Sasha’s Story

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When she arrived at the Christian Life Center Hospice Facility in Phumula, South Africa, 15-month-old Sasha was on the verge of dying. Born HIV positive, she is now living with the AIDS virus.

The hospice facility is a ministry of Christian Life Center, a local church that houses and cares for children diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. “This facility is a divine means by which God is using the church to rescue and care for His children,” said Pastor Siva Moodley, one of Willow’s Global Partners, working at the Christian Life Center.

Because of the social stigma attached to having a baby diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, Sasha and her mother, who also battles the AIDS virus, were ostracized and thrown out of their traditional rural community. They roamed the streets, often assaulted and harassed, until authorities eventually caught them living in a shopping mall and were thrown out. Day after day, Sasha’s health deteriorated because her mother couldn’t afford to feed her or provide her with the medicine she needed to survive. Knowing that her daughter needed immediate medical attention, Sasha’s mother tried to get her daughter admitted to a government-funded hospital, but was denied. Sasha was also turned away from various care facilities and orphan centers because doctors said her chances of surviving were considered hopeless—until she arrived at the hospice facility.

The Christian Life Center has given Sasha a second chance at life.

“The hospice program is able to provide Sasha a haven of hope that will provide comfort, care, and security,” said Siva. While Sasha’s health is still critical, she is now able to consume solid food and is no longer in constant pain. “The pain and anguish on her face has disappeared and is now replaced with a constant smile,” said Siva.

Sasha receives professional medical attention, has started a new ARV treatment, and has a housemother, Gogo (Granny), who provides-round-the-clock care for her. Her quality of life has greatly improved. “We believe that God will heal Sasha and that she will someday live a normal life,” said Siva.

Role of Willow members
 The Christian Life Center is able to help children like Sasha because of ongoing support from Willow members—support that comes in the form of prayers, resources, and volunteerism.

The hospice program has expanded and now includes a new building that will be able to house and care for 12 children, as opposed to 6. The new building is in need of modern medical equipment, medically approved furnishings, a professional nurse and two nursing assistants, Willow volunteers to train housemothers and the medical staff, as well as food, clothing, and linens. This new building will ensure children like Sasha receive the love and care they need and deserve.

If you are interested in working collaboratively with other professionals to enhance and support Willow’s global partners like Christian Life Center, consider joining one of Global Ministry’s Community Development Advocate Teams. These teams exist to equip global partners with resources and help them meet the needs of their local communities through development initiatives. CDA teams will meet at the Global Ministry Gathering at Willow Creek from 6-8 p.m., January 21, in Blue Sky 1.

A New Leader in Malawi

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Willow Creek has been working in Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, for the last seven years. Malawi faces challenges in building, expanding the economy, improving education, and health related issues. As with all of Willow’s global partnerships, all community development and ministry in Malawi is accomplished through local churches. Willow does, however, have a Country Manager (CM) who works in person to facilitate all church, government, community and technical partnerships in country.

This August, Derek Luhanga, accepted the position as Willow’s CM for Malawi. “We are thrilled with the unique and comprehensive gifts and experiences Derek brings to this position,” said Mark.

Derek holds both a Certificate and a Diploma in Project Management from Cambridge International College, United Kingdom. He understands the people, customs, and needs of those living in Chitipa (the community where Willow primarily works), due to the fact that it’s his hometown. Having moved away previously, Derek relocated back to Chitapa after accepting the CM position.

His excellent credentials make for a strong fit in his new assignment. In addition to speaking all of the six local languages, Derek has 21 years of experience working with vulnerable women and children in Malawi. Over the span of his career, he has worked for various international organizations such as Evangelical Lutheran World Service, Habitat for Humanity and Every Child. He also served as the Regional Superintendent over Central Malawi for a church denomination. In spite of all his experience with community development organizations, Derek is ultimately a pastor at heart, possessing great compassion for his people.

