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May God bless the giving hands

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Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Isaiah 50:8
In the 1980s in Uganda, more than 18% of the population was infected with the HIV/AIDs virus. Today, that percentage is less than 7%, but still higher than in most other countries in Africa.
In eastern Uganda, the AIDS Education Group for Youth (AEGY), an MCC partner, educates students and families about HIV/AIDS and provides treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In Kamuli, fishermen are especially vulnerable – fishermen say AIDs will kill you slowly but the currents in the ocean can kill you much more quickly. HIV still carries a stigma. Most men are reluctant to participate in testing.
“When I got sick,” one woman tells us, “I lost all hope and I thought I would die, but now I am stronger thanks to AEGY, and with the training I received, I will be able to live longer.”
AEGY combats the stigma of AIDS with a popular weekly radio show. It provides HIV testing and counseling from mobile clinics. Staff members r…

Peace has come

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Where, O death, is your sting? . . . Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - I Cor. 15:54-57
In northern Uganda, on the way to Kotido, we stop at a memorial honoring hundreds of people who died during the conflict between government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Decades of armed conflict in Uganda resulted in the massive displacement of people, as well as rampant sexual violence and child abductions.

In Karamoja, MCC is working with the Diocesan Community Development Services (DCDS), an arm of the Church of Uganda, on a conservation agriculture program to help communities rebuild their sources for food and water and increase their economic livelihoods.
In addition to the decades-long conflict, the communities DCDS is working with are combating drought, famine, deforestation, overgrazing and interethnic conflict.
Seven farmer groups are growing kitchen gardens with plentiful harvests of maize, sorghum, pumpkins, watermelons and more. Sever…

For the healing of the land

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The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. – Psalm 24:1
In eastern Uganda near Soroti, Action for Peace and Development (APED) is empowering youth who are living with trauma from war, poverty and natural disasters.
Bishop Sam Eibu of the Baptist Union of Uganda has a vision for economically sustainable communities of peace. Through MCC partner APED, he is helping youth become agents of change.
Bishop Sam believes that peace is tied to economic well-being. When unemployment is high, he believes youth are more likely to turn to idle activities.
Whether it is teaching these youth about beekeeping, candle making, carpentry, agriculture or caring for livestock, Bishop Sam believes that faith in God, an entrepreneurial spirit and peace building are keys to a better future. APED is working with five groups of young people in several communities.
We are shown beehives where youth demonstrate caring for bees and harvesting honey. “Everybody wants to buy h…

The harvest is increasing

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When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them. – Matt. 9:36
Five miles down river from Istmina near the village of Chiquichuqui, Luis Norberto and Gladys Musquera farm three hectares of land. Though Luis is one of nine children in his family, he is the only one of his family farming their ancestral land.
Luis grows a variety of crops including yucca, plantain, fruit and two kinds of fish, but the crop he hopes will soon become his primary source of income is cacao.
Through a project with MCC, the Mennonite Brethren churches in the region are encouraging farmers to grow cacao, the source for cocoa and chocolate, rather than coca from which cocaine is produced.
So far, 85 farmers in the region have agreed to plant cacao. It was slow going at first. Farmers feared the armed groups that profit from illicit drugs and producing coca can be profitable. Plus, growing the alternative crop of cacao takes more time – almost two years until the first crop can be harvested and nearly five years…

Lives of service

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Blessed are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice. – Luke 11:28

We are stranded at the Iglesia Evangelica Nueva Vida in Quibdo, one of 16 Mennonite Brethren churches in Colombia begun more than 70 years ago. There is a civic strike in the Choco region and we are not able to find transportation to Istmina, our hoped for destination about an hour and a half away.
So instead, we pray. With the church members who had gathered, we trade songs and Scripture texts and then we gather in smaller circles and pray for the future of this church and for its faithful witness in its community.

Twenty years ago, Pastor Manuel told us, there was poverty in this region of Colombia, but it was also a place of peace, a place rich in natural resources.
Today, mining by foreign states has raised the level of mercury in the rivers to dangerous levels and the additional sediment in the rivers means that when the rains come, as they do frequently, the river is more likely to flood.
The poverty …

For the peace of the world

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And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. Col. 3:15
On Easter morning in April 1528 in Augsburg, Germany, almost 100 Anabaptists were rounded up by the authorities during worship and told to denounce their faith. Some of those arrested lost their lives for refusing to do so.
Lawyer Hans Leupold, one of the Anabaptists arrested, eventually was sentenced to die, mercifully, they said, by the sword rather than by burning. Said Leupold when he was told he would pass from life to death: “No, from death to life.”
Two years ago, a plaque was placed outside the house where these Anabaptist Christians once worshipped. Lutherans, Catholics and Mennonites celebrated together that Christians no longer faced persecution in Germany. A brother from the global south reminded us that was not true for people of faith in some other countries.
Pilgrim Marpeck, an early Anabaptist thought leader, also lived in Augsburg. Contrary to most other reformatio…