Saturday, July 30, 2011

You Can Change the World: Day 5

"A Hug Can Heal"

By Elisa Morgan

I had to watch each step - very carefully. The stench was indescribable. I ducked under clotheslines and around dogs everywhere. Children called out around me, "Hello!" "How are you?!" They reached out and touched me. I smiled and called back, "Hello!" while jumping over muck of who knows what. All around me: rows and rows and rows of rooftops and alleys and chickens and women cooking and men loitering and tables of piled vegetables and dried smelly fish.

Kibera. The largest slum in Africa. Home to around one million people. Poverty like you can't imagine. Filth you wouldn't believe. HIV/AIDS and malaria and TB and you name it. Here 1 in 3 babies die before their first year and one in 6 moms. Malaria is rampant.

The ONEMoms arrived at Binti Pamajo (Daughters United) just one of the projects sponsored by Carolina for Kibera ( in partnership with ONE and other efforts. Its founder, Rye Barcott, welcomed us with his staff. (You can read Rye's story and learn all about Kibera: It Happened on the Way to War. Amazing!) This program for girls ages 11-18 provides a safe place for adolescent girls to explore the issues that are prevalent in their daily lives, including violence against women, sexual abuse, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, etc.

After Rye's greeting we were oriented, divided in teams and began a trek deeper into Kibera - about a fifteen minute walk for us - to the home of one of the young women alumni named Betty. That's where the careful footing, stench and stunning reality set in.

As I picked my path through sewage on the way back, I felt a deep appreciation for this young single mom of three who began each day at 4am to walk to get water - two trips of about 30 minutes each caring two 20 liter jugs. The water bit slayed me. The only water availableat all was that far away. It was anything but clean. But Betty was happily progressing with her life, grateful for the teaching she'd received that improved her life.

Hopeful - but oh so hard! And what a contrast to the day before when I'd walked through a glorious restored mansion and its lush grounds called Amani Ya Juu (Peace From Up Above), a sewing and reconciliation project for refugee women. We were gently guided through rooms of handsewn artwork - toy giraffes, beaded bracelets, quilts, purses - and then as we were welcomed by the working women in a large craft room of fabric and cutting tables we were individually embraced with hugs I will never forget. Dorcas from Uganda, "You are very welcome here." Petronella from Nairobi, "You are loved." Esther from the Congo, "Peace to you." Over and over. Clearly these tortured souls had been redeemed and restored. It was as if Jesus himself repeatedly hugged me. Tears sprang up as I hugged back and took in the utterly gorgeous beauty around me. Fabulous.

But what a contrast to Kibera.

The way out of Kibera replicated the way in. Picking my path through sewage. Smells and unbearable odors. "Hellos!" and "How are yous?" Happy as I was for Betty and her girls, I felt such pain for Kibera.

Just then, crossing a plank "bridge," a tiny girl about 4 or 5 years old ran from the side of the path and grabbed me, wrapping her arms around my legs in a hug. I stopped, received her small embrace with a large smile and patted her back. She was off as quickly as she'd come and I continued my trek.

In a hut in Kisumu where home testing for HIV/AIDS was performed, in a hospital in Siaya where moms and children were given malaria vaccinations, in Lwak Nutritional Center working to reduce the number of mother and child deaths, at Amani Ya Juu, and then today, in Kibera, likely the hardest place I've ever seen on this earth, I'm learning that healing comes in many forms. Sometimes in a vaccination. Sometimes in a classroom. Sometimes in clean water or better nutrition or a safe place to talk and live and learn.

And sometimes in a hug.

I thought about the peace and joy I'd witnessed amidst the undeniable horror. I've seen so much here in Kenya with ONEMoms days immersed in the health issues of this country and continent. A day in their education system and beginning to learn about their economic improvement efforts. Another day seeing the social systems being put in place to help places like Kibera.

Please join ONE:

Day 5 Daily Action: Today the bloggers are meeting with a group of women farmers near Lake Naivasha, Kenya. As you're probably aware, the Horn of Africa is currently enduring a horrible famine. Educate yourself about what's happening on the ground, and learn more about how you can contribute by visiting our friends at InterAction:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You Can Change the World: Day 4

By Elisa Morgan

Got hope?

I remember receiving the scratch on my hip sometime around third grade (can’t remember exactly.) My mother wouldn’t allow the test to be done on my arm as it might cause a scar and she wanted my precious skin that would be visible to others to be pure and unmarked. (What would she have done in today’s era of tattoos and piercings? OH MY!) I was mortified. The BIG deal was comparing TB test scars with classmates as to how big, where and how puffy or not. I couldn’t show mine and I resented my mother’s decision.