“Derek Luhanga is an answer to our prayers and our search for a Country Manager for Chitapa, Malawi. In such a short time, we are already seeing great things happening.” –Mark Haugen (Global Field Director)
To learn more about Willow’s work in Malawi and how you might contribute, attend the new Global Ministries gathering on January 21, 6-8 p.m.

The Seeds Have Arrived!

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An update and note of thanks from our partners the Jubilee Center in Zambia.

Hundreds of adults and children will receive Willow Creek’s lifesaving help thanks to an incredible response by church members to the appeal for seeds and food packs. Thousands of our families affected by poverty and HIV and AIDS live without adequate food.

Around 2,000 households will receive seeds of tomatoes, cabbage, onion and spinach. Lawrence Temfwe, the Executive Director of Jubilee Centre who participated in the Willow Creek Celebration of Hope appeal early this year stated that, “We are grateful to Willow’s church leadership and their members for this support.” Willow is not only providing seeds, but also supplies households with fertilizer and training in how to increase their harvest.

Willow, through its Celebration of Hope giving, has helped improve access to clean water by drilling boreholes in several communities in Zambia. This month three churches will have boreholes on their premises to provide ‘living water’ to their communities. Bishop Arnold Singoyi of Christian Bible Church is one of the people whose church will receive the borehole. He said, “The borehole will be such a powerful example when I tell members and the community that Jesus is the living water. We are thankful to God and to our Willow family for helping us in such a holistic manner.”

Cures Made Possible Through COH

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Imagine holding your three-week-old baby in your arms and looking lovingly into his face. For nine months you’ve waited and prepared for him and now, he’s here. But something is wrong. Instead of seeing the sweet face of a newborn, there’s a grotesque flaw. That’s what Samuel’s mother experienced. Samuel, was born with a meningocele, or fluid sac on his face. Pressure on his bran from fluid buildup was a serious health concern. In addition, the sac made it difficult for him to breathe and almost impossible for her to breast feed him.

Samuel’s mother took him to the nursing room at SCCP (Samfya Community of Care Providers). He was referred to the CURE Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia where doctors applied two shunts to drain the fluid—both attempts failed, but the third shunt successfully drained the fluid. A surgeon from CURE was able to replace bone in Samuel’s forehead and seal the problem area. Needless to say, this has led to a dramatic change for both Samuel and his family.

As a toddler, Bridget, an orphan who lives with her aunt, sustained an infection that resulted in a draining fistula and loss of lip structure. It was difficult for her to eat and talk, but her aunt could not afford medical treatment. SCCP referred her to Smile Train and after two reconstructive surgeries, Bridget is able to close her mouth, eat, and speak more easily.

Thousands of lives are being improved due to medical support made possible by Celebration of Hope 2013. SCCP is able to support special surgeries like these, as well as monthly nutrition and hygiene support for clients, medication for the nursing room and for care providers with First Aid training, client medical referrals, a translator for the nursing room, and more.

A New Way to Serve Globally…by Staying Local

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For many people who attend Willow, God has planted a passion for helping church partners in Africa and Latin America. The passion might center around a particular profession, such as education, medicine, or finance, or it might be to provide clean water and nutritious food. And for others it might be as simple as a desire to learn about another culture or country around the world. In any case, the traditional way to feed these passions was to go on a global mission trip. But what if a mission trip is not currently an option? Is there a way to feed these global passions locally? The answer is now “yes” with the creation of Community Development Advocates (CDA) Teams.

CDA Team Launch
In March 2013, Willow held its first CDA Team meeting. Approximately 150 people gathered to listen to a presentation on global issues and stories of experiences from several Willow Creek serving team members followed by breaking down into individual groups. The groups were divided into six categories or “care themes,” which included economic development, health/nutrition, water, capacity development (micro-enterprise), spiritual development, and education. Each group was led by a person who has knowledge of the partners and their needs. The same format was used for a second CDA Team meeting in June 2013.

The value of CDA teams is looking at “the big picture from home,” says Willow staff member Scott Pederson. Dividing the groups by interest allows like-minded people to sit together and brainstorm. After hearing the common struggles faced by global partners, the group talks through innovative solutions and best practices for change.

