Six years ago this week, a 7-month old baby boy was abandoned at a hospital in Mbarara in western Uganda, Africa. He was malnourished and weighed just 7.6 pounds, a size typical for most newborns in America.

Baby Watoto

The Watoto book we bought at the concert included pictures of Sam, at 8 months old at Baby Watoto, Kampala, in June 2010. Photo courtesy of Watoto Child Care Ministries.

His then teenage mother was unable to care for him and he was brought to a place called Baby Watoto, where workers feared that he would not survive the week. But with special care and love, the boy would survive. I know this to be true because he slept in our guest room last night and smiled all through breakfast at our table this morning.

Ronald, Ann, Sam, and Steve outside our home in Nebraska.

Ronald, Ann, Sam, and Steve outside our home in Nebraska.

Today, Sam is a bright-eyed, exceptionally well-mannered, 6-year-old who is full of life and a love for Jesus Christ. We had the pleasure of hosting Sam in our home this week, along with 9-year-old, Ronald, and their adult caregivers, Ivan and LaTicia. They were in Nebraska with the Watoto Children’s Choir (#77), which has been touring the United States for more than five months in an effort to bring more awareness to Watoto Child Care Ministries and the needs of women and children in Africa.

The Watoto Choir stopped in our hometown, where they gave a free performance that had everyone clapping and worshiping God.

The Watoto Choir #77 stopped in our hometown of Crete, NE, where they gave a free performance that had everyone clapping and worshiping God.

When our church had asked for volunteer host families we were eager to sign up and I’m glad we did. We always look forward to meeting new people and hosting others in our home. What we did not know, was just how much this group — these kids — would touch our hearts and impact our lives in just twelve short hours.

The concert was amazing! [Watch and “like” their YouTube video HERE.] At the end of the performance, we were given the opportunity to see photos and hear short stories of children in Uganda who were in need of sponsorship. For just $38 a month (less than I’d spent on a new pair of shoes I’d ordered online a few days before) we were able to sponsor a child and help provide food, clothing, healthcare, and a quality education. We chose to sponsor a young girl named Gift. She lives with her single mother, who struggles to provide for the family. Gift has never known her father. Because of poor living conditions, her mother could not afford to send Gift to school. Watoto is lending a helping hand to this family through the Living Hope and Watoto Neighbourhood programs.

We have the privilege of sponsoring this young girl named Gift. Someday, Gift would like to be a doctor and we are confident that she will reach her God-given potential.

We have the privilege of sponsoring this young girl named Gift. Someday, Gift would like to be a doctor and we are confident that she will reach her God-given potential. Photo courtesy of Watoto Child Care Ministries.

Watoto (which means “children” in Swahili) was founded by Gary and Marilyn Skinner in 1984. Their story is best told in the excerpt from the Watoto website at the bottom of this post.

After the concert, we brought the two kids and their chaperones back to our home in rural Nebraska for the night. We shared some food and Ivan and LaTicia told us all about Watoto — how they care for widows and orphans in a country that is devastated by poverty and disease. As we sat around our table, we looked at Google images of their houses, built with the help of  volunteers in circular “clusters” which formed a village. We learned that orphaned children live in the homes with a house mother and siblings which allows them to grow up in a loving, family environment.

We were so intrigued by this ministry and everything it is doing for those in Africa that we stayed up way too late talking with our guests. After a short night’s sleep, we reconnected in the morning over the breakfast table. We learned more about the Watoto Children’s Choir and all of the preparations and planning that go into taking a group like this across the globe and into new communities.

From left: Sam, Ivan, Ronald and LaTicia joined us for breakfast outside.

From left: Sam, Ivan, Ronald and LaTicia joined us for breakfast outside.

When it was time to return them to Crete Berean Church for a long-day’s drive to their next stop in Colorado, we were genuinely sad to see them go. We prayed together and said our goodbyes and felt so richly blessed to have had this opportunity to meet.

