A Million and Counting

As advocates for refugees, we believe that we are called to follow the command of Isaiah 16:3, which says, "do not betray the refugees." Hear the perspective of the Tutapona country director for the field office of Uganda, Tim Manson, as he shares some thoughts about the refugee crises we are facing today.

The recent US decision to temporarily close its borders to refugees has heightened debate around this already global issue. As I write this there are massive numbers of people fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Central and Eastern Africa. Wealthy (and some not so wealthy) European countries have been inundated with refugees over the past few years, resulting in major political and social change. But by far the majority of refugees end up in developing countries. 

As one example, Uganda has an open door policy for refugees. Early this year, it was announced by UNHCR that the number of refugees residing in Uganda had just passed the one million mark. Half of these arrived last year in a six-month surge between July and December in which a daily average of 2,400 people fled the civil war in South Sudan. Uganda filled existing refugee settlements, then opened new ones, which in turn filled up. People are still crossing as I write this. Yet there is no indication that Uganda’s stance is about to change. Uganda is not a particularly big, nor a wealthy country.  I should point out that Uganda is not alone in taking more than their fair share. Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Jordan (not exhaustive) have all taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees as well. 

Just to hammer home the imbalance, last year my home country of New Zealand (about the same land area as Uganda) accepted 1,000 refugees. 

I have a couple of thoughts around this. Firstly, refugees are a group of people who are uniquely in need of support. Multiple factors coincide to make theirs a particularly difficult context. Poverty, cultural and linguistic dislocation, uncertainty about the future, loss of loved ones and often significant psychological trauma can all contribute to create a bleak outlook. New Zealand, the US and many other developed countries clearly could be doing a lot more. It is important for their citizens to make noise. However, I am not convinced that the resettlement of refugees from poorer to wealthier countries is the only answer. Countries like Uganda that already host huge numbers of refugees need support. I also don't think our governments are responsible for carrying out all our acts of social justice for us. Not only wealthy governments, but also wealthy individuals should find creative ways of supporting refugees.  

Tutapona works with refugees in Iraq and Uganda, offering group programs to help people recover from the pain of psychological trauma. I can say from first-hand experience that the work of Tutapona is helping to restore hope to refugees at a time when their options are limited (and reducing). I encourage you to get behind that.

Tim Manson

10 Photos that celebrate Womanhood

We celebrate women at Tutapona...and around here we're surrounded by strong, powerful, resilient and hard working women every. single. day! The majority of the people in our programs are women and we find ourselves advocating for them daily. So today, on International Women's Day, we wanted to bring you 10 photos that celebrate Womanhood in all it's glorious beauty and strength. All Photos by the talented Tutapona volunteer @Candice Lassey! #internationalwomensday

Ayeeyo

When her Somali daughter fell pregnant to a Ugandan man, the community told her to stone her. Instead, she chose to love - and this is what love looks like.

 (Ayeeyo from Somalia, and her  grandson , Nakivale Refugee Camp)

(Ayeeyo from Somalia, and her grandson, Nakivale Refugee Camp)

Doreen

If only you could see what her eyes have seen and hear what her eyes have heard, you would get a glimpse into the courage and bravery behind her smile. Her past may be clouded with sorrow, but her future is bright with hope.

 (Doreen from Burundi, 11 years old, Nakivale Refugee Settlement

(Doreen from Burundi, 11 years old, Nakivale Refugee Settlement

 

Jjajja from Pageya

She's a pillar in her community - she's lived through civil wars and genocides and she's survived each one with courage and bravery.

 (Jjajja from Pageya, 92 years old, Northern Uganda)

(Jjajja from Pageya, 92 years old, Northern Uganda)

 

Mama from Burundi

She is covered in strength and dignity; she smiles at the prospect of her future.

 (Mama from Burundi, Misyera District, Nakivale Refugee Camp)

(Mama from Burundi, Misyera District, Nakivale Refugee Camp)

 

Mama from Pageya

Bullet holes and knife wounds remain as a testament to her audacity - A reminder that strong women don't just survive, they thrive.

 (Mama from Pageya, Northern Uganda)

(Mama from Pageya, Northern Uganda)

 

Mama from DRCongo

True freedom takes courage. It takes boldness to free herself from her past and look fearlessly at her future. 
And with freedom, comes joy.

