale, Uganda. We were immediately drawn to him because as Ashley put it, "You can see the joy written all over his face." He is such a vessel of God's love and we wanted to know how he became so filled with the spirit so...here is are Abby's words:
"I was born in 1986 in a place called Natete. It's 5 miles from Kampala [the capital of Uganda]. I was born by a man called Gacoiwango, he was a muslim. As usual muslim men marry many wives. My mother was among the last wife he had. My father had 12 wives. When my mom joined that family she was mistreated by the other wives and she decided to divorce. She took her children with her. When we left my father became angry with my mom and her children so he didn't keep in touch with us and when he died of AIDS when he was 4, we discovered we were not in his will. After his death my mom was poor and couldn't take care of us- no schooling [in Uganda, there was no free schooling], we just stayed at home. We led a miserable life at that time. During those times, we could go to bed at night without eating, sometimes we would eat once a day. My mom wasn't working, life was not good. I suffered a lot for those 3 years. I decided to leave that life and live on the street. I was 6 years old when I joined the streets. I was persuaded by my friend to join the streets. He told me, "You go, make money, do whatever you want." At that time I was young and I couldn't work for money. I dug through the trash, sniffed gas and stole money from people during the day. At night I slept on the shop's porch. But if the police find you they beat you and chase you. Living on the streets was hard, but at least I could find food. I was there by myself. Some christians used to come and provide lunch and preach the gospel, but they never had a place to take us street kids. I used to abuse them because I came from a muslim background. I thought "leave me and I suffer", but I was ignorant about what I was saying. One day, the Rev. Sampunch had an organization called Africa Found and they had a home so one day they gathererd many of us on the street and took us to a home. At that time, no one wanted to go. Many people escaped from the van. We were used to life on the streets. In the morning I would wake up, pick pockets, sniff gas and if I fail I go pick garbage and then sleep. I had more food on the streets than in my mom's house. Rev. had the burden of looking after the 3 of us that made it to the house. At Africa Found, they took us to school, and gave us lunch and dinner and medical facilities. I was happy to start school. I thought, "I can't loose this opportunity and go back on the streets." I was in that home for 8 years. That's when Rev. joined the politics so he decided to use our scholarship money for political reasons. Some older boys told our sponsors about it, and they stopped providing money. So then Rev. decided to close the home and he told us, "Now you go out and find out how to survive." That moment my life came to a standstill. I couldn't communicate to my mom, I had to go back to the street. While I was at the house, they introduced us o Chrstianity and I decided to give my life to Christ. If you have Jesus, you have everything. So when I was kicked out of the Africa Found home, I started praying to Jesus, telling him I'm hopeless, I have nothing, but You are the one. I had heard a preacher say God does things and you never know what his final plans are so stop complaining and start praying. I prayed so hard. One of the people in Africa Found, Uncle Simon [a good, honest man] worked with the sponsors to find us kids who were kicked out. They advertised on radio and in the paper to find us. I remanined on the streets for 4 months. I felt so bad. That time on the streets I suffered so much. Because I commited my life to Christ, I couldn't steal. This time on the streets I worked for money to survive. I could go and build for 5,000 shillings a day [about 3 dollars]. Living on the street was a christian was difficult; though I was suffering I refused to go back and steal and sniff gas. God saw my determination and he opened dorrs for me. I stayed most of my time in a chruch-they gave me a place to sleep and some food because they saw the way I was loving Christ. When I was there I met a friend who said, "some people are looking for you, you have to go see Uncle Simon," so I went to find him. He and Peter [both men work for Cornerstone] said I could join a Cornerstone home. I was so excited and surprised, I can't tell you! Ah! From then I joined Cornerstone and they took me to school. The Bible says, " The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom," and you know, I was a wise guy. I completed school very well and qualified to join Mekere University. What I can say is all I have acheived is by the will of God. I have never regreted giving my life o Christ. I love singing about my love for God. I want to go and record. I am here, smiling, the mentors are good guys! Whenever people ask, I tell my testimony-they can't believe how much I've changed! Praise Him! You will never find me unhappy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lovely Lira

Easter, Annet (two of the Youth Corps girls) and I left this morning at 5:45AM for school. I was not thrilled to be up so early, but as the day pronounced its coming with the sky brightening in warm shades of pink and yellow, the chipatti stoves warming, boda boda drivers biking to their stations, and children washing their feet and faces, I was reminded of the natural beauty and serenity of life here in Lira, which seems like a oxymoron since the past 21 years have been marked by fear and turmoil from the war between the LRA and UPDF. However it is not the Lira I know.

The girls of Lira Youth Corps home possess such a brilliant resilience and hope for the future. All sixteen girls, between the ages of 8 and 15, have experienced tremendous heartache, whether from the loss of a parent or both parents or the trapped, monotonous life in an IDP camp. They come with empty hands but with hearts of gold and radiant smiles ready to learn and serve.

Living in the home with them has been a delight because of their contagious enthusiasm for life and heart-felt gratitude for each new day, the clothes on their back, their warm meal at night, the opportunity to go to school, a mattress to sleep on, two strong and loving mentors, and the family of 16 sisters.

The exchange we've had with the girls over the past few weeks has been enlightening, encouraging, and full of belly wrenching laughter. We have tried to learn their culture, such as -- the task of balancing a jerry can full of water on our heads, how to kill, cook, and eat a chicken, dancing the traditional Acholi dance, singing Hallelujah praise music at the local church, riding side saddle on a bicycle boda boda, entertaining ourselves for hours with a few rock games, hoeing up cassava roots, and each night all 18 of us running through the village singing at the top of our lungs.

We've also had a chance to share some American "traditions"-- Easter egg dying and and Easter egg hunt, a campfire with doughboys, the process of washing hair, our many silly songs, field day games of three-legged race, wheelbarrow, and egg and spoon, as well as the lack of our ability to dance, always a sure way to get the girls giggling.