After only two meetings, the local CDA Teams have already made a global impact. In one instance, a medical team that has served in Latin America began using Skype to train church partners in how to use an ultrasound machine. This has worked so well, the team is working toward expanding this idea to other types of training. In another instance, a group of teachers who served in Zambia is exploring the use of email and Skype to counsel and train school teachers there. “There’s no bad idea,” says Scott. “The Global Ministries team is excited about the potential engagement this unlocks between Willow attenders and our global partners.

The next time the CDA Teams gather is at the C&J Volunteer Rally on September 14, during the Global breakout session. Visit the C&J webpage to learn more about the rally and to sign up.

Breaking the Cycle One Loan at a Time

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In 2010, Willow Creek began a microfinance program with a Kitchen Garden Loan Program intended to move from food donations and toward self-sustainability. The program, funded by Willow Creek members, concentrates on providing loans to individuals who are HIV positive, individuals who are responsible for caring for someone who is HIV positive, or caring for orphans.

The money is sent to loan groups in the Willow’s global partner churches, and a loan officer from the local church monitors the funds. The church is then responsible for choosing the loan recipients.

“The loans are a way to give a person or family the chance to get out of the cycle of poverty and begin to better their circumstances,” said Scott Pederson, a staff member with Willow’s global ministry. “One other big element is the issue of dignity—when a person has the opportunity to provide for her/his family, it builds their dignity and is a new way of building hope.”

One of its recipients is a 51-year-old woman named Peggie Chipulu, living in Samfya, Zambia, a small town in the province of Luapula. In 2003, her husband died from complications of HIV/AIDS. Peggie was later diagnosed as HIV positive, and antiretroviral medication and hospital bills left her bankrupt.

In 2009, one of Willow’s local church partners in Samfya had chosen Peggie to receive a loan through the microloan program. The loan money was used to help her start a garden, which in turn produced 250 Zambian Kwacha (ZK) —the equivalent of $48. She was able to pay back her first loan and qualify for a second loan of 600ZK ($115), which she used for farming. She was able to produce 25 bags of crops and by selling 20 of those bags, she raised 1,300ZK ($250). By investing this money in a clothing business, she was able to own and operate her own store. Because of the microloan program, Peggy is able to provide financial support for three orphans and make improvements to her home.

Despite her illness, she has remained active in her church, serving as a deaconess and in the choir.

“I never lost hope; I trusted God to heal me,” said Peggy. “HIV is not a death sentence; it is a disease like asthma and diabetes. Treating it is a matter of knowing what to do or not to and adhering to that.”

For many, the microloan program is the only opportunity for financial independence because the individuals have little to no collateral and many of the countries do not have loan providers.

“When we see the successful results and the stories of how a family went from extreme poverty to the ability to provide for their own, and their new pride in doing so, it is a wonderful thing,” said Scott.

 

Gift-in-Kind Grand Slam

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Good Morning-

This past Friday the Dreamweaver/G4G organization had a collection at the Schaumburg Boomers Baseball Game for our partners in the Dominican Republic. Over 1000 pieces (bats, balls, helmets, catchers gear, cleats, uniforms and assorted sports equipment) were collected. It was a fun night of baseball, fireworks and a G4G flash mob that entertained the crowd at the 7th inning stretch. Thank you so much for giving the youth groups in the DR so much Blessing.

Some incredible news…this week GIK history will be made. Thanks to Lowery/McDonnell Company we will have FOUR containers packed with valuable educational furniture. Over 1400 student desks and chairs, dozens of file cabinets, tables and teachers desks will be sent to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Costa Rica. They (L/M) will pack the containers for us in Oak Park at the Lincoln, Hatch and Mann Schools. The DR and ES containers will launch this week, while the CR container will sit in a holding pattern for a few weeks, while kitchen equipment our partners requested is procured and inserted into the load. This incredible opportunity will help dozens of Latin American Schools improve classroom conditions for years to come.