 (Mama from DRCongo, now in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement)

(Mama from DRCongo, now in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement)

 

Nayigiziki

She sits silently on her thin mattress, holding her newborn twins while her two year old tries to drink from the Jerry Can. She refused to give up when her husband was killed and she refuses to give up now.

 (Nayigiziki and her three boys from Burundi, Reception Centre, Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

(Nayigiziki and her three boys from Burundi, Reception Centre, Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

 

Nyogokuru

Nights spent hidden in jungles, days spent ploughing through forests. It was worth it for freedom. It was worth it for peace.

 (Nyōgokuru from Burundi, now in Misyera, Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

(Nyōgokuru from Burundi, now in Misyera, Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

 

Sifa

While the other children run and hide behind the houses, tents and trees, she firmly plants her feet, puts her shawl over her head and smiles for a picture.

 (Sifa from Congo, 14 years old, Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement.)

(Sifa from Congo, 14 years old, Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement.)

 

Rose & Sophie

They'll do anything to make sure the refugees have the best chance at rehabilitation, even if that means they help to build a classroom!

 (Rose & Sophie, Tutapona Staff Members at Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

(Rose & Sophie, Tutapona Staff Members at Nakivale Refugee Settlement)

A Day in the Life of a Tutapona Volunteer

Ever wonder what it's like to volunteer with Tutapona? Read this story from Candice Lassey to find out.

Candice 2.jpg

 

Pageya // Acholiland // Northern Uganda

 

6.30am. I can see the soft glow of sunlight sneaking under the door to my hut as the sun rises over the Northern Ugandan plains. As the peaceful village slowly awakens I look over at Irene, my Tutapona host for the week. She sleeps quietly on her mat, draped by a mosquito net hung from the grass thatched roof.

 

I hear the chatter of children and the splash of water – it’s bathing time! I quietly sit up and fold my mosquito net up to the roof, trying to find my shoes in the dim light. The soft light streams in as I open the tiny door and I take a deep breath of the fresh village air. I grab my camera: It’s photo time.

 

I’ve been here for four days now and the kids are finally used to me, although that could have something to do having an unlimited supply of stickers and sweeties and a soccer ball stashed in the hut. Some of the children smile and wave, some of them point to the colourful stars on the foreheads, ears and hands: they still have their stickers from yesterday. There is a mother bathing her youngest, an eight-month old little boy who is still a bit hesitant of me. I make my way over to her. “Icoo maber” I say with a morning greeting. “Picture?” I ask, holding up my camera in its case. She smiles and eagerly nods “Aya!” I take out my camera and the children come running, some half-dressed, some still brushing their teeth.

 

The giggles are explosive as they pose for their pictures. There is a sweet innocence about it all as the children jump around, smiling and laughing. I can’t help but wonder how different life was in this village 15 years ago at the height of the L.R.A. tyranny. Would these sweet, innocent children have survived? Would they have been counted amongst the tens of thousands of children who were abducted and conscripted into child soldiers? The sombre thought settles over me as I sit in the swirling dust. I silently pray that these children never have to experience those atrocities. I hope they can keep their innocence, unspoiled by the horrors of war that relentlessly haunt their parents and older siblings.

 

That is why Tutapona is here – to work with the victims of the conflict. Empower, the trauma rehabilitation program they deliver is designed to bring transformation and healing to an entire community. It’s a tough but successful process and in less than a week the results are already obvious.

 

7.15am. As I walk back to the hut I see an elderly lady with a tall walking stick coming across the field for a one on one session with us. She’s hardly slept, kept awake by a stomach ulcer that has been giving her pain for years. She is worried about crops and about her grandson, Opiyo, who has a physical disability caused by childhood polio. She begins to talk about her experiences during the L.R.A. raids and how they still affect her today. She feels very anxious, jumping at loud noises, fearing that something bad is always going to happen. She has nightmares that her house is burning, or that she is being shot at by her children. We talk her through some coping strategies and after an hour she leaves, just as two men appear at the door. The steady stream of people continues throughout the morning and through lunch; a meal of rice, beans and vegetables purchased from the markets the night before.