This house can't help but infect us with joy because I believe it is a taste of God's house. Few material objects make the house cozy, but the open doors and welcoming arms of the 16 young girls make it the most comfortable house of all. The walls aren't elaborately decorated, but full of their girls own colorful artwork. These girls aren't sisters by blood, but are tied together by even stronger bonds as sisters in Christ. They've missed the love of a mother or father, which allows them to cling even deeper to the Father's love for them. Each night they dedicate all their energy into shouting His praises which ring throughout the house. They haven't experienced the care of an older sibling, but they are in the care of two strong and loving mentors, whom they call "Aunties." These women invest their lives in these girls to care for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, by not only teaching the precepts of Jesus, but also by living them out each day. It's a family to the fullest extent where each girl cares for the next, as they eagerly serve and love deeply with the love of Christ.

Ashley S. Zeiger

Monday, March 26, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007



Kali and I went up to Gulu and Lira this past week to see the broken towns and broken lives of the men, women, and children who have been victims of the 20 year war between Joseph Kony's Lord Resitance Army (LRA) and the government UPDF soliders. The LRA abducts children to become child soldiers and sex slaves. I'm not going to give a history lesson, but to understand more, there is tons of information on the internet about the situation.

No words can describe or adequately explain the experiences we had today. And no amount of time I spent here in Gulu would ever make me understand how these children feel. At the mere ages of 10 to 15 years old they have experienced more in their lives than I would ever see in 7 lifetimes in America. What follows is the story of Tony, a 15 year old boy I interviewed who is now living in the Cornerstone Youth Corps home in Gulu.

"My name is Tony. I am 15 years old. I am from the villiage Coro abeli. My brother Morris lives in the YC home with me. There are no more children in our home from our village. The village life was not fine. I was abducted by the LRA boys when I was 9. When I first got there I missed my parents very much, but after the LRA told me they killed my father and mother I had to forget. I was in the bush for 5 years. Life is so hard in the bush. I was beaten severely. We had to carry very heavy luggage for many kilometers. The hardest part about the bush was the hunger and thirst. They made us go to villages to loot, burn, and sometimes kill. We were marching back from looting, a two days walk to Sudan. There was an ambush from the UPDF soilders and I was injured. My heel was shot and so was my leg. I was 14 years old. The man who was carrying me had to put me down to run away. I stayed in that place for one week eating roots and leaves. The LRA came back to find me, but there was another ambush. The LRA went away and the UPDF found me. I gave them my gun and they took me to the hospital. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks."

"Then I went to the rehabilitaion center for 2 months. My brother did not recognize me until the fourth time he came to see me. We were happy. After rehab I went to live in the village with my brother. We had no parents. I got pigeons and baked bricks to make money for food. I like to draw. We registered to draw pictures for 500 shillings. We met David Laker and he went and told us to come live in YC home where we would have food."

"Life is very good now because I have opportunity to go to school. I want people to know about my life in the village because my life in the bush is not important now, because it has already passed. Life in the village is a life of struggling until one day you realize your dream. My struggle is when I leave YC home to go back to the villages and there is no food. My dream is to be a driver and a doctor and help."

Tony has been living at the home for a couple of weeks now. He is just a child but holds so much insight into life, as many of the Ugandans do who have suffered from the war. When I asked him what he wanted people to know about his life, he said he wanted people to know about his village, which is his current struggle, and his dream. So many of the people really strive to focus on the future and be hopeful. They have been through things harder than I can imagine, yet they aren't wallowing in pity for themselves. They are looking to the future, and working hard to make it better.
Ashley S. Zeiger

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Uganda: the Pearl of Africa

..."the pearl of Africa"...

Indeed, what a gem, what a breath of sweet warm air. Smiling faces, colorful dress, lively music, lush vegetation and a bright new culture to experience. Kali and I were luminous stepping off the plane into Entebbe, about 40 km away from Kampala, Uganda's capital. There was some miscommunication about our flight arrival, so we hopped in a taxi and managed to scrounge around and find the address to Cornerstone.

We were speechless the whole ride because all of our senses were so busy taking in our new surroundings. The smells of bananas roasting, fresh paint, and the warm, salty, smell of Lake Victoria reminded me of Jamaica.

Compared to Ethiopia, this is the Garden of Eden. Banana trees, blooming flowers, avocado's the size of eggplants, green green grass, parks, and soccer fields that are actually made of grass.

We made it to plot 37, Cornerstone headquarters, to a joyful, warming hugs from the Ugandans, welcoming us to their country as sisters. After our informal introductions to the team, we were presented with our first tast of Ugandan food.... red bean with rice and 'posho'-- mashed plantains. Delicious, but my brothers would have a ball spicing it up with a bit of Tony's or Crystal hot sauce.

Tim , the director of Cornerstone, met with us for a moment, basically saying you'll figure it out in time and here's how to get around.

So after being shown to our cozy little room called faith, we embarked on our first adventure, one that I had no idea would cause me to fear for my life and be one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.... the culprit: the boda boda.

A glorious idea indeed, yet in actuality quite a death sentence. Boda boda's' are essentially motorcycles for hire. Peter showed us how to get on one with a skirt and the correct positioning of our legs so that we would not be burned, a common mistake of foreigners. Seconds later we were flying down the street. I was laughing all the way into town, out of sheer delight and sheer terror. The drivers recklessly weave in and out of traffic around trucks and in between cars so that you are literally centimeters away from grazing a car. But the best part was his non-nonchalant attitude about the whole shindig. Granted he's probably been doing it for years, but not to even flinch impressed me. Needless to say, I know how I'll be getting my rush everyday.

Ashley S. Zeiger