What a great way to close out the first half of this year with seven containers to four country partners. We sent seven containers all of last year. Only God can create such opportunity!

-Frank Davis

Gift-in-Kind Ministry Coordinator

No Containing the Container Goal

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Gifts-in-Kind (GIK) is a volunteer-run ministry that collects high-value goods and materials for Willow’s global church partners around the world. Last year, seven 40-foot containers transported more than 42 tons of items specifically requested by local partners. This year, the goal was to match last year’s achievement. And incredibly, this goal is just days from being met. As of the end of June 2013, seven containers will have been filled and ready for delivery to Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador.

The most recently packed container contains Montessori school supplies, 150 student chairs, computer tables, file cabinets, medical supplies, two pianos, 10 wheelchairs, 15 walkers, and a whole host of sports equipment, including basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, cleats, and uniforms. Twenty-five percent of this container contains brand new supplies. But none of these items are random. Rather, they are all items requested by Willow’s church partners as part of their ministry vision.

The Key to GIK
Willow member and volunteer Frank Davis explains how GIK works. “The local partner is the change-maker who knows what is needed in the areas of medicine, education, and the church. They are the ones with the vision for growth and development.” Davis says, “the key to this is not about the stuff, it’s about having a relationship with the partner first.” Then God directs everything else into place.

Miraculous Supply of Supplies
An example of things falling into place is this year’s Celebration of Hope lobby experience, where GIK had a booth. A husband and wife stopped by to ask questions about the GIK ministry. It turns out that the couple owns a leading manufacturing company of school and office furniture. In addition to offering brand new equipment, this company donated a large amount of supplies from three schools in Oak Park. Amazingly, they are all supplies that Willow’s partners have requested. It’s no accident. “That’s just how it works,” Davis says. “I have story after story of unbelievable connections, where a container is filled with exactly the right supplies at exactly the right time.”

Frank says the common sentiment of all volunteers is that they are pleased and honored to be a part of a GIK container. Volunteers looking to help pack containers or provide supplies may email gik@willowcreek.org for more information. Needed materials include (new or gently used) personal computer/laptops, backpacks, school supplies, gym equipment, sound equipment, medical supplies, commercial kitchens, and agricultural/construction tools.

Get Ready. Get Set. Go!

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Picture Willow’s South Barrington and Huntley campuses, not with parking lots and entrances and exits, but with a 5K running course complete with water stations, mile markers, and excited participants and spectators. This was the scene on April 20, the day of Willow’s second 5K Run for Shoes. With rocking music, Paul Jansen Van Rensburg manning the microphone, and plenty of adrenalin pumping, the chilly the 5K launched the 2013 Celebration of Hope initiative. And weather did nothing to damper the spirits of the 4,100 people who ran and walked the 5K at South Barrington and Huntley’s campuses.

“It was my first 5K ever,” said one runner, whose two children and husband waited at the finish line to cheer her on. “Now I can cross it off my bucket list,” she joked. Another runner said she was inspired by the two people running ahead of her, a father and 10-year-old son, who held hands during the entire race. “They were fast, too!” she said. Yet another runner laughed about bringing in “the caboose of the race” with other lollygaggers like himself.

Regardless of pace, all ages ran, walked, or rolled over the finish line as smiling faces, including the four-legged variety, applauded their efforts. The real satisfaction? Knowing that they helped put shoes on the feet of children in Latin America and Africa.

Family Seed Packs
Last year, Willow volunteers filled 500,000 family seed packs for local church partners in Zimbabwe. The success of 2012 inspired a goal of 3/4 of a million family seed packs this year. Not only was this goal met, it was exceeded: 19,079 volunteers filled 778,750 garden packs. This enabled Willow to send seeds, not only to Zimbabwe, but also to Zambia, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.

How?

During one section community serve in particular, a first-time Willow volunteer finished his two-hour session and wanted to do more, so he stayed for the next two-hour serve. Another seed packing veteran not only trained to help lead a session, he shared tips with the leaders of the next session for efficient packing. Other volunteers wore their 5K Run for Shoes t-shirts as a fun way to show their commitment to Celebration of Hope (COH) during the seed-packing event.