Today in the United States such tests are a thing of the past as the disease has basically been eliminated. But not elsewhere.

Around the world, nearly 2 million people die of Tuberculosis every year. That’s 200 an hour. TB is the most common cause of death for people with HIV and is among the leading causes of death in women and children and Kenya is one of the countries hardest hit.

Our ONEMom trip today took us to the Nyanza province where there is more TB than anywhere else in the country. We visited patients who were part of a program providing a 6 month regiment of daily treatment provided by an in-home visiting TB coordinator.

My visit specifically took me to see Baby Hope who had been so sick that one of the community had told her mother, Loviance to take the baby home to her village to die. Loviance was sick as well and lived in a slum community. Assigned to a TB coordinator, Baby Hope was diagnosed with TB, as was Loviance, and the coordinator arranged to provide the daily treatment. When we entered their hut, mother and child presented as a beautiful, healthy, glowing family. We listened to her story and marveled at the change and the journey of such discipline that had taken them away from Loviance’s work but had brought about healing.

Unconsciously, I fingered the necklace on my neck, I’d chosen carefully to wear on the trip. My daughter had made it for me after the death of her new baby – a heart and the simple word HOPE. On the plane to Kenya I sensed God prompting me to be ready to give it away once there. Really? But I sensed a peace that it would continue its hope-giving journey there and I’d asked him to show me who. That thought had left my mind when a ONE worker with me suddenly remarked, “Doesn’t your necklace say HOPE?” It wasn’t until that moment that I made the connection. I laughed and realized the necklace was for Baby Hope and I pulled it off my neck and presented it to Loviance.

Hmmm. I’m grateful for the ONE worker – a faithful partner with so many efforts to relieve the suffering of preventable disease. I’m full of HOPE knowing that Hope and Loviance are alive and well. And I don’t give a rip about the TB scar on my hip.

Daily Action: Today the bloggers are meeting with women entrepreneurs in Karen, Kenya who are leading in building their communities' economies and providing opportunities to others. Check out ONE's report "Africa's Future is Female" to learn more about how women are leading a revolution on the continent: Then, using hashtag #ONEMoms tell us (@ONECampaign) one thing that surprised you. Or leave a comment on our Facebook page (

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Can Change the World: Day 3

You Can Change the World: Day 3

By Elisa Morgan

I began the day dancing. Literally. Head bobbing, hands in the air, face beaming. And I wasn't alone.

This morning we ONEMoms bumped along dirt roads in our bus, emerged into a clearing and then were swallowed up in a swarm of colorful women. Yelping into song and dance, they swept us forward into their rhythm mosh-pit-style. Joy. I hadn't expected joy.

Village reports, CDC/KEMRI, Kisumu, Kenya
Dancing with Village Reports

Because in Kenya, moms and babies are dying. Way too many. The stats are alarming:

1 in 10 babies die in their first year and of those 60% die in their first week of life. 1 in five babies die before age five. 6 of 1000 moms die giving birth. Usually of hemorrhage because they give birth at home and are assisted by well-meaning but untrained birth attendants, but also due to other complications in the hospital due a lack of proper care.

Really? Sooooo much effort was being invested into saving moms and children from HIV-AIDS...only to have them die in childbirth? No.

Today I saw a great success story. A tale of digging in and making a difference in a big way.

The dancing stopped and we fell into chairs and exchanged introductions. We'd arrived at the Lwak Nutritional Center, in Kisumu, a program focusing on maternal and child health. Recently, they've undertaken - in partnership with ONE - an amazing study that follows pregnancies, birth outcomes and the health of children in a variety stages of maternity, in order tolearn what works best for moms and babies to live. The dancing women - it turned out - were known as "Village Reporters," elected by their communities to traipse through muddy paths to personally check on new moms and their babies, reporting back their progress to the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

After hearing from a guest "Traditional Birth Attendant" as to how she treats women in delivery with herbs scoured from the country side - one to "turn the baby" - YIKES!

Traditional AttendantOur team then hiked our way up a rocky crevice to the home of Lillian and her new baby, Emily. Accompanied by our very own "Village Reporter," - also named Emily - we learned that Lillian had tried to make it to the hospital but her labor was too strong and ended up in the untrained attendant's home. We sat on the edge of the bench and were relieved to learn that all had gone well. But when Village Reporter Emily made her post-delivery visit to Lillian, she discovered that the baby had a deformity in her legs and not only advised Lillian to take her to the hospital pediatrician but arranged for transportation. As we met little Emily, we all rejoiced that she'd been attended to early - preventing permanent deformity.