Sam and Ronald just before they loaded the bus to travel to their next concert venue.

Sam and Ronald just before they loaded the bus to travel to their next concert location.

After I’d drop them off, I returned home and went downstairs to gather the bed sheets and towels for washing. On the bed, with sheets neatly folded and stacked, was fittingly, a postcard from our guests. A “thank you” from Choir 77 and a lasting memory of our time together.

We will cherish it, and you, forever.

watoto2

If you would like to know more about what you can do to support Watoto Child Care Ministries, please visit their website at www.watoto.com.

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Our History

Founded by Gary and Marilyn Skinner, Watoto was birthed through Watoto Church; a thriving, community-focused church the couple planted in Kampala, Uganda, in 1984.

The Watoto Story
Back in 1988, in a town called Rakai, Gary Skinner was confronted by a stark reality that he could not ignore. Eight years earlier, he and his young family had moved to Uganda; a country that was known for its violence and poverty. They planted a church in Kampala, which they believed God would use to restore hope to the city and nation.

Uganda’s people had endured so much. Corrupt and oppressive rulers had waged ruthless wars against the people and, when they were done with their slaughter, nearly a million were dead.

Widows and Orphans
Gary was taken to visit a 79-year-old widow who had mothered seven children. As they walked through the banana groves behind her small hut, she pointed out the graves of her husband and six of her children. AIDS had killed them all. Her one surviving child, a daughter, was dying of the same disease. Visiting this woman stirred Gary to the core of his being and became one of the defining moments of his life.

He was reminded of James 1: 27, which says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

In 1994, Watoto Child Care Ministries was birthed out of Watoto Church as a result of this encounter. It started with one simple house in Kansanga; a suburb that is eight kilometres south of Kampala. Here, eight orphans and a widow were given the chance to become a new family.

**As published on the Watoto website at https://www.watoto.com/about/history/

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  • Late breakfast, early lunch. Time got away from us this morning so we had a bit of a brunch. We have been on an oatmeal kick this year for several reasons. It's inexpensive, filling, tastes great, and is typically readily available at grocery stores and hotels that serve breakfast. ⁣
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One cup of oatmeal cooked in water is about 160 calories (and a "green" food on our @noom weight loss app). We like to add a teaspoon of brown sugar, a little cinnamon, and lots of fresh berries. Other options are: bananas, nuts, nutmeg, diced apple, flax seed, or dried fruits. ⁣
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What is your go-to breakfast these days?
  • See how we lost a combined 150 pounds in a year while traveling! It was one year ago this week that we began our healthy living journey. We are travel bloggers with a new post (just click on the handy dandy link in our bio) about what we've lost and gained in one year.
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See what we've learned about calorie density, exercise and ourselves in the process. We are so thankful for the resources that have helped us, including @noom and the @mayoclinic Healthy Living Program. (This is NOT a paid partnership) We feel like new people and hope our story will encourage someone else who wants to make a healthy lifestyle change. To stay up to date with our weight loss and healthy living journey, be sure to follow @PostcardJar on social media.
  • Our daffodils are in full bloom here in Nebraska and they just make us smile. We brought the  bulbs for these flowers from Ann's first house when we got married and moved here. Ann had dug them up from her grandma Rashleigh's home in Fremont, Nebraska, and her grandma had brought them to the U.S. from a trip that she took to England. ⁣
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Ann's grandma passed away several years ago. Each spring, these flowers bloom and remind Ann of her grandma and her beautiful soul.
  • We love to travel but we're staying home to flatten the curve. As travel bloggers, writers, and influencers, we all have canceled trips, postponed adventures, and rescheduled experiences. ⁣
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We know this is temporary and soon enough, we'll be traveling again. But for now, we are all staying safe at home and encourage you to do the same. And while you’re home, check out some of these influencers’ feeds for travel inspiration.
  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
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You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
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We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
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Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
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This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
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Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
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Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
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Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
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It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
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What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome

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