(this is) my friend, jen gash, started a non-profit sweet sleep to help build beds for orphans. she went on a mission trip to moldova many years ago and discovered that there are children there, and all over the world, who do not have beds to sleep on. and, if they did have beds, they were old, stained and hardly in any shape to be called a bed. and that is how sweet sleep began.
today, she is asking for our help. she is leaving soon for uganda and needs our assistance. there are many ways you can help- do so as you feel led. let me know what you think.
now, you can read more about it in jen's words...
For nearly 22 years northern Uganda has been in a war-- a war which I have never known about until a few years ago. I had vaguely heard of “invisible children” or child soldiers or night commuters. Really all I knew was that a crazy evil man attacked villages at night, killing as many as possible and kidnapping children to be in his rebel army. I knew that each day, at dusk, children would walk long distances to sleep in safe shelters so the rebels could not get to them at night. This was all I knew. Recently this war entered into a time of peace. I’ve been trying to learn about the plight of the children in this area. This rebel army, the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) would attack villages during the night. As they attacked, LRA soldiers would kill as many adults as they could and they would force the children of these villages to kill their parents or be killed themselves. From there the children were kidnapped into the LRA army and forced to become child soldiers. These children have lived through tremendous atrocities.
Earlier this year God called our organization, Sweet Sleep (www.sweetsleep.org) to work in Uganda. In March, Sweet Sleep was contacted by an organization working in the Gulu region of northern Uganda ---the center of the impacted region. 10 huts had been burned down and there was an urgent need for beds for the children. We responded to this need and in July, while working in other orphanages in Uganda, I had the opportunity to travel to Gulu to see what Sweet Sleep had provided and to understand what more we could do. What I saw and learned that day has changed my life, and the ministry of Sweet Sleep.
There are far too many things to share about that day. However, I do want to tell you one story: In Gulu I spent the day with 5 teenagers who had either been child soldiers or who had lost their parents, they took me from camp to camp showing me huts and some of the beds Sweet Sleep had provided. I had never been in a hut before and focused on taking in everything I could. Actually, it was a little crazy to think I was in a hut in the middle of nowhere in east Africa. At one point in the afternoon we ducked through the doorway into another small hut. I looked around and saw it was just as all the others: a hard dirt floor, curved walls made from mud and little rays of light coming in at the top where the wall met the simple straw roof. I stood there and looked at the contents of this hut: one little bed with a pink blanket and one toothbrush somebody had woven in and out through the straw of the thatch ceiling. That was all. I asked a question I’d not yet asked, “Who lives here?” The answer that followed rocked my little world.
The teens told me that a 14-year old girl and her five younger brothers and sisters lived there.
I heard their answer, but I didn’t understand it. So, I asked, “Where are her parents and why have we only given them one bed?” The answer that came was dumbfounding to me. I learned that in the Gulu region there are still one million displaced people—people who have lost their homes and everything they owned---because of the war. I learned that three-quarters of those people are children living in child-headed households. Yes, read that again. That’s about 750,000 children with no parents or grandparents or even orphanage to protect or care for them.
This information struck something deep inside me. Spending the day watching and studying those 5 teenagers struck something even deeper. I kept asking myself what in the world our ministry could do there. I knew we couldn’t give them back what had been taken away from them---we couldn’t give them back their parents. I knew we couldn’t take away what had been forced upon them---those children had watched as their families and villages had been brutalized. What could we do? God and I wrestled with this for weeks and weeks and weeks. One of our driving verses at Sweet Sleep is Proverbs 3:24 which says, “they will lie down and not be afraid; they will lie down and their sleep will be sweet.” Here, in Gulu, this verse just did not make sense to these children.
In the months that followed, God showed me another verse, also in Proverbs, that says, “Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.” The answer, I realized, is that I had seen and had learned and was responsible to share their story with all of you so that you, too, would know and be able to respond. The answer for Sweet Sleep was that we respond just as we have always: we work together with everyone we can in order to find resources that will bring beds and hope to as many children as possible. This is the good news. It’s such good news that hope is coming to these children in the form of a bed which communicates to a child things about God’s promises so that peace can slowly begin to come to their hearts.