Too many moms and children still die in childbirth in Kenya. The solutions to complete health are multi-layered. We cannot address one issue and overlook others. As one doctor put it, "No woman should

Elisa with Lillian and Emily die while giving forth to life."

Today I met Lillian and Emily who both lived. Yes,today there was reason to dance.

Day 3 Daily Action: Today the bloggers are meeting with teachers and students in Nairobi. Watch our video "Chieftainess" about a remarkable woman who is teaching her community about the importance of education. Then share the video with your friends and leave a comment:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Can Make a Difference: Day 2

By Elisa Morgan

I got tested for HIV-AIDS today.

I've always been pretty sure that I don't have AIDS. I mean, I've been married to the same man for thirty-two

Elisa in Kenya

years. I'm healthy. I don't give blood because I'm "weight-challenged." But honestly...I've never been tested. How do you know for sure if you've never been tested?

So I got tested today. I certainly didn't intend to get tested for HIV when I awoke this morning in a hotel in Nairobi at o'dark thirty.

This gang of ONEMoms is heroic. (Join us! After flying some thirty-plus hours and sleeping for five, we boarded a plan for Kisumu, landed and drove an hour or so while being briefed by Dr. Kayla Laserson, Director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Kisumu, Kenya. We arrived in a village and divided up in teams to follow CDC workers to walk into homes to provide home testing. We were to do the listening as the workers tested and counseled families. Our family included Godfrey, Lucy (first wife), Sylvia (second wife) and their combined children, six in all. Godfrey, Lucy and Sylvia had recently been tested positive. The purpose of our visit was to retest and to encourage them to take advantage of free treatment provided through PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). We were to learn that this is tricky stuff since while the treatment is free, the positive person has to travel a good distance to receive it. That's expensive.

Yeah...I know two wives. It's easy to lose ourselves in that cultural reality and not even take sight of the six children...the lives... the pictures of Jesus on the wall of their mud shack. This is a way of life. Not familiar to me for sure, but one God somehow knows.

How should I respond? What words can I find?

I turn to the facts: I'm in Kisumu...the most concentrated area for AIDS in Africa. There are 6.6 million people globally receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ARVs). Guess what: 24% of those diagnosed are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Five per cent of these individuals are in tiny Kenya. And of quarter don't know they are positive. Because they don't get tested. Home testing is a sensible, workable, liveable way to go. To save the lives of moms and dads and babies.

We sit across a table covered with a carefully crocheted cloth and Godfrey and Lucy and Sylvia and I try to absorb their future when all of the sudden our guide on the visit, Nealon, suggests we get tested too. We: him, me and another mom, Rachel. The smiles break out on their faces. Relief spreads through the room. We talk about the confusion everywhere, even in the US, about the misperceptions of HIV, and the stigma even here of admitting that someone has been diagnosed positive...and stunningly, about the we can treat HIV-AIDS Godfrey lifts his head. Our eyes shift to the frames of Jesus on their walls. Godfrey and Lucy and Sylvia decide to take the step to engage in the free treatment positive. We all smile.

I lower my eyes and read my test: negative. Another day. Another season. I smile too, enriched by this day in Kenya and all it had to show me.


Day 2 Daily Action: Today the bloggers will be meeting with couples and mothers living with HIV, Tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Using the hashtag #ONEMoms, tweet a message (or messages) you'd like us to deliver to mothers in Kenya.

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Can Make a Difference: Day 1

By Elisa Morgan

"If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've never spent the night with a mosquito." African Saying

By the time you read this, I'll be on the ground in Kisumu. God willing. And if you're like I was just a few months ago, you're asking, "What's Kisumu?"

Truly, the first time I heard the word I auto-replied, "God bless you!"

Let me get you oriented a bit so you can follow along better.

Kisumu is a village on the northeast shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya. Kenya is a country of 40 million (42% under fourteen years of age) located on the central eastern coast of the continent of Africa. Just under the "horn" of Africa, below Ethiopia and Sudan (now there are two Sudans...), east of Rwanda and Uganda, above Tanzania. From here we'll head to Nairobi, to the largest slum in Africa in Kibera, and then we'll be in Lake Naivasha before shooting back to the States next weekend. A whirl of an adventure. A spiral of emotions. A merry-go-round of immeasurable need.