 

1.20pm. After lunch the scorching sun hits its peak and everyone quietly retreats into the shade of their mud huts. The silence is interrupted by the cries of a child echoing out across the village. Irene looks out the door and sees Opiyo, sitting alone in the dirt. She calmly walks over to the boy, picks him up and brings him back to the hut where she bathes him and then brings him inside. Irene calms the boy down and gives him some lunch and immediately the crying stops. She pulls up some music videos on her laptop, and Opiyo is captivated until the soccer ball comes out. For the next 40 minutes we sit on my mat rolling the ball back and forth. It acts as therapy for his underdeveloped muscles and poor motor skills, a result of his infanthood illness. He laughs as I throw the ball into the air and let it land on my head. He tries to copy me but loses his balance and falls to the floor. I wait for him to cry, but instead hear joyful squeals of laughter. The kid is hilarious!

 

2.00pm. We head toward the village centre, a 20-minute walk in the sweltering heat. I wrap a scarf around my head in an attempt to create some shade, bringing giggles galore from the children who sit in the shade of their houses. The team discuss the plan for the afternoon; they are going to squeeze in two sessions today because there are clan meetings coming up and they don’t want anyone to miss out on anything. Today there will be an opportunity to share stories, and there will be some fun activities to illustrate the power of forgiveness.  

Not long after we arrive the session begins and immediately there is laughter. Teenagers and adults participate in an activity to see who can hold a rock in their outstretched hand the longest. After several minutes it comes down to a 14-year-old boy and a 70-year-old woman, neither of whom are willing to lose to the other. The villagers start cheering for their favourite and finally the young boy relents. There are woops and shrill ululations as they celebrate her victory. The lesson is simple but effective: it may seem easy to hold onto your anger at first, but eventually the burden becomes too much to carry.

 

A volunteer steps forward and she is tied up, demonstrating the bondage of unforgiveness. Alex ties a knot for every unforgiven offence until she can no longer even manage a wriggle, restrained by the paralysing hurt, anger and bitterness of her past. Some are laughing at her attempts to move, others become solemn as the lesson becomes obvious. Their own inability to forgive the atrocities of the past is hurting them more than the offenders. Then, as each offence is forgiven a knot is gently undone until finally she is free again. The lesson is very clear:  Forgiveness equals freedom.

 

5.20pm. The session ends with rollcall – 169 attendees in total. It’s a big crowd and Alex and Irene are concerned that they don’t have enough time to reach every individual. They plan to return for their Follow Up program, hoping that it will give them further opportunities to work with everyone. It’s an issue they face in every village – so many broken people, so little time and resources.

 

8.30pm. Before the moon rises I quickly duck out for a “shower”. The bathing area is a short walk from the huts; a shonky three walled structure with gaps large enough to see straight through. I hang my sarong to make a fourth wall and hope that they moon stays hidden for the next few minutes while I hastily wash from a bucket of warm water. When I return to the hut a man and one of his wives are with the team having some marriage counseling.

 

11.00pm. The couple finally bid us “But maber”, good night. Everyone is exhausted but there is a strong sense of accomplishment, knowing that so many people have made the vital decision to forgive the offences of the past. As we turn off the solar powered light that illuminates the hut, the village is silent once again. My head barely hits the pillow before my mind sets to work, reflecting on the activities of the day. I can hear Irene quietly praying from her mat and I do the same. I thank God for my day, for the safety and hope and peace that I have. I pray for the children to remain innocent. I pray for education opportunities and for health, for their crops to prosper and grow. I pray for the parents, the older siblings, and the grandparents who are all working hard towards reconciliation and rehabilitation. I pray that the things they have learnt would sink from their heads into their hearts. I blink back tears as I think of the stories they have shared and I pray for peace as they sleep. I pray for their futures. I pray that as their days end so would their anxieties, and as the new dawn prepares to rise, their healing will come.

 

Candice Lassey

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Hello From Home!!!

Julie Gaede, the wife of Tutapona's founder, has been in Kurdistan for less than a month. These are some of her first thoughts upon her arrival.

          Julie Meets With Kids in Kurdistan

         Julie Meets With Kids in Kurdistan

On the second leg of our flight to Kurdistan, I switched off my movie, took out my headphones and looked over at my two daughters. Emma returned my glance and flashed me her beautiful smile.  My emotions suddenly overwhelmed me and I began to weep.  Grace then looked up, too, and the three of us let our tears spill…

I was overwhelmed by the grief of saying goodbye to my daughter Judith and grandson Elijah. Overwhelmed with feelings of guilt over all that we’ve expected of our children… all of the transitions, all of the goodbyes; my auto-pilot mode switching on (which got me through the late-night packing and sorting, appointments, and farewells to family and friends) and the unknowns of what lay ahead….  This was all coupled with my excitement over seeing my husband again, after a month of important days being apart.

