Thursday, April 10, 2014

Challenge to Churches 2014

**This post is aimed at pastors and church leaders.  If that's not you, will you please pass this on to someone in leadership at your church if you'd like them to include Mercy for Mamas in your church's Mother's Day celebrations.  Thank you so much!

Mother's Day is right around the corner.  Can you believe it?  It seems like we were just celebrating Valentine's Day!  But it's time to start making plans to celebrate dear old mom.

Each year on Mother's Day churches across the US take time to honor the women in their church.  They pass out bookmarks, flowers, or candy.  Or maybe they have a contest for the women with the most children, the oldest mother, or the newest mother.  Perhaps your church has a baby dedication service that Sunday.  Every church does it differently, but it is a time to honor the gift of motherhood.

Here at Mercy for Mamas, Mother's Day is a big time of year for us.  The vast majority of our funding for the year comes during the month's of April and May.  This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the important women in our lives, while also helping to support women in Uganda.
Young Mother's receiving their mama kits at a local crisis pregnancy center
Mercy for Mamas works to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Uganda by providing women with sterile birthing kits and prenatal education.  Each day at least 15 women die in Uganda giving birth, which is 40x's the maternal death rate in the US.  Many of these deaths can be attributed to a lack of prenatal care and also to not having the proper supplies for a delivery.  In order to be cared for by a local hospital or clinic a woman must bring all of her own supplies.  If she cannot afford the supplies, she most likely will not receive care.  This leads to many women delivering at home, without clean supplies, and without any trained medical professional (nurse, midwife, or doctor).
Expectant Ugandan mother with her birthing supplies
Since 2010 we've been providing birthing kits called "mama kits" to women all over Uganda.  To date, more than 7,000 women have received a $7 mama kit.  We also hold prenatal education seminars and outreach clinics throughout Uganda.  We work hard to partner with trusted clinics, crisis pregnancy centers, churches, and missionaries. We provide them with mama kits and we also assist them with outreach efforts.  These partners use the mama kits year-round as a way to help pregnant women, but also as a tool to build relationships with the women.  Many women have come to know Christ because of the gift of a mama kit. Others have found churches and bible studies to join because of our outreach events.

Each mama kit costs just $7.  The kits include very basic supplies including: cotton wool, razor blades, sterile gloves, umbilical cord ties, soap, large plastic sheeting, directions for delivery, and a health care card.
Mama kit.  "Maama" is the Luganda word for mother
This year our ministry is focusing on getting mama kits to more under-served areas.  We're focusing on IDP camps for Sudanese refugees, remote islands on Lake Victoria, and more rural areas with very limited medical care.  We would be honored if you would help us in our campaign to buy 3000 mama kits before June (read more about that in the link).
Village midwife assisting a young woman in labor
What if your church this Mother's Day decided to take this time to honor the women of your church, but also to offer support to mothers in Uganda? There are several ways you could incorporate Mercy for Mamas into your church.
  • Instead of spending money on a gift for the mothers in your church, you could make a donation to Mercy for Mamas and give each woman a card explaining your gift.    
  • You could show the Mercy for Mamas video during your service and help us get the word out about the great needs of pregnant women in Uganda. (*We have the main video that is posted on this site, but we will have a new updated video done before Mother's Day!)
  • You could collect a love offering for Mercy for Mamas on Mother's Day. We would provide you with donation cards church people could then give to their mothers or special someone explaining that they gave in their honor.
  • We can provide you with a bulletin insert for you explaining our cause.
I can tell you this, every pastor that has done this at their church has told me repeatedly how well it was received.  I met just last week with a pastor and he told me that the ladies in his church were so appreciative of the donation made in their honor.  He said they loved that they got a gift with purpose that would help someone else.  Here are some other testimonials in last year's Challenge to Churches.

I love the idea of the church honoring our mothers, helping other mothers live to parent their children, and sharing the gospel all at the same time.  This is the church in action.

If you'd like more information on how you can incorporate Mercy for Mamas into your church please email us at info@mercyformamas.com.  Also, make sure to check out the whole website, so you can get a better understanding of the work we do.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Great New Merchandise!