Like I said, until a few months ago I'd never heard of Kisumu much less thought I'd ever fly here and connect in person with some of the women of this world. Really?

But here I am and here I plant my feet and my mind and my heart to listen, to learn and to serve that I might then - and only then - share with you and others.

Some facts for today:

HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are treatable and preventable diseases that disproportionately affect the world's poor. Here in Kenya, we're seeing the hardest hit region: part of Sub-Saharan Africa where altogether 90% of malarial deaths occur, 2/3 of HIV cases are reported and 1/3 of all TB diagnoses.

How many times we wonder how we can make a difference? How we can invest in a purpose beyond ourselves? How we can - dare I say it - change the world?

That's what I'm here to find out. Come with me? Prayerfully, tag along? Send me YOUR questions? YOUR prayers? YOUR next steps? E-Mail Me! And bring along a friend so that we can enlarge our community, adding one voice to another and another until we have a WAVE of ONE moms making a difference?

Day 1 Daily Action: Today the bloggers will visit health clinics that receive direct funding from the United States. Sign our petition asking Congress not to cut funding for these effective programs that are saving lives. Then ask 5 friends to do the same-Click here!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

We All Fall Down. Pursue it if You Want.

By Kelli Trujillo

I’d escaped the chaotic life at home with three young children and holed myself away in a study carrel at the library to write. Finally some much-needed peace and quiet. Until a little boy, who’d accompanied his mother to the cookbook section nearby, began to loudly sing and chatter. I tried to ignore him, but it didn’t work. I tried plugging my ears, but I could still hear him.

I came here to get away from children! I thought to myself as my irritation started to climb. I began to cast annoyed glances toward the mother who was happily perusing cookbooks, but she didn’t see me. As this went on (for what seemed like ages but was probably only twenty minutes) my insides transformed from mildly-irritated to fuming, grumbling, bitter, judgmental, angry. . .

Well, you get the idea.

I stared at my computer screen in a fury of frustration that soon transformed into a powerful sense of conviction. The sick irony of it all is that I was there at the library to work on my book about cultivating virtuous character.

Have you ever had a similar moment? When you’re blind-sided by the reality that even despite your best-intentioned spiritual efforts, you instead seem to flounder, fall, and fail in that very area you’re focusing on?

This irony of spiritual growth isn’t new.

Amma Theodora, a fourth-century Egyptian Christian and spiritual mentor, observed, “It is good to live in peace . . . however you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through depression, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts.”

I find a strange comfort in Amma Theodora’s words because as a spiritual leader and mentor, her teaching was authentic and profoundly human. This is, in fact, a reality of the Christian life: we aim to grow, we rely on the Holy Spirit, and often we still mess up royally along the way. Rather than attributing this pattern to some spiritual weakness, we can instead anticipate these failures and even be thankful for them. Why? Because they poignantly remind us, over and over, that no matter how far along we are in our spiritual journey, we are always in desperate need of God. “[A]ll our falls are useful,” wrote Francois Fenelon, “if they strip us of a disastrous confidence in ourselves . . . God never makes us sensible of our weakness except to give us of His strength.”

If our spiritual failures cause us to lick our wounds, lure us into apathy or let our sin spiral out of control, then they’re worse than useless. But if we allow God to use our failures to drive out self-reliance and pride and draw us into deeper reliance upon God, then they’re useful. Perhaps they’re even a necessary part of the spiritual growth journey.

So what about you? What failure, flops, or floundering have you been struggling with lately? How might God by using that fall for his purposes?

Kelli B. Trujillo is the author of Faith-Filled Moments and The Busy Mom's Guide to Spiritual Survival. As a freelance editor and writer, her work has been featured in over 80 Christian publications. Kelli lives in Indianapolis with her three kids and her husband David. You can join Kelli in conversation about spiritual formation at

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Roller Coasters, Hope and Trusting God

By Suanne Camfield

I was sitting at the biggest kitchen table I’d ever seen. Long and rectangular, it seated upwards of a dozen and every seat was full. I’d been invited by a senior leader of the non-profit I was working for and was excited, albeit a little nervous, to be there. As the food was being passed, our host asked everyone two questions:

1. What’s the best rollercoaster you’ve ever ridden?
2. What are you trusting God for right now?

I don’t remember my answer to number two (number one was easy, clearly The Magnum at Cedar Point), but I will never forget what he said as he stood at the head of the table. He said he was trusting God for changed lives. It was an answer I had never considered, but since then have often found myself repeating. Between little league games and laundry, work and writing, I aspire to be the kind of person who trusts God for changed lives.