Carl had been updating me from Iraq.  “The trauma has been so devastating," he told me.  "People are just walking down the street and collapsing because of all they've encountered."  He told me about a visit to the survivor’s camp where he met with girls who had been kidnapped and sexually abused.  "It was so heartbreaking, getting a glimpse of what they’ve encountered… I met with the family of a 14 year old girl who committed suicide after escaping captivity… Julie, you’ll be spending much of your time at the survivor’s camp.”
 
How, God? What on EARTH can I possibly offer?? Well, nothing on earth – that’s for sure…

God responded, “I know what they need, you merely need to be My hands and feet and follow My lead.” YES! I can do that. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” He reminded me once again.
 
A couple days after we arrived I grabbed my earphones and listened for the first time to “I Stand in Awe” on the new ‘Let it Echo’ album, and heard these words:

“Let it rise, let it rise, we cannot contain this Grace inside – let it rise, let it rise, let the sound of Heaven multiply”

It reminded me again of why we give it all up to be here. I then took out my headphones, stared at my peacefully sleeping husband awhile, the person whom I admire deeply for his passion, and felt “I’m home.”

Let's get to work. 

-- Julie

P.S. Because we now live and work in a delicate region of the world, you'll notice us being a bit more careful about the words we use on social media to describe our work. If you hear that we might need prayer for anything, please be careful about using social media to get the word out.  Also, we ask that you not tag us on posts that could compromise our work by using words like “missions,” “ministry,” “convert,” etc. We want to be respectful of the environment we work in and the people we work with. Thank you for supporting our work!

 

                                      Making Friends With Some Sweet Yezidi Girls

                                     Making Friends With Some Sweet Yezidi Girls

A Quick Update from Iraq

Greetings from Kurdistan, Iraq. 

I wanted to send you a quick update thanking you for your support as Tutaponaexpands into Iraq to provide trauma counseling to victims of this brutal war in the Middle East with ISIS. 
 
The past two weeks have been a combination of jet lag, loneliness, exhaustion, culture shock, and utter excitement at being here and engaging in the work.  I have been busy trying to get everything ready for my family to join me.  I think I have a house locked in, next is the need to buy a vehicle.  I have been getting familiar with the area and trying to learn as much as I can about the culture.  I think I will be pretty prepared for them to arrive on September 29th.
 
Our partner, Samaritan’s Purse, has been extremely welcoming and helpful with logistical support.  I have been to two different refugee camps on a few occasions to see their work and assess the level of trauma and I've been overwhelmed at the severity of the needs. It has been confirmed over and over again just how important it is that Tutapona is here.  I am so excited to get started! 
 
Thank you again for joining Tutapona on this journey of emotional healing for the refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Kurdistan. We'll send you a full family update with more photos once everyone arrives and we've got a few things underway with the work!

In gratitude,

Carl Gaede
Founder and Director of Tutapona

Tutapona on Tour

This Summer, the Gaede family (Tutapona founders) will be in the United States to raise awareness about their work providing trauma rehabilitation to victims of war and refugees. You’re invited to come and hear them speak at one of the Churches listed below to find out more about their time in Uganda over the last 8 years and their imminent plans for expanding into the Middle East to work alongside Syrian refugees.

The Gaede family will be touring the Wisconsin/Minnesota area from June 5th – August 14th.
Tour Schedule

Sunday, June 5th | Faith Community Church, New Richmond

9:00 am and 10:45 am. 1040 Paperjack Drive, New Richmond, WI 54017

Sunday, June 12th | First Baptist Church, New Richmond

9:00 am. 341 N Shore Drive, New Richmond, WI 54017

Sunday, June 19th | Village Church, Baldwin

10:00 am. 990 Hillcrest St # 104, Baldwin, WI 54002, United States

Sunday, July 3rd | Torrent Church, Prescott

10:30 am. 800 Deere Rd, Prescott, WI 54021, United States

Sunday, July 10th | Bridge Church, Somerset

9:00 am and 10:45 am. 701 Rivard St, Somerset, WI 54025, United States

Sunday, July 17th | River Church, River Falls

10:00 am and 11:30 am. 215 N 2nd St #103, River Falls, WI 54022, United States

Sunday, July 24th | Faith Community Church, Hudson

9:00 am and 11:00 am. 777 Carmichael Rd, Hudson, WI 54016, United States

Sunday, July 31st | Prairieview Church, New Richmond

9 am and 800 E Southview Ct, Marshall, MN 56258, United States

Sunday, August 14th | Living Word, Marshall

8:00 am and 10:30 am. 800 E Southview Ct, Marshall, MN 56258, United States

We're Moving to Iraq!