Rock some amazing Mercy for Mamas merchandise and help our mission team get to Uganda this summer! We are taking orders for t-shirts and tumblers. 

T-shirts are unisex, preshrunk, and available in sport gray and sapphire blue. Both colors are available in Adult Small-Adult XXXL ($2 extra for XXL and XXXL). We will do kids' sizes in the gray, Youth XS-Youth Large. Shirts are $17 local, $20 shipped. 


Tumblers are $10 local, $13 shipped. They are BPA free, 16 oz, double-walled, and include a matching straw (actual blue will be a bit brighter and easier to read). 

All proceeds go toward our trip costs.  Email your order to info@mercyformamas.com or place your order through a team member so they get credit. Orders will be taken through April 12th.

We should receive all merchandise by the end of the month, so you will get items in time for Mother's Day.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Your Help is Needed

Hang with me, this could be long. Friends, I know I often tell you about the needs of the pregnant women of Uganda and I ask you to give. Sometimes, I feel like I am a broken record, but I am passionate about this cause and I love these precious women.  I have seen the needs firsthand.  I have held the precious babies who lost their mothers.  I have cried with the women who have lots their sweet ones.  I have seen the conditions in which they deliver their babies.  The need is real.  

Just this week I got a request from a missionary for mama kits.  This is a critical need and one that I need your help to meet.  Many of you have heard that there is a civil war going on in South Sudan.  You may not realize that this war has forced thousands of Sudanese people to flee their homes.  They are now living in refugee camps (or IDP camps) in Northern Uganda.  This missionary, Curt Iles, and his team work with these people and they are trying to help them through this difficult time.
Refugee camp in N. Uganda
Curt said that during a recent trip to the camps someone pointed out a woman giving birth under a mango tree.  The woman had a group of caring women from the camp trying to help her.  He realized that there were many very pregnant women at the camp and that there was a serious need here.  Then a local pastor's wife pulled out her mama kit and showed it to him.  This pastor's wife received her mama kit from our partners at Uganda Baptist Seminary.  

Side note... We supply the kits to the seminary.  The seminary's nurse gives a kit to each student who is having a baby during the next term. She teaches them how to use the kits and asks them about prenatal care and such.   The students then bring her back reports about the babies during their next term. They also include precious thank you notes written to Mercy for Mamas.  It's been a great partnership.  I got to meet many of the pastors who have benefited from the kits during my recent trip to Uganda.  What a blessing.
Meeting one of the students who used our kit last year.
Chapel service at the seminary.  There are students from all over East Africa
Back to Curt and the need at the refugee camps... Once Curt saw the mama kit he asked the woman where she received it. She pointed him to the seminary.  The seminary connected him to me.  He said that he can see how these kits can meet so many needs in these camps.  "I really believe these kits-- given through the local churches and through the UN's specific channels, could be a major blessing and open wide doors of ministry." 
 
Sudanese woman

Curt estimates that there are at least 500 pregnant women near term just in one camp alone.  My friends, the need is great.   For more insight into what life is like for these precious people read Curt's post here and check out his other stories.
 I cannot imagine fleeing from my home with no plan, no job, no resources... let alone doing so while in my third trimester.
Collecting water at one of the camps
The same day I got the first message from Curt, I also got a message from one of the churches we have partnered with from the beginning.  This church holds health seminars for the women in their church and neighborhood throughout the year.  They do teaching on prenatal care, breastfeeding, nutrition, HIV, etc.  They also often go out into rural areas and do these same seminars as an outreach program.  The director, Isabelle, told me they held an outreach last Sunday.  They had more than 130 ladies attend, many of whom were pregnant.   They passed out mama kits to all those who were pregnant, but more importantly they had a chance to share the gospel. At least 11 ladies gave their lives to Christ that day.  I get so excited when I hear these stories.  This is what it is about.  We want to teach these women the basics of pregnancy, delivery, and raising their children.  We want to give them a mama kit and help them get medical help during delivery, but we also want to use these opportunities to share the love of Christ with them.  We want to show them mercy, give them hope, and help them find peace.
Outreach last year at the church in Muyenga
This is where you come in.  Friends, I want to be able to tell Curt that he can have all of the mama kits he needs.  I want Isabelle to not worry and to continue to plan all of the outreach events that they can.  I want to tell our friends working on the islands that we can commit to providing all of the mama kits needed.  I am in the middle of planning our trip for June where we will host many outreach events.  To put it simply, we need lots of mama kits.  In the coming months I would love to be able to buy at least 3,000 kits that will be distributed all over Uganda.  This is where my flesh steps in.  I start doing the math.  I start worrying.  But then I remind myself that God is in control.  He will provide what we need, but I would love for you to be part of that provision.  