So, we are moving on to bring true sweet sleep to these tired and traumatized little ones. We face a challenge before us that is greater than ever. It is our ministry’s responsibility and challenge to connect the message of God’s hope, His love, grace, forgiveness, protection, provision and redemption, to the beds which we will provide. And, to equip those children with scripture that they can begin to learn and memorize which will enable them to push out the fear that grips them at night----the time the rebels come. If they can lie in their new beds and know they are loved and protected and then claim a verse reminding them of this knowledge, they can begin to have little victories over the fear that grips them. And, peace and hope and love can slowly come to their little hearts. This is why I desperately need your help.
My hope is you can help me find people who want to do something great this Christmas. We are providing 450 beds which will go to “heads of households” and thus, provide beds and nets for 2,000 children. Of those 450 beds we need 218 more. A bed in Gulu consists of a straw mat, a mattress, sheets, blanket and a mosquito net, for a cost of $88. Of that, $8 is for a treated mosquito net to help prevent children from being bitten by a life-threatening mosquito infected with this disease. In Uganda, malaria now kills more people than HIV/AIDS.
So, here’s what I still need, you can determine which opportunity suits you best:
·I need a team of people who can commit to praying for me and for the work I’ll be doing
·I need notes of love to give to a child I encounter. They can be notes of love, encouragement, your favorite scripture, whatever. Mailed to Sweet Sleep. I’ll pack and take and hand deliver to a child I get to spend time talking with.
·218 mosquito nets. 8,320 Ugandans will die of malaria during the 26 days I will be gone. I will purchase these in Uganda for $8 each. Malaria kills more people in Uganda than HIV/AIDS.
·Mattresses for 218 children so they will be able to sleep up off of the ground for the first time in their lives. Mattresses are $50.
·Can you imagine not having a blanket to warm you during these chilly nights or sheets to sleep in? 218 more children still need to be able to be warm and snuggly. They can for just $30.
·If you do the math you can see 218 complete beds are $88. That’s a fun total of $19, 184. Slow and steady wins the race. Sweet Sleep is nothing if not grass roots.
In this last home stretch it’s anything goes. Yes, we’ll welcome your donations. Yes, we’ll encourage you to bring these opportunities above to your office, church, small group, Sunday school class, college, school, running group, book club…anywhere you live your life. And, yes, we welcome your gift donations that you make in honor or memory of someone you know. We have fun card options you can choose for Sweet Sleep to send to your recipient, letting them know about the gift you’ve made on their behalf. Visit our site for more on this: http://www.sweetsleep.org/getinvolved/givethegift.html Any checks can be made to Sweet Sleep with a note for “Gulu” in the memo line. Our mailing address is PO Box 40486, Nashville, TN 37204.
and a couple of other things from Jen... especially #1 if you are still shopping for Christmas gifts:
Oh, two other things:
1) We have handcrafted jewelry made by orphans and widows in one of the orphanages we’ve worked with. All the proceeds benefit the beds we’ll provide this Christmas in Gulu, Uganda. These necklaces, bracelets and earrings are “green” because they are made from magazines! The children cut the pages into strips and then roll them on a small stick and then shellac and string them. The colors of the necklaces depend on the colors of the beads. They’re really pretty and definitely one-of-a-kind. Contact me for pictures or, if you’re in Nashville, come by our office or visit one of the stores you can buy them in.
2) Sign up to “follow” our blog. Just go to www.sweetsleep.org and click on the box featuring our blog (right side of page). One there you will find something on the side of our page that says “subscribe to post”…click there and then click to subscribe. Each time I post a blog in Uganda you’ll get a little email letting showing a clip of this which will take you to the blog. What an easy way to keep up!