FROM BUTTE TO UGANDA
Welcome to Liam and I’s Uganda Blog. Liam is my 14 year old son and self-appointed ambassador to Uganda. Our trip officially began today with a blessing from Father Patrick Beretta and the congregation of Immaculate Conception Church in Butte, Montana. With this blessing, we surely have had the best start possible!
What is our mission? It is the same as yours – “Peace.” We want to share with our brothers and sisters in Uganda the peace that is the “necessary corollary of love,” gifted to us in Jesus Christ. Liam will remind me that peace is not a string of words or conjectures. Rather peace is an act of our body: a smile, a hug, a look of compassion and concern, a leap, a dance, a hand bent over to lift up another.
Our peace for this trip began in Butte, Montana. We have a non-profit organization called Maternal Life International that has been working hard and doing its best to provide education in safe birth, HIV prevention and marriage and family life renewal since 1997. One of the programs we developed is called “The Faithful House.” We initially developed “The Faithful House” in 2005 in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services. The program has now reached over 100,000 couples in many different African countries and Haiti. We have three affiliates: Maternal Life Haiti, Maternal Life Tanzania and Maternal Life Uganda which provide grassroots, parish and community based training in the Faithful House and affiliated programs.
Our Ugandan team consists of five staff led by Gonzaga and Paskazia Lubega. We have worked with the Lubega’s since 2003 and they have been the lead trainers for MLI and CRS in 12 different African countries. When you meet them, you are meeting Africa’s experts in marriage and family life,
As well as doing training, we are going to visit the future site of St. Joseph Family Life Center, a regional training center we are building in Masaka, Uganda. We have purchased the land and are now working with the architect. Here is a picture of the land being cleared.
In our work with Gonzaga and Paskazia, we have seen that the key to authentic development for Africa is building healthy marriages and families. We have seen with our own eyes the amazing things that happen when a couple comes together and renews and strengthens their marriage: they are faithful to each other and do not get AIDS, they are less vulnerable to food insecurity, they emerge out of poverty, they become better parents, alcoholism and domestic violence are reduced, couples become models of peace. The message spreads: neighbors wonder out loud at the transformation that takes place after a couple goes through Faithful House training. We inevitably here stories of neighbors coming to our trainers to ask what “potion has been given” when they see the husband helping his wife cook and clean, when they see the couple which previously was fighting walking together and smiling, when they see both father and mother helping each other with the children.
Here is Karen Brower: an artist, a designer, an overall amazing person. Karen is the artistic genius behind the new bead design and engineering. She did this all coming off major shoulder surgery.
I could go on and on: Mike Hamblock who provided photography for our training manuals, Ray Rogers who provides all kinds of assistance and guidance to MLI, my brother John Jones who formatted the manuals, the many people who support our work financially, those who pray for us. And most of all thanks to my wife Mary who is my best friend and teacher in peace.
I will leave you with an assignment. Order a book called “Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of the Heart” by Father Jacques Philippe. Read and reread it – it may change your life.
Liam says “get R’done” and “Go Butte, Montana.” We will keep you posted!
From the platform of The Faithful House, we have developed other programs that further peace. We have developed couple and community education for safe birth practices – attending prenatal care, delivering at a health care facility, good maternal nutrition, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and exclusive breast feeding. All of these practices are enhanced if a husband is supportive of his wife and they work together. In the “journey of pregnancy” we don’t want women to travel alone!
Another program we have developed is to promote women and couple’s health through natural family planning. We have found couples who go through the Faithful House program have a great desire to plan their families and space their children through natural means consistent with their cultural and religious traditions. Did you know that one of the most common methods of family planning, Depo-provera, increases doubles the risk of HIV transmission! This is frightening! Rather than injecting women with hormones which have so many side effects, our healthy choice for couples is called “The Seven Day Bead Method of Natural Family Planning.” It teaches couples when in the cycle a woman is fertile and infertile. The couple tracks their fertility by placing a bead on each day of the cycle. Here is a sample of the beads. They can be used by women and couples of all educational levels.
In our mission of peace, we are going to “train the trainers” of the Faithful House and Seven Day Bead Method. We will have over 50 people including couples, midwifery instructors, doctors, pastoral care leaders, religious sisters and catechists who will be trained and take the program back to their communities coming. Seven are coming from our affiliate in Tanzania and the rest from throughout Uganda.
Back to Butte. What a wonderful community! What a gift of peace they have offered in helping us get ready for this trip.
Here is Meg Bradshaw, MLI’s executive director (on the far right) and the team of volunteers she assembled who have spent so much time putting together our beads. Without Meg, her husband Bryan and her two children, Jim and Joe, we would have never got off first base. What a great, generous team – thank-you!