The global issue of poverty is beyond me.  I cannot fathom how to solve these deep seeded issues.  I don't know the best way to handle refugees or how to make sure children don't go to bed hungry.  It is overwhelming when I consider all of the people and serious needs that I have seen during my time in Uganda.  I do not have the skill set to take over their medical care or to give great economic advice, but I can do something and so can you. 

I'm really not trying to sound like an infomercial here, but for just $7 you can show mercy to a precious woman.  Your simple gift will make a difference.  All money goes directly toward the purchase and distribution of the mama kits.  If you'd like to give you can use the "Donate" button below or it is on the upper right side of this page. You can also give through our partner non-profit, The Hope Venture.  Or you can send me an email (info@mercyformamas.com)  and I can tell you where you can mail a check.  

I think the woman under the mango tree who has had her life turned upside down by war and strife deserves to have clean supplies for her birth.  Don't you?

(**If you are new here and made it all the way to the end of this post, thank you!  Be sure to check out the rest of the website to better understand the work that we do!)

Donate now. All money goes directly toward the purchase and distribution of mama kits.



Monday, March 10, 2014

He Gives and Takes Away

Mercy for Mamas is thrilled to get to partner with the folks at Afayo Project.  They are doing some great work and they've found ways to incorporate the mama kits into their ministry.  We've loved getting to play a small part in the work they are doing.

 One of the missionaries, Courtney, recently shared a great story about how God used the mama kit and their ministry to lead a new mama to a safe delivery and to eternal life.  Check out the story here.


And on a sad note, I have a follow up to another story that came from Afayo project.  You may remember Mary.  We helped cover the costs of Mary's c-section about 15 months ago.  Your donations helped to save the life of her baby.   Mary suffered from a chronic heart condition.  Sadly, she passed away last week.  Thankfully, we know that Mary had heard the gospel and we pray that she believed.  Extended family is now caring for Baby Kevin.  Courtney says he is doing well and very loved.  Thank you for the love you showed this precious woman.
Sweet Mary shortly after giving birth 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pictures of Hope and Strength

One of the missionaries I met with last month in Uganda, Kari, sent me this message:
"Melissa, we have had 3 baby girls born since Valentines Day. All with Mama Kits, 2 of which were born in the home with little to no assistance other than the kit. Thank you, thank you!!!"
One of the deliveries was a VBAC, but the mama said it was an easy delivery. (I feel like such a wimp!) The women in this village keep asking Kari to pray for them before they have their babies.  She's been able to use this time of prayer and of passing out the mama kits to build relationships with these precious women.

 
 Kari got to check on one woman the day after delivering her baby.  The mama delivered at home with no medical assistance, no pain medicine.  Kari found the woman in her front yard washing clothes.  Life goes on.  Life is not easy for these women.  Food must be cooked.  Clothes must be washed.  They have more strength and determination than I can imagine.  Kari and her young daughter helped her finish washing the clothes.  What a beautiful act of service to this new mama. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us. (You can read more about Kari's ministry here

(The white on the babies face is powder to help with a heat rash) 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hope and Healing


**The following post is written by Mercy for Mamas board member Kristine Smith.  Kristine traveled to Uganda last month with Melissa to scout out some new partners and check on the work going on in Uganda.