I’ll always remember August 25th, 2008 as the day our family was thrust from all that was familiar and into the unknown. An airplane may have gotten us from tiny New Richmond, Wisconsin, to Uganda, Africa; but it was God who moved our hearts.

At the start, this new adventure was nothing but a mystery waiting to be solved. We knew we had a job to do, given to us straight from God, but how that would look over how many years, we had no clue. So we signed a two-year contract, trusting God would make it clear to us if we were to stay longer.

Eight years later, we find ourselves still knee-deep in communities that are scarred by war, people who still need hope and healing – and here we are, LOVING the work we’ve been entrusted to do. Uganda is home, it’s as simple as that. The people here are our family and friends. We’re in love with this place, and to be honest, less than a year ago I couldn’t have envisioned myself leaving.

But we are. We’ve just left our house, our friends, our Tutapona staff and the country we love. Don’t worry – Tutapona in Uganda is in safe, secure hands with our new country director and his family but as for the Gaede family – God’s calling us elsewhere.

We are excited to announce that come the beginning of September, most of the Gaede family will be moving to Iraq. The work of Tutapona is not ending, but rather expanding as we bring the love of Christ to the broken hearts of the Middle East.

We will be working with Syrian and Yazidi refugees living in the Kurdish region. We are partnering with Samaritan’s Purse and the Refuge Initiative to be able to better bring transformation to as many people as possible. The Syrian Refugee Crisis is the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. Tutapona has always been an organization called to go where the need is greatest. The need is great for Syrian refugees right now.

If you want to know more about this big transition, you can come see Carl speak at one of the Churches in the Wisconsin/Minnesota area detailed in the speaking schedule.

In addition to moving to the Middle East, we will also be saying goodbye to our beloved Judith and Elijah, who will be moving to the States. They will be with family and friends, and we will be able to see them when we next have the opportunity to visit the U.S., but it is still a change that we know will be difficult for the whole family.

With so many new, exciting, and in many ways painful adjustments coming up for our family, we certainly appreciate your prayers. We believe that God has massive things in store, and we’re thrilled to be along for the ride. We feel so thankful that He’s chosen us to be part of His work – to love on the broken Syrian refugees, to speak life into the discouraged hearts of the Yazidi, to help those who have undergone trauma. Join us on this journey. Pray for us, and partner with us. We need your support like never before.

The Time I Had a Moving Conversation with a Deaf and Mute Mom

They were the best days I’d ever spent in a refugee settlement. They were busy, they were chaotic, and they were physically tiring. They didn’t go exactly as planned. But, because that’s just how our God works, I walked away from them full of a renewed sense of passion for the work of Tutapona.

While there, I was able to hear the testimonies of five very brave people from their own lips. The following story, which was told by an eighteen year-old boy about his deaf and mute mother, really touched me.

“I am from Congo. I’ve lived in Nakivale since April 2015. Our father left home for food and up until now hasn’t come home. I am still not aware if he’s alive.When the rebels were in Congo, they raped our mother in our presence. That’s when she became pregnant with our youngest sibling. As the rebels raped our mother, they left her with problems with her reproductive system.

After our mother was raped, she was unconscious. Shortly afterwards, all of us moved with her to the border to Uganda. Right now, as the oldest son, I am the head of the family. I don’t go to school, but I bring my sister to school. There is a man who’s hired me to raise cattle for 30,000 shillings [approximately $9] a month for the whole family.

We were referred to Tutapona. As my mother said, “Tutapona has always been there for us. They’ve given us food, clothes, love. We were very hungry, we’d lost hope, Tutapona fed us. When I was sick, they brought me to the hospital and they gave me medicine.”

This family’s situation is not unheard of among the many refugees living in Nakivale. Death, rape, and poverty have been woven into the stories of many broken individuals. Tutapona exists to bring healing to people like these. As we sat in their door-less hut, broken-hearted about the story they shared, we knew that these are the kind of people God has called us to help.

-Emma Gaede