The Lobby Experience

As in past years, the lobby was transformed into a live exhibit of projects that need funding at Willow’s 234 church partners around the world. Before and after services, the lobby was full of people viewing a large array of projects aimed at improving water, education, health, nutrition, economic development, and spiritual support. Donations are still coming in.

COH changes the hearts of people, both here at Willow and in churches across the globe. A new couple to Willow describes their first COH this way: “Living a suburban American life, it’s easy to feel distant or disconnected from the suffering and hardships of people in other parts of the world. COH gave our family a chance to see God working in communities and hearts around the globe.”

It’s Not Over Yet
For those looking for ways to continue the work of COH throughout the year, Willow Creek’s Global Ministry has put together a new opportunity to learn and get involved with specific global issues. You are invited to join staff and other volunteers who are investing in the on-going work of our global church partners by attending a global gathering on June 25, 6-8 p.m.

Participants will have the opportunity to connect with others who are interested in using their professional or technical skills to make a difference globally. Groups are being built around the areas of agriculture, business development, education, health/nutrition/wellness, spiritual development, and water/engineering. Register today!

A Novel Idea: Sending Books to Samfya

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eager to learn

The third time was a charm for Lisa Backus, teacher and Willow North Shore member. After participating in three mission trips to Samfya, where she worked with teachers in the classrooms, Lisa vowed to do something about the lack of books. As a teacher, Lisa could not imagine trying to teach a subject without reading materials. Yet, that was the situation in Samfya, where children struggled to learn English without any reading books to practice with and without a story time when the teacher read to them. After her third trip, Lisa resolved to help by sending the schools a box of children’s books.

An Unexpected Chapter
Back home, Lisa acted on her resolve but was shocked to find out how costly it would be to ship a box of books all the way to Samfya. Trying to avoid expensive shipping costs, Lisa searched the web for a way to purchase the books in Africa. She found them, but unfortunately, they proved too expensive as well. So Lisa came up with another plan.  The high school where she taught equipped students with newer editions of math books and would be getting rid of the used ones. Feeling strongly that the books should be donated as opposed to discarded, Lisa and fellow Willow Creek member and teacher Diane Riendeau discovered an organization called Books for Africa.

Books for Africa operates warehouses in Minneapolis and Atlanta for general book donations. Because one of Lisa’s daughters happens to live in Minnesota, her daughter drove the math books to the warehouse site. In a “light bulb moment,” Lisa thought to ask Books for Africa if they were capable of sending particular books, such as children’s reading books, to a particular location. “That’s exactly what they do,” Lisa said, only on a grander scale than what she originally envisioned.

The Plot Thickens to 22,000 Books 
Books for Africa ships and organizes donated books in large containers at the shipper’s expense. After working out the details, Lisa emailed Willow’s local partner in Samfya to ask if the schools could use 22,000 books. Willow’s partner said “Yes!” and Lisa took on the task of raising $16,000 to ship the container.

Even though she had always avoided fundraising, Lisa became a “Container Captain,” and contacted everyone she knew who might be interested in helping. She raised $10,000 leaving her with a $6,000 shortfall. Then through God’s perfect timing, she was invited to join Celebration of Hope’s lobby exhibitions in 2012; the remaining money was raised through Celebration of Hope funds.

The final hurdle was making sure Books for Africa had enough books in stock, because the organization had filled a significant number of orders prior to Lisa raising the $16,000 for her container shipment. Once again, everything worked out. Lisa got the call that with an eleventh hour donation, Books for Africa received enough books to guarantee the 22,000 book shipment—enough to supply 12 schools in Samfya with an entire library of books.

Looking back, Lisa says, “It’s almost surreal. With each stumbling block, I didn’t know how to move forward.”  But God did. “God blows my mind,” she says. “I set out to send one box of books to Samfya; God sent 22,000 books.”

 

Category : Celebration of Hope, Global Connections