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          Since I have returned from my February trip to Uganda with Melissa, I have been sharing the stories of our trip with anyone who will give me the opportunity. I am finding myself desperate to share the cause of Mercy for Mamas because I have seen women and children who have been touched through this work. I have met the babies who were born using the simple supplies and heard the mamas give their sincere gratitude for this small, but powerful kit.
Kristine passing out mama kits to a group of ladies in Fort Portal
           As an intensive care nurse, I take for granted the millions of dollars in life saving treatments that are at our disposal in a large university teaching hospital. We have procedures, machines and knowledge that has put emergency and intensive care in the U.S. as the best in the world. As we have reached the pinnacle of advancement in saving lives from trauma, cancer and chronic illnesses, new emphasis is being placed on preventative care. Prevention is being hailed as the new focus because it is cost effective, increases survivability and can reduce the side effects from the treatments and medicines that affect people with chronic conditions. I believe that preventative medicine can make an even bigger impact in the places in the world that are out of the reach of advanced critical care.

           Many people do not realize providing third world nations with a higher level of health and wellness is an insurmountable task. For what we categorize as common chronic conditions in the U.S. that are easily monitored and managed, in Uganda there is little to offer. If I go to the diabetic Ugandan man and offer him insulin to lengthen his life... where will he find a glucometer to check his blood sugar and dispense the accurate amount of insulin? If he is lucky enough to get a donated glucometer, how will he afford the batteries? Where will he get more insulin and more needles? Does he have a watch or cell phone to accurately time his medications? Prevention of serious illness and disease can be a powerful tool in reducing mortality for those who have limited access to advanced healthcare.

            Let me share with you the story of Martha* whom I met while staying on the island of Lingira. This particular island is a two hour public boat ride from the mainland of Jinja. An American nurse and a small scarcely stocked clinic are their only contact with healthcare professionals. During dinner, the nurse received a phone call from the school saying there was a 14 year old girl who was having chest pain. She asked me to come along and we went supplied with a blood pressure cuff, a malaria test and a stethoscope. Walking in the dark with only our headlamps to light the way, I felt a little uneasy imagining what we might find and what our limited arsenal was up against.
Walking up to one of the villages on Lingira

           Unfortunately, I didn't need to perform any detailed assessment with our equipment to see that this girl was sick. Her eyes were swollen almost completely shut. She had swelling all over her body. Listening to her heart sounds there was an obvious arrhythmia, her heart muscle was not effectively squeezing. She spoke in barely a whisper, complaining of a crushing pain in her chest. The nurse called a doctor in the city despite the late hour and told him a student needed to be seen first thing in the morning. He agreed to see her and predicted she would most likely need an ultrasound on her heart. The headmaster of the school called the girl's father and told him she was very sick and needed to take the 2 hour boat ride to the doctor. To further persuade him, the headmaster offered that we had chartered a boat for the morning and would gladly let her ride with us and give her transportation to the doctor's clinic. The conversation ended and we prayed that this girl would be given the life saving treatment she needed for heart failure.

           When I awoke on the island the next morning, I quickly found our host to ask her if we would be taking the girl with us on our boat. She told me that the father had declined to seek treatment for her. The headmaster sent her home to her village since she was not well enough to attend school. I was overwhelmed with sadness imagining if she would last a month or maybe a year in her condition. I felt so limited and powerless to change many of the desperate medical issues we saw, but I found hope in work that is being done through Mercy for Mamas.
 
Kristine helping with prenatal exams
           Mercy for Mamas is taking on a devastating health concern in Uganda. It's hard for us to grasp the dangers of childbirth that these women face. Here in the U.S. when a friend becomes pregnant the emotions we share with them are filled with happiness and joy. I don't expect that 1 in 35 of my female friends will die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. When I see a friend post on Facebook that she is in labor at the hospital, I don't worry if the doctors will wash their hands, if the instruments will have been sterilized or if she will have access to an operating room should a caesarean section become necessary. With over half of women in Uganda giving birth without medical personnel present, these mama kits give these women access to supplies that seem so simple like gloves, soap, cotton wool, and cord ties. In 1847, Dr. Semmelweis reduced maternal mortality by 90% after introducing required hand washing by the physicians. Mercy for Mamas is fighting this same fight in Uganda for their mothers and babies. Nearly 20 women die every day from childbirth and its complications. The two main causes of death for these women are bleeding and infection. Even those women fortunate enough to give birth in a hospital setting in Uganda still must bring their own supplies. In addition to the kit, Mercy for Mamas encourages their partners who distribute these mama kits to provide prenatal exams and education on delivery, nutrition and breastfeeding.  
A delivery room at a very nice new clinic in Uganda provided by Project Hopeful
This little sweetie was born a few months ago using a mama kit
            The same morning I learned that young Martha would not be joining us on the boat to the mainland, we walked to a village on the island that did not have access to clean water or sanitation. We sat in very small hut and held a 5 day old baby that had been delivered with the help of a mama kit. We stood on the same dirt floor that just days before a mama lay giving birth to her precious little one. The plastic drape in the kit that had served as a safe barrier from the dusty dirt floor had been washed and kept as one of her few possessions. This $7 kit contains more than just basic supplies, it is the gift of prevention from death or illness from bleeding and infection. There is hope and healing in these mama kits-- hope that expectant mothers in Uganda will survive childbirth and hope that they will get to hold and rock their own babies.