Last year, I traveled to Ethiopia with a friend of mine who was adopting her second child. Two days into the trip, I hitched a ride outside the city limits with another American woman to visit Children's Heaven, a safe house of sorts dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned girls who had lost one or both parents to the AIDS epidemic. Our drive to Children’s Heaven was despairing to stay the least; the haven for these orphans resided in one of the poorest places I’ve ever seen.

When we arrived we were greeted by Hanna, the founder and director of Children’s Heaven. In 2004, Hanna began Children's Heaven with five girls. Today she provides basic necessities, after-school tutoring, mentoring, career training, medical services and biblical training to more than 81 girls who have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. Two hundred more are on the waiting list, hoping for their shot at a better life. (In case you didn't hear me, I said FIVE. Then I said TWO HUNDRED.) When we met the girls, who range from ages eleven to fourteen, I was struck by how beautiful they were. Not just because of their physical appearance, but because in the midst of brokenness, poverty and injustice, they were brimming with hope. Hope.
I knew immediately that Hanna and her staff at Children’s Heaven had trusted God for changed lives. I have been drawn to them since, keeping in frequent contact as we’ve become a sponsor for a young girl who is the recipient of Hanna’s faithfulness. My experience there reminds me how far reaching God’s grace is, what he’ll do when people trust him with the vision he’s placed on their hearts and to live out their influence in a way that changes lives. And when I get bogged down with all the busyness that life throws my way -- even in the midst of a season that beckons us to sit, soak and relax – I’m reminded to ask myself, “Suanne, what are you trusting God for?” I hope my answer, more often than not, will come back in the form that makes a difference.

So what are you trusting God for?

Suanne Camfield is a writer, speaker, publicist and the blog manager for FullFill. You can learn more about her experience with Children’s Heaven on her blog ( To learn more about Children’s Heaven or to sponsor a child, visit

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stuck Seconds

By Elisa Morgan, Publisher, FullFill™, President, Mission: Momentum

I looked up at the clock on my bookshelf, just as I’ve done a zillion times a day for years. Odd. No time seemed to have passed. Hmmm. I typed away and a bit later, checked again. Same time. Oh. It hit me - the battery had died.

Picking up the clock, I headed for the kitchen battery drawer, grabbed my all-purpose tool (a bent up letter opener), pried off the cover, popped out the old battery and snapped in a new one. Replacing the cover, I turned the clock over and twisted the hands to the correct time displayed on my microwave. There.

I returned to my study, replaced the clock on my shelf and sat back down at my computer. After a few minutes, I checked the time. Same. The clock wasn’t working. Oh, well, I thought. The clock had to be twenty years old. But I left it in place, thinking that maybe it would “decide” to work later in the day.

The next morning I took my place at the keyboard and just a few minutes into my work, I was annoyed by a sound. An irritating clicking sound I’d never heard before. I searched my office and at last found the source: the clock. The hands still had made zero progress but not for lack of effort. Now the second hand repeated its valiant effort: marching forward and back, forward and back, forward and back. Continuously. Ongoing. Unhesitatingly. With zero progress to show. It was stuck. Time had stopped.

How symbolic. In “stuck” seasons, I feel like this clock. I do all the right things to coax movement and motivation into progression. I change my “battery” and reset my “hands” to the correct time

I laughed.

David writes, “My times are in your hands...” in Psalm 31:15. He’s talking about God’s vengeance on evil-doers - not everyday stuckness - but I think it’s safe to say that the point of the phrase remains true. Solomon echoes such theology in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...” A time to move and a time to stay. A time to roar out of the starting blocks and a time to remain. A time to swoop downhill, coasting home and a time to stand and stare at the far-off, seemingly unreachable horizon.

And in all, a time to trust that our times are in his hands. When the hands tick tock clockwise around the circle, marking each dash in precision. And when they rock back and forth in place, making zero progress.

My clock is on another shelf in my study now. I removed the battery and with it, the annoying click. But the hands remain as they were: stuck. It’s a good reminder that my times - all of them - are in God’s hands.

Update for all FullFill™ readers: FullFill™ is on hiatus this summer. You’ll continue to receive your Weekly ReFill each week, linking you to articles and resources to help you live out your influence. Be sure to register for upcoming webinars at our umbrella ministry: Mission: Momentum (