~Kristine

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another Perspective

Some words from Mercy for Mamas Board Member Beth Schafers.  I love her and her heart to minister to women all around the world.
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When Melissa asked me to write a post about why I work with Mercy for Mamas, I jumped at the opportunity. It has given me a great chance to reflect on why I am willing to put so much time and effort into this organization and what it means to me.
Beth (in the purple shirt) enjoying her first Ugandan meal during our trip in 2012.
The easy answer would be that I love and trust Melissa. She is one of my closest friends and she has proven herself time and time again in the 8 years that I’ve had the privilege of calling her my friend and pastor’s wife.

Her passion for this work is second to none. She’s seen the problem, she’s seen the solution, and she cannot sit idly by without doing the work required of someone in that situation. She’s seen the faces and circumstances that surround the work that she’s doing and she is driven by the love that God’s shown her for those beautiful women and children.

That’s where the easy answers stop and my own wrestling begins.

You see, God spent a long time preparing me for the ways that He’s using me today…especially where this work is concerned.

He’s planted in me a heart for reaching other girls of all ages.  He started it a long time ago, when I realized that, in being honest about my own life, I helped others know that they weren’t alone in whatever it was that they were going through or struggling with. We women, no matter what our age or life experience, are the best at understanding each other and helping one another and God begs for us to hold each other up and press on together.

He’s given me great avenues for this passion over the years. From rocking babies in the church nursery, working with the teen girls in youth group, helping the leadership of our women’s ministry, or even attending the senior women’s class at our church, God’s presented opportunities galore for me to do the work that He’s pressing me to do and has shown me, in countless ways, how He uses us all together to grow His Kingdom.

So this ministry with Mercy for Mamas, while I love supporting my friend’s endeavors and passions, is SO much more than that. It is an amazing organization that has proven to make a profound impact in the lives of women - here in the States and in Uganda (and lots of other countries too). 

We’re giving the women of Uganda a tangible resource for having safe, clean births. We’re able to give them the tools that they need to survive this amazing experience and to see their babies grow and flourish. We’re giving these babies a chance to grow up with their biological mother guiding and loving them as they grow. What a huge ministry that is on its own!

But we’re also giving them all a chance to hear the name of Christ and to trust Him with their lives. Each and every woman who receives a Mama Kit has a chance to know that the kits are given in His name and because they and their child, are loved - not just by us, but by their Maker.

It doesn’t stop there. We’re using these kits to not only equip missionaries in Uganda with a tool to build relationships and bless the people in their mission field, but we’re pouring love and encouragement into their lives as well. We’re putting things in their hands that they can use to break down walls, all while praying over them and allowing God to use us as a vessel for renewal in their work.

I have truly seen this organization, in its short life since inception; bless a countless number of women in an amazing variety of ways.

I firmly believe that every woman who is involved with our work sees the beauty in all of this and is ministered to as well.  In giving as little as $7 for one kit, they can directly impact women across the globe and that speaks volumes to a woman’s heart. It’s amazing to see how girls of all ages, in all walks of life, are willing to step up and help in this work. It’s caused us to all rise up and band together…

Because we’ve all seen the problem, we’ve seen the solution, and we cannot sit idly by without doing the work required of someone in that situation. We’ve seen the faces and circumstances that surround the work that we’re doing and we are driven by the love that God’s shown us for those beautiful women and children.

And that - in all of its beauty and wonder - is what makes this work so worth it.